In the war-torn digital kingdom of online games, a new billion-dollar rivalry is brewing.

Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) is the incumbent champion of massively multiplayer online role-playing games. (That "MMORPG" acronym just rolls off the tongue!) World of Warcraft has four years of history behind it, and it can boast more than 10 million active players, paying as much as $15 a month for their playtime. That's a lot of moola, amigo.

But here comes an upstart, hoping to steal the hearts, minds, and wallets of some of those WoW players. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) is about a month away from launching Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, a game very much in the Warcraft oeuvre, with similar subscription prices and a built-in target demographic of tabletop war game geeks.

WAR is built atop the rich mythology created for Games Workshop's Warhammer universe over the last 25 years, dressed up in the latest graphics and displayed before adoring crowds at the recent E3 gaming gala. If the prelaunch buzz is anywhere near the real attraction of this game, WAR could be a real usurper to WoW's throne. And it only takes about half of that game's subscriber count to produce $1 billion in annual subscription revenue.

Could this be the spark of inspiration that refuels EA's recently uninspiring growth? I think it's a better bet than buying Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO), if that ever happens, thanks to the business power of subscription fees and the creative force of a long-established fictional world.

Activision merged with Blizzard to become a legitimate challenger to EA as the world's largest pure-play game publisher. Now EA strikes back at the very heart of Blizzard's business. Great rivalries often lead to better business decisions, and they can inspire executives and employees alike to do a better job. If anybody should be worried by this clash of the titans, it'd be smaller competitors like Take-Two, Konami (NYSE:KNM), and THQ (NASDAQ:THQI). Game on!

Further Foolishness:

Take-Two Interactive Software is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Electronic Arts and Activision are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure has been playing Warhammer since the early 1990s.