Could a Facebook MMO Dethrone World of Warcraft?

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft has dominated the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game market for more than four years now. During the course of its existence, the game has exceeded anyone’s expectations. Globally, it has more than 11.5 million users, and is available in five languages.

So can someone overtake Blizzard’s record breaking game? In a recent interview with, Ryan Barker, the lead designer of Warcraft forefather Everquest, gives his opinions on the matter.

Barker strongly believes the power of social networking — and Facebook in particular — could create an MMO like no other. One of the issues with Warcraft: As the game’s life goes on, it becomes harder for new players to catch up, which leads to a lack of new accounts. Despite efforts to mitigate the issue, it is a barrier that eventually all MMOs succumb to in their lifetime.

Barker feels an MMO on Facebook could ease this problem.

“Facebook doesn’t care how long you’ve been on Facebook,” says Barker. “You’re still going to go on and be just as much of a part of the community right away at day one and day 200.”

In the end, it’s the community and content that make MMOs so addictive. Granted, any game that has some form of individual character progression will experience similar problems (for example, in traditional MMOs a level 10 player cannot help a level 70 player, and in the reverse, the level 70 has no challenge when helping the level 10). However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It merely requires designers to think of new ideas that are different from the standard experience.

While World of Warcraft is tremendously popular, Barker does not feel that it is untouchable. He feels that a Facebook MMO will take what Blizzard started and run much further.

“At some point someone’s going to do an MMO that really caters to that group [Facebook users],” he says. “And [they are] going to have a billion subscribers or whatever.”

An MMO on par with Warcraft, Everquest, or an older title like Ultima Online that makes use of Facebook could raise the bar in the market and surpass Blizzard.

Presentation still matters, however. The aforementioned games have an incredible style to them, both in terms of game play and visual effects. That said,  we do not expect any Facebook games currently available to be a WoW-killer just yet.

Thus far, some of the highest quality games have come from Playfish, Large Animal Games, and a few others. They all lack the production value needed to make Barker’s theories a reality. This isn’t to say it will not happen in the future, but we will likely have to wait awhile.