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The Death of a Titan

What the cancellation of Project Titan means to Blizzard and us.

After seven years of development, Blizzard decided to officially pull the plug on their mysterious Project Titan; what many assumed was to be the successor to the king of all MMORPGs, World of Warcraft.  Since Titan was never officially announced, it’s doubtful that the game ever made it past the conceptual state, though we will likely never know how many resources had been dedicated to the project, or if it was ever even close to becoming anything more than vaporware.

“We didn’t find the fun,” said Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime in an interview with Polygon.  On the surface, this kind of reasoning seems to keep with Blizzard’s “quality not quantity” company ethos, but it still seems rather suspect that a game that has been gestating for such a long period of time would be so unceremoniously cancelled.  You’d imagine that the lack of fun would be determined much earlier in the process, which begs the question, how much more is there to this cancellation, and what does this mean for the MMO space in general?

The easy answer is money.  Money is always a factor when determining whether or not to continue the development on any particular project.  Blizzard is practically famous for their painfully long development cycles (again, it’s about quality not quantity), which of course are expensive.  Add to this that MMORPGs are generally more costly than your average AAA title and you can figure that Blizzard could not rationalize the cost to bring Project Titan to fruition.

Then there is the MMORPG space – a shrinking space – to consider as well.  World of Warcraft, while still doing exceptionally well, doesn’t support the number of players that it used to, and in fact has a shrinking population.  Releasing Project Titan would no doubt cannibalize their own player base in WoW, which wouldn’t lead to as much of an expansion of profit, but rather a reallocation of the profit source.  Supporting Titan while also continuing to support WoW would prove more costly than it’s worth.  It makes much more sense to spend less to expand WoW – to keep and nurture that revenue stream – than to incur the massive costs of supporting two large-scale MMOs.

And it’s not like the MMORPG space is as healthy as it was seven years ago when Project Titan was first initiated.  Back then there was no League of Legends, a game that boasts nearly 70 million monthly users (perhaps more at this time) and has replaced WoW as the king of MMOs at large.  Blizzard could not have known how different the MMO landscape would be in just a few short years – it made sense for them at the time to start planning on what many would have seen as the natural progression of the MMO space, which would be another MMORPG.

Wildstar, an MMORPG that was released to both critical and commercial success just this past June has already seen their subscription numbers steadily dwindle over the past months.  If a wildly acclaimed entry into the genre can’t sustain growth for more than a couple of months, then why would we expect others to?  The MMORPG as we know it is in the twilight of its lifespan.  It’s time to make way for something new.

But even if World of Warcraft is destined for the grave (it is, as are all things) the failure of Project Titan to come to fruition is hardly damning for Blizzard as a developer.  Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm stand to make the company a lot of money, and WoW itself – despite losing players – is still a cash cow that will likely remain as such for years to come.

It’s unlikely that Blizzard will make another foray into the MMORPG space again.  They’ve dominated that space for as long as most gamers can remember; they’ve reached their ceiling.  It’s time for something new – something fresh and exciting.

Or perhaps they’ll just make Warcraft IV.




09/25/2014 at 03:50 PM

Let me guess what they are going to switch to - something for phones and tablets. That seems to be where everyone is going, both devs and players.

Warcraft IV would be HOT though. I'd love to see that. Consoles need a good RTS.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/27/2014 at 05:50 PM

I wonder if MMORPG's (as we know them) will one day be as obsolete as FMV games?

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