The online game industry has a problem: World of Warcraft so dominates the industry that it's hard to imagine any serious competition. There's room for niche players like Eve Online; it takes about 100,000 subscribers to break even. But everyone's angling to have the next million+ blockbuster, and it's not happening.

The latest competitor in the mix is Age of Conan. On the surface it seems a lot like WoW; high fantasy, RPG, quests and levelling and all that. They're trying to distinguish the gameplay by adding realtime combat elements and a serious PvP endgame.

But what really sets AoC apart is the intellectual property. The Conan franchise is a great starting point full of big dumb exciting heroes. And Funcom has embraced it whole heartedly with lots of gore, fast combat, and "mature themes". The first quest in AoC (pictured above) makes it clear this isn't WoW; you turn the corner and see a beautiful slave girl in chains, begging for your help. When you rescue her she tells you she's a "pleasure girl" and that while she can't pay you for helping, if you visit her at the brothel you'll "come to some arrangement". Hubba hubba. Oh yeah, the female models have nipples, too.

I don't think gore and boobies will be enough to make AoC a success. It might even backfire; a big part of WoW's growth is its appeal to people who aren't hardcore fantasy gamers. But it's nice to see something different and it's good campy fun.

What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
  2008-05-24 18:41 Z