Warhammer Online mastermind Mark Jacobs jumped into the blogosphere yesterday, opening up a new blog (amusingly titled "online games are a niche market") with a bunch of posts. There was much rejoicing, and people did feast on wildebeasts and breakfast cereals and maybe roasted squigs (I don't know much about Warhammer cuisine) etc etc.
The meatiest of his posts is titled "What does WAR's success or failure mean for the MMORPG market?". Obviously, you should have a salt shaker in hand, since the man does have a product to sell here. That said, I agree with his general take on the MMORPG community as we near Warhammer's launch. This game comes in with a well known license, an experienced studio, a reasonably large budget and dev cycle, and the behemoth of all video game publishers working distribution. For better or worse, this WILL be seen as a referendum on the triple-A subscription MMORPG. I'm less convinced that Warhammer's success will instantly wipe out doubts about the genre's viability (again, the deck is slightly stacked in their favor), but a win would certainly be better than a loss.
Meanwhile, there's an odd game of leap-frog going on to determine when The Showdown actually begins. Warhammer's "open" beta (for values of open that are currently still restricted to pre-order customers, unless there's been a wider release of keys that I haven't heard about) was scheduled to start on Sunday, but Keen reports that pre-order customers who got into the stress test "Preview Weekend" are being let into the open beta two days early (which would, if my maths are good, be tomorrow). This was probably intended to ease congestion in the starting areas before players who haven't gotten to play the game yet arrive, but it may turn out to be a big deal.
See, meanwhile, Blizzard may have been planning a first strike. Mania speculates that World of Warcraft's "What Warhammer open beta?" patch 3.0 PTR will go live tomorrow. I think she may have it right. Which would be very puzzling given that the marquis feature of the patch, the first few tiers of the Inscription profession, isn't even finished in closed beta yet.
Hopefully they are going to hold off on forking the 3.0 patch off of the closed beta for as long as possible. Patch 2.0 diverged from the TBC beta before it hit the PTR's, and was pretty out of date in terms of balance changes by the time it went live (which was the state the live game had to live with for a month). Still, I can't see a way to spin this as a good thing for the development and testing of the actual patch and expansion. That's a lot of effort to go to just to screw with your competitor's launch.