With Mythic's three-years-in-development Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning having shipped last Thursday and going up against Blizzard's mighty World of Warcraft, studio co-founder and lead designer Mark Jacobs is confident about his game's prospects.
"We're not saying we're going to beat [Blizzard], but we're not afraid of them," Jacobs tells Gamasutra as part of an in-depth interview published today. "We have our own hook; that's [realm versus realm combat], and we're pushing it and we're pushing it, just as we're pushing other innovations in the game. Blizzard is number one; we don't mind being number two, especially if it's a competitive number two. I can't worry about that."
The designer drew a parallel between launching Warhammer in 2008 and launching the company's previous MMO Dark Age of Camelot in 2001, at the time going up against Sony Online Entertainment's then-juggernaut.
"We were facing a similar situation," he recalls. "The big guy on the block was of course EverQuest. Ultima [Online] was of course doing very well, as was Asheron's [Call] -- not as well as Ultima and certainly EverQuest, but it was a competitive game... Obviously, we did quite well. We didn't beat [Sony]; we never said we would. But if you look at our numbers, we did really, really well."
But Jacobs also believes that an independent studio like Mythic was in 2001 would not have that same ability in today's MMO market. Now, his company has the considerable backing of new owner Electronic Arts -- and those kinds of resources are necessary to compete in a post-WoW world, he says.
"Back in 2001, you didn't have to spend anywhere near the amount of money you do on an MMO now," he points out. "Look at what we spent on Camelot: $2.5 million developing it, $650,000 in marketing it. You couldn't spend that on a triple-A MMO now if your life depended on it! You just couldn't! It would get you nothing in terms of content."
For that reason, Jacobs sees a hard road ahead for smaller companies like Funcom, which earlier this year launched Age of Conan.
Regarding Mythic's latest effort, Jacobs claims it has "the smoothest launch" of an MMO to date, as well as already besting Camelot's highest concurrent-user numbers by 50 percent.
"When you also look at our downtime -- only one patch in almost seven days -- that's a pretty tough record to beat when you look at the launches of every other MMO, including WoW," he says. "Especially WoW."
Jacob's comments came as part of an in-depth Gamasutra interview in which he deals with a multitude of other subjects around the PC MMO's launch.