THQ executive Jack Sorenson has told our sister site Eurogamer.net that he believes Blizzard's all-conquering World of Warcraft has "peaked".
Speaking at last week's Gamers Day in San Francisco, THQ's head of development was bullish about the prospects of the forthcoming Warhammer 40k MMO - the firm's first foray into the genre dominated by Blizzard's title, which currently has over 10 million subscribers.
Sorenson commented: "However long it takes World of Warcraft to go through its cycle there will always be people on it, probably always be millions of people on it, but does it keep at that peak? And I think that, I wish I could see the numbers, but my guess is that it probably already has peaked – but it's still a great business. Who wouldn't want that?"
Following on from CEO Brian Farrell's revelation that the game is still "probably a couple of years out", Sorenson added: "We haven't announced a release date, but it's certainly not imminent and we plan on doing a very high quality job.
"That's certainly one thing that World of Warcraft's proved: not only do you have to do it well, it has to be great from day one. There's not a tolerance like there used to be, when Ultima came out... All those games were buggy and horrible, and eventually got there. You can't do that anymore, which has lengthened the cycle for good quality MMOs."
Farrell told investors in 2006 that it would be "misguided" to compete with Warcraft at that time, adding: "The idea would be to time something for when that product is going to be on its downward slope." Which he now presumably thinks will be in a couple of years.
The Warhammer 40k MMO was announced in March '07, and Sorenson believes the popular fantasy licence will be key to the product's success.
"Blizzard based a lot of their, let's say, RPG characteristics on 40k, which was the original," he continued. "There's a lot of commonality there that just comes right out of what Games Workshop has developed – the fiction, and the rest of it is incredibly deep. I think if we're true to that and do it at a high quality, then people will come. And they can certainly co-exist."