The Moat Around World of Warcraft And How Bioware’s SWTOR Gets Around It

Investor Warren Buffet has coined the term economic moat as an almost insurmountable advantage of one company over another company in the same industry. Typical names that come up in this discussion are Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. Any new company that wants to compete with these two is looking at a very long time with minimal income before they will be able to come even close.

Does this mean World of Warcraft has a moat? You bet. Just look at all the features it offers and how many of them new games like Rift or Star Wars had implemented at their release date. Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Dungeon Finder
  • Raid Finder
  • Extendable User Interface
  • Accomplishments
  • Guild Perks
  • Plethora of Pets
  • Flying Mounts
  • WOW Armory
  • Class Balance
  • Economic Balance
  • In Game Events

Of course, at first, this list doesn’t look to bad, but these features have to be implemented, tested and rolled out and balanced. How hard will it be to implement a cross server dungeon and raid finder for SWTOR? It’s my gut feeling, not backed up by many facts that they’ll have a harder time to do that than Rift.

While playing Star Wars, of course I notice issues where I can clearly say, that Bioware will have to either take some lessons from Blizzard or learn them the hard way. For instance I am not sure, if the economy around the Galactic Trade Market will ever become viable. The auction interface is certainly not up to it. The bigger problem there will be the underlying supply and demand of raw materials and finished goods. I can see for instance that there’s far more metal for armor and arms available than there are crystals for synthweaving and artificing. It is open where it will find a balance, but I question if the Bioware designers have put much thought into the subject. But that is part of the moat I described.

Having said that, Bioware might not need to conquer the moat, simply by building their own castle. Bioware’s loyal customers are RPG fans who’ve kept their distance to MMORPGs. But the way it looks, with Bioware’s story driven approach and a lot of voice acting, that barrier is torn down. The ingame chat has certainly seen its amount of WOW comparisons, but they’ve actually died down relatively fast. Thus, Bioware isn’t taking away much of WOW’s market share. Bioware is expanding the market. Something everybody in the industry will be grateful for.


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