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Looking for the next Warcraft

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Old Republic: the next Warcraft?

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. That's the theory, anyway. At last count,
World of Warcraft boasted more than 12 million subscribers, which
pretty much makes it the most-subscribed massively multiplayer online
game (or MMO) in the history of the known universe.

But with great power comes great hateability. Warcraft grew the MMO market to a size that nobody predicted, but its success isn't going to last for ever. Sooner or later, a game's bound to come along that'll take a real chunk out of its vast subscriber base, and while toppling Warcraft is a tough proposition, the potential rewards are enormous.

So there's no shortage of developers ready to give it a try -- and gamers are always looking ahead, trying to spot the fabled "WoW killer" before it arrives. Here's a rundown of some of the current favorites.

DC Universe Online

Released earlier this month, DC Universe Online (Buy | Search)
welcomes players into the world of DC Comics. As humanity is besieged
by Brainiac, an evil green robot from the future, players create their
own heroes and villains to fight alongside the likes of the Batman and
Lex Luthor.

Why it might kill Warcraft:
The physics-based gameplay is a real kick, and the developers are
hugely devoted to breathing life into famous places like Metropolis and
Gotham City. Plus, who doesn't love a good team-up with The Flash or The
Joker?

Why it probably won't:
A built-in fanbase of comics nerds can only bring in so many
subscriptions. DC Universe might become the biggest superhero MMO ever, but
becoming the biggest paid MMO ever is a whole other story.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic (Buy | Search) will take place during the olden days of the Galactic Republic, when Jedi and Sith roamed the galaxy at will, getting into awesome-looking fights.

Why it might kill Warcraft:

With the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games, Bioware has earned its RPG cred,
and they've already done Star Wars right with Knights of the Old
Republic. Plus, rumor has it that Electronic Arts is pumping unprecedented levels of cash in SWTOR's production.

Why it probably won't: Money
isn't everything, and the fanbase limitation holds true here, too. Even
so, SWTOR has a lot of people excited. It's easily the current
(theoretical) frontrunner among all of Warcraft's future competition.

Guild Wars 2

The sequel to the popular subscription-free MMO, ArenaNet's Guild Wars 2 (Buy | Search) lurks on the horizon as a possible 2011 release.

Why it might kill Warcraft: Guild Wars 2 promises to be more accessible than its quirky predecessor, and developers have already highlighted some exciting innovations to the tried-and-tried-again MMO formula.

Why it probably won't:
Though the original game was a hit in its day, it still lacks the name
recognition of the other properties on this list, and developers'
promises are meant to be broken. Still, this is one dark horse I
wouldn't necessarily bet against.

Warhammer 40K: Dark Millennium Online

Based on the space-marines-and-giant-mechs tabletop game from which
Blizzard's other juggernaut, Starcraft, draws inspiration, Warhammer 40K
is (finally) taking shape as an MMO, but it won't be ready for a good long time.

Why it might kill Warcraft:

We don't know a whole lot about the game, but E3 2010 offered us a glimpse of how cool it could be. Someday.

Why it probably won't: The studio making Warhammer 40K has nothing to do with the developers behind that other Warhammer MMO,
itself a failed WoW killer. But it's way too early to tell whether the
new Warhammer might be any good, let alone an enormous success.

Blizzard's next MMO

Could Blizzard itself kill Warcraft? The studio is working on a super-secret, "next-gen" MMO, dubbed Titan, which we should see in a few years. And that's about the sum total of what we know about it.

Why it might kill Warcraft:
The crew that made Warcraft the juggernaut it is today could very well
be the only ones capable of topping that feat. Goodness knows Blizzard
has the resources, the talent and the experience.

Why it probably won't:
It's entirely possible that Warcraft  just won't be beaten. Warcraft
arrived on the scene in 2004 with an entirely new blend of polished,
solo-friendly gameplay that could run on virtually any computer. Titan
could be the MMO equivalent of Lady Gaga hugging a puppy atop a mountain
of cupcakes that Jesus baked himself, but Blizzard might discover that
lightning never strikes the same place twice.

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