Tabula Rasa is gone. Age Of Conan is in trouble. Now, Warhammer Online has just dropped 63 servers.

They’ve pulled 43 from North America and Asia, and 20 more in Europe. That’s a lot of servers. Then again, according to the report at crispygamer, WAR has lost more than half its subscriber base.

All three of these games opened with a lot of fanfare. For a short time, there was boasting about the number of signups. Speculation around the ‘net abounded as to whether World Of Warcraft was about to be dethroned. Blizzard, however, was unconcerned.

They were so right. WOW is up to 11.5 million while the “new guys” have declined or vanished. This is a strong lesson for anyone developing a MMOG. Big names, branded IP, hype: these aren’t enough.

What matters is content, and all three were lacking in that area. Sure, the games were buggy on release. Every new product has its flaws. WOW was far from perfect on its debut. But Warcraft had solid content, and the others didn’t.

It’s likely those other games were rushed out, that there was heavy coporate pressure to “make the game live already”. Such may work with a typical retail stand-alone product. It doesn’t with a subscription model.

You pay once for a boxed game. Online is another matter. When people are asked to pony up every month, they want their money’s worth – and gamers are a notoriously impatient bunch.

They may grumble about bugs, but they’ll keep playing despite that, provided there is enough content to keep them happy otherwise. That is especially true for a new product.

If there isn’t enough, right at the start, players will start dropping out and going back to whatever they were playing before, usually (though not always) WOW. Once the luster of “new” wears off, with nothing substantial to take its place, the game is a loser.

Possibly the three games above were expected to be a “WOW killer”. If so, that was the wrong goal. After all, there are other MMOGs out there. Everquest. Asheron’s Call. Eve. Ultima Online. To name some of the more well-known.

Those are all old games, yet they’re still up and running, still making money. It’s entirely possible to have a MMOG that is successful, without looking to take over from Blizzard.

Flashy graphics, big names, branded IP, hype: none of that matters very much. In MMOGland, content is king. We’ll hope developers (and the corps behind them) keep that in mind.

Mythic Closes 60+ Warhammer Servers