Of course Blizzard is apprehensive of the mounting competition from free-to-play, social networking games like Farmville and Free Realms. The company said so in its 2009 Annual Report this month.
“Future increased consumer acceptance and increases in the availability such games or other online games, or technological advances in online game software or the Internet, could result in a decline in platform-based software and negatively impact sales of our console and hand-held products. Newer technological advances in online game software may also render products such as World of Warcraft obsolete.”
For the time being, Blizzard’s fear of being past-its-trend is highly unlikely.
Speaking of which, Farmville just received the honor for Best New Social/ Online Game at the 10th Annual Game Developers Conference last week. Its rival Free Realms meanwhile hits 9 mil online users. And Sony Entertainment Online, the company behind Free Realms, isn’t playing coy. Sony Online Entertainment is continually investing in themed in-game events and persistent marketing support to draw a constant influx of players into the game, as reported by VentureBeat.
And what’s behind Free Realms’ success? In-game research, according to its (SOE) Prez John Smedley