Anyone who's played an MMO probably knows where I'm going with this.
When I picture MMO's I always imagine an ancient prophecy of two epic forces clashing against eachother. On one side, you have World of Warcraft, the monstrous behemoth of a dragon. It has spent several years growing and becoming more powerful, until it became the uncontested powerhouse of MMOs. It didn't just set standards, in some cases it WAS the standard. It was what the mass majority of MMOs strived to be, and as each MMO tried to challenge it, they were easily put down and became just another pile of bones outside WoW's cave to scare off any others bold enough to try.
And on the other side, an unknown champion seeking to slay the beast and herald in a new era for MMOs. An MMO with such creativity, gameplay, and player satisfaction that it could challenge WoW and slay it once and for all. I'm not gonna lie, when I first saw The Old Republic, I thought they'd be that champion. Instead, like many others, they fell. But the years of being challenged has not left WoW unscarred, and it has not aged well either. If it is destined to fall, it will be soon. And now Elder Scrolls Online stands where so many MMOs have before it, hoping to succeed where others have fallen.
The reason I believe most MMOs that try and challenge WoW fail, is because they try challenging it in its own arena with its own weapons. For example, let's look at The Old Republc for a second. Sure, it looked nice and was written by Bioware, one of my all time favorite companies. But what was the gameplay if not just a reskinned version of WoW? You had the combat mechanics, the same user interface system, the same roles, the same talent system, the same PvP objectives, and the same PvE elements. So many things were the same, that once I hit level 10, one of my first thoughts was "Why am I playing a level 10 Bounty Hunter, when I have a level 85 Hunter back on WoW." This seemed to be the same mindset that most gamers felt, as the initial booming population of SWTOR quickly followed with an enormous drop, as many players went back to WoW. This would be the same for many other MMOs that would come later. They all tried to compete with WoW by doing the exact same things it did. The difference is that WoW had had about five years of being uncontested in which it could develop its community and hone its mechanics. If WoW and SWTOR were to change places in release date, it wouldn't be a fierce dragon devouring all MMOs that stand before it, but a Dark Lord wielding a terrifying lightsaber.
Now Elder Scrolls Online is fast approaching and will have to compete with World of Warcraft. But World of Warcraft, as I've said, has not aged well. The community has become discontent, more people are leaving now more than ever, and the existence of countless Free-to-Play MMOs that look and play like WoW have devalued it ("why play WoW with a subscription fee when I can play SWTOR or Tera for free?"). ESO on the other hand, offers a fresh take on gameplay and mechanics. Instead of following the "WoW Formula" like so many others, they're trying something new. I think this gives them a huge advantage.
But the biggest thing I think will carry ESO is the end game. What is the "end game" of most MMOs? Raids. Big team PvE set ups. Don't get me wrong, Raids are very fun and I hope that ESO has at least a few. But they also become stale quickly. You can only defeat Lich King 25 Man Heroic so many times before it becomes monotonous. It's not because of how they set it up, it's just natural. If a Raid is too hard, players become disheartend and stop trying. If it is too easy they get bored. And Raids do not "improve". They stay the same raid forever, being occasionally rebalanced. But ESO's end game isn't based on its "Raids". It's built around the PvP. Many of you who PvP'd in the beta know what I'm talking about. And to me, PvP will always be more fun than PvE because it will be different almost everytime, even if you face the same team. A game that handles PvP well can easily succeed over others. And if you compare the PvP shown in the ESO beta with WoW's? I think it's easy to see which of the two takes the trophy there.
So how will this battle end? Will the dragon throw another skull upon its bed of bones? Or has the hero of prophecy final come to smite the decaying beast?
Who will win? The Dragon? Or the Dragonborn?