We've all heard it a thousand times over from trade shows, interviews, reviews, editorials, and the like: WoW is so successful in part because just about every modern computer can handle the code and run the client in a playable fashion.
We saw in 2004 two MMOGs come out, WoW and EQ2. Blizzard's soon-to-be behemoth could be run on just about anything while to play EQ2 the way it's meant to be played you needed a powerhouse of a machine. This, according to SOE, was because they wanted to skew with an eye on the future. Meanwhile Blizzard focused on a solid art-style that might look dated down the road but at least it would still be pretty in its own right.
WoW launched with hundreds of issues... but they were all mostly server-side and not problems with people's computers running the game. But EQ2 had memory leaks, crashes, texture cache problems and on top of it all you needed a pretty damn nice gaming computer to play it smoothly... does this ring a bell today? These are the issues that Age of Conan faces now just one week from launch, and you can probably count on them still being a problem on the 17th when pre-orders get in and on the 20th when the game goesf fully retail.
Now, I've made it clear by now that I'm totally digging Age of Conan. But I most certainly would not be were I still on my old AGP single-core system. The only reason I'm so in love with Hyboria today is because my computer plays it flawlessly. And I'm very likely in the minority here. Keen's PC, not exactly an old machine even though it's not cutting edge, it runs the thing like crap and he's made sure to say so on his blog.
It's a misstep by Funcom as the vast majority of gamers who are into MMOGs simply won't be able to enjoy the game. There are plenty who will be able to as the 8800GT and other 8000 series Nvidia cards are now out there in full force, but many systems are still running on ATI 1600 series cards and Nvidia 6 and 7000 series cards. And these are the systems that won't be able to play AoC for sh*t.
When the dust settles after the 20th, the only people playing and enjoying Conan are going to be the ones who can run it on their PC and that I'm afraid is a smaller number than I think Funcom would like. They should be happy WAR's not releasing this summer... not because it's a better game but because you can almost guarantee that its requirements will be more manageable based on the screens and video alone.
As a wise man once said... with great shaders and post effects comes great taxing of video cards.