If you haven't already heard, Mythic announced some big news about Warhammer : Age of Reckoning today, and it's not good news.
They are going to use PunkBuster for cheat protection, which a lot of people are not hot on.
Additionally, of the 24 classes that were meant to be available, only 20 will be available at launch. Mythic said that they were just having problems with the concept of these four classes and just couldn't make them work.
Finally, of the six capitol cities that were meant to be available, only two will be available at launch. Mythic was having difficulties doing justice to all six capitol cities and decided to focus on only two for now.
So what does this all mean?
The Affect of the Announcement on Substance
The career changes will cause some mechanical changes in the game. Previously each race had a tank, a melee DPS char, a ranged DPS char, and a support class. Now two races are going to be missing their tanks and two races are going to be missing their melee DPS. Since the tiered battle system pits races against each other, there's a danger that races missing a career will suffer. Fortunately, characters can already go to the appropriate zones for any race, but it's not clear whether that will be enough to keep the racial balance. Hopefully Mythic will introduce some mechanic to encourage necessary classes to switch areas as needed.
As far as mitigation, we don't know what Mythic will do yet. The indication has been that those four classes didn't work so they were cut. It is possible that the cut classes or replacements could make their way into the game at a later date. However Mythic has also said clearly that the cut classes could be gone forever.
The removal of the capitol cities will affect the campaigns. The campaign takes place through series of zones that connect two opposing capitol cities (empire vs. chaos, dwarves vs. greenskins, high elves vs. dark elves) -- the goal being to advance to your enemies capitol city and "sack" it. Previously there were to be three campaigns, each of which could independently result in the capture of a capitol city. With the extra capitol cities removed, a realm (WAR-speak for faction) will need to win two of the three campaigns to sack the opposing capitol city.
To mitigate the loss of the four capitol cities (and indeed the reason they were cut) is so that extra effort could be made on the remaining capitol cities. They will have more quests and more areas. Honestly, I never liked having three (or four) capitol cities in WoW, so I think this is a step up. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for everyone else) Mythic has stated that the capitol cities will definitely find their way back into the game.
Also, PunkBuster. There are a lot of sceptics but Mythic has stated it will be removed if it doesn't work, and that it will not be used for automatic bans.
The affect of the Announcement on Sales
The change has upset a large number of people. The related thread on Warhammer Alliance (the most popular forum) is currently at 78 pages (the changes were announced this morning).
There are really three main categories of people that are upset -- some were hoping to play the classes that were cut, some people (especially role-players) are disappointed at the thought of losing "their" capitol city, and some people just think it's a sign of weakness.
So many people on the forums (and here) have stated that they will no longer buy the game. Other people think the changes are reasonable. So it's possible this could adversely affect sales at launch.
The long term effects
Word of mouth is really how MMOG's survive post-launch. Good ones, so far, last forever. If WAR is good, word of mouth will bring in subscribers and the cuts won't matter. If WAR is bad, word of mouth will doom it and the cuts won't matter. The real question is if WAR will survive at launch after this. I think it will.
The Bottom Line
As some wiser souls have pointed out, no serious MMORPG has ever been delivered with working versions of all promised features. WoW, notably, ditched the honor system shortly before launch, and then revamped it without including Dishonorable Kills for players. I rolled on a PvP server thinking I would eventually be protected from ganking but it was never to be.
It also says a lot about WAR and Mythic that this news is being released when we haven't even hit the guild beta (which comes before the open beta). Many times players find that the end game is unfinished when they get to the end game and find it unfinished (Age of Conan comes to mind).
Furthermore, throwing out bad mechanics is a trait of successful developers. Blizzard is notorious for this -- there are rumors that a previous version of Diablo 3 was thrown out because it didn't meet expectations. TF2 is another successful game that survived a lot of thrown-out content.