Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Measuring World of Warcraft burnout
I'm getting a bit tired of World of Warcraft myself, waiting for the Burning Crusade expansion which will renew my interest. I observe a certain amount of WoW burnout in my guild. I read blog entries and "I quit" posts on the forums. All of which is just anecdotal evidence, and no indication of the health of the game. The number of people quitting isn't really relevant, the health of the game depends on the difference between the number of people joining and the number of people leaving. So how do we measure whether there is a general burnout of World of Warcraft players in this pre-expansion time?
Reliable information in this case comes from an unexpected source: the stock market. Blizzard is just a small division of a large media conglomerate, Vivendi Universal, and Vivendi doesn't have to inform investors about every little movement in the WoW player base. But The9 Ltd, a publicly traded Chinese company, which runs World of Warcraft in China, gets 99% of their income from that game. Thus investors demand, and get, very detailed information on how the game is going. And the CEO of The9 Ltd just had to announce that in the third quarter of 2006 players in China played 10% less World of Warcraft than in the previous quarter. Quote: "The fall in revenue comes as long-term users begin to desert the aging game in China."
Seeing how the game in China has been running for less long than in the USA and Europe, while being better advertised, we can be reasonably sure that a similar World of Warcraft burnout is happening in the rest of the world. Of course everybody expects that decline to reverse when the Burning Crusade expansion finally comes out. But ideally a game company would release the expansion *before* the people are getting bored and leave. And in China the expansion won't be out in January, as Blizzard is still negotiating about getting a bigger share of the revenue from The 9 Ltd.
Blizzard really needs to work a bit faster and harder if they want to keep their customers in the game for the next couple of years.