Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Raid discussion in the blogosphere

While there has been a lot of lengthy raid discussion on this blog lately, I noticed that several other bloggers had some excellent comments on raiding on their blogs which were significantly shorter than mine. No surprise really, I tend towards the verbose. But I'd like to link to some of the recent highlights:

Melmoth from Killed in a Smiling Accident has a Thought of the Day: "Raiding these days is like trying to play Super Mario Brothers with twenty-four other characters on the screen at the same time. All yelling at each other."

Rohan from Blessing of Kings has a far more practical approach to people not knowing how to raid: Build a website to teach them. Quote: "It's a wiki, so if anyone wants to contribute, feel free. The important part is to keep things simple. The intended audience is not the people who can do 3000 DPS and are trying for 3500. The intended audience are the people struggling at 1000 DPS. After they master the basics, they can go to Elitist Jerks and delve into the deep theorycraft." Very laudable!

Zubon from Kill Ten Rats has a simple formula for game developers to improve their game: "I have discovered the problem: you are not doing enough of what I like. Your game would be much better if it were made more for me. Also, because that would make your game better, other people would like it more, so you would make more money. Developers, please fix that!"

And finally, but not directly on the topic of raids, Relmstein reminds us in his 2009 predictions that "People will grow tired of Wrath of the Lich King in the summer". I completely agree. And nothing, absolutely nothing, that Blizzard could possibly change in the raid difficulty of either Naxxramas or Ulduar is going to change that. It just might affect who exactly quits WoW first.
The foundation of WoW is EverQuest/EverRaid. The creation of a virtual world is limited by the basics of the system, and it is very poor at that. Nobody can generate a neverending stream of fresh and exciting new "endgame" content. At the same time they trivialize and make unenjoyable all levels before the final 1-2 levels. Basically, the world gets smaller the larger it grows, as there is no point in old low level content yet.

It cannot get better - the next expansion can feature us riding water mounts, diving, and still people would probably grow tired even earlier. Let's hope for GW2, but I fear this is a futile hope.
C'mon though, you gotta' agree that "People will grow tired of Wrath of the Lich King in the summer" is not much of a prediction. That's like saying "After 8 months at the top, WoW slips to a little LESS than at the top." hehe
We all know that players are fickle, and grow bored. But WoW will not hurt before any one of the other games, including EQ, will.

But hey, maybe I am wrong.

Blizzard could do worse than steal WAR Open Group mechanic... but maybe make it Open Raid :) That would be interesting! :)

And I really hope they can start releasing expansions more often. There's absolutely no reason why they couldn't release one a year, they certainly have the cash to fund it and still ensure its polished and perfect.
An open raid mechanic won't keep people around much longer. Most people avoid pugs like the plague, and a pug raid would be even worse. At best, open raids would keep some of the super-casual players around a bit longer.

The real question is what people will do once bored?
1. Will they head to WAR to see what the 6-9 months of patches and content additions brought to the game?
2. Will they head to EQ2 to see the new expansions? LOTRO expansions?
3. Will they try some of the newer free-to-play MMOs with RMT foundations?
4. Will they give up MMOs all together and try some new genre?

It's a safe bet all the serious companies will be trying to have huge announcements for the summer to snare some of the bored WoW players.

I would predict:
1. WAR will announce some free content additions for the coming summer. Mose likely an additional 2 classes, maybe a new dungeon like DAOC's Darkfall since players are clamoring for it.
2. EQ2 will announce another expansion for the summer that will add some new zones and high level raid content. Probably no new classes.
3. LOTRO might announce a new chapter expansion with some new dungeons.
4. Several new free-to-play MMOs will try to get their feet wet. Free Realms will start to market more aggressively to capture players' attention.
5. Left 4 Dead and Fallout 3 will announce some multiplayer expansions...maybe free to download...maybe for a small expansion fee.
6. Upcoming MMOs like Star Wars, Stargate, Star Trek, etc. will market more aggressively to capture bored players' attentions and start building a hyped fanbase.

Those all sound like pretty safe predictions.

There ARE no bored WoW players.

The number is insignificant. They picked up another 1 MILLION players last year.

I'm not one of them, I played in the past and had a blast. I still log in a bit here and there. But no one skips around games as much as I do! I have 30 sum odd games installed on my machine.

The players they do lose will go back, anyway.

Why is WoW always part of the discussion? Do we think that the players we have right now are all the MMO players in the world? There are plenty fresh faced young players (and older, not so fresh faced like myself) that enjoy new games. Don't presume that these new games or new additions to games will be coming from WoW.
At the rate all of you are going thru WoW content, it's going to be earlier than this summer for you to get tired and bored.

@the last anonymous poster
Re: "The number is insignificant. They picked up another 1 MILLION players last year."
How many of those were from Asia/Chinese customers paying $0.05/hour? The revenue is much less than a typical US/Europe customer from what I've read here on Tobold's blog. The popular belief is that WoW is bleeding US/European players, and while they spike after an expansion, they start leaving after 6 months.

And count me in as a player that Blizzard lost that hasn't come back. I don't plan to either. I think WoW is a great game, probably the best MMORPG out there, but it's still essentially the same game that I was playing 3-4 years ago.

And why is WoW part of the discussion? Because it's still the dominant #1 MMO by far. And if it's true about the 1 million new subs, I believe that's more than AoC or WAR? (Plus, this is Tobold's blog and so he'll continue to write about what he plays and what he wants to talk about.)
"How many of those were from Asia/Chinese customers paying $0.05/hour?"

All of them. Who cares. As though other games do not have that, in smaller proportions.

The "popular belief?" Do you mean the belief of the millions playing WoW? After all, that game has more players (even just US ) than a great deal of the other COMBINED.

What is your point? Are you SERIOUSLY trying to say that WoW is "bleeding players?" Seriously? They ban more accounts than most games have populations.

Leave WoW out of the mix. Let other games just be. WoW players explore other games, play other games and subscribe to other games.
You know that we all owe WoW a big hug for making MMO's not only popular, but KNOWN. They are a basement nerd hobby that is now "cool." That is good for the entire community.
Even the crappy Hollywood films are great for the indie community. Without some of those Hollywood producers taking chances on little known films (and the producers get their money from those big, silly movies) there would BE no great choices in movies. It is a needed evil.

But don't get me wrong, WoW is great, big and wonderful. I don't play because it sucks, I am just too busy blogging, playing other games, and doing podcasts. I don't hang my entertainment always around WoW, or discussions.

But thanks to WoW , like Guitar Hero (that HUGS game that made millions and millions and was, as some would put it, "fluff", just like WoW) soccer moms of 4 and working dad's that never smile looked at gaming and realized that it is *gasp* fun!

We all owe a lot to WoW. It will go nowhere. Even if it got down to 2 million players, LOSING 8 million players, name a single game that has that many.

So anyway, I think I am confused, yet again, by this fascination with subs. No one will know them until the company says them, so "popular belief" is based on, what..don't tell me...guildies leaving? Bloggers predicting?

Beau Turkey
If we subscribe to the idea of critical mass, (see ), then Wow would seem to be the only MMO to have attained this presence.
I don't subscribe to anything. lol I keed I keed.

This isn't a deep issue. This is a popular game remaining popular, and some people thinking that it is becoming unpopular, which it is not. WoW loses players like we lose skin cells: quite a few but we'll never notice.

And like I said, I would'nt never want to see WoW go away. They are keeping an entire industry alive. Gaming mags (the few that are left), bloggers, websites dedicated to MMO's all can guarantee an article or piece on WoW will get so and so many reads/downloads.

And plenty of those WoW players, since discovering gaming through South Park's feature on WoW or at their local Hot Topic (or where ever they saw it, since it is everywhere) go out and discover new games and might actually find one they like better. That is a player that might have never existed without WoW.

I don't know, the big guy always gets picked on, that's normal. I just want to keep the conversation real.

There ARE no bored WoW players.

The number is insignificant. They picked up another 1 MILLION players last year.

In china, and other asian markets where the subs make far less than western subs do. At some point thier profitability will begin to suffer because more and more of their subs will be pay as you go customers in Asia who generate a couple of dollars a month and don't buy the boxes.

The problem with people not knowing how to raid is that no one really does it till 80. In the beginning people would do raids of deadmines, Uldaman, BRD, LBRS and UBRS and thier were rewards still worth going to for raiders deep into Molten core in BRD, LBRS and UBRS. Now you solo to end game, get someone to power level you through 5 mans and then jump into raids and try to learn the game.

Its really frustrating for people who already know how to have thier progression slowed down by someone like that. But the really sad thing is if you create a new toon and try to put together runs as you go you will be belittled, mocked and told to just solo grind to end game because you are wasting your time. Add that to the fact that most new players have no idea what they can do. I've had people tell me a group of level 15 to 20 toons can't complete deadmines. They thought we were gods because we could. And I didn't consider myself a great player.

In the end that's why I quit. Group content has become a thing reserved for the lucky few who actually get geared on the first wave or two of the expansion. Everyone else behind gets to solo. Or group with the people that take 3 hours to run what should be an hour instance. I remember when all the instances were that long but the simple fact is once I've mastered an instance and can do it quickly it's like crawling through glass to train someone else to play and there is no reward for doing so. It's just bad design from the perspective of training the new players to play thier characters.
Of course at some point they will lose some profit. (Probably when Blizzard makes a new MMO.)

They could lose 1 million players a year and still last 8 or 10 more years!

The asian market players, regardless of people thinking that they all just log in for free or pay for time at a internet cafe, are valid players that are having fun doing a million different things.

And please don't tell me that end content was reserved for thew "lucky few." Tell that to my wife and her guild...ANYTHING but serious raiders that are and will be doing more of the high end stuff.

Here's the argument: are players leaving WoW? Of course. Like every game and every activity.

Are they hurting? No way. Some raiders getting mad because someone does not "know how to play" means nothing, obviously.
Why do so many bloggers insist on predicting wow's downfall at some point in the next 3 months/1year/5years ? It's pretty ridiculous !!!!!! no game lasts forever.... but wow's popularity keeps growing at the moment.

These people just need to apply some common sense and stop searching for the shock/horror tabloid expose "wow sucks! its official!!!" Why??? Do you get paid per page hits or per comments? If so, its just nonsense.
They could lose 1 million players a year and still last 8 or 10 more years!

The asian market players, regardless of people thinking that they all just log in for free or pay for time at a internet cafe, are valid players that are having fun doing a million different things.

my point was simply that the profit erodes much more quickly when they lose western subs.

assume 3.5 million western subs. If 2 million of them buy a box when an expansion is released thats about 175 million in sales. 0 in asia because they don't buy the box. Boxes aside 7.5 millions subs at a two dollars per sub per month (I'm assuming thats profit after expenses) is 180 million. the 3.5 million western subs assumeing 7 dollars profit per month is 294 million a year.

now take out 1 million subs in asia. profit loss per year 24 million.
Lose 1 million western subs 84 million a year and assuming box sales are at the same percentage (57 percent. as above and I believe that low end) it would be about 50 million lost the next expansion if they don't come back. so you'd have to lose 5 million asian subscribers to have the impact of losing 1 million western subscribers. And I suspect the western subscribers have higher turnover and burn through the content faster on the monthly subscription model

I think I'm probably lowballing all those numbers, and obviously blizzard hasn't released official ones, but it illustrates the huge difference in profit between the western and asian market. If they hit 15 million in asia and dropped to 1/2 a million here thier profits would be much less.

And I never said wow was dying or the end was near. But a completely western MMO would only have to have about 4 million subs to be as profitable as Blizzard is with thier 11 million world wide customers. And they'd do it with less servers and overhead.
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