Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 09, 2009
World of Warcraft activity

Ghostcrawler, who due to the economic crisis has to work two jobs at Blizzard, developer and community manager, recently said that WoW subscriber numbers are still increasing. That may be, but how active are all these subscribers? I have a definitive impression that the "new - shiny" of Wrath of the Lich King has worn off. There appear to be less people turning up for raids, and I'm selling less goods on the auction house.

It appears as if everybody was waiting for patch 3.1, the raiders for Ulduar, the casuals for the other features. Is this something particular to my server, or do you observe a similar decline in WoW activity?
Darkspear(EU) has definitely gone the same way. Players seem more scarce, the Auction house doesn't have half as many items on it as it used to. Auctions don't sell. And where we could have easily found a 25 man guild team near the beggining of 3.1, now we're lucky to find 25 online at the same time.
Bags are still selling on my servers, and there's so many newly dinged new 80s or alt 80s that I'm getting MORE groups easier. Then again, to each server their own.
Did not the same happen some time after TBC release, before Black Temple and Sunwell related content were introduced through patches? I personally think that people burned out much faster this time, like a flash in the pan.

I believe that Skyguard, Ogri'la, Mushroom (the Zangarmarsh guys) and some other factions simply took more daily quests to complete, plus people did not have the faction dungeon grind tabards/mechanic.

People already got exalted with most factions within a week after release, and there are less 5-man-dungeons. This was probably done to channel people and make it easier to find groups. A side effect could be that people are "done" faster than in TBC.

The content was not tiered and there were no access limits, plus raiding got easier than ever. I am pretty sure that many people do not bother with doing the same raid over and over in a 10 and 25 man version, many got already at least some epics, and badge gear is also better than ever before.

My favorite theory: People are simply done with WoW. Expansion 3 will probably feature "diving mounts" and level 90, and I wonder if Diablo 3 will not take away some of the more action oriented players.
Noticed a definite decline on my server. Auction house is horribly slow. My guild went from having 10-15 80s on at one time down to me logging on and finding 1 or 2, sometimes nobody on. Hard to find pug groups and don't even bother trying to find a group in off peak hours.

I hope 3.1 keeps everyone's interest a tad longer.
I have 80's on two servers and haven't noticed any significant decline - my horde guild is steadily growing from 10 to 225-men raiding, my ally guild is stable and waiting for Ulduar. Auctions sell, I managed to sell rare jc recipe for over 1k gold just yesterday and I sell flasks everyday, so AH isn't dead. No half-serious raid guild disbanded in recent weeks.
Recession? Not in my corner of WoW.
People have finished the endgame pve content and arenas are a lot less popular. Those still playing are either very casual players who are still levelling or doing instances. Some people are levelling their alts. And a few like me log in a few times a week to farm "old" raid content.

So yes, personally I've been playing a lot less: every day at TLK launch. Twice a week for 3 hours now.

Time for 3.1. Although I'll personally still only play 2 x 3 hours and just skip the ten men raids.
Yep, it's slowing down, and yep, it's happened a lot faster than TBC. Part of that may be that people are just bored of WoW, but the lack of progression content isn't helping. I'm the very definition of "hardcore casual", and even I'm seeing a lack of content in my future - as someone who never even saw ZA or Gruul, never mind TK or Black Temple, it's kinda terrifying that I could easily see the end of the current highest-level raid within a few weeks if I wanted to.
Can't speak for my entire server, but my raiding guild is having a hard time putting together 25 people these days, and that's never been an issue before.

Personally I show up for the raids because I feel it's an obligation (my membership in my guild is a bit like a contract, IMO) - not because the WotLK raids hold any enjoyment any more. I wish guild leadership would sense all the burnout and just shut down raids for a few weeks.
At least in Quel'Thalas (US) there is a persistent deflation in it's economy, prices going down at a slow but steady pace. This may be one of the consequences of the decline in the population of the server.
I was a WoW player since launch pretty much. I played every day. I had four level 70's. I now have 2 level 80's. I really felt that WotLK is an amazing expansion and I'd prefer it to vanilla WoW, or TBC. With this said, shortly after getting my second level 80 decked out in epics I stopped playing as much. I do log on every day to craft titansteel. I have about 80 bars of titansteel I'm holding onto for 3.1. Come 3.1 I will enjoy duel specs for a few weeks, enjoy my bounty of gold, enjoy uldar. After that, I will most likely be quitting WoW for the first time in almost 5 years. I'm just not compeled to play it anymore.

I spent a lot of time thinking about why I didn't "feel" like playing WoW. My best answer: I'm bored of the game. I'm bored of my level 80's. I purchased some heirloom items, but I'm bored of leveling alts. Although WoW wasn't thought of as a grind due to all the quests, questing has now become a new form of grinding, as it takes hundreds of quests to gain a few levels. If someone was to give me a level 80 class I didn't have, I'd play it for a few weeks, get some epics and get bored of it. I'm bored of PvP but I still marginally enjoy a good PvE raid. However a raid would not be worth loosing my whole night over.

So I'll stay subscribed for the patch, and shortly after. I'll also resubscribe if there is another very big patch, or expansion....but I'll always be waiting for the next big MMO.
I've noticed an uptick in server activity on Drenden- more people in /lfg and blocking the stone outside Naxx, as well as a massive increase in demand for enchant mats.
I've noticed a signifcant increase in the number of low level characters moving through Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms over the past few weeks. For the 3-4 months after Wrath was released those areas were simply dead. Now I can find instance groups fairly easily for the old world dungeons.

That makes me think that many players are leveling alts and trying different classes. So although there is a slow down at the top end I'd say that the subscription numbers are pretty stable.
I'd probably guess that while people are getting bored and not playing as much, their subscriptions are still active as they wait for 3.1. In the meantime, the number of brand-new players who aren't anywhere near the level cap yet is still steadily increasing as they hear great things about the game and its current expansion.

Just because there aren't as many level 80s online as there used to be doesn't mean anything about subscription numbers. I know I don't see much of a point to logging on to my main outside of raid time when she doesn't need any gear from 5-mans and is exalted with any factions she could do dailies with. I spend all of my time on alts now, and I've seen quite a few people around lately.
I noticed a huge slowdown on my server, Bonechewer. Before, my guild was running two 25 mans each week with no problem filling any of the slots. Now we have trouble filling up one 25 man. On top of that, my auctions aren't selling as fast and prices are slowly deflating. It used to be easy to grab people for a pug raid on Bonechewer, and now that is extremely difficult.

I hope people are just taking a break until 3.1, because if these trends continue beyond 3.1 I know I won't stay subscribed for much longer.
I suspect my ability to "observer" is miniscule compared to blizzard's monitoring tools, which not only give you an instant answer to the question "how many paid subscribers do we have?" , but how actively those subscribers are playing, how many toons each account has, how many unique people logon for x hours per day/week.... and pretty much any statistic under the sun about their subscriber base. I see no reason they'd lie to us.

Looking at how quickly my AH gear sells, or how many of my guildies show up to instance farming nights is a pretty insignificant way to judge the game's popularity, I think.
I've noticed a slow down on my server as well but I believe it's because most players have finished all the content and don't feel like repeating it. The amount of players with 3-5/5 tier pieces is remarkable.

In TBC, raiding was so much harder that players always had something to look forward too. You couldn't PuG Gruul's or Mags (and above) until the very end of TBC when badge gear was equal to T5. Progress was much slower

Part of me enjoys the new "casual" approch that Wrath has brought to the game, but after being in PuGs with half the raid having NO idea what to do on a fight as simple as VoA, it depressed me. IMO, Heroic (25 player) raids should not be as easy as Naxx or even OS/25 are. The 10 man should be for the WoW "Tourist" and the 25 for the more hardcore players.

And no, I'm not an EJ player, I never made it into BT or Sunwell pre-3.0 patch. But when most of your level 80 players have already seen all the content, why do you even wonder why players are bored and burnt out? There's nothing left to do 2-3 months into an expansion.... and that my friends is sad. IMO they should of had 2-3 more instances at launch, at least that would of kept us interested until Uldar.

Many players are really looking forward to 3.1 but the same thing will happen. Even if Uldar has 14 bosses, easy and hard modes, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day players are going to get bored with running Uldar (regardless if they clear it or not) and will get bored and will cancel their accounts until the pre-Ice Crown instance or even up to the release of Ice Crown.

If it wasn't for levelling up a 3rd alt, I would have quit WoW 3 months after Wrath. I've chosen to level up a Shaman to 80 (from 70) in order to heal since Pally healing is just bad right now.

I hope players come back to WoW, but a good friend of mine who started playing soon after beta recently quit because he was bored and had nothing left to do. He's NOT comming back for Uldar or IC since it took too long for the content to be released. I don't think he's the only one. :-(

I'm part of the recent WoW exodus.

I haven't played in close to three weeks and have started up a few characters in WAR. Even though the game is slightly lower-quality than WoW (it's a bit laggy and has class imbalances, particularly among healers), it's still a HUGE amount of new content to work through and the dropoff in quality by no means makes the game unplayable. The recent server consolidation was what drew me to the game, as the increased population density on the remaining servers makes for bustling activity in public quests, the auction house, and the PvP battlegrounds.

Sure, this makes me one of the dreaded "WoW tourists" but I never really get into those kind of dogmatic debates - either here, or in-game. I heard them on both sides of the WoW vs. Guild Wars divide when those games were first released a few years ago, and I hear it now from all my WoW guildys who are baffled as to why I am taking a break from the game instead of leveling ANOTHER character to 80 like everyone else in the guild. Why does there even have to be a discussion as to which MMO is "best"? All of these games can stand on their own merits.

Will I come back to WoW when Ulduar/IC open up? Too early to say. But one MMO world has never been enough for me, and no doubt I'll grow tired of WAR at some point as well.
Well to be fair to the blizz, they are trying a different raiding model with hardmodes. You're not alone in never going into BT or sunwell pre-nerfs. Most players didnt, and yet they're some of the most beautiful content in the game. Now the model is different. We had sarth3d as an experiment; as they said they're going full bore on this model in Ulduar, and there will be better gear rewarded too - as there currently is with sarth2d or sarth3d.

Very few servers - except some of the best ones out there - pug Sarth3d. I see Sarth2D pugs on my server in 10 and 25 - but they are experienced hardcore raiders from very top guilds on their alts... they know a lot of each other because they've been raiding together for so long. Unless you pretty much have every raid achievement and reward, you cant say you've completed the game. Not liking hard modes or achievments, and getting bored after you've gotten your easy naxx epics doesnt count, because the raiding model has changed. Asking for more instances is just futile too - any games company can only produce content at a finite pace, which will always be slower than the speed at which its consumed.
Yeap things have slowed down in my guild and we've had to team up with a 10 man raiding guild in the same time zone to complete #s for 25 mans.

But I don't think people are quitting. It doesn't matter much to Blizz really. A guy who plays 2 hours a month pays as much as a person who pays 200. I think folks will come back when 3.1 hits, and when Arthas finally comes in 3.3, there should be a big influx of old players again. Blizz probably knows WOW is not immune to cycles, and they've done all they possibly can to reduce their impact.
I have no doubt that people are playing less than they were a few months ago. But to keep it in perspective, a few months ago, WotLK was a fresh release and people were playing like crazy to devour the new content.

I doubt that activity levels are lower now than they were SIX months ago.
I have started playing my low levels toons in the bg's again. Far more fun then raiding Naxx for the one millionth time. I notice a return of twinks with BOA gear, and yes I have BOA gear. Those low level communtities are coming back. I submit that people are still playing WOW just not end game.
Still got my wow-subscription (forgot to cancel it last month), but I only log on these days to say hi to a few ppl in the guild. Leveling 2 chars to 80 and doing a few dungeons was enough of WOTLK for me ...
I have been playing wow for a little of 4 and ½ years now. While it has been an enjoyable game experience for me, the *weee new shinnies* aspect of wrath content wore off quite quickly. Now 3.1 is out, and ulduar looks likely to be a more " competence vs kersplosion" type of raiding atmosphere, i feel it too will become boring soon.. Also with the 2nd major change to the warlock talent tree, and the absurd rotation / timing needed to play the class, I've relegated myself to playing my mage (also 80). Not to mention the return to titan lore for those lore junkies out there, you'll know that the story doesn't fit anymore, they've broken the game for me, be it the generic one size fits all spell power / crit mechanics, to the drab re-colored t3 look of t7 and t7.5. To me it feel like blizzard has taken obvious shortcuts with this expansion, and hasn't put as much effort in it as they did BC.

I feel that people will notice an increase of player activity over the next month or so for ulduar crap, but after that, the numbers will probably decline again.

To me it's quite simple, the generic " feel " of the new content, and the obvious lack of creativity on the developer's part has led to a " i've done all this crap before " mentality, leading to that whole " i just don't feel like grinding / farming / leveling any more " attitude.

While i give blizzard their prop's for creating a truly fun game, i feel it's time for me to look elsewhere. I loved my lock, and in BC, i really got into being the top DPS, but now that they have been nerfed into the ground, and only people with a PH.D. in applied mathematics can figure out the rotation, and keep the timing just right for the warlock class to be viable in raids, I must be moving on.

Hopefully something new, and exciting will come out soon.
If you look at the activity numbers on, WoW server activity has declined steadily from January 2009 through July 2009. This was the longest unbroken string of declines in activity ever for WoW (the longest previous was five months).

The release of 3.1 did not interrupt the trend, probably because the bosses in Ulduar beyond Flame Leviathan were initially overtuned. I have to wonder what the devs though when they released what they thought was a gem, and got such a tepid response.

I will be interested in seeing the numbers when WCR releases their next activity update. ToC is very underwhelming, but the insane gear inflation has rendered most everything before it obsolete.
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