Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
 
Looking from the peak into the valley

In an age where everybody defends "his" MMORPG with religious fervor, I am still an agnostic. That is to say I don't believe there is any perfect MMORPG, and see good and bad sides in each of them. Of course by saying "game X has both good and bad sides", I'm getting labeled as a game X hater by the game X fans, and as a game X fanboi by the game X haters, but that is inevitable. Also inevitable is that any game has its ups and downs, and by just reporting on the state of a game objectively, the positive and negative comments flow with the peaks and valleys the game itself goes through.

Case in point is World of Warcraft. WoW right now is at one of its peaks, with this weeks patch adding the final piece of the puzzle to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Thus finally WotLK has what I would consider a good amount of different raid content. And in parallel the dungeon finder revived or kept alive the 5-man dungeon content. So there is a lot to do right now in WoW, and in consequence the game is highly popular, with people resubscribing, and servers being relatively full.

But once you are on a peak, the only way is down. I agree with the general assessment of Game by Night Chris that World of Warcraft is heading towards a valley of people getting burned out and bored, cancelling their accounts, and a generally diminished interest in WoW.

On the 5-man content side, the problem is simply that there is only a finite number of dungeons to run through. Speed runs through content for which you are already overgeared are relatively boring, and if you do several of those every night, sooner or later you can't stand them any more. Once you have all the possible gear you can buy for emblems of triumph, only the two emblems of frost per day still provide any reward. Some people are already at this point, and over the coming months many more will arrive there, so the interest in heroics will decline sharply.

On the raid side things look similar. My guild isn't the world's most advanced raiding guild, but even our raid calendar looks like this: ICC, ICC, Onyxia, ICC, ICC. Naxxramas and Ulduar are practically dead, and ToC is run with pickup raids. In a few weeks all the raiders will have killed Arthas, while all the non-raiders in their emblem gear will notice that they can't get a spot in a raid. Blizzard could fix part of the problem with introducing a cross-server Raid Finder, but as that would require them to rethink the raid lockout function that isn't all that likely.

So the most likely thing to happen is that soon most players will either have "finished" Wrath of the Lich King, or they are standing there in full epic T9 gear with nowhere to go. Given Blizzard's habitual development speed, patch 4.0 and Cataclysm are still over half a year away. Even the release date of Cataclysm probably won't be announced before Blizzcon in August. Thus this summer will most likely find World of Warcraft in a much worse state than now, with subscription and activity numbers dipping, and bloggers either writing about other games or ranting about boring WoW has become. Of course everybody will be back for Cataclysm, but you can't keep a current game alive all that long just with the hype over the next expansion. World of Warcraft is heading into a valley, a down phase, in the summer, there is no doubt about it.
Comments:
You're probably right. The things that made me come back to WoW was patch 3.3, the new heroics, new raid, LFD and lack of an alternative MMO that I like. My current goals are beating the Lich King on my main, leveling my alts to 80 and then getting them full t9. These goals will be met within a month or two, after that I'm not sure if I stop playing or not. At the moment there are no alternatives I like, but playtime will go down even if I keep my sub.
 
According to Wowprogress, only 24% of guilds have beaten Festergut. I predict it will be 2-3 months or so before the majority have beaten The Lich King, based on the current difficulty of the encounter. This assumes 2 x zone buffs.

3.4 will hit in mid-late summer. There will be some kind of world event, with a new raid boss (like the vampire in Karazahn) and some new pets/rep/tabard to farm on a daily lockout. You'll also have the chance to try out the new race/class combinations and people will start levelling alts (although this is better saved until Cataclysm).

-The 5 man farmers will burn out far before this happens.

-Raiders will continue to pursue the last achievements and start building gold/mats supplies.

-A lot of people will take a (much-needed!) holiday.

-A small proportion of players will use the downtime to explore other MMOs. We will have the usual debate about whether WoW tourists ruin other games, and Star Trek Online will expand and then contract its base.

Come October, we'll be ready to do the whole expansion-cycle over again.
 
There's no doubt WoW goes through peaks and troughs, all products do. It's why companies constantly release new versions of their product, updates, expansions, upgrades etc. It's classic product lifecyle.

The problem is that Blizzard take so long between major updates that the troughs are incredibly deep. I understand that they want to make sure the expansions are perfect and I appreciate that but the one thing I don't understand is why it takes them so long. Surely they could afford to expand their development teams and run more parallel developments in order to release faster?
 
I'd say we are already on our way down. For me as a nonraider Emblems of Triumph stopped being useful quite some time ago. Now I am reaching a point where I'm bored of farming my two Emblems of Frost with 3-5 characters per day. In addition to that most of the more dedicated raiders I know have already retreated into their "log only on for raids" - pattern.

If your prediction of how far away Cataclysm still is holds true (and your logic seems sound there) it will be interesting to watch what happens. Me, I have started playing sologames to complement my dwindling WoW-playtime, something I rarely ever was forced to do in six years of World of Warcraft. In the past when such a slow time happened I would start an alt, but now I already have all classes that interest me. I am slowly leveling those few I don't like so much (gotta catch em all!) but my motivation isn't that high obviously.
 
I think your right to an extent however I fully expect Cataclysm to release in the summer so I dont think numbers will be to adversely affected.

I've actually started to play WoW again and even jumped on my old level 80 paladin who is purely geared in rep gear and old heroic dungeon drops, having just completed the Forge of Souls and Pit of Saron I picked up some new gear and its got my tail up eager to progress my character a bit further.
 
Heh, couldn't help but feel reminded of "American Dreamz". Quoting from memory...

- "When you're on top, what's the only direction you can go into from there?"
- "Down?"
- "Who was that? Who said 'down'? 'Down' is the wrong answer. The only direction you can go into is up, because if you go down, all those people who were sucking up to you, everyone will come and kick you, and kick you, and kick you until you stop moving. 'Down' is not an option."

So, yeah, let's hope WoW and Blizzard got lots of padding at the ready for the inevitable summer hole.
 
seems to me wow have perpetuated the up down cycle by keeping on expanding top level content upwards inside of sidewards. Maybe they're not that bothered about it though, as there's no real strong alternative MMO to Wow and they're pretty confident players will always come back as new content is added.
 
Didn't they fix the lockout system with the introduction of the LFG utility?

Mmorpgs ups and downs happen all the time. But there is no triple A blockbuster mmorpg aimed for a summer release that I know of. So people will take a break for a few months and return when the expansion hits. No harm done to Blizzard.
 
Wow survives only until the next good game comes up. Maby Star Wars is it, maby some other game. Im pondering when Bliz is introducing their next big game - wow replacer so to speak. Think there is accually a risk of collapse before Cataclysm, but Im sure Bliz can take the hit. Wow is a monster after all.
 
Flashback to May 2008 (Tobold's MMORPG Blog):

Among the discussions of AoC and Warhammer and the announcement that Star Trek Online is cancelled, you'll find a lot of speculation as to whether a late WoTLK release will spell the end for WoW.

The tourists came back - it seems like they always will.



Also note the number of guest posts and comments from this era campaigning for 'casual raiding' and easier dungeons! Be careful what you wish for?

Imagine the outrage that will follow Player Housing and 'interactive' fishing when they're finally delivered...
 
Not everyone will be bored and whining. Raiding in blues will keep me and my blog busy for 2-3 more months. After that... I already have the next "undergeared" project.

There are lot of content in WoW, they are just boring because they are trivial. However by decreasing gear, you can make it challenging.
 
Actually, I've seen many people already begin to leave WoW, myself included for the most part lately.

I don't believe they'll wait for a fall release, unless it's necessary. My money says they're already behind schedule on Cataclysm. Late Winter/ Early Spring seem the ideal time to release ( unless your target marget is a much younger group ), and considering that we haven't seen any news of a closed beta yet, chances are they're behind where they wanted to be.

With Blizzard concurrently working on two major projects ( mystery game and wow expansion ) while still maintaining their existing games, it does seem they may have stretched their creative talent a bit too far. Meantime, they'll release a patch or three for the in-game seasons and holidays, and probably at least one event prior to the release of Cataclysm. This makes a summer release more likely, though I'm sure it's not the original timescale.
 
@WeFlySpitfires (greatm great handle by the way)

Have you worked on software development? Specially in tightly integrated environments where tweaking a small component might have strange repercussions on a lot of other areas?

I have so I can appreciate what non IT people seem to be unable to:

1) Blizzard has a great development cycle and they trade off timing for quality. It works, for a bland, bland game like WoW gets 11 millions due to no small amount to polish.

2) I'm tolerant to other companies releasing buggy or unstable games. Resources are few and the idiots with money (some call them investors) just want to make their buck as fast as possible preferably this quarter and what do you mean delaying the launch due to issues, just release the damn thing and fix it as you go along that's how you do things in IT right?

So basically in terms of resources and savoir faire, the hope for a WoW competitor (nothing will EVER kill WoW) is Bioware SWTOR.

As for the ups and downs, perhaps in this day and age people should stop adhering to MMO's as if they are joining a cult... You don't have to play only WoW. If things get slow, simply suspend the account and play other games. You (as in WoW players) don't have to sit around in Dalaran picking your nose and complaining about the lack of content
 
I'd love to see a Raid Finder if only for the older raids like Naxx and Ulduar. I spent almost all of WotLK on deployment and didn't get to play much. All my character are in full T9 and some T10, but I still want to do the older raids that simply aren't happening any more.
 
According to their comments at last years Blizzcon, Blizzard expects Cataclysm to be out before this years Blizzcon.

It was a comment along the lines that Alliance players would be complaining about Goblin Rogues at the next Blizzcon implying that people would actually be playing Goblin Rogues before that.
 
I agree with Bernard about the possibility of a patch 3.4.

I think there is a strong possibility of Blizzard releasing another raid instance, maybe even another 5-man, in patch 3.4, mid-way to Cataclysm. Possibly this will be some world event, although my thoughts were of another Zul* instance - disconnected from the main story-line of the WotLK and ICC, much like Zul'Aman was disconnected from the BC story-line. But still hopefully a fun instance with its own lore. Also, more troll goodness ftw :)

Of course, this is all wild speculation, but it is just as valid as assuming absolutely no new content before now and Cataclysm :)

Oh and by the way I also think 4.0 will be released before Catalysm itself, which will probably be 4.01 or similar. 4.0 will give us the new talent trees and UI enhancements etc. but only the expansion owners will be getting the new races and professions which will come with 4.01. So probably 4.0 will be released at least a month before the expansion, maybe more, giving Blizzard even more breathing room.
 
Heroic Dungeons should scale with gear.
 
As for the ups and downs, perhaps in this day and age people should stop adhering to MMO's as if they are joining a cult...

I don't think I ever agreed with one of Wyrm's statements as much as I do with this one.

As I said in the first paragraph of this post, I'm not trying to "doomsay" WoW, put to report on that game's ups and downs as I see them as objectively as possible. I see an up now, heading for a down this summer, followed by a new up caused by patch 4.0 and Cataclysm. As far as I know, Blizzard said there wouldn't be a patch 3.4.

Playing something else this summer is thus perfectly reasonable, and I myself might do exactly that.
 
I'm looking forward to growing tired with WoW. I will then go check out other games. Its not the end of the world.
 
@Tobold

Not trolling or anything, but I honestly would like to see you in either Everquest 2 or Darkfall.

Everquest 2 because I want to go back to it. Darkfall because the game is a point of strange interest to me, given what I know of it so far. :)
 
- Heroics have become boring: check
- Unable to join raids: check
- Standing in T9 nowhere to go: check
- Account cancelled: check
- Coming back for Cataclysm: check

Now, if only I could find a different game (which runs on OS X) to enjoy while waiting... wait, now where did I leave that Diablo 2 box? :P
 
I'm kinda hoping we see a new troll instance to keep us awake while waiting on Cataclysm.
 
I honestly would like to see you in either Everquest 2 or Darkfall.

Not likely. I already tried Everquest 2 *twice* and both times it failed to excite me. And all non-consentual PvP games are out by default.

Likely candidates for me to try are Allods Online, Runes of Magic, or maybe A Tale in the Desert again.
 
Odd that you didn't take to EQ2. It's like WoW, only it looks better and has way, way more to do below the level cap. My WoW sub is now cancelled and I'm back playing EQ2 (among other MMOs).

Looking back at my six months in WoW, what really surprises me is just how very little there is to do there below the level cap. I'd pretty much run out of ideas for things to do other than just level up after about three months.

I think the main reason for that is the lack of housing. EQ2's housing is a complete game in itself. It also grounds you in the world in a way that WoW never managed for me. Then there are the Collects. And the vast amount of dungeons of all sizes at all levels. And the multiple starting cities. And the variety of races. And now you can adjust the level of your character, meaning you never outgrow any content.

Then there's crafting, which is generally reckoned to be one of the best in MMOs.

With Achievements just added (they're a bit thin and I don't really like Achievement systems anyway, but they're there for those that like them) and Battlegrounds coming, EQ2 has pretty much all the MMO styles covered.

Of course, it's all of a piece, so if you don't like one part of it you probably won't like any of it. The whole game does have a very "clean" feel, which some people may find twee or bland. But overall, I find it a much richer experience than WoW.

I will be back for the Cataclysm, though - if only as a tourist...
 
Release date of Wow: November 2004

Release date of TBC: January 2007

Release date of WotLK: November 2008

Time between vanilla and TBC: 26 months

Time between TBC and WotLK: 22 months.

the increased 4 months can certainly account for both release-related issues, as well as 1-60leveling, so lets assume another (conservative, could be less) 22 months from WotLK to Cataclysm, we are left with: September release.
 
In a world where Ultima Online is still releasing expansions, WoW will not die for decades. It will probably not the be juggernaut it is now 5 years from now, but it'll still be around.
 
I apologize for the double post, but I've seen a lot of people talking about a "replacement" game, either another MMO from another developer, or something even from Blizzard.

Let us not forget StarCraft 2. I know of at least 5 close friends who have played or currently play wow who will drop wow for SC2 immediately, myself included.

SC2 doesnt have a release date either, but many suspect a holiday 2010 release would be most prudent.

I'm sure Blizzard has already thought about how their own games might compete with one another (WoW, SC2, D3), although I can only fathom their game plan. Do they expect each to reach (or in the case of wow, maintain) their potential popularity? Surely that would be a lofty goal!

We will have to wait and see what Blizzard does, or has up its sleeve.
 
- Unable to join raids: check

Why would you be unable to join raids? On my server ICC-10 is regularly pugged at all times of the day. If you're in full T9 gear, that's more than enough to get in to any of the runs going on.
 
What I really miss is more solo content, running raids and dungeons is only interesting for so long. But then, the way the game is designed players go from solo -> dungeons -> raids, so I guess my wish will never be fulfilled. I really want more solo stuff to do when I need a break from others. We all need to be alone some times. Thing is, the "alone" stuff in WotLK simply isn't as fleshed out as its group stuff, which makes it go bland very fast.
 
Third post, someone shoot me.

wow.com is reporting with 99.9% accuracy that Blizzcon 2010 will be October 22-23.

That is a bit later in the year than usual, to expect Cata to not come out beforehand would be quite surprising. They don't want a second Blizzcon talking about the same expansion. They will want to focus on Starcraft 2 (probably giving out beta passes) and highlighting the progress of D3 and revealing their new IP.

They might have pushed back Blizzcon specifically because Cata is (most likely) behind schedule.

Theorycrafting of course, but it makes some sense.
 
@William: I don't have the achievements, which means I won't get into pugs, so I'll never get the achievements, which means I won't get into pugs, so I'll never get the achievements, which means I won't get into pugs, so I'll never get the achievements, which means I won't get into pugs.... ;)
 
@Bhagpuss: Really not weird at all that he might not like EQ2. It isn't a very engaging game (at least not at lower levels) -- I think LOTRO is a similar style of game with better execution (better world building, better story, and less running around randomly collecting things).
 
For anybody thinking there will be a 3.4, think of it this way: we're two months into 3.3 already, so following similar trends as previous content patches, we would expect to see 3.4 sometime in the next 2-3 months, which means the PTR for 3.4 would have to go up pretty soon, sometime between now and the next month-and-a-half. And most likely shortly before that we'd expect to see some previews for 3.4 on the Under Development page, and probably some blue murmurings on the official forums concerning 3.4 before that. Given we've heard/seen nothing at this point, I'm assuming there won't be a 3.4 to pad/extend the gap until 4.0 (that, and they explicitly said there probably won't be a 3.4).

All signs are pointing towards a release schedule typical to what we've seen for previous expansions (I won't bother getting into specific dates as there are a million forum threads on the web discussing this), so yes, the typical burnout will set in with that as well.

I actually look forward to taking a short break from WoW. Even though I play it much more casually now than I have in the past, it's been a while since I actually put my sub on hold. My subscription ends at the end of the month, giving me just enough time to tie up some loose ends (such as finishing all the world event achievements). Time to recharge the batteries
 
I agree completely.

I'm already halfway down that valley at the moment. I came back to WoW in the midst of the dungeon finder patch and became very busy, gearing up all my toons and getting all the new dungeons and raids done that I had missed.

Now I'm sitting with 3 levels 80s in full T9 (for multiple specs) and have nothing to do. My guildmates (who are a group of good friends) are in a similar position. While we have started 10 man ICC and made it to the Abom Wing we are already starting to get bored with the game.

Especially now with big titles like Mass Effect finally hitting the shelves, fewer and fewer of us are logging on every day. I don't see us lasting much longer before we all eventually quit again and move on to other games.
 
Hey Tobold,

A friend of mine pointed out that the progressive buff should help more people get in to see it. I still think that, after 90 days, people that can do it, will, and those that can't, won't. Right now, I'll probably be one of the ones that won't be able to get in but, with several alts in the works, I should be busy until Cataclysm. If not, LotRO is waiting :-)

Thanks for reading!!!


- Chris

PS: You can just call me Game by Night, if it's easier. It's pretty interchangeable with my real name everywhere else on the web, so it's fine.
 
@Nees

Find yourself a guild that raids when you are available. Your server will have a number that will take you to ICC.

Re: Starcraft 2
Imagine how it's going to feel when you see your old mates running the brand new heroics on battle.net... No matter how good SC2, it would take a lot of restraint not to be pulled back...
 
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