Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
 
Dying under a pile of money

LarĂ­sa has an interesting post up on the subject of "WoW is dying", where she concludes (correctly I think), that it is more a case of people thinking "I'm personally bored of WoW, and that means WoW must be dying" than anything to do with the actual state of the game. She links to a very interesting post by Gronthe on Blizzard's financials, which shows that the net revenue of Activision Blizzard is on a constant upward trend. And anyone who believes that Blizzard isn't going to make a profit with Cataclysm, Starcraft II, Diablo III, and their next MMO, needs to get his head checked.

But while the chance that Blizzard is going broke and having to shut down the World of Warcraft servers anytime soon is infinitesimally small, the subjective feeling of "WoW is dying" some people have is based on other, more personal, experiences. For example I am pretty certain that player activity this summer is going to be relatively subdued. That doesn't necessarily mean a lot of people unsubscribing, as a lot of people might just let their subscription keep running and just play less. But it does lead to less activity on the servers, more difficult time to get raids together, and associated guild drama with potential for some guilds folding due to being unable to raid.

The other major factor is burnout. The average player is playing World of Warcraft a thousand hours per year, and with WoW in its sixth year that adds up to a lot of hours. The truly astonishing thing is that people can play a game for several thousand hours, not that they are burned out at the end of that. We know that WoW is in the top 10 of PC games sales charts nearly every month, so as the game doesn't appear to be growing any more (no new servers, no press releases on new player number records), nor shows significant signs of shrinking (no server mergers), we must assume that there are about as many people leaving World of Warcraft every month as there are new game sales. Again, over the years that makes a lot of ex-WoW players.

So while "WoW is dying" certainly isn't true in any absolute sense of the term (unless you take John Maynard Keynes view that in the long run we are all dead), it is perfectly possible that *your* personal World of Warcraft is dying. Your guild imploded, your best friends left, you are stuck in pickup groups with clueless n00bs, and you are burned out and bored, until you quit and WoW is dead *for you*.

But objectively speaking World of Warcraft has quite a good survival strategy. Given that eventual burnout, especially of those who play a lot, is inevitable, designing the game with new players and casual players in mind is probably the best possible way. Of course that leaves the veterans furious: As they learned a lot about WoW in the past years, and optimized the performance of their characters, they would need the challenge level of WoW to constantly go up for the game to remain interesting. Instead the developers make many aspects of the game more accessible to new and casual players, and remove unnecessary complexity. Also the amount of content an expansion plus all patches adds to World of Warcraft is more suited to a leisurly pace of consumption than to hardcore playing. The more you play, the faster you just run out of things to do. From a business point of view that makes total sense, because a new and casual player pays as much money as a hardcore player. But of course for the hardcore players that can be frustrating, and as it is more often them who populate blogs and game forums, they vent their frustration in doomsaying. In reality World of Warcraft isn't dying, it is just moving away from the needs of that player group.

The financial brilliance behind that development strategy becomes apparent whenever the next expansion is released. If a large part of the ex-WoW players are people who got bored and burned out, an expansion promising new content and new challenges is likely to bring them back, at least for a while. Thus they spend money on the expansion box, plus some months of subscription, and Blizzard is making tons of money. It is pretty much certain that Cataclysm will again break all possible records for first-week sales, and that the subscription numbers will peak again. So is World of Warcraft dying? Not unless it suffocates under a pile of money.
Comments:
I agree that WoW isn't "dying".

I disagree that that fact that they are not expanding anymore automatically means that they are stable.

I tested the new-player experience extensively the last few months. It is not as good as it were. That's the reason for Cataclysm in the first place.

And even after Cataclysm Blizzard will be bashed by new players for the very strange flip at 60, 70 and 80.

It's just that new players aren't as vocal as us. If they are owned in BGs by enchanted heirlooom players who may even have better skills, they leave.

Takling the Toboold-perspective and just looking at PvE: Maybe the ultra-easy approach works for new players .. perhaps.
 
This is the pattern I see among several wow gold millionaires:

Tire of pve and/or pvp so switch to gold making.
Tire of making gold at 1 million.
Quit the game.

Not all the millionaires quit but several bloggers such as stokpile have.

I've got a blog that keeps me going, but I can see why someone without that kind of thing to motivate them would give up at 1 million. After all... wow gold is so worthless at that point.

Some will surely come back for cataclysm, we'll just have to see what the economy looks like at that point (in terms of how professions interact in an entertaining way for those solely interested in making gold).

I know this is a small percentage of the player base but it is a good example of how wow is dying for gold makers.
 
I hear that wow is dying--from people that are just personally burned out-- pretty much constantly, and have since about a month after vanilla retail release. The volume of these comments goes up towards the end of each expansion, but it never goes down to zero. When you stop hearing that WoW is dying, then you will know that it actually is.
 
Very interesting post, and I believe the analysis is accurate.

Blizzard has been spot-on with the pulse of the current generation of gamers; which is to make the game accessible but provide depth as well.

However, is this model going to hold on the in future? These casual gamers will one-day become experienced and will quickly tire of "easy" games. I believe that games form some kind of cycle: hardcore -> casual -> hardcore -> casual
 
@ Azzur:

This, once again, raises the question, why there is so little (server-)diversification.

There are hundreds of different kinds of 'cornflakes', thousands of pens, many many different cars, but only one WoW. Also per company.

The server architecture makes diversification very simple. At least you could make a battlegroup diversification.

You could easily make a, easy PvE battlegroup, an extreme hardcore raiding PvE one, one for world PvP etc.

If I had control, I would keep a core design team and split the rest of the developers to different battlegroups. These different battlegroups would eventually evolve into creating different games. May the fittest survive.

The advantage were to use the core technology, graphics , etc.

Blizzard would cover the whole market, just like cornflakes do ;)

They would be much more flexible; especially against unpredictable rivals.
 
The question for me is: How long will their current system work?
Right now they need a huge amount of new players every day just to keep from shrinking. The amount of gamers out there is limited and even the reservoir they are tapping right now is bound to dry up some day. Shouldn't it be more sustainable to focus on those people that play this game for 6 years nonstop now instead of unstable butterflys that will stop by for half a year before something else attracts their attention?
Sure there are more of them.. but most of them are not here to stay it seems. Should you really change a game to cater to the whims of someone who will loose interest shortly after anyways?
 
The amount of gamers out there is limited and even the reservoir they are tapping right now is bound to dry up some day. Shouldn't it be more sustainable to focus on those people that play this game for 6 years nonstop now instead of unstable butterflys that will stop by for half a year before something else attracts their attention?

I think the argument works better in the other direction: The number of hardcore gamer is limited, and I don't expect it to grow much. But if you can sell WoW to everybody who played Farmville, you have a huge untapped market.

And I'm not sure that hardcore players are actually staying all that much longer in a MMORPG than casual gamers. The more you play, the faster you burn out. WoW lasts a lot longer if you only play a few hours per week.
 
Shouldn't it be more sustainable to focus on those people that play this game for 6 years nonstop now instead of unstable butterflys that will stop by for half a year before something else attracts their attention?


Only do this if you want to milk the game before it dies.

People do not play forever. Some play for a long time. Especially people who like to read/write MMO blogs. But most players stop after a year or two.

There is one undenieable truth for MMOs: If player inflow is lower than outflow the game dies. This is why Blizzard does the Cataclysm thing after two expansions where they always told us:
Forget the past focus on the future.
They even throw away whole raids of whole expansions just because they like to focus on the future.

Now the declining player-inflow has forced them to make a Cataclysm. If they are wise, they will also have a look at the 60,70 and 80 cracks. These are especially disturbing for new players.

Binding players for a long time is one side of the coin. The other side are new players. This side is arguably more important, because every player eventually leaves.
 
This is an interesting topic, but on the flip side do you think Blizzard will leave WoW to die a slow, agonizing death if they do eventually fall into decline? Or would they have a massive server event that transitions everyone to WoW 2: Back to the future?

Or would they just have engine upgrades? The thing i'm concerned about i guess is that the wow developers are often pushing against the very limit of what the engine can provide in terms of interactivity and character data(for customization).
 
By the way: Have a look at that and keep telling me, WoW is doing fine.

Sure, they still dominate. But something has changed with WotLK, hasn't it?
 
@Nils: "By the way: Have a look at that and keep telling me, WoW is doing fine. "

I looked at that, and what I saw was that every game goes through a natural life cycle, where it gains and then loses players. If that weren't true, then we'd all still be playing Pong.

So yes, Wow is doing fine. Do I think Blizzard is already planning multiple new MMO's to introduce when WoW enters a serious decline? There's no doubt.
 
"So is World of Warcraft dying? Not unless it suffocates under a pile of money."

Quote of the Month! You should add that right under the title of your blog.
 
@Kurt:

- Sure, there always is a natural cycle. Is a game fine when the natural cycle kills it ? No.

- What's remarkabkle is the sudden stop here. Most MMOs (games) don't stagnate that suddenly. Usually growth decelerates first. WoW still grew at it's usual pace and then suddenly stopped - even dropped a bit. The first derivative looks devastating.

- What's even more remarkable is the fact that WotLK was released in late 2008. The sudden stop happened after people had leveled their toons and finished Naxxramas.

Now, WoW is the only MMO I currently play. It still is a very good game with graphics that hardly age.

- I do think that Cataclysm will make a difference.
- Problems in China might play a role here.

In the end, however, it has to be concluded that something during WotLK didn't work as well as during classic/TBC. And don't tell me the absolute number of subscribers is the relevent number; that's only a small part of the truth.
 
@Nils "every player eventually leaves"

That's really not true. I can't speak for WoW, seeing that I didn't last 6 months there , much less 6 years, but in several other long-established MMOs that I play there are players who have been playing continually since beta. I've had an Everquest (later Station Access) account for over a decade and don't expect ever to give it up.

Of course the majority of players DO leave, and pretty much everyone takes breaks, but I'm pretty sure WoW will have a not-insignificant number of players who have played since launch and who will play as long as there are servers to play on (and probably on illegal private servers forever if Blizzard ever switches the official ones off).

Not everyone craves novelty. I am still re-reading some of the books I read as a child and a teenager three or four decades ago. I also listen to some of the same music and watch some of the same movies. Can't see why I wouldn't also carry on playing the same MMOs. And I don't necessarily need new content either - if I liked it once chances are I will always like it.
 
@Bhagpuss :

Can't see why I wouldn't also carry on playing the same MMOs. And I don't necessarily need new content either - if I liked it once chances are I will always like it.

I agree partially. Problem is that current WoW is designed to be consumed. And if I say consumed I mean that the content is really gone once the consumer consumed it.

There is a lot of replay value in leveling and the speccs and the classes and BGs, but what Blizzard declared to be the main point and what they focus most of their energy on is endgame item grind.

Once every player has full T10 - and everybody who can has the heroic version, what is there to do anymore?

This isn't EVE. If Blizzard stopped adding content now, the game withered within a year. There would still be some who like leveling and once in a while you would find a raid. .. The player base would probably become much more friendly :)

But compared to what WoW once was - especially looking at subscriber numbers - it would be as good as dead.

To continue the success story - and I am sure that is what Blizzard wants, they need to attract new players. I also see no reason why that should be impossible. There is an immense amount of former players out there. Most do not play WoW anymore. New players come of age every month!

The rival companies are still weak!

All I am saying here really is that new players are important and Blizzard didn't care about them for much, much too long. Just making the game easier and easier and easier and faster and faster .. this alone is not enough.

The new players who start to pull as much mobs as possible, because their char is so fucking powerful, get toasted by enchanted heirloom chars once they enter the BG.

They find that in addition to that unfair heirloom+money advantage of old players, the classes are incredibly imbalanced until 80. Hunters, Palas, DKs rule low level BGs.

Those new player who try a DK as soon as their char reaches 55, find that learning (tanking) in a Dungeon Finder universe is a terrible experience.

The new players find they level very fast. Meaning: Those quest lines they wanted to do are suddenly grey. Well, a new player likes the leveling process or he already left. If you make leveling unfun by making his quest lines grey he becomes frustrated. The game looks unpolished!
The player wants to progress, but he also wants to have fun and do those quests. Again if he didn't like questing he already left the game before he turned maxlvl!

When the new player reaches 60 and 70 and later 80 he does not understand the story any more. He may not have given much thought about the story so far, but he might have found out some general things. BC and WotLK content will look departed - uninteresting content. Truely unpolished!

A new player might want to see the old raids, but these old raids aren't epic. They are pushover once you are max level. The content has practically been abondoned by Blizzard. Why haven't they been transformed into leveling raids?

Should a new player really get to max level, he will find out that those items he collected now are subject to a Tx, T(x+1) system with highly unimaginative names.

First, you get the T12 set, then you get T13 which is exactly the same, just a little bit better at everything. Later T14.
Do that for half a year and even the most epic-addicted juvenile agrees that this is pointless. The game lost its soul at this level.

You cannot tell players that a game is about items (that is what Blizzard implicitly does at every step) and then put such a cheap system in place.

I should stop ranting. ;)
 
Oh, one more thing:

In contrast to past times, new players hardly find new friends in WoW. The Dungeon Finder / BG finder firstly allows them to do all leveling content solo and secondly makes few players want to play more with those 'random people'. Even if you made a friend in a DF dungeon, he will most probably be from a different server.

How many leveling guilds are there in WoW. Is there any incentive to level together at all? How often does it happen?

Even nice and generally social people will generally solo-lvl to max lvl nowadays. Only very few of them will then find their way into raid guilds.

Blizzard understood the power of social networks. Blizzard knows that most players keep playing due to their online friends.

And still they rather make getting 'friends' harder, than easier.

Impossible to understand and detrimental to the success of that game.
 
Nils, you are completely wrong there. The old system, where guilds controlled access to raid content, was far, far, far, far worse for making friends. People made "friends" only to drop them when the next better guild spot opened up.
 
No, Nils is completely right. Intra-server friend making is at an all time low. I can't tell you the last time I did a heroic with someone from my own server, befriended them, and then ran subsequent dungeons/raid with them. I used to know many people on my server and my friends list was a valuable thing. The RDF has done a great disservice when it comes to the social aspects of the game.
 
WoW's dying in the same way a healthy 25 year old is dying. Someday, certainly, but not anytime soon -- unless a truck runs him over, and I don't see any trucks besides Old Republic, and I'm doubtful that one will be the truck.
 
Nils, you are completely wrong there. The old system, where guilds controlled access to raid content, was far, far, far, far worse for making friends. People made "friends" only to drop them when the next better guild spot opened up.

I wasn't talking about 'easy raids', Tobold. I was talking about almost anything else, but not about this.

But since you mentioned it:
A new player first has to level to max level and then grind his complete set, before he can start to profit from gearscore PUGs.

Whether PUGs are better for friendships than guilds/raids is another question, of course.
 
I wasn't talking about 'easy raids', Tobold. I was talking about almost anything else, but not about this.

It is not just raids. But before the Dungeon Finder people were force to solo up to the level cap. Now they can group up to the level cap. Yes, it's cross-server pickup groups, but that is much preferable to no groups at all.

I think you have an overly rosy view of how the situation was before WotLK, maybe you leveled up your main in vanilla WoW when there were still groups formed spontaneously with random strangers without help of a Dungeon Finder tool. But that was years ago. Finding a group to level up has been next to impossible since late vanilla, and soloing was the standard throughout BC and early WotLK. The Dungeon Finder is a huge improvement.

I know you hate WotLK, but if you'd be honest with yourself, you would have to admit that you are just burned out. That skews your view of WotLK.
 
@Tobold:

Oh please! Just because I say that my guess is that something went wrong with the subscriber numbers during WotLK, doesn't mean that I hate WotLK. I actively played in Northend for many, many months!

I leveled two druids, a mage, a warrior, a priest and a warlock since vanilla.

I was guildless most of the time with these twinks, but never had a problem with finding groups to do dungeons with. It wasn't hard, but yes: You had to invest some effort. Usually I would use /who to find out who else is in the region combined with /who in Orgrimmar and assemble a group.

Alternatively you could just use the FindGroup channel while you were questing. Every now and then somebody would invite you.

Now, even if it it had been as you say and it had been impossible to do dungeons before the DF: Concerning friendships, it hasn't become better with the DF!

Sure, you can get into the dungeons without any effort now. Score! But it doesn't help one bit with social contacts.

There are many more bad effects at work:
Since the DF gives better rewards, players feel like to have to use it as much as possible. Thus, they do dungeons at cooldown and burn out on spamming their AoE spells and listening to the ever-present silence in 90% of the groups.

How many new friends did you make in WoW since the introduction of the DF, Tobold?
 
How many new friends did you make in WoW since the introduction of the DF, Tobold?

I made exactly as many friends in the 7 months since the introduction of the DF as I made in the 7 months before the introduction of the DF.

Oh, and I made over 200 "friends" on Facebook this year.

How many *real* friends did you make in World of Warcraft during lets say the Burning Crusade? Friends who you had a beer with, who know your family situation, who would help you carry your furniture when you are moving house?

My educated guess is zero.
 
How many *real* friends did you make in World of Warcraft during lets say the Burning Crusade? Friends who you had a beer with, who know your family situation, who would help you carry your furniture when you are moving house?

My educated guess is zero.


You are wrong. Hallath, Sliks, Grau, Cruger, Cenari, Krak, Puschel..
We had RL guild meetings, and yes: We kept the nick names ;)

You may have noticed my small number of facebook friends. I like it that way. Even the WoW friends that I drank a beer with and who certainly helped move my furniture if they lived nearby, are not automatically my facebook friends.

More important, however, is the number of in-game friends I made during leveling the old-fashioned way. Those were the people that I had regular contact to when I logged in after work.

These 'friends', call them virtual friends if you want, may live too far away for a guild-meeting or a beer, but they are a reason to get back to WoW every now and then.

These are the people who invite me into their high-end raid even after a 6 months break, because they trust my skills and my intent to help them (and not only myself).
 
I think Blizzard, with WoW, is creating a new paradigm in gaming similar to seasonal sports.

There are "in season" periods when the pros are playing, innovation is occuring, money is being spent on marketing/advertising and big events, and interest is high.

Then there are "off seasons" when fewer people are playing casually or even thinking about the sport.

Summer is off season for WoW. Blogs were talking about the death of WoW last Summer, too. Then the new expansion will approach, the weather will change, and everyone will get excited again and play will ramp up.

You don't hear people say in the Winter: "Baseball is dying. There just aren't many people playing any more. There's no way that when the next season comes out that there will be as much interest as there was."
 
I agree fully with Nils.

I think T either is very lucky, on an exceptional server, his fame follows him or uses a great after-shave.

My experience in general of adding players to my friends list has declined over time and I would say especially so since the release of WotLK, and more so with the DF.

I have met a number of folk in real life from the game, 7 to be exact. All from my Vanilla playing days bar one (from tBC).

Having thought long and hard about it... I can't say I have made a single significant friendship over the last 12 months.

I find the game today is socially dry and lacking any single reason for most players to begin to form player to player bonds before level 80.

If there is any proof of this, and blizzard knows this is the case too, is the crazy be-my-friend tool that is being introduced.

I've seen strong guilds with great friendships fall apart and kept in touch with many peers from them.

9 in 10 would agree... guilds are not cracked up to be anything but glorified LFG channels for raiding.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool