Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 25, 2011
 
WoW's target audience

Syncaine asked a very good question, which necessitates its own thread: As for WoW, do you really think the target audience is the same for the game today as it was in 2004? Or, is it possible that Blizzard changed WoW between 04 and 2011, and has replaced those who originally played with those looking for a slightly deeper Farmville?

I can't say what audience they are shooting for, or what their intentions are. But I *do* know that whatever the target audience is, they are very inconsistent in approaching it. While during WotLK I might have answered you that yes, WoW is heading towards being the easiest and most accessible MMORPG (and nothing wrong with that), I find the target direction for Cataclysm extremely confusing: The leveling game has been made easier, to the point where my ultra-casual wife is complaining that she is leveling new alts too fast (without ever having even seen a heirloom); but the heroics and raiding game has been made far more difficult and time-consuming than in the previous expansion.

I honestly think that EITHER game would be okay, an ultra-easy game, or a game that is consistently challenging. But making the leveling game easier and the endgame harder makes no sense to me at all, because there was already a rather nasty gap between the two before. Why would you want to make your casual players level FASTER, and then not offer them anything to do in the endgame? Why would you design a challenging game, but not use the opportunity to teach players how to play their class during the leveling part? I really wished Blizzard would make their minds up about who exactly is their target audience. As the old saying goes, you simply can't please all the people all the time.
Comments:
It’s not just difficulty, though yes they are more difficult. I think that it’s the length of time it takes to complete a dungeon that also seems out of whack. I think the community would be more willing to deal with these harder dungeons, harder compared to WotLK, if they didn’t take so frigging long even on a smooth run.
 
The honest target is end game content, its why they made the leveling process so easy. It is of my opinion that Blizz made WoW a theme park subscription. Fo your 15 bucks you get a little bit of everything to what ever taste you desire. But lets face it, the casual gamer will continue to pump income into Blizz and there are far more casual gamers than serious Raiders or Arena Gladiators.

The end content is an attempt to maintain subs for the hardcore group (not necessarily as successful as they had hoped).

The mid game of leveling and stupid easy instances are for the casual crowd to include 5 man heroics for those that want a little more. But the basis of being able to be gratified mentally creates more income for Blizzard. Therefor it's main focus will be on those easier sets of leveling because it gives people a sense of accomplishment when they are on the casual side. Understand most casuals are not bad people, they just don't have the time to devote towards that Epic level of Raiding of PVP Arenas. They pay their 15 bucks for quick easy entertainment. Good business for Blizz, not good for certain players.

PVP crew get their gratification from killin...somethin bout that I suppose.

The thing I hate is that there is no reason to leave any of the major Cities after level 15. What happened to a world of players that are roaming all over the place? I know they are out there. But most stick to the major cities and thats it. LFD takes the reason out of exploration for finding dungeons. I mean with the exception of farming for mats...why bother?
 
Haven't you contradicted yourself here?

You state:

'I can't say what audience they are shooting for, or what their intentions are. But I *do* know that whatever the target audience is, they are very inconsistent in approaching it.'

yet in a previous post (Turning back time) you state:

'And so on with every MMORPG, every veteran player can tell you exactly what "ruined the game" of his first MMORPG. When in fact people simply burned out, and are just blaming some minor changes in the game to a mental development which took place in their own heads'

So, has the game changed enough to ruin the experience for veteran players or not?
 
I don't see any contradiction: The game has been changed from WotLK to Cataclysm to make it more veteran-friendly, and they are complaining as loudly as ever. If anything, Cataclysm has ruined the game for the casual player, and those are less prone to burn-out anyway, as they take the game less serious.
 
So are the casuals just burned out on WoW, or did the changes with Cata help push them out? What if Cata had been WotLK 2.0, would those same casuals still be 'burned out' on WoW today?

That's exactly why I argue you can't just tell everyone they burned out when they quit; MMOs do change, and sometimes pretty dramatically. If you quit because of a change, it's not burnout, it's that you are no longer playing the MMO you want to play. (Not that it's NOT burnout sometimes, mind you)
 
Sorry Tobold but sometimes I think you'd argue black is white instead simply admitting you are wrong. I have played WoW from day one and have seen countless fundamental changes to the game, and the reason I no longer play is not because of burn out but because the game simply isn't the game that I used to enjoy so much, and I'll give you an example - flying mounts - possibly one of the most fundamental changes to the game that has had massive consequences to every aspect of the game.

On a similar note, when you unsubscribed did you notice the option to tick 'I don't like the direction development is going' as a reason for unsubscribing? That's there for a reason you know.
 
I play the game since vanilla..I had 1-2 characters until the release of wotlk.After that I simple cannot devote to 1-2 characters, I became altoholic..Im Wotlk I could have 5-6 alts in a very good gear..I could do 1 dungeon with everyone and maybe some raids..

In cataclysm the amount of time the new dungeons require is rediculous.So Cataclysm not only destroyed the game for casual but for altoholics also.

I think they don't have a target now, they abandon wow and creating Titan.
 
I have thought for a long time that Cataclysm was one very large miscalculation on Blizzard's part. I think they realized Wrath was TOO accessible, or frankly too easy. I think that was partially intentional as they wanted as much of the player base as possible to interact with Arthas and experience the end of that story. It was one that had been building for a long time and a lot of people were invested in. So I think part of Wrath's ease and accessibility was probably driven by this point.

Fast forward to Cataclysm and I think Blizzard realized that the ease of Wrath upset people. Sure a lot of people got to see the Lich King, but was it meaningful? So Cata brings us the old-world revamp which is mostly directed at the casual "altoholics," but it also brings more difficult heroics and raids to try and placate the upper end of the spectrum that was put off by Wrath's ease and accessibility. Blizzard thought this would satisfy both ends of the player base. Oops. Instead the casuals are upset that they are now effectively "banned" from top content (although I would argue that is the community's fault, not Blizzard's.) And while some of the hardcore crowd seems satisfied, some of them seem to think Blizzard didn't go far enough, or give them enough to do.

The result is an expansion that pleases nobody. Seems like whomever their "target" was, they missed all the way around.
 
I'm quite sure that WoW's target audience has changed.

In 2004 they wanted EQ's raid community. They even hired two hardcore EQ raiders as developers to get inside knowledge of raiding (Furor and Tigole).

Since then the trend of WoW's design has been to entice casuals/newbies/bads. They've rather taken their old guard/hardcore for granted and with, up until now, some justification because those guys might burn out or wow tourist for a few months but mostly come back.

There have been many design decisions that allow people to be bad without being ostracised: LFD, buffs to tank threat, the trend to put all responsibility on tanks and healers, name changes and server transfers.

I believe that this year two things coincide that will really test WoW's decision to primarily support its least able players. 1) good competition. And 2) poor WoW development. From a veteran's perspective ZG and ZA as the only "new" content between Dec 2010 and Dec 2011 is a joke. I was bored of those before, why would I want to run them now?

If Blizzard gets 2011 wrong it will lose all its movers and shakers, the players who generate content for other players. Tanks, guild leaders, veterans.
 
Sorry Tobold but sometimes I think you'd argue black is white instead simply admitting you are wrong.

If I'm wrong, then how is it that nobody could refute the central argument to my hypothesis? According to your point of view, changes ALWAYS make games worse. Why would a company spend millions of dollars every year to make their main product WORSE?
 
I think it's more "I've changed" rather than "WoW has no clue who their audience is" than people want to admit.

I could say that I was the target audience back when WoW started, I've changed a lot since then, and I think its silly to expect WoW to change with me each year.

Real basic example: Lets Say WoW's target audience in the beginning was 14 year old teenage boys (lots of free time, willing to make sacrifices to play, fewer responsibilties, ect). They got a huge core following of that audience. 6 years later that large core has grown and changed and re-prioritized and their expectations of a game have as well. But its not like the audience of 14 year old boys stopped once WoW was released. If anything there are more of them than the original core who are now 20 years old.

And I think Blizard is doing a great job of trying to cater to their original (20 year old) without losing focus on the new (14 year old).

In general people are never happy with any changes. Look at the top guilds over the years and you'll see a cycle of them being unhappy over one aspect, getting it fixed to what they asked, being unhappy with fix than wanting it back.

They wanted less linear raid progression. They get non-linear raid progression. They then want linear raid progression and so on...
 
I think it's more "I've changed" rather than "WoW has no clue who their audience is" than people want to admit.

I could say that I was the target audience back when WoW started, I've changed a lot since then, and I think its silly to expect WoW to change with me each year.

Real basic example: Lets Say WoW's target audience in the beginning was 14 year old teenage boys (lots of free time, willing to make sacrifices to play, fewer responsibilties, ect). They got a huge core following of that audience. 6 years later that large core has grown and changed and re-prioritized and their expectations of a game have as well. But its not like the audience of 14 year old boys stopped once WoW was released. If anything there are more of them than the original core who are now 20 years old.

And I think Blizard is doing a great job of trying to cater to their original (20 year old) without losing focus on the new (14 year old).

In general people are never happy with any changes. Look at the top guilds over the years and you'll see a cycle of them being unhappy over one aspect, getting it fixed to what they asked, being unhappy with fix than wanting it back.

They wanted less linear raid progression. They get non-linear raid progression. They then want linear raid progression and so on...
 
Being a casual player with lots of alts (10 lvl 84-85 at the moment), I too prefered Wotlk easier dungeon runs (maybe not so much easier/harder in Cata, but a lot faster in Wotlk). With mostly levelling being offered to those that dont have the time for 2-hour long dungeon runs, I dont see much left in this game after 6 years of playing it :(

Luckily World of Tanks is my saviour at the moment (and possibly for a very long time, its really fun) :)
 
For my part, I was 34 when I started WoW and I'm 40 now. So I didn't change all that much, I think. For me at least, the reversion to TBC difficulty of the raiding model has been a retrogade step. I never cleared BT, or saw Sunwell. In WotLK I killed all normal bosses in their correct patches, LK at 10% buff, and ICC 10 drake at 30% buff. Maybe weak for some, but it felt great to me. Going back to TBC restrictiveness has been difficult for me to take. Plus 5 mans in TBC as a bear tank were a mini-community of their own, I'd have a large pool of friendly people to run 5 mans with, now its LFD mayhem and dudgeon.

So, for me, the content has definitely changed, and I'm not in WoW's core audience *today*. The same is true for many of my Guild's raiders, accelerating the decline. What I don't know is whether I was ever in WoW's core audience. Maybe I was never supposed to be, and WotLK was the "mistake". Still, it was fun while it lasted!
 
Everybody agrees that WoW has changed drastically since release.

Everybody agrees that burn-out simetimes happens.

Most people, including you, Tobold, can name several changes in WoW that they don't like.

Peple quit WoW due to a mix of having played it for too long and developments that they don't like.

---

According to your point of view, changes ALWAYS make games worse.

Is that so?
 
Reading the comments, it's fun how people compare running heroics at the end of WotLK with running heroics at the beginning of Cataclysm.
While current heroics are harder than the initial WotLK heroics, those were no walk in the park AT ALL. It's just after being 4 tiers beyond them which they became a zergfest (the same will happen with Cataclysm dungeons).

The same applies to alts: I seriously doubt that people had 4-5 geared alts four/five months after WotLK....

I also feel I'm living in some kind of alternate reality when I read: "From a veteran's perspective ZG and ZA as the only "new" content between Dec 2010 and Dec 2011 is a joke. I was bored of those before, why would I want to run them now?". Complaining about content in a time interval which extends 8 months into the future!?!

At times I get the feeling I should create an MMO which has the only unique purpose of complaining. About anything. Reading these blogs suggests a lot of people would love it.....
 
According to your point of view, changes ALWAYS make games worse.

Absolute nonsense, at no point did I say that.
 
Absolute nonsense, at no point did I say that.

I am saying that people quit because they burn out and get bored from playing the same game over and over. You say that I am wrong, that people quit because of changes to the game. Thus you are saying that the changes drive people away, that the changes are bad.

If the changes make the games better, then how other than with burnout do you explain players leaving?
 
Peple quit WoW due to a mix of having played it for too long and developments that they don't like.

I don't know who that Peple guy is, but even if he quit due to a "mix", that mix contains 90% burnout. Why would Peple only be affected by negative changes to the game, instead of staying longer due to changes in the game he actually likes?
 
I think the fundamental problem is that players are so extremely defensive about what game they play, considering it like a lifestyle choice. The very idea that these are just games, you play them for a while, have some fun, get bored, and then move on is for them like an admission of failure. Thus they need somebody else to blame, the game company that "ruined the game" with this or that patch.

Thought experiment: If WoW was still running version 1.0 and had never been patched or expanded, would you have played longer or shorter?
 
I liked WotLK. I didn't burn out on Cataclysm; I was repelled, violently. The end game is simply tuned beyond a level I am interested in playing.

I don't regret having purchased this last expansion, since experiencing it allowed me to quit without second thoughts.

Since I haven't burned out, I am open to returning if they have a change of vision. However, I'll require some pretty convincing evidence that they have seen the error of their ways, which probably includes them firing some scapegoats.
 
Thought experiment: If WoW was still running version 1.0 and had never been patched or expanded, would you have played longer or shorter?

Shorter. The mistake you make is to assume that somebody doesn't like any modification of the game, just because he doesn't like some.

As a long-term blogger, you know that commenters (and forum posters) focus on what they dislike. That doesn't mean that they dislike everything. Your misinterpretation of Dave's comments is emblematic.
 
OK, final post because I'm getting bored... I enjoy leveling and questing as much as I enjoy raiding. Then Cata came along and leveling became a shallow and hollow experience, in fact I'd say it now borders on pointless. I don't have burn out, I haven't got bored of leveling, I would love to continue leveling new alts as I was right up to pre-Cata. But for me I no longer enjoy leveling new alts in WoW and that is because of specific changes to the game. Ask your wife, she knows what I'm talking about. Over and out.
 
I guess that commiting to a MMO on a serious level is more of a lifestyle choice. Also there were a ton of people I got to know who hadn't the slightest clue about gaming outside of their chosen MMO and weren't really that interested in playing anything else.

Fun times watching someone who hasn't touched a game in 6 years argue that the general direction of mainstream gaming is destroying his MMO with dumbed down mechanics and the catering to casuals.
 
Some changes are good, some bad. Some people burn out. Surely we all agree on that. Isn't the question here whether burnout is increasing or decreasing because of changes to the game?

I know that the opposite *can* be true, that gameplay changes and innovation can *prevent* burnout. I know that my burnout decreased in WotLK because of the changes, the heroic modes, the accessibility of normal modes, and so on. And my burnout increased in Cata due to the reversion to a pre-WotLK model.

Or is your contention that WoW has reached a limiting point where changes in the game can no longer alter the rate of burnout, therefore all burnout is innate, and not a function of (good or bad) changes?

I think that is not your contention. I think you are boisterously putting a point of view that many people who are genuinely and irredeemably burned out are blaming it on the game. And then you are adding in those of us who may legitimately have a gameplay grievance. Distinctions can be a casualty of forceful argumentation!
 
I would think the target audience is both the end gamers and solo levelers.

By making leveling easier solo, you attract the audience that doesn't want as hard a game. You attract that people that enjoy the crafting or having numerous alts or going back and getting rep with an old faction. Most of the people I know fit into this category. These also seem to be the same people that raided in vanilla and BC and don't want to leave the game, but don't want to raid either.

Then the "hardcore gamers" or raiders will level faster and get to the end game faster. They will get to the content they really want and through what they probably consider a necessary evil (leveling) faster.
 
What I dislike is the kind of complaint where players say that the developers changed the game for the worse, and if the devs would only listen to that specific player and change the game in the way *he* says, they would have better player retention.

But while everybody agrees that Cataclysm wasn't a great expansion for player retention, nobody agrees what would have to change exactly to make the game better. Proposals range from making leveling harder to making raiding easier; some people think the game would be better if the LFD functionality would be turned off or at least limited to one server, others want a cross-server looking for raid functionality.

I believe that developers are trying to maximize player retention and change the game in a way where the new content and new features keep people playing for longer. But they are fighting against a natural current of burn-out, where many players will grow bored of the game *regardless* of changes.

Of course any specific change can be "the straw that breaks the camel's back", the cited reason to quit, but if the same player wasn't already burned out that much before, he would have shrugged of that same change. And I noticed that very, very few players have the honesty and courage to say "I quit mainly because I played this for too long and grew bored".
 
(Blogger really hates long replies, so double post inc)

That different players ask for different things is not only nothing new, it's pretty normal in basically any business. What separates a successful business from a struggling one is identifying which changes are the right ones to make to continue expanding.

WoW 1.0 obviously made a lot of correct changes to EQ1 and the number reflected that. Patching between 1.0 and TBC continued this, as sub numbers rose dramatically. TBC also saw growth. Whether any one player liked or hated the changes made during that time, the simple truth is those were overall good changes to the game (if we define good = more subs).
 
Then WotLK came out, and subs stagnated (and dropped in the US/EU, with the total being enhanced by WoW launching in new regions). We don't have numbers for Cata, but since we have not heard a 13m+ press release, we can assume.

And before you argue "WoW has been around for 6 years, people naturally burn out", I'll just point to EVE still growing after 7+ years, or to the fact that UO/EQ1/AC are still around and have updates/players. Part of a devs job is to fight burnout with content updates, it's why we pay that $15 a month. That we are seeing so many 'burn out' due to Cata is a direct reflection of it's quality and the decision making process behind it.
 
Faster leveling was introduced to allow new players to catch up to friends and existing players to level alts faster.

It does seem Blizz is chasing distinct market segments -- old EQ type players that want more challenge and the younger demographic interested in easy wins. They seem to want both groups to hasten to the end-game grind. Once there, the carrot in front of the nose mehthod of linear new content and gear resets applies.

Cata changes that have resulted in disaffected players all seem to point to lack of choice in game play. Casuals have to do linear quests; leets have to chase item level. There is nothing else to the game now.
 
"if the devs would only listen to that specific player and change the game in the way *he* says, they would have better player retention."

When a person says such things, they are not just talking about subscriptions and players in general. They are making the statement based on the type of players they would like for Blizzard to retain. This is why everyone has a different opinion on what would keep players. They don't mean just any subscriber, they mean either the hardcore or the casual depending on their own wants.
 
I stopped playing WoW 3 months before the first expansion was released. I would have played longer without the expansion. My guild was working on AQ40. I decided was no reason to spend so many hours a week doing the difficult raid when all equipment gains would be replaced quickly in the expansion. A year later I did play again for a month but just could not get back into it.

I stopped playing EQ1 when the added the expansion with frogs. I was not interested in any of the new content but knew would have to pay for the expansion to continue playing in the future.

I would guess an expansion gains a company customers overall but it does lose them a few.
 
I stopped playing WoW 3 months before the first expansion was released. I would have played longer without the expansion. My guild was working on AQ40. I decided was no reason to spend so many hours a week doing the difficult raid when all equipment gains would be replaced quickly in the expansion. A year later I did play again for a month but just could not get back into it.

I stopped playing EQ1 when the added the expansion with frogs. I was not interested in any of the new content but knew would have to pay for the expansion to continue playing in the future.

I would guess an expansion gains a company customers overall but it does lose them a few.
 
Well seems like the common theme in the comments are that WoW is dying atm for veterans atleast. I know from the guild I am GM in (lvl 25, 900+ members) that a lot of lvl 80-85 players that were in the guild before the expansion now is mostly inactive (1-2 months+ inactive). Its mostly new players playing the game atm it seem.
 
Interesting subejct, i remember when my friend started we were in 7th grade they were 14 years old and i was 15, back in early 2005. I didn't start playing immediately with them but then begun in late 2006 for more serious play september to be precise. i was 16 when i started back then almost 17 just 4-5 months before TBC came out so i was in awe looking at peoples tier 3 aha. I've had my fair share of breaks over the years, only played 5 months of wotlk and now 3 months of cataclysm. I'm 21 now and most of my friends that played backl then have moved on while 3-4 still plays wow here and there because they return to it, it siomply is THE best MMO most refined gameplay. I feel old now when i look back and see the kids now playing it i remember hwen i was 16-18 and wow just sweeped my freetime away.
 
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