Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 18, 2011
 
The death of WoW

Tipa thinks that social platforms will kill the MMORPG. Syp thinks 2011 is the end of the WoW era. And quite a lot of other blogger interpreted the announcement of patch 4.3 as sign of World of Warcraft's imminent death. Which is curious, because the new features announced aren't actually all that special or stand out in any way compared to features introduced in previous patches. Sorry, an appearance tab, old armor storage, and a looking-for-raid functionality is pretty much par for the course, and way less change than for example the introduction of the Dungeon Finder was.

World of Warcraft is soon to be 7 years old. Any game gets boring after playing it for years and for thousands of hours. I'm bored of WoW. I'm bored of quest-based fantasy MMORPGs in general. But I know that this is something that happens in my head, and not some weird conspiracy that colluded to make all fantasy MMORPGs worse with every patch.

And yes, the games industry like many other entertainment industries has fashion cycles, where everybody appears to be running after the same holy grail for some time, only to give up on the chase and go after something completely different the next year. MMORPGs are not only out of fashion, they are already two generations out of fashions, with the social games that were supposed to kill them going out of fashion already. These days everybody is making lobby-based "always online" single-player and multi-player games, preferably with a Free2Play business model.

That doesn't mean that MMORPGs in general or WoW in particular are dead. Rift claims to be the number 2 MMORPG with 1 million "customers", carefully avoiding the term "subscribers". SWTOR has high hopes for attracting 3 million players. At the current rate of player loss, World of Warcraft will stop to be number 1 MMORPG in the year 2020. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that WoW won't still be around in 2020. And a bunch of other MMORPGs will also still be around. There will still be success stories, with some games like Guild Wars 2 looking quite promising, and people getting excited about the WildStar trailer.

The only thing that is dead is the MMORPG gold rush, and that is something to be thankful for. It only created a huge number of very bad games in the hope of getting rich quick. Surprise, surprise, video game players aren't total idiots, and bad games don't really do well. Especially not if you have a business model where you expect your customers to keep paying for a long time, instead of selling them a game they can't test first and running with the money before the customer finds out the game is bad. For all the possible objections one can have against the Free2Play model, it does force game developers to make games that are high quality, because otherwise the players never move past the free content.
Comments:
The fall of Rome didn't happen with a single catastrophe either.
 
Every MMO has its "life cycle", WoW did remarkably well for a long time. but even a game as big as WoW is over at some point, "been there done that" inevitably kicks in for the player base and new games are being released that simply have the advantage of being more progressed and up-to-date.

that's what many players are feeling right now and I agree with you that it is at least half (if not more) of the current disillusionment and apathy about WoW. it's over folks - did you really believe this day would never come? ...
Funny enough, I am beginning to accept that the future will bring new payment models myself and have written about that just today. I think there is still reason for us to be excited and hope for a next big hit such as Blizzard with WoW. what we need now is willingness to consider new concepts (and proper information).
 
I started playing WoW again 2 days ago, after almost 6 years away from it (I got raid burnout quicker than most). I admittedly did 5 minutes research before picking a server and went for Outland eu as it seemed an evenly balanced and well populated pvp server. I had to queue to get on and when I did the starter areas are vibrant, the game doesnt seem much different to when I started at release so far in terms of population. I think it looks in a very healthy state and I'm going to spend the next while pvping in AB & WG.

My reason for returning is waiting for Darkfall 2.0 now that AV have admitted its existance, has become an excercise in game hopping. Been to Rift (Pretty but nothing special) and AOC (Pretty but nothing more) and caved in merely because I wanted to revive my Blizzard accounts to get on the D3 beta list. 2 days in and I know that I'll be playing it until Xmas.

Just because the current generation of diehards are jaded doesnt mean that other parts of WoWs huge playbase wont continue to cycle in and out, I cant see any other game to compete with it until Blizzard themselves release Titan (or whatever its name is this week)
 
I think in general the gaming community has moved on a bit from the MMORPG genre and is probably heading more along the lines of other types of MMO games.

Even so, WoW had an amazing run in its day. I was never that into it if only due to the cost of subscription, otherwise I'd have been hooked years ago.
 
The significance of the recent news comes in two parts.

First, Deathwing is so soon, but unless Blizzard has had some truly amazing security, it doesn't appear that the next expansion is soon. Maybe there will be a BC-style last gasp raid, but that still leaves a big gap.

Second, the cosmetic patch is just that, cosmetic changes, with not even an attempt at 'content', which seems like a first from my flawed memory.

The aggro change isn't really new, just a confirmation of what we all knew: there are serious problems with tanks and grouping.
 
For me, Mass Effect 2 killed WoW. I was tired of button clicking and got hooked on an rpg/shooter.

Not only that I was just sick of pugging everything and needing massive groups. The one thing that got me exited about SWTOR was that if I want to just group with my wife, the two of us can form a group and go. I want an online rpg without having to put up with the mm part.
 
"At the current rate of player loss, World of Warcraft will stop to be number 1 MMORPG in the year 2020."

Wowcensus is showing a 33% drop in players in NA/EU over the last year or so. I am curious if you have some other different numbers, because that would suggest a demise quite a bit sooner than 2020.
 
I have no idea how reliable WoWCensus data are, especially since they show characters and not players. I was referring to official subscription numbers as released by Blizzard.
 
It's funny that you post this now. I have played the game since release, spending the last 2'ish years of it jaded and unenchanted.

Well, I just resubbed the other day after 7 months off (essentially a bit after Cata released) and WOW does the world feel different. The zones don't feel as flat as I used to think, and the cities not as dully designed. The characters charm is back and I have an increased desire to just mess around and do low level quests. One of the big parts helping this is that I'm not even bothering thinking about raiding, the closest to that I'm bothering to get is Heroic dungeons and I'm just fine with that. (If Blizzard decides to switch some of their focus into more stuff like the world shaman quest they may see a change in subscriber direction).

The point of this is: It may be the end of the Era of WoW but I'm realizing this game has the potential to keep me till the day the servers shut down, just as long as I don't over do it with 4 hour a day raiding.

Perhaps it is like that for a lot of others right now, perhaps Mist's of Pandaria will focus more on world design and dungeons and quests, they're already taking a nice step with the "appearance tab"
 
Well, even if the WoW Census data doesn't reflect subscribers, it does show a significant loss in interest for those who are subscribing. I'd suspect that WoW is finally vulnerable to competitors. A large part of WoW's holding power has been the community; if all your friends are there it becomes much harder to leave. If other games get and hold a few of your friends, you're much more likely to stick with it. So I don't think it will be a slow erosion to 0. It'll be like a mud slide. Slow at first, but gaining momentum quickly once it starts.
 
According to MMO Champion only about a third of the characters that were level 80 at the start of Cataclysm are now level 85. That explains the activity drop.
 
I don't believe that people who loved and still love RPG games suddenly they will go to a fps game or something "different"

the huge problem in wow I can see is that he try to balance pvp in disadvantage of pve..simple you cannot have both in a good state..so many interesting skills and fun skill in pve are getting removed or nerfed down in order to be balanced in pvp..if you think how different pve could be if there wasn't the problem of pvp balance.

other than that I don't think people have bored MMORPG's , but these games have attracted so many bad people who never liked RPG games but you know, wow was Fashion and people got to play wow while previously were playing counter strike.That people then started to demand things, cry on forums, e.t.c. Blizzard reached 12 millions and had to please them all in a way...

the point now is not to make a game that will be loved by 100 players and hated by 300, but to make a game that will be "fun enough" to pay by 400 people...

So I don't except anymore that I will love again a game, I will always pay something that is fun enough...
 
@Klepsacovic - Wait, how is a new raid and 3 new 5 mans "no content"?

Also, http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/2095-Blizzard-Product-Slate-Forum-Titles-Blizzcast-15-Blue-Posts

The leaked product slate has the next expansion for the 2nd quarter of 2012, meaning with 6 months between major patches, leaves no time after the Deathwing Patch for another major patch before the next expansion drops.

Is WoW moving towards it's twilight years, similar to Everquest and other older MMOs before it? Quite possibly. But the "death" of WoW is again, as always, exaggerated. Keep in mind they can probably run on 1 million subscribers and still make a bunch of money, just like the original Everquest has.
 
Wow is not dieing, but its middle aged. The long slow decline is in progress. 2020? I doubt it, if nothing else blizzard will eventually want its customers to move on to other blizzard products. But another 2 expansions feels about right.

Kleps>> 4.3 December, 5.0 June slipping to august/sep/

The less 85's then 80's thing is probably due to icc era. A year of not much to do and very easy gearing post 80 meant people punched out 80 alts one after the other.
 
In every "WoW won't die" post, people inexplicably refuse to discount the fact that over half of all WoW subs are Chinese. Does anyone reading this blog care how MMOs are doing in China? Or Korea for that matter? In this sense, WoW absolutely can "die" for all intents and purposes in the US/EU rather quickly - once your friends start leaving, you leave. Ultima Online isn't "dead" either, but we can rightly claim that it is.

In any case, I believe a lot of people are pointing to 4.3 proof of impending demise because of how reactionary the design is. Sure, when Warhammer Online came out with the "queue for BGs from anywhere" WoW implemented it in a patch a few months later. But as we have read in the very public investor calls, the design direction of the game is less about the top-level design and now more about managing player recidivism. We are getting "quicker tiers/expansions" because Blizzard is losing more subs inbetween patches, not because that is necessarily better design. In the abstract, more content = better. However it also highlights how less confident Blizzard is in systems that keep players busy.

The costume thing is not that big a deal by itself. It is more how we are only getting 3 tiers this expansion instead of the customary four. And there is no sense that we are getting 3 because they planned on getting us three, but rather they need something to staunch the hemorrhaging.
 
In every "WoW won't die" post, people inexplicably refuse to discount the fact that over half of all WoW subs are Chinese.

So what?

What exactly is your definition of "dead"?

A) Dead = past its peak. WoW definitely is there. So is every other MMORPG that was released before 2011. Even EVE, the poster-child for long, slow growth, has now passed its peak.

B) Dead = Not the biggest MMORPG in the west any more. WoW is not yet at that point. Even if over half of the remaining 11 million subscribers are Chinese, that leaves 5 million *subscribers* for WoW. The second biggest game, Rift, has 1 million *customers* and refuses to say how many of those are current subscribers. One analyst said SWTOR might possibly get 3 million players, but that still wouldn't surpass WoW, and it is an uncertain prediction. I'd say we still have years ahead of us before WoW stops being the biggest player in the west.

C) Dead = Not profitable any more. It is safe to say that World of Warcraft long ago paid back all its investment and development cost. Thus to remain profitable it only has to make its operating cost. We don't know how many subscribers it would take to do so, but a few hundred thousand would probably be enough. You would need to be a blind WoW-hater to assume that WoW will reach that point before 2020.

D) Dead = Servers closed. See C), because Blizzard won't close the servers before WoW becomes unprofitable, even if they release Titan or other games that are in competition with WoW.
 
Maybe not the end of WoW but the beginning of the end of the sub-based payment model? I think you are spot on when you wrote about WAR and their new lobby based free to play offering. It seems to me the market potential for "world" games, where considerable time and effort is required is shrinking. WoT is a perfect example of a game which can be played in short bursts and offers a rewarding gaming experience, even when time is extremely limited. I assume the market potential for these kind of games is much, much larger then for 'old school' MMORPGs. And WoT apparently proves that serious money can be made with their business/payment model.
 
I'd like to add another definition of "dead" MMO. Prior generation MMOs were considered successful with competitors copying them to large amounts for a long period of time. WoW copied EverQuest for a long period of time and EQ continues being copied today. Look at TOR's companion mechanic. It's EverQuest mercenaries. Now let's look at the last months of WoW and wich new mechanics get copied by the competition. I don't see any. Instead i see WoW finally pulling the last straws to keep its mainstream focus. Visually customizable armor? I had it in other MMOs before WoW even launched and look what grind they require. It's laughable. What's next? Housing? Dance studio?

The "WoW is dead" mantra is coming from people like me, who don't see Blizzard pushing and improving the genre anymore, at least not with this game. But who can blame them. The game had and has a historical run but it is past its "Sturm und Drang" period. It matured, it settled and the hardcore only hails to games pushing boundaries into the right direction. RMT it ain't. Getting the Diablo 3 details, i think we all should be scared of Titan. In a way Blizzard is mimicing WoW. It's no longer "cool" to be a Blizzard fan. It's not unsual though. When your mom is playing your games, something feels not right. I think the hardcore already switched to other games and labeled WoW dead.
 
I agree. If I were a Blizzard developer and had a brilliant new idea for a feature, I'd rather save that idea for Titan than trying to graft it onto a 7-year old colossus of a game with an outdated engine.
 
Most current MMORPG's are dying because WoW and all themed MMORPG's are doing it completely wrong. Their game designs are flawed simply put.

Only reason they succeeded is because it wasn't too flawed when they made it but every update flawed it further and further and most kept playing since they were hooked and had no where else to go.

Also because of their massive advertising pulled in so many gamers that never played MMORPG's before, or games at all.. So then it doesn't matter how flawed it is because the audience don't know what right or wrong is.

Not going into detail why or how it's supposed to be done because that would be too long to be fit inside a comment.

But just saying that it doesn't mean the MMORPG genre is dead just because some studios made bad ones.

A great MMORPG can still be made and it DOES NOT have to aim for a niche playerbase if they just use some good creative game design.
 
If SWTor reaches 3 million, a lot of those subs will come straight out of Wow in the West, so it may find itself passed sooner than you think. There are only a certain amount of MMO gamers out there, and many won't play multiple titles at once.

Also goes for other upcoming releases, even Diablo 3, many of the incoming subs for these new games will be leaving wow to try them.
 
What exactly is your definition of "dead"?

My definition would be: when the revenue from the game does not support the production of content needed to sustain gameplay. This ongoing content development is an operating cost over and above that of servers, network access, and customer service.

This might happen even if such creation would be profitable, if Blizzard has limited manpower and would feel the resources would be better directed elsewhere.
 
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