Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
 
The hype cycle

How well will the book Fifty Shades of Grey sell next year? Chances are, not very well. Today's latest boy band or pop starlet is likely to be forgotten too. Very few people will still be playing Mass Effect 3 or Darksiders II next year. So why would we make a drama about Star Wars: The Old Republic, or The Secret World, or Guild Wars 2 having lost most of their audience as well next year?

By some (not very representative) metrics, Guild Wars 2 has seen more hours played in the week after release than World of Warcraft, and the usual crowd for the hundredth time cheered the "death of WoW". I am betting that the same people will we be very quiet when exactly the same metrics see WoW beating GW2 by a large margin after the release of Mists of Pandaria. The only thing that is measured here is the hype cycle. People just flock to the latest release. Last months game is already old news.

And in a way that represents just an end of exceptionalism, a return to normalcy. MMORPGs are starting to behave like any other entertainment medium, with lots of publicity around release, and a rapid decrease of interest afterwards. Games that grew over years, like Everquest or World of Warcraft, were only possible in an age where not everybody knew what these games are, and they would spread by word of mouth. Since we have Chuck Norris making ads for WoW on TV, the word of mouth channels have become obsolete. Games reach their maximum audience almost instantly after release. And because there is always another new game just around the corner, people just don't stick to any title any more.

I do not think that we will ever return to a situation where player numbers of a MMORPG will grow over the years. They have become like other video games, books, films, and so on, just short-lived blips in an age of attention deficit disorder.

Comments:
Tobold,

Nice angle. According to some sources (scroll down a bit for links), though, there are anything up to 600-700 million "active" chess players in the world. Seems that the hype has held up pretty well for some games!
 
@Oscar

And has the audience for Chessmaster 2000 gone up or down over the years?

The amount of people worldwide who play Chess is irrelevant. Tobold is talking about specific versions of that game, and how there are more of said versions than there ever was at the beginning.
 
Azuriel,

Sorry, I should have made it more clear that I really do believe that it was a nice angle. And the parallel to single-player game sales is definitely interesting.

What I did mean to voice a slightly diverging opinion against, however, was the last paragraph. I do believe that some games truly become hobbies in their own right rather than just "blips" in a pattern and as such don't really abide by the same consumption logic. Usually, these are multiplayer games, such as Doom, Counterstrike, Team Fortress or WoW. But there certainly are single-player examples too. Diablo springs to mind, and there is a small-but-triving community of XCOM players as well as Civilization I/II/III/IV players out there, sticking to "their" version.

This is where my analogy to chess comes in. Certain games simply don't wither, regardless of expansions.

Do these old games drive sales? Not necessarily through the games themselves, but quite possibly other revenue streams. Is it irrelevant? I don't think so.
 
I do think Azuriel has a point: Many people remain players of computer games for many years (although sometimes we lose 12 million), but don't remain with any single game for longer than a few months.
 
I'd say the real problem is the current deluge of very average MMOs.
 
It used to be that WoW could still command the subs, even a while after an expac's release, but that is no longer the case.

For that reason alone, I suspect the era of sticking with one MMO through thick and thin is coming to a close. "What have you done for me lately?" has reached throughout the MMO market.

 
Two words: EVE Online


 
I think the decisive factor is investment.

THe longer you play a game, the better you become. The better you become the higher your reward from playing. The higher your reward the higher the probability of staying with the game.

Chess: Perfect example. You can invest for decades and you can profit for decades.

WoW: Not so much. With every expansion everything you knew about the games high end content, every part of gear you own, even the money and tokens you have amassed basically becomes worthless.

MMO-Shooters and RTS: Somewhere in between. You really get 'better' at Starcraft or Counterstrike and the game stays for years basically the same, and even with expansions, your skills usually don't become useless.

Me? I stopped playing WoW with the first expansion. I realized nothing I've done so far counts any more. So why not just use my scarce spare time to try something new?
Chess I've been playing almost fpr three decades now...
 
Addendum:
In other words: If you want to make players stick to a game, give them achievements that stick.

Make it possible to have individual items or characteristics that are really hard to come by, loveable, and that don't get useless over time. Give the players 'real estate' that can grow, that they can furnish...
Make the social aspect worth something. Give players/guilds that play together a bonus according to how many ours they have played together.
Publish Avatars names in the game world permanently, give them statues. Let town cries cite the names of Characters that achieved something.

Give the players something, that lives on through the years...
 
I agree that any new AAA mmorpg, indeed any new AAA game will be subject to the hype cycle: major sales on release dwindling off afterwards.

I do think there is still plenty of opportunity for a smaller indie game to grow organically though. It probably has to have something special that no one else has thought about yet but genuine innovation is more likely in an indie game anyway.

Minecraft is probably the best recent example.
 
And I am am betting that the same will continue to see GW2 beating WoW by a large margin after the release of Mists of Pandaria...

Cata was more of same and it wasa disaster. MoP is more of same and players know it. It will be a disaster worse than Cata.

Now there is a real competitor against WoW. Something that game never had.
 
Two words: EVE Online

EVE Offline you mean. EVE Online does not appear in any of the top 100 games by hours played on XFire. CCP only releases the number of subscriptions, but as everybody has multiple accounts, the number of players is actually tiny. And a lot of them just log on once every couple of days to learn another skill.

In a discussion of how large masses of players move from one game to another, EVE Online simply doesn't figure.
 
And I am am betting that the same will continue to see GW2 beating WoW by a large margin after the release of Mists of Pandaria.

Bet accepted, I will post the XFire numbers when I get them (probably a few weeks after MoP release).
 
Yeah I don't get those people. Anyone who actually played WoW through and expansion launch knows the game is a complete low energy mess before launch.
 
Tobold wrote:

Bet accepted, I will post the XFire numbers when I get them (probably a few weeks after MoP release).

Teh Nosy Gamer is doing it for each weekend, I think since 2010.

http://nosygamer.blogspot.com.br/

The last data can give the appearance you are high and the hype cicle for GW2 is ending, but we need take note that GW2 stoped the digital salles. We need see how Anet returning to sell digital copies this week will affect the hours played at the next weekends.

Anyway, there are other ways for see how the game is going, just need remeber that prices are affected by demand and supply.

The prices of GW2 copies don't get down after launch. That prices don't get down at amazon.com, for example.

Maybe the decision of Anet to stop selling digital copies affected the supply, but we need see that the demand coninued high (when Anet re-opened digital salles, they had problems processing CC...)

Let's see how the MoP prices will behave after 25th september...


 
I love the concept of Eve: the depth and complexity, the open-ended space-sandbox full of pirates and industrial tycoons, warlords and their hordes, star-ronin seeking the perfect death... it would be amazing if somebody made a, you know, *game* out of it XD spreadsheets in SPAAAAACE
 
"And I am am betting that the same will continue to see GW2 beating WoW by a large margin after the release of Mists of Pandaria..."

I'm going to have to agree with Tobold here, this just isn't going to happen. WoW has been in a huge decline in hours played due to a lack of new content and people taking a break just before the expansion. They started the year somewhere around 90k hours played on Xfire, and are now down to 18k.

But their subscription numbers have not gone down anywhere near that significantly. I would be incredibly surprised if WoW did not top 100k, and actually topping 200k seems perfectly likely.

By comparison, GW2 is currently at 57k hours played, a number that is already trending downward. When MoP releases, the number will be lower yet, and take a bigger hit when a lot of those players go back to WoW.

My "over/under" for WoW vs GW2 on Xfire in the week after MoP releases is WoW by 100k hours.
 
I give wow 2 months. 2 Months before the huge decline again...People will level to 90, do some quick dungeons to level up and then login for 3 hours 2 times a week to raid and the rest of the time they will play GW2, Swtor that will be free and probably Diablo or something...

The only thing saves wow is the social part and the friends everybody have in-game. I will return to Mist of Pandaria. A friend from my guild already called me to ask me to join and to make some raids...I wouldn't played it if there wasn't about my guild and friends..we will go to 90, do some dungeons/pvp/LFR to make a good starting gear and then as I said 1-2 logins per week.

Lot of people will just level 1 char to 90 to see the new areas and will stop again. I know such people.

So as I said I give wow 2 months to be first and after that boom again
 
@Samus

based on XFire data, last weekend GW2 had 79 k hours playesd, not 57 k hours (http://nosygamer.blogspot.com.br/2012/09/the-digital-dozen-11-september-2012.html).

Take note that the trend downward can be effect from Anet stoping to sell digital copies. We will knwo tit for sure the next two weekends.
 
So as I said I give wow 2 months to be first and after that boom again

Yes, but the point is that this is now the fate of all million-player games. Only much smaller games can hold onto their players for longer.
 
I agree...and that's why games must aim to a solid playerbase that will love the game rather than a huge playerbase that they find the game "fun enough" to play.

From the other hand, Blizzard will sell millions of copies for MoP plus 2 month subs. After 4-5 months a major patch will come and again millions of people will sub for a month. The companies still make profit while we the players are like a stick in the wind going where the wind blow stronger...

So we lose they win...sad story
 
@Giannis
Or we play GW2 that has no subscription.
I think triple A MMOs that are not like WoW (to avoid the too much chocolate phenomenon) that have no subscription will be the WoW killer.
 
I just give a look at amazon.com best sellers at pc game compatible.

We are 12 days from MoP launch, but MoP pre-orders are second place. You know what game is first and third places?
 
You know what game is first and third places?

Probably the one that couldn't be bought online recently, thus pushing up mail-order sales.
 
Tobold, the digital orders returned last monday.
 
I know, but the Amazon sales statistics are from before that.
 
Tobold, how the amazon sales statistics are calculated? it is month, weekly or daily basis?

This blog post (http://www.timothyfish.net/Articles/Article.asp?ID=46) says it is 24 hours time period.

If it is 24 hour based, sorry, digital downloads were opened last monday and last 24 hours at amazon.com GW2 sold MORE than MoP. Adn I repeat the point I wrote above, GW2 is 3 weeks after launch and MoP is 12 days before launch.
 
So people buy more of a game after launch than before launch. Big surprise. And Amazon tells me that sales rank 1 and 2 are held by Borderlands 2, not Guild Wars 2.
 
@Tobold,

Borderlands is first(Xbox) and second (ps2) places at Video Games category. Take note that same category GW2 (PC) is third place and that MoP is not at the first 20 places.

If you look at the Video Games for PC category, GW2 is first and third (digital deluxe).

But you wrote: "So people buy more of a game after launch than before launch. Big surprise."

Well, let me remember you that the title of your post is "The hype cycle". And you too wrote at your post "The only thing that is measured here is the hype cycle. People just flock to the latest release. Last months game is already old news."

What that sallers numbers at Amazon.com show is that, after 3 weeks after launch, the hype cycle for GW2 not peaked...


 
You're just changing metrics. We agreed on Noisy Gamer XFire stats for hours played after MoP release. I still believe WoW will beat Guild Wars 2 on that. Amazon is a bad metrics for MoP sales, as most people buy it directly from Blizzard.
 
ok Tobold, let's wait for MoP launch and see the XFire metrics after it...




 
XFire can't be respresentative because it doesn't include ... me.

Really, that is a very skewed sample they got.
 
@João Carlos

The point I think Tobold was trying to make is that no matter what happens, some people are going to say it "proves" WoW is still king, and others are going to say it "proves" WoW is in its death throes.

I gave my number, WoW by 100k hours on Xfire (somewhere around 140k vs 40k). There will be no massaging of the numbers for me. A significantly larger margin, with WoW surpassing 200k hours, would tell me they "still got it." Significantly worse performance (under 100k hours within the first month, even if they are still beating GW2), would tell me WoW is indeed in significant decline.

If you don't want to be accused of "you would have said that no matter what," then give your own numbers right now for what you expect and what would surprise you. Otherwise you are just holding out for your own confirmation bias.
 
@Samus

"If you don't want to be accused of "you would have said that no matter what," then give your own numbers right now for what you expect and what would surprise you. Otherwise you are just holding out for your own confirmation bias."

Samus, my bet with Tobold is that GW2 will mantain XFire numbers above WoW after MoP release, Noisy Gamer XFire stats.

Are you trying to change the metrics?


 
"I do not think that we will ever return to a situation where player numbers of a MMORPG will grow over the years. They have become like other video games, books, films, and so on"

I think it's unlikely but only because MMORPGs have gone down a blind alley.

Using your analogy i'd point to the *very long* fantasy book series behind Game of Thrones as a counter argument.

The critical potential difference between an MMORPG and other computer games is an MMORPG has the potential to be a *very long* game and it's the length and the time investment and the social connections that inevitably flow simply from the time spent that gives the longevity imo.

These games went down a blind alley because of the "endgame" phenomenon. They took a type of game that needs to be broad and slow and made it linear and fast.

I think GW2 is a good example of getting the "broad" part right: how many different paths could you level up in GW2 compared to say Rift or Aion? However i think they may have made the speed too fast so the social glue won't have enough time to do its job. If it wasn't for that i'd say GW2 would have had a shot at disproving your point.

I think the four critical things these games need to grow over years are
1) A broad, slow, multi-pathed levelling game.
2) Exp pots for players who only like the endgame.
3) Standard endgame
4) Option to start new charcaters near max level for players who have one max level character already (for those players who only like the endgame and have already levelled once).

Actually it only needs (1) but (2), (3) and (4) are needed to prevent (1) getting nerfed.

 
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