Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Is Guild Wars 2 dying?

The Nosy Gamer forced me into this sensationalist title, by specifically asking for it in this quote: "For the fifth week in a row the time the Xfire community has spent playing Guild Wars 2 has declined by more than 12.5%. Since 2 September the number of hours played has fallen by 68%. Has anyone started asking if GW2 is dying?" Apparently someone has to step up and pose that question. Might as well be me.

First of all let me repeat my believe that the XFire community isn't representative of the general gaming population. If you need software which measures how much you hop from one game to the next, that is probably because you switch between games more than the average gamer.

Second there is a huge difference between measuring the number of people actively playing a game, and the time they spend playing. Most people play more when a game is new, before falling into some sort of routine with less hours per week played.

Third there is the argument of Chris from Game By Night, who asks whether there is a No pressure, no login effect. Compare that to World of Warcraft, where factors like "I have a 3-month subscription" or "My guild will start raiding soon" or "Oh, the Headless Horseman event started today" might exert some "pressure" on you to login and play. In a game like Guild Wars 2 where you are more left to advance at your own pace, there is less of such pressure.

And finally there is my theory that MMORPGs resemble each other too much, thus you need a lot less time to fully understand a new game these days. And once you fully understood it, endlessly repeating the same sort of gameplay over and over isn't much fun. Thus after a few weeks of understanding "oh, this is how this works in Guild Wars 2" everybody gets to a phase where he realizes that doing hearts in GW2 isn't actually *that* different from the questing we've already been doing for a decade, or that the PvP isn't actually *that* different from the PvP we've been doing for a decade. And then we stop playing, because we were already bored of the games that came before, and our expectation of finding something radically different wasn't fulfilled.

So in summary I would say that Guild Wars 2 isn't so much dying as it is experiencing what counts for the normal life-cycle of a modern MMORPG. Every game starts "dying" after a month these days and is considered "dead" after three. Ultimately ArenaNet isn't worried about how many hours people play Guild Wars 2 on a Sunday, they are worried how many people are going to buy the next expansion, because that is their business model.

I can't wait for Syncaine's post countering with "Xfire is the best thing ever" :D
That would surprise me, because according to XFire Darkfall is only on rank #866 in that list, with 5 hours per day played. That is 11,000 times less than WoW, and 6,000 times less than Guild Wars 2.

The "popularity is inversely proportional to quality" argument doesn't hold much water if you apply it to a game nobody plays.
this period is gonna be really tough for every MMO...
GW2 is free to play
Swtor is going F2P in NOvember
Rift is releasing a massive expansion
Lotro is also have a very good expansion (I am currently playing this)

But it is truth...I don't feel any pressure to login in GW2, there is not gear progression to stay behind and there is not a subscription plan that is going to de-activate...In an older post of mine I told you that I give wow 2 months, the truth is that I have already 2 chars 90 level and I got gear from heroics and now I am ready to raid when my guild is. Some people had RL issues and didn't bought it yet but they will..

The fact is I am ready to raid now and just waiting for the the meantime I enjoy Lotro since yesterday. It will not take too long for others to get ready too. Nothing changed to wow, they have just added more and more and more dailies that also seem more mandatory than ever. Although I am refusing to do them, I am arch-enemy of dailies and this specific cheap method to force people login..

The problem with GW2 is that its whole gameplay is dependent to how much people will are not fun and some are impossible to do alone...
ArenaNet says that GW2 expansions will be free
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Oh, but I think EVE is doing wonderful there.
Also that Darkfall stagnates so very hard can be argued away, with a complete remake announced for november.
Are we playing games or consuming a press any key to continue movie.

An interactive movie being 'dead' after 3 months seems to make some sense.
some people might think their gw2 servers are dying by the movement of peoples to better ranked WvW servers.
I think it's a fair question to ask, however, given all the crap that TOR got long before they had server contraction. It's one of those "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" things.

Now, I don't think that either game is dying, but that both games are going to hit their own stable level of players. GW2 is just starting that leveling off process, while TOR is in the process of finishing that off prior to the F2P release.

Now that I think about it, the lack of a daily cap and the "oh noes, I have to do all the dailies to raid" scenario plays well into Blizzard's hands. You have to spend all this time to be raid ready, and oh look, you can't spend any time doing anything else. I doubt it was directly envisioned as such, but the effect --playing WoW exclusively-- was desired.

@Dannyson: You are reading it wrong. They say: "On top of a large amount of free bonus content, we will be expanding on offerings in the Black Lion Trading Company going forward, as well as be doing large-scale expansion content down the road.”"

So there will be some bonus content added free, but the next expansion will be paid, as in the original GW.
When I asked if anyone had started saying Guild Wars 2 is dying, I was just too lazy to go looking myself. But you know someone is looking at the numbers and claiming it is.
GW2 does not ask a monthly fee, so the "big bucks" came from the initial saled, correct me if I am wrong. The same thing can be said for Diablo III, for example.

That said, will developers ever care if the game lats long (with the initial fanabase) or not? All in all they just lose money, if they have to pay for the infrastructure and few (new) people purchase the game.

Diablo III could die tomorrow and Blizzard would be more than happy anyway, I bet.
It's an interesting study on how the subscription fee, or a lack of it, influences playing behavior. It seems WoW is the perfect storm: few other competing MMOs in its heyday, plus subs 'locked' people in, creating a critical mass that pulled more people in.
IMHO, it will be interesting to see how the "Mad King" event, that start 22nd october, affect the next sunday numbers.
As Tobold has already stated - XFire users aren't representative, they're more likely to be game-hoppers and right now there are some very good games (XCOM, Dishonored) to hop to.

On top of that, there's bound to have been some settling out as players moderate their number of hours online a bit after the launch (which seemed to have freakishly high levels of concurrency, implying that each players was racking up more hours in-game than normal for an MMO player). Onm top of that, GW2 has undoubtedly lost some players - the ones who genuinely don't like it, the "been there, beaten that" crowd once they've hit level 80 and the players who are so conditionede by EQ and WoW that they cannot conceive of anything to do without a raiding and gear-progression treadmill laid out in front of them.

On the other hand my server (Gandara) still seems pretty busy both in WvW and in various PvE zones I've played in, bot just the "endgame" zones of Orr and Frostgorge Sound. Looks far from dead, and we don't exactly have ther sort of WvW standing that has the wannabe winners transferring to you en masse. I've played "dying" before and this certainly doesn't look like it from the inside.
Isn't this cycle better for GW2?

I mean presumably it costs more if people play all the time, and they have no revenue to cover that cost. So the have fun, move on, come back when the expansion hits, have fun, move one, come back model is perfect for GW2.

I don't get why expansions would be free, so I guess I'm not getting it actually.
It never ceases to amaze me how often I find that XFire represents a behavior that I also manifest. I do think that while we may claim that the sample is not representative as gamers go it is representative as far as humans go, so you will be able to see large scale manifestation of the human behavior. IMHO small fluctuation are not representative but large ones are most certainly true. If everyone stops playing a game on XFire don't you think that is because something is wrong with that game?

I bought and played GW2 originally but have quickly grew bored with it in ways I never felt with any other MMO.

Simply put GW feels empty, everything feels artificial and pointless. I think that what might be that others feel as well.
As Tremayneslaw says:

I've played "dying" before and this certainly doesn't look like it from the inside.

I would have to agree here, the main thing I notice on my NA GW2 server, Sanctum of Rall, is no more queues and overflow in PvE zones. The queues in WvW are as large as ever, especially on match reset night (Friday/Saturday).

There has definitely been a dropoff, it just feels more like a 25% drop instead of a 60% drop. ArenaNet still has time to patch in some more content before players start to leave for real.
I'd just like to point out that I'm not "already bored of the games that came before" and nor are any of the people I chat to in the various MMOs I play. I am more than happy to have more iterations of the same gameplay I've been enjoying for well over a decade, in the same way I'm always happy to read a new Spenser novel. More of the same is always welcome if it's more of something you like.
"I bought and played GW2 originally but have quickly grew bored with it in ways I never felt with any other MMO.

Simply put GW feels empty, everything feels artificial and pointless. I think that what might be that others feel as well."

Not grindy enough for you? Everyone has their own preferences in games -- you might like the gear progression grind, the honor grind, or whatever, but there are many people who are fine without one.

I'm not sure the PvE side of GW2 is good enough to keep people playing more than a few months, but the WvW could if they balance things well -- there's very little competition from other MMOs when it comes to the kind of PvP you have in GW2. DAoC was the last game to have it and that was 10 years ago (Warhammer's just wasn't designed well enough for an endgame).
Seems to me that XFire, beside being a small sample, is also a sample skewed to hardcore gamers. GW2 is a game that pretty much *can* be finished, especially if grinding to the cap and raiding is the norm among the sample population. I'm not surprised at all to see playtime dropping off among those players, as that's not who ANet is catering to.
I don't get why expansions would be free, so I guess I'm not getting it actually.

There will be free content updates just like in any MMO, and there will be some that are not. A quote from ArenaNet:
We do appreciate that you’d like to buy lots of new content, but we’d prefer to give a lot of it to you for free, cause that’s what we think a responsible MMO company does!
Prices for non-legendary items have been crashing for the past few weeks, at the same time as gem::gold ratios have been increasing. Both are a sign of decreasing demand, which is consistent with a population drop.

Regardless of "death" or not, I believe the more salient point is that GW2 isn't growing. Obviously that means less than it would under a sub model, but at some point a concession needs to be made that an MMO without social traction isn't a healthy MMO at all.
Honestly, it's a great time for ME personally, because it means I can get home, kick off my boots and ask myself, "What do I FEEL like playing?" instead of, "What should I play?"
Honestly, it's a terrible time for me personally, because it means I cannot get home and kick off my boots and finally start to play the game I really, really, wanted to play the whole day.

Instead I get home and ask myself "Which one of the 10 reasonably fine games I recently bought should I play to distract myself?" ... Sometimes it's less boring to read Wikipedia ...
The interesting thing for me in watching the XFire stats is watching the curve. GW2 took top spot from World of Warcraft in a very big way at launch, slowly shedding about 1/3 of its initial user/hours over the next couple of weeks until the Mists of Pandaria launch.

WoW then regained top spot, with Guild Wars abruptly losing 1/3 of its remaining user/hours. Diablo III dropped by about half. WoW jumped up to almost (but not quite) where GW2 was.

Since then, GW2 has been continuing to lose users, but in a slow trickle. D3 has picked up about to where it was pre-WoW launch. And WoW has lost about 1/3 of its initial launch.

I'd say that a number of GW2 players were marking time until MoP. Diablo III's population is steady, but a bunch of them went to try MoP since it was there.

The real questions to me are: is GW2 settling down to a stable population? And is WoW-MoP going to go full "boom and bust" like almost everyone in the market?

We can't really tell how much XFire's own user base changes might have impacted the numbers, but I think the first "SWTOR is dying" posts cited as evidence of impending doom numbers higher than every single number that I've referenced above.
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Ok then, attempt number two without typos every two words...

No GW2 is not "dying". People still haven't realized that xfire is a really bad measurement tool and that GW2 is a F2P game. How many players it has that's active isn't as important as how many it is that buy gems from the BLTC. If this game had subs, then i'd pay attention to how many active players it has. But it doesn't so i'm not.

XCOM and Dishonored.
That should tide you over a while. Maybe Borderlands 2 and its new DLC. Intersperse that with a sprinkling of GW2 or WoW.

Lack of awesome games to play: solved.
You're welcome. :)
I'd say that GW2 isn't gonna die yet because there is room to create different skill builds which all work and feel different. Haven't found the skill-building/trait-building thing in any other MMO and thats whats keeping me playing the game. Also I like playing with people and helping them thats my main reason for playing mmo's
GW2 is free to play, it has stuff hidden all over the place in the pve which keeps it interesting for an explorer like me.
There are still people playing the game and I love helping people so as long as there are people I'll be playing it.
Its visually stunning, sometimes when I just look around and see the awesome views at places that I had been a hundred times before.
I'm sure that the non-active servers will be deleted someday which might give an extra boost to the population in the other servers. Problem is that my laptop still has trouble loading some areas because of the sheer number of players.

I think the reason people aren't playing as much anymore is because they don't need to lvl anymore and can now enjoy playing the game or feel accomplished playing it after just a short sit-in.
I don't think it is dying at all, with The Lost Shores coming out soon, and more to follow, according to arenanet, this game will be around for a long time.
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