Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Measuring World of Warcraft burnout

I'm getting a bit tired of World of Warcraft myself, waiting for the Burning Crusade expansion which will renew my interest. I observe a certain amount of WoW burnout in my guild. I read blog entries and "I quit" posts on the forums. All of which is just anecdotal evidence, and no indication of the health of the game. The number of people quitting isn't really relevant, the health of the game depends on the difference between the number of people joining and the number of people leaving. So how do we measure whether there is a general burnout of World of Warcraft players in this pre-expansion time?

Reliable information in this case comes from an unexpected source: the stock market. Blizzard is just a small division of a large media conglomerate, Vivendi Universal, and Vivendi doesn't have to inform investors about every little movement in the WoW player base. But The9 Ltd, a publicly traded Chinese company, which runs World of Warcraft in China, gets 99% of their income from that game. Thus investors demand, and get, very detailed information on how the game is going. And the CEO of The9 Ltd just had to announce that in the third quarter of 2006 players in China played 10% less World of Warcraft than in the previous quarter. Quote: "The fall in revenue comes as long-term users begin to desert the aging game in China."

Seeing how the game in China has been running for less long than in the USA and Europe, while being better advertised, we can be reasonably sure that a similar World of Warcraft burnout is happening in the rest of the world. Of course everybody expects that decline to reverse when the Burning Crusade expansion finally comes out. But ideally a game company would release the expansion *before* the people are getting bored and leave. And in China the expansion won't be out in January, as Blizzard is still negotiating about getting a bigger share of the revenue from The 9 Ltd.

Blizzard really needs to work a bit faster and harder if they want to keep their customers in the game for the next couple of years.
There are other reasons why people leave WoW in China.

When the MMOG frenzy startet there games where free to download but you needed to pay your online time.

Some months ago some providers changed their revenue model to an item based one: you can play for free, but you have to pay for good or powerful items. That model worked in Korea somewhat, but in China it had a very bad effect: Due to competition many MMOG's changed their subscription model to an item based one. This means: in China you can now play most MMOG's for FREE.

WoW you still have to pay ...

I wonder if the MMOG market in China is due to breakdown as itembased games aren't profitable there due to the low average household income.
Yes, but the American government hasn't yet enacted a policy to bring average playtime per day BELOW 5 hours a day in an effort to reduce the amount of time their population plays in a virtual world.

And, I quote:
The new system will impose penalties on players who spend more than three hours playing a game by reducing the abilities of their characters.

Gamers who spend more than five hours will have the abilities of their in-game character severely limited.

Players will be forced to take a five-hour break before they can return to a game.

I guess if they can't be hardcore players, they don't want to be players at all.
I'm agreeing with Alex's comment - with the ban limiting you to five hours and then a five hour break before you can play - even if you're *not* a particularly hardcore gamer, that's pretty wretched. It would make it really hard for me to justify spending the same monthly fee on a game that literally cut my baseline playing time in half. Between work and family and friends, I don't play much during the week, but I love a long marathon session over the weekend.
I'll put in around three hours on a weeknight, but weekends could be 12 to 14 hour sessions if the wife has nothing planned and the kids are with the grandparents, or I might not play at all.

Where are the bracelets for people staying in Las Vegas that activate an alarm if they gamble for 5 hours, and that sound another alarm if they approach a slot machine, craps table, etc, within the next 5 hours?
Could you even set up and get through a raid in 3 hours? If you don't do it in 3 hours in China, from log in to finish, then you'll have 2 hours to get through it with a reduced set of abilities, before becoming completely useless. I can see how that would force a lot of people to stop playing the game.
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