Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
What AoC means for WoW

According to Michael Zenke from Massively, Age of Conan has sold 400,000 copies, out of 700,000 boxes they put on the shelves. Not bad for the first week. And, kudos to Funcom, the release launch went a lot smoother than the beta or early access. The reception of AoC in the blogosphere was a mixed. Keen and Graev already cancelled their accounts again. Tipa from West Karana sees AoC challenging WoW. The Ancient Gaming Noob correctly points out that "MMOs are a long haul proposition" and reserves judgement until having played it more. And the Common Sense Gamer thinks that WoW won't even notice AoC is out.

So here is what I think. I don't have proof, only anecdotal evidence, so preface every phrase here with "In my humble opinion": I think that World of Warcraft suffers from a cycle of peaks and troughs in subscription numbers. This is largely self-inflicted, numbers peak after big content patches and expansions, and fall in long periods of no new content added. Other factors, like summer holidays, also play a role. I do believe that WoW is heading for a major trough of subscription numbers in the western world. Remember that of the 10.7 million WoW players about 6 million are Chinese, who are on a different cycle, and who pay much less. There are less than 5 million players in the US and Europe, and the number will be falling over the summer, because the Burning Crusade is getting long in the tooth, and not everyone likes to spend his summer holidays in front of a computer.

Age of Conan will reach between half a million and one million subscribers this year. Most of which will be ex-WoW players. A good number of them will have stopped playing WoW anyway, with or without AoC, but a couple of hundred thousand will be pushed over the edge and quit WoW for the prospect of a new game. And Blizzard will notice that, because all of these are the well-paying US/Euro kind of subscribers. Age of Conan will not "kill" World of Warcraft, but it will dent it a bit.

Summer will end, christmas will approach, and now everything is possible. WoW could bring out Wrath of the Lich King in November, and it's subscription numbers would peak again. And personally I don't see Age of Conan having much staying power, not in a game where the first people reached the level cap in the first week already. Wrath of the Lich King will make a much larger dent into Age of Conan's subscription numbers than AoC does into WoW's now. But another possibility is that Blizzard misses a 2008 release date for WotLK. And it is also quite possible that Warhammer Online makes that date, and comes out for christmas. And then Blizzard would really start feeling the pain. I do believe that WAR has an even bigger potential of getting subscribers away from WoW than AoC has. If WAR comes out for christmas and WotLK doesn't, they could easily sell a million copies this year. Again, these are all Americans and Europeans, and if WAR beats WotLK to a christmas release, WoW numbers could suffer an even deeper trough.

None of this will "kill" World of Warcraft. But we are talking numbers here that are big enough to show up in a companies annual report of revenue and profits. If Wrath of the Lich King doesn't come out by the end of this year, the 2008 profits from WoW will be significantly lower than those of 2007, and investors and people at Vivendi will notice. Blizzard would bounce back to a dominating position when they bring out Wrath of the Lich King, but then what? If the third expansion is still another 2 years away, the overall trend of WoW subscription numbers could well go into permanent decline. One day WoW won't be the biggest kid on the block any more, not because of one WoW killer, but because of a death by a thousand cuts. The best Blizzard can hope for is that the new champion will be their next generation MMORPG, but that is not a given.
Your thoughts seem pretty much on the money of what I've been thinking. While I enjoy AoC, the fast leveling is killing any character development. It is almost like lv'ing for a pvp fest. It already has people just running around killing everyone they see that isn't grouped. So while the game is sort of neat, it doesn't have staying power. It reminds me of Ultima Online.

WAR, well that has a niche of comedy in it, and rvr. It might do very well.

WoW, lol, not sure what they can do to bring me back. Probably nothing as their expansion doesn't interest me at all.

So yea, I'm playing AoC, but I don't know if I'll make it past the free month of play. No way will I make it past two months. Not because I'm on a pvp server, hell I'm in a top guild with a city already. I just don't see myself logging on in a month to do siege battles and ride around ganking everyone. Maybe the pve raids will turn out alright, but so far there is no challenge in this game.

Oh & you haven't mentioned the broken powerleveling. Jeesh, I know people that can apprentice otehrs, sort of like CoH, and go from 20-30lv in an hour. Heck, 40-50 in 2 hours. Why they put that in there is beyond me. IF anythin gapprentice should work in reverse, the 80lv can go down to 29 to group with is budies, not bring the 20lv up to 79 and give him so much xp he reaches 60 in a day.

Oh and the comedy of the wow bg9, lol, what a riot. Those guys are so funny. on my sever and just trying to be so cool like WoW makes them better than everyone.

I don't know why I bother to even play MMOGs anymore, it brings out all the children lol. And summer hasn't even officially started, lol
I think that your analysis of the situation is pretty spot on, although I still firmly believe that WOW will be able to release at the end of this year. I'm holding out hope that Warhammer will release around the same time too, although it is very likely that the two will engage in PR dances for months to come.

I also believe that in terms of subscriber percentages, WAR will do comparatively better in Europe (both due to the IP and the fact that Mythic already has an established track record in Europe) and will probably out-and-out clobber WOTLK in the Asia-pacific region due to their already announced local support of Australasian players.
I suspect that a few Blizzard executives are going to get their ass chewed out. You cannot gift wrap your competitors golden opportunities like this. The bottom line is that Wrath should already be out. If that had been the case, AOC wouldn't be shooting to the top of the charts.

Oh, and although I predicted AOC would be a hit, I was halfway joking. I thought the min requirements would impact their sales, and that's an interesting point. If AOC had slightly lower minimums, would their sales have topped a million?
Tob, is it really ok to quote your site ? look at what this CM said about quiting your site..

Faizaniel (Dragonblight)

Please don't copy/paste walls of text from published articles; it's not nice to the people who write them (and the sites that host them who want you to visit them instead of reading some random post on General), it implies you personally can't think of anything to say, and Age of Conan is off-topic anyway.
AOC has hardly any staying power, I wonder what % of those 400k that have bought the game will be around in a month (or two).

Wotlk is released way too late, so that will indeed give War a nice opportunity. If they release at least a nice working product it should be a hit

Too soon to judge AOC's longetivity. its an MMO and the launch went pretty well (compared to Vanguard who got initial 150000+ subscriber)..

i hope LOTRO + AOC + WARHAMMER will nibble US/EUR WOW subscriber and thus push blizzard to renovate WOW.
Just a very interesting question, could Blizzard actually intend to milk the WOW cow on purpose by delaying WotLK, meaning, could this be part of the "great plan"?

In a recent interview by german GameStar, Tom Chilton answered the question if WOW has any story left to write expansions: "Yes, there is the story of the Titans and also Sargeras (the big bad Demon uber boss)" (no direct quote).

Also, Shane Dabiri has been transferred to "a secret project".

So, have the designer maybe no more ideas what to put in their world and simply delay the release on purpose to squeeze the most out of WOW? Consider StarCraft and Diablo, Blizzard as always satisfied themselves with 1 expansion before releasing a new product (Diablo 1: 1 Expansion, Diablo 2: 1 Expansion, StarCraft 1: 1 Expansion, WarCraft III: 1 Expansion). I think it is really difficult for the Blizzard people to work under the time pressure of expansion deadlines (something EA is particularly good at, they just don't call their games expansions so), they might be satisfied with the EverGrind ideas of daily quests and PvP items?

Could it be, that they simply want to milk the cow as long as possible and ignore WAR and AoC because they know, deep in their heart, that WOW is only good for maybe another 2 more rich expansions after WotLK as they run out of lore and focus on the really next big thing instead, WoW II or World of StarCraft or World of Diablo?
Will WoW2 be a reboot, or will it have completely new lore. That's an interesting question.
Blizzard' WoW successor aka Diablo III. aka the "next generation MMO" will be released within this decade. Everything they have to do is to keep current subs till 2010. Looking at the potential competitors, Blizzard will be able to perform well untill then.

WAR/AoCs or any other upcoming game will have to skip the low level game completetly, to lure away serious WoW numbers. If i have to choose between killing 10 foozles with a lvl 1 in WAR/AoC or my advanced 70 in Wrath, i will choose the later. At this point many players will not switch into something to start from scratch all over again. We already had the AoC/WAR effect, when DAoC came out. It was the flavor of the month. Many EQ buddies switched, only to realize, that the grass wasn't more green in Camelot. The similarities are there. DoAC was more pretty, it was more PvP focused, yet it wasn't able to hook early adopters. Within 1 month most of them returned to EQ. Let's wait for some serious NPD numbers and the end of the free-to-play period. Only then, we will get numbers to trust.
Wow is taking too long in between expansions; although, i do think they could mitigate the damage done by such games as WAR and AOC by strategically leaking wow information about the expac.
Tob, is it really ok to quote your site ? look at what this CM said about quiting your site

While my Terms of Service clearly allow you to copy and paste my blog posts as long as you link back to me and say that it was me who wrote it, I can see the point of the CM's remark. Quoting the whole article creates a "wall of text" which doesn't work well in the environment of a forum. Also due to a longer article inevitably having several points, not all of them might be relevant for the forum you post to. So for that "Death of a thousand cuts" post on the WoW forums, maybe just quoting the one paragraph where I talk about that would have been better, plus a link for people who want to read more. Keeps the discussion on the forums focused on the part relevant to WoW, without going into the details of AoC sales.

Blizzard' WoW successor aka Diablo III. aka the "next generation MMO" will be released within this decade.

Will Diablo3 have a monthly fee? This is what intrigues me - if D3 is free to play, then Blizzard really will be competing against themselves.

I see D3 as a robust multi player game, but not a true MMO. I don't think Blizzard wants subscribers abandoning WoW to play D3.

The money they make from D3 sales would be canceled out by lost WoW subscriptions.
Will WoW2 be a reboot, or will it have completely new lore. That's an interesting question.

Well, many fantasy author fell into this trap. As their characters evolve along the line of "bigger, badder, bolder" and grow along with their friends and comrades, the story needs to have more "epicness". Ever read Raymond Feist? Dragonlance Series? The protagonists fight more and more powerful enemies, nations, races, beings, demigods... At one point, there is simply no one else powerful enough to conquer (next to their own inner demons).

In the next expansion, we will fight (and win over) Arthas, imho the possibly most powerful being on Azeroth (the planet, not the continent). Then we will eventually fight Titans and 10man Sargeras at the end. What can come after that, lore-wise? Fight old gods? Yawn, been there, done that.

WarCraft I - III evolved a normal RTS storyline of a fantasy world with invasions of fantasy beings. WOW evolved this and gave us more powerful enemies (including big, bad drakes and an old god), TBC brought this further and gave us a former Handmaiden of Aszhara, then Kael'thas, Archimonde and finally Illidan. WotLK gives us probably more C'thun-like old gods, Arthas and many things in between to slay.

Would WOW 2 be able to follow the storyline? I highly doubt it, there is only so much you can do to a world. I believe WoW 2, in x years to come, will pick up a new storyline. "World of Diablo" / "Diablo III" is more and more what I believe we will see, an item hunting game with strong online massively multiplayer content. Close to WoW but different enough not to draw away the paying crowds from the cash cow.
It's really sad that we are disputing on who gets the most money out of the market and who will be able to kick the subscription numbers up the charts instead of talking on cool new things developers have to offer.

WOW is a really old game now and it never done anything innovative in the first place. Now because of the success of WOW every other game tries really hard to capture the same magic which I think is gone now and even though people in general don't like to change their habbits, want something new and refreshng, that can make tham tick again inside and droll all over the computer screen in awe gigling all over while bashing mouse buttons and keyboard.

I think we should whine all we can and encourage developers to take at least little risk and try to provide us with a new game not just WOW expansions in a different lore, meaning AoC and WAR, or even in the same as WotLK. There is one game that can be really innovative which is Darkfall Online but it's a niche game and it requires a special kind of player and it can not even see the light of day. I really hope "the next generation MMO" Blizzard is bubling about is really what they call it, bacause I know they can do innovative. Just look at Diablo and Starcraft, and I hope they still have it in them to push it up to the next level of online gaming with a brand new product instead of giving us a finger and milking us players all the way till we are sore dry and disputing on how much more they can milk us and who is going to do it, instead of just playing cool games and thus don't have time to write.

What you guys think? Is there even a chace for such a game, or we are going to keep this talk about numbers and money till new year, and even further?
WAR/AoCs or any other upcoming game will have to skip the low level game completely, to lure away serious WoW numbers. If i have to choose between killing 10 foozles with a lvl 1 in WAR/AoC or my advanced 70 in Wrath, i will choose the later.

I dunno.

I'd rather enjoy new mechanics/environs rather than walk through the same world right now. To be fair, I've been rabidly awaiting WAR and will be playing from day one.

From what I've read about Wrath, WoW could easily become the "backup" game. Since each raid can be ran as a 10-man, there's no reason to run the ridiculous uber-raid guild treadmill. I can sign up four months into the release and know that I'll get to see all of the content if I'm inspired. If Blizzard can position themselves correctly, they'll be sitting prettier than they would be if they let all of the other new MMOs take market share.
Don't forget WoW is launching into the Spanish markets soon. This will probably more than make up for any AoC losses.
People seem to think that you can only play either WoW or AoC, but not both.
The reality is that there are a lot of people doing just that.

The solo game in WoW is old, and people are bored of it, but there is plenty going on still for the average raider, so in-between raids, people are playing AoC and other games.

This does not mean they are all quitting WoW, far from it.
hmm, seems my comment got deleted, or something.

while AoC is attracting a lot of people who are WoW veterans, I dont specifically think it's going to dent WoW dramatically.

people always want to try something new, look what happened with LotRO - loads of people left WoW and tried it out, and then decided where their allegiences layed. the same will be true of AoC imho.
This is basically what I said last week on my blog. I don't foresee a "WoW killer" ever coming along. I see them getting zerged, ironically, by a tide of issues and releases.

I agree that AoC and WAR will both suck away some WoW subs, but they are themselves no real threat to Blizzard. However, they may be the tip of an iceberg: on aggregate, over time, there will be enough games like these to matter, and WoW will die a very slow death to a myriad of niche competitors. I personally feel like WoW will peak for good after the release of WotLK, and then the bleed will begin.

Blizzard's on top at the moment, but how they intend stay there isn't really clear to me. They can try to milk WoW forever, but they just won't be able to cater well enough to every play style with a single game - as people get tired of WoW, the niche competitors will keep stealing subs regardless of how much content Blizzard cranks out. They can make another "one size fits all" WoW sequel, but that's tricky too - as you mentioned in an earlier post, do people really just want the same but different?

Incidentally, Sony has taken an interesting approach to this problem - instead of just focusing on their original megagame (EQ) or its sequel (EQ2), they've expanded their portfolio and now have several niche games under the same brand. This allows them to bundle multiple subscriptions and cater to a wider array of players, without sticking to a sort of "one size fits all" game like WoW.
I debated all weekend, all three days of my weekend(holiday in the states) as to if I should go out and purchase AoC. I read the reviews. I read up on the features. I wasn't impressed, but at the same point I am really bored w/ WoW.

I didn't buy AoC, but I may change my mind next weekend, or the next, or the next. There is a lot of time before WotLK or WAR. I should of grabbed it this weekend if I am ever going to buy it. Get in on this game before people start leaving. Here is my pro/con list I wrote up last friday at work, that convinced me to not buy AoC.


-New content/skills/spells/gameplay
-80 levels? OMGZ!


-The world is mostly instanced, lack of continuity is guild wars.(which is great btw, but only for a short period of time.)
-High system requirements. I have a decent PC, which runs WoW great, but may slow down w/ AoC and lots of stuff on the screen.
-Comments about how the game starts to run out of content after level 30. Kind of like LotRO. Another game I purchsed, played the open beta and never actually played the real game.

I still think I should pick it up, it certainly won't make me cancel my WoW subscription, but it probably is worth the $50.
if you guys are bored and think lotro has no content after 30 levels you should go check it out now.. things have changed drastically in the last 4 months... I think I side with Tobold on the thousand cuts thing btw.. sounds like thats the ultimate fate of wow.. not that it concerns me overmuch. :) But it is an interesting experiment in dairy farming.
I think Blizzard has a more long term outlook. To maintain dominance (and grow) they need to expand beyond WoW.

I don't think there will ever be a WoW2...they will just continue enhancing WoW.

But it seems inevitable that they will release a Starcraft MMO. THis will help them since they can stagger the releases of WoW and Starcraft expansions. So as people burn through the content of the latest Wow xpac, a Starcraft update is around the corner. This way they can still spend the lengthy amount of time they need to develop content and polish things.

As for Diablo, my guess is that they keep that as a much more solo-friendly game. Maybe the next installment will be an MMO, but catered even more to the casual/solo player.
Even if you're right, and AoC doesn't keep most subscribers by the end of the year, it certainly sounds like a big win for Funcom and MMORPG's in general.

I think I remember people talking about the pre-WoW days with games like EQ & DAoC being popular with around 100-150k subs? If that's true (feel free to correct if not), then it goes to show you how many more people are out there that are willing to give the newest games a try like AoC.

Hopefully, this will keep enough $$ in the PC MMORPG gaming industry for even more companies to launch their own version of games out there, adding more innovation each time.
Vlad is correct. Why do people seem to think it's either WoW or AoC? Admittedly I'm not dropping WoW to play AoC...maybe I'm not the best person to argue this side ;) but $30/month is certainly not out of the question if I did want to play both games.

What I can see happening is World of Starcraft coming out (or whatever their next MMO is) and Blizzard offering a cheaper subscription package if you subscribe to both games. Get WoW for $15/month or WoS for $15/month, or both WoW AND WoS for just $25/month.
There's every indication that WAR will actually make it's most recently announced release date of Fall 2008 and no indication that WotLK will even be out in 2008. I think Blizzard's profit margins are going to take a hammering this year. If enough people get hooked on WAR before WotLK comes out, WoW could be looking at a permanent dent in subscription numbers. Death? No, of course not, but the gorilla is shrinking.
I picked up AoC last Friday to check it out. My guild is currently grinding through Sunwell, but soon I'll be down to one raid day a week and want a game to play with all my spare time.

For the most part, I'm enjoying AoC. If nothing else, the graphics are great and it's fun to explore a different world. I have no plans to cancel my WoW subscription and I'm eagerly awaiting WotLK. I would imagine there are a lot of people out there like me--IE: Somewhat bored with WoW and awaiting new content and AoC sounds kinda neat so let's check it out.

On a slightly different note, I think Blizzard finds themselves in somewhat of an unpleasant situation because of two mistakes they made with TBC.

#1 -- The pacing of the release of T6 content. My guild, like a lot of guilds out there I imagine, really only did T5 three or four times once we learned it and could get into T6. We spent a little over a month on an entire tier of content. With all the other releases, tiers lasted what, 6 months? I think that's a major reason WoW feels "old" right now. We didn't farm tier 5 for any time at all.

#2 -- The VoIP patch was absolutely ridiculous. I wonder how much time and effort they wasted on that. It seems like they spent a monstrous amount of time on something that didn't positively impact the player base. Does anyone even use it? How many guilds out there don't have ventrilo? I bet they spent three months on that between planning, implementation and bug fixing. I bet in hindsight, they wish they had just spent time on TBC content or WotLK.
Its no sense to say "X" game will kill WOW, by the way blizz game its far to even notice any damage from AoC or next upcoming MMo´s ,They are the Nº1 at the moment and have the $$$$ to still be nº1 for long long time, what people will do is change a bit to enjoy another game (or whine about it since looks like lots of people love doing it)and then after X time come back to wow with a refreshed will to play that game, so you dont have to stick to one game allthe time... its boring and its all about fun doesnt it?
Age of Conan will reach between half a million and one million subscribers this year. Most of which will be ex-WoW players

What a joke. If Funcom is lucky it will end up with 50.000 subsribers. If not, they will end up like Vanguard. I played the game for the free 4 weeks before I quit. Its the biggest dazzler ever seen in the game market. Blizzard will not even notice that there is something like AoC.

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