Tobold's Blog
Saturday, November 29, 2008
WAR is shrinking

Yesterday I wrote in a post on a different subject about Warhammer Online that WAR was shrinking. Somebody with not a lot of reading skills read that as "WAR is sinking", and asked me what evidence I had for that. So, for the record, I don't think that WAR is sinking, but I do think it is shrinking. Evidence, besides servers being merged, is for example from XFire, where the hours of WAR played by XFire users is steadily declining.

Of course now somebody is going to say that this is again just evidence, not proof. Which opens up the question how you could possibly prove that a game has a decline in subscription numbers. The only one who has that information is the game company itself, and they aren't going to publish numbers unless they look good. An absence of press releases about growth is an indication, but not proof, of decline.

So the only thing one can do is look for indirect evidence: XFire numbers, number of servers and whether they are full or empty, and so on. This opens up ample opportunity for fans of the game for the first stage of grief in the K├╝bler-Ross model: Denial, usually quickly followed by Anger. So "you have no absolute proof" is followed by "you only report negative things about that game because you hate it". All perfectly natural.

I have no agenda, hidden or otherwise, whatsoever towards WAR. I would have liked it to succeed more than it did, for the simple reason that I think more competition in the MMORPG market would be a good thing. I do think Mythic and EA made a nice pile of money with WAR, so all is not lost. The "miracle patch" 1.1 looks promising, and even Wrath of the Lich King won't hold players forever in WoW. Having said all that, I will continue to report any news about WAR, positive or negative, as well as my opinion about WoW, positive and negative. You just can't reduce these incredibly complex games into simple formulas like "WAR good, WoW bad" or the other way round. They both have their good and bad sides, and their strengths and weaknesses appeal to different kinds of players.
I never understood the psychology of fanboy-ism, it's totally alien to me: why someone would care if a game is good, bad or ugly, declining or on the rise, and worse: wanting to communicate those feelings obsessively on the internet where exactly nobody cares anyway. The only thing important for me would be if a game is fun or not (if i had shares in a game company or worked on the game in question it would be a different story). Common sense, and it applies to all other products i use, as long im satisfied with it ill use it, no matter what the current opinion may be. The only reason i can think of is that both the fanboys and the haters get satisfaction from the flamewars itself, and the subject of discussion is of no importance at all. To each his hobby and pastime i guess.
Low level areas are dead in that game which prompted me to quit BEFORE my month was even up. Everyone is in scenario instances and the poor developed world is quite devoid of players. Tiar 4 yes, but NO NEW BLOOD is coming into the game
Hey tob , im the one who asked , and yes i dont have a lot of reading skill unlike you :) (btw feel free do criticize my english and grammar)

All i said was where you got information about WAR's sinking population and you tried to pose me as a WAR fanboi. And now you denied saying (or thinking or writing) that WAR is sinking and now you claimed it is only shrinking ? Say what you will but your 'war is sinking' statement is the other side of the coin of WAR fanboi, thats a WAR Hateboi comment that prevalent on WAR forums. Your XFIRE 'evidence' is the one touted by every doom and gloom poster on VN Board Warhammer forum.

BTW , Based on your XFIRE evidence ,the correct term is 'WAR player is declining among XFIRE user'. Now i played both WAR and Wotlk and everyone in WAR know there is Soft server merge (free transfer) and declining number of player. no one denies it. but saying 'its sinking' is a bit too much dont you think ?

Tob i dont understand you, instead of saying you made a mistake saying sinking instead of shrinking you goes on to belittle the person who asked.

this mean the 'angry tobold' again ?
ok tobold, i recheck your previous post and you edited your word 'sinking' to 'shrinking'. its your blog and you are free to edit it anyway you want it. just wish you are more honest than this.
tob i really dont understand you, 1st you post unfounded rumors about WAR contribution and saying its sinking (edited to shrinking) and now posting XFIRE user graph as evidence (as if everyone is using xfire). what are you trying to say here ? i know you dont like WAR and you loved WOTLK, but is this your own stage of Kubler Ross ? is this the stage where you actively attack someting you loved before ? or trying to justify your love for WOTLK by demeaning WAR ? i dont know tob, this smacks of fanboi + hateboi kind of talk. It seem you are trying to put distance to WAR by putting negative post about it.

Now whatever you called me before, im not a WAR fanboi, i just played game that i like for the moment until boredom sets in, currently playing fallout3 and deadspace.. i dont hate WOW or WAR or any games and spread doom-n-gloom about any game because it is futile.

now i know this is your blog and you can post anything you want, no one denies its your right. but you gotta understand everytime you have open commentary feature, some people will post stuff thats not agreable with you or post different opinion. you shouldnt take it as an attack on you. unless you cannot take different opinion.

ps: as always, feel free to comment on my grammar/english/reading comprehension.
Anonymous, if you are so fanatic about WAR then perhaps you ought to go make your own blog and stop trolling someone else's? If you think Tobold is horrible and wrong and anti-WAR-everything, why are you still reading and commenting?
I did not edit "shrinking" into "sinking". You just read it wrong, and overreacted. One way in which you could verify that is to check the various sites that copy my RSS feed, and thus would have the original text even if I had edited it. You'll find that I used "shrinking" in the original, and there is no evidence whatsoever of me editing. Which is kind of ironic for somebody accusing me of saying something without evidence, isn't it?
Jolly good post, as usual. I loled at the troll comments.
ah now i cannot wait to see how tobold's fanboi going to flood the commentary..
hey tob, you should post thing with more evidence instead of posting unfounded rumors. The Contribution Roll Rumor and now this 'doom and gloom' WOW fanboi berating WAR.. whats the point in posting rumors ? this is not the usual tobold i read for years.. and the weak attempt to use xfire to defend your post ? thats lame .. i never read this kind of stuff when you post about hellgate or lotr, you always stood by the principle of posting truth and your own opinion and not spreading rumors from unknown sources.
Interesting to see corresponding WoW trend say 6 weeks after expansion.

I'd expect it to drop off a bit faster than WAR, as there is a a shorter levelling curve, a bigger transition from levelling to end-game, and probably a lot more people who play just to level and never intended to stick around once they have seen what there is to see.
Will Tobold post the XFire #'s if WoTLK is shrinking too? Guess we will have to wait and see.
We don't have to wait. The same graph shows WoW has declined since the WoTLK release date.

I'm guessing this is the follow up story Tobold? ;)
Just to be clear, I mean the release date weekend, as there as a higher trend for weekends (in both games). Also, I play both games and don't use XFire.
The WAR XFire curve went down from 30000 to 15000. The WoW XFire curve is fluctuating around 400000 on weekdays, before and after WotLK. The second weekend after release had less players than the first weekend after release, but I don't think there is much of a story there. Maybe "WotLK didn't add a lot of players to WoW on weekdays"?
Last week WoW had ~400k during the week, this week they were ~300k. It only broke 400k on Friday (yesterday). This is a decline. Is it statistically reliable? Of course it isn't. It could be due to the holiday, but that can go either way (more time off more time to play, or time off but less time to play).
The #'s for last week (not including weekends): 451k (Mon) - 425k (Thurs)
This week: 337k (Mon) - 396k (Thurs)

Is the holiday having a negative or positive effect, we'll have to wait for next week I guess.
Nope. *Not* "edited to shrinking". You just suck at reading.
Wow. I think we all know that WOW will have the same arc in terms of a big pop at the beginning of the xpac and then a decline. And, I don't think anyone who is actually playing WAR would credibly argue that the active playerbase has not declined somewhat, especially in the wake of WOLK. The big question is, once people have spent their month in the extra-well scripted PVE content of WOW and popped 80, do they really still want to get on the hamster wheel or will a wave be enticed to come to WAR? We will know soon.
Anecdotally, it sure feels like there are less people playing WAR this holiday weekend than were playing about 3-4 weeks ago. I played about 5 hours yesterday, and while scenarios were popping regularly, there wasn't much else going on (at least on my server).
All of this is moot. It has been stated on many websites as well as blogs. The population is thinning in the lower level areas. Many a player has left the game since launch due to differences of opinion on how the game should proceed.

Issues with mechanics, gameplay, performance.

All launch pains mind you.

We should note that at least WAR is holding the #15 spot, which is quite relevant in X-Fire numbers. The scale may be going lower, but out of all the games that HAVE launched (Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, Hellgate, Age of Conan...even LOTRO), WAR is consistent in holding a higher spot than normal on that chart.

It may not be a good game, but it does have a bigger following than other Western fee based MMO's (lets not start on the Eastern Asian influenced titles).
Amazon is selling WAR for U.S. $10.95 now -- This is less than three months after the release, which is quite amazing, really. It reinforces my thinking that WAR peaked in terms of both unit sales and subscriptions in October, and that the game is doing pretty badly right now.
I've never been convinced that an MMO whose main focus is PvP is anything other than a minority taste. For me, it works so much better when it is integrated into a broader system as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. So, for example, although PvP is common in EVE, it isn't the *point* of the game - it's a means of obtaining other objectives. Without that context, PvP just seems a bit empty to me. Having played the WAR beta, my feeling was that it was a good game, but one that was only good for a few months before repeating the same PvP scenarios gets old (although at least it's less tedious than WOW battlegrounds). Now that's fine for a one-off sale game, but if your business model is based on repeat subscriptions, it might leave you in trouble.
Brendan, the reason it is really cheap is it is one of Amazon's Black Friday deals. WotLK is $25 and others are cheap. Here is the link to the PC games on sale: .
Yes I saw LK for $25 as well, which is a 35% discount. To me, there's a pretty big difference between a 35% discount and an 80% discount, but you may think differently.
I've noticed there seems to be a greater than normal animosity between WAR players (or fanbois) and WoW players (or fanbois). And I can't say I truly understand it. It doesn't seem to be coming from the WoW players as much as it is from the WAR players. And I think it has to do mostly with a feeling of near inferiority. WoW players, if they notice the WAR players at all, mostly react with amusement while there seems to be almost a palpable dislike for the WoW players by WAR players. Amazing as that sounds.

No one can seriously doubt the anecdotal evidence that has been accumulating for weeks now regarding the shrinking WAR player base. It's happening. If people want to delude themselves in that regard because they like WAR that much, well that's certainly your right. But it also doesn't change what many have been commenting on for weeks now.
As far as WoW shrinking... I'm not too interested in the dropoff after the initial launch week rush, which I would bet you see in any MMO. Much more informative to follow it over a month-plus as in Tobold's WAR graph. Even more informative to compare to previous expansions. Will the slope of the dropoff be flatter or steeper than in TBC?
I'm sure WAR is shrinking. I've unsubscribed myself.

a) XFire numbers "prove" only trends amongst hardcore gamers. Regular users don't use XFire... in fact, a lot of hardcore gamers don't use XFire.
b) You DO have a secret agenda, which is to trash games that aren't WoW, so that all future games are made into WoW. I'm not sure why.
a) XFire numbers "prove" only trends amongst hardcore gamers. Regular users don't use XFire... in fact, a lot of hardcore gamers don't use XFire.

Do you understand trends at all? While Xfire users may not be a representative group of total WAR players, it is highly likely that a drop in Xfire numbers also corresponds to a larger drop in ALL players playing. Unless you have an argument against it, it would seem that Xfire users that stop playing would stop playing for more or less the same reasons as any other player. While it is obviously not 100% accurate, it is a fairly good indicator as to the health of WAR as a whole. You mentioned that hardcore players are more likely to use Xfire, so the only other explanation is that WAR is driving away hardcore players MORE than it is driving away casuals which, at least to me, seems HIGHLY unlikely if not the exact opposite of reality. The Xfire trends may, in fact, be GENEROUS compared to the total decline.

b) You DO have a secret agenda, which is to trash games that aren't WoW, so that all future games are made into WoW. I'm not sure why.

I don't know how you can say this. Tobold has repeatedly been nonjudgmental in his assessment of things like this. As far as I have personally seen he has nothing against WAR whatsoever and doesn't place ANY sort of value on, say for example, WAR subscriptions shrinking. Noticing trends is NOT a personal attack on those who enjoy the game as it seems some feel.

More importantly he has ALWAYS emphasized that competition in the market is a good thing. Having 1 MMO is silly and I don't think anyone reasonable wants that at all, not even the most hardcore WoW fans. That's a very silly concept. Some of the best things that have been added to WoW have been a DIRECT RESULT of the competition doing it better so WoW evolves.

You aren't sure why because you are insulting Tobold, not because you actually think he feels that way.
Tobold is a semi-casual gamer who tends to like the PVE part of games. He has been pretty explicit about his distaste for MMO PVP over the years. What he writes about tends to reflect those preferences. He's probably the most viewed personal MMO blog around, but that doesn't somehow magically give him some duty to be an impartial reviewer.
I have to agree with Nissl here. I have found Tobold to always be very upfront and helpful. Nothing he said was insulting. He simply reported facts - if the facts offend you then that is your problem. I play WAR and I enjoy the game, but it DOES have problems that need to be fixed. Take a look at the forums and see what the FANS are complaining about.
I remember once upon a time tobold used to blog about his experience in games, not spreading rumors and doom-n-gloom using laughable statistic from xfire

yknow tob, when you posted some unfounded rumors here (about roll contribution) and conclude that WAR is sinking at 'uncomfortable' rate , you made a mistake... and now you are trying to do some damage control by posting XFIRE statistic that doesnt prove anything. This is shameful tob, just admit you made a mistake in posting false information and fanning false rumor in your blog. no need to bring out the xfire chart again as an excuse. You did this few times in the past, always trying to cover up when you made a mistake. everybody made mistakes its not shameful to admit it man.

and iirc you admit you got some free WAR stuff and you promising to be fair to WAR. At least show some courtesy by not posting rumors and fanning doom-and-gloom stuff.

as for a hidden agenda, well whether you realized or not, you DO have it. remember you tried to push blizzard toward casual player in your previous posts. as for hidden agenda to insult WAR i believe you do not have it.


ps: its funny how so many people defend tobold as if he is always right. we got wow fanboi, war fanboi and here we got tobold fanboi lol.. funny someone who disagree with tobold is branded as troll or insulter. is this not the way of communist regime ? to brand every dissenter as traitor to the state ? it is strange that people from democratic country inherently cannot tolerate different opinion without resolving into insults.
Difference of opinion - okay. Calling someone names because they say something you don't like - not okay. Go back and read the posts and the threads and think about it.
check wandering goblin blog

Remember last year when Blizzard gave us their Molten Core 8-bit April fools joke? Well, it didn't take long for someone to actually make that a reality.
Endymian at Gamer's University has taken fooling to a new level with a real working 8-bit version of the Molten Core complete with all the funny stuff that surrounds that dungeon, like killing the bosses out of order with a 50 DKP minus. If you're a hardcore WoW player, you understand where all these little jokes come from,if you're not such a hardcore player, then we've just opened your eyes to the strange and exciting world of inside jokes.
ops wrong link
Posts like these seem to bring out the anonymous poster types :).

> by posting XFIRE statistic that doesnt prove anything

It signals trends. And it's quite obvious from anyone that has played the game, that it's loosing subscriptions left and right.

About the tobold fanboi thing: is there really such a thing ? I just happen to like this blog and agree with some of the things that are being written and disagree with some. Does that make me a fanboi ?
as for a hidden agenda, well whether you realized or not, you DO have it. remember you tried to push blizzard toward casual player in your previous posts
That's not a hidden agenda. It's an openly stated opinion. No tricks to see here. If you disagree with Tobold, fine. But it isn't sneaky or secret, simply his view on how the game should develop.
Tobold is absolutely correct: WAR is shrinking.

Anecdotally, I can report that I canceled my account prior to the 2 month resub; more generally, one can see that the "free transfers" from low population servers are "soft" server mergers. Server mergers (by any name) very seldom indicate that a game is doing something other than shrinking.

The question that remains unanswered is whether and for how long this will continue. Have all of the people leaving for WotLK already left? Are there still people enjoying the "MMO honeymoon" leading up to an imminent burnout?

My gut instinct here is that - barring some kind of miracle change to the game - WAR will continue to lose players rapidly for several months, before finally stabilizing. I suspect it will do somewhat better than TR, but I do wonder if it will do *enough* better for EA to consider it worth keeping around for the long haul. DAoC may remain profitable with its 30k subs, but I'd wager that WAR's development and upkeep are substantially more expensive.

You can also look at Google Trends and see a similar, um, trend. :)

Statistics should show that while you can't judge the number of players playing a game you can judge the trends.

- Mark S
Here's my question: why do any of you care what the population is doing? Either you are enjoying the game or not. You have absolutely no control over what the subs will do, and unless you get official numbers, you will have absolutely no idea what the subs are.

I have never understood this fascination with sub numbers. It's one of the biggest wastes of time. As though somehow discussing this will do more than just playing the game or not.

Oh well, I'm going to go discuss how giraffes necks work. That way, the sheer importance of my discussion will make giraffes' necks grow longer.
I increasingly understand why some blogs require registration for comments.
Yet another monument to the average intelligence level of anonymous blog commenters. Sigh.

However, "anonymous" has a point. (For ease of use, I'll shorten "anonymous" to "dingbat with a marked lack of reading ability that assumes anyone that doesn't agree with him is an idiot," so I don't have to type that long word.)

First you say that you're not going to be influenced by Mythic (, and now here you are, obviously biased against their game.


Trust me on this one, folks...bloggers can't win. Ever. Damned if you do, attacked by someone named dingbat with a marked lack of reading ability that assumes anyone that doesn't agree with him is an idiot if you don't.
Read thru the comments after Zubon brought it to people's attention earlier; it's always been a feature with Online Games that the moment someone says *anything* about subs figures, there's three types of people who crop up; one who says the stats are no good unless they're official, another who takes a reasoned argument from available information as a personal attack on them, and a third who - well, actually, just doesn't care. But it always makes my eyes bleed to see some of the tortuous hoops some people put themselves through just to nibble at a well-articulated article from an author!

UO's figures have been 'dying for ages' yet it hangs on. WoW's are 'up there and the clouds, and will be for some time'. Warhammer's getting started, and people who have been playing it for over a month are starting to turn off. To be honest, I'd think that would be expected? After all, if you pick a game of the shelf, play a bit, and then put it away, you're not going to go back after a month or so.

I'd be willing to put good money on it that the shrinkage may be due to people who are fans of Warhammer lore who dipped in to have a look, and then wandered off since MMOs - not *that* particular one, but any MMO - are just not for them.

Is it possible for me to claim that MMOs are, within the whole gaming universe, still a specialist format? Or are they more appealing now?
is this the first time tobold used XFIRE as MMORPG player counter ? what about World of Warcraft xfire chart ? anyone know how to access WOW's Xfire chart ?

It has been discussed in threads on Warhammer Alliance and VN Boards, with screenshots to show how someone getting #1 contribution in one Keep will get #1 in the second Keep in the same zone, despite not doing anything. Enough people have tested and confirmed it to make it more than plausible.
Elendrik, great comment and I agree with most of it. Except for RARE cases I would EXPECT the subscription numbers to dip a good bit after the first month or two. Tobold has blogged about it many times - WAR was the new shiny MMO and a lot of people gave a shot. Some stuck some didn't. The game is brand new and has some issues to work out but I have confidence that Mythic will get it done. The game will be much better 6 months and a year from now and may even attract some people back to the game.

I don't think the surge was entirely people interested in the Warhammer lore though. I honestly think many have left because the game isn't they expected or they are frustrated. There is a large number of players experiencing horrible lag on decent to high end machines. There are huge threads on it and some have been able to fix them tweaking with stuff but many, like myself, have not. Games like EQ2 and Vanguard run well at high settings, but WAR is a dog. It wasn't always like that either, the OCT 20th patch introduced it.
You know a fanboy has really made it when they've got their own fanboys.

Insightful analogy:

Recent surveys of nutritionists show that McDonald's sales are declining. Oh noes McDonald's is going out of business.

Obvious rebuttal:

Nutrionisits are hardcore into their food, and aren't indicative of the more casual general population

Of course, this is a useless post because the people that disagree are of the opinion that McDonald's is the best food because the most people eat it, right?
Correct me if I am wrong, but the Xfire graphs is number of hours player right ?

I dont play WAR, but I know from playing WoW that my own play time (measured in number of hours) is a LOT higher right now than it will be in say a months time so my own personal "hours played" graph would be in decline....however I'm still paying the same subscription fee, and I'm still a player that enjoys the game, its just that it wont be "shiny and new" for me any more

It could be that many players are the same as that, and simply 3 months on from the release, more and more people are hitting the level cap and the "shiny and new" has gone from the game, so they settle into a more steady play time ?
ie still the same number of players, simply each playing a bit less

On top of that, just as WAR took many WoW players for a while, WotLK will take some WAR players (at least temporarily)

I accept that things like server mergers and the anecdotal evidence back up the shRinking opinion too, but I think that 2 months (is that right ?) isnt long enough to get meaningful data from....imho its simply not long enough to differentiate between a genuine trend or a "blip", especailly when we take into consideration the release of WotLK, the upcoming christmas period, and the current econimic situation the world is in...

Time will tell....
Of course, this is a useless post because the people that disagree are of the opinion that McDonald's is the best food because the most people eat it, right?

The question is not whether McDonald has the best food. The question is whether I should be allowed to say "I like Big Macs" without being attacked by the fans of foie gras, accused of not having proof that foie gras sells less than burgers, and being told that I'm not doing fair and balanced reporting.

You know a fanboy has really made it when they've got their own fanboys.

You are skirting dangerously close to breaking my Terms of Service on avoiding insults. I'm not going to send Lori Drew's DA after you, but be aware that if you don't keep it polite you will risk to get your comments deleted.
It should be noted that the number of players playing WAR on xfire has not dropped as significantly as the hours players (no chart for that, so harder to track).

While I'm not saying WAR has not declined since launch, the hours played graph is a bit misleading. To me what it shows is that people are not playing WAR as feverishly as they did at launch (somewhat obvious), but still playing it. This is true for my personal use, I still play, but with Fallout 3 and other games, my overall time in WAR has decreased a bit in total hours.

A similar trend can be seen with LoTRO and WoW, both getting a burst from x-pacs, and now settling back to their normal levels.
WAR's population has declined, as anyone who still plays it, such as myself, can easily see. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either on a very unique server that has bucked the trend, or is fooling themselves. Whether it will continue to decline, I don't know. I hope not, but I've already had to transfer from one dead server.

I do predict that the XFire stats will see an uptick after this weeks patch, and again when 1.1's RvR improvements hit.

Remind me to write something on this subject. Even crazy people count as pageviews :) I guess you know you've made it as a blogger when people bother to get really annoyed with you.

And on the contributions issue, aye, the whole thing is screwy. (
"Here's my question: why do any of you care what the population is doing? Either you are enjoying the game or not. You have absolutely no control over what the subs will do, and unless you get official numbers, you will have absolutely no idea what the subs are.

I have never understood this fascination with sub numbers. It's one of the biggest wastes of time. As though somehow discussing this will do more than just playing the game or not."

That's an easy one. We care about the sub numbers because it impacts our enjoyment of the game. In WoW, the fewer the people, the harder it is to get raid groups & functional guilds & even a tank or healer for your 5 man dungeon run. In WAR, it means less oRvR, less participation in PQs, and scenarios not popping as frequently. If the MMO part of the game didn't matter, then we should all go back to playing single player games and not have to pay monthly subscriber fees.
Maybe the shrinkage came from being in the pool???
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