Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WOW is Dying?

My apologies for not hitting my usual one entry per weekend routine, but as I said last week Origins was going on and I got my game on for four days in real life. It was a fantastic break from work and well needed. I thought about writing an entry yesterday for the benefit of my server called "what to do with 24 hours of WoW downtime" but I figure if you need to be told to go outside, maybe you should stop playing the Wii.

Larisa brings up a good topic today: WoW is dying. To summarize:

"Is there any existing game that has received as many death sentences as WoW? I doubt it. WoW has been "dying" almost since it was launched, if you would listen to the community."

Unlike her conclusion that WoW is not dying, I actually think it is. Now this is not the doom and gloom that the posters on their way out with a ragequit on the forums allude to, but World of Warcraft is back on the decline. I suspect with Cataclysm that Activision-Blizzard will be able to get a slight bump in subscription numbers again for a while, but WoW 2.0 is basically a pretty rehash of a game many have been playing for 4-5 years at this point. While it is true that many players like me who came in late to the party will be sticking around for the foreseeable future, on the whole I almost guarantee blizzard will have trouble ever reaching their peak subscription numbers again.

Every two years this topic becomes in vogue because players run out of things to do and walk away because it is summertime at the end of an expansion. The sheer fact of the matter is many people will go away to Starcraft II and Diablo III, but Blizzard is keeping our community aspect of their games together by enacting Real ID chat across realms and games. That is the real reason most of us pay $15 a month: the community of friends. Last night I tried out Real ID chat while I was on a horde character speaking to an alliance character. This is a fantastic addition to the game and will bring together our group of four real life friends again. Plus if there's any more deep relationships I end up with on the horde side, I can talk to them while spending most of my time alliance side.

So Blizzard is essentially acknowledging that people are drifting away as they must after this long in a game. There's only so many hours you can do the same thing, even if you are doing different raid bosses or different battlegrounds. Console game developers would give their souls to hold a player's interest for one-tenth the amount of time the average wow players spends in Azeroth. The players will slowly move out of the game and the subscriber numbers will decline, but very slowly over the next 2-3 expansions of the game. Then I suspect the game will be replaced and support will disappear. But to Blizzard it will not matter as their profit machine will shift to the next MMO, and so will the playerbase (even if it is not to the legendary extent of World of Warcraft).

The real reason WoW will die is that Blizzard wants it to die. They may not want it to die anytime soon, but eventually they will want to support their new IP. If Blizzard maintained the same level of support and advertising for the game as they have now, the game would probably stabilize around 3-4 million subscribers just like Magic the Gathering stabilized in the CCG market by being consistently the best product out there. MTG does not have peak numbers, but they have a steady playerbase and that works for a game that does not need replaced with card sets moving in and out every few months. But while cards stay at the same level of coolness over 20 years, computer games age quickly and need to be wholesale replaced. Cataclysm is a stopgap, and WoW will die.

Nevertheless, that should not stop us from enjoying the game at its peak or near its peak. This is a beautiful game that will only get better in the coming year, and we are blessed to see Blizzard resetting the deck and not letting things go stagnant at this point. While Larisa is wrong, so are all the ragequitters on the forums that think everyone should follow them like little lambs. No sir. People come and go, but the community will stay as long as Blizzard wants them to. There may just be a few more barseats available at the Legerdemain Lounge next year, and anybody who lags in Dalaran can agree that's OK.

Sidenote - no word on the officer decision, but it sounds like a tough one. I suspect I'm out of the real running because of my real life obligations keeping me away from game some nights, but you never know. Stay tuned...


  1. Oh I don't think we disagree on this. Of course there is an end of WoW as to any other game we know of. It would silly to think that it would live for tens, hundreds, thousands of years. But those "WoW is dying" posters are not talking about things happening years into the future. They actually think that WoW is on the verge of close-down here and now and I think it looks rather silly, especially since they've made those claims for three years now...

  2. Yeah but it's not as exciting when I say "I'm in total agreement with Larisa." Then who would read me? Just kidding.