6 Aug 2011

If Not You, Who Else?

I’m beginning to feel like there’s a crunch brewing. It’s almost like the shocks that happen before the earthquake, where you know something is going to happen but you can’t quite put your finger on what.

It started off with the comments I’d spot on Twitter from players saying they were hanging up their Warcraft boots and going to Rift. Not because Rift was the hot new game (that’s supposed to be Star Wars: The Old Republic) but because they were just fed up. Fed up of the repetition of daily quests (and let’s be fair, the Molten Front daily grind is by far a huge one) or fed up of the raiding content.

Then there was the news that Warcraft had lost 300 thousand subscribers. This, after Blizzard gave every North American veteran player a free 2nd copy and they opened up trial accounts to be infinite in duration. If I were an analyst on the Activision-Blizzard investor calls I would seriously be asking what their churn rate is.

So what gives? Where’s everyone going? At this point I could only do what any self-respecting blogger would – ask people.

It turns out there’s pretty much three groups of people, although there’s a lot of overlap between them.

The first group is a core of players still having fun in the game. They’re either finding their own fun or digging into the game in new ways, either by trying new jobs like GM’ing or by rolling alts to play with new people. You’ll probably find that these people will still be around when Blizzard finally switch off the servers sometime in the year 2025.

A fair number of players are keeping an eye on the horizon, waiting for a new game to come out. The most popular choice by far is Diablo 3, indicating that where Blizzard lose subscribers in one game they’ll gain them in another. There’s also a ton of people who intend to leave as soon as Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out and have it on preorder for early access. TERA and Guild Wars 2 also got a mention, but The Secret World seems to have dropped from the radar. A lot of those who already shifted to Rift are planning to switch again as soon as Lightsabers Online goes live.

The most saddening result for me is those who said that they’re planning to quit Warcraft, and when they do they’ll either leave the MMO genre or gaming entirely. Indeed, some have already done so. While some have left due to other priorities in their life, others mentioned the cost of keeping in the game. After all, think of all the fun you could be having if you take that monthly subscription and spend it on new games instead!

The most damning response I got was from those tired of the experience they get in the game. For MMOs the playerbase can be the biggest repellant against getting people to stay. And let’s not even get started on just how self-destructive the gaming community can be. I mean, seriously guys? What are you going to do when it’s just you, your ego and a whole bunch of dust bunnies left on the server? Declare yourself king of the hill?

Reminds me of the kid who ate the hotels in Monopoly just so no-one else could use them. I kid you not.

For a lot of people, World of Warcraft was their first PC gaming experience. Heck, for some it was their first gaming experience at all. And yet we’ve done pretty much nothing to keep them as gamers. For a fair number of them it’ll be their last gaming experience outside of the occasional sneaky game of Angry Birds during their office break.

World, I am dissapoint. Play me out JoCo.

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