Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good News Everyone...

WoW has lost another 800,000 subscribers.

Before you go all doom and gloom on me and start screaming because I said that losing subscribers is good news you have to take a look at the bigger picture.

WoW still has 10.3M subscribers which is still quite a bit, so they are not exactly to the point where they are hanging on by a thread.

The loss however does show them that they are doing something wrong.  Something dreadfully wrong by the name of Cataclysm.  It is nice and easy for a company to fix what is wrong when they know what it wrong and for them their wrong came nicely packaged with its name written on it last December so it will not be hard to fix.

The reason the loss of 800,000 subscribers is such a great thing is the fact that this loss proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the content they are releasing that is the problem.  Many people like to bring up other reasons for the losses but that is them just rationalizing, they are trying to make themselves feel as if it is not blizzards fault, so they make some other excuse for the losses.  Do not fool yourselves.  Blizzard did this to themselves.  It is not anything else.

Some common thoughts on why WoW is losing so many subscribers.

It is and old game:
- So are 100s of other games in various other forms and they are still doing just fine.  If this was still WoW vanilla and losing customers then the "it is an old game" argument is fine.  People would be bored of doing the same content after 7 years so of course they would be losing people. 

While the base of areas and how the game is played stay somewhat the same, the content in the game is always changing, at least twice a year with updates.  If the game is losing people because of content you can not use the "it is an old game" argument for losses, it is because the content is not good that they lost people.  The content is new, not old.  New content does not lose people because it is new content to an old game, it loses people because the new content sucks.

They are losing to games with better graphics:
- Thank you for letting us know you have a great computer.  Now let me introduce you to the real world where everyone is not you.  In fact, most people are not you. 

There are some people in my guild that can not run any of the current raids because their computer can not handle the content.  Most people I know play with settings at low, or lowest, because anything higher lags them so bad it makes playing impossible.

For people like that, a very large portion of the player base, the graphics in WoW are fantastic.  At least they can still play it on their computer.  A few people I know went to give rift a try when it was released and even at the lowest possible setting it was impossible for them to play so they came back to WoW and came back with a much greater appreciation for how well designed WoWs graphics really are.

Laugh as you will about the graphics in game but over all they are pretty damn good for both appearance and computer requirements when it comes to rendering them.  It makes the game much more accessible to many people, many people that will never be able to play other games because of their high graphical requirements.

I have a good computer, I can run WoW on max setting, I can run WoW while running rift, and LotRo all at the same time and guess what. I still think WoW has the best graphics of the three. I don't go running around saying so and so is better because it has better graphics just because my computer can handle it.  I judge the game on how it plays and not what it looks like.

Graphics are not the deciding factor for people that enjoy game play.  Never has been, never will be.  It might be nice to see better graphics but it is not required to make a game great.  Look at games like Civilization, sure they might have decent graphics and all, but people play that because of the game play, not the graphics and Civ is all about game play and it is a success story in gaming.  Good games are played because they are good, not because they look pretty.

There is a recession:
- Most people that use this as a reasoning usually fall into one of two categories.  They are either someone that has never been so broke that they had to eat ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day because that was the only thing they could afford.  Or they are someone that doesn't have any understanding of the human mind.

If you have ever been so broke or have any understanding of the human mind you will know that the less people have the more they seek out things that make them forget.  In low income areas the rate of people that drink, smoke and do drugs is always higher.  Same goes for other activities such as gaming. 

People that have so little and/or have problems usually will find something else to take their mind off of things.  Getting lost in the world of Azeroth is a fantastic option for a place to forget about your problems if you are not an alcholoic or a drug addict.

Just like it is true that some people might have left because the game feels old and some people might have left because they are looking for something with better graphics, some people might be put into the position where they need to limit their expenses and choose to get lost in watching TV instead of playing WoW as well.

So yes, people were lost for all of the above reasons, people in the amounts we are talking about is not just those people.  Those people are smaller in numbers, much smaller.

To lose as many people as WoW has lost since Cataclysm was launched you have to point your finger at the one thing that changed the most.  The game.  People did not like cataclysm.  They spoke by ending their subscription.

This is why the losses are such fantastic news.  It makes it easy for them to put their finger on the problem.  There were games with better graphics when wrath was out and they did not lose customers, the economy was crappy when wrath was out and they did not lose customers, the game was out for a long time when wrath was out and they did not lose customers.  So all those arguments are baseless.

The only thing that changed when Cataclysm came out was that we where now playing Cataclysm.

The numbers prove that people do not like Cataclysm.

They continue to prove that people do not like Cataclysm.

The continued losses have become something they can not ignore and this is good news for all of us.  They will never make another Cataclysm.

So do not fear for your game, it is in fine shape.  10.3M people is still more then enough to keep it going for many years to come.  Be happy with the losses, they will listen to the losses and the game will get better because of it.  The losses are a reason for celebration.

Each time someone unsubs to the game I wish I could send them a personal thank you letter for standing up and saying something that I have been unwilling to say myself in terms of subscription.  Each person that has unsubed should be given a pat on the back for doing a good job.

Thing are going to change for the better in the game and there is only one group of people that can take credit for making that change happen.  The ex-WoW players.

Thank you for quitting and making the game better for me.

Feel free to come back for MoP.  Sure, they might have pandas which does seem lame, but it will (hopefully) be a fun game again.  Worse case is, at least it won't be cataclysm any more.  And if that is the worst thing we can say about it, that is a really good thing.

This is indeed good news everyone.


  1. If anyone's thinking of leaving as a result of this announcement, can I have your gold? ^^

  2. I agree with most of this. I just want to add: Don't only look at the absolute number of subscribers. Also look at the change in the derivative of the absolute value.

    The derivative and when it changed is at least as interesting.


  3. If I look at what they said about the reasons for their loss, I can't help it but just see a very dark future. They said the leveling game was the best they ever did. The reason to quit WoW is that the endgame isn't nearly as easy as leveling. So they say.

    Sub losses could be a great thing, when they don't get totally misinterpreted.

    Oh, and sorry for my english...

  4. @Godmother

    No, you can not have their gold, I made the post so that means I get their gold. I'll be nice and share a small percentage. :)


    You and I must have seen a different blizzcon. I recall them saying they made a mistake with all the linear questing. To me that means they are admitting they made a mistake with the leveling.

    Sure, it is still way to easy and needs adjustment, but at least they are noticing they were wrong with the changes to leveling. It is a start.

    I do see what you are getting at however. I would hate to see raiding turned into that as well. I can deal with easier leveling even if I dislike it.

    I actively support easier dungeons because when I am with random people I do not want them wiping me because side stepping one step is too hard for them.

    However, leave my raiding alone. Even if the only real difficulty when a new fight comes out is learning the dance, I like learning the dance. Raiding is supposed to have some difficulty.


    Expect the next shareholders meeting to be completely different. The revenue from the yearly pass will be in it as well as easier raids with the LFR and the fact they will want everyone to see the final content you will see lots of people coming back.

    Not to mention, even if people seem to dislike pandas for the most part, MoP has been getting really fantastic early reviews.

    Heck, I am starting to like cataclysm a lot more now because of MoP. Knowing the end is near for this hell we call cataclysm makes cataclysm more enjoyable. I can't wait to say good bye to it forever.

  5. I'm not talking about what they said in blizzcon, I'm talking about what Morhaime said at the earnings call:
    "The level-up content in Cataclysm is some of our best works. But it was consumed quickly compared to our past expansions set, Wrath of the Lich King. Once players reached max level, the end-game content in Cataclysm is more difficult. Balancing this content for our diverse player base can be very challenging."

  6. @Anon

    Thank you, I did not hear that. Lets hope they fix it the correct way and make leveling harder and not raiding easier.

  7. I'm not sure if addiction is the best factor for explaining why people continue to play games despite troughs in the business cycle. During recessions, people often increase their consumption of inexpensive recreational activities like movies that make them feel better. Movies aren't terribly addictive, but they do take people's minds off their woes.

    I also think your overall assessment is pretty far off. If Cataclysm got a lot of stuff wrong, so did Wrath. Subscription numbers aren't really that low, especially when you take the phase of the expansion into account. Large numbers of people always take breaks toward the end of the expansion, or even the next patch. While I'm sure some are disgusted with the game, many will probably be back when new content is released.

  8. I wish you luck, GrumpyElf ;). You will need it.

    Blizzard would probably be the first MMO company that turns such a downwards trend around. But then they also were the first 'serious' MMO company to get more than one and then 10 mio players.

  9. @Winterpine

    Hence the reason more people would play WoW when they have less money. $15 per month is very cheap for entertainment you can get lost in it 24/7. That is less then the cost of 1 movie in most theaters and that is only entertainment for 2 hours.

    WoW is a much more affordable way to lose oneself than most other options.

    You seem to have a much rosier outlook then most others. Most others realize it is the horrible content that is the biggest problem.

    First, even if wrath got stuff wrong, the numbers do not back that up. Wrath continued to see subscriptions grow, not fall, even after doing ICC for a year.

    Second, these "large numbers" of people that take breaks from content are another thing people like to say to rationalize. Once more to try and make it seem like it was not blizzards fault when it is.

    Again, turning to wrath and our year of ICC. If people really did take breaks waiting for content in any substantial numbers you would have noticed it then don't you think?

    That was the bleakest time in the history of WoW when it comes to lack of content.

    If there was ever a reason to take a break, the end of wrath and doing ICC for a year was surely it and guess what? It did not happen in large numbers. Subscriptions went up.

    There are no "large numbers" of people that take breaks. That is something someone that was rationalizing said and people latched on to it because it sounded good. Doesn't mean it is true just because it sounded cool.

    If anything, evidence backs up the fact that people that unsub and resub for content is less then 1% of the player base. Which is unnoticeable really. (I will try to find the link where they show the numbers of unsubs and resubs)

  10. First, even if wrath got stuff wrong, the numbers do not back that up. Wrath continued to see subscriptions grow, not fall, even after doing ICC for a year.

    Did you have a look at the graph? WoW grew by 2mio per year from release until end of TBC when it reached 11.5mio.

    It then stagnated and only grew to 12mio briefly when the pre-Cata patch was released. Since then it dropped at a rate of about 2mio per year.

    WotLK may not have seen (officially reported) decreasiung numbers, but it stopped a 2mio per year growth that had remained constant from 2005 until 2009!

    WotLK was by no means a successful expansion when looking at the numbers. It was better than Cata, because it kept WoW stable, no more.

  11. Well, speaking about "content breaks", remember Black Temple? Released something like 3-6 months after start of TBC, right in 2.1, endgame dungeon with iconic expansion figure right in first post-expansion patch! All 3 tiers AND heroic dungeons available at the same time!
    NO NEW 25man RAID CONTENT for almost entire year after that! (they used 2.2 for Voice Chat, which i still think was monumental waste of time, and added 10-man Zul'Aman in 2.3, which was pretty fun)
    Did subscriptions drop? I don't think they did...

  12. @Nils

    I see what you mean, but they still did not bleed people like cata has done. That is the basic point.

    If they where losing people that were burnt out on the game or any reason they were getting more then enough new people to make it completely unnoticed and even continue growth. (even if not on the level of BC, WoW reached its saturation point in BC)


    There is a voice chat? j/k

    But yeah, what was that all about. I was not there for that release so I can not comment on it but I have heard the stories. My friends only started to bug me to join around then.

    What you said points out what I was saying. People do not take breaks because of lack of content. People like to say it, but it is just not true.

  13. I really would like to see some additional data from Blizz - like how many new subs, how many lost, retention rate - but even so I'd bet all 3 contributing factors got worse since TBC.

    more lost subs: especially lost subs over rage quits, for instance those who lost a favorite class ability; those who rather played 2v2 then BGs; those who really liked "incorrect" specs...

    lower retention rate: in Vanilla and TBC all but a few always had things left todo; in LK far more were able to "beat the game" and then had only the grind left

    less beginners: you have to pay 100 U$ to be able to play; WoW is strong as MMO - but weak as single player RPG (compared to Dragon Age et al). Imagine you start out completely fresh and then run into your first PUG (at 15)

    I'm absolutely with you that this is self inflicted - but I very much doubt it will have a beneficial impact on the fun in the game.

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

  14. "Heck, I am starting to like cataclysm a lot more now because of MoP. Knowing the end is near for this hell we call cataclysm makes cataclysm more enjoyable. I can't wait to say good bye to it forever. "

    wait how can we say goodbye to it forever when its changed the entire original continents? This is what I am most sad about. For the rest of WoW's life if I decide to visit lower level zones again I will have to look at what they have done.

  15. Whilst I absolutely agree with you here, Blizzard has done this to themselves, people have left because of Cataclysm, but fear not WoW is not dead there are still plenty of subsribers etc etc, I wonder what exactly it is about Cataclysm that made it so unpopular and I can't quite put my finger on it.

    On paper Cataclysm did everything right; a revised world, better quests (although the on the rails system limited replayability with alts), the new dungeons - hell even the old dungeons that were revised - were fantastic, the raids were good, a new talent system introduced that, whilst certainly wasn't as revolutionary as first heralded was still an improvement over Wrath's unwieldy talent design, so where did it all go wrong?

    Reading many blogs you see many varied points of view, some that it's too hard, some that it's too easy, some that say there is too much grinding, some saying that the sped up rewards makes the challenge trivial, some that lament the lack of exploration in questing, some that feel that there's still room to speed the levelling process up. It's well and good to point to Cataclysm as the problem but I have to say that without identifying exactly what it was about Cataclysm that failed Blizzard can't fix the mistake.

    Perhaps the biggest problem was that WoW got too big in the end and it tried to be all things to all men (and women ofc), ultimately failing to please anyone. Instead of trying to chase the higher subscription numbers, perhaps Blizzard should rejoice in the falling numbers not because it tells them that the expansion sucked but because it leaves them with a more loyal fanbase to which they can tailor conent....

    I should probably have saved this epiphany for my own blog post lol.

  16. @Runzwithfire

    "perhaps Blizzard should rejoice in the falling numbers not because it tells them that the expansion sucked but because it leaves them with a more loyal fanbase to which they can tailor conent"

    That was well put.

    Everyone has something that can put their finger on as being the problem. As you said, some say it was too hard, some say it was too easy, etc.

    The biggest problem is that they seemed to have found a way to upset everyone at the same time. That is where cataclysm faltered.

    For example. Some people absolutely love the new questing. They say it was a brethe of fresh air to the game and the best thing this expansion. I say, it turned this alt-a-holic into someone that hates to level now. I think the change has ruined the leveling experience completely when combined with the lower required experience to level.

    See. People can put their fingers on what is wrong. We just all see different things are wrong.


    I said something to a guild mate about that yesterday. I just hope when this is all said and done they return the world to the way it is used to be.

    I won't hold my breath however. We are stuck with this new "old" world.


    You bring up a point I forgot about. The game is having problems dragging new people in because of the HUGE cost of starting up.

    If they changed it to have vanilla, bc and wrath in a $30 gift pack and then they only needed to buy cata I think we would see a hell of a lot more new players.

    The initial investment to get into the game is insane and if anyone reads the forums and sees that 90% of the posts are people complaining they will never invest that much money to join the game that is seems like no one really likes anyway.