In the most recent report we found out that warcraft has lost 1.3 million subscribers. That is no number to just throw away as many do. They say things like, they still have more players than any other game of its type, it means nothing or it means the game is dying. One way or another, it is just people making comments fueled by their own personal opinions. If you are happy with the game, it means nothing. If you are not, the game is dying. No matter which camp you are in it might help you to understand why they are losing subscribers and I am here to help those that do not understand the reason behind the loss.
It is actually rather simple. Please move on. Some get bored with the game. Some move on to another game. Some stop playing games. Some just do not have the time any longer. Some don't have the extra cash for a subscription game. Whatever the reason, people move on.
Warcraft has always been losing subscribers. Even during the heyday of BC when they first saw a huge growth spurt to wrath when their continued success made it seem like they could do nothing wrong all the way up to the high that carried over from wrath into a huge release for cataclysm before things started to go south.
The thing is that even when the game was growing it was losing subscribers every day of the week. While I could never get any actual numbers even if I looked, as these types of things are not released, I would be willing to bet that even during the growth spurt when their reports said they gained 500,000 new subscribers they has lost another 750,000 during that same time frame. The thing is, they did not actually gain 500,000 subscribers, they gained 1.25 million, so you never see that they lost 750,000 subscribers, but they most likely did. And that was during the good times.
Games will always lose players, it is the nature of the beast. The issue is more to try and drag new people in to cover up those losses and that is where blizzard has been failing. They have not been failing because they are losing players. That is part of the equation. You will always lose players. They are failing because they are not getting new ones to replace the old ones.
Seeing that 1.3M number yesterday made me read it a lot differently than most. I did not see it as blizzard lost 1.3M subscribers. I saw it as they probably lost 2M subscribers and only enticed 700,000 more to join. Yes, I have an odd perspective about things sometimes but I don't think that would be too far from the truth. Even if it is all guess work on my part of course.
So now you know why blizzard lost those 1.3M subscribers. Because people leave, it is natural.
So on to our next topic, how do you lower those leaving, if you can. And more importantly, how do you bring new people in?
You can do everything in your power to keep people from leaving. You can get it all the way down to only 1 person left the game and they only lost 1 subscriber. And someone will always leave, that is non-negotiable. But unless you bring new people in there is only one place to go, down.
For warcraft to once again see positive momentum there are a few things they need to address.
1) How to retain players.
- Thus lowering the losses they do have control over.
2) How to get people to return.
- Using old numbers to seem like new numbers with repeat customers.
3) How to get new people to play.
- New blood means new numbers and new chances for expansion subscription wise.
I have ideas for helping with the #1 and # 3 issue but I am not so sure about the # 2 issue. If someone stopped playing for time, money or other reasons you might be able to get them to return but if they stop playing because they no longer liked the game or found something they like more, you are not getting them back, it is just that black and white really.
Stop the Bleeding:
That has to be step one for warcraft to stop these downward numbers. You can not keep people that leave for various reasons that are not game related but you can stop the ones that do leave for game related reasons. Step one to doing that is to make the game more friendly for the players that play it.
I am not talking me, the person that blogs about the game or you, the person that would read a blog from some strange person you do not even know. We are the minority. We are the few and far between. If every single person like us up and quit the game this very second I would be surprised if our mass exodus even showed up as a blip on their radar.
I am talking about the average player. The one that does not look outside of the game for information. The one that does not have deadly boss mods or something similar. They one that can't beat my auto shooting hunter in random content. I am talking about the average player. The 80%.
Lets face it, the game is not casual friendly for the 80%. The people that do not seek out information on their own. Would they know that the AC quartermaster is under the main city? Or even where to do the AC dailies if they never stumbled across the person offering the lead in quest? How about the GL quartermaster on that extended circle by the palace, would they ever even notice he was there so they can buy gear from him? Sure the klaxxi and shado-pan quarter masters are simple enough to find, but what about doing shado-pan dailies, would they know they needed golden lotus to revered before they could do them (soon to change) or that they even had any to begin with because they did not see any when they were there.
How about that guy that sold gear from all the factions all nicely put together behind the temple in townlong. If you had not stumbled across him and been lucky enough to notice who he was you would never know there was a place you could get everything. One stop shopping if you will. What about those PvP vendors hidden on the wall. At least the shado-pan guy you had a quest to go somewhat near him and might, repeat might, have noticed him. There was nothing that ever sent you anywhere near the PvP vendors on the wall. Without outside resources would the average person that likes PvP even know there were new PvP pieces besides the few they saw listed up on the auction house?
Speaking of crafting. How would the average player know they needed to craft stuff, imperial silk for example, to learn the new crafting recipes. If they did not have any use for the silk they would not make any and because of that they might not ever notice they can learn patterns from doing that.
The game is not very friendly for the average player. I can go on and on for pages if I wanted to on things that just do not make sense and would be harder for the non reader to find. The game is very unfriendly to the 80% and those are the ones they need to keep.
Those are the ones that do not ask for much. Me and you might say we want this ability fixed, we want this boss buffed or nerfed, we want this to happen or that to happen, we would like to see this added or that removed. The 80% just want to play and have a good time. They do not care like we do, they are not obsessed gaming freaks like we are. They just want to play, get some new gear once in awhile and kill a few internet dragons without much fuss or muss. And I don't see anything wrong with that.
In fact, I wish they could all get what they want because if that 80% all up and quit blizzard would not have the money to keep making content for the 20% like us readers out there that consume content quickly and keep asking for more. Thank you 80%, please keep playing. And blizzard, please make some efforts to keep them playing.
Then there are the other ones that do read but really do not care to do anything advanced. They know where things are, they know to craft something to learn patterns, they know all those little things that the 80% missed out on but they don't want to raid. They want to play. RP, work AH, level alts, just chill out and kill some stuff, achievement hunt for what they can get solo, etc. There are lots of way to play that even the people that do read are feeling left out because of the way the gearing system is. They might have done the first part because it was questing and usually those types of players do not mind questing. So they had that gear. But now, the 522 gear, they do not want to raid so their personal progression has hit a road block. That is bad design.
Everyone playing the game from high end to low end needs to feel like they are advancing. If they stop feeling as if they are advancing, they lose interest and start to think, why play. Gear advancement is all those people have once they hit 90. If they do not want to raid, there is no advancement any more and despite the fact this is the absolute best expansion for thing we can do with so much of it out there, they hit their wall and get bored and leave.
They need to continue to let people get gear without forcing them to do a certain type of content. It is fine to have to PvP to get PvP gear. What would not non PvPer need with it anyway and doing their PvP gets them their gear so it fits in perfect symmetry. But it is not fine to have to raid to get PvE gear. It is not raid gear, raid gear drops from raids. It is PvE gear. It should be available to all PvEer.
They can easily stop some of the bleeding by making the game more user friendly. By making it so even the most relaxed of casual players can still constantly feel like their character is progressing. If the 80% hit a road block they will not keep working on it, they will find something else to do somewhere else. They are not progression raiders that will wipe 100 times when they see something they can not do in their efforts to do it. They just want to play, they do not want to have everything be a task.
Bring Back the Pug:
Bring back 10 and 25 man lock out and make the first half of the raid bosses much easier for pug purposes and it will really help new players and non raiders that want to feel as if they were really part of the bigger game. Another side effect of pugs rolling all the time is that those people that do not have time to join in a normal raid team but have the skills for it can actually raid the real raid instead of being forced to have the horrible LFR experience as their only option to see raiding content.
Even the worst of bad pug experiences are better than most LFR runs. Lets face it, as much as people like to consider the LFR raiding it is not, nor should it be. It is simple loot collection for some, content viewing for others, and a trapped audience you can troll for others. Pugging is where it is at. It creates server community. It gets people to meet other people, it builds guilds, it is the single most positive community building tool in the game. Sure, it can be just as horrible as an LFR run from time to time but even at a 50/50 success rate for an organized pug, it is better than no pugs at all.
With this current raid, 12 bosses, they could easily make the first 6 piss easy so even a poorly skilled pug can handle it. Perhaps even not much harder than the LFR in terms of ease. This will create a much more active community and I don't know about you but those few times I really thought of quitting the game the main reason I didn't was because I liked the people I played with. People whom I never would have met if it were not for pugging.
The guild I am in I landed in while pugging 5 mans. For those new to the game, there was no such thing as a dungeon finder. You wanted to run a dungeon you sat in trade and assembled your group. It was a bitch, I will not lie. I went days and even a full week sometimes without ever doing a dungeon because I could not find a group. But when I did find a group I made friends. Friends I still have today. Those are the people that kept me from quitting the game when I was feeling down on it back in cataclysm and was on the edge one simple push from quitting.
If I had never met those people, never found my gaming family and felt like I was part of a team when I was feeling like quitting in cataclysm I too would just be a statistic of one of the many that left during last expansion. Those people kept me in the game, those people I met while pugging.
Pugs are good for the game. 10 and 25 man lock outs are good for pugging. Easier early bosses as in so easy and orc can do it are good for pugging. Bring back the pug and that will surely stop some of the bleeding.
As far as new players go the single most powerful advertising tools are the people that play the game. If they talk about the hell of gearing up do you think someone new will want to come play the game? The new player already has what appears to be the very daunting task of amassing 90 levels to start out with. The last thing they need to see when they are thinking of starting the game is post after post after post of how hard it is to gear up.
Speaking of post after post. How about the community managers start, you know, doing something. Negativity has a way of spreading. Remove the trolls from the forums. They only fester negativity. Do your F'N job. I swear in the dozens of online games I have played the warcraft forums have to be the worst, or near the worst I have ever seen. /rant
Word of mouth also goes for people telling others about the game. What would you tell them? I know what I tell them. This is a fantastic expansion and I am loving it but gearing up alts is a pain in the ass. I feel sorry for you when you hit 90 because there is no catch up mechanic in the game any more.
Whereas last expansion and the expansion before I could have said, when you hit max level I'll carry you thought some heroics on my tank and we can get you geared and in one weekend they would be all ready to go in last tiers gear for justice points and have a nice start on this tiers gear by being capped on valor. Thank you catch up mechanic.
90 levels is a lot to look at from the outside. But 90 levels and then a grind to gear up that takes longer than leveling those 90 levels did is a bit too much for the new player. Even more so in today's society where everyone wants everything now. The least blizzard could do it make it more causal, new and alt friendly to gear up.
Anything that is not current should be super easy to attain. As in, you should be able to gear yourself up in all last tiers gear in one weekend if you were willing to do enough dungeons to get all the justice to buy it. You should not need reputation for it and you surely should not need valor for it. It is old gear and the grind style of game play for old, but necessary, items just does not work well for the 80% and that will scare off many of the new players once they notice it.
Warcraft is always losing subscribers. It is going to happen, it has always happened and even when that first huge burst of subscribers came in when BC was released they lost customers, but because they gained more than they lost you never noticed them leave. We just notice it now because they are not getting new subscribers to replace those leaving.
They need to work on trying to retain the ones they can, entice the ones that left that can be convinced to come back and most importantly, get new blood into the game. And as we see, with this fantastic expansion (with exception of the non friendly approach to alts and new players) they still can not hold on to players with a model that pushes the grind. I like to grind. I also like to write and read about the game. The 80% doesn't like to grind or read. The game needs to be designed for them if they want to boost those numbers up.
They will always lose customers. They just need to work on getting the number of new ones up again so we don't see those losses. Just like it used to be. When we saw all those gains, that is all that was, the number of new players were higher than the ones they lost. They will always been losing players and sometimes in high numbers. It was the fact the new players outnumbered them that we never noticed it. There are not players entering the game so we see it now.
How would you bring new players into the game?