WoW Subs Down, Expansions Needed ‘Faster’

By Jim Rossignol on May 10th, 2011 at 10:28 am.


Well, 5% down to 11.4mil, so it’s still got about as many subs as people who live in London. On the conference call that revealed the drop, Blizzard president Michael Morhaime explained: “As our players have become more experienced playing World of Warcraft over many years, they have become much better and much faster at consuming content… And so I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that’s why we’re working on developing more content… We need to be faster at delivering content to players. And so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in-between expansions.”

Yes, more expansions! Faster! Crack the whip on those lazy expansion developers, I say.

, .

104 Comments »

  1. HexagonalBolts says:

    Haha, excellently put Jim.

    “Creativity and improvements…? No just MORE, make MORE, FASTER!”

    • Starky says:

      To be fair Blizzard have upped the creativity and made vast improvements every single expansion (though I never played cata, but my wow playing friends said it was amazing) – and reduced their expo every year to expo every 2 years because of it, and they’ve been expansions that are easy bigger than most MMO’s entire game.
      Even a quickly made expo by Blizzard would probably be vastly better than any other developer could manage in the same time – if only because they have unlimited resources.

      Still I’m an ex-WoW player, who’ll probably never go back (though cata tempted me), but the reason for my quitting was nothing to do with the quality of the content.

  2. The Tupper says:

    They should make the pre-Cataclysmic WoW free to play and charge for the expansions.

    Of course that wouldn’t change the fact that there’s not much of an actual, y’know, game underlying the pyrotechnics and purdy scenery.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Pre-Cataclysmic WoW doesn’t exist anymore. That’s kind-of the whole point.

    • The Tupper says:

      I know that pre-Cataclysm Azeroth is gone – it WAS a cataclysm, after all. I was thinking more of a parallel development where all the lovely code that went into making the original WoW was reinstated on free to play servers and players who hit the original level cap and wanted to explore further could do so at a price.

    • afarrell says:

      The ‘lovely code’ in the original Vanilla WoW was an unplayable load of crap by modern standards, though.

    • ChromeBallz says:

      @The Tupper

      Pre-cata old world was horrible now that we can look back from a WotLK or even TBC perspective. Quests were very generic (with very few high level exceptions like alliance Onyxia and AQ scepter), zones were nothing more than pieces of scenery and raiding was a gigantic mess. Dungeons were filled with bosses that would be more at home in a shooting gallery.

      The game was good, but with the benefit of having playing the expansions, it really needed an overhaul – Cataclysm was a VERY good thing.
      Playing through Darkshore again for example is a breath of fresh air, vastly improved from it’s original form, which even the first time through was boring as hell.

      But the idea of making lower level content free is not a bad one. Give people Azeroth, a level cap of 60 and the original 4 races and you’ll have a winner, though there is one huge downside – Gold spammers. You don’t want to make it even easier for them than it is now.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      For the gold spammers to justify sticking around spamming messages in dead corpses (or whatever they do now) there needs to be a market of buyers. Sure, the advertising gold sellers are inflicting their irritating bile on innocent players but they only do it cause someone bites every now and then. No gold buyers, no gold sellers.

      I don’t know why I’m posting this.

    • jamesgecko says:

      @ChromeBallz Despite popular belief, the game actually shipped with eight races.

    • Chuck84 says:

      @ jamesgecko

      despite popular belief, being pedantic over the internet does not make you clever.

  3. Zanchito says:

    Gettin gmore subscription money AND more expansion money faster. Man, I despise this business model.

  4. Lobotomist says:

    Just insane.

    Massively multiplayer shared persistent game , something with so much potential being reduced to this…

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

      /Proud WOW non-subscriber, non-player, non-nothing since 2004.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There’s nothing inherently wrong with the theme park hack-n-slash MMO. There’s obvious mass appeal. It’s extremely interesting to see that it’s reached something of a peak, though.

      Competing directly with WoW has always been a stupid proposition. Now it seems even less likely to succeed. And if you fail and opt for a F2P model, oops, that’s what they’ve all done already – way too much competition there.

      I dunno, this makes me slightly hopeful that we might see more, better niche MMOs. I don’t know the numbers on Darkfall or Mortal Online, but they’re still around and definitely not F2P, surviving despite many not-for-everyone features and some large flaws.

  5. misterk says:

    Thing is about WOW is that I think its status is somewhat like facebook, in that it was the first to implement a really smooth and well designed version of a system many others had tried, and, as a result, garnered lots of customers. But thats precisely what MMOs and social networks need to be popular- have lots of people on them, because the experience is much better if you know someone who is already a member. WOW doesn’t need to innovate, because the player base is already there, and already loves what they are provided, so this move actually makes a fair deal of sense.

    I also think this is why other MMOs won’t compete with the same numbers until WOW manages to die, or someone comes up with something genuinely new. If you’re already on facebook, theres no reason to join another social network unless one of your friends isn’t on facebook and is on this new website. This is broadly speaking true of MMOs: to play an MMO requires such a commitment of time that playing two simultaneously just isn’t practical, so most won’t bother. I suspect WOW has gobbled up most of the audience that exists. Licenses are actually a pretty smart way to try and find new customers if you can’t come up with a new idea, which is why most other MMOs seem to go that way. A WOW or facebook beater would have to offer something genuinely unique and interesting enough to grow enought to steal their customers.

  6. BobsLawnService says:

    What a shame.

  7. TheSaddestSort says:

    So what’s this month’s flavor?

  8. Tei says:

    I heard Diable 3 start beta this year.

  9. tKe says:

    Maybe its not the players getting better, but the content getting easier or repeating the same old formula? In my (WoW) days, I remember Molten Core taking months to work through as a lvl 60 guild and then BWL…

    Learning as a 40man team how to take down the trash was hard enough to start with. Working your way to the first boss and needing to work out a strategy over the course of various wipes and raids. The expansions just didn’t seem to take the same amount of coordination or effort. PUGs could raid some of the dungeons and do reasonably well with a mismatched team. It just wasn’t the same.

    • DSR says:

      Finding 40 virgins nowadays is harder than before.
      Damn Al-Quaeda took them all for their “afterlife”.

    • pirusu says:

      The old raids and stuff weren’t difficult because the mechanics were especially hard. They took months to clear because it took that long to deck 40 people out in resistance gear. Heck, it often took that long just to deck your tanks out in that gear.

      As they’ve (Blizzard) de-emphasized stupid grinding (and if you think the grinding today is anywhere near as bad as it was, then you’re being a silly goose) the casual player (the majority of their player base, because jokes aside, not all 11.4 million people are SUPERHARDCORENOLIFERAIDERS) has become the focus. And it works. You also have to take into account that RIFT has just released, and is just different enough, and just samey enough, that I’m sure it’s captured a lot of old WoW folks.

      I’m disappointed that the game is following this yearly-expansion route myself, but as I don’t play the game like it’s a second job, it doesn’t really affect me.

      More content probably IS the answer for the casual player.

    • Jumwa says:

      The jump in WoW’s difficulty with Cataclysm was the majour cause of myself and all of the people I know to have left WoW. (Anecdotal, I know.)

      The solution for casual gamers is: do not bar us from end-game content, like Cataclysm did. The difficulty wall once you hit 85 was just astounding. And as for hardcore gamers, they’ll burn through content quickly no matter how hard you make it. The only way you’ll hold them back, as another poster points out, is to put up blocks and stalls, such as necessary gear/rep grinds that have minimum time requirements. Which doesn’t sound fun.

    • cocoleche says:

      >The jump in WoW’s difficulty with Cataclysm was the majour cause of myself and all of the people I know to have left WoW. (Anecdotal, I know.)

      Amen. I was happily healing through WotLK, then along came Cata and Pugs became a futile exercise in masochism. I’m not even talking heroics, I’m talking normal dungeons. I don’t care if WotLK was faceroll, I had fun back then and then it stopped.

    • Jumwa says:

      “Amen. I was happily healing through WotLK, then along came Cata and Pugs became a futile exercise in masochism. I’m not even talking heroics, I’m talking normal dungeons. I don’t care if WotLK was faceroll, I had fun back then and then it stopped.”

      Right there with you, except from the tanking side. The change to group mechanics made what was once a fun and relaxing activity for me that I engaged in daily, to something I avoided because of the undue stress and anguish it caused me.

      Wrath was the perfect balance with something for everyone at end-game, I thought. For all the talk of it being a “faceroll” nobody downed Hard Mode 25-man Lich King on my server until two weeks before Cataclysm launched.

    • roosten says:

      I’m actually slightly surprised to see the popularity of this ‘Cataclysm is too hard’ viewpoint, but that could be because I normally get my MMO news from websites that treat Wrath of the Lich King as a loot piñata-esque abomination. For my part I absolutely agree with you guys, the thing I liked about Grump of the Ghoul Regent was that there was something for everyone, at all skill levels, and from the start.

      I was in a casual raiding guild at the time and we slowly but surely made our way through ICC until we finally downed Arthas a few weeks before 4.0.1 hit. Yes that meant we were using the 30% buff, and yes it meant we weren’t looking at heroic content, but it was something that I could do with a bunch of people I liked, in preference to a group who min-maxed their characters to the limit. This success has not been repeated in Cataclysm, both because of the difficulty of the new raids and their diffuseness – I’m not sure on what basis more numerous, smaller raids was considered the way to go – and it’s hurting our guild noticeably, as long term members simply stop raiding or leave the guild altogether.

      Yes I am a ‘Wrath baby’ to use the parlance of the elite, but it was when the game was right for me and I miss it.

    • Xerian says:

      The reason i quit WoW was cause its gotten dumbed down alot… And after WotLK it was just too damn boring for me, and alot of my friends, so we quit.

    • Jumwa says:

      @Roosten

      Agree entirely on all points. Guild progression with friends especially. We even downed the Lich King (normal 10-man version) just barely before Cataclysm launched, because we weren’t willing to set out friends out to dry to replace them with more capable raiders.

      I think it’s really a lot more common a viewpoint than we think, as it’s a casual stance. And, as we all know, to be casual in the gamer realm is to be a loathed and detested segment of gamer society. Not to mention the usual bluster surrounding online discourse, where admitting you’re not amazing at something is an invitation for mockery where a train of people will line up behind you to talk (honestly and not) about how mind-numbingly easy they found whatever it is you say is difficult.

      The internet has a way of pushing out more calm and mid-stream views because the loudest and most abrasive wins out.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      These comments actually made me wonder a little, perhaps you can enlighten me.

      I’m a bit surprised by the reaction to the bump in difficulty in Cataclysm. I’m in a fairly large casual guild with few active raiders who, like others here, killed Lich King (normal 10) pretty late in the expansion and we’ve been progressing fairly well through the Cataclysm content (only Nefarian 2.0 left to kill). It’s certainly a difficulty spike when compared to early Wrath content (I’d say the new raids are more comparable to Karazhan in BC) but I don’t see how it’s such a huge step up fron Icecrown heroics or ICC content. Did people really enjoy pugging ToC and ICC up to Saurfang that much? Most pug runs I did in Wrath were fairly miserable experiences.

      I also don’t really see how the new 5-man heroics are too difficult. I tanked Throne of the Tides as an arms warrior in DPS gear last night for a laugh (not boasting, just to illustrate my point, the healer was the champion of that run) and the revamped ZG/ZA feel like the perfect places to progress for casual players who have already sunk their teeth into the first batch of heroics.

      I’ve certainly seen a lot of people go on extended breaks or quit lately but it’s mostly seemed to be because of RL things, general WoW fatigue or playing other games. I’m not really seeing a lot of complaints about the difficulty (and again, casual guild with ~500 characters played across 150 or so unique accounts with only a handful interested in more difficult content).

      Maybe there is a lack of content for those who just want to relax for an hour or two after work though, I don’t know. But Wrath felt so incredibly grindy to me (gated grind is still a grind) and I can’t see how people would prefer that model of spending an entire expansion doing the same heroic dungeons where you didn’t even have to pay attention over and over again for increasingly more powerful rewards.

      I certainly have a long list of criticisms of my own for the game and the Cataclysm expansion, but the difficulty isn’t among them.

    • roosten says:

      @skalpadda
      I don’t know what to say, your experience does not match my own. To expand, in ICC apart from the Lich King we never had more than about 8 attempts to down a boss, while in Cataclysm we’ve only had 2 come in below that line. Attempts take time, we only raid 2 nights/week, and it isn’t all progression. Once you project out from that you end up with a situation where progression comes frustratingly slowly.

      In addition to slow progression, we’ve also struggled with what should be ‘farm’ content. After a few weeks on a particular boss in ICC most could be done on automatic, but there hardly seem to be any of those in Cataclysm. I suppose some people would say that’s something I should be happy about, but again it does not fit with the raiding schedule of my guild. As a result, coming up against someone like, say – Maloriak, where one too many or one too few interrupts can wipe the raid, or on Atramedes where one person lingering too long in the sound can use up a precious gong, or on Halfus where it’s the three mini-bosses that you really don’t want, or on Valiona and Theralion when it’s a new person who doesn’t understand the outside movement route or you suffer bad luck on the Blackout timings, or even on Magmaw when one of the designated chain guys loses focus for a few seconds, is stunned and the timing is off for the rest of that phase, and on and on – is not actually that fun week on week. They have the loot, so leaving them by the wayside isn’t really that much of an option, but it just ends up feeling like too much of a struggle.

      My point is that although I understand that some people want all these fights to require this level of focus all the time, my guild has several raiders who come to the game to unwind. Now, in Wrath of the Lich King, because of the subsequent ease of what had been progression bosses, this was an itch that it was easy to satisfy, and I always felt that for those who do want the game to be hard all the time there were always heroics. I admit, absolutely, that it’s a really hard line for Blizzard to follow, offering enough challenge to guilds like mine without boring us, but for my guild, at least, WotLK hit that target better than Cataclysm has.

      Again, this is my guild, I’m not trying to project out to any others, but it has been my experience and I have found it unfortunate.

      Edit: on looking at your comment again, I think you hit the nail on the head for my guild in particular when you said “Maybe there is a lack of content for those who just want to relax for an hour or two after work though”; I think that’s exactly the issue that my guild has suffered from. The grind versus difficulty balance was perfect for us in the last expansion, and not so great for us in the present.

    • Eamo says:

      I would say the problem is more that the entire game has become too formulaic. If you were bored for example you might choose to grind a new reputation faction, there was a time when some were easy, some took a bit of effort and some were bastard hard that meant you could choose which sort of challenge appealed to you. You could pick one to get done quickly if you just felt like getting something completed, work towards a big one if you were thinking long term etc. It gave you some measure of control over the complexity of the task. In many ways the same applied to everything, there were fast and slow instances, fast and slow battlegrounds, etc.

      But over the years part of the process of refinement has meant that Blizzard have converged on some pre-concieved ideal of what is the correct size for each of these, a reputation faction should take 2-3 weeks to get to exalted if you do the quests every day, an instance run should be 30-45 minutes, a battleground should take 15-25 minutes. The entire game has been pre-divided into individual chunks of activity and for a given type of activity all the chunks are the same size. They are working hard to divide the game up for casual play (I don’t mean friendly to casual players, I mean play that supports the “just one more go” play mechansim) but the problem is that a lot of the people who play MMOs don’t want that, many log in for 3-4 hours at a time and repeating the same 30 minute chunk of content many times quickly gets tiring because WoWs content, while beautifully crafted is, for the most part, linear and predictable.

      Casual play generally requires short games that are different every time, most of WoWs PvE content is the same every time and this is a huge hurdle to overcome. With no random variation in most of the content it gets repetitive pretty fast. I can load up Diablo 2 now and still enjoy playing the game even though I have completed every zone hundreds of times, the random variation adds a little that is new and interesting every time, same with a game like Bejewelled, or Minesweeper etc. It is the same game but the difference makes it fun again and again. A typical WoW instance is the same, over and over, and it gets boring. This used be masked by having a choice of challenge sizes, you couldn’t always try that four hour instance and it made it fun when you could, now however they are all the same size and difficulty so even that is gone. Yes they are much better than they used to be, but they are all the same.

      Lastly, the consistent push towards making everything queuable, bgs, instances etc, while it does improve the game in many ways has slowly eroded what little sense of community there was in the game leaving raiding pretty much the sole reason to have a guild. Yet even here it has now become an endless grind for most guilds, I know guilds that are still working their way through heroic mode bosses that were added in the last expansion. Raiding four days a week for months on end with the horrible suspicion that even that won’t be enough to get you over the final hurdle before the next expansion is horribly demoralising. It’s like a long slow death march and feels more like work than play.

      WoW has gone from being a game with so little refinement as to have a little bit to appeal to everyone to being a game that is so perfectly refined that it only appeals to the those in the middle of the bell curve, thats great but as an MMO it would have been the province of those at the fringes of gaming and they are slowly being whittled out of the equation.

    • Jumwa says:

      With heroics themselves designed to take up a considerable chunk of time, I don’t even have the opportunity to run them. I rarely if ever sit down with the intent of playing WoW seriously for more than 30-60 minutes, and making heroics, by design, require more time than that instantly meant end-game was no longer casual enough for me. I couldn’t gear up for raids during the week like that.

      Even had I the time, I don’t enjoy that much structured play. Two raid nights a week was brutal on me and my partner as is.

      I suppose I could PvP, but that’s too competitive for me, and the queues have been absurdly long all Cataclysm. We’d rarely get a dungeon to pop in under 50 minutes of wait time. Logging into WoW to sit and wait fifty minutes hardly sounds like a good time to me–and I do mean “sit and wait”, because if you don’t sit and wait, you’ll get marked as “AFK” and booted from queue.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      @Roosten:

      I can understand that viewpoint and I suppose it boils down to what you want and expect to get out of the game. I’ve always liked the sense of going on an adventure with a group of friends, and if there isn’t a resonable chance of failure (or sense of danger, if you will) it doesn’t feel very adventurous and the game risks turning into just a checklist of stuff to do with a reward at the end. Everything after Ulduar felt a lot like that to me in WotLK; you’d do your weekly runs through ToC and later ICC for frost badgers and random loot, sleep walk through your daily heroic run for more badgers and that was pretty much it, over and over again with progressively better rewards for doing the same content.

      And while there were hard modes the difficulty felt very random from boss to boss (compare Valkyrs to Anub’arak or Rotface to Putricide for example) so, at least for us, it ended up being a case of toggling it for the same bosses week after week. I’m personally not a big fan of heroic modes at all though, they mostly just seem to over-inflate gear levels for the top tier raiders but that’s another issue.

      And of course you’re right that balancing content for every guild out there (and even different raids within the same guild) is next to impossible, and trying to drawing a hard line between casual and hardcore is doomed to failure (another reason I dislike toggled hard modes and prefer mechanics like the timed ZA runs for increasing difficulty). I feel that for me personally they’ve hit closer to what I prefer, both in raids and 5-man heroics (especially with the new troll instances in the last patch) with Cataclysm than they did with WotLK.

      @Eamo:

      You’re touching on one of my biggest overall problems with World of Warcraft as a game there, in that it’s turning more and more into just a rather rigid set of rules and mechanics and less of an engaging world to spend time in. That’s as much a problem with the overall community as it is with the actual game design though, but Blizzard certainly aren’t making it better.

      @Jumwa:

      Joining a decent sized guild could go somewhat towards solving that for you I suppose. Heroics don’t usually take longer than half an hour or so to run if you have a solid group (by “solid” I mean willing to talk and listen to each other). Even in the few random groups I’ve done in Cata, very few have taken over an hour to complete. I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all, but the extreme ease of 5-man dungeons in Wrath was a pretty major shift compared to vanilla and BC and Cataclysm and the Cata 5-mans are still easier than the BC ones were.

    • Jumwa says:

      @Skalpadda

      No offense, but when everyone’s solution to WoW not offering me enjoyment and options is to abandon my friends (some of whom I’ve been playing with for five years) I think the discussion really is at a close. We’re not talking about a video game anymore.

      As well our guild had about 100 accounts when Cataclysm hit.

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      I intended no offense either. I was only replying to the post two down from mine and didn’t notice your name on the one above, so I got the impression you were mostly playing in randoms.

  10. Premium User Badge

    sasayan says:

    This is the inherent problem with the heavily scripted “roller coaster” model of MMO development, I think. Once the players have run through all the content available there’s nothing left to keep them interested. The only option is to keep a continuous stream of either new players or new content.

    Having a open, interesting, world with mechanics that encourage players to create their own goals and content will provide a much longer lived interest. If the players can make permanent (or at least lasting more than a few minutes) to the world, even better. I think the slow, steady growth of EVE and the persistence of UO show that.

  11. Ovno says:

    YES!!!!

    Wow is dying

    (Sorry that’s the old anti wow feeling from eve resurfacing)

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      No, this looks like more of the rebound of a transient, a yo-yo effect of subscribers from Cataclysm, so to speak.

    • Starky says:

      Indeed. WoW sub numbers always start to drop at towards end of life of an expansion – then they rebound again.

      Besides even if WoW lost 1 million subs it would still be 20 times bigger than the vast majority of MMO’s, including EVE.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Five months in is “end of life”? Wasn’t 4.1 just released?

      Surely there are a couple major content patches yet to come.

    • Starky says:

      Well perhaps end of life was a bad choice of words…

      End of the expo boom maybe?

      That period about 6 months after an expansion when all the people who resubbed to WoW to play the new content get bored and stop playing.

      But yeah 6 months is “end of life” for a vast chunk of players, in that in that time, if they play somewhat regular they’ve probably consumed all the major content for them – hit the new level cap, played the new zones, done the major quests, 5mans, maybe even a few 10mans – and they hit the a serious wall, the content that only 5-10% of players ever see because it requires serious effort and dedication – at the very least a lot of structured time (structured meaning prearranged guild stuff rather than drop in drop out pug gaming).
      Most of them end up rolling new toons, or PvPing, or just spending less time in game after that wall.

  12. Gnoupi says:

    “We require more minerals.”

  13. Electric Dragon says:

    Probably Blizzard are already working on procedural expansion generators. Who needs developers? Just fine tune a few parameters and hey presto: The region of [NAME] is created! Together with its [SEASON] climate and its [GREAT BIG ENEMY]. To get to the [GREAT BIG ENEMY] you will need to find [PLOT TOKENS 1-N] as well as kill [RANDOM NUMBER] of [FAIRLY BIG ENEMY].

    • Catastrophe says:

      Oh oh, surely theres an NDA on this insider information!

    • DSR says:

      Jokes aside, that would be great.
      One of the things what made Diablo great was random world generator.
      Every time you start a new character, every dungeon and outdoor level is generated from scratch.

    • misterk says:

      Wow, that sounds pretty exciting. Next step is the procedural book in which we learn of [GREAT BIG ENEMY]‘S history with [A WELL KNOWN CHARACTER IN WOW LORE], while in the city of [LOCATION], leading to a twist where [OTHER WELL KNOWN CHARACTER IN WOW LORE] betrayed [WELL KNOWN CHARACTER IN WOW LORE] and seeks revenge.

    • BloodPukeSalvation says:

      how about they just revamp their compilers so they can do this:

      [New Exapansion]

      A lot less coding means fewer employees means more money for blizzard (and mo problems?)

    • Tuor says:

      You have a special feeling about this level.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    I played the new expansion. But only for about two months. After that I’ve seen the new leveling zones and played a few times through the new dungeons.

    Blizzard doesn’t have to worry. I’ll play some more in a few months to level another character. Maybe check out the new leveling content. And I’ll definitely play the next expansion.

  15. Strife212 says:

    Maybe if they hadn’t ruined the game and made it a casual nonsense fest it would have more longevity…

    (Bitter Classic player here)

    • Deano2099 says:

      Been back since Cata? Cata endgame is the hardest WoW has ever been by all accounts.

    • Colton says:

      Seriously? Imagine a Warrior from a new players perspective – 12 buttons that no one ever used.

      With 4.0 Blizzard didn’t ‘simplify’ things as much as they “streamlined” them. There was so much crap that the classes didn’t bother with and never used over the years (e.g. the Hunters’ mana sting or anti-strength sting) that new players had to not only learn how to play but also learn which buttons to totally ignore

      4.1a added Heroic Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman to get gear that bridges the gap between blues and T11 — and those instances aint’ EZ-mode

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Well, actually.

      They are easy if people can just pay attention, for once. For all the complaining from the people that started in Wrath, it’s always the people who started in Wrath who refuse to listen to simple directions.

      As in the complainers find it too hard because they really don’t want to pay attention. And if there’s no challenge, what is the point? This isn’t Harvest Moon.

  16. Serious J says:

    The content is being consumed faster because there’s less content. Fewer dungeons, fewer zones, fewer raid bosses… of course it’s going to be consumed faster. They had 12 million subs but produced less content than MMO’s with under a million.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It only looks that way if you’re one of those max level hardcore endgame players. If you actually take a look at all the new content they produced with this expansion, especially the level 1-60 experience, the amount of content is massive.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Fewer dungeons? That’s because there’s only five levels. But let’s go to the wayback machine- Vanilla didn’t launch with any raids, and BC had Gruul and… well, I suppose you could go kill Kazzak.

    • Bettymartin says:

      The content is being consumed faster because most raiding guilds insist on everyone learning the fights verbatim before they’ve even stepped foot into the instance for the first time, because more and more player are using addons to all but trivialise the content and because the basic structure of the vast majority of fights hasn’t changed since day one. Hit the boss really hard, bad stuff on floor, don’t stand in bad stuff on floor, boss is dead.

      Step into the new content completely cold, no prior knowledge and no addons and I bet the majority of players wouldn’t be complaining that there wasn’t enough to keep them occupied.

  17. Slade says:

    They need more hats, just saying.

  18. cheezey says:

    After playing since launch I finally stopped a few months ago. I wonder how much that sort of thing would be impacting on the reduced sub numbers. I mean there is only so many ways you can dress up a grind, a boss encounter, etc, until they get pretty same-y.

    • bonjovi says:

      I joined at the start of WOTLK and quit just before cata for the same reasons. I think it is one of the best games I ever played, and definitely I’ve put into it more hours than anything (so I think I got the value for my money) Say what you want about WOW but it’s really full of content. However I’ve got everything I wanted from it, and got bored.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      “After playing since launch I finally stopped a few months ago. I wonder how much that sort of thing would be impacting on the reduced sub numbers.”

      My guess would be one. Unless you multibox, of course.

  19. Deano2099 says:

    Yeah, the model is changing. Lots of those people who spent their lives on it are now lapsed subs. They go back and play with every expansion, but then stop again. A large number of players are treating it as a CoD-esque yearly franchise. I don’t see that this is a problem.

    Also worth noting: Blizzard said way back when Burning Crusade came out that they were aiming at doing an expansion a year. They failed. I hadn’t realised they’d stopped trying though, their intentions and the reality rarely match up, given how much polish Blizzard put on everything.

  20. Sentinel Red says:

    I can’t say I’m too surprised except at how relatively low the drop off in subs actually is. If anything, I expected at least 10%, probably nearer 15%.

    I played for over 5 years straight, through ups and downs, saw and cleared almost every raid but called it quits last April after clearing Icecrown. The wine had lost its flavour, so to speak, and while I missed my old guild chums and appreciated what Blizzard were aiming to do with Cata, I just couldn’t see it reinvigorating things enough, especially given a lot of the latest expansion seems to just be rehashing old favourites instead of giving the players something truly new to experience.

    The increased difficulty actually was appealing as WotLK was, with a few of exceptions, tediously easy and dull but it’s obviously also going to alienate the vast majority of players who barely seem to want any thought or challenge at all and I wouldn’t blame Blizzard if they scaled it back again.

    Ultimately, though, it’s an old game and setting, and there’s only so long a (sane) person can play the same environments doing the same things without the familiarity breeding contempt.

  21. Metonymy says:

    WoW will slowly get eaten alive by commentary and public opinion as the game declines. It’s going to get brutal, and I for one have been waiting for it with a little bit of hungry enthusiasm.

    The decline began when they drove a wedge between players by creating the arena minigame, and made socializing a necessity for participating in it. There was a time when everyone was just a player of the game. If you had a good organizer you could also raid.

    Now there are horrible little arena people, playing a pretend fighting game, even more casual ‘battleground and heroic’ players, and then PLEASE TO FILL OUT APPLICATION FORM raiding guilds. Keeping all the players in one social grouping is essential for the socializers.

    I would say ~70% of the necessities that I submitted to Blizzard were implemented within a few months of my posts, but they adamantly refused to understand what they had done to the future of their own game, by making structured socializing a mandatory component of successful play. -Haply

    • RP says:

      I agree with this. I’ve played WoW on and off since launch. I like to come in, get some levels, see some new dungeons and loot, but then unsubscribe for a while when life takes precedence. With Cataclysm, I was a bit tempted to repeat the cycle, but ultimately I haven’t bothered because the game has felt increasingly insular.

      You have to fill out a job application to get anywhere new, “gearscore” is now part of the standard UI it seems, etc. Maybe I’m not articulating it well, but it feels like you can’t just play this game anymore, you have to have qualifications to do so, and… that’s too much work for my video game hobby.

      Maybe it’s innately a MMO thing, but it does sound that games like Guild Wars 2 and the KOTOR MMO are at least aspiring to dress The Grind ™ up a little differently, so we’ll see. At some point even MMOs have to evolve in a real way, perhaps the subscription numbers are reflecting that a bit.

    • Rii says:

      Haply as in the Mage who used to post on the official class forums?

  22. Deccan says:

    I had a lot of fun healing 85 heroics, because I had to do so with my brain rather than my face.

    Then I realised that no amount of technical and visual gewgaws were going to bring back the slow-paced, actually adventurous questing model I liked so much from Burning Crusade and before, and I ditched the game for good. From the discussions I had with others, a lot of them felt the same way.

    Still, had some great times in the years I played, and don’t regret a thing. The Camp Taurajo quests in Cata were the closest a video game’s ever brought me to tears; I guess that’s an achievement worth noting.

  23. Ginger Yellow says:

    Um, no comment on the actually interesting stuff on the conference call? Namely a Q3 beta for Diablo, but probably no release in 2011.

    As I mentioned on our last call, given Blizzard Entertainment has not confirmed the launch date for its next global release, our outlook at this time does not include a new game from Blizzard in 2011. Should Blizzard not release a major title this year, we would expect, for planning purposes, to launch a minimum of 2 Blizzard titles in 2012.

    On the Diablo III front, I am pleased to report that we begun internal company-wide testing last week. The game is looking great and we are currently targeting a Q3 launch for external beta testing. The development team is working hard to try and launch Diablo III this year. But I want to be clear that we do not have an official release date or window yet. As always, we will not compromise the quality of the game in order to hit a window.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The first quote has in the past (last conference call) been explained as a legal/financial disclaimer for investors. It just means “we’re not absolutely certain we’ll have another game in 2011″.

      The development team is working hard to try and launch Diablo III this year.

      Clearly they’re targeting a release date of late 2011. It may slip, of course, but that’s their plan, to cash in on that juicy Holiday Season.

    • afarrell says:

      The minimum of two titles in 2012 if D3 slips is interesting (though as noted, probably just caution) – I’d expect the next WoW expansion _and_ another Starcraft 2 chapter in there.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      The first quote has in the past (last conference call) been explained as a legal/financial disclaimer for investors. It just means “we’re not absolutely certain we’ll have another game in 2011

      True, but at the same time, remember how far ahead of SC2′s release the beta was? If the Diablo beta is only in Q3, that doesn’t give them much time to launch before the end of the year. Diablo probably isn’t as hard to beta, because it doesn’t have quite the same multiplayer balance issues, but Blizzard are very rigorous about this sort of thing. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m less hopeful than I was before the call.

  24. DeanLearner says:

    Oh wow, hard times :( it’s hard to see how a company can continue with the uncertainty of only having 11.4million monthly payments.

    I hope they make it through.

    Take care Blizzard x

  25. ScubaMonster says:

    Or maybe they could actually put enough content into the expansion to make it last at least a little while longer.

    • Nevard says:

      Content takes time
      Time means more subs lost because people get bored
      More subs lost means less money
      Less money means less quality and less time
      Less time means less content

      People get antsy if they have to go for a WEEK without new instances, they’d all quit if Blizzard took much longer than they already did.
      The WOW community really is awful.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    Mabye everyone is starting to play Rift?

    Eeventually, people just… move on.

    • Waltorious says:

      This is what I was thinking. Rift’s been getting very good press and a lot of positive comparisons to World of Warcraft.

  27. stblr says:

    As a loyal subscriber since beta, I quit a couple months ago not due to lack of content (I haven’t raided heavily since vanilla WoW), but due to the fact that it’s just all been done before. The same 5 or 10 levels of new leveling content, the same gearing up to do heroics, the same gearing up from heroics to do raid content, the same grind to get PvP gear (though with Cataclysm it changed from an Arena grind to a Battleground grind), rinse and repeat for as many alts you want to be able to do anything relevant–relevancy, in WoW’s case, being 100% relegated to max level.

    Cataclysm, for as polished as it is, is really the same old song and dance they’ve been doing for 3 expansions now. Once I realized they’d never fundamentally change the game for fear of alienating the majority of the playerbase, I lost all interest.

  28. Davie says:

    Well, maaaybe this is a clue that people are starting to lose interest! A steadily rising player-base for seven years is not something they should be complaining about–that is literally better than every other game, ever. Rather than pumping out more crap for WoW, perhaps it’s time to shift focus to a different IP or genre.

    …But of course, they’re Blizzard, and they’re not going to do that. MONEY FOR THE MONEY GOD! CASH FOR THE CASH POOL!

    • Rii says:

      You mean besides Starcraft II, Diablo III, Titan and the other unannounced game (or two, it’s hard to keep track of these things) they’re working on? /rolleyes

    • Davie says:

      Maybe I’m just bitter they still haven’t made another Warcraft RTS. Regardless, my point is that it’s more likely people are just getting sick of WoW than running out of content.

    • Rii says:

      Most people seem to have written off Warcraft as an RTS franchise but I think they are wrong. Blizzard has had an RTS team active since the mid-90s. What is that team going to be doing post-SC2 Part III? My money is on Warcraft 4, although given that nearly 15 years will have elapsed since WC3 and that WoW has very much eclipsed it in the gaming consciousness I doubt it will actually be called WC4. Together with Titan it would aid Blizzard in transitioning some of WoW’s declining playerbase to fresh pastures, and I expect the gameplay will reflect that, i.e. more RPG-in-your-RTS, as WC3 was originally intended to be before it was diluted to avoid clashing with WoW.

  29. Eversor says:

    Or, you know, you could release proper content patches as a solution for players unsubscribing because they’ve finished all the content. Hard modes ain’t content. There’s a reason why only a handful do them.

    • Nevard says:

      Who knows, maybe that’s why they’re gearing up to release a content patch next month or something

    • Eversor says:

      Oh, that content patch that actually was first intended as the very FIRST content patch, but they somehow decided that they would probably overwhelm people with content and delayed? So where’s that Abyssal Maw that was supposed to come out as first content patch, Blizzard? 4.3?

  30. augustl says:

    I used to faff about on my own in WoW, but nowadays I do that in Minecraft. Cata was too group play focused. Solo casual play got boring after I did my first heroic.

  31. Ninja says:

    As one of those 5% that quit, it’s not because i gobbled through the content so fast. Me and 3 of my friends all quit because the content wasn’t…interesting enough. Cataclyms was cool, but as soon as I got to 85 I had to start doing dungeons, then I had to start doing heroics. Then I had to start doing raids. It was the same cycle with different graphics. That, on top of the healing change (The healing change was terrible I don’t care what anybody says, it would be more fun, but it’s Blizzard’s fault tanks and dps got into a mindset that they don’t need to try to avoid damage because healers can heal through it, thus all the blame comes back on the healer because it’s impossible to heal all of the damage), and even more annoying was the tol barad change that made it so if you were one of the unfortunate people to play on a horde/alliance heavy server (on the side with more people) you were forced to sit out most of them despite it seeming like it was a pretty fun battleground. Just a lot of stupid decisions in one expansion that made the game more boring for me personally, and a few of my friends.

  32. Nevard says:

    People just quit because they’ve been playing for five years, and while Blizzard can add new shiny features they can’t really change the core concepts without just making a new game.
    It’s hardly suprising, and isn’t really due to any fault that can be fixed without scrapping WoW altogether and making a new game. And they are making other games anyway!

  33. po says:

    “We need to be faster at delivering content to players. And so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in-between expansions.”

    As an ex-wow player who cancelled 5 accounts after Cataclysm was released, without seeing the inside of a single dungeon or raid from that expansion, on reading the above I can say just one thing. Blizzard dev management must be certifiably retarded.

    One of the major complaints about Cataclysm was that it appeared rushed out of the door. Many of it’s features were broken, and many parts of the game that had been working fine for years were broken too, most especially PvP balance, thanks to the huge changes made to class abilities.

    The fact that the Bliz devs have a major raging hardon for endless dungeon and raid development is probably another reason why players are quitting. Because there are (were) plenty of players who prefer(ed) PvP, and development of that part of the game is not only lacking, but verging on non-existant.

    Cata making a huge mess of class balance was a serious issue, but rather than focus on fixing that for the next patch, the devs came up with yet more dungeons (and I specifically remember several of the boss guides for new dungeons reading along the lines of ‘like [boss x] from [vanilla/TBC dungeon y]‘). And then to top it all off they only go and recycle their old dungeons and raids into new top end content.

    If you compare the amount of effort that is put into PvE content, specifically the number of dungeons and raids, along with all the balancing of classes and bosses for those, with the amount of effort that is put into developing new PvP maps and class balancing (which is in fact regularly broken by that done for PvE), it’s no wonder players are quitting. The PvP players would like some attention please.

    As it is, the only place I’m likely to see balanced and working WoW PvP is on a private server, because at least on those people who give a damn about balance can do something about it, and they don’t have to put up with the kind of problems Blizzard create, and then go out of their way to ignore (eg. the WSG GY change, or BoAs in low level BGs replacing twinks).

    Heck, if someone can work out how the Bliz BG maps are put together, private servers might even get some fresh BG maps, or see some fixes to the originals that have existed, been complained about, and been ignored since day one (ranged abilities working through objects in BG maps, or distance to objectives being different between the factions).

    If Blizzard had been working on both sides of the PvE and PvP game I was supposedly paying towards the development of, I’d have had a lot less complaints, and far fewer reasons to quit.

  34. TheFlyingWooly says:

    ‘they have become much better and much faster at consuming content… And so I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions’

    Sudden mental image of tyranids playing WoW.

  35. Stephen Roberts says:

    Looking at it purely from a bissniss point of view, this is an inevitable decline. When you have something like 90% of the market share, there is only one direction it can go. Microsoft have had a relatively similar story, taking a huge leap and staying strong for a good while then slowly those numbers just petered off. They hit some sort of frictional limit or something. Isn’t Apple doing better than Microsoft now? I heard that about six months ago on the radio. It was all down to iPhones and other preening tosser accessories that sell like, well, like iPhones.

    Oh boy do I ramble.

    Also, one of the reasons I chucked in WoW was because it changed way too damn often. All these furious, super intense guilds just wanted more and fatigued of the current content and it seemed like they were the ones that were listened to. I was never a ‘casual’ player but me and my friends progressed slowly and enjoyed each dungeon/raid/fight for what was unique about it (even if it was just the voice acting). So for me, at least (a type of player that probably makes up 0.1% of of the player base) they are accelerating in the wrong direction. If they brought back an ‘original’ server I would join up again (with some caveats).

    I have no idea why I spend my free time doing these posts.

  36. Yage says:

    Youtube killed it for me. Being forced to watch multiple youtube vids and read up on tactics before you even saw a boss. Its very hard to organise a raid of 25 people, i appreciate that but always knowing what is going to happen next is a big spoiler. It was great going into Molton Core years ago and not knowing what will happen next.

    In 2011 its TEN times harder to design an interesting group raid encounter. The gaming communities ability to inform and organise has progressed amazingly in the last few years. If you dont read up on bosses you will get found out very quickly, even in casual pick up groups.

    I really want stories in games i dont want it to be about relentless killing and tactics.

    Youtube and what not have really forced games devs to up there game.

  37. hitnrun says:

    Frankly I’m amazed it took as long as it did. I’ve played since release night and have come back intermittently after each expansion, but I (as well as my proverbial anecdotal crew) never had much interest since BC came out. The polygon-lite “giant ugly crystal” theme was awful, the itemization was Verant-worthy, and the shucking of 40-man raids vaporized all the large guilds that used to preside over the game’s social scene.

    Obviously a lot of people would think the irrefutable fact that BC sucked is heresy, which gets to the heart of WoW’s enduring success. Everyone looks back at their first experience with WoW as incredible, the best MMO they every played, because for everyone that’s true. It’s also true that Blizzard’s philosophy on expansions leaves them dissatisfied when the next one comes down the pike.

    At this point, they’ve run through almost everyone who could be expected to play WoW at some point. There are no more girlfriends and brothers who are interested, so they’re going to be getting diminishing returns; smaller, less durable “bounces” to their sub numbers from major expansions.

    For what it’s worth, Rift is fun. It’s not going to rock your world; other than it’s incredibly deep class system, it’s just like WoW. But maybe that’s a good thing, since if you’ve played through an expansion or three, you might like a game that’s “like WoW” again, since WoW itself is not.

  38. weizur says:

    Could be it has to do with the last expansion only being 5 levels instead of 10. Or perhaps because the last expansion was the worst they’ve done. Or that they seemed to be trying to target new players for a game that must have definitely reached a saturation point.

    Or not maybe us gamers have just “gotten much better at consuming a lot of content faster.”

  39. Wozzle says:

    I can’t play WoW any more because the combat system bores me to tears. They need a new game to get me back.

  40. Kiki Zhu says:

    Wow really need to speed up with its Expansions. Blizzard always postpones its expansions and makes the subscribers feel despondent. Those expansion developers should not only work on some new content, but also design a combat system to attract the players.