Last week Mark Morhaim, embarrassedly blinking his eyes, told the shareholders' meeting the sad news. Compared to the pre-catalogue figure of 12 million, the World of Warcraft audience has dropped by 600,000 people. Now we are "only" 11.4 million. On many WoW-resources there was a wave of discussion under the name "vvnetort". Haters were spitting spittle, calling for RIFT, scaring Lightseabers and guild wars. Weiners lamented the suckiness of Cataclysm and publicly admitted to canceling subscriptions. Fans giggled at the number and went off to farm "zandalariki".
The very fact of such a public confession is remarkable. Personally, I wasn't surprised, as I've been watching the exodus from the game for the second month now of many I know. They are mostly fellow bloggers. Of the most recent "departures" is Guardians of Legends GM Yael, who brought her husband with her. Particularly surprising in her farewell postings were the details of her communication with one of the gamemasters. To his question as to why the subscription was canceled, she responded with eight pages in which she told him what an angle your "Cataclysm" is. She went to Darkfall "wowfamily." Priest's last post about the resurrected Onyxia kind of hints that Sasha is ready to leave the game.
We can talk about the reasons for leaving for a long time. Someone got fed up with the endgame, which was more complicated than in WotLK. Surprised to read one of the tracks on wow.com about the difficulty of the raids. A member of one casual guild admitted that they spend a month on Magmar and their best score is 20%. I'm not the most progressive raider. The guys in the guild play quite decently and Magmar has long been a non-issue. If it weren't for the progressive indifference and week-long breaks, they'd probably be wasting fins by now. But not to fail Magmar... Someone is even complaining about the complexity of zandalarics. Yes, Jin'do not throw clogs, but what's so impenetrable there I do not understand. Someone complains about the stupid archeology and straightforward quests. And someone yells about how LFG 3.3 killed the community.
You can cite a bunch of reasons that will ironically justify the postulate "vunetort. They all have the right to exist, but in my opinion the real reason is something else. People are tired of the game. And all the arguments are just rationalizations for that feeling.
This is normal. Everything gets boring sooner or later. I was once an active offline gamer. For more than a decade I kept track of new stuff and played it whenever possible. Almost everything that hit the FPS, RTS, and RPG genres went through my hard drive. Then I just got bored. How is FarCry different from DOOM? Essentially only graphics and more adequate world physics. How is the second Starcraft different from the first? Not in particular. I completed a few missions and realized that it is the same old guy, only in a new package. The main features of the genres were established ten years ago and the further development went on the way of improving the technological component of the game. I stopped liking it. With WoW the same situation. For those who have actively played for two or three years and tried everything, "Cataclysm" brought nothing new. I have already written about this. What makes it worse is the social side of the game, because it brings responsibility. I can't quit, what about the guild guys? I'm a MT/heel/top DD. And then the game becomes a job with all that entails. Which sooner or later leads to the thought of "why the fuck do I need it? Especially if the boss does not want to fall.
I think that all of this is obvious. The question is whether the Blitz wanted to do something new with respect to gameplay? I think they deliberately did not make anything new. Below are some arguments for that assertion.
If you look at the dynamics of the audience, we see that the number of subscribers was growing up to the release of the second add-on to the game and reached 11 million and a half. For the first four years Bleez were happily reporting about every new million subscribers, and after WotLK... The bravura press releases stopped. For two years, no one published numbers on the base. Yes, there were problems with the release of WotLK in China. It was already allowed out there when Europe and the States were preparing for Cataclysm. Just last fall Blizzard published a figure of 12 million. Yes, it's a lot. Yes, the audience is growing. But if you think back to the dynamics of the first four years, it can only be called growth from a mathematical point of view. For two years, from 2008 to 2010, the number of players has not grown. Considering that the MMO audience is not a static thing, but a dynamic one, we understand that the number of newcomers equaled the number of those who left the game. In other words, at the time of WotLK WoW reached the peak of popularity.
In August 2009 the developers announced "Cataclysm". In the third add-on promised a lot of innovations, and in addition to new content, they were going to introduce an alternative system of character development. "The Way of the Titans" and archeology as a profession, indispensable for his "development" for me were even more interesting than the plowed through the Old World. When in the summer of 2010 blueposters announced that it will be removed, I thought that they just do not have time for release. Now I'm leaning toward a different thought. "The Way" was one of the really revolutionary ideas of Cataclysm. The introduction of an alternate, "non-Raid" path of character development could have given entirely new opportunities for those who don't want to or can't raid.
It seems to me that we'll see "Path of the Titans" one way or another. In another game. Maybe in the proverbial Titan MMO (sorry for the tautology). Not only is there better staff working on the new MMO. It's using better ideas. Introducing something fundamentally new to WoW makes no sense. The game has its own established format and people are used to it. This gamelay works and makes money. Why make up something revolutionary, especially since each major innovation will affect the game balance. And to do something new with slvoiyah when the project reached the peak and now slowly begins to lose its popularity o generally stupid. Most likely with WoW bliz will go "quantitative" way - new locations, 5ppl, raids, a couple of new maps for Arena. Further build up of content mass.
Does this mean the beginning of the decline of one of the most successful MMO games of the last decade? I think it does. RIFT clearly demonstrated how hungry people are for something new. How fast will WoW "deflate"? It'll all depend on how good the new projects are. And we're not just talking about SWTOR, GW2 and other third-party projects. In a March interview with Gamasutra, Frank Pierce made an interesting point about Diablo III. He believes that this particular game could draw away a significant portion of WoW's audience. Pierce also said that with Titan's release, players will forget about the company's other projects as well. Either way, I wouldn't expect a precipitous drop in popularity. The game will dominate the market for at least another two or three years.
That's the way it is.