Another bad quarter for WoW subs

Via Wowhead News, Blizzard’s flagship MMO title, World of Warcraft (which I play), has lost another 300k subscribers.

This further confirms the anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen. Many of my friends that have played the game intensely with me and my guildmates have just stopped playing. I can only speculate as to what’s going on, which I will inflict on you.

Some possibilities:

While Blizzard developers were stating they wanted to make endgame content more challenging, much of it was by mechanics that penalized everybody for one person’s mistake. Many fights in the first tier of raid and heroic dungeon content had mechanics that had to be quickly dealt with by one person, or it meant a costly wipe. Examples are the slimes and fire ray in the Omnotron Council encounter; impaling Magmaw’s head in a timely manner, or blocking beams in the Corla, Herald of Twilight encounter. While devoted raiders can handle these mechanics, people who come on to play with their friends suffer the most, since the consequences for such easy failure tend work against the goal of having fun with your friends.

Blizzard also had the stated goal of making the game more accessible to players who are new to MMO games in general. The top executives at Blizzard liked to quote the stat that most people who start playing WoW never get beyond level 10. While I don’t have a demographic breakdown of who’s still around, I’d like to know if the game is indeed attracting and retaining more new players, but not able to make up for the veterans going away.

Blizzard made a front-loaded expansion. Most of the changes that went into the game were in the level 1-60 experience. The max-level endgame only had a handful of regular level 85 dungeons at launch, and not many more heroic versions. The raiding scene did start off with more original encounters, but done in a way that was tedious to get through. The spokesman for the guild Method had this to say about the first tier of content’s difficulty (via MMO-Champion):

Nefarian down, putting us at 13/13 (finally a breath of fresh air!!!). Thumbs up for the dedication shown by our raiding team. The current heroic difficulty of raiding is both enjoyable and demanding. We can all welcome, with open arms, the more challenging raid content, but the sheer quantity of content available since Cataclysm launch has required more time investment than ever before to remain competitive. Personally I would have welcomed a ‘reasonable’ gate-system or similar to allow for more real life time the past ~2months, especially with xmas/new years/exams etc. Taking a few day breaks over the festive period only to be notified that other guilds were currently raiding obviously wasn’t ideal!

This tier of raiding has unfortunately contained multiple bugs, with bosses like Atramedes, Sinestra, and Nefarian standing out. Sinestra had some notable issues for us; having infinite lines at Twilight orbs making progress prior to this current reset difficult. Twilight Flames properly spawning at the Egg locations in phase 1 was also fixed recently on the fight (can see they are non existent @ Paragon’s video). The issues on Nefarian are of more concern, with Blizzard seemingly overlooking certain class abilities on a key encounter mechanic. Unsure as to why it was waited with until after a guild had killed Nefarian before applying the fix, especially with “top guilds” apparently under surveillance, such delayed fixes are harmful to the ‘PvE race’.

Hoping that Blizzard can keep up with the quality of heroic raid difficulty while considering the quantity available and as always more vigorous encounter testing/monitoring.

In my guild’s case, we went from being able to fill 25-man raids with upwards of 5 standbys, down to being barely able to scrape a 10-man raid together after 2 months. People would quit playing the game without notice, or say that Real Life had reared its demanding head.

I’m still playing the game, but I find that other things are more interesting to me these days. The effort-to-reward ratio has reached the point where I can only afford to intensely work on one toon’s progress at endgame, and the other are profession bots. Consequently, playing the auction house meta-game ends up being more interesting to me. It’s a good thing that I have other means of getting in touch with my important in-game friends, since we’ve all expressed that we’re bored of the game.

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The Machine

I am David. I will use this blog to inflict status reports of the progress of my continued enlightenment in all things: animal, vegetable, and mineral, with some World of Warcraft too. You may contact me at [name] at [domain]