Loss of World of Warcraft Subs Should Make Blizzard Think

Moderator: kolemsai

Loss of World of Warcraft Subs Should Make Blizzard Think

Postby kolemsai » Thu May 09, 2013 8:56 am

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In a recent earnings call, Activision/Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft has dropped to 8.3 million subscribers, down from the 9.6 million from the last quarterly earnings call.



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It stated that most of those lost subscribers were from the East (China, Korea, etc.) and could be attributed to the ever increasing market rise of free-to-play MMOs. Aside from that though, it's obvious that the mighty Goliath of the MMO market is on the decline. No, WoW isn't dead, so all of you doomsday callers can put away your signs now, but it's clear that Blizzard needs to make some changes in order to save their flagship franchise.

There are many changes coming to the game in 5.3, some of them for the better. Increased drop rates from Looking-For-Raid (LFR) dungeons, alternate routes to gear up, intriguing quest lines that ultimately lead us to the climax in the Garrosh encounter, and other quality of life improvements. But these will be enough?

I don't believe it will be.

Now let's analyze why we are losing so many players. If you ask many people why they have quit and you'll come up with a number of reasons:
"The game is catering to casuals."
"There is no community."
"They've changed the game so much I don't even recognize it."
"They nerfed Will of the Forsaken"

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And hundreds of others.

It would seem that Blizzard's new vision of the game doesn't match what players want, and they aren't putting up with it anymore. Players shouldn't have to. Nobody should pay for a game they don't want to play.

But what kept these players around to begin with? To answer that, we have to look at the time period when we had the most subscribers (that does not necessarily mean it was the BEST time period, results may vary) that I like to call the "Warcraft Renaissance".

The Renaissance lasted from the end of the Black Temple through Ulduar. During this time we saw a lot of changes to the game; Badges to make gearing easier, difficult content (minus Wrath heroics and Naxxramas) to challenge players, and many classes (Shadow Priests/Ret Pallys) had their entire class mechanics changed. While not all of these changes were good for the game (again, player opinion) we cannot deny that this was the time when we had the most players. But there were still many things that kept players around; interesting OPTIONAL factions to grind rep with that gave great rewards, a seemingly endless supply of raiding content that was difficult to skip, crafting recipes that made professions worth looking at, a slight difficulty to accumulate gold, making it required to go out into the world to fatten your coin purses.

And what has changed since then? Well, server communities are now non-existent. With the implementation of LFR and LFD, there really is no absolute reason to be in a guild, or to keep your reputation high on your server. You're a ninja looter? Nobody will notice in today's game. I will bet that most people can't even remember the name of anyone they played with in a random group 5 minutes after leaving it without checking chat logs.

Loot is no longer special. Granted, since Wrath it hasn't been (thanks for nothing Badge system), but a lot of the elite players quit during Burning crusade because they felt that their achievements (aka loot that they earned) were washed away because anyone could get the same or equivalent gear with minimal effort. Blizzard's counter to that argument has been hard modes, but when it's essentially the same gear with a color swap and slightly increased stats, it's not the same.

With these examples in mind, is there any way Blizzard could fix the game and bring these people back? I don't think they can. The game has evolved so much since then that if they were to go back to the way it used to be, many people who didn't start playing until ICC/Cata would be absolutely lost. All is not lost though, here are a few minor tweaks they could implement that could help the game and possibly regain some of those losses.

1) Make LFD/LFR server-wide ONLY. No more cross realm BS. Yes, the implementation of an automatic queuing system was good for the game, it made it much easier to find a group. I certainly don't miss the days of spending hours in trade chat, trying to find a group that could use a ranged dps that didn't offer much CC. The problem with this new system is that when you get queued with someone, you know you would never see them again. So you could be a total douchebag to them and never have to deal with the repercussions. If you kept the queue server only, you could keep the convenience of having an automatic grouping system while holding players accountable within their server communities. Of course, they would probably have to fix servers to enable this (yes Blizzard, it's time to merge servers now) but doing so could bring back that community aspect of the game that people miss so much.

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2) Make gear different. Yes, we realize that Blizzard is going to keep the LFR/Normal/Heroic difficulties in the game. To further differentiate these different modes, they should all offer different gear. Not just re-skins of the same gear, but actual DIFFERENT gear. Three separate loot tables for each boss. Don't let people who run the easiest difficulty have access to the most powerful items in the game, even if they are watered down. A person who is drinking a glass that is half water/half Cristal is still drinking a $15,000 bottle of wine.

3) Give us HARD content. I'm not just talking about re-hashed instances with beefed up hit points and a timer, but actual difficult stuff. Blizzard is essentially phasing out Heroic 5 man dungeons and replacing them with Heroic Scenarios. I feel that this is a bad decision, and could be one of the contributing factors when it comes to people deciding to leave the game. If heroic Scenarios are hard, then fine, but don't make them hard due to the fact that we have to complete "extra" objectives. Make them hard because they are tuned to be hard. Magister's Terrace was HARD, and we didn't have to do anything extra for it to be. It was also one of the best 5 mans ever produced, and the innate is one of the reasons why.

4) Don't let us skip content. One of the reasons that the Renaissance was so successful is because raiders had to complete all of the previous content in order to progress to the latest instance. You want to run Black Temple? Ok, but first you're going to have to run Karazhan, Gruul's Lair, Magtheridon's Lair, Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Cavern and The Battle for Mount Hyjal. And people were okay with this for the most part; the only annoying part was having to run old content to gear someone up for end-tier raiding (a problem that has been fixed with the implementation of LFR). But there is no way that a freshly leveled 90 character should be able to run the second tier of raiding in the expansion in less than 2 weeks after dinging. Even in Wrath, it took a couple of full clears of Naxxramas to enter Ulduar; and you had to grind nearly a week of heroics to get into Naxx. There was no skipping it (no matter how bad it was) you had to run it if you wanted into Ulduar. Even casual-friendly Wrath got that one right (until ToC, when they messed it all up for good, putting us in this predicament to begin with).

5) The final point is make gold hard to earn again. For those that played in Vanilla/early Burning Crusade: remember how hard you had to work to buy your mounts? I remember grinding for DAYS just to buy my epic ground mount! I don't even want to talk about my first flying mount, and I wasn't even able to afford my epic flying until well after I dinged 80. In contrast, during Cataclysm my daughter (who was 6 at the time) got on my character and accidentally bought 310% flying. I didn't even notice the missing gold for over a week.

With gold being so ridiculously easy to earn, it gives players less incentive to go out into the world. Not only that, but there's a lot less avenues to make gold because the crafted gear from professions aren't worth farming for. I remember farming for Iron Ore, well into Burning Crusade mind you, because people actually bought it for more than trying to level up. Remember when it was more than item enhancements that made you deliberate which profession to pick? I dropped mining on my priest to pick up Tailoring not because of some buff that only they gave, but because the Frozen Shadoweave set was Best In Slot for me until Black Temple. Those days are gone, and you can't fix one without the other. Make gold hard to earn again, and bring back quality crafted gear.

These 5 things, I suspect, would bring a lot of players back, especially with another expansion looming in the background. There really is nothing to hook players anymore, because players want a challenge, they want a time sink, and they want to be rewarded for that time invested. That is the basic MMO concept, to be rewarded for time invested in game. But if someone that plays an hour a day can get, if not the exact same, but similar rewards than someone who plays for 12 hours a day, then what's the point?

Give us actual accomplishments for our triumphs in Azeroth, not a box full of text that nobody can see. Give us an item that we can show off and make people stare in awe, not a title that is barely noticed due to the over-abundance of titles available to every single person in the game.

Give people a reason to pay for your game again, Blizzard.
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