Activision Seeks Halt to World of Warcraft Subscriber Slide

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Activision Seeks Halt to World of Warcraft Subscriber Slide

World of Warcraft goblins

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick says the company will step up the pace of World of Warcraft content releases to try to staunch the flow of departing subscribers.

You have no doubt heard by now that World of Warcraft shed a whopping 1.3 million users between January and March of this year and while the 8.3 million subscribers remaining represents the sort of user base that most MMO makers would kill for, it's a huge loss for the King of Kings. And although Activision CEO Bobby Kotick claimed he's not worried about the slide, he's nonetheless determined to do something about it.

"It's important to note that the nature of online games has changed, and with the environment becoming far more competitive, especially with free-to-play games," Kotick said in a first-quarter earnings call to investors. "To address this, we're working to release new content more frequently to keep our players engaged longer and make it easier for lapsed players to come back into the game. We believe in the long-term value of this franchise and will continue to commit substantial resources to World of Warcraft."

Blizzard President and CEO Mike Morhaime echoed Kotick's remarks about the increasingly competitive MMO market and the ongoing need to "invest in additional updates and improvements to continue to evolve the game," but he also talked about the need to grease the wheels for lapsed subscribers who might be thinking about a comeback.

"More specifically, we're examining ways we can ease the transition back into the game for returning players," he said. "We've always seen players come and go from World of Warcraft. Smoothing out that transitional period is something we're studying, as we adjust our approach to player behavior and preferences."

Despite World of Warcraft's slide, don't feel the need to shed too many tears for Blizzard just yet. Thanks primarily to the launch of StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, Blizzard brought in $330 million in revenue over the first three months of 2013, a 31 percent increase over the first quarter of 2012, while it's operating income leaped by 52 percent to $135 million.

Source: Seeking Alpha

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OK, this is not a new thing. Blizzard have said many times before that they want faster updates.

They're not so good at delivering on that though.

However now that Kotick is getting vocal about it too, things could get messy. This could go badly for WoW

Andy Chalk:
we're working to release new content more frequently to keep our players engaged longer and make it easier for lapsed players to come back into the game.

They said exactly the same thing before MoP launched - when they'd left the playerbase on the last Cata patch for almost 12 full months with nothing except Panda Beta to fill the gap - so I'll believe it as much now as I did then.

Kotick is deluding himself (or more exactly, deluding his investors.) WoW will never ever return to its former glory days and now that the Panda honeymoon is over the numbers will continue decline - maybe with a few spikes when new content is released. At absolute best all they can do is slow the decline, they cannot stop it or reverse it.

And quite honestly, fuck Acti-Blizz. They've treated the WoW playerbase with utter contempt for years and narrowed the focus of the game to endgame and nothing but, so it's no wonder people aren't sticking around like they used to.

I think WoW's popularity is over. Once you killed the freakin' dragon of death, everything else kind of seems lame compared to it, especially when right afterwards they released Mists of Pandaria, which would have been better before Wrath of the Lich King.

I can't see it gaining steam anymore.

Because if there's anything that business history has told us, it's that pumping out content faster and faster is the best thing you can do for long-term value. Because quantity beats quality every time, baby, every time!

I think the domino effect is already too strong for them to stop it now. I'm one of the millions that quit in the last few months, and it wasn't because the game sucked or I was bored of its content, but because there was nobody LEFT. Everyone I ever knew and cared about in the game had quit, and more were quitting at a rapid pace, and I was getting tired of having to find a new guild every few months. I want to keep playing the game, badly, but there's just nothing there for me anymore. I'm not even playing another MMO (until TESO comes out).

Alfador_VII:
OK, this is not a new thing. Blizzard have said many times before that they want faster updates.

They're not so good at delivering on that though.

However now that Kotick is getting vocal about it too, things could get messy. This could go badly for WoW

Why does this put an image of my head of Kotick cracking a whip in the air and screaming "MUSH!" at his employees?

I would rather see sustainable content that last longer, but it's clearly not what Bliz-Acti wants.

The theoretical numbers still seems decent for WoW, but looking at actual in-game activity I've never seen WoW so dead before.

I'm a bit confused, they want to release new content faster, so I guess that means more expansions faster. That is great I guess but then players have to buy those expansions in order to come back and really enjoy the game. So how does that make easier for old players to come back?

Unless they are willing to abandon the paid expansion model and adopt a free expansion model like Eve Online or the other MMOs that give free content updates I don't really see this happening.

...I feel like some of this is because of the finely-honed machine that is End Game, the be-all-end-all for WoW. If you put all your eggs in the "it only gets good at the end" basket, it will only be fun for people once they hit 90. They've even re-tuned their leveling content so that leveling is pretty much a formality at this point (2-3 shotting every monster, despite being in gear that's super low level, is actually not fun after about 5 minutes).

So, my theory:
1) Put all your eggs in end game content, make leveling either instant (if you have a 90, here's another 90, or something) or so trivial that it might as well be instant (1-85 in a week, or something), then churn out new content every week. You'll either be making terrible content, or need a team of physicists to invent time travel. I'd personally prefer the latter, since I'd like to go see feudal Japan some day.
2) Focus on leveling content (Burning Crusade is now so outdated it's laughable) and make leveling actually interesting. You don't need to rework every zone that wasn't touched in Cataclysm (BC. Just BC.), just the ones that are super dated. Also, add more types of things to do, that can be done at more levels than just 90. Maybe add a raid finder for all of those raids that happened between 60 and 80. Maybe add some kind of dynamic dungeon system that's randomly generated, so you're not just memorizing rooms->bosses (or watching videos of people beating them so you can memorize them). Hell, I'm pretty sure adding "battle pet gyms" and more trainers to fight would do it for me. None of this needs an entirely new continent with a fully realized story and lore rework. It's just more stuff to do that isn't necessarily grinding dailies. Seriously, if all there is to do is PVP, grind the same dungeons, or grind the same dailies, I can see why people get bored, especially since there's tons of content just sitting there, waiting to be used for something other than getting players to max level faster (or being a giant farm for transmogrified gear).

Bostur:
I would rather see sustainable content that last longer, but it's clearly not what Bliz-Acti wants.

The theoretical numbers still seems decent for WoW, but looking at actual in-game activity I've never seen WoW so dead before.

part of the reason WoW is so dead these days is the way the queue system works. You just sand in Orgrimmar or Stormwind and run dungeons. The only people out in the world are either collecting resources, running a quest or leveling up. There isn't a lot of reasons to venture outside the cities if you're running raids, or dungeons or anything like that.

Part of having an MMO that doesn't feel dead is having one that has players out in the world and by in large most people just stand in the city.

Mr.Mattress:
I think WoW's popularity is over. Once you killed the freakin' dragon of death, everything else kind of seems lame compared to it, especially when right afterwards they released Mists of Pandaria, which would have been better before Wrath of the Lich King.

Oh I dunno. If they figure out a way to have you kill God (Or the equivalent) I think they'd go a bit higher. Or the Grand Creator or something.

Then again, didn't Pokemon already let you capture their equivalent of God and the Devil?

Faster new content may slow its decline, but not stop it. WoW was great in its time, and for a great many years after its time. It may still be great, but it's greatness is fading. Kotick is saying the standard PR stuff to keep investors interested but acti-blizzard isn't stupid. They know WoW's clock is ticking and that it can't last forever. They have that ace in the hole, the answer to WoWs decline.

Titan is going to replace WoW. Nobody is more equipped to kill and replace WoW than blizzard. One can argue that nothing will live up to WoW's former glory, but if an MMO is ever gonna come close, it'll be Titan.

You really can't stop the slide, Activision. It's finally past its prime after all these years, and nowadays people are looking for another MMO that isn't WoW, or doesn't feel like just another cash-grab F2P MMO, or have just moved on with life. The only way to "keep" your subscribers is to make another completely new MMO...

Throwing content at our faces isn't going to persuade anyone in returning or going to a broken shell of a great game.

WoW still has a huge profit margin. If they really want more players, lower the monthly subscription cost by 2/3rds. I'd consider picking it back up for that.

They really need to make ALL of the expansions free. I guarantee their player pop would spike dramatically... at least for a little while.

The thing is that MoP is a really good expansion in my opinion. But I just got bored of the commitment and all of that...most of the players may be experimenting something similar. I do think that the q system is pretty good, the players that feel that content shouldn't be for everypne are a minority, they are not 1.3 million...just a few thousands and a game and a business can live without them (they can still complete heroic mode if they want a real challenge).

I think that is just part of the living thing that is WoW...the numbers will decrease because people will find some other things to do, they get tired and every game that stays alive for so long will get a bit repetitive...there just so many ways you can kill a dragon.

Just go F2P already! Problems solved!

It doesn't matter if you keep bringing out more content faster when all you're providing is homogenized content. Ever since Wrath's release there has been a greater focus on leveling via questing, do dailies once capped, do dungeons to get gear for heroic to get gear for raid etc with pvp being put into its own segregated playground with minimal overlap. Given how power-creep has fed into these tasks, their monotony became more pronounced with each expansion. The most unique thing that has been included in wow since mop's launch was the treasure trove instance.

Fappy:
They really need to make ALL of the expansions free. I guarantee their player pop would spike dramatically... at least for a little while.

If they really want to stop the slide they're gunna need to make it more accessible to new players. A good way to do that would be to switch to Guild Wars' method of XP distribution: Give it out to everyone involved in combat.

Yeah, Kotick trying to meddle in WoW is way more worrying than another probably temporary fluctuation in player numbers from "shitloads" to "slightly less shitloads".

DVS BSTrD:

Fappy:
They really need to make ALL of the expansions free. I guarantee their player pop would spike dramatically... at least for a little while.

If they really want to stop the slide they're gunna need to make it more accessible to new players. A good way to do that would be to switch to Guild Wars' method of XP distribution: Give it out to everyone involved in combat.

The problem with your method is that they'd literally have to change the fundamental design of the entire game for that to work right. It's been built with a huge emphasis on end-game all this time and I can't see that changing.

wow is old, really.

Fappy:

DVS BSTrD:

Fappy:
They really need to make ALL of the expansions free. I guarantee their player pop would spike dramatically... at least for a little while.

If they really want to stop the slide they're gunna need to make it more accessible to new players. A good way to do that would be to switch to Guild Wars' method of XP distribution: Give it out to everyone involved in combat.

The problem with your method is that they'd literally have to change the fundamental design of the entire game for that to work right. It's been built with a huge emphasis on end-game all this time and I can't see that changing.

I realize this is probably a very ignorant question, but how would this effect the emphasis on end-game? I mean do realize this would require a major overhall of mechanics but I don't get the second part.

Fappy:

DVS BSTrD:

Fappy:
They really need to make ALL of the expansions free. I guarantee their player pop would spike dramatically... at least for a little while.

If they really want to stop the slide they're gunna need to make it more accessible to new players. A good way to do that would be to switch to Guild Wars' method of XP distribution: Give it out to everyone involved in combat.

The problem with your method is that they'd literally have to change the fundamental design of the entire game for that to work right. It's been built with a huge emphasis on end-game all this time and I can't see that changing.

You know, it's actually funny, seeing that last phrase, considering that one of the main problems of WoW in it's early times was that there was nigh nothing to do for lvl 60 chars.

The problem is that they keep pumping out fast routes for players to get to the very latest endgame content. This sounds nice in theory, but it just means that you bypass most of the stuff in the game, get your tier gear for whatever the highest lvl thing currently is, and then get bored.

I think the reason Burning Crusade gets touted s the best xpac by so many people is because the content was arranged so that there were still plenty of guilds working on the first tier or second tiers of content for it even once the third and fourth tiers were out and the xpac was coming to a close. I was a gradual process. Learning each individual aid fight could be a lengthy process, but beating each boss for the first time felt rewarding enough for it to be worthwhile, and there was a tangible sense of progress.

Compare it to nowadays. Raid finder bosses are so easy that you can probably manage it on the very first ever attempt provided you've read a basic guide first, and doing them in normal mode isn't a lot harder. Heroic raids are the only thing providing people with challenge, but they just feel dull because you've already effectively done the same freaking bosses already, on two other different modes.

I quit way back and I'm not really surprised people are doing the same, seeing as Actiblizz' progression model is still the same.

Headbiter:

Fappy:

DVS BSTrD:
If they really want to stop the slide they're gunna need to make it more accessible to new players. A good way to do that would be to switch to Guild Wars' method of XP distribution: Give it out to everyone involved in combat.

The problem with your method is that they'd literally have to change the fundamental design of the entire game for that to work right. It's been built with a huge emphasis on end-game all this time and I can't see that changing.

You know, it's actually funny, seeing that last phrase, considering that one of the main problems of WoW in it's early times was that there was nigh nothing to do for lvl 60 chars.

The real problem is the whole end game concept. That's why EVE online is still increasing sub wise, because despite being very niche there is no end game content to speak of and there is always something to do. On top of that the lack of end game content also means what you "accomplish" doesn't get nullified when a new xpac comes out (which did bother me after two expacs in WoW).

What Themepark MMO's need to learn to do is add sufficient amount of sandbox elements for the game to always remain interesting in the end game and not make people just farm raids over and over. And than when xpacs come out instead of adding new lvl's and a new raids which replaces the old ones they should just add raids and dungeons to the existing content. Instead of having the latter replace the former they should be additive.
Take WoW, if you start now there is no reason whatsoever to do the old raids. The rewards are simply not worth the time. Instead of having that make new raids simply be a new tier which will require gear earned from the older raids. This would drastically increase the amount of content players will end up experiencing.

The issue is pretty simple, as people have gotten more and more powerful, they've consumed content faster and faster. It used too take, months and months of raiding too earn significant gear back in ye olden days of vanilla WoW. But now, pfft, people can bang that shit out in a few weeks, because Blizzard has actively tuned it's content toward casual players, making everything easier and easier, and giving in more and more too power creep. The reality is that until WoW becomes significantly more challenging, new content will be gobbled up and spat out before Blizzard can even get STARTED on the next content patch, and leave people asking "Why am I still paying for this sub?"

Same crap, different year. They've always released content far too slowly, and there is very little innovation. So far in the current expansion their bright idea has been daily hub after daily hub. Same stuff, different place.

If I had that kind of revenue and user base that big, I'd put far more effort and creativity in to it. They have long taken it all for granted.

They've actually already done a pretty good job of steppin up the content delivery. The new system of lore patch/raid patch really allows them to get updates out quicker that actually feel meaningful. Next patch is a lore update with a new bg, new arena, and that battlefield barrens thing which is so far was quite fun the few times I did it on the PTR.

DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDDDD REEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

So dead realms or empty realms or dead servers or whatever you want to to call.

You would need to be blind not see the constant complaints due to moost of warcrafts servers being empty on one side or both.
Without LFR or other queue systems the situation would be even worse

Sjack
90 Human Hunter
Stardwarfs
1600

Edited by Sjack on 09/05/13 10:59 (BST)

Realm Haomarush
The road from glory to pure death

From glory to pure DEATH is what we have faced on Haomarush.
This was a high populated realm with TOP PVP TEAMS and really good PvE Guilds.
We had fun, we made new friends, the social part was as it should be in a game like this!
We happily payed for a new month of gametime since we had so much fun with the ppl we played with. When Blizzard started to forget about our realm ppl started to migrate, Why didnt you do anything about ths problem when you saw the amount of ppl leaving?

How are things now?
Death, quiet, no one speaking in general, all you see is the NPC walking around speaking.

Auction House
No items at all to buy in AH and if you find any they are WAY to expencive!

Gearing and Raids
I can't enchant my gear or put gems in it since there are NO PPL ONLINE FOR IT!
I can't skill my professions up since i cant get all the matts for it!
We dont have enough ppl for a RAID!!!

I can continue to explain the problem but i feel that i dont have to since you already know about this problem since it has been an ongoing problem for months/years.
So dont give me a simple answer... We on haomarush, WE THE COSTUMERS want a good answer why things arent made for solving this problem quicker.
We/I wont pay for a multi character transfer that will cost me a fortune.

Sjack / Haomarush

The new expansion is actually really well put together despite everyone complaining about Pandas. I haven't had this much fun since BC. The raiding has been really well done also, with 3 separate raids in the first tier alone.

Bostur:
I would rather see sustainable content that last longer, but it's clearly not what Bliz-Acti wants.

Are you kidding? The last patch of Cataclysm had players fighting the same 8 bosses in DS for 10 months. It was the longest arena season in WoWs history. If anything there needs to be much more content.

Hey Bobby, maybe you could consult with Ubisoft about how to ruin franchises by shoveling shit out faster.

Since Blizz isn't delivering for you, maybe you could farm the next expansion out to six random worldwide studios and then just spackle the incoherent mess together with spit.

... and now that I say that it sure does sound appealing at an executive level. The stockholders will love it.

Edit: I don't think they can halt the slide, and you might consider the franchise already 'ruin'ed for one reason or another, but they can certainly make people flee faster.

Mr.Mattress:
I think WoW's popularity is over. Once you killed the freakin' dragon of death, everything else kind of seems lame compared to it, especially when right afterwards they released Mists of Pandaria, which would have been better before Wrath of the Lich King.

I can't see it gaining steam anymore.

They do have two big villains left which is Azshara and Sargeras. Problem is that Azshara is a woman and the current blizzard writing team has proven that they're incapable of writing women without turning them into galactic sized morons if they have any sort of prominence. Sargeras on the other hand is pretty much the warcraft version of Satan/The Devil and while he has some interesting reasonings behinds the things he does, I don't see them going further than making him "muahahaha I am teh evhulz".

That and them constantly pissing off and insulting the alliance playerbase isn't helping nor is the writing on the forsaken.

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