Friday, October 8, 2010

12 million subscribers! - but for how long?


IRVINE, Calif. -- October 7, 2010 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that the subscriber base for World of Warcraft®, its award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), now exceeds 12 million players worldwide. This milestone was reached in the wake of the mainland Chinese launch of World of Warcraft's second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King®, and also as global anticipation continues to mount for the December 7 release of the game's third expansion,Cataclysm.
"The support and enthusiasm that gamers across the world continue to show for World of Warcraft reaffirms our belief that it offers one of the best entertainment values available today," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We are as committed as ever to taking the game to new heights, and we look forward to demonstrating that with Cataclysm in December."
Since debuting in North America, Australia, and New Zealand on November 23, 2004, World of Warcraft has become the most popular subscription-based MMORPG around the world. It was the bestselling PC game of 2005 and 2006 worldwide, and finished behind only World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade®, the first expansion pack for the game, in 2007. For 2008, the World of Warcraft series represented three of the top five bestselling PC games, with Wrath of the Lich King finishing the year at #1, and in 2009, World of Warcraft titles claimed three of the top six spots.*
World of Warcraft is currently available in eight languages and is played in North America, Europe, mainland China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
To keep pace with the continued growth of World of Warcraft as well as development on other Blizzard Entertainment games, the company is currently hiring for numerous open positions. More information on career opportunities available at Blizzard Entertainment can be found at
For further information on World of Warcraft, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm, please visit the official website at (source)
My prediction is that if they don't retune the Cata dungeons and heroics so that they won't take 3 hours and have 5 minute runbacks after a wipe, they will rapidly lose a lot of subscribers about 2 months into the expansion.

Blizzard has always been one of those game developers who really understood how to tie people to their game. In Wrath, the expansion that everybody is complaining about now, they only gained subscribers. And this is mainly to thank to understanding what their buyers want. People wanted to feel like heroes, so Blizzard gave them great gear, and a lot of people feel like they've beaten the Wrath content.

The world today is a fast world. We do half an hour of this, an hour of that, and we move on to do the next thing for a bit. Everybody wants quick and easy satisfaction. Well, with Wrath they gave it both to us. Dungeons take 15 minutes and I don't think it's ever been easier to get your gear in the history of the game.

But, and surprise surprise, it seems that the grand audience has discovered that getting things for free diminishes the value of them. Wrath is too easy, and if you don't at least have a kingslayer title by now you must be a crappy player.

Blizzard must have thought, "We must change this in Cataclysm. Otherwise people will be bored and we will have to pump out new content way too fast to keep them happy. You know what? Lets make it more challenging!"

Well, from what I've seen from the beta so far, they succeeded. Not only did they succeed in making it so challenging that every pug group I've been in over there loses 3 people at the start because they find it too difficult, they also succeeded in making everything take more time, a LOT more time.

When a heroic Deadmines run takes close to 3 hours with a full guild group the only thing I can think is: "Omg, I won't even have time to run a heroic on an evening during the week, 3 hours is close to a full raid."

Losing 3 people out of 5. That's 60% saying that they don't enjoy it, already at the start of the instance.

The other thing I'm noticing is that halfway through the instance people go, "Jikes I didn't expect this to take this long, I have to go now." and poof, they're gone.

What happens is that by the end you may have 1 person left who originally joined the group, and who did the entire run.

Now I know that what I'm seeing is a ridiculously small sample, but if I pull my general beta dungeon experience onto a larger scale, this means that a lot of people will quit shortly into the expansion, they give up on it because they cannot handle the difficulty, and another smaller part will give up a bit later into the expansion because they do not have the time that progression in this expansion requires.

Maybe Blizzard has some evil plan to tune it all down a little after the first month or two, but in my groups about 40% didn't even make it past the first pull or two. And losing about 40% of the subscribers in those first two months would make quite a dent in that 12 million.

"After 8 wipes and about an hour of playtime I was praying that another good MMO would come out sometime soon." This is what a guildie said after Foe Reaper in heroic Deadmines.

Another of his quotes when I asked him to tank an instance on beta, "I'd rather have my teeth pulled." 

I know people always jump to quick and easy conclusions, and that they have a tendency to be negative towards change. And I absolutely love this game, but I do sincerely hope that they'll retune the 3 hour dungeon runs. I like a challenge, but if I simply don't have the time to face that challenge, well...challenges can be found elsewhere.


  1. I don't think it's so bad. We had TBC and we didn't see a mass exodus. Maybe people will start playing again... and once we get better gear, heroics will become easier again. They did say it will be easier than TBC and I hope they're right, wiping while wearing T5 wasn't fun :/

    I don't know about other dungeons since I didn't level and I don't have a premade char, but Blackrock thing and Throne of the Tides were fairly short at level 80. Painful (especially since I was healing without my addons), but not unmanageable.

  2. Hmm..yes, but you have to see it in time. TBC was a massive improvement over Vanilla (even though people like taking trips to memory lane). And then Wrath made it even easier. To go back now to TBC will make a lot of people go ugh.

    And the dungeons are okish on normal (though they still take a bit), but heroics take forever.

    And while the content is gorgeous, there are things they don't do that they should do. Like portals to the bosses where it takes 5 minutes to run back, especially if you wipe several times, the runback is horrible.

    But, there's still time, and like I said, I hope they retune it a little still.

  3. How good was the gear of the groups you are trying heroics with? I predict that before long everyone will outgear the heroics and they will go back to being trivial.

    No-one will admit it now but I remember wiping repeatedly on the Snake boss in Gundrak and Loken in HoL back when WotLK came out and I was still in a mix of SWP gear and leveling gear. This was in guild groups full of people who had cleared SWP at 70 so hardly bad players either.

  4. 3hrs is overkill but an hour is good. 15 minutes is as almost as bad as 3 hrs.

    I hope they find the middle ground.

    Gobble gobble

  5. Cataclysm is being built so that you have to run normals to be able to do heroics, once fully geared in dungeon gear you can run heroics.

    The premades all have full dungeon gear, so heroic starter gear.

    Once you have all your heroic gear you can start running raids.

    Wrath has never been as hard as the Cata heroics are currently. And yes, I do remember when even some Wrath dungeons were somewhat a challenge, but really, never to the point of wiping 8 to 10 times on one boss.

    And oh..I forgot to mention. Heroic Deadmines in the guild group? We wiped only a couple of times. The instance just takes that long to clear, what with every pull taking relatively long due to needing a lot of CC and only being able to handle 1 or 2 mobs at a time. (pulls often still have 5 or 6 targets, which makes CC absolutely necesary)

    And yes, I agree, 15 minutes is bad too, but I feel that once a dungeon lasts longer than 2 hours...bad. 2 hours for me is the max, I simply don't HAVE more time to spend on a weekday.

  6. Is the time spent and difficulty the same thing in your opinion? There is a relation - each wipe increases the time you spend in an instance, but ultimately, I can imagine a short and difficult dungeon as well as 3-hour faceroll one.

    I'm sure the instance difficulty is an issue, although I don't expect it to be a huge issue with the new players. It's all about expectations, someone who started playing in Wrath and got to 80 at patch 3.2/3.3 expects the dungeons to be a faceroll - someone who starts in Cata and never knew WotLK might expect a wipe or two in an instance.
    I don't know what gear does drop in normal and heroic instances relative to what do the raids require. Maybe they intend us to go normals -> normal raids (-> HC raids if skilled enough) and heroics are intended for raiders (to get some badges if they miss a raid) as well as people who start late in the expansion. That would mean there would be people who don't experience Cata HCs (so they can't comment on how hard they are), people who overgear them (so they find them easier) and people who expect them to be hard (so they do not get surprised when learning that HCs are indeed hard).

    The actual time it takes to clear an instance is a different issue. It would create an issue for the players who don't have much time - they are able to raid for a couple of hours an evening or two per week but I doubt most of them would be able to spend 3+ hours playing WoW each day. I can't speak for others but if the dungeons took 3 hours per run, I would not log to WoW except for raids (and money grinding but that's boring and I only think of it as an additional price I have to pay for the game).

    Jen, IMO, TBC was different - the instances were not much more difficult (if they were more difficult at all) compared to Vanilla (the bosses often were but Vanilla trash was quite difficult by itself) and they took much less time. Now they're going to be more difficult (especially trash) and much longer. I don't think it's like the change from Vanilla to TBC at all.

  7. No, time spent, and difficulty are not the same thing. Definitely related though. Because every pull requires CC and mobs have more health, require more dps, and you can only kill 1 or 2 at a time. Each pull takes more time.

    Lets say that a 5 pull currently takes 1,5 minute. And killing one mob takes 30 seconds. Than a 5 pull in Cata takes 2.5 minutes. Give or take about 15 seconds downtime in between pulls that is if you don't have to rez or run back.

    As to what the gear progression is intended to be, I think they announced it somewhere already. Normal dungeon > heroic dungeon > normal raid > heroic raid. Now wether they stick to this I don't know of course, but that was the plan.

    And you may be right, new players may not know anything different, but the current 12 million subscribers do.

    From Vanilla to TBC things became easier, and gearprogression became available to more people.

    From Wrath to Cata things become harder and gearprogression will be available to less people.

    Which transition will be easier on your subscriber base?

  8. And my beta client just froze, darn it!

  9. I'm pretty sure they'll lose some subscribers with Cataclysm, but on the other hand they might get others back that thought WOTLK was boring? There's constant turnover in the playerbase after all.

    And I think a lot of the changes simply come down to adjusting expectations. Someone might leave a group saying "I didn't expect this to take so long" now, but once everyone moves away from WOTLK's 15-minute dungeon idea, that shouldn't be a problem anymore. Also, instances always take a lot longer to clear when they are new. I remember spending four hours or something in heroic SL in early BC, yet at the end of the expansion we breezed through it in less than one. Same in WOTLK pretty much, where our first heroic runs took about an hour, now we get through in fifteen minutes.