The End Is Nigh

In The Beginning

It’s hard to believe it’s been over half a decade since WoW hit the shelves. Since its release back in November 2004, WoW has grown into a titanic force of an MMO. Even if you have never experienced WoW for yourself, there’s no doubt you’ve heard about it through other popular media. With it’s easy to pick up gameplay, fantastic stylized world and all the social interaction you can shake a stick at, it’s no wonder WoW has become the most successful MMO of all time. Pushing upwards of 11 million players, Blizzard has created a monster, destroying most of the competition in the process.

Giddy Up!

From its release, the player base of WoW has grown from year to year.  It has survived where other MMO’s have failed.

Games such as:

I’m not saying these games haven’t had success. Generally speaking, an MMO only has to have a few hundred thousand subscribers to be profitable. However when you weigh them up against WoW, it’s easy to see that Blizzard is operating in a league of their own. Games such as Dark Age of Camelot topped out subscription wise around 200k, WAR was around 375k and even Age Of Conan, which developer Funcom boasted had over 750,000 sales isn’t doing so well. The company lost $33.8 million in 2008 and it’s estimated the player base of AoC has dropped to well under 100k.

In chart form, this is how the market looks in terms of active subscriptions between these 5 games.

WoW / Aion /  DDO /  WAR /  AoC

Yes there are other MMO’s out there, and this chart isn’t based on exact figures, but it gives a rough idea of the competition. So the question really is. Why has WoW stayed on the top spot for so long?

There is no denying WoW introduced a lot of people to the MMO market. Sure there were games like EverQuest and Ultima Online, and these games are still going strong today, but they always had a stigma attached to them, MMO’s back then weren’t for the casual player, and they definitely weren’t as popular as they are today.

When WoW hit the scene, it brought a lot to the table. It was easy for players new to the genre to get into. It ran well on older systems, the gameplay was engaging and it didn’t ask you to be a mathematician or spend insane amounts of time farming to get the most out of your toon.  In other words, WoW was catered towards the more “casual” player.

This is the main reason I believe WoW has done as well as it has. Blizzard has done an excellent job providing content for “casual” players,” hardcore” players, and everyone that falls in between, and it doesn’t punish you for being in one category or the other. I can log in for 20 minutes a week, or 20 hours a week and still have things to do.

Isn’t This Exciting!

As it stands at the moment, there isn’t a lot of new content to keep players interested. It happens every time a new expansion is on the horizon. ICC has been out for over 6 months and is becoming a little stale. All that’s left content wise for Wotlk is the Ruby Sanctum, and we all know it’s just going to be another loot piñata. Depending on when Cataclysm is released, we could be twiddling our thumbs for a while yet.

I haven’t logged into WoW in over a month, and I doubt I will until patch 4.0 is released. I still really enjoy WoW, and I have no plans to leave the game, however I do find it’s holding my interest less and less these days. I know a lot of people that have quit the game over the last few months and I have no doubt Cataclysm will bring them back… but how long can Blizzard keep it up?

It Cannot Be Killed!

There has always been talk of a “WoW killer”, and if anyone can do it, I would place my bets with BiowareBaldur’s Gate is one of my favourite games of all time. Mass Effect is probably one of the best franchises to come out in a long time, Dragon Age was incredible, Never Winter Nights, the original Knights of the old RepublicJade Empire, MDK. These guys know what they’re doing.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has a lot of buzz around it at the moment. Setting their sights on being the “Next Gen” MMO, with “immersive storytelling, dynamic combat, and groundbreaking companion characters”. Could it be the “WoW Killer”?

I honestly don’t think it will be. There is enough room in the market for another BIG MMO. There is a good chance SW:TOR will take some players from WoW, but in the end, I think the only thing that poses a real threat to WoW is Blizzard. How Blizzard manages their game in the next few years will be the deciding factors.  I wouldn’t be surprised if WoW goes free2play in the next few years. Similar to what Codemasters has done with DD:O and Lotro.

What Say You?

In the end I think Blizzard has a couple of good years left in WoW. How other MMO’s will affect the player base… We’ll have to wait and see. Heck even Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, Blizzards own games will more than likely steal some of WoW’s players.  As for being “killed off” I think it’s still too early in the game to be thinking about that.

What are your feelings about the longevity of WoW? Are you here to stay or is the grass looking greener on the other side? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

  • Codesleuth

    You’re right.

    How can there be a WoW killer? World Of Warcraft is the subject of some very fine-tuning and a large-targeted player base. We’ve been through a lot together, and we’ve come out (on a whole) on top, and I can bet that Blizzard will definitely bring all it knows back to the MMO drawing board on the next one it plans, designs, develops and releases.

    Whether this be StarCraft, Diablo or some other incarnation of a Blizzard employee’s dying breath, there will be a successor and it will be good. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blizzard give away or discount accounts for WoW when they release their next MMO as they’d need to have some push to get the WoW players on it without being under too much pressure.

    By the way, All Points Bulletin looks great, and I think it’s a noteworthy rival for many other MMOs out there. Not the same audience as WoW, but it could well take players away.

  • HearthCast – Rewt

    WoW isn’t going anywhere for a long time – if ever. Now, I’ll consider saying that “WoW, as we know it, only has a couple of months left – or less”. Just look back at plain-jane Vanilla WoW, and all the changes that Blizzard has made to the game.

    Blizzard knows that they have a cash cow on hand, and will do nothing to interrupt the cash flow. They’ll continue to make changes for the betterment of the game and it’s population.

    Recently, I’ve heard a sub-niche of gamers talk about the shelf life of the game being limited, but I submit that those very same gamers are the early-adopters, the stand-in-liners, and the raid-all-nighters. Instead of admitting that they’re the ones with “burn out” issues, they’ll blame the game itself.

    “There’s nothing for me to do.” , “I’m capped in everything”, “It’s boring”, whatever… it’s not the game, it’s that particular persons viewpoint on the game.

    A sub-niche of the gaming community does not speak for the gaming community as a whole, nor should it.

    Will WoW see a drop off of some numbers when new games come out? Sure… but those games will be impacted more harshly when that same number of people leave them for WoW’s new expansion, feature, or whatever buzzword comes out.

    WoW in-and-of-itself has created a parasitic market around it – which is a good thing – and it will continue to support said market for as long as the books remain in the black…

    I’m not going anywhere, or trying any other games. That’s not the type of player I am. I’ll continue to gear up my toon, work on achievements, gather crazy amounts of gold, build reputation, and do whatever else I can with my toon – except dancing naked on a mailbox… I have my limits!

    Your article, while very good, comes from a hard-core-raiders stand point. ICC Stale? Not for me! I’ve not completed it… I’ve only done a rep run there… I just got into raiding… I’ve not downed the Lich King… there’s tons of content left for me to see… and I rather like it that way.

    FWIW, They just released another dungeon… so there’s some fresh content for you to check out…

    And you can always work on getting the Violet Proto Drake, if you haven’t gotten it already. ;-)

  • Eulixe

    You make an interesting point I hadn’t thought about Rewt, regarding my view coming from a “hardcore raiders” perspective.

    Although I wouldn’t consider myself “hardcore” in the true sense of the word (which to be honest, is just a matter of opinion) I am definitely more focused on the PvE side of WoW, which in turn has lead me to progress through end game raiding content at a fairly competent level.

    I guess from where I stand, our guild has been running ICC for around 7 months now, and any game/content, no matter how engaging it is, will grow stale with time. After re-reading my post, I probably stated my opinion in too much of a “matter-of-factly” fashion. I forget I’m not the only person out there sometimes =)

    I feel (and please feel free to disagree) that WoW is more focused on the PvE aspect, rather than the PvP. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of content out there for both, however, if you look at patches/updates etc – new PvE content is brought our far more regularly than say, Battlegrounds or Arenas.

    WoW has been about for quiet sometime and the longer it is around, the quicker I seem to lose interest in new content. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned “burn out” I have no doubt that If I limited my playing, I’d have a lot more enthusiasm for WoW when I actually played.

    I think Cataclysm will rekindle some of the magic of Vanilla WoW. Seeing all those old zones revamped is something I am really excited about.

    On a last note: I think all games have a shelf life. Like anything else in life. However, with regards to a game like WoW, it’s really up the player when that happens. Will WoW still have active players 10 years from now? More than likely! Will I be one of them?… I have my doubts :P

    It’s great to hear other people’s perspectives on this, especially when they are so well thought out and I truly appreciate the time you took to reply!



  • Ktok

    I think “a few good years” is ignoring the history of the *first* big MMO… EverQuest. EQ went live in 1999, never had anywhere near the subs WoW has but turned out about a dozen expansions, is still being expanded, and is not free to play. It even still has enough subs to be a viable money maker for SOE.

    Is WoW going anywhere? I don’t see it. There’s *tons* of room for WoW to shrink without having to go free to play, and in fact I don’t think it could go to a free format unless it did shink to at least less than 200K subs. Otherwise the overhead is impossible to maintain without a monthly fee.

    My prediction: the only thing that will kill WoW is Blizzard simply not wanting to support it anymore. WoW servers will be up for at least as long as EQ servers, and EQ’s 11 years old. WoW will be around and supported and updated for at least twice as long as it’s already been alive.

    As for the grass being greener… I’ve played a lot of MMOs. WoW’s still the best I’ve seen, and the most enjoyable over all. I miss the true vastness of EQ, some of WAR’s PvP would be a welcome addition to WoW (such as how city raids are handled), but *over all* WoW is far and away the best thing out there in my eyes. Unless they launch a WoW 2, it’s very likely I’ll be here till they turn off the lights.

  • Ozimandias

    This all comes down to one point:
    Wrath is too easy.

    BC didn’t have this problem, Sunwell was epic and hard as hell. It kept the top players and guilds busy and most of us mortals didn’t see it until Wrath came out. Blizz thought that was a problem and thought that heroics would keep those same players raiding Sunwell happy, but they missed the mark badly.
    The very fact that you Rewt, as a self-proclaimed “softcore” player is raiding ICC is proof that the formula that worked so well in BC is broken. Also, the top guilds have already toppled the new instance. What does that say about the current state of the game?

    It’s too easy.

    So please don’t blame the player for being bored with this game. There are people that want to be challenged, and the challenge just isn’t there anymore.

  • Eulixe

    My use of “a few good years” was kind of a scape goat for me, to leave me some leeway :P

    As I said in my above reply, I was probably being a little to keen, and I like you, I can easily see WoW being around for another 10-15 years.

    As for going free2play, I think the market could go one way or another. There will always be monthly subs for MMO’s, however recently there has been an influx of established MMO’s that were previously only available as a monthly sub going free2play.

    DD:O was struggling with active subscribers, until it offered a free2play option. It’s now sitting at over 1,000,000 active players, and subscribers have shot up by 40%. I think the “hybrid” model can work quite well. Offering players who invest a lot of time in the game to pay a monthly sub, yet allowing more “casual” players, to pay for content as they want it.

    As far as I’m aware, Lotro wasn’t struggling with subscription numbers (Turbine don’t release the actual figures) but after seeing the success of DD:O,Turbine must of deduced it was more profitable to convert to that business model.

    If you would of asked me a year ago if WoW would ever go free2play, I would of probably scoffed at the idea. However, with the release of the Blizzard Pet Store and Mounts, I’m not counting anything off the table. However that’s a different topic altogether.

    I’m in the same boat as you, WoW is definitely my favourite MMO out there, and I have tried a lot of them. That being said, I still have faith that another developer can shake the market up a little… I’m looking at you Bioware!

  • Eulixe

    I can see it from both views.

    I have cleared all the top end PvE content, (excluding Ruby Sanctum) my guild runs 10 mans, we downed LK a few months back. We haven’t downed him in Heroic mode yet, but there hasn’t been a big push to, I personally feel the ICC Hard-modes are too “samey” to their normal counterparts.

    Yes ICC is FAR easier than Sunwell was back in the day, but I agree with Blizzard in that not enough players got to experience it. They have to find a balance, where “casual” players can see more of the end game content, yet “Hardcore” players aren’t finding the newest tier of content stale by the time the next raid instance rolls around.

    I think they handled ICC… OK. I’m not a fan of the stacking buff mechanic that’s implemented at the moment. As Haf and Stomp said on the last show, it makes people lazy. On the other hand, it makes the content progressively more accessible for others.

    I’d like to see the buff mechanic done away with. Instead, focus on making Hard-modes more interesting. Not just, “X spell hits harder”, and “oh! look more crap on the ground!”

    Bring it back to Ulduar Hard-modes, and improve upon that mechanic. Which I think is the direction they’re heading in so *fingers crossed*

  • Eulixe

    APB looks interesting! The payment method they are using is totally new for the Western Market. You can either pay for hours. 20 hours costing you $6.99, or unlimited playtime for $9.99 a month. On top of that they are offering “RTW Points” which can be used to purchase In Game items. So you have your hourly/monthly sub to pay, and then you have the option for Micro-transaction.

    I’m interested to see how that pans out. Do you think something similar could work for WoW? Or would you rather stick with having just a monthly fee?

    Thanks for the reply!