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Why 'World of Warcraft' Is Dying

Why 'World of Warcraft' Is Dying
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After losing 700,000 players in just three months, "World of Warcraft" is firmly on the decline. Since peaking at 12 million subscribers in 2011, Blizzard's venerable old warhorse has been unable to hold onto its considerable player base. With 7.7 million paid subscribers, however, it is still the reigning champion of the paid massively multiplayer online (MMO) game world.

"World of Warcraft" may not be going anywhere soon, but it is dying as much as any other aging MMO, and at a faster rate, to boot. The game's 9-year-old engine and gameplay mechanics have started to exhibit cracks, and its experienced players have seen just about everything there is to see.

While the game's decline merits a bit of analysis, its meteoric rise was no surprise. "Warcraft" was already an established real-time strategy franchise when "World of Warcraft" launched in 2004. The game provided a much more user-friendly experience than competing MMOs such as "Ultima Online" or "Everquest," with a strong story, streamlined gameplay and colorful, cartoonish graphics.

"World of Warcraft" could run on just about any computer, and with broadband connections more widespread and affordable than ever, the game flew off of store shelves for months after its initial release. As the story and gameplay deepened in the "Burning Crusade" and "Wrath of the Lich King" expansion packs in 2007 and 2008, respectively, the game's player base grew with the franchise.

The game reached its highest number of subscribers shortly after the release of the "Cataclysm" expansion pack in 2010. "World of Warcraft" began to hemorrhage subscribers after that. Even with the release of the "Mists of Pandaria" expansion in 2012, which wooed some of its wayward players back, the game has lost paying customers at a rate of approximately 2 million per year.

Ask any two gamers about what sparked the game's downward spiral, and you'll get three opinions. The aging game engine is one aspect. Although the game has seen minor graphical upgrades and a cavalcade of gameplay tweaks, it's still functionally the same game now as it was in 2004.

Player fatigue is the most mundane explanation, but potentially the most accurate one as well. "World of Warcraft" is vast, but nine years is enough time for experienced players have done everything there is to do. Many players keep their subscriptions active because of their in-game friendships or their determination to acquire high-level gear, but more and more of them seem to be putting the game aside in favor of newer offerings.

Even "World of Warcraft" itself may have worked against its own best interests. Although "World of Warcraft" is a stand-alone title, it is actually the fourth installment in the "Warcraft" series, which began in 1994. The story of each game has built upon the last, and 2002's "Warcraft III" left many questions unanswered. "Wrath of the Lich King" in 2008 brought the arc to a suitably epic conclusion, making the next two expansions feel more like dressing than anything equally substantial. [See also: 20 Great Games for Android]

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  • 7 Hide
    magnetite2 , July 30, 2013 11:50 AM
    I played WoW from 2005-2010. As a original vanilla WoW player, the Azeroth revamp was a bit much for me to take.

    Also, if you think about it, aside from more levels, better loot, the game mechanics are essentially the same.

    Grind XP to max level. Farm gold. Farm mats for professions. Grind dungeons and raids. Each expansion features these mechanics. Other than the theme of the game (BC=Demons and such, LK=Undead, Cata=Dragons?), the concept is the same.

    Also, each expansion renders everything you did moot. All gear you worked 3 months for in the previous expansion gets replaced by a shiny new green item in the first few levels of a new expansion. Some people might get tired of that.

    That's kind of why I gave up on MMOs altogether and stuck with single player RPGs. Least my stuff doesn't get rendered moot with every new game.
  • 8 Hide
    nadavp3 , July 30, 2013 1:02 PM
    Just like Magnetite2 said, the grind takes its price but it isn't about the grind, not for me it wasn't, it was about cost:value of time spent.

    You see, as long as you are in a good company, who cares about what's actually happening? The problem starts when your friends starts to vanish, it's like reverse facebook effect, no one that you know is there so why bother, I'll explain:

    when the game was young, before the cross-realm nonsense (which started as a pvp\battle ground thing and from what i understand now escalated to the actual world\pve) if you saw someone, and then took an action against them, that someone had a name, a name worth (maybe) remembering, for you would bound to meet again, and next time odds might not be in your favor, same works for helping out a "foe" with some mob\quest

    It was a community, you had foes, you had friends, there were inside jokes, it was awesome.

    but when you introduce cross realm - you simply render it all impersonal, once battlegrounds became cross realm the first thing that happen was that everyone were happy, no more horrible wait time for games, oh joy, yeah but... you never again saw foes that you cared for, everyone you meet in battle became just there class and gear (and don't, be it gear score or their actual gear from what you can tell of it in a glance) it became just an "do your automated rotation vs that X combo" and not "oh my god its anise, run for your life" (anise being a nickname of some feared warrior, for example)
    Same go for outdoor activity:
    at first it was good, you could be questing or going to a dungeon and oh boy you meet an enemy guild on the way, then there were flying mounts so you never actually bump to anything which is super bad, with same effect:
    At first everyone were like "wow this is so great i can get to places so fast" but then they realized "I'll never truly have to decide if to fight\flee\hope not to be seeing" (at least not in the same way they used to)
    And once you add portals to places (sense with each exp the world grew bigger.. some shortcuts where necessary as otherwise it would take over an hour to reach places) things simply went impersonal

    and then just to put a final nail in the coffin they added an automated cross realm activity group matchup system (LFR [looking for raid]) similar in nature to non team-based battle grounds (pvp) this one was for dungeon it would simply dump bunch of strangers in a a dugong, instant queue at times (miles and beyond better than having to setup a guild [build community] select people [make friends] defeat boss together after months of attempts [enjoy the true game])

    the entire nature of the game changed, sure you could walk by foot and create a guild of foot walkers but the fasters ways are easier and more convenient, getting gear no longer means what it used to and its now all about the numbers (like zero punctuation says..) and sense every major patch and every exp resets everything... the wind gets blown away of your sailed pretty quickly.. and then it hits you that you no longer have friends to fall back to

    you see, it wasn't a problem at first (for some) as they already had working guild\community, sure it became isolated community but they could stick to it and have their fun with their mates, but once that guild broke up due to sufficient number of people leaving after couple of years (be it 4, 7 or 9) they had nowhere else to go, there are still guilds, but it's really not the same.

    Out with the old and in with the new
    this makes room for the newcomers, iirc at some point blizzard said that in total there's 45milion players, with only 12milion ever being with active account status at the same time, so many left, many came, and what do the new people know? What they see, and what do they like? What they got in for, so what blizzard does? Make more of that, who don't care for this new stuff? The old people
    Are they still even relevant? Think, all the 18 year olds are now 27, they might even have kids now, new jobs, out of school.. The 30'ish that started in the games lunch can be 39 now, much can change

    so wow might no longer be the thing that fitted my generation and that worked for me so well, but this not necessarily means it's the end of wow, the system still works, several million monthly players proves so, it just build for different people now
    And I'm not even sure if the likes of me are relevant any more

    Stop trying to burry wow; it's not going anywhere, not for a long while
  • 1 Hide
    wildkitten , July 30, 2013 3:02 PM
    Several things have led to the decline of WoW, but I think it was obvious that Blizzard changed direction once Vivendi bought Activision and put Kotick in charge of the merged ActiBlizz. Oh, and for those few who remain who still scream Kotick was never in charge of Blizzard...
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2010/03/activision-quietly-restructures-senior-management-and-internal-organization.html
    "Thomas Tippl, formerly chief financial officer and chief corporate officer, has been named to the newly created role of chief operating officer. He is now the only executive reporting directly to Kotick and oversees Blizzard President Mike Morhaime and the head of Activision publishing, a role he is also filling on an interim basis."

    So yes, Kotick in fact did oversee Blizzard and did have very much of a say so. Blizzard did things post merger that pre merger they said they would never do.

    Also, Subscriptions did not hit their peak after Cataclysm's release. Subs hit their peak of 12 million after Wrath's release in China which occurred about 3 months prior to Cataclysm's release. Subscriber's started being bled immediately following Cataclysm's release. The only reason there was a bump for Mists was due to the Scroll of Resurrection where players could come back for a limited time for free. But after that free time, subs fell once more. So in reality, Mists did not add new paying subscribers. And if Blizzard figured subs they way they used to, it would be well below the 7.7 million.

    But the fact that in the last 3 expansions they have failed to bring in the content they promised the player base and the fact that they stopped presenting the Warcraft storyline in the game not to mention the constant retconning, they drove away the hardcore Warcraft fan.

    But one of the main problems is that Blizzard had to much of a gear grind. Want to advance? Well, get the next highest level of gear. This had the effect of rendering previous content obsolete. Why bother with Molten Core, an instance that used to need 40, when you can easily solo it? And if you miss some time playing, you got hurt with falling behind the gear curve.

    There was also the relunctance of Blizzard to change the game world. Yes, they did some changes for Cataclysm, but these changes were not very well done. Each zone had a schizophrenic mix of pre and post Cataclysm timeline quests which made no sense.

    All in all, while the game should after nearly 9 years see some decline, Blizzard itself drove many players from the game. The missteps of D3 and SC2 show that they are no longer the game development house they once were.
  • 2 Hide
    Thorfkin , July 31, 2013 1:00 PM
    I personally cancelled my subscription to WoW when the game's play mechanic got to be too repetitive. No matter how they change the quest goals and story, every quest always feels essentially the same. "Go here, kill enemies, collect loot / mats / quest items". I liked some of the new stuff cataclysm introduced but after that everything just felt like the exact same thing I had been doing since game's inception. They can release as much new content as they like but unless they seriously overhaul the play mechanic, it just won't be worth the money.
  • 2 Hide
    sjc1017 , July 31, 2013 1:59 PM
    I played WoW from March 2007 until about six months after Cataclysm released and then decided I was no longer prepared to play. I think the biggest change causing a downturn in WoW's fortunes is there are no viable alternatives. Personally, I never thought it was a great game but it filled a niche in my life that TV once served: if I have nothing to do and want to sit and engage (real relaxation is born of engagement not pure passivity) with something that doesn't require huge concentration yet takes my mind off of whatever has affected me, then I could play the game. Once there was a reason to pay for WoW because it was the best product with the most players, which meant is was slightly better than other mmos but now, there are other alternatives that are free (Star Wars The Old Republic; Rift and others). Given that these games are so similar: essentially because they immerse you in an atmosphere that is so analogous as to render any differences superfluous, why pay? I suspect this is going to be a big issue in the future in this market since there really isn't a big point in paying to subject yourself to the same culture which is very often abusive. Maybe someone will try and resolve this problem by making elite servers for people who care a little about modes of address or something, who knows, but this is a real problem. I went to Rift when it went Free and you saw the change the in culture there immediately as the WoW-crowd came in. Personally, I would like to see a more truly cooperative MMO where there is some kind of civility. I like cooperative play, it is why I've gone to MMOs really. But they tend to be solo experiences and you may as well play a single player RPG. They end up like business simulations with combat!
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , July 31, 2013 4:05 PM
    its funny because it still has millions of players, and i think it will hit a point where no players will leave and stay absolutely loyal. this will still give activision/blizzard pocket change, and they will keep the servers alive for maybe even another 15 years
  • 4 Hide
    magnetite2 , July 31, 2013 7:17 PM
    The other thing I was going to note was that, in the beginning I was having fun, but I think between 2009-2010 before I quit, I actually felt physically and mentally exhausted playing the game. That was another reason I threw in the towel. I'm sure others may feel the same.

    Kind of like what nadavp3 was saying, where I started WoW when I was 22 or so. Now I'm nearly 30 (this October). I don't really have the time to spend 6 hours a day playing video games or 4 nights a week raiding or farming mats to stay ahead. I haven't raided since TBC, but just saying. Priorities have changed. I don't have time to play games for 6 hours a day, in other words.

    I have a job, I volunteer, as well as do outside stuff. In other words, I have a life.

    Speaking of the in-game friends "community" thing. I used to be good friends with some people in this game, but once I quit, they didn't really want anything to do with me. Let's just say, when you play WoW, the people who are "supposedly" your friends, are only using you to pursue their own personal goals.

    For example, if you were a member of a raid guild, and tomorrow you decided you didn't want to raid anymore and you wanted to stop playing WoW, $5 says those people will never talk to you again. I know this, because I've seen it first hand. People who I was "supposedly" friends with for 5 years with WoW, after I quit, I have not heard a peep from them since.
  • 0 Hide
    ScamBreakers , July 31, 2013 8:53 PM
    I think the reason it's declining is due to lack of interest by new players. I'm a believer in giving them a "helping hand" so they have something to fall back on (in fact, we recently reviewed such a guide on ScamBreakers.com). If you aren't getting decimated everytime you go out, you'll have a better time.
  • 1 Hide
    Jonathan Marsh , July 31, 2013 10:46 PM
    The first point of WoW was to keep it like Warcraft 3. Since that game is now ancient, a lot of people are going to leave because it just isn't as graphically awesome as some of the new games.

    Next up is the F2P games out there. There are a ton of excellent F2P games, so why spend a lot of money on some aging game.

    Then they dumbed down the game mechanics so much, that there is very little point in even having to choose talent points any more.

    Another point is that with all the addons and the general game mechanics, the most amount of work you need to do is to move to one side when the boss is targetting your way. HEALBOT FTW!

    I left to play TERA Online (EU).

    TERA has great graphics.

    It is F2P, but I bought it on pre-order so I have a veteran account.

    It is action based, so even the healers have to run into the fight to do their job.

    TERA is still quite new, with only one main expanion out so far. But I think that in 8 years time it will also have the same issues as WoW has now.

    Games die.

    I wonder if there will be a WoW 2.0. I just hope they don't screw it up like Supreme Commander 2, Ground Control 2, and other games where they change the mechanic so much it just isn't the same game.

    Players want more features, not less. If you think the talent trees, or grinding, is too difficult, the go play another game. Games should not be dumbed down for new players.
  • 0 Hide
    Veske , July 31, 2013 11:38 PM
    Well, if any of you here still miss the community thing I'd advise for private servers. They might be buggy a bit but the quality ones still have that feel. A really nice community where all of that happens which nadavp3 sayd. You have even PvP guild that every player on the server fears like devil because they consist of so good players who just like to make slaughter events 24/7.
    But mostly I think even if the community thing is there, people are just tired out of WoW. And there really is no cure for that sadly.
  • 0 Hide
    beetlejuicegr , July 31, 2013 11:52 PM
    Ye well i am also a veteran wow player, since the first beta of vanilla wow.
    I have stopped playing wow at middle of wotlk for 6-8 months, at almost whole cataclysm, i think this is what kept me going, i didnt feel burn out.
    Raiding on it's highest level is tiring and does burn you out. However i would never say "the game is repetitive on quests etc"
    In MoP there have been huge efforts and in my opinion with great success to reduce the repetitiveness of these things. There are loads of stuff to do nowdays and there are shortcuts to grinding endlessly to get ready to raid in end game content.
    Some friends came by from inactivity the last weeks, i was happy to show them the tricks and the shortcuts, they were so happy that the path to raiding is not endless grind of same content.
    Let's face it though, all mmos are repetitive and all quests might look the same, because mmorpgs are like that. Still in MoP , dailies every day are different and taken out to us from a bigger pool of quests.
    Pet Battles are welcome stuff too, I get bored with them but many players love them
    I could go on and on for days but losing subscribers is not about ppl getting burn out only. I also blame the economy crisis, i think it did affect WoW because if a family is thin on cash for some months, it iwll definitely cut the wow subscription of their kids.
  • 2 Hide
    Dennis Best II , August 1, 2013 12:29 AM
    I stopped playing this game because it got to easy. The dev's were pandering to the kids crying. Person no longer had to think on how to play or what gear stats to focus on. Not to mention that the game itself seemed tilted towards the horde, and almost all the dev team played horde. I could deal with that though. Just got frustrating when everything kept getting dumbed down with each expansion. This went from PVE mechanics to raid mechanics. When the skill tree was basically rendered inop, it was determinately time to go. One could no longer specialize within their class to the degree in which they did before.
    I went back to Everquest, there at least folks I had known for years where still there and welcomed me back. The game is more difficult, the characters continue to evolve past the max level with alternate advancement, and you still have to focus and pay attention on gear for your character and the stats contained there in. Not to mention thousands of zones to explore and xp in.
  • 1 Hide
    monkeycmonkeydu , August 1, 2013 7:44 AM
    Panda Kung Fu drove away more customers than it saved - I quit playing precisely because the community went from 25-30 year olds to 12-17 year olds, and the boring child oriented expansion did nothing to improve the experience.
  • 2 Hide
    memadmax , August 1, 2013 8:50 PM
    After 10 lvl 80's, main geared to god mode, gold pouring out my ears, 99% achieves, etc etc... One day, I logged on, and said: "I don't feel like playing this anymore", and that was it. Bought another month, didn't log in, didn't feel like it... a couple of months later, started toying with private servers, that ignited the spark for a little while, it was like adding a "gameshark" to the game... But even then, that only lasted a couple of weeks or so... Played the free week of MoP, made it to the first couple of quests and..... bleh... didn't want to play no more...
  • 1 Hide
    bystander , August 3, 2013 9:33 AM
    I quit because the game went from a MMO with a strong social aspect, to being a massive single player online game. All the cross server, instant queue took out the social aspect. Not only do cross server queues make it so that you never see the same person twice, and have no reason to talk to anyone, it took out the social aspect of people giving you tells for future runs, because they enjoyed playing with you. Trying to gather people to do an instance can be daunting, but it was very rewarding when you got together.

    Cross server PvP also took out the grudge matches. It took out war of the PvP experience. Normally you'd some sort of emotional experience when facing different people you knew, but if you don't know anyone, it becomes a random game.

    I also was not pleased with how easy the instances became as well. WotLK was the worst thing to happen to WoW. It probably drew in a lot of new players, but it was a temporary boon, as the ease of use leads to boredom.
  • 0 Hide
    neilquan , August 4, 2013 5:16 PM
    For me it was Blizzard's inability to separate PVP and PVE. A tweak in one would completely unbalance the other. As I quit raiding after WotLK, PVP was my heavy focus and whenever they would make a tweak to something for PVE, it would render one of my main characters nearly useless or make it so OP every other class would cry foul.
  • 0 Hide
    bowzef , August 8, 2013 12:44 AM
    wildkitten: Several things have led to the decline of WoW, but I think it was obvious that Blizzard changed direction once Vivendi bought Activision and put Kotick in charge of the merged ActiBlizz. <---- this you see activation is blight on gaming community, look at Call of duty franchise and then look at all WoW expansion since the merge , lack of innovation..... hmmm.... anyone clicking them together ? it was once about the players and its consumers it's now about masses and the money.
  • 0 Hide
    spookyman , August 8, 2013 10:35 AM
    All games come to an end. Everquest had a huge following when it came out but it dwindled and is dieing a slow death. The same will happen to WoW. Eventually their will be just he very diehard players
  • 0 Hide
    lordjakian , August 9, 2013 10:20 AM
    Old warhorse? LoL, you mean old dinosaur!

    WoW has gone the place next to Everquest and Ultima Online.

    Those who have invested so much time will stay on servers for as long as their guildies last. As their guild dwindles and gets eaten by another guild, they'll still hang on, but not as strong. After so many iterations of this, their loyalty to the game will drift off like a dry leaf on a dead plant.
  • 0 Hide
    natoco , August 9, 2013 8:04 PM
    LFR (looking for retards) is a disgrace, which annoyed so many people I have spoken with in game. The fact you don't have to speak to anyone while running it ruined the whole raid experience for the worse unfortunately and If I did not have to do it for quest items, I would not do it. In 5.4 they add flexi raiding which sounds better since its a pre made group and thus has to talk to each other :) 
    If they do a whole new game I hope a can take my characters over cause there is no way in hell I will play another mmo, to much time involved, would much rather quit completely than start a new game.
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