Is WoW Entering Its Twilight?   73 comments

I’m not really one to go into doom and gloom type posts.  And really, this isn’t meant to be one.  Rather this is sort of a collection of thoughts based on observations that I’ve seen over the past month or so in game that have been floating around my head and I’m trying to piece them together.

Perhaps I should back up some and start this thought at the beginning.

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time outside of raids online lately, as archeology hates me and refuses to give me my Evil Dead hand pet (FU Archeology!).  Now this isn’t all that unusual, as I frequently spend time online outside of raids. I mean, at the end of WotLK I had something like 7 or 8 level 80s, had finished Loremaster on Beru and done any number of other crazy achievements.  But what all this time I’ve been spending online has brought to the forefront is that a lot of other people aren’t spending a lot of time online.

I’m not just referring to members of our progression raid team, either.  We have an extremely healthy Friends and Family rank that is generally quite active.  However, the last few weeks have been quite quiet when raids aren’t happening.  On a Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t unusual to see 20+ people online.  Now, you are somewhat lucky if there are 10 people around.

It seems that many people have given up on some of the alts that they historically have loved playing, myself included.  I’ve leveled my paladin and my warrior to 85, but I find myself lacking the motivation to start the grind on another.  Hell, I didn’t even spec my shaman until a few weeks ago when I was asked to help a guildmate with a shaman power aura and needed to be spec’d to be able to offer assistance. 

I feel that I’m not the only one feeling this way, either.  

Let’s take Brade, who is pretty much a machine when it comes to leveling, and it was something that he genuinely seemed to enjoy.  He seems to have petered out at 4 max level alts.  Instead, during his offtime, he’s been playing other games outside of WoW.  It almost seems that he has little inclination or incentive to log in and level another character.  He doesn’t chase achievements.  He isn’t an instance fiend, like me.  He isn’t as socially tied to the game as I am.  And the alt grind seems to be less enjoyable this time around.  From where I sit, outside of raiding, WoW seems to have little left to offer him.  Maybe I’m wrong – I don’t know, and I’ve not really asked him.  I’ve just observed his actions.  When given the choice between WoW and something else, nine times out of ten he’s opting for something else.

And I can’t help but wonder how many people are similar to Brade in this regard. 

How many people are through their second or third alt, and have just sort of run out of steam to push through more?  How many people seem to find other things to do when they sit down at the computer to log in at night?  Hell, how many of the achievement hounds have finally thrown up their hands and said “you know, I’m done with this”?  I certainly know that I feel a bit that way with regards to having to go back and virtually re-complete Loremaster – a task that I’m not sure I will ever do.

All of this makes me wonder – what is the game still offering people? 

Over the past month I’ve observed any number of people take their leave from all areas of the game.  I’ve seen raiders quit and I’ve seen the more casual player quit.  And even those who haven’t quit seem to have largely cut back their playtime.  Which, as an observation, seems to say that WoW is failing to keep their attention.  It’s failing to draw them in and keep hold.  When one sits down at the computer they aren’t saying “Hey, I think I’m going to play some WoW” and instead they are saying “I think I’m going to check out Dark Spore”.

To me, it seems that it’s very early in the expansion to see this level of apathy from the player base.  I mean, we are only five months in.  Which makes me wonder how healthy WoW really is.  Sure there are these massive statistics that we see showing subscriber numbers, but what do those numbers really mean?  I don’t really think that they are the most accurate measure to judge if the playerbase is still engaged in the game.  I mean, sure, they tell you that a certain number of people still chose to spend their fifteen dollars a month on WoW – but it doesn’t tell us if those people are truly enjoying themselves.

I’d be more curious to see the numbers on how many people have completed certain achievements each quarter, or how about how many people reached level 85 that quarter.  Why not tell us how many times the looking for dungeon tool successfully completed an instance, or how many times the latest raid boss was killed that week.  I’m far more curious about how people are still engaged with WoW than if they are still subscribing – and I do think that they are two very different things.

As an observer, and someone who is obviously still engaged in WoW, it seems to me like things are slowing down.  Not that WoW is finished, or even anywhere near it, but perhaps entering into its twilight years.  Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know.  But I do know that a lot of dedicated players seem to have lost some of their interest in the game, and even though they are still playing, their dedication to the game has seemingly dwindled.  And I wonder what that tells us about the current state of the game.

I’m curious if I’m alone in this observation, or if others have seen it as well.  Do you think that WoW is entering its twilight?

Posted May 9, 2011 by Beruthiel in Deep Thoughts

73 responses to “Is WoW Entering Its Twilight?

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  1. “Back in the day” when my raid group would wipe in Molten Core, we’d talk about people from the many other raids we’d see running back from the graveyard. There were several raid groups vying to be “the best on the server” racing each other through BWL while we struggled through the middle of MC, and we’d watch them run back, noting who was having trouble and who wasn’t.

    Last expansion, I had friends in a raid that was running through some of the content on a different night than we were. I’d occasionally wonder who they had picked up to fill out slots of folks that had either dropped or just were missing this evening. It was always tough… if you did a /who command you’d get a list of 49 people in Ulduar or ICC or wherever. You’d narrow it down by the guild, or by the class, maybe have to do some guessing given that they weren’t all guilded.

    Last friday night, during Prime Time, I started playing with /who. Our server had 10 people in BoT, and 20 in BWD. Nobody was in Throne. Our server didn’t have enough people raiding to fill out a single, solitary old time 40-man.

    I logged out, again on a Friday night, and noticed that there were 10 “full” servers, a few “high” pop ones and a bunch of “medium” and “low” ones. Back in classic, I remember being so happy when they made the change that said that if you were DC’d, you’d be able to log right back in if you came back within five minutes. This let me avoid the 500 – 1200 person queue that was present every single night of the week.

    I’ve perceived a population drop for a while. My friends list, which once seemed to be just way too small at 50, is mostly empty. I don’t think it’s just me.

    • I’ve noticed that as well, where you could /who a zone and it would show everyone in the zone and not cap out at 49 players, leaving you to woder who else was in there.

      I’ve also noticed that my friends list is full of grey names representing those who no long log in :(

  2. Mini-blog:

    TL:DR, wow still gives me strong “hours of entertainment/dollar” returns, but is not even close to the every day activity it used to be for me.

    I have really no interest in an alt, at all. My warlock is geared only on heroics, rep, crafted gear, and an epic or two I snagged stepping into a 10 man once (Zul’Again is good for that).

    Last expansion I had an alt that got the Glory achievement in every tier, with a BIS gear set (from the same tier).

    That was mainly because I was more willing in past expansions to get into a group and try my hand at a different class in a different raid setting. These days I don’t have that energy. I just don’t care. I don’t care because after last expansion I know that I can do it, and also because I’m not a flake.

    If I’m going to run a 10 man or be part of a regular 10 man group, that means I have to block that time off in my week. Others (as I’ve recently written about) have no problem saying, “feh, I’m going to the bar, screw the other 9 people in my group” but I can’t do that. So my choice instead is to commit to nothing outside of my Tues-Thurs raid week.

    I’ll log in and chat with folks and maybe run an instance, but these days I would just as soon watch a couple movies in my queue or something.

    • I agree that it’s still great entertainment/dollar – but it is definitely slowing down in many ways for many people, I think.

      I do participate in a 10 man run with my paladin, but it’s 3-4 hours a week each Saturday afternoon. I do rather enjoy it, but I will also state that I don’t really play my paladin much outside of that one raid each week.

  3. I have to admit that I’ve not logged on in quite a while. To be certain, I didn’t intend to quite playing. I just sort of fell out of playing.

    Z

  4. Hi Beruthiel, pardon the chaos of my response, but these are a few theories I came up with off the top of my head.

    My thoughts are the base causes of online depopulation are that the game is geared more toward casual/non-endgame PvE oriented players, and that status and reputation or less demanded than in the past. These matters are so closely related it’s hard to separate them.

    -Gearing is easier – higher levels of gear are associated more with time spent grinding in the most recent expansion. Even if you aren’t very skilled, you can get carried through heroics and earn your Valor points if you put in the time. Between Valor, faction rep and dungeon drops, it’s almost guaranteed that you can get all but the very best normal-level raid gear and heroic raid gear. Compare this to the past, when getting higher levels of gear required being skillful and in good standing with a guild or lots of friends who would group with you through difficult content.

    -Being in a guild depends less on your skill, spec, role, good manners, etc. You don’t have to have any sort of interaction to get into and remain in a guild, as many guilds take people just to increase their numbers for the guild level perks. In the past, you needed more to have a presence, be it via raiding well or offering your good cheer or whatever way you contribute best.

    -Reputation is less important for instancing. Nobody likes you because you’re a ninja and you always stand in the fire? Find a group through the Dungeon Finder Tool and you will never have to change your ways to get a group.

    -Reputation and status are HUGE motivators. Some people pursue achievements, gear and collectables because of the process itself, but many others do so because of the social status it grants them. Certain hard-won titles, mounts and gear are displayed in public (think people sitting around on their drakes in Dal) while the content is still timely. For some, the benefit of showing off their loot is greater than the use they get from it in a raid or arena. What happens when such titles and gear are now easier for the casuals to get, or none of the hardcores are on to witness your title? It’s suddenly not worth it to you to put in the time and effort to obtain it in the first place.

    -Grouping wait time and effort has decreased. In the past, more people lingered online simply because it took longer to pull a group together or travel to a dungeon! Bravo for Blizzard’s improvements in this area, but it has had the unintended consequence of people logging on and off for a quick dungeon.

    -WoW players experience network utility – meaning, the more players online at a time, the more benefit each individual player receives (in terms of status, grouping, raiding, trade and social opportunities, etc.), to an extent. Once the online player base drops below a certain critical mass, people feel less inclined to get online and stay online, and when they log off it makes others less inclined to stay online, and so on.

    As you can see, many of these theories are interrelated and reinforce each other, so it’s hard to specify any one cause to all of this. Would love to hear your thoughts on all this. Cheers!

    • To address your points:

      I think I would disagree that gearing is easier than it was in at least WotLK. Raids are not as PuG friendly, and unless you have a constant group of folks that you run with regularly, your gearing comes to a bit of a halt once you’ve finished with heroic dungeon gear. Maybe ZA/ZG will breathe some life into this? I don’t know. It really hasn’t done so for me.

      I do think that the de-personalization of the LFD tool has taken it’s toll on a good number of things in the game. I’m hoping that the “server first” grouping feature will help with this some.

      As for status – it’s really never been something that’s driven me. Sure, I’d like to succeed, but I was never one of those people that flew over the well in dalaran on my big shiny mount. I actually tend to tuck myself away in a corner where someone has to go looking for me to notice I’m there :)

      I would agree that the social draw in WoW is what keeps a lot of people playing.

  5. We do get this discussion quite regularly. You pose an interesting question – what does this game still offer me.

    An interesting counter challenge would be, what does this game no longer offer me, that I used to enjoy?

    I’m just pondering the idea whether your friends and peers all joined at the same time, and whether you feel the effects of the new joiners, or whether they are in entirely different social circles.

    Additionally, is it that the game has changed, or you as a player that has changed? I find for me that what attracted me yesterday is different from today (and will do tomorrow), whether or not the game has changed.

    • A lot of my friends that were playing in Vanilla have taken their leave of the game – but many of them do still play. However, part of what is great about a game like WoW is the opportunity to meet many different people.

      I am quite positive that both myself and the game have changed to a certain extent. I have grown past certain things, for sure. But I think some core aspects of the game have also evolved, and not all of them have had the best result!

  6. Well I mean there are a couple things to keep in mind.

    The first is that, yes, the game has been out a long time. Heck, the genre itself has been out a long time, which wasn’t always true. WoW was the first MMO I’ve ever tried, and I’ve never stuck with anything else all that long, but it’s still possible to see that there are basic forms in the genre that persist. It’s always going to be heavy on repetition. And no matter how deep the mechanics get – and at this point they’ve gotten much deeper than most single-player game mechanics – you’re still going back to the same instances week after week and hitting those same buttons.

    The real hook for any MMO, it seems to me, is going to be your own social ties. And social ties are mutable. So if those weaken, for you, then your attachment to the game is going to weaken as well.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that while it’s easy to generalize from your personal experience and your particular guild, that’s really not going to be too accurate. That an individual guild or player has experienced decline does not mean that the game as a whole has.

    Personally I’ve dropped in and out of playing WoW a few times at this point. I think that the game’s core mechanics are the most robust on the market at this point, and if I’m playing an MMO, this is where my friends are. But I also don’t think it’s all that special, either.

    • While I’m certainly using my own experiences with my guild as an example, I’ve also queried others who have noticed a similar trend. So I’m not entirely sure that what I’ve seen within my own guild is all that insular.

      I still enjoy many aspects of the game, and still spend quite a bit of my freetime with the game. But there are also certain things that I do not enjoy quite as much as a once did – and new things that are introduced that I do not think turned out as planned :)

  7. Pingback: Is the tail dying whilst the head keeps on? | MMO Melting Pot

  8. I personally have found that i have pretty much just stopped playing. I think i can contribute my lack of playing with my guild fizzling out. Let me clarify… My guild have never set any standards for raiding or anyhing of the sort but it was probably one of the best group of people you could hope to find on a game. We were all adults for the most part and enjoyed the game and the interaction with the other players. We would faceroll our way through a couple of raids every no and again and no matter how many times we wiped it was funny.

    Now..most of these people hardely ever get on anymore. Most are child related but a couple have just plain given up on the game and the only time they get on anymore is when someone from the guild guilt trips them into getting on. I consider myself a hardcore casual player. i used to spend several hours a night on working on acheivemets on my main or working on alts. There was a time in WOTLK that i got so good at leveling alts i could take one to 80 in no time flat. Now i have no desire to log on any of them.

    I recently just shelled out the 55 bucks to do a server/faction transfer to a more active guild with a friend of mine but i think the damage has already been done. Needless to say i think my WoW days are done

    • I could definitely see a guild falling apart being a breaking point for a lot of people. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what I would do if my guild crumbled. I would imagine that it’s very hard to lose something you’ve worked so hard to build and be a part of. I hope that your new guild breathes some life into the game for you!

  9. It seems to me that Blizzard wanted to make the game playable without having to invest much time and players have risen to the challenge.

    I have 3 toons at 85 and many alts in the 50-80 range. My problem with alts in this expansion is that they advance very quickly towards an endgame that is barely sustaining my interest for my raiding main. In speeding up the leveling process and putting 80-85 on rails, they’ve made alts less interesting for me.

    Questing levels me out of a zone before I get very far on any quest line and I often don’t see more than 1/3 of any zone. I miss the story and if I stick it out, I end up doing green quests that aren’t challenging.

    Leveling quickly means that I don’t get to spend enough time in any zone to advance my gathering profession organically. I have to make farming runs in order to keep up. Where I used to enjoy gathering while questing, the balance has been lost.

    Leveling gear is also quickly obsolete meaning crafting professions are worth less and it’s hardly worth the time to go after gear that used to last for several weeks. Why bother if you’re replacing it soon?

    Instances are OK. I like that they put Stratholme and Scholomance back in the queue but the random runs are often impersonal and zerged. It’s not exactly fulfilling and yet I have one healer who reached level 50 without leaving Orgrimmar.

    Heirlooms and guild-driven XP gains aggravate all of this so I’ve stopped using them. My main interests for alts now are low-level PvP and leveling together with friends.

    These are structural problems with the game. I expect them to get even worse in the post-Cata expansions.

    • I’m torn on the leveling issue. On the one hand it’s very cool that you can level so quickly, but on the other I think you miss a lot by doing so, and some of what you miss is part of what would keep you attached to that character.

      Of course, the whole other problem is that once you reach 85 your alts (at least mine!) kind of stagnate.

  10. “what did the game used to offer me that it no longer does.”

    I think that’s a good question.

    My response is simple: the only new thing for me is what is in a raiding zone. I’ve leveled every class up to at least 60 at some point. When I think of leveling another one it quickly devolves in my brain to yellow number popping up over the same mobs, in the same zones, over and over again.

    Solving a raiding challenge or experiencing new encounters keeps me coming back, but other than that it’s just math. After you’ve played a game like wow this long it all starts to be the same and the same hooks no longer keep you connected to your keyboard.

    • Right now “what’s in a raiding zone” is a lot of frustration tied to trying to recruit in an environment where there are more guilds that there are players to fill them ;)

  11. I am one of those levelers. People in my guild joke about me being so efficient leveling and gearing up a character once I have leveled.

    I just do not have the desire to do it any more. I’ve plenty of level 85s now that I have no intention of gearing up and like you with your shaman, I have not even speced a few and have no intention to.

    The game has just lost its fun for the most part. My main is about as geared as it is going to get without doing heroic raid content. My other well played characters hit 85 and where at least item level 340 within hours of hitting 85 with no money spent.

    Everything from leveling to gearing has become so fast and then there is nothing left to do afterwards.

    I blame that on things not being pug friendly. With 10s and 25s on different lock outs there were always a ton of pugs going on and even pugs could down something.

    Now with single lock out and things being a bit harder pugs can not down anything. At least on my server. Leaving you nothing to do once you reach 85 and get some gear.

    Grind more heroic? No thanks, I am bored of them already and you never know the coin flip of a group you might end up with.

    Level another character? Why, so I can have another 85 with nothing to do?

    It just does not seem like there is anything to do once you have leveled.

    I still play, I do what I do, but each day I log out sooner and sooner because I am out of things to do and do not want to do anything just for something to do because most of it is not fun.

    I have faith that something will be done. I just do not have faith that it will be done soon enough. I’ve already seen many friends I’ve made in game quit and I see more coming soon.

    • I think perhaps the bigger problem isn’t the leveling, but that once you are of level there are a minimum amount of things that you can do with those characters, which in turn causes many players to loose interest in them.

  12. I wish I had more time for a lengthy response or blog post myself on this topic, but I don’t.

    I started “Group Online Gaming” while I was in the military. MMO’s provide an excellent distraction while deployed overseas and you want to try and connect with and keep in touch with “normal” people.

    My WoW/MMO experience carried forward into my time in College after the military and followed me through Grad school and now I still play as a working and married adult. Each of those life experiences has resulted in a general drop in my available time for WoW/Games. I often wonder what it will be like once I have kids, I assume I will probably be afk for a year or two at least once that happens.

    ****************************

    So, enough about my own personal experience. At present, I work with college students, primarily freshmen. I have been doing this now for ~4 years off and on and I can assure you that from my direct observations across ~3-4 fully distinct college age populations and my second-hand observations through the various professional organizations and such I am involved with that there are no shortage of brand new college age kids being introduced to WoW every year. The term “World of Warcrack” is still just as prevalent as it was when I first started playing ~6years ago.

    ******************************

    I would propose that it is much more likely that we are just not nearly as in-touch with the “newer/younger” generations of WoW players as most of us like to assume we are.

    There are ~50,000 separate and distinct guilds that have killed Omnotron so far this expansion. How many guilds are there beyond that that focus on leveling, socializing, roleplaying, PvP?, or whatever else people who don’t raid do in the game…

    There was a blue post recently that a lot of people took out of context I think that said something like “Blizzard wants people to be able to keep up with progression on a ~2-3 night raiding schedule.” I think that all this statement means is that blizzard wants a reasonably competent and focused guild to be able to complete most of or all of the PvE content each tier with a 2-3 night raiding schedule.

    That means two things to me:

    1) That people who aren’t really interested in WoW outside of raiding will end up cutting back on their game time and will find other activities to fill that time. I would say that most of these people will still acknowledge that ~$15 a month for 2-3 nights of entertainment a week is a pretty gosh darn good deal and will continue to raid as they venture into adulthood and whatever life changes they progress through.

    2) As each of our own “generation/cohort” of players matures, the same large life changes that selfishly detract from our online gaming time will continue to make more and more of us adjust our priorities and slowly force us to regularly revisit the idea of which (if any) in-game activities are most valuable to us as our available time begins to shrink.

    For me personally, until my wife and I have kids, I have settled into a nice routine of ~9 hours of raiding a week and ~5-6 hours online doing verious guild/raid management tasks and personal raid prep. (this doesn’t include most of the time I spend outside of wow doing wow-related stuff like reading and commenting on blogs not directly related to raid prep ;-)

    Weekends and non raid days are generally spent with my wife out exploring the real world and trying to collect various life achievements together.

    • Maybe this is the case. But even if we (I) are (am) out of touch with the “younger generation” of players, the results are still the same, no?

      I can’t say that I’ve had huge life changes that have taken away my playtime – of course I’m solidly in a career that I’m happy with, I don’t have children – and don’t anticipate that changing. So for me I also don’t anticipate huge changes in my life. So I’m not sure those reasons fit me and why some shine is polished off – but I can certainly see that being the case for someone finishing college or starting a family.

      I do think, though, that there is more to it that just that.

      • I think my reply was a bit rambly and self-indulgent (haven’t had time in a couple months to do any actual WoW related writing of my own)

        These are the points I was shooting for:

        1) Everything that happens in WoW (and really in life as well) is cyclical. It is an easy thing, even for the most perceptive, to lose perspective on this and view the past expansions and tiers and eras with rose tinted glasses.

        2) Most people in WoW (and again in “real life” as well) have a relatively small collection of individuals that they actually interact with and must then use as a base to try and generalize the state of the larger world from. Of the dozens of relationships I have formed with people through WoW over the years, most of those people are no longer really playing any more. Only a small minority of us seem to stick around for more than ~3-4 years, and I would suspect that the decision to stick around has more to do with the relationships and feeling of investment at this point than anything else for most.

        3) Blizzard is clearly in the process of changing their overall strategy for WoW. They have explicitly stated that they want to move away from the Evercrack model that encourages people to play 24/7 to “keep up” and migrate toward a more “casual” model that allows people to feel like they are getting their money’s worth with a few nights a week of gameplay. I think that this is a good thing personally for reasons stated above. I think that for those that feel like they have a growing gap in their game experience, Blizzard is well on their way to offering some new alternatives to fill those longings with things like Diablo III and the as-yet-to-be-named “next generation MMO” due out in another year or so.

        Blizzard knows exactly what they are doing I think. WoW may be transitioning to a new age, and I am sure that some will forever claim that it’s peak was perpetually in the past, but I don’t think it will ever close its doors until Blizzard feels like they have provided a suitable replacement for *most* of us.

  13. I think Blizzard has made the game harder.

    There is a large difference in the default difficulty stepping from regular 5-man, to heroic, to raids. Each of us reaches a point that for our personal abilities and current guild puts a break on our forward progress .. which as noted is moving at an advanced rate because the leveling portion of the game is a cake walk. Once someone reaches that tough spot they have to make a choice about their goals in the game and whether they are worth it. I think many people that would have been potential recruits for raiding guilds are dropping out of the game or going way casual simply because they see that the effort that would be required simply exceeds what they want to invest.

    In my opinion the failure of Blizzard to include an entry raid experience as they did in BC and WotLK was a serious mistake. Those initial raids where easy and fun. They helped to establish a pattern of raiding for players coming up the ladder that eased them into a raiding mindset (scheduling, wipes, readiness…). They gave social guilds a raid they could complete. Not a few of the players to become more serious raiders started in these types of guilds.

    I went into MC back when there where no other raids available (my resto druid main is 133 days played) and as a younger me I could keep up that needed effort and I had the freedom of schedule to do it. Experiencing the raids was a fun time alongside many fun people but if what is left now is achievements, mini-pets, and mount collections I may have to leave it behind. That game of collector isn’t really an MMO.

    • Hrm – I’m not sure that I can agree that Blizzard has made the game harder. I’ve seen each iteration of the game – and the relative ease of many things has leaned more towards being easier.

      While this current tier of raid content is somewhat difficult, it is fairly equal (or easier) than much of what came before it – if you take out WotLK.

      The only expansion that I feel had true “entry level” content was WotLK – and Blizzard has stated several times that they felt it was a folly how easy that tier of content was. Vanilla released with MC, which was by no means “easy” – TBC released with Karazhan, which was extremely challenging if you were doing the zone at the start of that expansion.

      • For many people, the stuff before WotLK was too hard. Hell, if you look at the raid progression stats, most 25 man guilds didn’t even finish the WotLK 25 man normal mode content.

        What has changed now, I think, is your average player now has a better idea of their own capabilities and limitations. Plop them back in Vanilla or BC and they wouldn’t be happy, since they’d know they wouldn’t be able to handle it. Blizzard’s previous success with hard content was based on the ignorance of these non-elite customers. Here at the start of Cataclysm they sized up their prospects, decided there wasn’t much to look forward to, and many just bailed out right there.

  14. You know, I really can’t pin down what it was about the game that lost me. I do still love it, and I love what they did with Cataclysm. But much of the allure doesn’t seem to be there anymore, and I’m not sure why.

    Part of it is simply age, sure. I’ve been playing since Burning Crusade and I started to burn out mid-WotLK. But I didn’t truly stop playing until a month or two after Cata. I don’t know why. Ah well. Maybe I’ll return, maybe I won’t. In the meantime, I’m enjoying other video games.

  15. I totally agree, Beru. The game has lost some luster it held once for me. I used to like to level different characters, experimenting with different specs, but eventually, honestly, I’d done them all. Even the new zones have begun to feel like a chore (leveling in them), and the upper ones, BC onward, are killing me since it’s the 6th or 7th time I’ve done them.

    I think one thing the game is offering a lot of people is a community (your guild and online friends), which is a perfectly good – perhaps the best – reason to play it. One the other hand, it also offers the comfort of routine, which is not a good reason to keep playing.

    Most of my friends in-game I also know out-of-game, so WoW for me has lost that on me. I love routine, but chore and routine are only very slightly separated, and I’m not sure which side of that fence I’m sitting on with WoW right now.

    Great post!

    • I feel your pain on the zone grind. After the second or third time it definitely feels that you are more going through the motions than anything else!

      I would also agree that community is a tie that keeps many people still playing the game :)

  16. Yes, it is in its Twilight. Still the best game aroundas an mmorpg, but certainly not as it once was. Not altogether a bad thing as the community becomes the focus, which is good.

    • I’m not entirely sure that I would agree that at this point the focus is on community. There are too many things that can be done with complete disregard to those around you for me to feel that community is in the spotlight.

  17. It definitely felt like it for me.
    I quit the game two months ago, after 5? 6? years of playing (I started shortly before release in open beta). It’s hard to put the finger on it, but it didn’t feel like there was anything worthwile to do for me. What hooked me up in the beginning was the feeling of being in a different world, a world that was living and that was there even when I didn’t play. But a lot of things, mostly flying mounts, the dungeon browser, portals everywhere, redesigned zones with streamlined questing, homogenized classes, the removal of elite monsters and reputation farming, the consequential death of world pvp have led to a world that feels like a giant lobby in which you can fly around while you wait for your raid/instance/battleground/arena. I always loved raiding, and the 4.1 raids are really good, but without a world in which they take place, they feel dead and empty for me. And while the raids aren’t technically worse than they were before, a boss that is also available in 25 man normal, 10 man heroic and 10 man normal, that I have killed on easier difficulty settings, probably even with alts, will never feel nearly as satisfying as killing M’uru, that &%$§# that my raid has been banging its head against for what felt like years ;)

    All that really started in Wrath for me, it was only covered by the fact that I (and a lot of people I played with) started hardcore alt-ing when there was nothing to do with my main. But playing the game just to play the game isn’t worth my time, so I quit and I don’t think I’ll ever come back, because the game that I’m missing is not there anymore. I will always remember Vanilly WoW and TBC as probably the best video game ever, but with Wrath it slowly started dying for me. And for a lot of people I played with, I think a ton of players already stopped playing in Wrath, and with a ton of newer players joining it made for stagnating subscription numbers.

    • I kind of enjoyed some of the streamlined questing, but I get the feeling I’m in the minority on that one. However, I do agree that a lot of things took the feeling of the “world” away – and I do think that convenience ended up hurting the game in that regard.

      I think you may also be correct that many of the old, grizzled veterans of the game – who walked uphill both way to Molten Core are feeling more of this stagnation – perhaps as a result of romanticizing “the good old days” – more than some of the newer players who have just been introduced into the game.

  18. I don’t fancy working on my alts so much because it is too easy for them to get ahead of my main now. My primary alt is already only 2 points behind my main in average ilvl and has better gear in some slots than my main. This really annoys me, because my main should be my most awesome char. All my alt does is one 10 man a week, while my main slaves away on 3 nights of 25 mans to be only very slightly ahead, and soon I’d guess not ahead at all. To me that’s pretty demotivating. 25 and 10 should never have been given the same loot.

    • Hrm, I never really considered that perspective before. I could certainly see how that could be very frustrating. I don’t necessarily know that is a result of 10s and 25s having the same loot, though.

  19. In the past year, I’ve found myself playing less and less. (That’s been a good thing, because I was a real WoW addict and it had grown intrusive in my life) I assumed this change was because I was growing and finding other things at least as interesting as WoW. And I’m sure there is truth in this. But thinking back, if I’m really honest, it’s also because the game has simply grown less interesting for me. I’ve been raiding since the end of Vanilla and still love gathering with my crew of friends and knocking down obstacles that seemed so hard at first. I still love the depth and subtleties of theorycrafting, the lore, and the wonderful visual design in instances and in the world at large. I love my guild and my crew of friends who make me laugh each night.

    But what’s gone is… the magic. I can’t put my finger on specifically comprises this “magic”, but it’s the charmed pixie dust that has made every Blizzard game more fun than fun itself. (And yes, I’m looking at you Diablo and Starcraft and Warcraft…)

    Cataclysm had the potential to create huge clouds of that pixie dust as they reinvented the world of Azeroth. But the x-pac fell short of that. I rolled a new toon recently and found that I just couldn’t appreciate the new content because I outleveled everything so damned quickly. In a weird way, I wanted leveling to be as long a grind as we had during Vanilla, because I wanted a chance to savor the lore, the instances, and the new quest mechanics. On the other hand… I’ve leveled so many toons that now I’d quickly give up if it took more than 3-4 weeks to get to level cap. It’s a paradox that is biting a lot of players, I think.

    And on the other end of the spectrum, I haven’t been fond of T11 raiding content. When my guild goes back to Ulduar for retro raids, I get completely nostalgic for those fights, and for Northrend itself. Will ever I get nostalgic for BWD? Nope. Cataclysm content just hasn’t gripped me that much.

    All this said… I think that it would only take a single, really great tier of raid content to bring many players back into the game. If Firelands ends up as glorious as Ulduar was, I think it’ll re-energize the player community. Don’t forget that people quickly got sick of Naxx back at the start of Wrath, before Ulduar came out. There were predictions of gloom and doom back then as well, that the designers had run out of ideas and WoW was declining.

    All in all, I simply can’t predict what’s ahead. Face it. In the history of mankind, there’s never been an activity equivalent to WoW: a group game involving millions and millions of people all playing basically in the same place at the same time every night of the week — for years on end. So there’s no model to which we can refer to. How long will it grow? How will it last? It’s all guesswork.

    • I certainly agree that the leveling speed is a bit of a double edged sword! It’s that whole cake and eat it thing ;)

      I’ve actually enjoyed a lot of the T11 raid content. Although I do think there was an enormous amount of it – and I again get the feeling that they are pushing out the next teir too quickly. I strongly suspect that many guilds who weren’t far into the T11 hardmodes will forgo them completely for T12. And maybe that’s intentional. I don’t know.

      I starting feeling this push in Ulduar when they rushed getting TotGC out so quickly, selling the best instance in that expansion short. I understand that many people want new content – but I’d like just a touch more time to savor some of what we have as well, without constantly feeling rushed from one place to the next with little to no breathing time in between.

  20. Not sure why but even the raiding is sort of boring. For the first time ever I find leveling alts more fun now with all the lore and exploration into zones and dungeons. With ICC I so wanted to see the LK and KHBooty but with Cata, if I never take down Deathwing, “Oh Well”.

    • It seems we are a bit the opposite! I find the raiding interesting and the alts more boring :) I feel that I will be disapointed if I don’t kill deathwing – but not so much if none of my other alts reach 85.

  21. Wow is in its midlife..the shine and newness has been off for a while now and people are flirting with other games but until another alternative come along I dont see Wow entering its twilight. The problem with alts is that there is very little social content between 1-85. Cataclysm cataclysmicly failed to really bring any needed rebirth to the 1-85 game..which I think blizzard realized, which is why ZG and ZA are end game not mid game.

    • I would agree that some of what is lacking on the alt front is the lack of social interaction. You LFD just about everything, and have little reason to chatter with anyone outside of your guild.

  22. I think folks have hit a few nails and some other ones have been missed so far.

    My own experience in the game, is that people I know all seem to be taking breaks for a myriad of reasons (I took my own in Jan-Feb). Even our little guild went from about 12-18 people to about 6 regulars.

    In all honesty, I swear the “douche” dial has been turned to 11. While I noticed a bit in Lich King (once folks realized it had basically become a gearfest), the number of rude people, ninjas, and general folk who could just care less about much (like their class) has shot up. It makes the Dungeon Finder not worth even tempting. Also, it doesn’t seem to matter what level you are for this to happen.

    As for server populations and wait times, the thing to remember with vanilla was there were far less servers than there are now. Thus the population was more funneled. At some point I think they went from “barely enough” to “too many.”

    • I’ve often wondered if part of the reason that we’ve seen more behaviour that we find less favorable is a result of a younger playerbase. I don’t know that it’s true, and have no data to base the statement on. I guess I just can’t see someone my age (thirtysomething) behaving in ways that I’ve seen in some of my adventures. Perhaps I’m giving my generation too much credit?

  23. When I was a kid I lived in a house with a dirt driveway, and when it rained the water would collect in the divots and potholes, cutting little channels from which it would slowly drain. I would go outside after it rained and engage in epic earthmoving ventures to hasten the process, by clearing leaves, cutting new channels, redirecting the water to more quickly empty the reservoirs in which it had collected. As these (quite literal) streamlining efforts would near their conclusion, I’d find that the water was almost gone; the purpose I’d set myself to had, by it’s successful implementation, taken away the opportunity for continued enjoyment.

    Many of blizzard’s improvements to the mmo genre have, in my opinion, had a similar effect. “We can make this faster, smoother, easier for players! Tired of running across the world to get to a dungeon? Tired of spending all day in /trade looking for a group? LFD. leveling too slow? Heirlooms.” on and on the list could go, each one intended to remove barriers so people could “just play the game.” Now “the game” is played in instances with 4 strangers who have no reason to treat you any differently than the NPC vendors in Org, because most likely you will never see them again. The instance isn’t a dungeon under a mountain on the other side of the world, it’s anywhere, floating in space, disassociated from it’s surroundings, one click and a short afk from anywhere.

    Our relationships with places and people define our world, and these changes have made Azeroth much, much smaller. Without physical (digital?) ties to real places, and with no need to form relationships with anyone outside our guild, our community and the world it resides within have shrunk and shrunk, leaving us disconnected and drifting.

    Blizzard cleared the twigs and cut new channels, and the water is draining fast.

    • That is certainly an interesting way to look at it! But does seem to make a lot of sense, for sure! It’s interesting to think that some of the things that many people, including Blizzard, laude as “great” have had some very negative impacts on game play.

  24. A few thoughts
    Spring is in the air, after what has seemed a very long winter. That, for me, drives me outside to do the mundane tasks of lawn care, etc.

    As far as my play time, I intentionally changed my main from my druid to my pally, to try and keep me interested, which it did.

    I leveled and geared my 3 original toons (druid, warlock, and hunter), but I was starting to grow bored again. So, I figured I would try something new, and I leveled my shaman, which I rarely played at all. And you know what, I am actually a little excited about it. I am trying to learn the enhancement rotation (and how to heal), and since its new, its interesting to me.

    Overall, I think there is always a down turn in online time during this time of year due to the nice weather, vacations, etc. That is why I have always thought it was smart that WoW put its expansions out during the winter, when people were more likely to spend the time indoors and thus buy the expansion.

    • The weather certainly has some to do with it – but I often think that it’s not always the underlying reason for some of the downturns that are seen in the game. If people were as engaged in WoW still, they’d find time for both WoW and outdoor activities rather than completely forgoing WoW for them.

  25. I was very excited at Cataclysm launch. Maybe even more than the release of TBC or WotLK.

    The modified Azeroth, the beautiful Vashj’ir etc… it all faded out rapidly for me.

    Except for a dungeon run here and there, I don’t do “end game” content – been like that for years now. At first, it was because of my computer that couldn’t handle it and now it is simply because I am not interested.

    I quit the game for a period of 2 months during Winter. It was a retirement, something meant to be permanent. But I came back because I realized one thing: I missed the people. Many (not all) of them are faceless and without a name (other than their character) but they became my friends over the years.

    What do I do in game then? I often ask myself that question. I do silly achievements, I play the AH, roll a new character/class randomly… and that is pretty much it. Will it be enough to hold my interest for much longer? I have no idea.

    I think that Blizzard accomplished something awesome in keeping a player’s interest for that many years, but one day or another, time will take its toll.

    - Rholm

    • I would certainly agree that the social ties that you can pick up in game end up being much stronger that you realize. I am glad to see you found your way back, though!

      I also think that your insane quests drove you insane irl – at least with regards to WoW! ;)

  26. Addendum to my previous post.

    I want to say that I very much like what Gorbag wrote, a few comments above this one. A nice analogy too.

  27. Gaia”
    “In my opinion the failure of Blizzard to include an entry raid experience as they did in BC and WotLK was a serious mistake. Those initial raids where easy and fun. ”

    There were no easy, entry raids in BC this early in the expansion like Naxx was in WotLK. Although high on the fun list, Karazhan, after Attumen, was punishing to new raids prior to the 2.4 T6-level badge gear and, of course, inevitable nerfs by that time.

    Guilds split apart on pre-nerf Shade of Aran. What you remember from those late night, drunken Karazhan badge runs is nothing like the Karazhan experience in 2.0. Not to mention that everyone in your raid needed to have completed the key questline.

    Even Moroes. Can you find a social 10-man group that has 2 people who can maintain a CC on an undead mob each, for an extended period of time (before ranged hunter traps)?

  28. The problem with Cataclysm is that, aside from a few end game activities, there’s no challenge and no interaction. Leveling through the revamped quest zones feels like watching a movie, as the mobs pose little threat and there’s almost no choice in which quests to do. The leveling dungeons are similarly easy. And at level cap, we have easy five mans, automatic rep grinds, and battlegrounds that are filled with bots. Professions are also easy to get to 525, and this expansion’s crafted items aren’t even very interesting. Then there are heroics and the annonymity of the LFG tool, and the limits that this tool places on interaction and challenge in heroics really deserve their own post.

    It feels like Blizzard has set aside a few activities – raids, arena, rated battlegrounds – and set up the rest of the game so that even the most disinterested player can do it. Which, not surprisingly, has made it so that interested players have little to do outside of raiding and rated PvP.

    Personally, I play this game for a challenge and because I like playing with other people, and outside of my nine hours of raiding a week (and PvP, if I was so inclined), I don’t really get that from other aspects of the game.

    Of course, on the flip side WoW is still 36 hours of entertainment per month for $15, which is a pretty great deal.

    • I do think that part of the problem with the alt scene is that there isn’t a whole lot of interaction required on the journey. I used to love instancing with my alts becuase it was a great way to meet new people. Now, though, it’s just a way to get XP as fast as possible without having to interact with those around you :(

  29. There was an interview, I think with Chilton, about the hard thing with Cataclysm was redoing the world without losing its “soul”. His statements were all self-congratulatory (look, we accomplished that!), but in retrospect it was really just whistling past the graveyard. They *did* seriously damage the soul of the game.

  30. Pingback: Pandora’s Box « Scribblings on the Asylum Wall

  31. Here are the activies that I think are currently holding people’s interest in the game:

    1. Playing your main in PvE and/or PvP
    2. Seeing the newly designed old-world content on an alt
    3. Lowbie battlegrounds
    4. Achievement chasing (lots of people wore out their interest for this during Wrath)
    5. Archaeology (only fun for some, not fun to repeat on multiple toons)
    6. Gaming the auction house (IMO lack of server activity takes all the fun out of this)

    While 4-6 will have some devotees, they’re really side pursuits and 1-3 are the biggies.

    #1 is your time spent in heroics, raids, arena, or BGs/Tol Barad — your traditional end-game content.

    But hey, there’s a new world out there to see, so we roll alts (#2). No need for me to reiterate how this goes too fast…and even if you eschew heirlooms, every guild in the world has at least a 5% XP bonus! So if you want to go truly slowly, you can’t even be *guilded*. The balance is truly off in this part of the game, when people can’t complete zones before they outlevel the quest rewards, when you have to choose between doing the instances or the quests for your level range, when hitting 60 is sad because all you have to look forward to is outland, northrend, and the same Cata rep grind your main is already doing.

    However, the redesign of the talent trees has revitalized PvPing on low level toons (#3), with signature class abilities now available at such a low level. Cynwise’s posts on the new form of twinking have made it sound really fun — and it’s much easier to get started than in the past (just get a toon to level 10!).

    So it seems that practically no one finds level 85 alts to be compelling and enjoyable right now, and #2 and #3 are the potential saviors to keep eyeballs in the game. The answer to “leveling goes too fast, I didn’t get to see all the zones” is to level another toon right after the first one, and go see those other zones! Play 5 toons through the revamped content, relevel your old favorites to see how they’ve changed (ret pallies have attacks! low level mages don’t have to wand!), level the same class through questing and then through battlegrounds, level a bear druid then a boomkin! Let us treat characters as semi-disposable, so that multiple rapid playthroughs is a viable way to enjoy the game (a la something like Dragon Age).

    Problem is, people who’ve played for a long time (or were good at leveling even when it was slower) don’t have the room for more toons! Thus, IMO, the biggest thing Blizz has done to shoot themselves in the foot is *not give more toon slots on each server*. Keep the max at 50, but give us more opportunity to decide where they go. Let us have 15 or 20 on one server, it’ll only make us more invested in having a good server culture! Give me room to play horde and alli on the same server. Give me room to have one of each class plus 5 duplicates, so that when I level all these toons to see different parts of the content, I don’t have to serially delete them. Cynwise manages to recycle the same toon slot over and over for her PvP “disposable heroes,” but I can’t even clear out one slot without sacrificing a toon I’m attached to. (Making room for a goblin was painful enough!)

    I do have other quibbles, but this simple change alone would go a long way to keeping me active in the game and contributing to my guild officer duties and server.

  32. I think you’re right that it’s “entering its twilight”. It’s been tweaked and updated quite extensively, but at its core it’s still basically the game that it was six years ago and a lot of us who played it back then have moved on for one reason or another. It was bound to start trending downward sooner or later. WotLK’s mainstream advertising and greater end-game accessibility may have held that trend at bay for a while, but Cataclysm reversed those trends and now everything from usage stats to subscriber totals (down to late 2008 levels) are sliding. It’s natural and doesn’t mean that WoW will be folding its tents any time soon.

    It’s not too late for Blizzard to change this, of course. The case could be made that GC and crew were actually trying to be proactive about recruiting a new generation of players when they came up with the Cataclysm “a little less casual, a little more hardcore” paradigm (WoW left me for a younger player!), so maybe they’ll be willing to try other things to capture the Farmville/console crowd if Cata’s subscription loss continues. There’s still plenty of time and players left before WoW even comes close to sliding into unprofitability.

    • Oh, I completely agree that WoW isn’t “dying”. I’m just wondering if it’s seen what may have been it’s best years! Not that what we have now is bad, per se. It’s just, perhaps, not the best of what we’ve seen to date.

      • Yeah, I think that barring a major revamp or three (big stuff like dumping the “raiding trinity” concept) then it has probably seen its best days. Bringing in a new development team with new ideas might help too, but that’d be a bit of a crap shoot. And yeah, Cataclysm isn’t the “best of what we’ve seen to date” for me either. Barring the major changes I mentioned above or the return of permanent tree form I’m not sure that I’ll come back.

  33. i quit WoW months ago. i think i had done all i wanted to do and seen all i wanted to see long before Cataclysm came out. i had 8 lvl80s, played all classes but warlock to lvl60 at least, done most all content for both factions and maxed out all professions at least once. i was hoping Cataclysm would give me something “new” to do, and i enjoyed the revamped undead zones, but it was still the same game. and while the linear questlines were mostly entertaining i couldn’t bear the thought of doing them repeatedly with alts. also, it was very frustrating to see so many changes in so many areas of the game and yet some things were still untouched (like hunter pets that still had to be leveled).
    imo, the game has been patched to death. sometimes you just gotta wipe the slate clean and start over.

    • I don’t know that I agree that it’s been patched to death, and I do think that many of the changes have been good. But sometimes too much change can do just as much harm as too little, no?

      • Yep. The game being functionally in Beta for four months after Cataclysm launched was annoying. Especially since it was a Beta that I was having to pay for.. ;-)

  34. I wanted to clarify my thoughts a bit from the above post and maybe respond to a couple of the other comments:

    My experience in BC was dramatically different from Cata. I’m leaving wrath out of the analysis since it is universally seen as too easy.

    In BC my guild (which was delighted with having a 10 man raid available) began the weekend after release leveling and running the 5-mans as a coherent group with all the advantages of voice chat and a structured team. I definitely remember working through the factions and progressing step by step through the story line into the kara attunement. There was a real sense of progression. From the initial release up to and including the quests inside kara I felt that it was a carefully laid out path. The sequence that you needed to go through required a team to get ready.

    I remember clearly the completion by my 5-man team of the revered status with Cenarion (especially because I got my Mace!) and we immediately decided with arrogant confidence to do the heroic version of Steamvaults… and promptly had our asses handed to us in the first 3 pulls. We geared together and helped the others. We entered kara together before the nerfs. It was a major deal when downed Shade and a few of us completed our urn for the dragon.

    All of that is missing in Cata. You can easily solo the entire leveling process and get yourself into solid gear. You can then (and I did) solo queue into normals and heroics to 346 gear and craft into some 359. At no point do you need anyone from your guild if you have one — right up until the point you want to get into BWT or BOT and get hammered. The progression is harder in the sense that creating that core group is not organic to the entire experience the way it was for me in BC. Cata is a fast and furious ride up to what feels like a wall in a way that BC never was. Cata is easy to solo and harder to group. The larger the group you are trying to form up the harder to get it organized because so few people really need any real guild organization until the very moment they decide to raid and are very frustrated when they realize that all the instantaneous LFD grouping no longer applies. The entire game can be made to fit your individual schedule except for one part of it — raiding.

    Also what feels different to me is the lack of any quests to tie into the raid zones. You had a reason to go into Kara (and Vanilla and WotLK) beside killing bosses … a major portion of your work in 5-mans was attunement and the quests were all tied into together. I still have no clue what the hell any of the bosses have to do with the great story-lines told in the leveling zones other than big bad bosses in a raid zone have to die because … well … err … they deserve it! Everything in Cata feels great in terms of story and quests right up until raiding when it seems like there is a big disconnect. To me the raids feel entirely tacked on to the end of a solo game instead of the solo game deliberately leading into them. I am betting everyone reading here completed all the quests in WotLK raiding.

    • Very well put. Now that I think about it the fact that none of us helped or even saw each other in the virtual flesh from the last time we went into ICC until, well, never, might have had something to do with why my old guild still isn’t raiding. Over the past six months they’ve morphed from a casual raiding guild into a social chatting-over-guild-chat guild.

    • You’re looking at things from the perspective of someone who was in an active, supportive guild that coordinated activities. Not everyone is blessed with that. The old system of trying to pug through the trade channel got very old very very quickly. It was frankly a wretched group of people to run with (at least on my server) and they never needed hunters in any case. The LFD system was a god-send for me. Not only could I find pugs reliably (and often with competent, decent people) but I could also run all the old instances! Trying to get a group together for Mauradon or Scarlet Monastery was impossible pre-LFD. I was ridiculed for even posting the request on trade.

      • But you are looking at from the perspective of an unguilded player, and I think the point djs is making is that the hardships that were presented in TBC were better for the overall game than the stream-lined nature of Cataclysm.

        Blizzard has said (and then went against it) that you should have to interact and group together to progress in the game. In Cataclysm you don’t have to do that. Just click, queue, and run. It’s kind of social but not really.

  35. Yes. Take a look at the Firelands raid gear. It’s obvious the original, creative, “I’m going to come up with something totally unique and amazing for this class” designers have been diverted off to the newer, fresher MMO that we won’t even glimpse for a while still.

    I look at the gear and my first thought is, “you want me to log in and learn fights for…that?” I’ll pass…

    I’d much rather run around in the old instances, maybe try a little bit of roleplaying, focus on archaeology fun, fish with friends in Uldum, etc. Unfortunately even that isn’t all that exciting anymore because I’ve been doing it for far too long.

    I think WoW is just “old” to some people. We’ve done it for a long time, and even tiny things are distracting us now as we browse around for a new hobby.

  36. I thought I might link this blog article as well … 70 comments now for this post and a lot of good discussion …. it seems many people are running the same thoughts through their heads right now… the comments are even similar.

    http://www.eldergame.com/2011/05/you-cant-bolster-your-newbie-hose-with-self-indulgence/

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