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?