Saturday, November 29, 2008

When will WoW die?

"Kids! Stop playing WoW please. It's time for your hover board practice!"

I'm worried thats what I'll be saying 15 years from now. WoW has massive longevity potential. If Blizzard keep adding new features as well as new content, the game can only keep going up. When the graphics start looking old, they can just bring out a patch with high res textures and higher polygon models. Honestly, WoW's only real threat is itself. The main reason players leave is because they're burnt out from ridiculous raiding commitments or are fed up with the grind. If Blizzard manage to solve this problem, I dare say that even I might go back.

My mum always told me to make sure I was the first person to go into a job interview. That way the employer compares everyone else to you. WoW has a massive head start on all future MMORPG competition and as a result gamers will be comparing all new MMORPGs to WoW. Unless the new game has topless female elves that shit gold bars, there is no way WoW can be beaten. In fact I believe the only thing that can bring WoW down is Blizzard itself. Either Blizzard will decide to make another MMO (highly unlikely) or they stop supporting WoW (even more unlikely). I have high hopes for Guild Wars 2, but I can't see it toppling the giant unless Blizzard make a mistake.

Innovative game design ideas are slowing down and as a result players are getting picky with their games. Buzz features are much less popular now than good old game polish. Cool features will attract the initial crowd, but it's the polish that will keep them there. Since the MMO business world is all about retention, only the most polished games will succeed, and WoW positively shines with polish. The annoying thing is that if a new game really does have an awesome new feature that could actually threaten WoW, then Blizzard can just add it to WoW. Boom head shot.

I've got a bottle of champagne in the fridge ready for when WoW falls, but I'm sure it'll go off long before WoW does.


mbp said...

Its been a while since I played WoW but I wonder if it is still attracting new players? In particular is it still attracting players who have newer played an mmo before. If not then it will die off in a few years as the existing player base gets tired. I guess you could tell this by comparing the sales of vanilla WoW to the sales of The Wrath of the Lich King but I have never seen these figures released.

Scott said...

These are the types of posts I don't understand.

Why does WoW need to "die?" Because you don't like raiding? Blizzard has *never* made a secret that they consider the raiding end-game to be their "real game." Get over it and move on to some other game that has what you're looking for. I did.

Back in the day, EQ was the Big Man on Campus. When the first batch of other MMO's in the years between EQ and WoW were people writing "omg when will EQ die already?" Probably not.

WoW (indeed, practically ever MMO) has always had a revolving door population. For every player who leaves, three more take his place. Many take breaks and come back, some don't. So what?

At the end of the day, does WoW being the BMOC affect *your* gaming experience? I can't imagine it would since you're not actually playing it.

Pete said...

Actually, Blizzard is working on another MMO, aren't they? Still un-named and behind closed doors, but I'm fairly certain I read somewhere reputable that they are working on a 2nd.

Melf_Himself said...

"At the end of the day, does WoW being the BMOC affect *your* gaming experience? I can't imagine it would since you're not actually playing it."

Of course it does. Because when you're trying to get funding for a new MMO, you need to sit down and tell your investors how much like WoW your game is, so they give you money.

Except, WoW is a shit game, which means all future MMO's have to be shit games too, until WoW dies.

Crimson Starfire said...

Hey mate, although the post may have seemed a lot like a rant, it actually wasn't. I was trying to point out the longevity potential of WoW and as a result how it affects the MMO industry. Even when WoW gets knocked off it's perch as number one, it'll still be around. I was just interested to talk about how long that will be.

I moved on from WoW along time ago, but unfortunately it still follows me around where ever I go. It's always in your face and it's always in the industry's face. Is that a good thing? Personally I don't think so. Hence my reasoning to looking forward to it's fall.

Blizzard have always got something under the covers, and I'm sure there's an MMO in there. Doubt they will release it while WoW is still doing so well, which is another reason to look forward to it's fall.

I probably wouldn't call WoW a 'shit game', but yeah it's not on my personal favorite's list.

Scott said...

What exactly about WoW is a "shit game" I wonder? Again, because *you're* not playing it, it's "shit?" Or *because* it's the BMOC therefore it's automatically "shit?"

The WoW team were all ex-EQ raiders. They made a game where you level then raid. Raiding means loot whoring and gear progression. Since EQ was their inspiration, do I get to therefore say EQ is a shit game? Oh wait, I've been saying that for years!

Blizzard also made it accessible with solo content and *the* most responsive character controls in the genre, bar none. No game before or after (yet) has been able to duplicate the near-arcade quick responsiveness of your control inputs, along with slightly faster combat. One of the gripes I read about other MMO's is players coming from WoW whine about the combat being "slow" and/or "boring" because it's not as fast-paced as WoW and because the characters and controls are less responsive.

WoW also showed that millions of non-gamers can be pulled into the market -- that's what publishers and investors are drooling over.

Here's the thing -- whatever takes WoW's place will be just like WoW in this sense: when it's new we'll say it's the greatest thing ever. When it starts getting "big" we'll start nit-picking it. When it becomes #1 we'll slam it right back down and blog for years about how "shitty" it is.

Because people are shitty like that.

Chris F said...

WoW is already dead. To me. To others it is alive and kicking. Will always be that way.

WoW is a 'shit' game - to me. To others it is still poop but smells like roses. It is astonishing to see how many 'clones' still play WoW without thinking of the design decisions made in that game to keep you paying. The game isn't designed with fun in mind, fun is a lucky byproduct that just happened to have materialized. Every aspect of the game is created to lengthen your subscription payment. I don't need to provide examples for the intelligent folk.

Now that the barrier to access has been extended, there will be far fewer players joining WoW (1-80 just to play with friends? no thanks!) they are moving to their extended cash grab model - soon you will get to pay for gender and race changes. I am sure they are clever enough to mess with racial bonusus a couple times a year so the hardcore player will HAVE to change their race a couple times of year "to be the best".

The irony of all of this is that I did think I was having fun in WoW over the years. I was fooled, and they got my money, and they deserved it. Looking back it feels like more of a con job than a mutually beneficial agreement.

I do give credit to Blizzard for BMOC. They took other MMO games with bad design decisions and cleverly disguised them with their polish. You think EQ was grindy? It was to level. WoW removed that. Then they added 100's of other little grinds that all added up. I played EQ for a long time, and don't hate on them for their grinds. They were honest and open about it.

WoW will never go "away", and it shouldn't. EQ is still kicking 10 years later, clinging to their existing playerbase from 1998 (!). Good for them. And good for WoW. They did brilliant with it, and deserve kudos for their business model because it really works for them.

Other gamers will find a home, and WoW players once de-cloned will find a new home too. As long as you believe it is fun, there is no need to leave, and they will have a very healthy player base for 10's of years to come.

Scott said...

Oh dear gawd give me a break... You were "fooled" into thinking you were having fun? It was a "con job?" Puh-fucking-leez...

You had fun. In WoW. You eventually saw everything it had to offer, or did everything you wanted to do... bottom line: you outgrew it. WoW doesn't need to change (and it won't) anymore than Sesame Street needs to change. But eventually we outgrew Sesame Street, too. Did Sesame Street "fool" or "con" us into thinking we had fun learning with the big muppet characters? Did they (and Blizzard) send Men In Black to our homes in the middle of the night to put neural implants in our brains to "make us think" we were having fun when in fact we were not? Get real... If a game is fun, we play it. If it's not, we don't. And even the games we enjoy the most we eventually outgrow and they lose their luster and become less fun to us so we move on. There's nothing more devious or more complicated than that -- we simply outgrow things and move on. That doesn't mean it's "bad" or "fooling" anyone else just because *we* have jaded ourselves.

Why should the average player be thinking about game design decisions? That's the designers' job. Bloggers love to put on their Armchair Designer hats, but we mean exactly squat in the industry. Gamers (including WoW normally "non-gamer" population) just need to consider if they're having fun or not. The End. That's all games are for. The non-gamer "WoW Clone" most likely won't move on to other MMO's once they've outgrown WoW. They'll just leave MMO's altogether.

Chris F said...

The average player needs to start thinking of design decisions so we don't just get things hammered down our throats as "the way it is". Because they don't need to have poor mechanics in their games to make it fun. They don't need to charge for server tranfers, because they offer them free all the time. MMO Developers develop for income, not fun. The two are not necessarily linked. WoW could be a TON more of fun with some simple changes.

I stand by the "thinking" I was having fun comment. I came from EQ -> DAOC -> WoW so had expectations of what to "expect" from an MMO, without questioning it. Thus the belief I was having fun - because it was the only choice I had to in that manner. After looking back at my time in those games I see the stupid design decisions solely made to drive revenue and how much better of an experience it would have been if altered.

For example: Lockout timers on instances. Why? Do you know how difficult it is do get 40 (now 25) people together to do a non-interrupted raid? Since it is an instance, why not let us reset and do it on our schedule?

Oh, because we would burn throught the content. So INSTEAD of making more content, limit the amount of times people can experience the content. If they would have added more content it would have been better for everyone - more choices, more fun. Of course, new content costs money, so just let the players play the content once a week instead.

I didn't outgrow WoW. I would still be playing it if it was designed with the player in mind, or the experience that player has in mind. Instead it is designed with creating as many artificial time blocks as possible to drive subscription dollars. I finally figured that out in the endgame in Burning Crusade.

I still watch Sesame Street with my 3 year old, and enjoy it. They have changed - they have tackled bigger, real world issues such as AIDS and whatnot.

Until players improve their expectations from games the games won't improve. Look at WAR. Some good stuff in there, but they copied all the subscription lengthening grinds in just like WoW - because WoW does it, the player base accepts it. Because the player base doesn't look at what is wrong with things, only the "good" parts. Until the players do we will get more of the same. Eventually more people will catch on, and hopefully some Devs too. Because if they don't, and 60 million dollar budge MMO's start failing, publishers will stop backing MMO's and then what will we play?

I only care because I love the medium. It is a brilliant, currently PC-exclusive market that can be something special. It already is in a lot of ways. Why not strive to improve it instead of accepting bad decisions (the same decisions we end up funding?)

Thallian said...

I think wow is a good game. Could have been a great game but to go from good to great Blizzard would have had to change themselves first and then change the game.

Melf_Himself said...

Hi Scott,

The things you're failing to identify are that
1) Sesame Street does not charge a monthly fee
2) You don't have to watch Sesame Street for a year before getting to see Big Bird
3) It's a lot easier to switch channels to Play School than it is to leave an MMO where all your friends are.

"If a game is fun, we play it. If it's not, we don't."

I'm sorry, but you don't know much about MMO's if you think that's the case. People get addicted. Just like alcoholism and gambling, people are no longer having fun, yet they can't seem to stop.

If Blizzard were to remove addictive and time consuming elements that go hand-in-hand with milking people for money, then their game could actually be fun over a long period of time, as opposed to making people waste away in a basement somewhere.

I'd talk more but Chris F pretty much summed it up.

Jeromai said...

I've disliked the concept of WoW from the beginning, because I was one of those rare folk who managed to burn out on the dikuMUD raid/loot whore concept even as Everquest was just increasing in popularity, and got jaded way too early.

I'm not waiting for WoW to die. But I am hoping and waiting for the greater part of its population to hit the burnout phase.

Why? I respect WoW for its fast responsive near-arcade combat. Every time I watch someone play it, I'm tempted to join in.

I respect WoW for mainstreaming MMOs and turning whole communities into gamers hooked onto a multiplayer society.

But I also heavily dislike WoW's design which encourages race-to-the-endgame and a selfish me-first focus on prestigious loot.

It's training entire generations of gamers to expect some form of 'reward' (xp/loot/tokens/incrementing progress bar) for whatever they do, and that getting to the end point fastest is what's important.

And research has shown that offering extrinsic motivation kills intrinsic motivation. The journey, in other words.

By setting this mindset as the accepted norm, game developers have to bend their game designs to fit, or be derided by the massive WoW-playing population, and potentially lose money as the WoW-playing audience quit in droves because it's not WoW enough.

Does that affect me? Yes, because the games I play face the question of whether they need to be more or less WoW-like, and shape themselves to be potentially more or less fun for my preferences.

I do hope that as more people get tired of WoW's one-golden-lowest-common-demonimator mainstream-way of doing things, they'll start asking themselves what they really like in a game and get more selective as to the stuff they like.

WoW will die when Blizzard decides to shut off the servers. But eventually, if a good part of the population decides they're better off elsewhere, that's good enough for me.

Crimson Starfire said...

Some of the replies to this post have been better than the post itself. It's a pleasure to read about everyone's opinions toward WOW, even if they don't match my own. Cheers for everyone who has commented.

Scott said...

Yet I'm supposed to believe WoW is the root of all evil and addictive behavior? Gee, I seem to recall reading about EQ players staying home from work, losing their jobs, losing their spouses, etc. Oh, but 500k at its peak compared to 11 million is chump change so EQ doesn't count...

The MMO genre itself sparks the addiction. Once. EQ, WoW, usually whatever the *first* MMO that hooked you, hooks you hard. But once you break yourself and/or move on to a different MMO, I don't read much about repeated addiction, or more to the point, not the serious damaging addiction that your first one had. Mine was SWG, which other than trying to max out whatever skill trees you were after, didn't have all the huge time constraints to go see content.

Is it the intrinsic timesinks the first-gen games were built upon that is addictive? Or is it the social factor? It's one thing to jump into say, an FPS or RTS for a quick match and *maybe* your teammates are talking but it's a whole other ballgame when you're in an RPG with hundreds, even thousands of other people doing things together or just chatting. When was the last headline of "My husband left me for a girl he met on Unreal Tournament" any of us read? Exactly.

Again, I'll repeat myself: WoW simply copied the EQ formula, and maybe *MAYBE* through a little of their own Diablo loot whoring into the mix (although most EQ articles talk of the gear there too, so maybe not).

Blame the EQ designers for the timesinks and grinds. Better yet, since EQ was nearly quite literally a graphical MUD, blame Bartle and co. for designing MUD1.

Within the past year (offhand, maybe longer) I have read a handful of developer interviews that indicate they're aware the days of monogamous gamers are over. We flit from game to game, canceling then resubbing a few months down the road. More and more previously non-gamers are coming in who maintain their real lives and thus would be called "casuals." Does this mean future MMO's are already headed down a path of fewer timesinks and less grind? Oh, I can already sense the "harcore" fueling up for how MMO's are being dumbed down to cater for the casuals, and Naxx can be soloed by a first-time WoW player who only played part-time for one month...

With respect to the original article, if UO and EQ are still around and EQ still gets expansions even though its best population ever was a mere stepping stone for WoW, then of course WoW will still be around for its 10th anniversary and then some. But four years is getting up there in internet years. WoW's primary source of growth has always been that it achieved critical mass, so advertising and positive word of mouth -- it's a pop culture phenomenon -- have done more for it than anything else. But that will fade away on its own in time, whether some big New Kid on the Block MMO comes along or not.

Openedge1 said...

Out of all games I ever discuss, I never mention WoW. I never pick on it (too much), I never degrade it like LOTRO or Vanguard or pick it apart like EQ2, DDO, etc.
The game is purely simple fun for those who like it.
I enjoyed it at one time, and do not like it now.
I hate Blizzard as a company due to their size. They have become impersonal...but again, not their fault.
They are like some mega corporation that cares about sales more than people.
But, as a game, I cannot fault it.
It runs well on 95% of all machines.
Offers addictive gameplay with simple mechanics and has both casual and hardcore gameplay.
People are more upset at the fact the game has ruined the overall market.
Any game trying to innovate will bomb out. They must follow WoW example or fail...simple.
Or they follow WoW too much, and

I guess we need to accept that when people discuss MMO's, we will have WoW going down in the history books as the greatest ever.

Everyone else needs to just deal!

Scott said...

WoW had an incredibly fun leveling process, and I am convinced the unparalleled arcade responsiveness to the characters was a major attractive point. No other game before or since has come close to matching that, much less exceeding it.

If I were to go back, I'm sure I'd have fun again. The problem is I am all too aware of the bait and switch from fun leveling to grinding raid treadmill endgame and I am simply not willing to go down that road again. I have good memories of WoW, and of every MMO I stuck with for a time but moved on from, but they'll just have to stay memories.

In the sense of WoW, I "outgrew" it because I want more of a worldy feeling game where I *can* raid but I'm not forced to. I *can* do anything I want, but it's always my choice. WoW doesn't offer that, and that's fine, it's the game they set out to make and it's worked exceedingly well for them.

I imagine if an MMO ever came out that broke free of the Diku influence and everything WoW and other Diku-MMO's represent if we'll all be writing how that new game has ruined the industry and pining for the "good 'ol days" of WoW?

Jeromai said...

I hope not. That'll be a step backward in terms of "outgrowing" the Diku influence. :)

As you mentioned, it's the first MMO (or MUD, if your gaming history is as ancient as mine) that hooks you hard.

For many people, that's WoW. Makes it very hard to leave once you've built social ties and communities someplace.

It's personally annoying to me that so many people have attached themselves to a game that has set itself up to be deceptively bait-and-switch.

I dislike the deception. Rather dishonest. I would prefer it if the game shows you what it's going to be like, trains you, before ramping up the difficulty and challenge. WoW's just capitalizing on the addictive properties of an MMO to funnel people from a never-played-a-game-before easy tutorial to a level treadmill into an endless raid treadmill.

I could see through it because I recognized the endgame from prior experience, and I knew the early ease of access was railroading a whole horde of folk towards raid obsession.

But I cling on to the silver lining that maybe, there will be enough people who will wake up, smell the roses and realize that raiding 24/7 isn't for them and they have other more important priorities.

And that maybe WoW isn't the best game for them. Or decide to play it partially at a very casual level instead.

(Quantifier: A hardcore raid game makes some people very happy. People are different, after all. But I'm convinced many others would be happier if they weren't so led by the nose and pressured to beat the Joneses.)

Here's to hoping they'll realize they have other choices.

Melf_Himself said...

"WoW had an incredibly fun leveling process"

To who? WoW's leveling process is a massive grind to me, the rewards are separated by far too much time. People get bored when they're not learning new things in games (research theories on fun in games if you don't believe me).

Of course, it was smart of Blizzard to design the game like that, because it lets them milk the sub money.

For 99% of players, the fun in WoW came from the early levels (in which leveling was fast enough to be fun), the Warcraft IP, and the fact that it was a big open world and you could meet all sorts of people. Sure there have been many other big open worlds, but they're usually buggy as hell, which precludes people from playing them.

WoW then becomes not a good game, but the lesser of many evils.

"the unparalleled arcade responsiveness to the characters was a major attractive point. No other game before or since has come close to matching that, much less exceeding it."

Ever played Guild Wars? The game is responsive as hell. Most other MMO's don't feel the same though.

Fortuente said...

I used to love WoW. Like loooooove it. yet I have never been a hardcore raider or pvper - I've been to ZG and UBRS a few times and that is about it.

To list one simple example of why I fell completely in love with WoW - books were just laying around and you could read them - even in the middle of an instance! Pure genius.

But I no longer am a WoW lover - though I daresay I am not a hater either. I understand where the WoW-hate is coming from here, though, but I think it is misplaced.

You could look at the MMO industry as being like the movie industry. How many really, truly innovative movies come out each year? How many of the really innovative movies are there compared to all the movies made in Hollywood? I would wager a rather small number comparitively.

And this is because the makers know their audience and know what is going to be raking in the bucks. Thus we get douched-up films like the Transformers.

I think if you really want an innovative MMO you should become involved with or help create the indie MMO industry. There are already indie MMO titles out there like Vendetta Online and Blockland.

Why bother with the hate when that energy can be used to give reality to your vision?

Melf_Himself said...

"Why bother with the hate when that energy can be used to give reality to your vision?"

Haha, I wish. Unfortunately, it is much easier to hate on MMO's than it is to make one, even an indie MMO.

Anonymous said...

I think wow was fun when the loot was secondary.. and the raiding was original. I played on and off since vanilla and the night when wotlk came out and people started dinging 80, I knew the fun was over.

Blizz removed the grinding and made loot easy to attain, but its not the destination its the journey.