When World of Warcraft’s numbers dropped to approximately ten million subscriptions, people started pushing the doom buttons. I’ll not understand why, but the reason for many of the departures was in part the current expansion. It just didn’t deliver nearly as well as the previous two. That’s fact. There’s going to be plenty of unique cases (lifestyle or interest changes, life changes, etc) that contribute to that as well. However, I’d like to see the numbers again as we sit in one of the longest time frames without new content since the game launched nearly eight years ago.
Patch 4.3.2 brought us Real ID raiding in January, but prior to that the actual new in-game content came in November with Patch 4.3. So we’ve gone seven months without anything new. For many hardcore players, that’s four or five months without anything to do. The only period even close to that long was what would have been nearly a year between 3.3 (Fall of the Lich King) and 4.0 (The Shattering). However, Blizzard released Ruby Sanctum in June of 2010 and that was exactly what many needed to hold them over for the summer.
So here we sit, with each passing day there is nothing new in the game. An added vanity item in a World Event doesn’t count either. That’s just poor man’s incentive to stay at it, and even then it’s probably of interest to less than half the player base. A few others might be interested but also have the “that’s not enough for me to come back right now” mindset. What’s even scarier? There’s still the chance we don’t even see Mists this year.
I commented earlier this year that a friend of mine had sat in on the conference call in the first quarter and Blizzard had outright said no expansion this year. I’m not saying things can’t change, I’m just looking at it realistically. This weekend is July and Mists of Pandaria is really just getting it’s feet wet testing the raids in Beta. So, you know it’s likely going to continue through the summer. Let’s say for the sake of argument everything goes smooth as silk. The raids show next to no bugs and Blizzard is content with, erm, their content. That means probably about a month of smoothing out final details while still leaving the Beta open for folks to be faffing about (thanks Godmother, I’ve been waiting to use that…). So now we’re at the end of September.
If we’re getting a release this year, mid November or later seems most likely. But that’s really only a six week window to stay within 2012. As a non-Mists player, that’s a long time and a small window. Heck, I play a tabletop game that has delays of three weeks to a month on their release of new product and that sure isn’t affecting millions. Plus, Blizzard won’t want another Diablo 3 on their hands. There were a number of problems at launch, including the download client (I saw this first hand, and heard about it a fair bit as well).
For a company that said it wanted to release expansions faster, this seems backwards. Don’t get me wrong, I would much sooner they get it right and then release it, rather than feed dung to the salivating masses. But at the same time it would’ve been nice to toss in some sort of content a la Ruby Sanctum as a holdover in the meantime. I know I talked about a game of chicken earlier this month,
but I honestly believe we’re going to see Guild Wars 2 this year, possibly by the US Thanksgiving (I clarify that because when I think of Thanksgiving, our Canadian one is about six weeks earlier). More and more WoW players are getting bored or drifting away from the game. edit: With Guild Wars 2 launching August 28th and no Mists in sight, many more are going to drift and it is definitely hard to say if they’ll come back by the time the Horde and Alliance land in Pandaria.
I’ve always said Guild Wars 2 won’t kill World of Warcraft, but if Blizzard waits too long for content of any kind they may as well be lining up ArenaNet and the other MMO makers and handing them their firing squad rifles.