WoW game design bankruptcy

I point you to this video:

And to that thesis I add this small bit of official press release information from Blizzard:

World of Warcraft’s revenue performance at constant FX has been more stable, driven by continued strong uptake on value added services, and price increases in select regions, which partially offset subscriber declines

So what’s happening is that they are losing customers, but they aren’t losing money. They sell MORE to LESS people.

Here comes the argument of the video: Blizzard is finding new ways to push players to use real money to play the game.

That’s game design bankruptcy. Exploiting customers in a way that is contrary to what’s good to make the game a good game. You thought they learned the lesson with Diablo 3? Nope, they only play the market by doing the Right Thing only when it’s the right time to make it convenient (so they first profit on the game, then they switch strategies to also get critical acclaim when they course-correct).

Problem is that it doesn’t work. The moment you go for the short term effect of exploiting customers you CAUSE the long-term effect of losing them for good. WoW is losing subscriptions BECAUSE of game design. This strategy of using game design to compensate subscription losses is what causes tomorrow’s (or today’s) decline of subscriptions. Short term good, long term bad.

It’s not the fix, it’s the problem.

I don’t know anyone that actually likes the pay-to-play model, but I’m not presumptuous enough to think that just because I dislike a business model that it must therefore be a Bad Thing. We heard the same arguments that the hourly (and then monthly) fees for access to online games was ‘exploiting’ customers, and yet the major players went on to rake in billions on the back of that model over the next 20 years with millions of happy customers.

I’ve yet to see any sort of empirical study that supports the empty platitudes you’re exposing about imminent doom.

Says partially offset, so not entirely. WoW still does not sell non-cosmetic items or services, except the level 90 boost.

Ehh… they do sell the game time token though, which can be sold for gold. So with a little bit of effort you can buy everything that’s marketable. However from my understanding you’d go real life broke in a hurry trying to finance your in-game expenses that way.

I like the FFXIV system, which similarly offers only cosmetic items including old seasonal items that players may have missed and isn’t pushed at all past the launcher. If I had to guess, the upgraded premium wedding (basic is free) is probably a big seller for them as well, though that one does get some in-game mention. About as inoffensive as a cash shop on top of a monthly sub model can be, imo.

That’s true, but they sold a similar tradable pet for years too. And if you actually play the game at maximum level, you can make the money to buy a token in 2 weeks from garrison stuff alone on a single character.

WoW still does not sell non-cosmetic items or services, except the level 90 boost.

And server transfers. And a few other things, I have a vague memory of.

That said, I’m not entirely sure what HRose’s beef here is. WoW is clearly in long term subscriber decline - it’s not a new trend. Given that Titan is now canned, what do you expect a listed company to do? Just watch that revenue disappear? Of course they’re trying to get more revenue out of the subscribers they have left.

This is a thing?


Good lord. I bet the Japanese and Korean markets love it though.

HRose just has an axe to grind against WoW. (And various other things, but definitely WoW.) I would give about as much credence as to Rachel Brown’s posts about Valve/Steam.

Against WoW? As far as I can tell, he has an axe to grind against any and every game.

…And the $20 token that can be sold for game gold. That’s not cosmetic at all.

More like any and every topic.

Not really sure how it’s “exploiting the customer”, as you say, to offer things like mounts, pets, renames, server transfers, faction transfers, and other cosmetic items for purchase. You get the game you paid for with no artificial throttling without spending an additional dime beyond your monthly subscription.

These aren’t strange new taxes or true impacting items that people are paying money for. The term “exploiting” doesn’t seem to apply even a little.

Now if they were to say “For $20, you can now fly in WoD!”, that would get me on your side of this argument.

Here’s an article I liked on Marketplace:

They note that the decline in WoW started more or less when mobile really took off. gaming is moving from long stretches at one thing to smaller app-based games for a lot of people.

They also heard the common complaint I keep hearing for WoD: Not enough top-level content. Bored players are unsubscribing players.

The only thing that’s going to get WoW subscriber numbers back up to the peak is… Nothing. Seriously folks. The MMO subscriber model is a dying beast. B2P, F2P, or a combo/hybrid 2P model are the ways to go.

If Blizzard launched WoW 2 with everything everyone ever asked for in an MMO, but only offered a monthly subscription, the numbers would fall after the first month just like with every MMO.

It’s possible to play for free, gold is easily acquired, and there are plenty of alternative ways to acquire gear.

The sky is not falling.

Wait, you got it all wrong.

We aren’t talking about business models, nor about preferences.

The problem is when game design is bent toward business model. More specifically when what’s good for the money runs contrary to what’s good for the game.

If a certain system is designed to be extremely grindy and boring in order to push you toward a “buy” button to skip it (or speed it up), this objectively runs contrary to how that content would be designed if the only purpose was simply making the “best” content. The designer will be pressured to encourage users toward the money option. It’s the reason why most mobile games are just really bad, simply because they are more focused on squeezing money out of the wallet more than being good games.

But none of this is new. What’s new is that it’s now applied to a game like WoW, that HAS a subscription model (and that should be enough to get 100% of the game).

Have you watched the video? I don’t know the intricacies of WoW of today, but the idea I got is that there was some content planned that has a certain requirement on equipment level, and that a casual player has now the option of either go through deliberately grindy content to be able to access it, OR pay Blizzard money to activate a shortcut.

The moment the designers have pressure from higher-ups to design content to push customers to spend more money is the moment the toy breaks.

We aren’t talking about “cosmetic” stuff.

Believe what you want.

What I do believe is that WoW has took the decline path since after Cataclysm, and that’s exactly the point where the game design took a turn to the shitter.

I do not have any axe to grind, I’ve sung endless praises to the game for years, because it was better, by far, than everything else. It still is. But after Cataclysm it’s a total disaster and it shows that Blizzard moved the talented people on different games (Tigole has been off WoW for years, they lost Rob Pardo, etc…). You see what happens when a studio loses its most talented guys.

You can even track back my posts here a year ago and see I was starting to be interested in rejoining the game too. So I started to look into the changes they were making, and realized that, nope, it was a long list of very, very bad choices.

WoW direction is a total disaster, and usually most players share the same opinion. Everyone will tell you the best expansions where the first two, and it was only a nosedive ever since. And if you look at the WoW thread there’s a discussion of how pointless, grindy and relatively unfun are the garrisons. That’s not me, that’s people who play the game and that see every day how the game took a turn for the worse. Same as being without content/patches for months, and so on. Now they add a patch that adds grind along with a “BUY” button, just with the news the subscriptions are falling to a new low after reaching a new high.

The nosedive in subscription FOLLOWS the nosedive in game design quality. You can go check for concrete motivations I explained in that thread, like how they completely broke the level pacing with Cataclysm. That’s THE core system of the game. They broke it. You cannot expect a game to flourish when you destroy its central feature.

You are just mistaking for natural, unavoidable decline what is instead the result of active work. They just hit a high in subscriptions with the expansion, people who wanted to get into the game again. Looks like none of them stayed.

No axe to grind.

It’s still better than everything else.

It’s also a total disaster.


I would like to thank WOW for providing ten years of quality entertainment - and that’s just from the “WOW is d00med!” threads.

But none of this is new. What’s new is that it’s now applied to a game like WoW, that HAS a subscription model

Because WoW never had a grind before? Eh?

The nosedive in subscription FOLLOWS the nosedive in game design quality.

Which preceded any F2P elements. If WoW’s current design is bad (and I was never much of a fan), then it’s as much to do with the subscription model - keep people grinding and paying subs until you release the next expansion - as the F2P model.

Is the opinion of being good before and getting bad past a certain point too complex to grasp for you?

It’s still better than everything else because MMORPGs have been stuck in mediocrity for a very long time. The decline belongs to the genre, not to a single title. The best one out there is FFXIV that is one of the most conservative and old-school around, the least progressive game you can imagine.

No, it was fun to play. Go read the history of this genre to learn again how WoW removed the grind from MMORPG design. It’s the one reason why it was successful.

But more to the point it didn’t provide a mean to pay real money to shorten the path.