We don’t care and you can’t make us, neener neener neener

By now, unless you have been living in a cave in Gorgrond, you have read that World of Warcraft subscriptions fell by 3 million during the first quarter of 2015. That’s a million subscriptions a month, which MMO Champion’s Blue Tracker calls “the largest drop in subscriber count in the history of the game.” (It’s not, actually, it’s just the largest quarterly drop. But still … )

This is kind of a big deal, but certainly is not the end of WoW. On the other hand, there is a facet of it that does not bode well for the future of the game: Blizz’s actions or lack thereof as a response.

Over a year ago, I wrote that Warlords of Draenor could be a truly great expansion, or it could be the  one we would all look back on and say it was where Blizz jumped the shark. Though I usually don’t like to do this, I will quote myself here:

First, a policy statement of sorts regarding Warlords of Draenor: I am going to do my best to look at the positive side of the entire xpac, even though to be honest every bone in my body is screaming that this will be an epic fail for Blizz, that they are jumping the shark with this one. Wait, no! This will be the best xpac ever, and players will flock back to WoW in such numbers that the account servers will crash from people wanting to reactivate.

Well, scarily, everything but “the best xpac ever” came true. And now we learn that — in what should have been the most active time frame of the expansion — Blizz began losing subscriptions in record numbers just 6 weeks after launch. Listen, I am not a professional developer, and I certainly have no infallible crystal ball, but if even I could sense major shortcomings in the then-still-in-planning WoD, maybe — just maybe — Blizz should have, too. But they didn’t, and what we have seen so far this year is that they still don’t.

I take no joy in the huge subscription drop. In fact, it makes me sad. In spite of all the times I have proclaimed that I no longer care about this expansion, the fact is that I still love the game. I am one of the diehards that will likely stick with it until the bitter end. (Unfortunately, like with the social guild I just left after 5 years, it may be the case that I love the idea of the game as it used to be, not what it has become.)

But here is the most depressing part of this news: Blizz has known about the huge sub decline since it started in January. They have undoubtedly watched as their subs dropped at alarming rates every week of this year. Yet what has their response been so far?

1.  Double down on every major aspect of the current structure that has caused the greatest negative responses from the vocal part of the player base: garrison integration as a play requirement, RNG run amuck, profession and crafting worthlessness, no reasonable gear-buying currency, no flying, no compelling reason to run instances or even raids, devaluation of guilds as game structures, etc.

2.  Where they claim to have listened to feedback, they have made minuscule changes and declared the problem fixed. I can now click once to submit all work orders, and my characters can swallow a pot to move through the mine in 3 minutes instead of the five it used to take. Oh, and taxi flying takes about 10% less time than it did, and I can jump off at an intermediate hub, without losing the immersive joy of a long ground run interrupted by pissant mobs to get to a lousy ore node or quest location. Big whoop.

3.  Tokens.

4. S.E.L.F.I.Es, jukeboxes, and Twitter.

In short, they have known about the sub loss since it started, and they have done nothing. Zero. Nada. Zip. What does this tell us? It tells they just don’t care. Why they don’t care — your guess is as good as mine. Maybe they are happy about it because soon they will be left with only the “right” kind of players. Maybe WoW is dead to them anyway and they are not going to spend any more big resources on it. Maybe Activision is so huge that this doesn’t even register on their bottom line. Maybe the problems are so vastly complex that they are incapable of fixing them, so they have given up. Maybe they are banking on the movie to bail them out, so they are just trying to hang on until next summer. The reasons are unknowable, but the fact remains that they have known about the sub loss all year and have done nothing meaningful to stop it.

Actions speak louder than words. Blizz’s refusal to do anything but use band-aids to staunch the arterial bleeding of subscriptions just screams “WE DON’T CARE ANY MORE!”

Which is a shame, because I still do. I am betting you do, too.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

2 Responses to We don’t care and you can’t make us, neener neener neener

  1. Athie says:

    It’s just so sad. People are parsing this one way or another to make it no big deal. I think the best effort at making it seem okay is saying that this drop equals the size of the bump at Draenor’s launch — so it’s just a bubble popping. Except MMO populations don’t work that way. The 3 million definitely include some new and returning players but also lots of older players. Anyway, churning out a million people a month is crisis mode no matter what.

    This expansion was never going to be for me. Hyper-machismo play-to-crush broisms just turn me off. Savage this, savage that, sigh… So I was never the target market. Fine! But I’m happy to ride through an expansion that isn’t a great lore and aesthetic fit for me — just let me have fun spaces to play in! With these numbers I don’t feel lonely in my reaction anymore. Just worried that the game’s future will be diminished…

    • Fiannor says:

      I agree, I am fine riding out a bad xpac now and then. The game is so rich and complex there really is never any reason to be bored. What worries me is that the trends we see in WoD are the game’s future — that is, less and less player choice and more and more funneling everyone into one certain play style.

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