Fight, Surrender or Stagnate

October 16, 2008

My colleague Mr. Snafzg over at The Greenskin (where they perform ritual demon cleansings, or so I’ve heard) has commented on an interview with Paul Sams from Blizzard who says, among other things, that half of WoW players who listed WAR as a reason for leaving have returned.

Well, duh.

Seriously, it’s about the biggest no-brainer that I’m sure you could’ve said the same thing last week and your friends would’ve shrugged. Gamers go where the action is, and MMO games tend to have deep roots in prior MMOs that don’t tend to let go so easy. If we’re being totally honest here, with all the WotLK publicity out there, sure, I’ve felt the pull to secretly resub to WoW and spend a month or two getting my toons up to 80. Like many of the other ex-WoW players out there, I have literally years of my gaming life invested in that title, and it’s not an easy thing to give up. Especially since you (a) tend to forget quickly just why you left in the first place and (b) your new home is a little rough around the edges, and not as comfortable as your old one. We like what’s familiar, we’re jumpy little people, and it doesn’t take much to sway us back and forth. So, yeah, duh.

Of course, even if you read beyond Sams’ cocky swagger there, there’s a world he isn’t telling you. No MMO company is 100% forthcoming with subscriber statistics, unless they can reveal part of them to you and put a good spin on it. When I quit WoW back in June, I didn’t fill out their little “crying peon” form with any accuracy; it was just click-click-click-unsubscribe. Or what about, as Snafzg said, gamers who are -gasp- playing both titles? And certainly don’t read Sams’ statement to say that “half of WAR players have left to go to WoW”, because that’s not even remotely true.

Listen, you or I have no idea what makes up the population of WAR these days. We can be certain it’s a mix: fans of MMOs, general gamers sucked into a MMO for the first time, Warhammer TT players, ex-WoW junkies, PvP fans, and so on. As I said before, right now we’re in a time where the box is being shaken and while there’s a layer at the top that’s flying every which way, the rest is settling down and getting on with the dirty business of conducting a virtual war. As much as September was Warhammer’s month, November will be Warcraft’s, and December will be everybody’s. Mythic has a lot of work cut out for them to really get WAR up to its best possible standards by the time Christmas hits and the next big wave comes in.

My gut tells me that we will hear a one million subscriber statement by Mythic by the year’s end, and that’ll be a great moment for players who base their longevity in a game on how many people are playing it. Mythic’s choice is either to fight to rise above “pretty darn great” to be awesome, surrender to the inevitable force of WoW, or to stagnate somewhere in the middle with 750K subs and ten thousand units sold to gold spammers. I’m betting they’re the fighting type, and that’s why my dollar sticks with this game.

I think it’s important to look beyond the sound bite of one quote to the rest of the interview, such as when Sams admits, “I think Warhammer is best positioned to succeed out of the various products that have come out thus far since World of Warcraft has come out. It seems to be a good game, certainly a great company, Mythic and Mark [Jacobs] over there and his team, they’re very, very talented.”  Shouldn’t that have any play in this discussion?



  1. As someone who only dedicated six months to WoW, years ago and has never really looked back but has friends who just can NOT let go of the game, even when they admit they have no fun any more, hearing people constantly argue about how many WoW subscriptions this that and the other game are taking tends to irk me. What about the vast numbers of people who don’t play WoW, or who did but for short periods and have no plan of going back? There’s whole games full of them. (FFXI, SWG, LoTRO all have very healthy amounts of players who have never had any significant affair with WoW) Why doesn’t anyone report numbers like “40% of WAR gamers never had any interest in WoW, and Blizzard is still not getting their money”. The perception that everyone who plays MMOs has a secret addiction to that game drives me bonkers.

    The numbers that WoW reports, last I heard 9 million, I’m sure it’s higher now, are not current players. If in three weeks WAR has banned 10,000+ gold spammers, how many of that 9 million WoW boxes over four or five years equals farmers? How many are people with multiple accounts? How many are people who payed $20 for the game, played a month and never came back? Lineage 2 has 10 million players. Perfect World has more than twice that worldwide. Crap, Fiesta Online has 1 million “players”.

    I’ve always been curious how much of WoW’s juggernaut status is perception by other gamers/media, and how much of it is pure fact. “9 million players” is such a miss leading statement.

    And that’s my unsolicited ramble on some poor person’s blog for the day.

  2. His numbers are utterly worthless. People leave for different reasons. I left to play eq2 with friends and I was bored with TBC. To me WoW was over when they did cross server BGs, gave shaman and pallies to both sides, removed pvp titles, created a grind. I “came back” to say hi/bye to friends.
    I play on emus for a while and that pretty much ended the time I played wow ..i walked away. i don’t feel the least bit interested in going back to wow even if it were free.
    Unless he has actually figures he can say numbers all day long and no one can really question or dispute them.
    If they sold 70k copies of the collector’s edition and are at a subscription of 750k and half of them were WoW players who quit WoW to come play WAR (425k) and over half of those have come back to WoW (benefit of the doubt lets just say 300k) That means still a whole lot of nothing!
    Just sayin

  3. I have not felt the urge to go back to WoW at all. Their shine disappeared a long time ago for me and there really is no reason to go back.

  4. Nail on the head, Syp, nail on the head. I didn’t mention WAR on the 2 WoW accounts that I cancelled over the Summer. But here I am, knee deep in WAR, and even though WotLK is tempting me, I know it’s just more of the same.

  5. I sold my account to a friend after cancelling for WAR, so I guess I’m one of them.^^

  6. Were you looking in my direction when you wrote this? 🙂

    I confess I have been playing WoW again. I at least want to get my characters to level 80 and see the new areas/quests. Then I’ll probably head back to WAR. I’ll be keeping both subscriptions active so that I can go back and forth between games.

    WAR IS an amazing game, they have some work to do but it has great potential. Truthfully I want to see both games do well, good competition only benefits the gamers. 🙂

  7. I think WAR will do fine. I plan on playing both WAR and Wotlk and have a life! I’ll just play less of each! I see WAR hitting 1 million but I think that 750k-850k is where will see WAR on the long run.

    Don’t forget that the expansion to LOTRO is coming out soon too, and I’m very tempted buy that. I think a lot of people will too.

  8. Well those guys really have a bit of an ego now with that many players, all the hype, merchandising and some movie coming out.

  9. I actually played WoW from launch and was in a top 100 raiding guild for much of my career. The fact is… the game just became a massive loot grind regardless of whether you went PVE or PVP.

    Everyone once in a while I get nostalgic for that sense of wonder you had exploring the world back when it launched, but ultimately I remember that WAR has thus far been so much more “casual” friendly it is pretty ridiculous.

    Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon period since the game hasn’t become a bunch of level 40s yet, but so far WAR seems to cater much more readily to people that don’t want to schedule out large blocks of time to kill hyper-hard bosses. Maybe the taking of cities will change that, but for now I am pleased with the direction.

  10. Played WoW for years, gave it up for EQ2, came back when friends resubbed and left for LoTRO.

    I’ve got Mines of Moria on pre-order but wont be firing it up on release day. I’m having too much fun in WAR at the moment!

    I am likely to play Moria at some point – especially as I’ve a lifetime sub, but will play it alongside WAR just to give me a change of pace.

    I’ve no interest in WoW anymore.

    Although I’m in a gaming family, WAR and even LoTRO by its side allow me to keep some semblance of real life(tm).

    I just hope WAR keeps on improving. So far its a great game – and I hated PvP before this.

  11. […] subs, so doesn’t include people who didn’t mention that or who are playing both games. Syp comments on the spin involved in that […]

  12. Very good analysis, me thinks 😉

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