I must confess, I haven’t logged into World of Warcraft for over two years. TWO years. And, it’s not because the game changed much, but I have, and so has the gaming community. We’ve come to expect better things. Yet, I still compare EVERY new MMO game to World of Warcraft in some aspect. My criteria for judging MMO’s has mostly been, “Is this as fun as WoW?” I know I’m not alone in using this criteria. And, for the most part, new MMOs have fallen short of WoW’s appeal. But, it’s still no surprise that Blizzard saw a loss of 1.3 million subscribers for World of Warcraft in the first quarter of 2013, and another 600,000 in the second quarter. There’s an obvious reason that WoW has lost 1.9 million subscribers in three months; people have changed.
The key to World of Warcraft’s appeal and success was that everyone was playing it; your best friends, your wife, your uncle, your mailman, your professor, your dog-walker, Mr. T, etc. This is no longer the case. The gamers that grew up playing World of Warcraft nearly ten years ago are now ten years older. Think about that for a minute; where were you ten years ago? I, myself, was in high school, with nothing else to do but neglect my homework and play video games. Where am I now? Married with two kids and a full time job. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for three hour raids and dungeon sessions. I certainly wouldn’t be able to play the game for a long enough period of time that would provide any worth to having a monthly subscription, so, again unfortunately, I go without World of Warcraft. It’s just not worth it to me anymore.
With the release of newer, more polished MMOs such as Guild Wars 2 and Neverwinter, there’s no denying that WoW’s graphics and cost model need updating. Guild Wars 2 was a one time purchase of $60, and then you can play it free for life (or until the company shuts down the servers), and Neverwinter, which will be hitting retail sometime soon, is now in a free, open beta. Free. But where WoW falls short on graphics, Guild Wars 2 and Neverwinter fall short (in one way or another) on gameplay. I’m just starting my journey with Neverwinter, so I can’t say just yet whether or not it has staying power, but if it’s anything like my MMOs of games past, my interest in it won’t last more than a year. I haven’t logged into Guild Wars 2 in six months. I haven’t logged into DC Universe Online since a week after the latest content update was released. I haven’t logged into Defiance since a week after finishing up my review for Den of Geek.
The money that I used to spend on my monthly subscription to World of Warcraft now goes to the necessities in life. On top of that point, I have to be more choosey with the games I want to spend my hard-earned money on. I can’t just go to GameStop and buy 2 or 3 games at a time like I used to when I was 15 years old without any bills to pay. So, some games are missed, and I tend to look for the cheaper options for gaming; World of Warcraft is not one of those options. It’s not like there isn’t a cost barrier for WoW to get new subscribers, either. You’d have to first purchase World of Warcraft and its first two expansions, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King for $19.99, then Cataclysm for another $19.99, then Mists of Pandaria for another $39.99, PLUS a monthly fee? No thanks. World of Warcraft would undoubtedly benefit from a free-to-play model (which every Tom, Dick and Harry on the web is crying for). You can add my name to that list, sure, but the game would still have to be updated graphically to hold my interest.
There’s also the need for that “new-new”; gamers always want to try the newest games. Between new retail releases from big companies like EA, Perfect World, NCsoft, Trion Worlds, XBLA and PSN titles, Indie releases every week, and alphas, closed betas, open betas, etc, gamers are constantly getting new options for games to play. And, it’s nearly impossible to keep up. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve missed already this year that I, hopefully, will get a chance to go back and play at some point, simply because there isn’t enough time in the week to play all the new games and still keep up with real life. Thankfully, gaming is part of my career, so I do get to play more than the average adult gamer (awesome). Still, there’s not enough time in the week to play all of the new games that I would like to get my hands on. There’s no time to play it, and my pockets aren’t endless, so where would World of Warcraft even fit into this equation?
But now with Warlords of Draenor on the horizon, scheduled to be released in November, we're left to wonder if Blizzard will see an uptick in the number of subscriptions, and if Warlords of Draenor is enough to bring players back to WoW.