Gamasutra's latest feature examines the drop in World of Warcraft subscribers following December 2010's launch of expansion pack Cataclysm -- and lead systems designer Greg Street says "we struggle with" satisfying long-time players "all the time."
For the feature, Gamasutra spoke to players, academics, and Blizzard's lead systems designer Street to get to the heart of what has lead more players to give the game up recently. Blizzard president Michael Morhaime admitted in May that "subscriber levels have decreased faster than in previous expansions," after the release of Cataclysm.
The team has put a lot of effort into updating the early game content, says Street: "The quests flow better, there's not so much traveling all the way across the world, the rewards are just a little better."
However, that may be at the cost of late-game content.
"We struggle with that all the time, it's huge," Street says of complaints from high-level players. "We just don't have a lot of examples of games that have lasted this long and been this popular for so long to show the right way to do it."
The issue is releasing new content to keep players satisfied, says Street. "For a long time now we've been trying to get to a place where we can release content a lot more frequently, that's something we've been working on for literally years."
"We think that instead of ebbing and flowing it keeps players more engaged because right when they're getting bored of old content we've got new content for them. We definitely know that three or four months after a patch comes out players feel like they've seen it all and they're ready for something new. We just haven't had time to crank that stuff out yet."
This echoes comments made by Morhaime in May, in which he said "We need to be faster at delivering content to players. And so that's one of the reasons that we're looking to decrease the amount of time in-between expansions."
The full feature, which investigates the churn from the perspective of high-level players and also includes data from an extensive survey of WoW subscribers, is live now on Gamasutra.