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Blizzard on  World of Warcraft : We'd be lost without casuals
Blizzard on World of Warcraft: We'd be lost without casuals
August 23, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

August 23, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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Blizzard's 2012 casual-centric World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria, was a huge boon for the company, lead designer Tom Chilton said at Gamescom this week.

"We would have been in bad shape had we not done that," Chilton explained. "People who played Vanilla always say 'if it had stayed the same, I would have the same fun now as I did then.' But that's not true."

"Audiences always evolve."

The Mists of Pandaria expansion introduces "accessible raiding" and other casual features, with the goal of attracting and holding onto players not as interested in traditional "hardcore" gameplay. Chilton said that the company was working on bringing out "new experiences for the hardcore audience" as well through subsequent expansions.

Additionally, Chilton noted that Blizzard was warming to the idea of reconfiguring World of Warcraft as a free-to-play title.

"For Blizzard it makes sense [to adopt a free-to-play model] at some point. But a lot of the risk is in that transition," Chilton said. He mentioned that some developers going free-to-play, while experiencing an initial surge in active players, don't necessarily manage to keep that momentum going.

"We really don't know what the rate is before people drop off and lose interest," he said.


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Comments


Kevin Bender
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We knew this day was coming... I know this maybe to much to ask, but what if it made a graceful exit instead of "whoring" itself out? What if they just find away to gracefully shut itself down and find a way to honor long term players instead of this. Maybe that could restore peoples faith in Blizzard? I kinda wish industries would make more good-will gestures instead of always grabbing for cash... I mean it's already made a TON of money, and was wildly successful beyond anyone's imagination. Do they really need to keep milking it for all its worth? Maybe only in my fantasy world. But maybe even in a business sense if they played it any other route they could have a magnificent opportunity to boost their brand and reputation, besides doing what we would expect from a industry that only speaks in dollars and cents.

Michael Wenk
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If they shutdown, I am willing to bet a good number of their shareholders would band together for a lawsuit.

Damion Schubert
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Only in the irrational, emotional discussion about free-to-play can someone actually claim that giving the game away for absolutely free to probably mid-to-high-seven-figures number of gamers is 'whoring itself out'.

And only in the same discussion can it be seen 'honorable' to 'shut down' a game that currently 7 million players call home - and even think that would 'boost their reputation'.

Ramon Carroll
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Blizzard is a business, Kevin.

Koray Hagen
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Game companies, do not "owe" gamers anything. There are no "measures of good faith" in business, all actions are justified by its betterment for the company, nothing more.

Jonathan Adams
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Graceful exits are unlikely to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue, and killing a game rather than making it more available does nobody any favors. It's a bloody shame when a game ceases to exist, removing any ability people have to go back and experience it again, or to show someone who just wasn't old enough at the time or aware of it. It would be like asking Nintendo to let Mario, Link, or Samus make a "graceful exit." It might help some with closure for some, but it denies many people the joys we were lucky enough to experience.

Kevin Bender
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I'm not saying that they should turn off the servers tomorrow, i'm just saying they should consider doing other things besides morphing WoW into whatever will squeeze as much cash possible out of it. If they mangle the game beyond recognition, its going to come at the expense of the long time fans, the ones who Blizzard owes the most to. We are already starting to see some of the effects of the direction WOW has gone when it catered casual, can you imagine the reaction when this thing goes F2P?

I'm curious if wow would have catered to its original player base, instead of reaching for a wider audience every step of the way, if it would still be going strong (see EVE online)

Michael Wenk
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@Kevin Wow still is going strong. 8 million subs and a decent percentage of approx 200 million a quarter is pretty good numbers. Its problem is that it needs to grow or maintain its revenue, which it is not doing.

To answer your specific question, WoW would not have had as much of an effect on culture if it hadn't exploded the way it did in BC/Wrath, so I don't think it would be "going strong". I also suspect that without evolution many of the vanilla lovers would have left as they're growing and their tastes are changing as well.

Kevin Bender
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I agree, it couldn't have stagnated, it needed more content to keep it fresh, my point is only that when they added things, they decided to cater more and more to casuals, which is fine. But don't be surprised when these casuals casually play your game for a little bit and then drop it.

Its just kinda annoying to me that they are pretending this is the only way it could of happened. Its not, they had a choice, and casual was the direction they chose. Not saying it was good or bad. But if you start off being one thing (hardcore) and become another (casual) don't be surprised that you make a lot of enemies in the process, and my contention is they are making enemies of the very people they should want to get with.

Just clearing the air, i am not or was not a hardcore wow player, i enjoyed the game with friends for a few months and moved on, i was casual for sure. But to say wow is going to fade away because "all good things come to an end" is just an excuse. I think they should take more responsibility for turning the game into something that was not sustainable.

Michael Wenk
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I am glad to hear them acknowledge they need casuals. It would be better to hear them release content that isn't either boring or set for hard cores.

Alex Scott
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"People who played Vanilla always say 'if it had stayed the same, I would have the same fun now as I did then.' But that's not true."

But it is true, and emphatically at that. I've played Vanilla extensively in recent years and enjoyed every second of it. My attempts to get into retail, meanwhile, have fallen flat. It's just not compelling for me.

Of course, their tack makes perfect sense from a business standpoint, but this particular bit of spin that Chilton's offering is utter nonsense. Re-engineering the game to appeal to casuals is fine, but it's kind of deluded to toss in authoritative statements on top of that concerning what veteran players might hypothetically enjoy.

Dane MacMahon
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Haven't the numbers only been going down since Lich King? I'm confused as to why he sees the recent changes as needed.

More a question than a statement.

Michael Wenk
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Numbers peaked shortly when Cataclysm released in December of 2010. They went down for much of Cataclysm at a slow pace, went flat for a couple of quarters and have been steadily dropping for the past few quarters. The current decline rate is quite high and a bit odd because it doesn't seem to be affected by any releases of content. However the real reason why we're seeing so much about this is the fact that revenue seems to be hit much harder by this loss than previous losses.

Dane MacMahon
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Right... so if their numbers have been going down since Cataclysm, why is he saying the expansion pack after that saved the game by bringing in more casual gamers?

I just want that to make sense and not be marketing bull.

Christian Nutt
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My guess is because they determined they can't get the old audience back and needed to attract an entirely new audience to make up for it. Seems logical to me, anyway.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Christian

Makes sense. They probably know how many of their current users are newer. Maybe it's a quite high percentage.

Gian Dominguez
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Or you know, that WoW is simply an old game. It is nearly 10 years old. Find me a game that has remain as popular in such a time. Never mind the fact in that 10 years people and the world have changed, considerable. WoW is competing with more things(mobile games, new MMO etc) for our attention. And people have gotten older, have kids of their own etc etc.

Kevin Bender
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EVE? granted it doesn't have as many players as wow ever did, but they aren't over there making excuses why their game is dying. They seem to still be growing after 10 years.

rhodree mahr
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Yes, in some ways it is old but Blizzard puts more development into the biennial expansion releases than many companies put into their full game. Yes, it needs to be constantly reinvented if they want to keep subscribers, but the fact is, if it were fun to play then they wouldn't be losing people. Its the same bottom line as ever.

Also, the way they made everything so simplified and liner is going to make it more appealing to the most casual players, and probably hurts the more hardcore solo players the most. There is still difficult raiding for the most hardcore of group PVE players. This strategy almost guarantees f2p as you need people who play an mmo a lot to justify a subscription. 15$ for 15 hours a month isn't as good value as someone who plays 30 hours for 15$ gets.

PS Letting a game "die with grace" is silliness when the company has jobs that need filling and stockholders that need profit. Just not a fair thing to expect.

Harry Fields
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Cater to casuals, but the whole removal of talent trees really hurt the game for me. I got one char up to cap in MoP and tryed levelling a monk. The new mechanics of "pick one of three abilities every 15 levels" instead of investing singular points in complex trees destroyed so much of what made character progression fun in WoW. A lot of players, like myself, don't care for end-game of even grouping. We like making characters and progressing through the levels. By simplifying advancement as much as they have... well, I hope their next expac sees the pendulum shift a little back in the other direction. Maybe meet somewhere in the middle. I still think it's a great game. It's just old and the mechanics have grown tired. It happens.

Nat Tan
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The current decline, in my opinion, is due to the fact they were simply over-targeting their audience. They wanted to appeal to both the older hardcore group while trying to bring in the casual crowd as well. The core players who have been supporting them from the start started to get sick of the casualization of the game. On the other side, the casual players who wanted to get into more hardcore content were alienated because they didn't understand the exact requirements each player needed to actually get into end-game content.

Now, add into the equation, that the hardcore players that stayed on were clearing through content at a blazingly fast speed and starting complaining about the lack of content; while the casual players couldn't even make it past the starter/mid-level encounters. Then a new expansion/patch comes out before these casual players have a chance to do anything, and the hardcore players found their gear nerfed compared to the new casual obtained gear.

In short, it can be said that it feels like one big meaningless cycle where players from both spectrums eventually got sick of. They overstretched, and their numbers started to dwindle due to not being able to really please anyone.


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