Is Blizzard Out of Touch with their Subscribers?

What is Blizzard thinking?

It’s one of the questions I’ve been pondering now for the past few weeks. It’s a valid question to ask. Blizzard has lost almost 1 million subscribers since Cataclysm has launched. Multiply that by $15 per month (a rough guesstimate). That’s about 90 million lost in a 6 month period. 90 MILLION.

You can’t sit here and claim Blizzard isn’t panicking. That’s a lot money to lose in a 6-month period of time and it will only increase as time goes on.

So what’s causing this sudden drop of subscribers?

1. Raid Lockouts

This change was probably the biggest one. Both 10 and 25 man raids share the same lockout. Many guilds decided to go the 10-man route and forgo 25s altogether. I know that for my old Oceanic guild, this was a huge issue. It slowed progression greatly. We could no longer work on bosses in our 10-man to prepare us for 25s. And all of the sudden our raiding roster dropped from 35 to a mere 15 people including socials.

2. Class Changes

How many Paladins do you know that quit WoW because of the introduction of Holy Power? I know a few actually. It’s quite sad because these people loved their class and hated the changes made to it. They didn’t want to re-roll anything else, so they just left the game. A couple of them are actually playing Rift now and enjoy it. Rift seems to have that “old school WoW-feel” to it that many people miss in Cataclysm.

3. Boss Mechanics

Cataclysm has just been plain harder than Wrath. T11 broke many guilds. Some guilds STILL have yet to kill Chogall, Nefarian, and Al Akir even after their respective nerfs. And T12 is worse. I’m all for fun encounters, but bosses like Lord Rhyolith are just plain unnecessary. It’s taking it a step too far. It’s not just “don’t stand in bad” or “kill these adds.” Sometimes I just yearn for a good old-fashioned “lolPatchwerk” fight.

Now we are hearing that the 4.3 Deathwing fight will require someone (or maybe the entire raid?) to be on his back flying around. We still don’t know much about it, but I just hope that it’s difficult without being overkill. I liked the Nefarian encounter. I’m hoping it’s difficulty is somewhat similar without the mechanics not being too punishing.

4. Familiar Content

Cataclysm has been all about familiar content and familiar faces. Some familiar parts seem all new (like questing in Silverpine, which I loved), while others haven’t been graced with as much attention (Winterspring, etc.) We also saw reworked dungeons like H-Deadmines and H-Shadowfang Keep and some brand new ones.

We saw some new places, like Hyjal, Uldum, and Twilight Highlands. These places were pretty epic to quest in. The story lines were very well-tied into the lore of their respective areas. But once you hit 85, the fun stopped.

But to be honest, nothing in Cataclysm has been TRULY new to the player base. Not like Burning Crusade or even Wrath. It’s all familiar as if we’ve all done it before and it’s getting old real fast. Even the “new content” patches have been familiar. 4.1 brought old troll raids back as heroic dungeons. 4.2 brought back an old Molten Core boss and the raid itself has broken quite a few raiding guilds due to ridiculous boss mechanics. I’m starting to think Blizzard is running out of ideas.

5. Bring the Player Cooldown

Another huge issue, specifically for healers. You didn’t really see this as an issue in T11 (mainly just for endgame bosses), but this philosophy has pretty much been required for T12. Blizzard has designed every T12 boss to have a phase where cycling through healing cooldowns is the only way for the raid to survive. Without said CDs, your raid wouldn’t survive because your healers just couldn’t keep up with the boss’ DPS. We saw Shaman get a powerful raid CD in the form of Spirit Link Totem. We saw Druids get more up-time with Tranquility. Discipline Priests got a nerf to Power Word: Barrier, but it was just to bring it more in line with other raid CDs. Paladins still have the incredibly powerful (but situational) Aura Mastery. And Holy Priests got—-nothing.

I know a few Holy Priests who have since temporarily left the game for greener pastures or new experiences, and some are fellow bloggers who I hold great respect for. I certainly don’t fault them for trying out something new and I understand what it means to be passionate about your class.

In the long run, you should be able to play the spec you want to play and not be told to play something else just because of one ability. It’s unfortunate that the raiding community has come to this mentality. But I don’t blame the community. I blame Blizzard.

We all play this game to have fun. If you don’t enjoy a specific class or spec, then why play it at all?

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27 thoughts on “Is Blizzard Out of Touch with their Subscribers?

  1. You get a natural decline in months following an expansion – because you get a huge uptick right around the time an expansion starts. So, their solution is pushing out expansions more frequently to get more up-ticks in subscribers. 🙂

    • I actually wonder what the ratio is for new subscribers vs cancellations. It just seems like the raiding community is continually getting smaller. I guess that doesn’t mean the casuals are going anywhere tho.

  2. Re: Raid Lockouts
    The unified 10 and 25 man lockouts have produced a predictable outcome: fewer and fewer 25 man guilds. This is mainly due to recruitment and people flocking to two ends: no-excuses hardcore or go-at-your-own-pace casual. Ten mans coalesce from the skeletons of former teams usually and are much simpler to maintain.

    Re: Class Changes
    Whether or not Blizzard is out of touch is really of no consequence. Blizzard is going to change and mold classes as they may seem fit. The best way to show that dissatisfaction is to walk. Holy Power I don’t see as a back-breaking “i can’t play like this” issue. People have left over things like that since TBC.

    Re: Boss Mechanics
    None of the Tier 11 or Tier 12 bosses are really any harder than the stuff we’ve seen in the past. Judging based on how many have completed the instance isn’t a good metric. Blizzard moved the accessibility line way up, and there will always be people that don’t finish no matter how easy they make the raids. The number of guilds that finished Tier 11 is probably much higher than previous tiers.

    Re: Familiar Content
    I’m in 100% agreement with this. This expansion kind of felt like an attempt to reset things instead of having anything that’s actually new.

    Re: Bring the Cooldown
    This bring the cooldown thing is a little overrated. Simply bring a balanced healing crew and you’re just fine. Every healer has something, and I remember commenting after our first Staghelm kill that it was actually a really well done fight from a healer strategy perspective. It was bad when the only viable CD was barrier. Now you have barrier, tranq, AM/DG, and SLT. Plenty of options. Holy priests have the option to change specs for a CD. I know that makes people upset, but really…that should make you happy that you have that kind of versatility to bring to your raid group.

    • Hey Borsk, thanks for stopping by!
      I honestly hated the raid lockout changes they made from day 1. It made 25s much harder to put together. I took it quite personally, mainly because it was the end of our 25s for my guild at that time. It was disheartening and I never really understood the real reason behind the change, so I’ve been pretty bitter about it.

      Class changes are really a matter of opinion. You’re absolutely right that Blizz will change classes how they see fit. Not everyone will like them. But I feel Cataclysm in particular was a HUGE change to class mechanics (more-so than TBC or Wrath ever were) and it broke more people than previously expected. This is all speculation of course.

      I think certain boss mechanics are indeed unnecessary in T12. Some fights are fun, like
      Bethtilac, others are needlessly over-complicated like Rhyolith. Rhyolith got nerfed to the ground due to complicated mechanics that most guilds couldn’t conquer.

      As for bringing the CD, the fact that Holy doesn’t offer one shows weakness in the spec. Priests shouldn’t HAVE to switch to Disc based off of one ability. Holy should offer something that’s comparable, maybe not in design but in utility. Many Priests aren’t dual spec’d Holy/Disc and are instead Holy/Shadow. Is it really fair to ask them to constantly spend gold to redo their talent trees for just one ability? It really all comes down to the homogenization that Blizzard has done with the healing classes. Holy just got left out of the equation.

      • if you look at the numbers for 10-man guilds, it’s not just that people are going from 25’s to 10’s, but also that a lot of people just aren’t raiding anymore, which I agree is caused by a lot of different factors.

    • Re: Boss Mechanics
      None of the Tier 11 or Tier 12 bosses are really any harder than the stuff we’ve seen in the past. Judging based on how many have completed the instance isn’t a good metric. Blizzard moved the accessibility line way up, and there will always be people that don’t finish no matter how easy they make the raids. The number of guilds that finished Tier 11 is probably much higher than previous tiers.

      Really?

      The majority of normal T11 and T12 bosses have more abilities in total and usually more abilities per phase than most normal mode fights in Wrath. Most of the old fights had 1-2 mechanics per phase to be aware of and or mitigate against. Only the simplest of T11/T12 fights have that level of complexity. Putracide, Blood Queen, Sindragosa are the average level of complexity for all fights now. I miss Lootship, Patchwork and other really simple fights just because they were a break in the middle of the raid night.

      • I never look at it in terms of numbers of mechanics. Thousands and thousands have guilds have defeated the tier 11 stuff. More complex? Certainly, but they are not more difficult in relation to the player knowledge.

        After we did the heroic mini-boss I said “this is harder than every MC” boss. Which is true, but to even mildly seasoned raiders you have to pinch yourself to stay awake. I suppose the question we should ask is how many “brand new” raiders are being stopped by these fights? There are a large number of guilds completing them.

      • I agree that T11 was way harder than most fights in LK. Did almost every fight really need a massive aoe incoming phase or a massive tank damage phase? Where’s that “triage and mana conservation is going to matter” stuff that Blizz was tossing out before Cata released?

        T11 did indeed break guilds due to too many instagib and/or raid gib mechanics. Phase 1 of alakir was insane and stupid. Chimaeron was a twitchy healer whackamole nightmare (still is, though less).

        T12 is about on par with T6 fights from my perspective. And people saying that FL is too easy are not people I play with, so I can’t agree.

  3. Feel free to combine this comment in moderation but I didn’t answer your question!

    I don’t think blizzard has lost touch with their player base, I just think the game is aging and many of the folks that have been playing so long are starting to move on. Especially the middle-of-the-road guilds that are being crushed by recruitment troubles.

    • Recruitment has been particularly brutal this expansion. Finding people willing to put in the time and wipes has been tough. You can’t just faceroll these bosses anymore. Many raiders are still in the “carry me” phase of Wrath and that just can’t happen here, so they end up going else where. Finding good players is tough and I totally respect anyone who has gone through the Cataclysm recruitment nightmare.

    • They certainly lost touch with *me*, and many of the people I played with. We didn’t ask for this. Cata replaced a game with liked with a game we hated. So… byebye Blizzard, and after this don’t expect us to send you any money again for anything.

      Judging by sub numbers, I’m not some rare outlier. I wonder how many anti-fans they’ve created by this misconceived abortion of an expansion.

  4. Some good personal opinions here, but i think a lot of what you’ve said is rooted in PoV. Perhaps Blizz IS distancing themselves from players of a certain group, but that’s the problem with a diverse game like this. If anything, the changes since Cata proved that it’s not the simple dichotomies we thought of in Wrath (10 bs 25; casual bs hardcore). $90M is a lot to lose, but think of how much they made slowly ruining the game over the previous 2 years…

    To speak directly to your points, I’ll use the numbering employee above:

    1.) Lockouts – I believe that what we’ve seen is good players displaying a lower tolerance to muddle through content with sub-par guildies now that they don’t have a second lock-out to fall back on. If I only get one shot, I want a group that meets my needs, not always a social experience.

    2.) Class Changes – if any pally quit because of holy power, I’d be baffled. Holy Pallies were OP Broken in Dec & Jan, and can still do a lot of thing exceptionally well. As for “old-school wow”, that’s of course a relative term and, leading into your next topic

    3.) Bosses – Cata is harder than Wrath, and the 6 Million of us who played BC at level love it. Wrath was riddled with commentary that normal modes were a joke, etc. Making it harder to raid period is a good step; downing bosses should feel like an accomplishment and a testimony to good teamwork, not a door prize.

    4.) Familiar Content – So the bosses are too new/tough but the setting is too old? Would it honestly be better with old/cake mechanics in a snazzy new backdrop? I’m happy Blizz used Cata to flesh out the areas that had been empty/disused since Vanilla. If FL is breaking guilds, it’s not because Rag is a reused character, it’s because only 20% of guilds have gotten there; it’s the Vashj/Kael problem redux for Wrath babies.

    5.) If you’re a healing priest and cant/won’t play both specs, you’re creating a problem where one shouldn’t exist. I played Disc all through Wrath and proved i could keep up with Holy priests. In Cata, I quickly learned that some fights are better for one spec vs the other. Priests are blessed with an extremely diverse tool kit and should know how to use all of it. A carpenter who only uses a hammer cannot build a house on his own.

    We play this game to have fun, and if my team is being held back because of a teammate’s personal choices/stubbornness, something will need to budge before 24 people are held back.

    • Hey Vik!

      I’m not saying that people shouldn’t switch to Disc right now. Disc is clearly superior in the Firelands. Pre-shielding and Barrier do wonders for our current tier.

      But a lot of people don’t like Disc. They don’t understand how the spec works or they just don’t like healing with it. Disc and Holy are more different than people think in terms of mechanics.

      Overall, I’m just saying that Holy should be at the same level as Disc, and it’s not. The main reason is the lack of a viable raid wall. Boss mechanics require them and Holy doesn’t have anything to offer for it. The general consensus within the Priest community has been Disc>Holy for all of T12 so far. It should be Disc=Holy.

      • Maybe this is due to group comp or player ability; though carrying Matticus & Lodur is my private hard-mode as-is. Regardless, I’ve yet to get to play atonement well in FL, play disc when I tank heal and play holy when I raid heal because inreuse to bubble-spam. Holy against normal Beth’tilac, I beat the Druids & shaman. Did extremely well as holy on Shannox as well. It could be argued that while PW:B is game-changing, GS is equally better than PS. There core is, we can’t think disc priest vs holy priest; it’s got to be mitigation vs throughput. we’re the only ones with this problem because we’re the only ones with two healing specs. If holy & disc had equivalent cd’s, we’d be arguing about stacking priests over Druids, etc.

        Full disclosure: i still feel like a dirty cheater when I play holy. CoH is OP. Buff Penance!

      • Also, Blizz should redesign how channeled spells work with Haste. I loved it back in beta where you could get 5-6 ticks off of Penance with BT!

    • A carpenter who only uses a hammer cannot build a house on his own.

      The same could be said for a healing team, or a raid. If you’re part of a raid team or a healing team that cannot complete the encounter with a holy priest instead of a disc priest, there is another issue. That priests have two healing specs is both a blessing and a curse. Personally, I am not able to play Discipline because it doesn’t make sense to me when it comes to application of the knowledge about the spec, hence Holy. (In the same regard, I’m unable to play a Resto druid.) You should never have to be forced to play Discipline. Period. Same goes for Holy. I’ve never felt a desire for Power Word: Barrier as a Holy priest, even as OP as it may be/have been. Just something else to compete.

  5. Rift seems to have that “old school WoW-feel” to it that many people miss in Cataclysm.

    …Eh? Maybe in the “this is new and unusual and no one really knows everything to a mathematical-science-level” sense, but I know for at least me – who is one of those lost 900k subscriptions – it’s Cataclysm’s backslide into “old-school WoW feel” that made me quit.

    Cataclysm 80-85 was a slog. Leveling up professions to 525 was even worse. The gearing process right when Cataclysm launched was like putting your dangly-bits into a lathe and hoping for the best. Couple that with the severe mutilation of the Hunter class and a serious departure from the “easy to get in to, hard modes available if you are not entertained/challenged” mindset that late Wrath gave us, and I was just fed up.

    Rift is nowhere near as grindy and “X or gtfo”-y as Cataclysm (or vanilla, for that matter). Couple that with Rift’s blistering speed of content delivery and actual open and transparent development and design process (compared to Blizzard’s “DO WHAT WE SAY AND PLAY HOW WE WANT YOU TO OR SOD OFF” mindset with tools like Ghostcrawler still at the helm), and it’s obvious why people have jumped ship.

  6. The reason for the combined lockout is because 10man gives equal loot as 25man (which is an amazing change for the better) so they combine the lockout to prevent gear farming. From your perspective it killed 25 man runs, but from my perspective it made serious 10manning viable. Before you felt such a pressure to run 25s because it was “real” raiding but the constant headaches of keeping up a roster for a health 25man raid without having to field scrubs that consistently caused wipes was too burdensome for a large segment of the raiding community. In my opinion, 10 man raids with no pressure to run 25man raids made this game fun again.

    On the bring the player not the cooldown (which has come lightyears since TBC days), I really blame the community and not blizzard. Its players that cop out and feel that the differences in the flavor of the healing classes is what’s determining whether they succeed in an encounter than the much greater determining characteristics of healer skill, DPS output and just executing on the mechanics. Our raid has run non min/maxed healer setups forever and its never been a problem for us, we just figure out what works for our group. In fact we pretty much run with whatever healers are able to play that day, and some bosses have multiple strats because of that, there’s always an answer. Players always look at theoretical maximums and make decisions based on that, but never seem to take into account their own performance. And with blizzard sporting essentially 30 classes in this game, there’s always going to be somewhere else where the grass is greener. I blame the community for asking blizzard to make this a 3 class game, while at the same time crying over homogenization.

  7. The problem with Holy really is the zero-cooldown prayer of healing. The spell is strong/efficient enough that Blizzard justifies not giving Holy a raid cooldown.

    Similarly, for various reasons, Blizzard sees fit not to give Druid and Shaman healers tank cooldowns. Fortunately no fights in Firelands require intensive tank cooldowns, so they manage.

  8. I think that number 3, the difficulty of boss mechanics, is a big issue for a lot of people. I really think that the first (raid lockouts) was a bad idea, but perhaps wouldn’t matter as much if the 10-man content wasn’t so jaw-crackingly difficult for casual raiding guilds.

    I know that hardcore raiders want the raid content to be difficult (and they often have little patience with the more casual raider who feels differently), but if you look at it purely in terms of player base, there are a lot more casual raiders out there than there are hardcore raiders. The average Warcraft player is 30 years old, after all. They have a life, a job, and obligations other than their guild. Sitting down and raiding 4 or 5 nights a week, suffering through wipe after wipe, just to finally get that boss down isn’t as appealing to people like this as it may be to someone who is younger and doesn’t have to worry that the kid has a fever this week, or there’s a big project due at work that will take some extra time. Basically, the number of players who want *really* difficult raids is fairly small compared to the number who would like moderately difficult raids. It’s the old problem of having a dedicated user base (serious raiders) pushing one direction, while the mass of users (casual players) want to go a different direction. Blizzard is having a hard time finding balance between them.

    On a more meta-scale, the key to getting players to come back to a game again and again is to give them frequent rewards. Think Angry Birds. Raiding in T11 didn’t hand out many rewards, and the less dedicated players pretty quickly started asking themselves why they were bothering with this.

    As for number 4, it’s pretty clear that the 80-85 experience was almost an afterthought for Blizzard. Their focus was on redoing and updating all the old world Azeroth leveling zones, so they didn’t feel so dated. I’m hopeful that, now that they’ve done that, they will dedicate a lot of time and energy to the leveling and end game for their next expansion.

    The class changes don’t bother me so much, I guess, because they come along all the time. The only thing that does bother is that “signature” abilities are being lost. Druids can’t shapeshift out of crowd control. Paladins can’t bubble-hearth. I keep expecting to hear that next patch rogues won’t be able to stealth, or something similar. There’s no reason that I can see to take away abilities like these that have been part of the game since vanilla.

    Overall, I think you’re mostly correct, but I have to give top spot on the problem list to T11 being just too difficult for too many players.

    • As I posted above, I agree T11 was too tough.

      I think the issue with my guild wasn’t the time input, it was that we are a 5 year old guild with lots of members who’ve been in forever. To go into a raid and get stomped was really disheartening. We certainly didn’t expect to do heroic modes, but at least getting to the end boss was our plan.
      The common rejoinders to this are: “recruit better people” and “adjust your expectations.”

      Well, hell no I am not going to kick my friend to the curb because he is a little too slow running out with lightning rod or engulfing magic or whatever other insta-wipe mechanic someone invented. Do the fights really have to be so failure-intolerant?

      And adjust expectations is what happened, as a lot of people realized we weren’t going to clear T11 and stopped raiding. And haven’t returned even with the “oh sheesh we released overtuned insane crap” nerf to T11 with patch 4.2.

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