Here are some facts about the world’s largest massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG):
- Largest active player base: World of Warcraft reached the 10,000,000 active players mark in October 2012
- Been around since 2004
- Sold over 30,000,000 copies including the 4 expansions to date
- Blizzard’s yearly revenue from World of Warcraft was almost 1.5 billion dollars in 2011
Most of the people who have played World of Warcraft know it’s addictive. The figures are enough proof for that. But what makes World of Warcraft so addictive? What makes any MMORPG so addictive?
I was subscribed to World of Warcraft for about 3 years. I’ve played the Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm. It actually was my first MMORPG ever, if you don’t mention the week I’ve walked around in the Guild Wars universe. A friend of mine insisted on trying Guild Wars with his account, so I gave that a shot. After that, I tried World of Warcraft… and World of Warcraft got me.
Now, why did I choose World of Warcraft instead of Guild Wars? At that moment, I was like “World of Warcraft is more fun”. But afterwards, I started thinking. The real reason I stayed with World of Warcraft was probably the offered trial time. I received 10 days of playtime, somewhere around Halloween. Most of the towns and cities in Azeroth were decorated during the event, and several minigames and extra quests were added. This all left a very strong impression on me.
As with any game, the community grows as the player base grows. This means once World of Warcraft got an increasingly larger player base, the game started to depend on that base. One of the main reasons people play MMORPGs instead of single player games is the social aspect of such a game. You play the game mainly because of the other people you interact with. Who would want to run around in empty Azeroth?
The fact that a game with a lot of players attracts even more players, is also valid in another way: when the game’s number of players declines, this will imply more people quitting. Once this is the case, the number of players can go down, and go down very fast. Again I can reflect: one of the reasons I eventually quit, was because many of my online friends had quit as well. And here’s my point again: without my friends, an aspect World of Warcraft relies on just isn’t there anymore. Hence I quit.
There’s also bad news for Blizzard: they’re dealing with a stagnating and even declining number of players. Countering this would not be easy: many players suffer from a burnout from the game. It’s Blizzard’s job to make sure the game content stays attractive and challenging. One way of doing this is releasing content (through patches or expansions) at a faster pace. However, this could mean less content per patch. But it keeps the players busy and paying. And then there’s also the mysterious successor to World of Warcraft…
Not-so-World of Warcraft 2
In 2007, Blizzard needed more employees to work on a next-gen MMORPG. So far little is known about this top secret game, except that it’s scheduled to be released at the end of 2013 and that the project bears the codename Titan. Apparently Titan would not interfere with the popularity of World of Warcraft, so no one really knows what to expect. But Blizzard’s history tells us that the finished product usually is worth the waiting time. Take for example Diablo II: the time between the announcement and release was more than 4 years. However, the question remains whether or not this new MMORPG will be able to compensate for World of Warcraft’s falling number of players.
But World of Warcraft is far from dead yet: the revenue the game generates is still incredible. And Blizzard would do everything to keep it that way.