Monday, February 23, 2009

Official Confirmation of the New WoW Business Model

I've long maintained that Blizzard's business model appears to be shifting towards a retention mode of sorts, with a greater focus on quality of life features like dual specs and swimming ground mounts.

The TBC era mega-patch, which appears to be the model for the Wrath era, really shifts the focus towards major, headline grabbing packages that just so happen to contain something for everyone. My wife's druid is still level 50, so she doesn't care about new raid content and may not have access to dual specs (Blizzard may be considering backtracking on their plan to limit them to the level cap), but she admits that being dismounted by riding through some shallow water and having to stop to remount was irritating. It's a pretty sensible guess at a business model when you consider that there are probably more former WoW players than total players of most other games out there at the moment.

Still, this is the first time I can remember a blue poster saying anything like this from Ghostcrawler, the face behind most of Wrath's class balance (emphasis mine):
Although WoW is a gigantic game, some players are just going to voraciously devour whatever content we can throw at them. There are certainly a lot of different ways to play the game that you can experiment with if you do get bored. I would suggest things like trade skills, achievements or completing all of the quests you might have skipped. Collect some offspec gear and try a different role (in PvP or PvE). Rerolling can also be a lot of fun. If you're just burned out, it's also not the worst thing in the world to try out some other games -- the past couple of years has been great for them. Just check back in with WoW every now and then. :)

It makes sense, as Blizzard is still going to make money off of players who are subscribed for a few months at a time after major patches. I'm just surprised to see that we're actually at the point where even Blizzard employees are actually suggesting that their own customers might want to leave WoW in between patches.


DeftyJames said...

I think it's also an attempt to address server load issues. In the electricity business there are peak and off peak rates (cell phone too). It doesn't make a lot of business sense to create and maintain new servers when those servers are going to be utilized at or neat max capacity for only a few hours each day or a few months (after patch) each year. By encouraging those users to go elsewhere Blizzard reduces cost with a minimum of reduced revenue.

Checking back in now and then is what people like myself do anyway. So Blizzard is just figuring out a way to make that reality work for them.

Centuri said...

I don't really think he is doing anything besides stating the obvious. Blizzard knows that 500,000+ WoW players bought Warhammer at launch and came back for Wrath.

They also can see their subscriber useage metrics and see how players that were logging in 40+ hours a week a few months ago are simply logging on two nights a week to clear the current raid content.

Daria said...

I'm kind of surprised to see this as well. Sure they know people leave the game from time to time and return, but actually encouraging us to do so means they have a lot of confidence that players will keep coming back to WoW.

I certainly don't expect to see any other game developers out there making a statement like this.

Or maybe the days of playing the same MMO for 5 years straight (a la Everquest) are just over and Blizzard are the only ones admitting it.

Green Armadillo said...

Daria nailed my point on the head. I'm not saying it wasn't obvious, I'm saying that Blizzard never breathed a word of "well, you can always go try out LOTRO" when it launched in between TBC and patch 2.1, nor did they say "well you could go try out AOC and Warhammer" when both launched during the months between 2.4 and Wrath.

Then again, perhaps it's easier to be gracious when your top slot is secure. As Centuri points out, they know they're getting back most of the players who left, and they know that there aren't many AAA quality competitors launching in the near future. I'm not sure that Blizzard was actually deathly afraid of Warhammer, but the game could conceivably have snagged and retained a million NA/EU subscribers, which would have been a major chunk of WoW's income.