Tell Me Again About the Impact of WoW Patch 5.0.4

I recently contended that those who felt that WoW Patch 5.0.4’s drop date was some sort of scheme by Blizzard to undermine the Guild Wars 2 launch were… not aligned with reality.

My main point was that there was nothing in the patch, and I went through the release notes section by section to be sure, that would get people to resubscribe to WoW.  If it was a deliberate plan, it was a bad one and hardly worth Blizzard bothering, in my opinion.

Most people reading my post seemed to agree, if the poll I included is to be believed, though some people had anecdotal evidence and/or a firm belief in the evil of Blizzard that allowed them to continue to cling to the patch 5.0.4 conspiracy.  And I couldn’t really gainsay them, not being a Blizzard insider and having nothing but tortured logic and anecdotal evidence of my own.

But now there is a bit more evidence.

The Nosy Gamer does a weekly round up of MMO stats from Xfire.  Specifically, he takes the number or hours Xfire measured every Sunday and pulls out the top 12 MMOs.

And while as an absolute measure of MMO populations Xfire is complete crap, it can serve as an indicator of population swings over time.  You are measuring the same pool of people week after week and what they are playing.

And when it came to MMOs, Sunday, August 26th, which included the GW 2 head start but preceded the GW 2 launch and the Patch 5.0.4 drop, the top two MMOs measured in Xfire hours recorded were:

  1. Guild Wars 2 -79,622 hours
  2. World of Warcraft – 48,913 hours

That is a lot of Guild Wars 2 hours.  The full top 12 list for that day is here.

The following week, this past Sunday, September 2nd, Xfire recorded the following:

  1. Guild Wars 2 – 92,946 hours (up 16.7%)
  2. World of Warcraft – 25,033 hours (down 48.8%)

Guild Wars 2 was up some more, which is to be expected, but WoW looks to have taken a dump.  The full list is here.

That is an epic drop in hours for WoW.  To give perspective, looking at the data Nosy Gamer makes available, 92K hours is a “Sunday when Cataclysm was fresh” level of WoW number, while 25K is in the “SWTOR hits the 30 day mark and the exodus begins” sort of number.

Now, you can argue about the accuracy of Xfire… that is such a drop that I wonder if there was an Xfire problem or if the servers were down… or that it was a holiday weekend (except GW2 went up, so no holidays in Tyria), but it looks to me like the first bit of hard data that Patch 5.0.4 wasn’t a big draw for people who were not subscribed to WoW.  Or even people who were.

And if this was a Blizzard initiative to mess with GW2, it does not look like it went as planned to me.

What do you think?

11 thoughts on “Tell Me Again About the Impact of WoW Patch 5.0.4

  1. Mr. Meh

    Yeah. Exactly as I was predicting. Some hard heads said, no, this is a purposeful move by Blizzard. They have done it before. To me it didn’t make any sense. Patching on a release day seemed stupid.

    But hey, thanks to you, I know I was right. Dem WOW fanboys, they are a ridiculous bunch.


  2. bhagpuss

    I just want to know where this is going. We’d all pretty much got used to the idea that WoW was a freak event that despite the best efforts of many executives spending hundreds of millions of dollars could not be replicated. We were settling down to a niche future where developers made bespoke MMOs for invited audiences and we could all relax with the spotlight of corporate money directed at other targets.

    If GW2 dethrones WoW, then where are we headed? Another round of five-year development cycles and blockbuster budgets?


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @HZ – Well, that gets into the philosophical question about what sort of player runs Xfire.

    I started using Xfire way back when I was in a FPS game clan that played a lot of Desert Combat. The usefulness of Xfire was that you could use it to jump directly into matches on servers where your friends were playing.

    Later, when I was more interested in tracking play time on MMOs, Xfire became less useful. I could, for example, never get it to track EVE Online and, frankly, I didn’t really *need* Xfire. I always knew what WoW server any given friend was playing on… and it was almost always not the one I was on and there was little I (or Xfire) could do about it.

    My completely unsupported, no proof at all, gut sense about Xfire is that its origin in FPS games has carried forward and so PvP-ish MMOs tend to get over-reported while PvE focused games tend to get under-reported relative to their total populations.

    That, as an example, APB ranks ahead of Maple Story on the list seems to indicate to me that there is a demographic subtext here that has been framed by the origin of Xfire and who found it useful early on.

    Now I wonder if Raptr, made by the original Xfire team, is more PvE oriented.


  4. HarbingerZero

    That angle makes sense. My only point was that so far this year, APB has managed to corral one hundred and six thousand hours of gameplay, which is roughly one hundred thousand hours more gameplay than the original developer thought it had going for it, within a subset of people who have both a) better FPS games and b) better MMO’s that they could be playing. That’s actually pretty impressive, imho.


  5. Aufero

    My problem with conspiracy theories in general is that they imply levels of competence in the conspirators that I’ve never observed in any real-world setting.

    For instance, Blizzard has almost never managed to predict the date of an upcoming major patch (or for that matter, any game they’ve ever released) with much accuracy, which is why they tend to stick to statements like “soon”. Why assume they were able to do it this time?


  6. Jason

    Short version is that I think the blog-o-sphere likes making a lot of noise about things like this.

    The longer version is that release dates(like Blizzard and others have posted in days gone by about this; last time I saw something was for WAR’s release IIRC, could be wrong though) are forecast well in advance. Sure they can be slipped, but generally if you’re slipping a release date it’s because you’re genuinely behind schedule, not because you want to drop along side of someone else.

    Beyond that, dropping the patch when they did gives a decent amount of time for folks to actually get used to the changes coming up. I’m not going to say that they’re earth shattering but given the amount of traffic dealing with the changes out there, it’s not insignificant either.

    TL;DR: More blogosphere nonsense. Blizzard releases on Blizzard’s schedule and doesn’t give a damn what anyone else is doing.


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jason – But it is fun nonsense. And as I said at the outset, I love me some conspiracies.

    And, on an adjacent topic, can you shake numbers similar to what Nosy Gamer is posting out of Raptr? I poked around their site a bit today (and sent some friend invites to names I recognized just because I was in a good mood… Heartless_ is probably even now sneering in disgust) but couldn’t find… you know… data.


  8. Noizy

    If you are wondering if there was an issue with the Xfire stats, I did looks at the Eve Online hours played vs actual concurrency as measured on Chribba’s site. Xfire hours down 13% and PCU on Tranquility was up 10% over the previous Saturday.

    I don’t think we’ll really know how things are going until Halloween. Until then we can all have fun speculating.


  9. Toxicroach

    I’m out of the WoW loop, but there’s two kinds of people who might be induced to come back to WoW:

    1) Ones who have no idea when the patch was dropping.
    2) Ones who know it’s the pre-XPac patch, so why bother coming back so you can bum around doing things that will be totally wiped out in a month.

    Could it be some kind of half-assed stem the tide measure? Sure. Not an evil conspiracy.

    By the same token, I wouldn’t put too much faith in the WoW numbers. If the two expansions I lived through were any indication, this is a very slow and unmotivated time in WoW. 50% of the guilds are in the process of disintegrating and nobody is doing much of anything. I’m sure WoW will be back on top on the 25th.


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