Daily Archives: August 4, 2015

WoW Needs Expansion Badly – Subs Fall to 5.6 Million

Well now we know why Blizzard was keen to announce a new expansion the day after tomorrow, as subscription numbers are officially down to what was announced back in December of 2005, or 5.6 million.  That is a drop of 1.5 million subscribers from the 7.1 million number reported at the end of the first quarter, something of a rebuke to the long-term viability of the Warlords of Draenor garrison strategy, which saw subscribers peak at 10 million at launch.

Basically, 44% of WoW subscribers have walked away since the current expansion launched.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Chieftains lack the staying power of Pandas

So we have a day to indulge in “WoW is dying” hysteria before we are all swept off our collective feet and pledge ourselves anew to the promise of a fresh expansion in Azeroth.

The loss in subscribers was, once again, pinned largely on declines in Asia, purportedly driven by the popularity of Diablo III, which recently launched in China.  Diablo III has sold more than 30 million units world wide now, but is it really stealing from WoW? Blizzard refused to get pinned down on specifics despite direct questions on the investor call.

Still, given the actual financial numbers coming out of the Blizzard side of the house, which are at record highs, somebody is clearly spending money on their products.  The page for Blizzard from the presentation slide deck is as follows:

Blizzard Q2 2015 slide

Blizzard Q2 2015 slide

The slide deck and detailed financials can be found at the investor relations site.

The blurb at the top in blue is an attempt to say that monthly active users was up 50% over Q2 last year, which means that more people are playing Blizzard games than last year.

Hearthstone especially was mentioned multiple times during both the whole company overview and then again during the Blizzard specific segment of the call.  Once again though, its numbers are coyly lumped in with those of Destiny and Heroes of the Storm, for a combined lifetime total of $1.2 billion.

Still, even though I want to know how that really breaks out between the those games, it is a sizable amount of revenue for three titles.

Of course the big question now, beyond what the new expansion will contain, is when will it launch?  An expansion a year out, which is a pretty typical gap between announcement and launch for Blizzard, would no doubt see more subscriber losses as there is no new content planned for Warlords of Draenor.

And what do we even want out of the next expansion?  I am not sure I even know anymore.  Is there anything Blizz could do that wouldn’t annoy as many people as it pleased?

MMO Champion has a good subscriber chart embedded in their post if you want to see the subscriber line going up and down over the years.  I have all the numbers in a spreadsheet, but cannot make Excel behave the way they can.

And, finally, this is how the poll I put up last week fared.

174 respondents

174 respondents

I would call those who picked 5.5 million the “winners” I suppose.  The “other” response was 42.

CCP Doubles Down on VR with EVE Gunjack

Yesterday CCP announced its “VR Arcade Shooter,” EVE: Gunjack, joining EVE: Valkyrie as part of its potential VR title lineup.

SCV good to go, sir!

Just screams, “SCV good to go, sir!” to me.

While EVE: Valkyrie is targeted at the well-known, Facebook-owned Occulus Rift VR platform, EVE: Gunjack is slated for Samsung Gear VR option.  Samsung Gear VR incorporates some of the technology from Occulus Rift, so it includes the head tracking aspects of the latter.  But the Samsung unit does not include a built-in display, somewhat akin to the Google Cardboard VR unit, requiring users to purchase specific models of their Samsung Galaxy Note 4 line to act as the screen.

Because of the overlap in technology between the Occulus Rift and Samsung Gear VR units, I am not sure that this represents a doubling of CCP’s investment in Virtual Reality, but they do seem keen to jump on the VR bandwagon despite the motion sickness concerns and the need to buy a somewhat expensive unit that you then have to strap to your face in order to use.

But they now are working on twice as many VR titles.

And EVE: Gunjack distinguishes itself from EVE: Valkyrie by being… more gritty I guess.  EVE: Valkyrie is a space dogfighting simulator, while this is how EVE: Gunjack is described:

Set in the EVE Universe we all know and love, the player takes on the role of a turret operator aboard a mining rig out in the nullsec region of Outer Ring. As part of the defense team, it’s up to the player to protect the rig from pirates, opportunists and anyone else looking to take what rightfully belongs to the company.

Maybe more Space Engineers or SCV’s Online than a space warrior sim?  It is hard to tell.  The screen shots show more “doing” than “shooting.”

Salvaging an Abaddon hulk?

Salvaging an Abaddon hulk?

Anyway, that adds another title to the CCP lineup, which to date looks like:

  • Danger Game (Hættuspil) – The most popular Icelandic board game ever, with 1 in 8 Icelandic households reported to own a copy.  While there aren’t all that many households in Iceland, it did help finance EVE Online development.  Made a triumphant return with the EVE Online Second Decade Collector’s Edition.
  • EVE Online – A popular spaced based version of the Stanford Prison Experiment.  Makes all the money for CCP.
  • Quafe – Not a game, but a drink available in EVE Online brought to the real world.  CCP sold this for a while about a decade back.  It was basically re-branded lemon-lime soda from Egill Skallagrímsson, specifically Egils Orka.
  • EVE: The Second Genesis – CCP returned to the table top with a collectable card game version of EVE Online.  Hasn’t been heard from since 2009.
  • DUST 514 – An online shooter that promised to allow EVE Online players to grief PS3 owners via orbital bombardment.  Not regarded as a success.  Still pissed I never got to drop rocks on anybody.
  • World of Darkness – Worked on fitfully for a few years, then cancelled.  May not be gone for good, but not coming back any time soon.  So now WoD means Warlords of Draenor to most MMO players.
  • EVE: Valkyrie – Exciting VR tech space dogfighting simulator.  Promises to make people vomit.
  • Project Legion – A promised shooter akin to DUST 514, only on a platform that EVE Online players actually own.  (i.e. Windows)  Reported to be in development.
  • EVE: Gunjack – Newly announced.  Maybe less exciting but deeper content?  Perhaps not as prone to motion sickness?

Anyway, that is what CCP has… so they clearly need to keep EVE Online running for a few years longer to pay their bar tabs.  Or bring back Quafe.  I’d buy some of that.

Enforced Raid Rotations on Ragefire and Lockjaw

What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale, ‎Speaking on EverQuest progression server raiding

I love this point in the life cycle of every EverQuest progression server, when the nostalgic visions and hardcore ideals have to get overruled and open world, contested raiding proves itself, once again, to not be a viable, sustainable idea.  It was a problem back in the day, it was a problem in 2007, it was a problem in 2011, and it is a problem again today.  Seriously, we should start tracking a “time to raid rotation” number to see if it is a constant.

No Casuals!!!

You want the open world Nagafen? You can’t handle the open world Nagafen!

Unlike the sentiment at the top of this post, instancing raids wasn’t done to cater to casuals, it was done to keep the hardcore from behaving badly, a simple fact that gets illustrated every time they launch another EverQuest nostalgia server.

So last week the announcement finally went out, after the usual round of forum drama, that the raiding guilds had best come up with a rotation schedule themselves or Daybreak would step in and make one for them.  And either way, Daybreak was committed to enforcing that rotation.

So there is the reality of things coming home to roost yet again.  Meanwhile, feel free to continue telling me that open world, contested raids are how things should be.

Addendum: And when one member of your guild steps over the line, the whole guild gets a three day ban… even if you repudiate his actions and kick him from the guild.