WildStar’s Fast and Dramatic Decline

I am getting the feeling my other report (Wildstar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline) was a bit too optimistic. Perhaps the sky is falling after all (at least on Nexus).

Be prepared for some hard hitting journalism today on the final day of Blaugust.

Exhibit A

First – the President of Carbine, Jeremy Gaffney, announced this week he is no longer the President. He announced this on Reddit and the official forums. The official title talked about how he is “taking on a new role” and if you read between the lines he doesn’t really share whether or not he was asked to move on or personally decided to. A snippet (and the link)

I have a personal “no bullshit” policy (which I think I’ve infused Carbine with as well), so let me give some context here without getti

“Focusing on family” is most often, in my opinion, a horseshit excuse you hear from executive types (usually departing with a forcible shove). 

He then goes on to share that he is  going to focus on family – he is a cancer survivor and I love his candor and openness. Having been through that it is really hard. His moving over letter is the type of thing WildStar fans have come to know and love about him. Gaffer was the man behind the vision, preserver of the style of MMO they wanted to build – a grindy, 1% focused, hard game a la World of Warcraft 2004. Him moving on is also the sign that that seemingly failed vision is now looking at a more causal focused game.

Exhibit B

One of WildStar’s best (and most popular) fansites - WildStarFans.net had it’s creator stop posting and updating. Players became used to visiting here for the latest and up to date news. Originally he left things pretty open and  said he was reprioritizing and focusing family (sound familiar? Isn’t that the hotshot excuse you hear from executive types when making up an excuse that the Gaffer talked about?) and was non-committal on whether he was still playing the game or not.

He did edit his farewell post and post that he was still playing – but he didn’t share any specifics if he was enjoying the game or if that had any part to do with it. Regardless – fansites and podcasts are the pulse of the community of the game, and bring the community together. When the most popular ones start going the way of the Rowsdower (equivalent to a Nexus dodo bird) then you know things are bad.

Exhibit C

I was listening to the WildStar Nation podcast this week (again) and the 4 hosts announced that their next podcast, #50 (they have been podcasting WildStar for a year) will be their last. This podcast was getting 30,000 downloads a month (which is 10% or 30% of the WildStar subscriber base depending on what numbers you like – WildStar isn’t sharing) and was usually the #1 downloaded WildStar podcast (stats were shared by them on various podcasts). It was a pretty somber mood from the guys (Haystack, Militus, Dopamine and Bear) and they were just honest that one of them had already quit and the other’s were having a hard time logging on.

They are funny guys and one of those tongue in cheek remarks was along the lines of “WildStar was able to kill a guild of 500 people in 6 weeks”. They had a guild and that is what happened. 500 gone / disbanded in 6 weeks. Craziness. I have enjoyed the WildStar Nation podcast more than I actually got to enjoy the game so sad to see them go. The truth is, again, the pulse of the community here. If the biggest fans of the game aren’t sticking around then who is?

Why Again?

While that question may sound like it is referring to us looking at why the game didn’t grab and keep the attention of the fans of the game and general MMO population it is actually also the answer.

Why again, would we build in barriers (40 mans, attunements) into a sub fee MMO while the entire genre is moving to easier and more accessible? Just to be different? Who said that is what players actually want?

That fun answer is that some players did want it – and some are now fighting WildStar for now switching to easier (making some attunements steps more reasonable, etc.) 5 mans are supposed to be fun and fast now, easily completable by 5 random strangers (not so in WildStar). Raids are supposed to have varying levels of difficulty so everyone can have the experience. Why are we designing games the same way we were playing them 8 years ago – when the games from 8 years ago that are still going strong have so drastically changed themselves to fit what gamers want?

Gamers don’t have the time to slog through “that” MMO – there have been reports that people need to grind for 3+ hours a raid night to just get enough cash to buy consumables and pay for repairs for that 6 hour learning raid. That prep is unacceptable these days – and it is really no surprise. Gamers pay billions of dollars annually to speed things up – look at Clash of Clans, for example. The whole business model is speeding things up. People do not want to go slower. Especially in a sub fee environment where the gating feels like it is just to stretch out your sub.

Add to that, they built in a cash shop where you could buy CREDD with real money to skip some of those grinds. And we all know that the only game that can get away with having both a subscription fee and a cash shop is World of Warcraft.

Suddenly my November F2P conversion  prediction is looking really solid. And that’s not to be a jerk – I’ll actually go play when that happens. There is a lot of Nexus I want to explore.

All of this also makes me think of ESO – a game I have never played. How is it faring? Did it find it’s niche? I wonder this because is there really any room for a newly launched MMO to have a subscription fee anymore? The falling (wild) star would indicate to me that there isn’t.



9 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I generaly do not like DOOMsaying article, but I can only and sadly agree with you. I’ve never seen in my life of MMOer such a gigantic desertion of players so fast: Not SWTOR, not Tera, not ESO… none of the games everyone claimed to be FAIL, had actually seen such a fast decline of population. It’s very sad because Wildstar was a GREAT game, and I’m sure it can continue to be great. I believe the mistake wasn’t the difficulty in itself, but the accessibility to TRAINING grounds and activities for non hardcore players. Without the casual players…this game will go no where. A shame really. To answer your question, I believe ESO have found its niche. I’m having great time in the game and I think the population have stabilised.

  2. FFXIV:ARR pretty much proves there is room for a new, subscription MMO. Square, though, are not unlike Blizzard in that they have a reputation and a fanbase that allows them to do things in ways that would put other developers out of business. How many MMO houses could close a failed MMO down, take another year to revamp it and then relaunch it to the same audience as a success? And all under a subscription?

    Without the massive pre-built interest and loyalty that comes from a long-running, successful franchise, however, I think there’s probably no chance and ESO shows that even with that tailwind it’s iffy.

    I think Jeremy Gaffney deserves the highest praise for his open and straightforward comments on his personal reasons for taking the step he has. I’m sure those are genuine contributory factors. It doesn’t take a trained investigative journalist or an academic semiologist, however, to read that abatement and see that’s not the whole of the story.

    The key sentence is this one: “I’m proud of what we accomplished; we took a no-name IP to a big ass MMO launch, which ain’t easy in this day and age”. To launch. The accomplishment of which he’s proud ends there. If the game was booming now and had a bright and happy future he might still be stepping down for those personal reasons but I don’t think he’d have limited his satisfaction with the project to getting it as far as a successful launch.

    I liked WildStar from the brief look I took during beta but I never imagined sticking with it for much the same reasons I didn’t stick with FFXIV: far, far too much gated content. There is simply no shortage of very well-made, very entertaining MMOs to choose from. there are dozens, scores, of them.

    MMOs take up a lot of your time even if you only dabble. It doesn’t take much to make you cross one off your list of probables. A subscription will do it. Gated content will do it. Both together will definitely do it. Even when WildStar goes B2P or F2P I may still not play it. I just don’t have time to play all the MMOs that I might enjoy. At least, though, then there will be a chance that I might play it. And unless I play it, of course, there’s literally no chance I will spend any money on it, which is surely the main point of making a commercial MMO to begin with.

  3. I have follow this game from the Open Beta and when i got into the game the feeling of “i am playing wow with slightly better graphics” was kind of overwhelming.
    Back then i found out that was not my cup of tea but started to notice the game from the start was not faring that well …
    I am watching several streamers online and when more then 50 % of the streamers after only 2 days had move on to other games that where older like Skyrim and the likes yeah ….i got that feeling the game would not fare that well.
    The last draw was when they threw ” We got 4 times more subs then we had players in open beta” that is like AWESOME!!! right? not really the open beta the higher they went was between 50k to 100k so 4 times that is between 200k to 400k if they openly would state they got that i figure the game would not even had 6 weeks …
    On the other hand i would love to say the same from ESO that the game would go f2p though things on that department do not seem to go that way the game seems to be holding around 700k subs the next few months we will see if Eso can retain those players and maybe start gaining some once more content gets added into the game maybe we will have another MMO with sub.

  4. @Elloa oh, I hate DOOMSDAY articles too – and this was a follow up to my much softer observations. Truth is though it is looking really bad. I stand by it that when your “brand evangelists”, your community building customers are jumping ship you don’t have that much left.

    @Bhagpuss – I liked Gaffer’s reassignment post too and respect him for it. Good comments about Final fantasy. I have a whole OTHER post about what WildStar is missing after my shotgun romance with it and that is coming soon. And for some reason, the autocorrect here is relentless. WildStar (before I added it to the dictionary here) always defaulted to Windstar. How is the second any better of a word? Your autocorrect was very interesting in context, *grin*

    @Pedro its hard when the potential is there but I stand by my statement that MMOs starting development TODAY need to think what people will want 5 years FROM NOW. Not what they accept today, or especially not what they accepted 5 years ago. Makes the MMO cycle even that much more of a gamble.

    Like all the previous big titles, I think it is a mixture of timing and luck along with the skill and planning.

  5. I’m playing ESO most every night still. Toons ranging from low 20’s to mid-veteran levels now. Population is higher in the non-vet levels from what I’ve seen, but even in the vet areas if you need help with a dolmen or a world boss if you put out a request for help in zone chat you’ll usually have 4-8 players showing up within 3-5 minutes. Requests for groups in the public 4-man dungeons seem to fill up nearly instantaneously. I’ve also enjoyed time in the instanced dungeons too, but haven’t actively pursued them, so I couldn’t say how fast those groups fill, but I can’t say that I often see spam from the same person more than once or twice either, so I assume they’re filling up quickly as well.

  6. Fascinating. I’ll queue up ESO eventually, I just have a little single player games to get through (Skyrim, even!) Glad to hear they have a solid base population to grow from. Hopefully WildStar ends up there too – sooner rather than later.

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