Warlords of Draenor launching is having a bigger than I expected effect on WoW subs – although as TAGN points out, things aren’t really clear where those subs are coming from. Besides, WoW subscriber numbers are like the old McDonald’s signs from back in the day that used to list how many millions were served. Eventually they switched it to “Billions and Billions” before dropping it all together. Seinfeld said it best – we get it, you have sold a lot of burgers. You kill a lot of cows. In Blizzard’s case, Orcs.
Still, 10 Million is that nice big round number we are all used to hearing from Blizzard before their decline from biggest subscription game in the world to less big but still bigger than anyone can imagine big. Even blognation who are often quick to pounce on Blizzard’s “decline” are checking out what our old friend has in store with this expansion. I wonder if there is a MMO subscription-based equivalent to Stockholm Syndrome. After all, what else is there?
Well, there is WildStar for one. And with millions flocking back to Warlords of Draenor, paying the $60 box price and resubscribing, how do we fight the exodus of the player base back to Blizzard? With a newsletter and 7 days free time! Of course no one is fooled on the timing and really it feels like putting a bandaid on a punctured jugular but truth be told we have no clue what impact this is having on WildStar (if at all). My more cynical side said long ago that the business model would have to change if they wanted to increase the regular playerbase and some of us suspected that it would be before Draenor dropped – but W* is doing the right thing – wait to see the impact 1/3/6 months and then decide how hard you hit your business model. For all we know with the layoffs and team exits they may be running profitable with the playerbase they have, and they may be satisfied with that.
Back to the 7 day trial – I had a couple of free trial posts back in 2009 and I still believe that it isn’t enough time or enough incentive to buy or resub to a game. This player says it best as well on the WildStar forum this morning.
To the average player coming back they won’t see the fixes and under the hood stuff – it won’t be that obvious because most have been away from the game. What will be obvious is server population and activity (which should be fixed by the mega servers, no?) even still, to give 7 days during the time where every WoW player is playing WoW (some of which may or may not be W* players) is a weak knee-jerk reaction. 7 days in a MMO is nothing, so expect that kind of result by offering it.
I do want WildStar to succeed and I will give them money (again) soon as they build a business model that I can support – whether that is B2P or F2P or a heavily reduced sub fee (I’d pay and get $5 a month value from the game. If I am paying $15 I’m back in WoW). Still, none of this discussion is anything new to WildStar fans or developers. They have a solid base of a game that needs bug fixes, and they need to decide what kind of game they want to be. The WildStar devs “are listening” to feedback about 40 man raids (hint: everyone but the 2000 people doing them hate them) but everyone who raided 40 mans before knew this would happen.
So my personal suggestion to WildStar is this: figure out who you want to be, and then figure out which business model supports that. While that sounds simple to do it really isn’t and design decisions need to be made with a goal or focus in mind that can’t just be “get more players”. Players are an outcome from the design decisions, not a design decision in itself. This 7 day free trial decision was poor timing, a poor offer, and not really well thought out.