Blizzard Speeding Up WoW Development

Monday during Activision Blizzard's First Quarter 2011 Financial Results conference call, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime told investors that the company is shooting to launch the Diablo 3 Beta sometime in Q3 2011.

However the good news trailed a gloomier note that-- following the release of Cataclysm-- subscriber levels of World of Warcraft have decreased faster than what was experienced with previous expansion releases. Does that mean PC gamers are finally getting bored with Blizzard's monster MMORPG? Not at all. According to Morhaime, players have actually gotten better at consuming new content.

"As our players have become more experienced playing World of Warcraft over many years, they have become much better and much faster at consuming content," he said. "And so I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that's why we're working on developing more content."

He admitted that the team needed to be faster at delivering new content to players. "That's one of the reasons that we're looking to decrease the amount of time in-between expansions," he said, clarifying that the team was looking into ways of speeding up the development process after an investor asked if the decrease meant smaller expansions.

Buzz over the Cataclysm expansion propelled World of Warcraft subscriptions to an all-time high, exceeding 12 million as of October 2010. But now subscription numbers have dropped to the lowest it's been since December 2008, returning to "pre-Cataclysm levels in the West" (but more like Lich King levels) with a mere 11.4 million subscribers. That's a loss of 600,000 subscribers at the least.

So where have all these players gone? Are they flocking to free-to-play MMORPGs that offer a similar setting? Or have players reached a point where the only time they really need to play is when a new expansion has been released? Is it time for Blizzard to open the doors to free-to-play gamers?

Right now Blizzard isn't ready to disclose any additional details about speeding up the development process, or what future expansions will contain. That said, we're betting a new expansion will be announced at Blizzcon 2011.

  • davewolfgang
    I'm going to be honest here - I really think that the drop has more to do with the Economy than anything else.

    Half my guild WANTS to play, but work and money have kept them.
  • Kamab
    Many people I know stopped playing WoW because of the huge delays between content releases and the slow process by which different classes feel identical across a single role (tank/heal/mdps/rdps/pvp).

    Plus new content has gotten easier and easier. It really depends on who your targeting. WoW does an excellent job of targeting the casual gamer as opposed people that love extremely challenging content (my old guild). From a financial standpoint this probably makes sense, but you lose long term subscriptions from nerdy theory-crafters like me who get bored.
  • arael
    It's regurgitated crap. Dumbed down old instances to release as "new and improved!" content.

    After 5 years of playing on and off I'm finally over the game.
    Out with the old, in with the new!
  • everix
    That and the fact that expansions and new content can't keep people playing this game anymore. The core mechanics of the game are still the same as they were when WoW was released and frankly, they are starting to get boring. What they need to do is keep the content going but they also need to get a WoW successor going. As someone who's been playing since Vanilla, this game is starting to get old and while a lot of the old players (myself included) buy the expansions to see the new stuff, we get bored of it quickly because, deep down it's still the same game we've been playing for 5+ years.
  • T_T
    I'd be willing to bet that it's the way the gear-obtaining structure reverted back to pre-LK days. In WotLK, a lot of people were blessed with the easy way to obtain epic-quality gear (doing heroic 5-mans, and ToC, etc). But now that players must commit to serious raiding (or constant heroics to trade in points) for epic gear.
  • rohitbaran
    with a mere 11.4 million subscribers
    mere! lol! Even with that many subscribers, Activision seems quite well off.
  • klbg
    There's no one reason. Saying "people got bored" is a huge generalization. People have been getting bored for 6 years. As early as 2005 you had people threatening to leave because Blizzard was "lazy" with content. The only "dumbed down old instances" have been the two 'newest' 5mans, which are still much different than their first incarnations, and most new players haven't experienced them before anyways. The idea that revitalizing older content is "lazy" kinda surprises me, since many people complain that their old favorites are never run anymore. Besides, Blizzard has clearly put more work in Cataclysm than any prior expansion, and it brings new lifer to the game that's been dead for many years.

    Why did subscriptions drop? Many reasons. The game is getting on in its years, there are many cheaper and newer options. Of course the economy makes things a lot more difficult for many people as well. Personally, I haven't been playing as much because I've been busy.

    But really, don't use your personal negative feelings about WoW or Blizzard to try and explain the decrease, it's just ignorant.
  • stingstang
    The reason is that everyone knows Rift is out, and it's a huge upgrade from WoW.
  • klbg
    "The reason is that everyone knows Rift is out, and it's a huge upgrade from WoW."

    I really did lol at this. Just like LotrO and AoC and Warhammer and Aion were all huge upgrades? Rift is probably the least innovative MMO in recent memory.
  • JamesSneed
    That ^