Feast or famine
Bobby Kotick, not my favorite person but CEO of Activision / Blizzard, comments on subscriber numbers and the strategy to remediate that.
To address this, we’re working to release new content more frequently to keep our players engaged longer and make it easier for lapsed players to come back into the game.
We’ve already heard this, of course, from closer to home, and we’ve also seen this in the 5.0 – 5.1 – 5.2 – 5.3 release cycle. More frequent updates are par for the course, now.
The top echelon of consumers, those that burn through it with only one goal – the endgame raiding experience ((And I suspect as a result that 5.3 will be very unpopular with the top raiding crowd, and thus (since they’re loudest) 5.3 will be largely considered a failure.)) – can keep up with this.
People that have less time to spend or want a more complete experience of each patch, however, are going to have a hard time keeping up. The so-called "lapsed players" will have a choice between being behind the curve as they play catch-up, or will have to skip entire swathes of material to catch up with their friends / guilds.
Will this virtual firehose have the desired effect of bringing people back, or will it discourage them even further? I don’t know.
What I do know is how it affects me. Having "lapsed" for close to two months, I have the choice between being way behind my guild, or skipping content. At this point, Shieldwall and Isle of Thunder are getting shoved to the back. Flora will hit the latter to get the book for her green fire quest, but that’s about it, until content slows down a bit.
So, is there no way out of this vicious circle for Blizz? Which side of the "more frequent" line shows more subscribers? Do they lose no matter what?
Unlike some, I don’t see the death of WoW or even the grinding to a halt of it – it’s a money machine, plain and simple. Even at a million subscribers, that’s fifteen MILLION dollars of guaranteed income PER MONTH. I doubt OpEx costs come even close to that, so consider that there’s a big profit to be had for quite some time.
But, regardless of their ownership of every byte of data that hits the servers, the analysis tools that we mere mortals do not have, and an allegedly deep understanding of subscribers’ habits, Blizz keeps hitting one off note after another. There are times that it seems that they succeed in spite of themselves.
One can’t help but wonder.