For some reason players who leave WoW don't just silently cancel their subscriptions when they've decided to move on. Oh no. They feel compelled to make a Grand Exit, delivering the Breaking News that WoW, the most successful MMO ever released is on the verge of a Catastrophe and as a matter of fact is DYING. It is! It's just everyone else is blind to it. But now there will be a change to this, since finally someone dares to speak up, saying that the emperor that people are blind to it. Now there will be a change though, that someone FINALLY points out that the emperor isn't wearing anything at all.
If you look at the official forums there is always at least one of those "I'm leaving WoW so now it's dying" threads that is up for discussion. And the funny thing is that this has been the case for over three years now, if not more.
Dying back in 2007
Recently someone managed to dig up a post like this by bumping it in our realm forum. This thread dates back to April 2007 and is actually quite fun to read to a newbie like me. Some complaints about attunements are a bit outdated, while others, concerning lack of new content, easily could have been written 2010.
At the time this forum post was published, I had barely started to play WoW at all. I would believe I was somewhere around level 50, I had only seen a handful of five man instances and not even a fragment of what the game had to offer. It seemed like a magical, endless world to me, full of mysteries and unknown territories to explore. And I can assure you that the idea that this in fact was a dying game never crossed my mind.
But the poster apparently had thought a lot about it during the 280 played days he had at his main character. Which I must say was quite an achievement considering it's written back in April 2007. No wonder the poor guy got bored! I would like to see that game that wouldn't bore you with that excessive amount of playing over such a short time! He must have played almost every hour he was awake, apart from when he was sleeping and eating then. Was there even time to work?
So WoW has been dying since back in the beginning of 2007 and if you looked further I wouldn't be surprised if you could find even earlier rants like this. It honestly makes it a little bit difficult to take the similar labeled posts as by today with any huge amount of seriousness.
The sad thing is that some of those "WoW is dying" posts actually contain some pretty good and interesting analyses, which could provide food-for-thought in the future development. Therefore it's such a pity that those valid points disappears. If I was a Blizzard employee I'm pretty certain that a "WoW is dying" topic name would be enough for me to dismiss a post and put it in the trash bin.
Could it be true?
But let's change perspective for a second. Could there actually be something in this? After all, as I've mentioned before every brand, every product has a certain lifecycle and according to the theories they'll die eventually, unless you reinvest and revitalize them.
The world hasn't yet seen any computer game that could match Chess in longevity. WoW will have to die at some point, so why not now? And after all I've seen and mentioned the current lull in the game myself. It doesn't take a generous to see that many players are on a break now. How can you be so sure they'll come back for Cataclysm?
Well, the truth is of course a well kept secret at the Blizzard HQ. I don't know how much value you should put into what they told their shareholders at the meet-up they hold for the investors at E3 (which is available for anyone to listen to after registration). Of course they have every reason in the world to say that everything is just fine. If you go to the end of the recording, about 1.34, the Blizzard representative gets exactly this question. His answer is that they're optimistic since new content is coming this year and this is the biggest growth driver. He also talks at length about the China market, where they still haven't launched Wrath, but have good hopes to do so "soon".
It's possible - even likely that WoW is stagnating in Europe and North America. Probably even declining as we're waiting for Cataclysm. But this can hardly equal to that the game is dying, especially considering that it's still giving the company a revenue that seems to be decent to say the least.
If you're interested in the financial state of Blizzard-Activision, Gronthe at Deuwowlity did an in-depth analysis of this in a recent blogpost. Go read it unless you haven't already! What he describes is a company that certainly is in a risky business, but you can't really see that their flagship would be in the danger of an immediate death.
The reasons behind
So why do players insist on claiming that WoW is dying? I can't help thinking it's a case of magical thinking. They overrate their own importance and influence on the success of WoW.
Maybe it's also a step in their own process of detaching themselves from the game. Many players have witnessed about what a firm hold WoW can have on you. Even if you want to quit you might find it hard, due to habit or addiction, whatever you prefer to call it, and the social networks you've built through it.
If you call a death sentence over the game you're leaving, I can imagine it will become easier to stick to your decision. You can tell yourself that the game is dead anyway, so why bother to play it?
The truth is that the WoW as you got to know it when you started to play might die. The game might feel dead to you if you don't approve of the changes. But this doesn't mean that there aren't others who think the opposite. New generations of WoW players will come with their own expectations and wishes, which might look quite different to the ones of the players who have been around since beta.
The game changes. We may or may not like those changes. If you don't like them - feel free to criticise them! My favorite angry podcaster Totalbiscuit has recently excelled in colorful rip-into-pieces rants about the terrible state WoW is in and how disappointed he is about the way that Cataclysm is turning out. He has hence cancelled his preorder of it. But you don't hear him saying "WoW is dying". Bacause such claims are just stupid.
WoW still attracts huge amounts of paying customers. It sells very well, according to Dwism - even at this point with Cataclysm yet-to-be-launched. I'd be damned if it would die anytime soon.
My interest for the game might die. But in the end I'm just a very small, barely noticable fish in the pond.