The end of the WoW era?

by on August 19, 2011

There’s been an interesting discussion gently bubbling along in the blogosphere over the last few days – the discussion of whether or not we’re seeing the End of the Age of WoW.

It all started when Syp stepped forward with a radical proposition: that WoW is, for the first time since its launch, no longer the dominant MMO game:

If I may indulge in a bit of reading between the lines, one can see Blizzard realizing that it no longer leads the pack but is merely one of the pack — and it’s going to have to adapt and innovate faster to stay relevant instead of expecting everyone to follow in its wake like lackeys. Other companies are no longer dropping WoW’s name in every second sentence as they once did, but instead are looking elsewhere for ideas to emulate and nurture.

Tobold picked up on this idea himself, and wasn’t that convinced. Certainly, he felt that he was bored of WoW, but he argues that’s nothing to do with the game:

Any game gets boring after playing it for years and for thousands of hours. I’m bored of WoW. I’m bored of quest-based fantasy MMORPGs in general. But I know that this is something that happens in my head, and not some weird conspiracy that colluded to make all fantasy MMORPGs worse with every patch.

Tobold also suggested that what is actually coming to an end is the “gold rush” era of MMOs, where everyone rushed to mimic WoW. Epic Slant picked up on that in turn:

WoW was the perfect combination of quality, timing, and built in customer loyalty. Everyone assumes that the game itself is what drew people in but that was never the case. People bought World of Warcraft because there were no comparable options and Blizzard could do no wrong in the post Warcraft III/Starcraft/Diablo II era. They took the winning formula of EverQuest, put a beloved intellectual property into it, and polished it to a level that only Blizzard is known for. That is what got people in the door. Everyone accepts that now. There may never be lightning in the bottle again for MMORPGs.

Overall, there’s definitely a feeling of the zeitgeist shifting, with WoW seeming older, more frail, and less dominant every day (attempts to squash the SWTOR release with Patch 4.3 nonwithstanding), and the conversation in the blogosphere increasingly shifting. I’d argue that there’s more discussion of both RIFT and LoTRO than ever before, and less of WoW – whilst it’s still dominant, it’s no longer world-crushing.

We’re in the Post-WoW era. What a wierd feeling.

Are we Post-WoW? Pre-SWTOR? Or somewhere else altogether? (I keep looking to Dwarf Fortress for a glimpse of the future) What do you think?
All quotes taken directly from their respective articles.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: General MMO Interest,World of Warcraft

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Gazimoff August 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I think we’re seeing the start of something else.

Yes, Warcraft has been the dominant game. But I think that there won’t be a “dominant game” in the future. I think MMO gamers have become much more aware of upcoming titles and release schedules, and instead are looking to try out several titles instead of sticking with one for a number of years.

I think there are several people who are mentally putting together a “flight plan” of what games they aim to try out, hopping from one to another. I also think that we’re moving towards being MMO nomads, where we hop as small groups from one game to another every 6 to 12 months.


Paul August 21, 2011 at 12:58 am

I think WoW will recover from the decline it experienced in Cataclysm. The devs have learned some very expensive lessons, but presumably taking a multihundred million dollar hit to revenue will create some lasting institutional memories at Blizzard so they don’t fail in the same way again.


Eccentrica August 21, 2011 at 1:00 am

I suggest something rather different. I don’t think the era is ending. I think the target audience is changing. With every alteration to Warcraft as we know it people ask about the hows, whens and wheres, but rarely do they ask “Why” or “Who is this intended for”. Ask these questions with regard to the numerous changes implemented and see what you come up with. There is a huge untapped group of potential gamers out there; potential gamers who require gentle easing into game worlds because they did not grow up with their faces glued to monitors and cell phone screens. This group is huge, largely ignored and not only are on the cusp of having massive amounts of free time, but also have lots of cash to spend on subscriptions and microtransactions.


Azuriel August 21, 2011 at 9:36 am

I think it is a bit of wishful thinking that Rift or LotRO are the benefactors of this bleed – both games have peaked and are below 500k subs/active accounts. Any increase in blog posts is probably a natural result of the blogger having quit WoW, not that those games have become more popular/exciting.

What I suspect, just like what is going on with iPads and PC/laptop sales, is that the “golden age” of F2P is cannibalizing the MMO market. I know that LotRO is technically a F2P game, but understand that League of Legends has an average of one million simultaneous players at any given time. That is as many as play Rift and LotRO combined. Supposedly LoL has 15 million registrations, which is technically more subs than WoW, but obviously there is a massive difference in revenue streams.

Honestly, I think we are entering the age where game companies no longer compete for gamer dollars, but rather for gamer time. With the assumption that getting the former will be the natural result of capturing the latter, of course.


Doone August 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I do tend to think that the “WoW Era” is ending. I’ve written on this before, but I believe WoW-style MMOs are on their way out …and it’s for the better. Rift and SWTOR are coming in at the end of an era to their great peril. While SWTOR is revolutionizing questing …it’s still questing, and it’s still a significant part of gameplay. Future MMOs will recognize that players are far better content than quests are and will trend towards more collaborative gameplay. In some ways, the genre will come full circle and in others it will shoot off into a really exciting future!

Guild Wars 2 has a real shot of being at the forefront of a new and improved era, but their success isn’t guaranteed either. As gamers, I think we can expect SWTOR and Rift to go the way of LOTRO: they will remain successful, will capture a very enthusiastic segment of players who love their worlds, and they will never reach the success of WoW. No game ever will; WoW was an anamoly that all of us are forever grateful for.


Gazimoff August 22, 2011 at 12:32 am

@Azuriel – Not sure how accurate that chart is – Rift recently announced passing the 1mil mark. Do they have sources for that data, or is it estimated?


Paul August 22, 2011 at 5:14 am

Gazimoff: Rift recently passed 1 million “customers”, which I presume means sales, not active subscriptions.


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