Ask a junkie about some watered-down drugs, and they will tell you it sucks. But they will still hit it anyway.
Thus, some World of Warcraft Players say, is their current predicament. Blizzard Entertainment has made a career from producing addictive games of good quality, and for long was one of the few gaming companies to have a nearly perfect average. But some fans say that ever since merging with Activision, this is no longer the case. And that reflected in a report from August: Activision announced it lost 44 percent of its subscribers in the previous six months.
Just this month, the company announced it will never again release subscriber numbers.
The first trailer for their Warcraft film, the much ballyhooed future flagship of the WoW empire, seems to crystalize the criticisms: coasting on their legacy and falling a bit behind the times. With its oddly cartoonish graphics and confusing tone, the buzz around the film is that it’s five, maybe 10 years too late—and it likely won’t stop the horde (pun intended) of criticism from of players obsessed with the franchise at its release date come next year.
Ask some former fans though and, to them, the thrill is largely gone. The flagship game of their franchise, World of Warcraft, still has a loyal fan base. But many have since moved on, bored by the slow pace and Blizzard not figuring out who to focus on.
“It’s not as fun, not as challenging, and it gets very repetitive,” said Prince Charles-Pierre, a years-long Warcraft player who recently gave up on the franchise. “You either do the storyline, or it’s the same content at just a different level. It gets very repetitive.”
“Nowadays it’s like [World of Warcraft] is made so ‘everybody can win.’ Like you baby the newcomers or the few players that’s not that advanced. They’re catering to them.”
Prince, who was a 100-level Night Elf—the highest possible level—before he quit, sees one big limiting factor in their recent games: extreme repetitiveness.
“With Diablo, you get good and when you beat the story, what happens again? You do the same stuff again. You go back to the same content, just a harder level, in search of just better gear.”
Some fans were angered this summer when Blizzard announced it was going to release an expansion pack too soon, disallowing hardcore players from getting an advantage and forcing them to buy yet another product to keep up.
Former kicker for the Minnesota Vikings and gaming enthusiast Chris Kluwe is a bit more lenient with looking at these missteps. He’s become a de facto authority on WoW over the years (his Twitter username is @ChrisWarcraft, after all) and, with the track record that Blizzard has, he thinks that fans are being a bit too hard on the company.
“I think part of it is overreacting,” said Kluwe. “I mean, you look at any heavy fan base of anything, Whether it be video games, comic books, sports—people wants things to be a very specific way. And when things aren’t exactly the way they want, they almost feel betrayed.”
Kluwe conceded that Diablo 3 tried to emulate World of Warcraft too much at first, and previously criticized the need to always be online to play games like Starcraft 2. But he is optimistic about the newer games that have been better received by fans, and argues that Blizzard was going to make mistakes while exploring new directions.
“With the success of WoW, you know with the success of Heartstone, it’s clear that Blizzard doesn’t want to just be one thing. They want to try to do other things, and that’s gonna come with some risk of failure,” he said. “You’re not gonna hit every single one out of the park.”
Kluwe says he hears the criticisms, but he urges the guilds to put down their pitchforks for a minute.
“If we never allow developers to try anything new, if we say, ‘Hey you have to be this one thing always and forever,’ then we’re never going to get any new games.”