WoW Factor: The great Superdata fall-off

    
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There's a lot of death here.

The one down side to working ahead is that sometimes your schedule gets nudged around more than expected. I promise that a further look at the changed and underused zones in World of Warcraft is on its way (and written, even), but it keeps getting delayed, first because of book reviews and then hold on, what the heck is this?

This is the equivalent of doing an experiment in a lab to discover that gravity accelerates a falling body at a rate of 4.9 meters per second squared. Something is very, very wrong here.

Of course, if you actually got that result, you wouldn’t immediately publish a paper detailing that gravity no longer worked the way we all knew it did. So let’s examine two possible reactions to the rather surprising lack of WoW on the Superdata chart, because there’s more to seeing a surprising result than just nodding and accepting that it must be the new normal.

Something has gone awry

I think we should look at her research before we condemn her entirely.Let’s extend that above analogy. If you had data showing 4.9 as the gravitational constant, you wouldn’t just nod and publish those results; you’d ask what the heck happened. You’d check your instruments and your other findings, run the experiment again, and quite possibly look for another explanation for the same data. Because that result doesn’t make any sense.

So rather than assuming that WoW suddenly not showing up on Superdata is a sign of doom, perhaps it’s better to ask if something went awry during the collection of data.

We know that Overwatch dropped off last month, but the loss of the almost always-present WoW raises some questions about how the data were obtained and whether or not they’re entirely accurate. It’s possible that data were not collected or shared accurately, or someone misplaced a zero somewhere along the line. Obviously a great deal of work goes into these reports, but mistakes can still get made. Let’s not forget when Superdata kept splitting the game up and thus misreporting it.

It also seems odd considering that November was also the site of BlizzCon, and while a lot of digital ink has been spilled about how badly that went, the response to the various WoW reveals was less “savagely negative” and more “tepid.” There was only one real hiccup that didn’t go over well (8.2’s Mechagon dungeon), most of it produced some amount of assent from the crowd. Usually a big convention boosts numbers, after all.

Plus, let’s note that The Sims 4 is now occupying WoW’s spot of 7 from last month. That is, again, an odd result. This isn’t a game that’s been a longtime favorite or one that has frequently jockeyed for a spot there; it winds up being an unusual inclusion while a usual suspect is not present there.

Also, while you may be tired of hearing about it, let’s not forget that China’s game market has been in freefall for ages now, and it’s only just now starting to change at all. That’s going to have a knock-on effect, especially for titles like WoW that have a major impact in the region.

In other words, it’s important to look at these numbers and take them with a grain of salt before assuming the worst. This is not in and of itself evidence to support a thesis statement of how badly the game’s latest expansion has ruined everything; it’s a data point that may be irrelevant next month. It’s the equivalent of an odd computer error: Rebooting might fix the problem, which means it’s not really a problem.

But if it’s accurate?

This was a good plan we had here.Having said all of that, I’d be less inclined to believe that this was wrong if it weren’t for the fact that Overwatch slipped off last month. That game has been Blizzard’s golden child pretty much since launch, and as a result the game has benefited the most from attention and visibility. And it’s used that to more or less just produce more of that it already has and ignore people asking for, well, more than just a lobby-based shooter with storytelling that’s going nowhere.

And, yes, it seems like people have gotten kind of tired of it. Remember talking about market saturation? Yeah.

Of course, we’re not here to talk about Overwatch; we’re here for WoW, which has been on these charts for much longer and now does not appear to be. And if that’s all entirely accurate, that points to a problem that ties right back into when Blizzard decided to stop publishing subscriber numbers a while back.

See, Blizzard’s decision to stop offering numbers in 2015 was born out of cold business sense. The falling numbers (and they were falling) made the game look as if it was doing worse, which it was in terms of subscribers, but in terms of revenue it was doing just fine. Sure, it was doing fine by finding ways to get more money out of fewer players, but from a business standpoint that doesn’t actually matter too much. Whether you make $1,000 by charging 500 people $2 each or by charging 100 people $10 each, you still made $1,000. So no more numbers, revenue looks fine, and everything’s great!

Well… until things start falling further. Consider the numbers I just posited: If you lose 10 players from the first scenario, you still have 490 playing and wind up making $980. It’s a loss, but a small one. But if you lose 10 players from the second scenario, you’re only making $900.

In other words, it doesn’t actually matter how you’re hitting those numbers for a given month, but it does matter in the long run. One way is a lot less elastic and thus can be much more dangerous. Say, if you release an expansion that gets a terrible reception, weak word-of-mouth, and a development team doubling down on the design choices that cause all of these problems rather than trying to make major changes to avert this problem.

Anyway happy holidays.

Has doom come to our world (of warcraft)?

Let’s be realistic here. Whether or not the loss of a slot on Superdata is accurate, it’s almost certainly not the end of the world. Companies tend to look at things on a more quarterly than monthly basis, and the game has more than enough money to be just fine even if it’s going through a rough patch. Heck, it’s entirely possible that this is more indicative of how data have been collected than of an actual problem.

But it should serve as a splash of cold water regardless. These November numbers are coming when we’re only three months out from an expansion launch, which is a pretty alarming drop-off. If I were Ion Hazzikostas, I’d probably be sitting in my office and looking back through design documents right now because some of my decisions are obviously not working out right.

This isn’t an ode of doom for the next year, nor does it mean that the game is going to massively scale back or that Blizzard is going to shutter the title. But between this and what’s happened with Heroes of the Storm, it all does add up to a studio that might be well-served to check its feelings of invulnerability against the cold reality of the markets.

Or, in short, don’t be surprised if next year brings some pretty big changes.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, yes, it should be back to zones. Or another news explosion, who knows.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Sestramor

This list ist bizarre at least. Sims4???!!! Seriously?! LoL?
Those titles occupying the top spots would spell doom for the whole PC gaming industry more than the loss of Blizzard titles.

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rafael12104

As Wilhelm pointed out in the Super Data article, we will need to wait to see if the absence of WoW and or Overwatch is a trend.

There are no Blizzard games in the November 2018 SuperData games revenue ranking, not even WoW

Until then, I think it is premature to assume anything. But it certainly doesn’t bode well.

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Bannex

Sadly this isn’t going to motivate them to throw more money at it. This is only going to expedite the cost cutting.

To the people waiting for WoWs demise; You’re not going to finally get the game you’ve always wanted and you can’t change the past.

WoW’s death will be the curtain call on AAA mmos. Blizzard will become a quick buck gaming company relying on its colossal IPs for the next 10 years. Every game from them will either be mobile or multi platform.

This isn’t a victory.

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rosieposie

Absolutely not, but there is not a victory to be had in the first place. All the reaction to player feedback so far indicates that Blizzard isn’t about making games that the players want. It’s all about doubling down on their decisions. ‘The team is happy with how the widely rejected Game System X has worked out’ is the standard answer. The players clearly aren’t happy, but we’re not getting more than just some band-aid solutions that don’t address the underlying issue. How many times can you give feedback in hopes that this burning flagship will be fixed, before you start to think that maybe it should just burn down to the ground.

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Danny Smith

I’ve had a good chuckle at the same blizzard diehards i know that have used superdata for years to “shut down the hater trolls saying wows dying” now saying “superdata is worthless and you shouldn’t listen to it”. Brand Loyalty is a fascinating, horrifying thing to witness.

Personally i just think BfA is a good idea on paper but in execution its just a bad product. Sometimes you swing and you miss, thats it. Its design by mobile gamers for mobile games and for the rest of us gacha mobage level mechanics were lame when destiny introduced them, they are lame in WoW as well. The game doesn’t exist in a vaccum and theres better stuff to play that doesnt have the audacity to demand a monthly sub for a better experience.

Some people are acting like the sky is falling -probably the people that literally only play WoW for some reason i cannot fathom- others just see it as a sign of blizzards continuing decline. Personally i just think its a bad product. Warlords was a bad product and it didn’t kill them it just led to shake ups. I expect shakeups again and a rough Q4 but thats about it.

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Anstalt

SuperData are garbage.

I’ll just get that out there right now. They collect data on only a tiny fraction of the games market (less than 1%). The data is, for the most part, volunteered by the developers/publishers and so cannot be 100% trusted. The remainder is mined from a few limited sources and is thus incomplete.

Beyond that, their analyses are always shite. I mean, how can you trust them to make informed analyses of the games market when they can’t even categorise a game properly?! If you go back to re-read their predictions from the last few years, they’re almost all wrong.

So, WoW falling off the list?

Most likely scenario, Blizzard (having seen their dropping numbers) simply stopped volunteering their data to SuperData.

Next possibility: someone in SuperData messed up their categorisation / copying. they’re pretty bad at it, so not a surprise.

Another possibility: some of the data is missing this month. Perhaps they have subscriber money, but not microtransactions.

Whatever the case, SuperData’s charts aren’t worth spending any time looking at. You cannot trust their data or their analysis.

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Vincent Clark

I tend to agree. Half the games I never even tried or heard of. I have no idea where FFXIV is on their list but the game just announced a new expansion, put on a massive Fan Fest (part 1 of 3) and just released a new trailer for an upcoming patch and that’s all the data I really need to know.

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Bannex

Ffxiv isn’t nearly as successful as this site would lead you to believe.

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Sariel

That’s ridiculous. You can say what you like about FFXIV, but to deny its resounding success is just being blind. It’s still easily the second most-played true MMO out there right now (no, not counting pseudo-MMOs or anything)

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Bannex

ESO has approx 2.5mil, FFXIV has approx 500k (active users). Not even near the top 3. It’s a good game and yes it’s successful but not competing with the heavy hitters.

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Bruno Brito

Something has gone awry

EVERYTHING has gone awry, Eliot.

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Ironwu

Pretty much this. ^^^

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TomTurtle

Whatever happens, I don’t have high expectations for Blizzard. The stubbornness and arrogance from that company feels like it’s at an all-time high right now. And rather than any real course correction, I imagine, like we’re already seeing with the latest WoW store marketing, that they’ll just find more ways to squeeze out more money rather than putting in any sincere effort.

One tangent this all reminds me off is how normal it is for MMOs to launch and slowly lose numbers over the years rather than gain more and more and how insular WoW players are when it comes to accepting that trend. It’s an overall downward trend, and we’ve been seeing that with WoW for a while. If only more players realized that instead of expecting otherwise.

Sure Blizzard can, and should, act in ways to prolong the game’s life, but it’s highly unlikely anything they do can return it to its mythical glory days.

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Utakata

I’ve never put stake into those game data numbers since the days that SoMuchMass was throwing those around to blight GW2. So I am not going to read much into those, beyond those games on top seem to be the trend right now.

Beyond that, my pigtails and myself wouldn’t be caught dead playing those “top” games listed. So they are least wrong on that. /shrug :)

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Bruno Brito

Ah, i miss that guy.

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Ironwu

Why would one want to play D3 when one can play Path of Exile?

Why would one want to play Overwatch when one can play Fortnite or PUBG?

Why would one want to play WoW when one can play FFXIV or ESO?

Why would one want to play Destiny 2 when one can play Warframe or the upcoming Anthem?

To me, it seems like Blizzard has really ended up on the wrong side of the curve this time. Their games are really not as good as, or are substantially worse, than the competitors.

But by all means, suggest that the data is somehow ‘wrong’ and that everything is just peachy in Blizzard Land. That will help.

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IronSalamander8 .

As an aside to one point; I left Overwatch awhile ago and in its place I have Paladins (flaws and all), and of course PvZ: Garden Warfare 2. They are shooters more in style of Overwatch, much like TF2 before it rather than battle royale games. I enjoyed Overwatch at first, a lot in fact, but I have more fun elsewhere for this kind of hero shooter.

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Ironwu

True, Overwatch not really BR style. Was just thinking more along the lines of fast playing shooter. You are correct, of course, that Paladins, TF2 and such are a closer match. :)

Forgot to mention the failed HotS as well. Not sure where Hearthstone is fitting in, but I suspect that some of the newer card based games will be giving it a run too.

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Sestramor

Why would one want to play D3 when one can play Path of Exile?
—-> Because one prefers D3 and likes it much, much more.

Why would one want to play Overwatch when one can play Fortnite or PUBG?
—-> One does neither play Fortnite nor Overwatch. Very seldom enjoys a PUBG session.

Why would one want to play WoW when one can play FFXIV or ESO?
—–> One has been playing WoW since 2005 and will continue to do so. One tried FFXVI now and then and never got to the endgame. ESO is true competition, one thinks, though WoW’s Dungeons and Raids are still masterclass and not surpassed by ESO.

Why would one want to play Destiny 2 when one can play Warframe or the upcoming Anthem?
—-> Anthem will lure one away from D2 with one’s friends, though one really enjoys the coop aspects with friends in D2. Warframe wasn’t touched once by one.

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Carebear
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Sestramor

Omg that’s so sad and doesn’t bode well for 2019.