Monday, February 24, 2014

The WoW Infographic Puzzles Me

If you've not seen the infographic that showed up the other day, you can find it here.

While on the face of it the infographic is a celebration of the 800 lb. gorilla that is WoW, my first thought wasn't "Woah", but "Hmm...."

It began with the very first datapoint.

More than 100 million accounts have been created over WoW's lifetime, which includes trial accounts. My first thought was "Why doesn't WoW retain more subscribers than the measly amount they have now?" My second thought was "Just how many of those accounts are spammers and gold farmers?" And my third thought was "How many of those accounts are owned by the same person?"

I don't think Blizzard has the answers to #1 and #2, but they probably can take a stab at #3 if they were interested in data mining.  But #1 is probably the most vexing problem Blizzard has. It also explains why Blizzard isn't really bothering to bring in new players* but instead focusing on getting lapsed subscribers to come back.

The next puzzler for me was a bit farther down, in the "Every Day in Azeroth" section. On the face of it, it would seem that far more people engage in PvE activity than PvP, and the number of Pet Battles alone would appear to make it the single most popular thing to do in WoW. But I suspect the data is a bit skewed based on what is presented.  It doesn't show who does what, only that these things are. A person could quite easily login, engage in a Pet Battle or three while waiting for a raid, and maybe finishing it off with a couple of 2s. Think of all the people who used to fish in the Dal fountain while waiting for their weekly raid group to show up, and you get the idea. Perhaps a better use of the data is the amount of time the average toon spends doing each activity as well as the time spent logged in. If there are long periods of toons not doing any of the listed activities, that's probably the time spent BS-ing with Guildies, questing, gathering, and other non-instanced activities. That will give people a better sense of how players spend their average time in Azeroth.

The last puzzler for me was the challenge mode data. Now, given the number of PvE instances run on a daily basis, that so few people have gotten challenge mode rewards is surprising to me. By comparison, Garrosh had been offed 400k times in a very short period of a few months, or 100k times less than the number of Bronze challenge mode achievers throughout all of Mists. That seems to make challenge modes far more of a niche than anything else, unless I'm missing something here (like that the majority of 5-man instances are for challenge mode runs or something).

There are things that I read in the infographic and I want to say "tell me more!" Like the 400k kills of Garrosh, for example. How many of them are via LFR? Or the 9 million guilds created. How many have more than the minimum number of toons needed to create a guild? How many different guilds is the average account a member of?

Yes, I'm aware that the infographic was designed to get people interested in playing WoW. Still, for someone who has been playing the game for 4+ years now, the infographic doesn't seem to tell the same story I see when I'm out and about in Azeroth. That Azeroth seems much emptier and sedate than the bustling game that is presented in the infographic.

*If they really wanted to bring in new players, they'd work a bit harder on making the storyline from L1-80 line up properly. A neighbor tried WoW recently, and one of the things he said stuck with me: "I couldn't figure the story out; it made no sense to me."


  1. "I couldn't figure the story out; it made no sense to me."

    Yes. Sadly, that was the result of Ghostcrawler's team deciding to redo the old world as part of the monumental work they did for Cataclysm.

    Before that time, one's questing experience was as nature intended: from level 1-60 you lived in Vanilla WoW, and experienced life as it was in 2005, more of less. You even got to fight Onyxia at the end, if you cared to do it (though sadly the whole Lady Prestor story was now dead)

    Then you entered the the Dark Portal and moved forward to the story of the Burning Crusade and the fight against Kaelthas, Illidan and Kiljaedan.

    Then you were called to Northrend to defeat the Lich King and his minions.

    Your hero followed the stories as they were originally presented. However once the Cataclysm arrived, new characters suddenly found the world reshaped and found themselves in the middle of the Cataclysm story. Then it made no sense that going through the Dark Portal brought you back in time. How could you make sense of fighting against Archimonde and the gang, when they were supposedly dead long before the madness of Deathwing? By upgrading the old world, Blizzard had changed its timeline, and succeeded in their plan of making it relevant to level-capped players again, but at the cost of making it confusing to new players. And to add to the confusion, new players using LFD were being teleported to places they'd never been before, to fight opponents who they had never heard of before. And to kill them at breakneck speed - no time to read quest text or understand what was going on. No wonder there are so few new players.

    1. It was even confusing before Cata, to be honest. There were things that made no sense to the complete noob to the Warcraft Universe, such as the Scourge. When I saw NPCs talking about the Scourge, I kept expecting a group of evil-aligned baddies showing up and raiding the countryside, but when a few ghouls and zombies appeared I thought "Undead? What's this Undead doing here?" It took a while to figure out that the Scourge = the Undead.

      At least the story was reasonably moving forward in time, but yeah, my big beef has been that the Cata redo was limited only to the Old World. That was the sort of redo where they essentially had to do everything: go big or go home.

      And don't get me started on using the novels as a crutch. Having essential story information stuck into a novel is great for keeping development costs down, but making it pretty much mandatory to follow the story from Cata to Mists that way is disappointing, to say the least.

  2. I had not seen the infographic but it certainly is overwhelming. I have only recently levelled another toon, and I had no idea of any sort of story as I whizzed through it. I am not sure how they can pull in new players rather than old ones, and it makes me wonder if people will start looking at WoW as an old gamer's game rather than a new gamer's one.

    1. I hadn't thought of WoW as an old gamer's game, but you do have a point.

  3. I can imagine how confusing the story is if you were trying WoW for the first time now. Leveling is so fast you can't stay in a zone long enough to follow through on anything. Hmm, never thought of what Navi said before, I guess I belong here, lol.

    1. Ancient, you pretty much belong wherever you decide to go. Trust me on that one. :-)