Google has a tremendous amount of data about exactly what WoW players are looking for online -- and if there's one thing I can't get enough of, it's WoW data. With the search data that Google makes available, we can get a unique look into how WoW-related searches have changed over time with the changing popularity of the game and what kinds of topics WoW players are searching for more than others. The Google-eye view is a unique insight into the online interest and discussions of World of Warcraft.
WoW search trends over time
To start at the beginning, let's take a look at how online searches for WoW have changed over time. This data is for all searches with the phrase "WoW" in them that Google considers to be related to online gaming. The data is normalized, meaning that the highest search volume is given a value of 100, and everything else is divided by 100. Thus, when the line is half the highest height, that reflects half the search volume, though we don't how many searches that number is; we can only compare the trend.
However, this does not necessarily directly translate into the popularity of WoW, though we certainly know subscriber count has been declining. Instead, it's entirely possible that the improvements in making the game easier to understand have reduced the need for some players to look for information online. Things like the in-game quest helper that shows where to go to complete a quest substantially reduce the number of people looking that quest up online (something that was once a common practice), and Blizzard has made a lot of improvements that make it easier for players to play the game without having to leave the game to look things up.
It's worth noting here that I looked up the trends for all the different classes, and the trend for all of them mirrored this trend almost exactly (except of course death knights, which burst on the scene in Wrath).
WoW expansion search trends
Here, we're going to take a look at the comparative search popularity of the different WoW expansions. This is looking at all searches in the online gaming category that include both the word WoW and the name of the expansion. Common expansion abbreviations (BC, WotLK) have been included as well.
One theory for the lack of Cataclysm search volume is that so much information about the expansion was available before its release that there was less need to go looking -- you couldn't go to any WoW site without drowning in expansion news (sort of like now). But even taking that into account, this certainly looks like a pretty substantial decrease in interest. After all, what can really compare with the fall of Arthas?
Now let's take a look at the search volume for each of the WoW classes. Here, we're seeing the average monthly number of searches for phrases of "WoW (class)," including variations of class names (death knight and DK, for example). This graph is specifically only looking at searches that have the word WoW immediately adjacent to the class name. So a search for "WoW rogue leveling tips" would be counted, but "WoW guide to rogue pvp" would not. It should still give us a good comparison, however.
I'm not too surprised to see the search volume for the healing classes is lower. Healing lends itself less well to theorycrafting. You can't turn healing into an ideal mathematical equation, and as a result, there are fewer "right" answers in the healing role to look up online.
Top WoW search phrases
The following chart takes a look at the monthly search volume for some of the top searched phrases. Unlike the class searches above, here we're looking at any search that included both "WoW" and the phrase, even if there were other words in between. (Thus, you can't compare the class numbers to these.) As always, common variations (shirt and T-shirt) are included. I have excluded a couple of the very top phrases -- searches for WoW itself, for Blizzard, and searches for guides without any qualifier on the kind of guide.
WoW gold search trend
For some more cheery news, here is a look at the search trend over time (again, normalized) for searches including both "WoW" and "gold."
Of course, one of the staggering things here is to look at the huge monthly search volume for gold phrases and consider how ridiculously much higher it was back in 2006. You can also spot pretty easily on this chart, where daily quests were introduced in 2007. Despite what it may seem, this chart seems to indicate that all the efforts Blizzard is making to combat gold selling is having some kind of impact. Of course, the decline in WoW popularity overall in recent years also contributes.
WoW licensed properties
Finally, we're going to take a look at the average monthly search volume of the top WoW licensed properties (top by search volume). Again, here we're looking at any combination of the word "WoW" and obvious variations of the property.
Michele Morrow has been cast for Sylvanas. The Trading Card Game (TCG) comes in second with an incredibly impressive search volume, followed by books and novels and searches for a WoW mouse.
About the data
All of this data looks at the global search volume for English-language searches on Google. Like all data, all this gives us is a set of facts, and there are often as many different ways of interpreting the data as there are people doing the interpreting.
What does this data mean to you? Is interest in WoW indeed falling even more than subscriber numbers indicate? Or is the game just so much better than there's less need to search online? Why the heck are hunters searching for hunter info so much? Or is that other classes jealous of hunters searching to learn how to become one?
What do you take out of this?