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The slippery slope: Analysing the decline of World of Warcraft


It's the word on the street these days: World of Warcraft is no longer quite the king that it used to be. The massive title has lost around one million subscribers over the past year, even with Cataclysm releasing last December. Gamasutra sat down with Blizzard for a frank talk about why the title is in decline, and what the studio has planned to counter this trend.

While Blizzard is pleased with the tune-up that Cataclysm provided to the landscape and questing, some players cite the erosion of difficulty and challenge as a reason for their leaving. Lead Systems Designer Greg Street acknowledges this, but says that the WoW team is in uncharted territory: "We just don't have a lot of examples of games that have lasted this long and been this popular for so long to show the right way to do it. I think coming up with new mechanics and new systems is relatively easy, the problem is integrating it with what we already have. World of Warcraft today is so much more complicated than it was when it launched six or seven years ago."

Ultimately, it may come down to players becoming bored more quickly as Blizzard struggles to pump out content to keep their attention. UC Irvine's Thomas Debeauvais conducted a study of 2,865 WoW players across the world, and found that 75% of them had stopped playing the game for at least a month while still being subscribed to it. Blizzard says that it wants to provide faster content updates and continue to overhaul the game's mechanics and graphics to give the players a reason to stay.

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