The press release is fascinating, showing, I think, just how extraordinarily difficult it is going to be to balance a genuinely “dynamic” virtual world with customer expectations of a commercial product. Taking ANet’s description of the event at face value, there’s an intrinsic and apparently insoluble problem and in just three-paragraphs they hammer home relentlessly precisely what it is :
“we want to make sure that you are not missing out”
“an Event in Lion’s Arch that you don’t want to miss”
“make sure you will not miss it”
“this will only run once, so make sure you will be there!”
Whether the event will live up to the hype, whether it will be truly world-changing, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the insistence that this is something all Guild Wars 2 players must not miss. That raises expectations that simply cannot be met in full. A lot of people aren’t going to be there, no matter how much they’d like to be. The balancing act between building excitement and fostering resentment is a high wire to walk, that’s for sure, and the fall is steep on either side.
Then I received an email notification about this comment from João Carlos:
I am sure Azuriel will go crazy bitching mode when she knows about the one time events at 16-18th…
But I am sure GW2 at XFire will go up that weekend.
As an aside, if I were not actually a dude, I think I might have been offended by the “crazy bitching mode” characterization.
Anyway, mere minutes later, I browse down to NoizyGamer’s latest Digital Dozen post:
Event Aftermath – Another trend is that following in-game events interest in a game tends to decline. Two games that held in-game events on 28 October saw the Xfire community spend over 20% less time playing those games on Sunday. Vindictus fell out of The Digital Dozen after a nine-week run with a 22.1% decline following the celebration of the Nexon game’s second anniversary 27-28 October. The second game, Guild Wars 2, experienced a 21.2% decline with the end of its Halloween event.
So, I would respond to Senor Carlos by saying: I would hope GW2’s XFire numbers go up the weekend of the 16th. Because, ultimately, I think that is sort of the entire point of having these Dynamic Events By Appointment, vis-a-vis to drive engagement and capitalize on gaming news-cycles.
Even if they really are being earnest when they say it is all about making the world feel alive, it begs the question of “what is the world missing, that it needs one-time events to feel alive?”
In any case, this is not an ArenaNet-only thing – every seasonal event in MMOs basically amounts to the same deal – and I am not even saying developers spicing things up is necessarily bad. These sort of events simply hold zero interest to me, even if they were not starting at 3pm EST (are they timing it for the schoolchildren?). I never considered showing up for a raid at 9pm on a Tuesday evening particularly dynamic, and I have to wonder how many scheduled one-time events someone can consume before the suspension on their disbelief finally gives out.
If you made it past 1, you are doing better than me.
In other words, SWTOR lost 400,000 subscriptions in the last three months:
Star Wars: The Old Republichas dropped from 1.7 million active subscribers to 1.3 million, publisher Electronic Arts said today in an earnings statement.
That’s a loss of nearly 25% for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, or 400,000 subscribers. […]
Update: In a conference call this afternoon, EA said the decrease was indeed due to “casual and trial players” cycling out of the game.
It is worth noting, of course, that the 1.3 million current subscribers is circa March 31st; things may have stabilized or gotten worse sense then.
Remember the whole brouhaha concerning the free month of game time given to Bioware’s “most valued players?” That took place two weeks into April. So while that may still have been a cynical move to prop up subscription numbers, we can be reasonably certain that the 1.3 million figure is not being finessed by anything (the 1.7 million figure at the beginning of the year had some vague language).
I’m not sure I’m going to follow SWTOR with the same level of attention I give to WoW’s subscription/raiding numbers, but for some future reference, here is an Xfire screenshot:
I personally don’t like using Xfire as a metric – the sample of players here are playing SWTOR for 5.3 hours at a time if I’m reading that right, and I’d assume even happily subbed players play less over time – but there you go. Damning evidence of EAware’s hubris and impending downfall, or signs of a much healthier MMO than most releases have achieved in the last few years. Obviously 400k is nothing to sneeze at, but 1.3 million is much better than analyst predictions of 800k.
Spin that narrative however you please.