If you've seen the gaming news today, you might have read something like this article which mentions Blizzard's earnings call. Two things were of major interest to me.
First, there's this little matter regarding World of Warcraft's subscriptions which dropped by 600K after Cataclysm. While this isn't very surprising to me, it still feels strange that after such a major and successful expansion a lot of people still reached the burnout point so quickly.
I will come clean: I am one of those 600K. I've been slowly slipping away from WoW to the point where I'm not playing it anymore, I don't care about it anymore and I find unlikely that I will ever return. These feelings are really weird because Cataclysm was everything I dreamed of in WoW: a revamped Azeroth and flying throughout the old continents! Unfortunately, all these enhancements don't change the fact that every WoW expansion is the same 'ol, same 'ol as the previous one.
It might be that we're starting to see the first signs of WoW's inevitable decline. It won't happen abruptly. But I can see how Blizzard will find it harder and harder to keep old players in and at the same time attract new ones. Don't worry though, I'm sure this decline will be so gradual that we won't even realize it. In fact, I won't be surprised if WoW will still be online 10 years from now. It's just that good. But sometimes the same formula repeated just won't cut it.
Myself, I still follow WoW news loosely and watch patch information, I still post articles on this blog (on more general topics rather than particulars) and I also run BankAlt.com which is my pet WoW project (check it out if you haven't). So I'm still connected to the Warcraft universe and I will likely remain connected for a long time even if I'm not actively playing.
The second thing from Blizzard's conference that I found significant is the fact that they are "working hard to release Diablo 3 in 2011". I know that this isn't a guarantee that we'll be able to play Diablo 3 in its final version this year but after 10 years of waiting I can finally be confident that in a worst case scenario I'll be able to play it within a year. If I'm lucky, I might even get a beta invite sooner, and from what Blizzard is saying, a public beta is slated to be opened some time between July and September.
Diablo 3 might as well be one of the reasons that drew me away from WoW. I mean, the closer we get to a public beta (and subsequently to a launch), the less desire I feel towards WoW. And it's only fitting, because part of the attraction of World of Warcraft, back when I started playing, was that it offered a pseudo-substitute to the Diablo universe.
WoW obviously has several things in common with Diablo, both games being about improving your character by gaining levels, learning new skills and finding new and more powerful gear. The similarities end here because WoW is a much more involved game, starting with the MMO aspect, not to mention that very often powerful gear is not so random since it can be obtained with emblems and so on.
I am willing to be patient in regard to Diablo 3. I've been waiting for it for so long that another year (or less) feels like nothing at this point, especially with the beta in sight. I'm just a bit wary of the many ways in which Blizzard could still screw the pooch on this one. I'm scared about the DRM they might implement and I'm scared about the game being based around online play. And then I'm scared about a dozen other small things. I won't lie to you: it's unlikely that I will jump to buy Diablo 3 from the first day. I'll keep my impatience in check for a few days or a couple of weeks until I can see some good reviews. If they mess this one up, I will regretfully have to pass on it. Still, despite my fears, I'm generally optimistic. It's Blizzard we're talking about, after all.
If Diablo 3 is released this year, or even very early in 2012, this might give extra validity to this Blizzard release schedule that was "leaked" some time ago. And if that chart turns out to be true, there's a lot to look forward to from Blizzard, in just a few years: 2 more Diablo expansions, 2 more World of Warcraft expansions, some more StarCraft stuff (in which I'm not interested), as well as their secret new MMO.
Patch 1.0.5 commentary
6 months ago