[Cataclysm] 3 good reasons why vets are getting bored


So, will Cataclysm mark the beginning of the end of Blizzard’s great warhorse?

Three months into the new expansion, are many players who have happily subscribed for years to WoW turning in their cards? Or even just players who subbed for a few months? Is it just the bitter veterans who are talking about bowing out, unable to cope with a game that has changed so that it can capture a new audience? Or is it just that a proportion of players will ALWAYS leave a few months into an expansion – not everyone is interested in signing up for the long haul of content patch to content patch.

We don’t have answers to those questions yet, except that it is really normal for lots of people to play a new expansion for a few months and then leave, uninterested in endgame. But there are some genuine reasons in Cataclysm why veteran players might be feeling the burn.

1. It’s not Cataclysm, it’s all the previous long delays between patches catching up with the playerbase.

In a MMO like WoW, there are plenty of activities on which players can spend their time. Even if you’re not interested in instances or PvP, there are mounts and pets to collect, alts to level, achievements to aim for, economic sides of the game to master … With three expansions under its belt, WoW offers a lot of content.

But if you were playing the game during those expansions, chances are you’ve already done all of that expansion’s content that you were interested in while you were waiting for the next content patch. For example, I happily ground out my Skyguard rep via daily quests for a nether ray flying mount during TBC – I enjoyed it at the time, dailies were shiny and new and so was flying. I cannot think of any reason why I’d ever want to do it again.

As another example, lots of people levelled alts during Wrath. Heirlooms were available for the first time, and there was a long delay between ICC and Cataclysm. So there’s a good chance that for many of those players, they already have level 80s of whichever classes they were interested in. So when Cataclysm rolls along and there is a bit of a gap between patches, that’s a time-filler they have no reason to do again. Yes, you could relearn to play those alts with the new talent trees and I’m sure that a lot of players are doing exactly that, but the 80-85 trip is fairly linear and fairly speedy if you have rested bonuses and guild perks to help it along.

And especially since many people are not really enjoying heroics, gearing an alt up through random heroics might not be as fun as it once was. (This is an issue with grinding heroics as a standard mechanic incidentally, even people who enjoy the challenge on their mains might not be as interested on alts that are intended for chilling out.)

What I’m saying is that for any individual player, there’s a certain amount of time filling activities in game that ever have the possibility to interest you. Once you are done with those, if nothing else has replaced them then you’ll either have to dial down the amount of time you spend in the game, get horribly bored by hanging around with nothing much to do, or leave and find a replacement. Blizzard has not really been replacing the long grinds which we now tend to associate with the earlier expansions. And even if they did, there would be an outcry from different sections of the playerbase which aren’t interested in grinds that might take months to complete. (Note: veteran players, already committed to the game, probably ARE interested in long term goals like this.) I think archaeology was Blizzard’s attempt to fill this hole. I’m not sure how successful it’s being.

2. Raiding ain’t what it used to be

My greatest disappointment in Cataclysm so far, bar none, has been zoning into Throne of the Four Winds. This is a smallish raid zone, located in the plane of elemental air, similarly to Vortex Pinnacle. Why the disappointment? See, I thought Vortex Pinnacle was gorgeous. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful 5 man instance, all airy, with arabian nights/ egyptian /djinni themes in the architecture. You can hop from one part to another by riding on whirlwinds. It’s just a lovely zone. And in the back of my mind while I was playing there I was thinking, “And if you think this is good, just imagine what the raid zone is going to be like!”

The raid zone is five platforms with djinn on them. That’s it.

To explain why this was a shock, you have to understand that raid instances in WoW have usually been just a bit more special than anything else in the game (yes, with the exception of Trial of the Crusader). AQ40, Serpentshrine, Black Temple, Ulduar, ICC, even Naxxramas. When you zoned into one of those instance you KNEW you were somewhere special. Throne of the Four Winds looks like Vortex Pinnacle but less cool. Bastion of Twilight is a cave. Blackwing Descent, to be fair, looks like the rest of Blackwing Caverns and does have a killer lift, making it my favourite of the raid zones so far this expansion.

I don’t have an issue with the encounters themselves which have so far been a good mix of intricate and tank’n’spank. (Well I do have issues with how melee is balanced with ranged but balance isn’t specific to this expansion.) I also have seen lots of feedback that Blizzard have generally done a good job with balancing out the difficulty of 10 vs 25 man raiding, which is a great achievement for them really.

But I feel there used to be something more special about raiding, and it wasn’t down to the percentage of the player base who was involved,  or the difference in scale between 40 vs 25 vs 10 man raids, because raids felt more special in Wrath too. And plenty of people were raiding Wrath in 10 man groups and/ or PUG raids.

That, I suspect, is going to affect how people feel about the endgame at the moment and whether it’s worth hanging in there. It is also something that Blizzard could turn around instantly with the next content patch if they come up with something like Ulduar. (Possibly even very like Ulduar, if Uldum is the next raid due up.)

If that happens, raiders may resub. It will after all still be possible to gear for raids via heroics at that point because the emblem gear will be upgraded.

3. Shorter term goals lead to shorter term players

I have identified before that I think Blizzard is deprecating long term achievements in WoW, which is (ironically) a long term trend for them. Emblem gear gets updated with every content patch. Gold and the economy is less important than it has ever been.

Players are being encouraged by this to feel that if they aren’t enjoying the game, the thing to do is unsub and see if it looks any better next patch – which might be in 6 months time. realID even means that you can easily keep up with your friends when you do get back, check who their current alts are, which servers they are on, and see if they’re interested in raiding again.

From being a game where people keep long term subs, I wonder if WoW is deliberately becoming one where a wave of endgame players will resub when the new stuff gets patched in, confident that they’ll be able to quickly catch up and join in. Other players, either enjoying the current tier of raiding more, not yet having run out of long term goals, or playing less frequently, will keep their subs up during the quiet times.

What do you think? If you are thinking of quitting, would you consider resubbing in 6 months time if they put in a cool content patch?

30 thoughts on “[Cataclysm] 3 good reasons why vets are getting bored

  1. I think that’s the whole point of it. There’s a freedom to leave anytime you want, lowering the whole “second job” aspect that wow brings. cataclysm has everything for everyone, and its accessibility is greater than ever before. There’s no shame in leaving the game, nor is leaving the game a big deal to Blizzard or anyone anymore. Life goes on, and the chair is always available for them to sit in when they feel like revisiting.

    It’s much more financially feasible to lose players for 6 months on and off, than to just suddenly quit and never return. Everyone wins, which is why I support this new philosophy.

    • I agree with you. There is no shame in leaving if you aren’t having fun – really people should leave before they hate the game. But I do wonder if this is going to have an effect on raid groups if people actually do it.

      • They’ve had 10-man options for quite a while now. 25 is ideal for people who have the roster size for it, but 10’s give the same gear anyway, making the effect not as drastic. The whole notion that one of the modes is superior to the other needs to just disappear already. It’s supposed to be something that accommodates guild sizes. Those who want to exclusively raid in a particular size will find each other, and life goes on.

      • What I mean is that a tight knit raid group can’t really manage to keep going when one person decides to take a 4 month break unless they replace them.

  2. At Blizzcon they showed brief previews of T12 – it was the Firelands, a big 6-boss raid zone, with several bosses accessible at a time. they just showed basic maps, no screenshots or anything. I think a blizzard rep said something about having other 1-boss raids saved up as well, but I can’t find it, so treat that bit as hearsay.

    I’m wondering if the Firelands will equal Ulduar or ICC, though… 😐 it’d be terrible if they banged out something that reused Molten Core textures, or even looked too similar to the small Firelands caves accessible in Mt Hyjal

  3. Past performance does not guarantee future results, but anything in Wrath didn’t get me to resubscribe. I missed Naxx in Vanilla.. yet didn’t even set foot into it in Wrath. I was disappointed that Ulduar or Icecrown wasn’t open from the get-go.. and didn’t resubscribe when they finally opened them up. I tried to level up an alt.. and stopped at the first few quests of Borean Tundra.

    Why? The lack of flow. New content can always entertain for a while due to the appreciation of new art, story and music. But I won’t resubscribe just for that; I can get those without paying a dime, and usually in a better form than which Blizzard provided it in.

    The game mechanics themselves need to keep me interested for at least a few months. And that won’t happen unless the challenge is tuned well enough to provide the flow experience. Grinding the same dungeons/raids for achievements, camaraderie, “social prestige” or purple pixels just doesn’t cut it if there’s no flow to go with it.

    However, I acknowledge that flow is highly subjective and thus very difficult to induce with the current design philosophies. Binary hard modes are just too crude to do the job. Perfect content for me can be maddeningly hard for someone else and utterly boring for another. With gear-based balancing, the same content can be maddeningly hard and utterly boring for me depending on whether I just arrived at that tier or got a full set of gear already.

    So if the new content patch promises a yet another set of maddeningly hard and utterly boring content, I’m very much tempted to skip it.

    • Very interesting thought about “Flow”. I agree to you about Wrath, this is where I unsubbed after one month already (after doing rep grind for Nether Rays, Nether Drakes and Sporeggar without feeling bored funnily) because of getting bored by the dungeons and not feeling it in Naxx. I started in the Howling Fjord and always recommended it at least to Alliance players, because in this zone I apparently got into the “flow” at least a little, Borean Tundra was more a chore and bore to me.

      I found TBC much more engaging than Wrath. Can’t say anything about Cata, got driven away during my free days in the revamped Azeroth as I felt it went all wrong.

    • “With gear-based balancing, the same content can be maddeningly hard and utterly boring for me depending on whether I just arrived at that tier or got a full set of gear already”

      That’s a very good point, and it IS how WoW is balanced. And as a player, you have very little control over at which point in the cycle you arrive.

  4. I have noticed it in guild already we got to a stage towards the end of Wrath with people only logging on for raids. It appears we have already hit this point in Cataclysm already a few months in to the expansion.
    I think a lot of my guildies did all the old stuff they wanted for achievments during the long expansion that was Wrath so really its only new content to do and they have blow through that really fast.


  5. …and this is where the F2P model is messing this whole theory up. That’s my main pet peeve with subscriptions in the “new generation” of MMOs.

    All the MMOs out in recent times, including WoW [with the change in long term goals direction] don’t have sufficient (interesting & fun) content to keep one occupied past 2-3 months. So you now have 2 scenarios:

    1. Subscription MMO : You unsub and return after x-month, usually it WILL be 6-12 months hiatus because even paying a sub does not add content at a monthly rate! [which is a big problem subscription games sit with now] .
    * This is kinda the same theory when asking a MONTHLY sub to play COD/Battlefield and only adding maps every 6 months…

    2. F2P MMO : You don’t need to do anything, you can just tone down your game time, focus on something else. You can check in once every month for a weekend…you can stay up to date with -minor- updates and don’t need to wait for accumulated updates.

    I am more likely to check back into LOTRO on a regular basis than WoW . I might even spend that $15 in the cash shop monthly, IF there were new content added .

    I can almost say it’s ironic to see the games that seem to push out content -regularly- and -frequently- is F2P games! They have to add content to keep players buying things every month, for some reason subscription MMO devs have become kind of lazy with this. They are slow with the content, they don’t necissarly add “interesting” content nor content that players would pay for outright if they had the choice. Almost like subscription makes MMO devs a little detached.

    Kinda like a gym contract, “we are getting the money, whether we clean or fix the equipment every month or not ” . If you only had to pay “when they clean the equipment, or fix the equipment” then the gym would be forced to do so!

    Fortunately i see SOE, with DCUO are pushing for the “monthly content” to justify the subscription…which is a good sign. Blizzard on the other don’t do this….hence people unsub for extended periods.

    • I’ll second this, and once again point to the Guild Wars and Wizard 101/DDO model. Charge for *content* and let players play at their own pace. That way you don’t have to string them along with promises of more stuff to get that “just… one… more… month” of sweet, sweet sub money. You don’t have to put in stupid time sinks to extend playtime/paytime. You just make solid game content and let players select the bits they want to buy and play.

      This also lets devs see what players want more of *because they are paying for it*, rather than just paying an uninformative cover charge.


      So yes, Spinks, I think you’re right to note that there will always be a falloff. I wonder if it’s accelerating, as analyzing that trend might be informative. (As in, more people leaving sooner than in Wrath or TBC.)

      • I’ll third this. I’m much more attracted to game with lots of new content in small chunks. Waiting months or years for one big expansion appeals to me less and less as time goes on.

        I also agree with you that F2P games seem to be better at consistently generating new content than subscription games.

      • One of the issues here is that if the majority of players log in to consume their content and then leave, the game isn’t really going to build the longterm relationships which make a strong social net. (I’m not saying that WoW in general has the best community ever but within it there are certainly pockets of very strong sub-communities indeed.)

        This is something I do worry about with MMOs and I think we’re already seeing, that new games don’t build these strong communities so easily, that players are more focussed on grabbing some fun and then leaving asap for the next game in the carousel.

        Maybe one way forward is for MMOs to forge stronger, better links between current players and those who are ‘on breaks’, support the MMO side with web and facebook games so that people can keep in touch etc. I don’t know.

      • At the same time, if you’re not paying a sub, you can pop in and check in with friends very easily. It’s a more casual approach to socializing, perhaps, but it’s no less viable… just different.

        This is probably why Blizzard has been angling for the “social gaming” nonsense like RealID. If they can forge metagame or extragame social bonds, it can keep people hooked in. Indeed, maybe minigames are one hook, maybe just stuff like the Darkmoon Faire minisite. All of the above, most likely.

    • silvertemplar,

      I think Turbine has hit the nail on the head with the design of the F2P vs. Subscription split, and the underlying value there.

      Blizzard is binary – if you’re subscribed, you have full access to everything – but if you don’t play, you get zero value for your money. Conversely, if you unsubscribe, you get nothing – at all.

      By contrast, Turbine is far less binary. If you buy your LOTRO or DDO subscription a month at a time, it’s $15 – but Turbine ‘rebates’ $7.73 back to you* – in the form of 500 Turbine points.

      Going a little further, if you buy your Turbine subscription a full year at a time, the montly cost drops to $10, but you get that same $7.73 value in points returned each month, for a final monthly tally of $2.26/mo.

      Finally, unlike Blizzard, if you elect to end your Turbine subscription, you can continue to play.

      Whether it was by accident or by design, I think Turbine put *just* enough perks into the VIP Subscription that it doesn’t seem like ‘wasted money’ if you remain subscribed through a protracted break from the game.

      * Admittedly, that’s a purely theoretical purchase – that’s the presumed value of 500 points purchased at the ‘420 point package’ price in the store.

      • That’s whole genius of their system. No matter if you’re playing 24-7 or once a month, you will always feel you are getting something for your money. Even if you subscribe.

        I played DDO like that. I subbed, got my points every month, but did not necessarily play much every month. Then every now and then i’ll “cash in” with the points and buy various things with it in the cash shop. Immediately i had a sense of “well at least my $15 a month did not go to waste” . By the time i cancelled my sub, i already purchased most of the content i -enjoyed- via the subscription and have not for one second felt “dang, 6 months of subs and now i can’t even log into the game anymore, i got nothing to show for all my commitment to the company or game” .

        This is how i feel about WoW, kinda like being loyal to a bank for 10 years and then they drop you when you ask for a home loan…


        As for social issue Spinks mentioned. Do we really need a year of MMO “pain and suffering” to forge a good community? Kinda like that “boot camp” theory where you throw people together and they have to crawl through mud and suffer through GI Jane abuse, and thus forging some sort of close bond.

        Is it really the “length of time” or “frequency” that forge these bonds? Or is it “how much the game facilitates interaction with players on a level that you get to know them personally and remember them? ” .

        Just as in my boot camp theory, that can be a mere week to forge those bonds if the interaction is sorted. I played MUDs, it was all Roleplay, you never needed massive amounts of content or long term grind to form a “community” or “close bonds” , you just required a form of interacting that encouraged communication and cooperation .

        The dungeon finder makes the entire game “anonymous” , you will NOT “forge” any bonds ever, even if you play for a year on the DF.

        Same with “super guilds” with so many players in it, that you will end up just being a number when a raid is formed [this number = gearscore] . The new guild leveling system is going directly down the “super guilds” route because smaller guilds can’t complete and recruit anymore [everyone wants the rewards mass guilds offers]

        The difficulty curve of the game can also hinder this, again bootcamp theory. If the game is too easy or too linear [predictable] , no one needs to coordinate or cooperate . Everyone becomes self-sustained and kinda isolated despite being in a raid or group. You just do “your thing” and the rest of the team do “their thing” and you’ll get through it without saying a word.

        Kinda like working for huge corporation where you don’t know what the corp is doing, you don’t know what your cubicle-neighbors are doing, you just know you must fill in a certain form everyday and pass it along.

      • Really interesting points there.

        My memory of playing MUDs is that actually it did take a fair few hours of chatting to people before you really started to feel the community. I’m not sure I’d say bootcamp but if you log on and chat to the same people for a couple of hours every night, you’re going to build some sorts of links.

        And this is why you can get communities in a superguild, as long as some people are on regularly and chatting.

        I’d love to see games designed more with an eye on community building, other than social facebook games where it’s all very mercenary. It’s just that the only surefire way we know to do it seems to involve throwing people all in together so they have to talk to each other.

        I take your point that you could forge those bonds in a week, but how long would they stay forged if people drifted off after that? I find people in online games seem to have very very short memories for relationships. You only have to be away for a few weeks before you get replaced.

  6. I don’t really consider TotFW a raid instance – it’s more like a 2-boss scenario, an instanced bossfight if you will, similar to what Sartharion or Malygos were in WotLK. I don’t have an issue with it as long as that’s not their only way of creating instances. They’ve done a pretty awesome job designing places like the 5man dungeons such as Vortex Pinnacle or Throne of the Tides for example, which are stunning. That said, I’m with you that BoT or BWD do not exactly compare in epic scale to a Molten Core or Blackwing Lair. Blizzard’s effort to design raid content has definitely gone downhill and if we consider which part of the playerbase is actually their focus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 10/25man gone entirely in their next expansion. I’m quite serious there.

    The poorest raid instance design so far was Trial of the Crusader imo. while some might appreciate the lack of trash, I don’t appreciate the lack of ‘instance’ for so big a tier-content place.

    As for the whole short-term vs long-term problematic, Nils issues the following link my way the other day – a very insightful read if you missed it:


  7. I had a lot of fun with Cataclysm content for the first two months but now it’s not fun anymore. I feel like I’ve run out of things to do that interest me.

    That’s not to say that it’s a bad expansion or that I hate it, just that I’m done with it. It’s time for me to cancel my subscription and move on to other games again.

  8. Funny that you would post this today, as my sub ended yesterday and i didnt renew it.

    You are right on target, ive got many alts sitting at 80 but right now i just dont feel like doing 80-85 5-6 times in a row. I need something else.

    So started a Goblin. Hes now in the mid-outland slump.

    I plan on renewing on the next content patch to play it on my main while getting the Goblin to 85.

    Rift wont be a wow-Killer, but it is certainly good enough to be short term replacement.

  9. Funny that I’m replying right after Higgs. I just unsubscribed in the last couple days as well. I enjoyed what I played of Cataclysm. But I think the biggest problem for me was that it was more of the same, and I’ve been doing that for years. WoW will just be another game that I randomly drop $15 on to play for a month until I get bored again.

  10. Great post Spinks, and good comments too. Sums up my feelings well. I’ve recently unsub’d. I’ve been playing the Rift beta an its okay but not captivating the way wow was 4 yrs ago. There were several very basic things that Blizzard did not implement that might have kept me longer. Wardrobe or at least tabard solution was one, and extra realm character slot(s) another. I’ll probably return unless something good launches soon.

  11. Pingback: /AFK: The Final Countdown Edition « Bio Break

  12. I personally agree with this article to the T. I have been playing since vanilla launch, a rogue specifically, and sought after it all, in vanilla I was a raider, which to me, was the best time for it, getting worse as it went on. When TBC came out I became a pvp fanatic, and from then on played for only that reason. World pvp had its place, the introduction of arena for people who liked that, as well and the first pvp zone (I don’t count silithus) Halaa, and like the poster said earlier, the intro of skyguard and netherwing dailies. Everything was new and fresh and never felt so balanced. Since wrath things got worse for every aspect in my opinion, pvp became a bit sloppy, alot of counterclassing and countercomping. Now in cataclysm, (haven’t touched the pve portion) it’s only gotten worse, alot less crowd control in pvp, way too much dr for everything (especially rogues) and no healing reduction make for, in my opinion a less fun experience, tanking classes can beat a good amount of dpsers, hybrids have better damage than before, still with their healing, and they too outdps most core dpsers, all classes that have a similar role, feel the exact same as eachother. There’s no uniqueness to anything anymore. My reason for quitting (from a pvper’s perspective) is too many revamps to pvp each patch, flavor of the month classes and specs, and the blow to rogues hit me hard, we went from a glass cannon/utility class who needed to rush you down before they died, to a close version of a warrior with an opener. PvP was 100% better in any other part of wow, so why change what made people enjoy that part of the game in the first place?

  13. Hunters still unbalanced in arena ive been unsubbed for a year now and i bought a month few months ago and i got bored within 3 days and didnt play at all the last 2 weeks…i think its done for me i never tryed cata..so cant say anything but my friend came over and ya made it sound good but …great game worth a try by gamers if they like gaming….but after 2 expansions its over for me…plus hunters still suck 16 hunter out of 1000 possible classes in top 100 2v2 3v3 5v5 been like this for over a year… they just dont realize hunters arent fair survivors….arenajunkies proof

  14. oh side note comment above to brendan i fully agree with absolutely everything u said i think tbc was best ideas were most fresh but by then questing was boring somewat to me … lvl1-60 pre tbc i just remember always having fun and not being able to wait to get home from work…icc felt too much like working and tbc was allround fun after boring questing to 70…(which i instance grinded from 60-70 and had allquests left so i did them all with a flyer and it made me ritch in the tbc times…i pvp’d with hunter since vanilla level 42…stopped at 49 for 5 weeks…hunters to me at 1 point were overpowered in tbc i could aim shot crit 6k on a lvl 70 who only has 10k..i 1 shot a 65 druid with full hp in av..5500hp she had…(too overpowered) since then it just went down down down… hunters were actually in the ratings then that was over 2 years ago…. check history on arena junkies and just watch the hunters go down dwn..and some might say well cause people rolled new classes but no its because hunter became the hardest to manuveur around and win with …we went from being ovrpowered semi fair to less equal now extremely with energy… moves have changed to much in this game for me…in arena 1 wrong click as a hunter and game over half the time … thats 1 wrong click.. when i stopped playing it was in pvp eye of storm me and a ret paladin had a 3 min fight …he was 12 im betting lagging like hell and was so bad he killed me mostly with auto attacks… i tryed so many times so many tricks to kill him and just nope…i could go into much more detail but i wont.. i did same as u at tbc game became about pvp to me …have around 55k hk when i stopped..pls check arena junkies history and you will realize how unfair hunters are
    currently 16/1000 out of 8 classes or 9 i forget

  15. Pingback: Single Player Mode – The New Age of WoW, part 1 | Impetuous Windmills

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