Occupy Endgame

Yesterday’s post about repeatable content had a side conversation in the comments about the % of players who use ‘end-game’ content, be it raiding or PvP, in a themepark. That topic then begs the question: what about all those who never hit the level cap?

I’d break that group into two: those who stick around for a bit, and those who don’t.

The don’t group is easy; they just did not like your game enough to stick with it. It’s not a group you should ignore, but it’s not a group end-game changes or additions is going to effect. Let’s ignore this group for the sake of this post.

The second group is interesting. They are players who sub/play for multiple months, but for one reason or another never hit the level cap. Here perhaps end-game changes might impact them, but I would think mostly in either a neutral or positive manner. If they don’t like your change, it has no impact on them since they are not using that content anyway. If they do like the change, perhaps they hit the cap and experience it.

But as a customer group overall, your MMO is doing its job in terms of giving them something to do, and they seem to like doing it (otherwise they would be in group one). Expanding non-endgame content would benefit this group, and if the devs notice they are losing a lot of players right around this transition (hit the cap and quit), it’s something to address, but again if we are talking about focusing or changing end-game content, this group is basically a non-factor.

And so when someone states that only 2%, 5%, or 10% of players raid, are they including the above two groups in that calculation? Because if they are, what’s the point? Someone who only plays WoW for the leveling game is not going to care how accessibly you make raiding, or that you reduced the raid size from 40 to 25. But the players who are currently raiding? Oh, they certainly will care.

And raiders or end-game PvP’ers are in it for the long haul. They are, in many ways, your best customers. They reuse content at a crazy pace compared to those who only like leveling or solo content, they create much of their own momentum with guild events or raid schedules, and they provide that all-important social ‘hook’ to keep people subbed, at times long past the point of actually enjoying said content (how many raiders will continue to play because of their guild, despite not really loving the current raid? Contrast this to how likely a solo player is to stick around if they hit a zone they don’t enjoy.)

Of course to discount that end-game players are also often very vocal would be wrong, but amongst all the noise a lot of valuable information can be found (bugs, exploits, suggestion), and it takes a skilled developer to properly filter it all and ultimately provide content and updates that are best for the game, sometimes going along with the players, sometimes going against what they are asking for. Always giving the players what they THINK they want is often worse than totally ignoring them.

Anets recent scramble to add a resist gear grind and progression raiding/dungeons is not aimed at those who are enjoying the leveling game. It’s not aimed at those happily queuing for WvW or sPvP (it actually hurts that crowd). It’s aimed at the end-game crowd, because Anet must have noticed they were losing those players at a rapid clip, and whatever their business plan is, they clearly don’t want this to happen. So much so in fact, that they are willing to (and have) upset some of their core base (GW1 fans) and backtracked on their manifesto. You don’t do something like that unless you MUST retain a certain group, which should tell you a lot about the importance of the end-game crowd, even in a non-sub MMO like GW2.

27 Responses to Occupy Endgame

  1. bhagpuss says:

    As I just observed on my own blog, soothing though ANet’s replies were on the Reddit thread, something still didn’t add up. Your explanation might be it but without knowing how many people are playing and how much they are spending, who knows whether it’s feast or famine?

    I wonder if the much-vaunted multiple team structure working on the Live game isn’t responsible for some almighty screw-up in communication and/or implementation rather than a desperate bid to hold onto customers.

    As for the main point, as one of your “stick around” group (and I stick around for years if I like an MMO) I agree that what happens at end-game doesn’t much affect me. If all the resources go to end-game, however, eventually even I wil lose interest and wander off. It’s very easy to hold my attention by adding things like new races or classes or new starting areas, which MMOs I like tend to do for a few years before eventually low/mid-level bloat forces them to stop.

    I’ll almost always play through the entire leveling game again in any MMO I enjoy as soon as a new race or class is added. Unless its some kind of elf, obviously.

  2. pixelrevision says:

    “Anets recent scramble to add a resist gear grind and progression raiding/dungeons is not aimed at those who are enjoying the leveling game”

    Actually I would say it’s aimed at everyone. The fire resist portion actually encourages people of all levels to get to see the content and enjoy it at a challenge level suitable for them.

    The hell and brimstone comes from the stat inflation. I think everyone who got to level 80 and continued playing would probably agree that the end game needed a lot of work. Inflated stats 2 months in came as a pretty big shock. It also smells of WoW dungeon crawlers literally begging for better gear. I think most raiders who have half a brain in their heads would be asking for more deep encounters or itemization.

    I think the lesson here is if you’re going to go horizontal you need to stick to it with a hammer. If they had stuck to the GW1 game design of locking optional skills behind progression then the endgame players would have had much more satisfying cake and the levelers would still have even more of a reason to not be concerned about anything.

    • Slow Dave says:

      “Actually I would say it’s aimed at everyone.”

      I disagree, It affects everyone sure but it’s not aimed at everyone

      . Personally I could care less about whatever meh PvE content they add in that game. I play it for 3-6 hours an evening but purely WvW (I do not enjoy facerollable PvE content).

      What this update means is that I am required to play PvE to be able to keep up with those that are in the WvW arena that do. Any kind of stat inflation, that you cannot attain equally in WvW, means this and makes me less likely to play.

      If they carry on in this vein I will stop playing.

      • Slow Dave says:

        To expand on that – if they add a RvR DAOC type progression system for WvW then I will be happy. The PvE’ers will advance from gear and WvW will advance from character advances from PvPing.

        If you are hardcore and do all of both then fair enough. I have no problem with someone that spends twice the time that I do ingame progressing further than me. That is the nature of MMO’s after all.

  3. NetherLands says:

    Given the time of night short post and Bhagpuss already touched upon it.

    In short, as long as there are no ‘trickle down’ effects to making Raiding more accessible etc. (no over the top inflation, no Power Creep, no rehashing existing content etc.) then yes, people who avoid the absurdity of endgame (to use a Massively article title) couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what happens in Raider land.

    If however Devs go the WoW road, then you get the situation Nils explained so well

    http://nilsmmoblog.blogspot.nl/2011/09/wow-was-dumbed-down-for-hardcore.html

    Also, I think that one can’t ignore e.g. the inherent burn-out issues of Raiding or the constant need for new content (imaginary or realy ‘in the race’ ) Progressive Raiders have (to paraphrase Smedley, to keep shoving new pixel-dragons in front of players) that in WoW translates in ‘Raid downed, unsub till next Patch’ .

    The perfect MMOplayer for a sub game is the quite type of player that doesn’t constantly needs to be fed new content like Progressive Raiders, but just wants to (be able to) enjoy already existing content without over-eager Devs trying to ‘fix’ what isn’t really broken to begin with. Note that this group can include PvPers.

    • SynCaine says:

      Again though, designing the next pixel dragon is a lot easier than designing the next SW:TOR fully-voiced planet, right? I mean, how long did Nax40 keep even the super-elite raiding guilds busy? Look at AQ40, with its 2.5 tier of gear but full boss lineup. The talent bleed at Blizzard is pretty obvious if you look at how they handled the game from 04-07, and after (WotLK, Cata).

      And sure, ideally someone who never finishes the content you have but keeps paying to… do something… is ideal, but they don’t really exist long-term (years). At some point that content is going to get consumed, and the role of MMO devs is to provide more. My point is that in terms of the most bang for your buck, raiding or other slower-paced end-game content is pretty much it in a themepark. It still has to be done well, and power creep/inflation has to be managed (which is tough), but done right it leads to silly profits.

  4. Asmiroth says:

    Can you explain how an end game raider is a better customer than a non-cap casual? They both pay the same price. One complains constantly, the other just keeps giving you money regardless.

    The old Cataclysm argument of focusing on a single demographic is back in panda-land but the tables have turned. Instead of people just leaving with minimal fuss you have epic comment threads of elitism, “only I should count” and complaints. It’s a funny thing to watch.

    • SynCaine says:

      The casual isn’t a guild leader keeping others playing, he’s not writing blogs attracting others to your game, he’s not contributing on the forums, and he’s not creating mods.

      For a single month, sure, both provide you $15. Over a year or two, even if the casual has stayed subbed all 12 months (possible but I’d say much rarer than a raider), his impact is still less, as the end-game player has likely attracted or retained more than just his own sub.

      Unless of course you factor in bandwidth usage, oh nooz… :)

      • NetherLands says:

        Again, the whole ‘Guild Leader who keeps people playing’ bit means didly squat if all those ‘Guild leaders inducing drama by playing fav…I mean, poach from other Gui…okay, keep other people Raiding still amount to just a minor minority.

        I am sorry, but you still haven’t explained why a small % of players in a subgame, who pay exactly the same as other subscribers, would magically be more important than the ones actually bringing in the bacon.

        Also, you are making the fundamental flaw that while for raiders it might be that levelling content has no inherent value and hence no replayability and merely an obstacle to hellacious wiping for pixelloot you upgrade when the devs have decided It Is Time (influenced by myoptic raiders whining about lack of content), but to people that e.g. like to develop characters – do that RPG thing that started with games like D&D, T&T, CoC etc. – as long as they can mold their own characters’ story to an agreeable degree (in which successive Class Quests play a role, Blizz scratched 20 branches of them), they’ll happily play for years – unlike the content hungry hungry Raider-hippo.who skips as much content as possible and needs his regular Epics shots or balk (que GW2 Raider whine).

        Add to this that the conaisseur type of player will likely play less and hence ipso facto consume content slower than Raiders, from a pure business PoV it makes little sense to coddle up to raiders for a sub game. Even if Blizz pissed off all 2% (or whatever) to the point of quitting, nothing of consequence would be lost as long as the other customers would stay and/or replenish.

        But I agree that Devs like to develop, so from THEIR PoV content-hungry Raider types are a good form of job security – till of course push comes to shove, and it turns out that e.g. with MMO’s you better invest in ample customer support fighting bots and what not (and hence letting CS bear the brunt of ill-designs leading to sub losses might not be that smart).

        • tithian says:

          “I am sorry, but you still haven’t explained why a small % of players in a subgame, who pay exactly the same as other subscribers, would magically be more important than the ones actually bringing in the bacon.”

          Because, like it or not, people that are involved into a game in a hardcore fashion, are the same people that function as ancors for communities in the game.

          It’s why most “casual” guilds implode after a while (the members have no guidance and eventually all drift off) while the hardcore ones will stay around for years and will even switch from game to game with the members following the community.

          The reason I played WoW for so many years, even long after I was getting bored of the game, was my guild and because the leader/officers actually put so much effort into making the game enjoyable for everyone. In that essemce, the people running the guild made sure Blizzard got at least 8-12 more month of subs from me, so yeah they were definitely worth more (from a financial point of view) than a casual player that fools around solo.

          “Even if Blizz pissed off all 2% (or whatever) to the point of quitting, nothing of consequence would be lost as long as the other customers would stay and/or replenish.”

          It would. If Method (or whatever hardcore guild) came out today and said they were quitting WoW, because it is too dumbed down and childish, I can assure you that Blizzard would lose a lot more than 40 subs from the actual guild. Other hardcore guilds would drift off (because the competition suddenly quit), casual raiders that look up to Method would also quit (because their “role models” certainly know what they’re talking about, right?) and eventually a good deal of people would lose enough in-game firends and just wouldn’t bother logging in. Maybe the raiding ranks in that social guild you’re in all quit, along with the leader, and suddenly you’re in a dead guild that is going nowhere.

          It really is that easy for that 2% to turn into 20%, due to the ways social networking works now.

    • Dril says:

      “One complains constantly, the other just keeps giving you money regardless.”

      A pity, really, that now instead of just casuals whining all the time, raiders now have to as well due to unceasing poor development.

      And to think, in most games (sports or video games) saying “I can’t do it because I can’t be bothered, please make the rules easier on me thanks” is enough to get you laughed out of any discussion…

      • NetherLands says:

        I think you are missing the point.

        The people who complaint that raid content is too inaccessible – what you miscall casuals – are not the quite consumers tthat form the majority of the subsciber base of your average MMO and who include character developers etc., it are people that are interested in Raiding – unlike most people – but just bad, lazy etc.

        In other words, Raid-curious (to evoke the fitting South Park Episode, and no people don’t necessarily think ‘wow he must be cool’ when they see a character in Epic raid gear, either)

        • SynCaine says:

          That ‘majority’ that you talk about is the massive churn Blizzard talks about. Even at a slow pace, how long is leveling going to entertaining someone in WoW, compared to how long a progressive raiding guild is going to consume content (even if we pretend raiding content and lvl content requires the same investment from the devs, which of course is way off).

          Or to put it another way, why is a game like SW:TOR, with supposedly awesome leveling, a massive failure if end-game does not matter for more than 2% of the player base? If the majority really just cared about RP and slowing doing whatever it is you believe they do, how is it that EAWare has been doing nothing but scrambling to add end-game? Why is Anet trashing their manifesto two months after release to appeal to 2% of the crowd in a game WITHOUT a sub?

          You’re beliefs don’t line up with facts my friend.

        • Dril says:

          “I think you are missing the point.”

          No, actually, I’m not.

          The point is, I once wanted to raid.

          Shall I tell you what I did? Go on, take a guess. Oh, hey, guess what I did, I ***made some time so I could fucking raid and see the content I wanted to see***.

          People who think (or, indeed, ever thought) that raiding was inaccessible are lying. Accessibility does not matter in an online world, because every character is created equal. That’s the beauty. There’s no class system the devs have to fight against. There’s no inherent social disadvantage. You create a character, and then whatever you put in is what you get out.

          People who claim “but inaccessibility” are masking laziness. If you want to see something, you will.

        • Matt says:

          I don’t know if I’d call it laziness, that one can’t commit to a raiding schedule. Most people with any serious responsibilities in life aren’t going to be able to block off 4 hours a day 3 days a week. In that sense, it’s the opposite of laziness–the jobless basement dwellers make great raiders. The issue in WoW was always one of gear. You had to raid to get better gear, so even people who don’t care to raid are given incentive to, because better gear makes everything in the game easier. But then you are faced with the arbitrary headcount problem, where if you have 20 people willing to raid with you–too bad, you need 25. Not only can you not complete a raid, you can’t even really try.

        • tithian says:

          @Matt

          Bullshit. I’ve raided with people in their 40s, that had their own businesses and family/kids. If you want to do an activity, guess what. As an adult you have more responsibilities, but you also have the luxury to arrange your own schedule as you see fit, to do that activity.

          They would, of course, be unable to attend ALL raids, but they would make a lot of them and they got to see/beat heroic encounters.

        • Xyloxan says:

          @Matt
          I would argue that in WoW people raided not to make their WoW life easier (by using better gear from raid drops) but to progress to more difficult raids.

        • Matt says:

          Yeah, that was the motivation for raiders, but non-raiders ended up wanting to raid too because gear helped them in the things they wanted to do as well.

        • tithian says:

          I’m honestly perplexed: if soemone doesn’t enjoy raiding and doesn’tplan to progress through the tiers for the sake of beating the encounters, what does need the gear for? To finish his dailies 5 minutes earlier each day?

          Not trolling, just an honest question. That gear is useless for pvp purposes and complete overkill in solo gameplay. So… why bother?

        • Matt says:

          “To finish his dailies 5 minutes earlier each day?”

          Sure. If gear allows you to knock one minute off of each daily, and you do 20 a day, then you’ve saved 20 minutes. That 20 minutes can be put to use doing other things, either more dailies or whatever else you had in mind.

          Also, gear makes things possible that weren’t otherwise. I tried to solo Sartharion 3d yesterday, and couldn’t do it. I got him to 3%, but then died. With better gear I would have won.

          The bottom line is that gear makes everything in WoW easier, aside from pet battles and challenge dungeons. There’s no reason why anyone in game would want the things they do to be any more difficult, so everyone wants better gear.

  5. Azuriel says:

    Was going to mention this in the last post, but may as well put it here:

    About 1.5 years ago, at the end of the first raiding tier of the Cataclysm expansion, I did my best fuzzy math calculation and came to the conclusion that (at the upper end) 28.8% of all NA/EU/KR accounts had killed at least 1 raid boss in the new tier. Or, that 71.2% of all non-Chinese subs didn’t. That was assuming WoWProgress was accurate, that there were 30 raiders per guild, that MMOData was accurate, etc.

    With the easiest boss of the easiest tier of the easiest expansion two years after release (Beasts of Northrend of ToC in WotLK), assuming 30 raiders per guild, that percentage peaked at 39.77%.

    That said, I think the percentage of people who don’t do dungeons or PvP at endgame at all (let alone never reach level cap) is vanishingly small in comparison. There is actually a pretty big step between raiding vs LFD, random BG queues, and so on; namely, you can do the latter two solo with little expectation of communication or obligation.

    Anyway, just throwing those numbers out there.

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  7. Everblue says:

    Any interest in Planetside 2, Syncaine?

  8. Ettesiun says:

    About numbers :
    – from a strict money point of view, if the Hardcore are 5% of your player base, they should play 20 times longer than casual. So if 95% of your player base are three monther player, the hardcore shall play 5 years to bring equal revenue
    => That is the economy plan from ArenaNet with their Buy Once payment model : if they can double their number of buyer with this model, this equals 5 years more of hardcore player.
    => The reason why TOR was a failure, is not that they do not have win a lot of money, but because they build their game with the hope of long term player – and so a lot more revenue : that was stupid !

    About social and publicity :
    – you are right, hardcore gamer are important for guilds and publicity. if you want to keep players paying, you shall try to keep them to create life in your game.
    – except for EVE, – even in EVE ? – casual gamer will always be more numerous than hardcore. You need to keep the casual to not let the game drastically fall in numbers ! If you lose them, you still lose 95% of your player base, not creating enough life in your world.
    => Conclusion : after the initial launch where you shall concentrate on Casual gamer, you shall try to keep a 50/50 distribution of content for the hardcore and casual. This is the interest of both parts !

    • SynCaine says:

      EVE: Out of the 10k Goons, how many of those are the hardcore? 5% right. Now if just the hardcore 5% of Goons left, would the other 95% stay? Nope. At least not for the YEARS they have.

      The Mittani is one person, but his value to CCP is 1000s of accounts. If CCP were to make a change to EVE that resulted in The Mittani no longer finding EVE interesting, they would lose a whole hell of a lot more than just one person.

      That’s the reason you value the hardcore (or whatever you want to call content drives/creators) far above the casual if your business plan is long-term retention.

  9. Just me says:

    Casuals that level alts are the best customers. I had an 85 in each class in cata! They still pay to play, make few demands and your developers costs after launch are practically nil.

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