Burnout is a myth

When WoW was declining due to one crappy expansion after another featuring accessibility-inspired dumbing down, some people tried to write this off as not being about the content, but just due to ‘burnout’. They would have you believe that after 1, 2, or 4 years, people were just getting burned out on WoW and that’s why sub numbers were declining. The counter point the entire time was EVE, but now you can toss WoW itself into the mix.

Related is this recent info about Payday 2. The highest activity in the game, which is now more than a year old, just occurred this October. Perhaps FPS gamers are just immune to burnout? Or maybe its because the content that is constantly added to Payday 2 is fantastic. Deathwish difficulty raised the bar and gave even the most experienced players a real challenge (or for most people, an unreachable/impossible tier, which sounds vaguely familiar to something else…), the mix of paid DLC and free updates have been solid and steady, and the game today doesn’t just have more ‘stuff’, but it has more stuff that fits and actually expanded all of the original content, rather than replace it (now where have I heard about that approach working long-term…).

LoL (4 years+, peak numbers), CoC (2 years+, top grossing app today (oddly Hearthstone didn’t show up in the top 150 for either downloads or revenue, wonder why)), DoTA2 (crazy growth this year), etc etc etc. I think you get the point.

If a game is great and keeping being great, while giving you more of that greatness, you don’t get burned out. If a game stagnates, or especially if it gets worse (hi Trion), people leave because of that, not burnout.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Clash of Clans, DoTA, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, League of Legends, MMO design, Random, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Burnout is a myth

  1. invinciblegod says:

    I stopped playing Payday 2 after a month. If you don’t count that as burnout, I don’t know what to tell you.

  2. Ranamar says:

    “Burnout” in the sense of being “done” with something may not be a thing, but I’ve found that, if I binge on one game, eventually I want to do something else.
    For example: Right now I’m really excited about EVE, but I don’t actually want to log in. Instead, I want to spend less of my life on that and more on all the other games I have been neglecting.

    • SynCaine says:

      Binge just means consuming content quickly; so when you ‘run out’, the game is stagnant for you since the devs can’t produce it as fast as you would like. Lots of people take breaks from EVE, very few truly ever quit for good, which reinforces my point. Now, should CCP pull another Incarna and not correct it, subs would/should drop, just like in WoW with WotLK/Cata/MoP.

  3. Azuriel says:

    So… you’re saying EVE got terrible over the past year?

    In any case, I currently see Hearthstone at #46 under top Grossing iPad app (and #199 in downloads). Not that the CoC vs HS is even remotely a similar comparison in any way other than them both being apps.

    • SynCaine says:

      EVE lost 40% of it’s subs? Got a link to that?

      And you are right about Hearthstone, it has nothing in common with a quality game like CoC, otherwise more people would bother with it. And yes, I did missed it between the genre-defining “Candy Blast Mania” and whatever the hell “Township” is. For gross that is. Didn’t scroll all the way down to 199 to see what other top-quality, Blizzard-produced, Warcraft-IP fueled AAA-gems are down there, but I’m sure they at least rival Hearthstone in depth and quality, yes?

      • Azuriel says:

        Oh, the goalpost is 40% now? So Wrath was a critical success at maintaining and then achieving 12 million? Even at the lowest point in Cata it was “only” down 24%. Luckily, that doesn’t count.



        Past September had the lowest concurrency rate in the prior 6 years. From the peak this February to the same September low was… ah, a 33% loss. Or a 37% from the highest peak back in January 2011. Charitably, I’m going to assume that something funny was going on around 11/18/14, otherwise that would represent a 40.8% drop from all-time peak.

        Point being, your argument is dumb. Or EVE’s content is getting worse.

        Re: CoC vs HS, again, your argument is dumb. They aren’t in the same genre, nor do they take a similar amount of time to play (which is pretty key in an app). It’s like comparing Diablo 3 to EVE because both are played on a computer.

        • SynCaine says:

          Can someone explain EVE-offline and space coffins to Az here?

          Or do you want to link to something with actual sub numbers rather than a site that tracks how long pilots are online? Since you know, that site and reported sub numbers from CCP haven’t lined up in the past, as I’m sure you know.

          WoW went from rapid growth above 10m in TBC to under 7m after WotLK/Cata/MoP. Yup, it takes a while to kill something with the social momentum of 12m subs, but Blizzard managed to do it, and we don’t even need to math-tax fail with links to know it.

          CoC/Hearthstone; which app do you think takes longer to play?

        • Azuriel says:

          CCP is nearly at the two-year mark since they last released sub numbers, so concurrency is the only metric we have. Or I suppose Nosy Gamer’s numbers, which you’ll immediately dismiss too. But no worries, I’m sure EVE is doing great!

          It’s okay to admit you are wrong about Wrath, by the way. No one will judge you for finally letting go of the cognitive dissonance that comes from not applying the same “social” argument you just used to a game you still play. Or, wait, did you stop playing EVE?

          As for CoC, can you do something meaningful in < 30 seconds and then turn it off? QED.

        • Trego says:

          Doesn’t azuriel ever get tired of missing the forest for the trees? He doesn’t try to advance any larger argument , he just tries to quibble with the last thing you said. I feel he would fit in well at trion.

        • SynCaine says:

          So in Az world an expansion that stagnates growth of a runaway train is a good thing that should be congratulated. Guess that explain why you brought up Hearthstone being at 200 or so in the app store as a positive. Props for going down with that ship at least.

          Edit: Nosy numbers; EVE is one slot below an MMO with 2m subs. Great point.

          In less than 30 seconds CoC allows me to collect an entire base of resources, start an upgrade, donate troops, check the status of the clan war, check my shield status, and close the app with 10 or so seconds to spare.

          What do you imagine you can do in 30 seconds with Hearthstone?

        • Azuriel says:

          Again, apply that same argument to any game and the conclusion is that everything is terrible. “Game only grew 5%? Worst expansion ever. Clearly 14+ million was possible.” You don’t get to have it both ways. EVE apparently hasn’t grown in 2 years. So… it’s worse than ever before, yes?

          You can’t do anything meaningful in HS in less than 5 minutes, and you’d probably want 10 minutes just to be safe. That’s absurd for the casual app market. Hence why the CoC comparison is asinine, even if they were in the same genre.

        • SynCaine says:

          It’s funny that you view a confirmed 40% sub drop of a freight train and a (maybe) stagnation of subs over a two year period as the same thing. Only in Az world I guess. If its not black it must be white!

          In CoC the main activity; attacking, can easily take longer than 10min. And take one guess as to why the game forces you off after 6 or 8 hours of being online. How we know there is a live viewer limit during clan wars.

          But see one game allowing both modes of play might explain why it is so successful across both a very casual and a very hardcore market, while a more flawed app (on both ends, casual and hardcore) sits at 199.

        • Azuriel says:

          You honestly have no idea what you’re arguing anymore. The 40% happened after Wrath, which has been my point all along. Wrath, by every reasonable metric was successful. It was Cata/MoP that was terrible and saw sub losses.

          If “stagnation” of a peak is bad, what does that say about EVE? Or maybe this shit is more complicated than one-dimensional Syn world.

          As far as apps go, even if it were on the iOS store I doubt MtGO would beat out Mommy’s New Baby Girl – Family Adventure (currently #7!). Nevermind that by your same argument WoW > EVE because more people play it.

          P.S. Hearthstone is within spitting distance of Dota 2’s revenue this year, apparently.

        • Trego says:

          Talking about WOTLK/CATA sub numbers without noting the effect that LoL coming out had in decimating the serious pvp scene in WoW, and how those serious players took their nonserious friends with them, is definitely missing some of the story here.That said, that whole debate is getting caught up in the details and missing the main point of the article. This discussion is about why some games last 10 years and some don’t; getting caught up in short term population movements is largely irrelevant.

        • SynCaine says:

          And we wrap this up with you providing a clickbait link, nice.

        • Anti-Stupidity League says:

          “Edit: Nosy numbers; EVE is one slot below an MMO with 2m subs. Great point.”

          …which is again one slot below SW:TOR, so you’re saying that SW:TOR must be doing great? Nice that you’ve finally accepted that.

        • SynCaine says:

          Knew you would step into this.

          SW:TOR, a F2P MMO, just confirmed it has 1m ‘active’ players.

    • Trego says:

      Eve hasn’t gotten terrible in the past year, but it also has no meaningful new content. Thus, concurrency drop. I predict concurrency will increase shortly as Ccp moves from this year of rebalancing into a year of more new content

  4. Anonymous says:

    CoC (2 years+, top grossing app today (oddly Hearthstone didn’t show up in the top 150 for either downloads or revenue, wonder why))

    I would imagine it has something to do with Hearthstone having a significant non-mobile userbase. Also, you can play a lot more Hearthstone for free than you can CoC, where eventually you are forced to either wait or pay for more troops.

    • SynCaine says:

      Wait I’m sorry, did you try to suggest that paying in CoC is more important than paying in Hearthstone? That… wow.

      • Matt says:

        More important? No idea about that, I think the argument could go either way, and it is possible to play both games completely F2P. But CoC, unless it has changed since I played it, is impossible to continuously play (i.e. attack other bases) due to troop training times–unless you pay to circumvent that. Hearthstone, on the other hand, you can play an infinite number of matches with whatever cards you have available.

        The other aspect of this is that HS has a soft cap on paying–you eventually have all the cards and only arena is left to spend real money on–and CoC doesn’t. You’re always either waiting for more troops or paying to train them instantly no matter how high level you are.

        • SynCaine says:

          First I don’t understand why you would think being able to instantly chain attacks together is a must to play CoC. Just a really weird way to look at the game that isn’t shared by most. Plus if you are going to wallet-warrior your way up, buying troops is a really stupid way to do it anyway.

          Second, you CAN boost barracks and basically chain together Barch attacks to do more ‘serious’ farming, and that is also easily done using just free gems. But again, that’s just an option rather than a must.

          Third, progressing faster via paying for gems in CoC just means you get matched up against similar bases (or clans if we are talking clan wars). You aren’t really buying power so much as a fast-forward (and that fast-forward often leads to EVE ‘plex titan’ levels of hilarity), while in Hearthstone my zero legends deck gets matched up CONSTANTLY against people with ‘end-game’ decks. If I wallet-warrior in Hearthstone I can parrot a top deck and faceroll to the top, while if I don’t wallet-warrior, how many games do I play where I am basically fodder?

        • Matt says:

          Being able to chain attacks is a must to play because otherwise you’re just staring at your base and build timers. That’s not exactly what I would call “playing”. This is fine if the times and amount you want to play line up perfectly with the build timers, but you say yourself that CoC is number one on revenue, suggesting that for most players they don’t.

          If I wallet-warrior in Hearthstone I can parrot a top deck and faceroll to the top

          If this were actually true then there would be many more people at the top.

        • SynCaine says:

          Agree to disagree I guess about CoC. Not a single person in my 50 man clan plays that way, and I haven’t read or seen anything that suggests buying troops with gems is a popular (or even remotely common) thing to do. There are far better ways to wallet-warrior in CoC, and its highly likely that because of that (and the silly amount of people who play CoC overall) is why the game has been the top grossing and most popular app out for so long.

          But again, the suggestion that CoC ‘forces’ you to open the wallet more than Hearthstone by design is still laughable to me. Card games by default have always been massive pay-4-power games.

      • Trego says:

        CoC and HS are both ‘pay to not wait’F2P games. In HS, you pay to not wait for deck parity, or you do your daily quests for a year until you have all the cards. In CoC you pay if you want to be able to boost barracks constantly, or if you want to skip farming for Barb King when you hit th7, etc. They are actually quite similar in this respect.

        • SynCaine says:

          With the massive difference being that if you progress slowly in CoC, the game matches you up with others at that level. You don’t get thrown against TH10s as a TH5 because you haven’t gemmed up to TH10 yet.

          In Hearthstone matchmaking puts you against legendary decks whether it’s your first game or your 1000ths, so not spending means a longer time being a doormat for others.

        • Trego says:

          In both HS and CoC, you have a large degree of control in who you face, as in both it’s easy to manipulate what “level” you are by intentionally losing conflicts. Again, they are more similar than different here. The real difference is that CoC has some consequence to poor decisions, while HS is consequence free, on the whole. The only thing needed in HS to avoid the problem you’re talking about is the ability to see at the start of the game how many “dust” your opponents deck is worth. If the dust value were a great mismatch, you could forfeit the game and instantly skip to the next one.

  5. dynaform says:

    There are so many counters to legendary cards. I don’t know why you keep bringing this up like you cant beat a deck that has them. Control warrior is by far the most expensive deck in the game and it does not have some insane win percentage. I played mage when I started the game and ran double poly and BGH and that took care of any big threats they put down. Add some strong neutrals like yeti, harvest golem etc and you have a very competitive deck for free / super cheap.

    • SynCaine says:

      Legendary cards are better than common cards. In a card game using better cards generally results in more wins.

      Of course they can be countered, just like of course a terrible deck will beat a good one sometimes due to dice. But on average, would you rather own every legendary or none?

      • dynaform says:

        Of course I would rather own them all because then I can run a variety of decks and have more fun.

        But I’m telling you from experience those cards do not make a deck win just from throwing them in. Go watch some old total biscuit lord of the legendary videos. He should win what like 80% of the time with all those op cards? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVxasriguXk&list=UUy1Ms_5qBTawC-k7PVjHXKQ

        • SynCaine says:

          And I never said owning legendary cards = auto-win. Again; Legendary cards are better than common cards. In a card game using better cards generally results in more wins.

          Nothing more nothing less; playing Hearthstone without top cards is playing at a disadvantage, because the matchmaking is sub-par and the game’s systems are easily abused due to poor design.

  6. maljjin says:

    Burnout might not be the appropriate word to describe the situation you are referring to. Not your fault, that’s the common term used by many people when they are simply tired of a particular game, an hyperbole of sort. So in that regard, I will agree with you.

    However, based on my personnal experience, I can picture a burnout being gaming driven if we talk about the medical condition a burnout is. Generally speaking, a burnout is classified in the depressive disorders family. Excessive stressfull gaming could potentially lead to a burnout or to other kind of mental illness. An extreme case of gaming dependancy could experience withdrawl effects similar to a drop out from a substance abuse as the neurological effects in the brain are similar.

    I’m not a mental illness specialist, but having been exposed to them I can see the damage they can do and I always feel too many people take them ligthly.

    Back to the main topic, we all get bored at some point by different games, tv shows, novel series, etc. Let’s all collectively say that we are no longer having fun and we are having move on to something else. It would be more appropriate than talking about burnouts.

  7. Syn,
    I’ve been reading this blog for a while and am always interested when you stop playing a game. Sometimes it’s because you run out of things to do, sometimes there are certain mechanics that you find frustrating or unfun, and sometimes it’s because a shinier game comes along.
    Any of these reasons could be referred to by gamers as ‘burnout’.

    There is a reason why you are playing EvE offline and taking a break from Darkfall: Unholy Wars, games that you have enjoyed extensively in the past.

    To claim that the phenomenon is either a myth or is unique to bad games seems to be contradicted by the experience of anyone who ever enjoyed a game but decided to play something else.

    • Anti-Stupidity League says:

      It’s also important to know the churn rate of the MMO game you’re talking about. Those 10m people playing WoW today are not exactly the same 10m people playing WoW during Burning Crusade, for example. You lose some of your subscribers because of the burnout – obviously – but a successful game can replace them with new subscribers every quarter.

    • SynCaine says:

      EVE-Offiline; still like what the game is and its content, but don’t have the time to put into it, wallet-voting with my account.

      DF: I documented here exactly why I stopped playing; the game went (and continues to go) in a bad direction. If it had stayed on the right course, I’d still be playing and supporting it, like I do with EVE. Same can be said for AA (great design, sadly :Trion:). I didn’t stop playing WoW because something else came along, I (and many many others) stopped because of the direction WotLK took the game. Even more stopped when that direction continued with Cata/MoP.

      That’s the thing with MMOs or other games that get constant updates (Payday, LoL, etc); if those updates aren’t good, they make the game worse, and for everyone there comes a point when the game is ‘worse enough’ that you walk away. That’s different for each person, but when its an overall trend, it goes from a personal preference and into bad game design.

      I’ll give you a great example of burnout; Skyrim or Mount and Blade. Love both titles, played them for hundreds of hours, will instantly buy the next versions, and would highly recommend both games to anyone. But with both I burned through the content, as extensive as it was, and because neither game has a business model designed to KEEP me playing, eventually I reached a point where I was done.

      But again, if your business model is to KEEP me playing, you have failed when I walk away.

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