It Takes a Village to Break a Game

With the WAR blogging community experiencing rapidly declining numbers and a general sense of burnout, I’ve found that many of my fellow bloggers who are still standing are beginning to feel worried.  I can’t say for certain what these folks are feeling, but they’ve at least expressed disappointment at seeing so many bloggers throw in the towel, concern for the state of the game if the community’s disinterest is an indication, and worry that they might start to see the benefits to leaving the community as well.  Those bloggers who haven’t decisively shut down their blogs have at least let their posting schedule lapse.  Only a few bloggers in the WAR community continue blogging on a regular basis, and they are the ones who express concern.

Image included because looking at a picture of my dog, Pavarti, chatting with the neighbor's pup is MUCH better than viewing some random stock photo.

Image included because looking at a picture of my dog, Pavarti, chatting with the neighbor's pup is MUCH better than viewing some random stock photo.

Whenever a big personality in a community leaves, it’s common for the community to experience a lot of confusion and worry as a result.  In World of Warcraft, this was typically represented by large raiding guilds disbanding, or popular server figures quitting the game.  Sure, there were players who saw these events as the catalyst for their turn in the spotlight, but the events led other players to question their own dedication to the game.  I think the declining moment for the WAR community was when Syp, now the author of Bio Break, decided to stop blogging about WAR at his WAAAGH blog.  Syp’s reasons were understandable — chief among them being that he was weeks away from becoming a father — and he promised readers that he would continue blogging about WAR at his new home, a promise he kept.  Ultimately, though, one the underlying reasons for Syp’s departure from the WAR blogging community was that he was playing WAR less than usual, and it seems like he is now playing the game even less, preferring instead to play Lord of the Rings Online and (as far as I know) the Champions Online beta.

I supported Syp’s decision to leave WAR blogging and move to writing on his side blog full time, but it made my devotion to WAR feel a little shaky.  As in my WoW example, I’m sure there were some bloggers who saw Syp’s departure as a means for them to garner more traffic, but I personally saw it as a statement about the state of WAR.  If one of the most dedicated and prolific WAR bloggers was leaving the community, what did that mean for the game?  Ultimately I stuck with WAR for a while longer, in spite of whatever doubts I experienced because of Syp’s departure, but it wasn’t long before I started spending less and less time playing WAR and, as a result, less and less time blogging about it.

But Syp was only one blogger among several.  Despite his status as an icon within the community, his move was an aberration — one lone blogger leaving the community for a less focused blogging career.  It wasn’t until the last two weeks, when several WAR bloggers and I all threw in the towel within days of each other, that the community started to look like it was on shaky ground.  If Syp’s move inspired some doubt in the community, what kind of reaction will the remaining WAR bloggers (and those who are just now joining the community) exhibit in the wake of these new losses?

The WAR community always seemed like something of a fluke.  Before the game launched, there were probably five to ten blogs devoted solely to WAR coverage.  That was a pretty reasonable number (though possibly somewhat high for a game that hadn’t been released yet).  Once the game launched there might have been a few added to the community, but otherwise it stayed pretty low.  It wasn’t until January’s Age of Blogging initiative — widely hyped on all the fansites and even the WAR newsletter — that the community swelled.  I never took a count, myself, but I read others estimate that the amount of WAR blogs was, at its peak, hovering around 100.

For a game with less than a million subscribers…it just seems unprecedented.  It’s hard to determine how many blogs are out there for other games, though I did my best.  A quick Google search provided me with less than 10 results for City of Heroes-specific blogs, and a Blogged search returned 580 results for “World of Warcraft blogs.”  Proportionately, many more WAR players extended their devotion to the game to blogging than WoW players did.  A lot could be said about WoW being more immersive than WAR (meaning that less WoW players are interested in taking time away from their play session to write about a game they’d rather just play), but that’s not really what I’m getting at.

More accurately, I’m trying to point out that the high number of WAR blogs was unusual for a game.  Is it because blogs are much more ubiquitous now, and therefore more likely to be used as a means of covering new games than before?  Is it because there was so much WAR coverage on blogs prior to the game’s launch that many WAR players had already been following blogs and were therefore more inclined to see the benefits of starting their own?  Both of those are possible explanations, among other reasons I’m sure.

To look that the larger picture, though, if the huge blogging community for WAR is unusual, if it’s not indicative of the game’s success or failure, then will the declining number of blogs have any effect on the game’s popularity?  With such an enormous fan community, one would imagine that a decrease in that community’s numbers would certainly portend something negative for the game.  Or not?  City of Heroes, like I said, has less than 10 dedicated bloggers, yet it just celebrated its fifth birthday this week.  We will just have to wait and see if the shrinking blogging community will have any influence on the game’s subscription numbers.  I posed this question in Warhammer Alliance’s podcast pre-show thread, hoping that the staff will consider passing it along to their next guest, Mythic’s Community Coordinator Andy Belford.  I’ll be interested to see what he (and you, my readers) think about the subject.

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17 Responses to It Takes a Village to Break a Game

  1. […] 1, 2009 by Syp Jennifer over at Girl Interrupted finally put to words what we were all thinking: that I, and I alone, am responsible for the downfall of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.  […]

  2. I would be interested in seeing how WAR’s initial blog community compares to Conan’s when it first launched.

    Did Conan see a similar decline in its fan base as the game began to falter?

    And what about Tabula Rasa? There’s a game that barely lasted a year. Was there any correlation between how its fans reacted and its eminent decline?

    Leslee

    • Jennifer says:

      One major similarity I see between Tabula Rasa and WAR is that they were both highly anticipated prior to launch. Most gamers (at least from my observations) felt pretty certain that Tabula Rasa was going to be The Next Big Thing, but it wound up being a disappointment. I don’t know what the game’s subscriber numbers were like, but the pre-launch hype for both it and WAR, in the Post-WoW Era, was huge.

      I don’t think WAR is as much a disappointment as Tabula Rasa was, and it’s likely that WAR will be around for longer than a year. But you’re right, it would be interesting to see the fan community reaction to those games and how they relate to what’s happening with WAR now.

  3. Werit says:

    We haven’t all gone 🙂 Over the past few weeks my WAS posts have increased greatly. A WAR-Only blog is tough, because there is only so much to say about RvR. But as of late, there has been plenty to talk about with WAR.

    • Jennifer says:

      I know there are still plenty of WAR bloggers out there, but I’m seeing a number of them throw in the towel and the purpose of this post was to wonder if the diminishing community is going to have any effect on the game. I agree, there has been some injection of life back into the community, and I predict that there will be again when Land of the Dead goes live. It’ll be interesting to observe how the life of the fan community will effect the life of the game.

    • Hiryu02 says:

      Same here. I’m still plugging along and enjoying the game. I’ll tell you what though, many bloggers cite technical problems like crashes, locks and otherwise poor performance.

      I’ve had less than 6 CTD’s since launch.

      I sometimes feel like I’m not even playing the same game, at least from a technical/performance standpoint. Maybe this is one of the reasons that I’m still enjoying the game greatly.

      Also, as far as bloggers go, we are still a very small group, we are possible some of the most vocal players, but we are still one of the smaller groups. Thus, when a blogger quits, it seems like the ripples affect many players, but don’t forget, we are in a relatively small pond, thus the ripples seem that much larger.

  4. Regis says:

    I had plans to quit long before I actually did, just because a lot of other bloggers left at exactly that time. One time is fine, two could be coincidence, but three or four at the same time could make you look at something with new eyes. I didn’t want to go out with a bang and drama quit-post, because I can only represent what I experience myself. If a blogger quit it doesn’t mean something is bad, it just mean it’s not good for the blogger. But nevertheless I tried to wait until everything cooled down a bit before throwing in the towel… but it just got worse.

    I think it was a comment over when breakfast at war left that made me cringe. It said something like “I enjoy the game, but all these bloggers leaving make me question the game.” Just plain stupid if you ask me. People should make up their own damn minds.

  5. Pete S says:

    What you’re seeing is the normal pattern for an MMO. Pre-launch hype, launch hype, *lots of energy and enthusiasm* for the game… and then things cool off to a more steady state 6-9 months after launch.

    Before it happened in terms of blogs, it was happening in terms of forum participation.

    There’s only so much a single person has to say about an MMO, since (as we’ve all griped about) they’re basically static. Aside from patch day, things don’t change a lot and after we’ve dug deep and unearthed all the neatest bits, it’s natural for enthusiasm for writing about the game to taper off.

    The big question is, what is going on with the in-game population? If *that* is dwindling, then there’s a problem, I guess.

  6. Xerb says:

    What blog site owners quit? I think it’s like 5 or 6 total, yours included, and there are still something like 50 blogs on my blog roll who are still plugging away. Not to mention all the fan, news, and forum sites.

    From what I see, the bloggers who left are the ones who posted 3 or 4 times a day. Still, of those, not all who left the game quit posting about war entirely, like Syp over at Bio Break.

    There are a ton of new games coming out and trying to single your blog to one topic can be tough. I can see how burnout might occur. Also, there has been a lot of odium and hullabaloo caused by the blogging community that tends to spread like wild fire as well … such as posts like these.

    To be honest, I expect to see a lot of these folks returning to the game in a 4 or 5 months. I say that because if they didn’t want WAR to succeed, they wouldn’t have spent so much of their free time promoting the game with a blog.

    My opinions of course.

    • Jennifer says:

      “Those bloggers who haven’t decisively shut down their blogs have at least let their posting schedule lapse. Only a few bloggers in the WAR community continue blogging on a regular basis”

      I’m not saying that all the WAR bloggers are quitting. I am seeing a decrease in the amount of blogging going on though. Then there’s the fact that some of the blogs that have thrown in the towel — WAAAGH, Breakfast at War, Wizards & Wenches, and mine to a lesser extent — were some of the more popular blogs out there. I’m wondering what effect those departing bloggers will have on the community as a whole and on the in-game population.

  7. Bootae says:

    The perceived decline in WAR is much like the media’s treatment of the swine flu “pandemic”. There are some real issues with WAR, but they’re nothing compared with the monstrous amount of scaremongering going on.

    It’s a real shame to see quality bloggers like Jennifer quitting, but does it really signal the end of WAR? Not anywhere near. People get burned out of MMOs all the time, being a blogger about said game doesn’t exclude them from burn out. If anything it’s more likely to push them to it.

  8. […] discussion on some of the blogs in the MMO blogosphere seem to be discussing the slowdown of activity in some of the WAR-dedicated blogs recently it occurs to me that there are all kinds of different definitions of what makes an MMO […]

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