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.
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.