Staysafe TV posted this video yesterday, January 27th 2018 :
In this video, Staysafe TV, after breaking down some numbers, is worried that Blizzard will listen to the “There should be some changes” crowd, because it is much bigger than the “No changes” crowd.
The numbers in the video, are totally unrealistic, but that is not the main issue. The main issue is that him and good portion of people, that advocated for a Classic WoW, believe that Blizzard will listen to the majority, and they are worried that Classic WoW will suffer changes that will basically mutate into something else. Not the game that they really want.
I understand their position, because I belong to the “No changes” crowd. However, I do not understand their fears, because I know that Blizzard is not going to listen the “There should be some changes” crowd.
Before going into why Blizzard is not going to implement any changes to Classic (there might be some minor changes, but those will not affect the game) when it will be re-released (some changes will be implemented after, in certain conditions), there is a question that must be answered : “Why Blizzard decided to bring back Classic?”.
The answer to this question is primordial in understanding why Blizzard will avoid, as much as they can, to implement any changes that will affect the Vanilla experience, because, let’s be realistic here : even if Classic will be a perfect clone of the original game (minus bug fixes), it will not be Vanilla for a number of people. Those that played in Vanilla and had at least one lvl 60 character in a raiding guild, already know a lot about the game play, zones, dungeons, raids, pvp, etc. Same for those who played on private servers.
But, as Staysafe TV said in his video, it is important to know WHO will play Classic. There will be 4 categories : former Vanilla players, that currently do not play WoW, former Vanilla players that currently play WoW, private servers players and newcomers, that never played WoW on any platform, be it Blizzard official servers or private servers.
He is right. It is very important to know the metrics of those categories, because those metrics will influence Blizzard in its approach to Classic, and how Classic should be to maximize their profits. In the end, Blizzard is a company, that have investors, and it is basically the mammoth of paid subs MMO’s. What Blizzard does , or doesn’t, have a major impact on the entire MMO gaming industry, and, in return, affects Blizzard.
The re-release of Classic WoW is targeted towards the former Vanilla players, mainly to those Vanilla players that do not play WoW currently, and quit the game during various expansions. All other 3 categories are insignifiant for Blizzard, in terms of potential revenues, but relevant for the impact on the WoW community and WoW visibility in the gaming community in general. There is a 5th category, that it is very important, and I will bring it in discussion a bit later.
The number of former Vanilla players, that quit the game during various expansion is massive. Between November 2004 and September 2013, over 100 million WoW accounts were created.This period includes Vanilla, TBC, WOTLK, Cata and MoP. We do not know how many of these 100 million accounts were created in Vanilla, but we can estimate, comparing the subscription base during Vanilla and the 4 expansions.
Close to 8 million accounts were active at the end of Vanilla, 11.5 million at the end of TBC, 12 million at the end of WOTLK, 10 millon at the end of Cataclysm and close to 8 million active subcribers were registered at the end of MoP. When looking at the active subscriptions numbers between 2004 and 2013, we can see that at the end of Vanilla and the end of MoP, the numbers were basically equal : almost 8 million, while the 3 expansions between Vanilla and MoP boosted almost same numbers : between 10 and 12 million.
When applying the subscriptions numbers to the number of total accounts created during Vanilla and the following 4 expansions, we can estimate that TBC, WOTLK and Cataclysm accounted for roughly 70% (each with roughly 23%), Vanilla 15% and MoP 15%, which means that during Vanilla, roughly 15 million accounts were created.
By extrapolating the numbers of created accounts during Vanilla to the number of total accounts created by the end of MoP and the active subscriptions at the end of MoP, we can estimate that 85% of the Vanilla players quit the game between November 2004 and September 2013. Going forward, we can estimate that roughly 95% of the Vanilla players no longer play WoW today.
Which means that roughly 14.5 million Vanilla players are outside WoW today. This is the potential market that Blizzard is aiming with the return of Classic WoW. Only 500,000 Vanilla players are currently playing WoW, and about half of them are on private servers, which is demonstrated by the Nostalrius petition, who was signed by 280,000 people.
Realistically speaking, some of those 14.5 million people will never return to WoW, because they quit gaming in general. They have other priorities, hobbies, etc. But in the same time, A LOT of people that were 5 years old in 2004, are now 19-20 years old today. A small portion of them will balance the small portion of Vanilla players, that for various reasons no longer afford to spend time with gaming.
Trying to answer to the question “How many of those 14.5 million Vanilla players will return for Classic?”, with exact numbers and percentages, is almost a waste of time, because most answers will be subjective. However, is not a complete waste of time, because the MAIN REASON that made those 14.5 Vanilla players quit WoW entirely, was that WoW was diluted and drastically changed during its existence. Basically, most quit WoW because it was no longer what they experienced in Vanilla.
Now it is time to bring in the 5th category that I mentioned : The Burning Crusade players. Going back to the accounts created, we can estimate that 23 million accounts were created during TBC. That is again, a massive number. Will those TBC players ever see their beloved expansion brought back, like Classic WoW is? Yes, they will, but not before Classic WoW, and most likely not before Classic WoW is ready for a re-release of TBC.
I am not going to estimate how many TBC players want TBC legacy back, but it is safe to assume that they number in millions. Since they cannot have legacy TBC without Classic, and most likely they will have to play Classic first, in order to have access to legacy TBC, the potential market targeted by Blizzard, with Classic WoW, is close to 20 million people.
This is the number that FORCED Blizzard to consider a Classic WoW return. Not the petition, not the Vanilla topics on forums, not the private servers, not the streamers. Yes, they were part of the decision, and they made Blizzard look into the potential market, and for that, we should all be really thankful and supportive. Without them, Blizzard would never look back, and would never appreciate the potential of a Classic WoW.
Blizzard can estimate far better than I do, how many people from outside WoW will return for Classic. Even if assuming that none of them will return, Blizzard can count on at least 500,000 players playing Classic WoW on their servers. This is why I laugh every time I see post of forums on the lines of “maybe 100k players will play Classic”.
Blizzard, however, being the mammoth that it is, will never consider 500k players when deciding to do a 180 in MMO gaming, since only half of them are outside WoW. What will be the point in spending resources, both human and financial, in accommodating 200-300k new subscribers on servers dedicated to a 13 old game? There is no point whatsoever. Blizzard’s revenues are counted in billions of dollars annually. 300k new subscribers, paying $15/ month, for one year, will barely cover Blizzard’s expenses with the development, implementation and management of Classic WoW.
We are talking about $50 million revenues, BEFORE taxes and expenses, if Blizzard only estimates 300k new subscribers for Classic WoW in first year. That is a drop in a bucket, compared to the 5,6, or 7 billions annual income of Blizzard.
The answer to ” Why Blizzard decided to bring back Classic?” is clearly not “Because 300k players from outside WoW (mainly private servers) will be brought to the official servers”.
The answer is that at least 14.5 million people (20 million or so with TBC players) are the POTENTIAL NUMBER of new subscriptions. Clearly not all of them will return, and even if they all do, not all will pay and play Classic WoW for 2 years or so. We can easily exclude all TBC potential players : they will play for 1-2 months, level up 1-2 characters to 60 and quit until legacy TBC is up. Still, there are 14 or so million people left as POTENTIAL new subscribers. I emphasize POTENTIAL, because the real number will clearly be lower.
But…how much lower? I am going to tell you right now : not much lower. We will easily see at least half of them returning for the Classic WoW, at least for the first couple of months. That is 7 million people. Even if only a quarter will return, it is still 3 and a half million people, but the more realistic number is 4 to 7 million people, former Vanilla players, that will return to Classic.
Add in the potential players that never played WoW or any other game, and the potential players that currently play other MMO’s, and Blizzard is looking at a MASSIVE number. It is akin to the gold rush. Nobody can ignore such a financial revenue, ESPECIALLY Blizzard, since they will be, again, the FIRST ones to lead the paradigm change in MMO gaming industry.
So, after understanding the reasons WHY Blizzard is returning to the roots, with Classic WoW, and the massive financial revenues for the industry, which most will be reaped by Blizzard, we can now answer to the most important question that a lot of people have :
“Will there be changes to Classic WoW?”
Blizzard understand a very simple truth : the former Vanilla players represent the VAST majority of the potential number of Classic WoW new subscribers, and the former Vanilla players will subscribe to Classic WoW ONLY IF THE VANILLA FEELING IS PRESERVED.
Which means “No changes”. The target audience that will make or break Classic WoW, hence, make of break BILLIONS in revenues, wants VANILLA. Period. Blizzard knows that. They KNOW that not even 2% of the current retail players will play on Classic servers. The retail player base is NOT the targeted audience for Classic. Any change in Classic WoW compared to Vanilla will alienate the target audience, and will NOT increase the small retail audience.
Blizzard is in a perfect position today: they are playing two hands, and regardless of which one is the winning hand, Blizzard ALREADY HAVE IT. The first hand is the current WoW, and the other one is Classic WoW. They cannot mix the hands. They will have to wait and see which one is the winning hand, and they will play it for many years. If Classic is a bust, WoW will continue on its current path. If it is a success (which I expect to be a huge success), WoW will continue on a different path, much closer to Vanilla. This is what actually scares the hell out of the Retail community : if Classic is a success, a lot of QoL changes will be erased in the future.
Blizzard cannot alter Classic, by adding Retail features, and they cannot alter Retail, by adding Classic features. Whenever Blizzard TRIED to make Retail just a bit harder, the community reacted, badly. Cataclysm dungeons at launch were just a bit harder, maybe a CC here and there, and the community screamed “It’s too hard!”. Patch 7.3.5 leveling was a little bit longer and the community screamed “It takes too long!”. And I remind only a few here.
Classic and Retail are TWO DIFFERENT GAMES, and the Retail crowd must understand that, because Blizzard understand it. The only changes to Classic, IF there will be any, will be bug fixes (which are not changes actually), Bnet integration, maybe an ignore option, chat options and such.
If mixing two games, whichever they are, would be a successful recipe…IT WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE ALREADY. A lot of people would love to see features from 2 or more games mixed…but the developers already tried that, and it was always proven to be a disaster. Star Wars, Age of Conan, Terra, Aion, etc., all tried to bring and mix features from other games. Those games are dead and buried. FFXIV and Guild Wars 2 are barely breathing, with less that 500k subscribers each. And those games tried to keep it as original as possible, not bring in features from other games.
I know that some people want “minor” changes to Vanilla, and I know that those people never played Vanilla, or if they did, they did it for a short period of time. I also know that they are BORED with the current retail version, and look at Classic as a viable option “but only if there are some changes”, changes that are subjective, at best. It is not going to happen, because no matter if ALL RETAIL PLAYERS are asking for those changes…less than 5% of them will actually play Classic.
Which makes retail players a large, vocal majority on forums…but a very small minority that will play Classic, hence, their opinion does not matter for Blizzard. To better understand why Blizzard cannot change Classic, at all, is to imagine a scenario where Blizzard actually LISTEN to the retail crowd.
If Blizzard listens to the retail crowd, they gain NOTHING. No new subscribers will play Classic. No Vanilla players will play Classic. If Classic is changed to please the Retail crowd, the minimal changes requested by the retail crowd are LFG, LFR, Tmog, faster lvling, pet battles, 25 men raids. And ALL these changes already exist in live WoW.
What will happen will be a very short-lived Mongoloid Classic WoW +, no new subscribers (all CLassic players will come from live). No additional income for Blizzard, and a perfect waste of time and resources. Everyone will laugh at Blizzard, private servers will multiply like mushrooms after a good rain, and both communities will be at each other throats.
Anyone with two working neurons understands that Blizzard, even if they want to change Classic, THEY CANNOT DO IT.