Technology

Does World of Warcraft have a Well of Eternity?

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Media captionThe BBC went to BlizzCon and asked gamers what it's like meeting in real life and what it is about the World of Warcraft which inspires such devotion ten years after the game was created.

In the World of Warcraft, warlocks, trolls and elves battle for survival in a magical world which boasts some of the most devoted fans in the entertainment industry.

But as the video game turns 10 this month, even some of the most diehard players are questioning how the game will adapt to survive another decade.

The popular role-playing game has 7.4 million subscribers who pay $15-a-month (£10 in the UK) to play the game.

That's serious commitment - but the numbers are well down from a record high of 12-million subscribers.

As many of the game's original fans age and create careers and families, they can't devote the time needed to play World of Warcraft.

Image caption A recent update to World of Warcraft underwhelmed many fans

"I've seen many people meeting and losing their spouses due to World of Warcraft," says Dmitri Williams, chief executive of Ninja Metrics, a gaming analytics company. "It takes a big time commitment."

And the younger generation of gamers is more reluctant to pay a subscription fee when there are so many free to play games available.

But Williams says he expects World of Warcraft to remain a powerhouse in the gaming world.

"A bad day for them would be a great day for just about any other gaming company," says Williams.

"There are games that have more players but if you look at hours spent and commitment and money spent - it's tough to beat World of Warcraft."

Gamer Stephen Gillett says he is confident his six children will follow his footsteps into the World of Warcraft - but he thinks the company will have to change the game to make it less of a time commitment.

Image caption Blizzcon is an event that brings together Warcraft fans - this year held in Anaheim, California

"I turn off the graphic destruction so they can play when it's not so grimy," Gillett says of his three older children who he brought to BlizzCon, an annual gathering of Blizzard Game fans.

This year, the event was held in Anaheim, California and Gillett travelled from Northern California to be at the convention, which attracted more than 25,000 fans from around the world, many dressed as their World of Warcraft avatars and meeting each other "in real life" for the first time.

He says the subscription model keeps the level of gamer high - something serious players appreciate.

Well of Eternity

Blizzard executives say they're not worried about the dip in subscriptions. World of Warcraft executive producer J. Allen Brack says the company "takes a long view" of their games and don't react every time the numbers go up or down.

"We're not worried about what the subscriber numbers are today. We worry about 'are we delivering a great gaming experience that's going to satisfy the fans,'" he says.

Image caption Players of Warcraft exist in a vast, but tight-knit, online community

"When I first started out it was when you finished your game, you put in a box, put it on a shelf and people bought it - that was basically it.

"Now we have mobile devices, we have free to play, we have pay as you go, we have subscription models, we still have box model games. We have a lot of more choices as players, which honestly I think is great."

Fans have been clamouring for an expansion to World of Warcraft and they will get one on 13 November with the much anticipated, and some say long overdue, Warlords of Draenor.

Many fans at BlizzCon said they let their subscriptions lapse in the last year because they got bored waiting for the expansion and moved on to other games. The last expansion Mists of Pandaria underwhelmed some fans.

Image caption At Blizzcon, a new game, Overwatch, was announced

There is also a new documentary about World of Warcraft out and a feature film based on the game is coming soon. But for Blizzard game fans the anniversary of World of Warcraft has been overshadowed slightly by buzz surrounding Blizzard's plans to release a new game, Overwatch.

It's a team-based shooting game and a very different genre from World of Warcraft - but it's expected to have cross-over appeal for gamers. Blizzard game developer Chris Metzen says creating Overwatch has reinvigorated them as a company.

"It's like we didn't go anywhere, but we're back," he says.

"I feel like this studio's sense of just raw energy and creativity and it's kind of focus and appreciation for like maybe even smaller scale projects has kind of been rekindled."

"It has no bearing at all on the fact that World of Warcraft is our most precious product and we have obviously a really great team driving that business."

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