Content Locusts and the Subscriber Drop

I was weaving amongst the stalls in market today, lost in the odors of exotic spices from the far west lands, when I first heard the voice. From far away it rose above the din of the crowd, the sounds of mothers admonishing children and beggars bemoaning their pitiful fates. At first I dismissed it as just another pointless attempt at rabble-rousing, content among the various sundries of the always busy bazaar. As I drew closer though, I found it harder and harder to ignore that cry, the lilting speech of one so absorbed by their passions that they can’t escape them.

“Subscription numbers are down! Flee now before we’re all cast into the raging hellfire of free to play! Watch as the servers merge and your Legacy names are coldly stripped from you! You! Starkiller! When the end times are upon us you shall be named Starkiller83, lost amongst a sea of the damned! All is lost! ALL IS LOST!”

The doomsayer threw his arms up and beckoned towards the gods, desperate for some response. His eyes were those of a crushed man…one who had thrown everything (his wife, his children, his trade) away to follow the faith of The Old Republic, but now doubted whether or not it actually existed. For no price you could stand here on this wonderful summer day, amongst the people, and watch this man completely unravel. As he collapsed into a sobbing pile, some kind hearted people gathered him up and carried him away.

“I hear there’s this Guild that’s taking all comers. After that debacle with the Final Fantasy doom cult…who knows anymore.”

It’s like this with every game these days isn’t it. At launch, it’s a rush. Server queues, hours long, dominate the new player experience. Everybody wants a piece of the hot new kid on the block, sometimes going so far as to force them into seclusion (Remember when WoW was pulled from shelves?). For a while it’s good, so good!

Then, like a barbarian horde, the masses find themselves bored with raping and pillaging this particular IP and shuffle on. No, barbarian horde is the wrong term for this. Barbarians leave their spawn in the bellies of their poor victims, ensuring their mark never leaves. These players leave nothing in their wake but the scuttled husk of a MMORPG.

They’re locusts. Content locusts to be precise. You may have heard the term before, especially applied to SW:TOR. The bane of all MMO designers, content locusts turn the fields black with players during the opening weeks of a game, desperate for whatever morsel of content is left unattended. The servers buckle under the sheer bulk of their chattering bodies, flooding channels with incessant rambling and rehashed memes. The sound can be heard for miles “Where’s Mankrik’s Wife? Where’s Mankrik’s Wife?” It’s deafening. It may seem like there is no end to the undulating mass of consumption.

But then, suddenly, they’re gone. Convinced that the invisible God Hand has stopped feeding them (No raid content in 1.3, GG TORTANIC!) they leave, never to return. Those few who are left stand silently on a hill overlooking their wasted crops, their farm lands torn asunder. In that moment all seems lost. The doomsayers wail fruitlessly, their edicts haphazardly nailed to church doors.

We’re better than that though. I stand among those few, idly picking the remains of a vanity pet I once loved, that I spent hours hunting down and obtaining. It slips from my fingers and lands amongst the detritus, dust filling the air. What is the purpose of all these things, transitory and weak, just creations of some mad God. What is the point of it all?


This is not a time for mourning. Leave that for those fools who cast themselves into the arms of despair. We who remain are strong and love our land. Let us band together and pick up the pieces, fashion something stronger than before. Fire doesn’t destroy, it purifies. Those that hid amongst us, the locusts, made us weaker. Now, the doubtful gone, we can finally become what we should’ve been all along. A community of people passionate about our game, the world behind our game, and the characters that drive it.

This is a time to rebuild. So let us be like the phoenix and rise from these ashes, stronger than before.

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15 Responses to Content Locusts and the Subscriber Drop

  1. Shintar says:

    Best post on the subject I’ve seen so far. 😀

    • exhaustport says:

      It’s so easy to be negative about the subject, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with playing a MMO that isn’t WoW. If you want WoW, it’s still there.

  2. Syp says:

    Nice article — Welcome to the NBI! Have fun blogging and let us know if you have any questions!

  3. Yeebo says:

    Fantastic piece 🙂 I’m sticking around in SWTOR as well. Having too much fun with the Agent storyline atm to contemplate quitting in the short term.

  4. Rhalinur says:

    Great post and wonderful read. It’s clear that you had fun writing this one.

  5. Serp says:

    I think it’s more that WoW is the fluke exception. There have been a few flukes in several different genres, but most games tend to follow the same pattern, whether MMO, single player, sports game, fighting game, RTS whatever genre it doesn’t matter. A new game comes out, is extremely popular, then within a few months, no matter how good it is, people drop it and go onto the next big thing.

    The exceptions are generally counted on one hand, but even the exceptions usually see a drop off in play after sometime. Starcraft, MvC2, WoW, Elder Scrolls, what else lasts for years? Most of those games don’t charge a sub so it doesn’t matter to them if people move on, for most of them that have online servers it’s probably actually a detriment financially to keep funding them.

    MMOs will probably become F2P with DLCs and cash shops. It’s too hard to justify a monthly sub with all the entertainment options around these days.

  6. D says:

    Since money is what will ultimately keep this game alive, or not… after reading your article, I now honestly believe that you (and people who think like you) are the worst thing for SWTOR (the game or community) at this present time. The last thing this game needs is fundamentalists, fully prepared to lose large sections of the community, and label them “locusts”. You can be damn sure Bioware would NEVER want you representing this game. A non-fundamentalist would attempt to understand the different motivations of the various subsets of the playerbase, and try to reconcile everyones differing goals with those of the developers, as best they can. Any member, of any community, that is prepared to cut out a large section of said community (merely because they believe it would help whats left to function better, in their unverified opinion), is as much a danger to that community, than any they propose to be in their place.

    Because think about it. What about when the current group you object to leaves, whose next for the chopping block…? If the next ‘group’ is slightly unhappy about future content that is dropped, or turns out to be less than what was expected, are you going to suggest they leave too? Wait, then you may realise that one of those people (or a few) who agreed with you about the benefits of ‘losing’ the first group, they’re actually PART of the second group. What then? Were they right the first time, but wrong the second? Why? And where does it end exactly? What level of dissatisfaction is ‘acceptable’, or ‘righteous’?. What level of dissent is tolerable by the community (and, what SECTION of the community? Since I doubt you speak for everyone) before it takes the knife to itself, socially (once again)? How many times is it fair, or correct, to socially, or philosophically divide yourself by the square root of the complaints you believe to justified?

    Eventually, who will still be around to prosecute the few “locusts” you perceive to be left. Just you?

    How long will your phoenix fly… before it falls. How long before another rises from it’s dead, charred corpse. Smaller, and weaker than the last. Rising, again and again.

    Till eventually, theres nothing left.

    Just a few embers, eventually extinguished… by the lonely wind of a fundamentalists’ empty conviction.

    • exhaustport says:

      I do agree that alienating a large part of the potential playerbase can be damaging for a MMO in a pure numbers sense, but my point is more that this is just the eventual downturn that every modern MMO faces. The people that initially invested in the game are leaving en masse and leaving behind only the purists.

      It’s the fate of almost every non-WOW MMO these days. Look at LOTRO, DDO, or even SWG before it was closed down. After an initial rush of players, their populations spiked downward and they stabilized into a strong community of core players. The SWG community was INSANELY involved in the game, which is the nature of the beast when it comes to Star Wars fans, and made it what it was despite sagging numbers.

      Will SWTOR ever be WOW successful? No. It won’t be. If anybody thinks that, they’re fooling themselves. For many of the people who left, the fact that the game wasn’t as successful as WOW played a part in their decision. The circular argument continues, with people LEAVING because other people are LEAVING. Post an article about small server populations and people freak out.

      The point of this article was just to remind those people that this too will pass. Servers will be merged, communities will rebuild, the game will return to normalcy. Once this idea that the game can maintain a multi-million subscriber number is tossed out, we can get down to the business of playing to the game’s strength: a passionate community devoted to the world and characters Bioware created. Then we’ll be successful, just on our own terms.

  7. Brilliantly written. I have been trying to make this point all along!

  8. IvoryTower says:

    The sad part is, people whine about WoW dying too. I agree with you, there are definitely locusts, and I promise you, they came and went from WoW too.

    I honestly wish SWTOR the best, even if I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I want it to be strong competition to WoW so both MMOs continue to excel and give the players who aren’t whiny, entitled brats what they want: solid story, good content, excellent gameplay.

  9. Esquire says:

    “D” has written 1 of the best posts I have seen on the subject. And I’m 1 who might just qualify as a “content locust” you call out in your blog. I left TOR due to the FACT that it was NOT the game that I wanted to play. I NEVER played WoW long term, a small stint after the NGE (up to level 30), and kept away from that game like the plague. Now if I don’t care all that much for WoW and it’s systems, just why in the world would I be overjoyed about a WoW clone?

    With SWG gone, and most sandbox games, I found myself wanting to find what all the hoopla over WoW was actualy about. So I tried the F2P to 20 as my wife played it along with a couple of friends from my SWG guild. I wanted to learn what this big draw is that WoW appearently has. What I found so far (level 26 paladin atm) was a game that works very well (for what it is). I’ve found 1 bug so far and SWG had bugs we found work-arounds for since TooW (beetle cave entrance bug) and before so having bugs are not all that important an aspect to my gameplay. The balance with player/NPC is done well and the toon feels powerful (never found this in TOR). There are not 4 toolbars of worthless specials made via developers to just keep your hands busy. Looking at the pal trainer, I see 1, count em 1, special that takes something to happen 1st, out of what? 80 levels? In TOR there were an entire tookbar of specials that didnt apply to PVP/PVE (1 or the other), didn’t happen until this happened 1st, or simply didn’t happen at all.

    TOR’s problems are not “content locusts” as much as I want to /agree with you on these types. (I seen these guys in STO). TOR’s problem is simple MMORPG design and the fact that they have their engine so overloaded that it just can not keep up with everything they have designed for it to do. (same problem there as NGE and the “benny hill” mode of combat). Crafting and almost ALL of the endgame content is tacked on and means almost NOTHING in the grand scheme of things. PVP is gated to PVE players simply via PVP having it’s own stat (yet another grind), and there is basicly almost nothing to keep a player occupied for the long term. No feeling of ownership of “it’s your game”, it’s their game, you just visit from time to time and pay for the privilage.

    I figured this was coming when a TOR dev answered the question of endgame with “re-roll” before launch and it appears it sure did. They were told this in beta, I was there as well, and they chose to not listen. So they had ample advanced notice of the problems coming. They chose to disregard these warnings the same EXACT way these same exact developers chose to disreguard player feedback on CU and NGE. (BioWare originaly hired the NGE devs away from SOE and I even remember Dallas Dickerson from way back then).

    So now, TOR is exactly what Dallas et al wanted. It is the ultimate NGE (WoW with lightsabers), only it doesn’t work as well, not as balanced, not even the open world feel of WoW, and the same thing is happening with the “ultimate NGE” as happened with the original.

    To all that like and even want this type of development, I say More power to you. I stayed with NGE and tried to rebuild my game as well. Fun and entertainment is in the eye of the beholder. However, to call what? 1.1 million people that we know have left (and I’m sure there has been a lot more since that number was released as I’m certainly 1 of them), “content locusts” and dismiss them is more that way off the mark and will not help your game in the long run.

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