Is Wildstar Desperate For New Level Cap Players?
In case you didn’t see the news, Wildstar’s Free 50 Frenzy event is back. Players that did not claim this the last time are eligible for a free level 50 boost. This is pretty great if you never got to level cap before. Unfortunately, if you’ve already claimed this last year, you can’t do so again.
So the comments section of some MMORPG news sites are all pointing out the doom and gloom that surrounds this promo. How dead are things at level cup currently? It must be different from when I was playing it. One of the things most players will notice when hitting end-game is that it’s where most things open up. The population circa 2014-2015 at cap was decent, and finding guilds and groups to run stuff was never a problem. Today, things are drastically different, as the numbers below will prove.
According to Steamcharts, Wildstar averages 300 players in 24 hours on Steam. It does not take into account players who uses Wildstar’s client, but does it matter? Those are terrible numbers, especially when you place other Steam F2P MMOs alongside it. Cryptic’s Neverwinter averages almost 4,000 players in 24 hours. Even born-again Asian MMO NosTale from 2007 gets triple the amount of average players than Wildstar does. There’s no denying it – it needs players badly.
Where Is Everyone?
Which begs the question. How did Wildstar become a ghost town? From everything I’ve seen, heard and read, Carbine studios definitely shot itself in the foot with its hardcore niche. Wildstar was marketed and advertised as the ultimate hardcore MMORPG. There’s challenging raids and dungeons, made even more so with its telegraphic combat system. On paper, that sounds great and at the very beginning, some of the biggest WoW raiding guilds came over to conquer Planet Nexus.
But one thing that every MMO should never do is put all eggs in one basket. By catering to the “hardcore” crowd, the casuals, solo players and PvE story hunters aka potential long term customers, are left hanging. I tried doing the hardcore thing. I got into a decent Oceanic guild (yeah we had Oceanic servers back then) and started gearing and practicing the hard runs. Due to work and life in general, I could never fully commit. I then turned into something of a casual, and would try leveling alt characters to soak in the PvE adventure hoping it was as good as the first journey to 50.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. By focusing heavily on the end-game, majority of Wildstar’s early customers stay at end-game. Leveling up a new character results in empty maps, with hardly anyone to run into or play with. Early level dungeons are also skipped by the majority, because no one wants to do them. When Wildstar went free to play and came to Steam, it did help with beefing up the non-cap population, and yet here we are, back to square one.
It Does Have Issues
The niche isn’t the sole reason for its fall from grace however. Far from it. The PvE experience is not as memorable as other theme park MMORPGs. Sure, it has a lot going for it. Super cute and cuddly graphics, a great soundtrack and a great attitude. But that’s all periphery things – you won’t retain players or gain new ones with that alone. The game’s main quest line and story is another issue. It just wasn’t that memorable enough for me to give a damn, and it’s supported by a cast of characters that you won’t care about. And that’s another bullet in the foot.
Take one look at the 4-5 major MMORPGs, regardless of payment model, and you’ll see that story and having a solid PvE experience is important for longevity. If Wildstar had that, there’s more reason for players to stick around and stay invested, and maybe even give the hardcore raiders and PvPers something substantial to do in-between updates. Alas, I wonder if it’s all too late. I’ll definitely take my free level 50 boost this week and check out just how many players come back or make cap characters to try out the end-game. Because it’s apparent that Wildstar is still adamant that it’s the best part of the game right now, and to keep it afloat, it needs more players at cap. Shame. I guess we can just forget the level 1-49 experience eh?