Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
Unsubbing is often seen as the only ‘real’ way by players to express their displeasure in a way that affects the devs. However, one thing I’ve never known is how devs themselves react to this. Do you double down? Scrap plans? Abandon the game?
There are a couple of different ways to answer this.
Developers do care if you stop playing their game and they want to know why. However, for games like WoW and LoL, the answers are almost always “I have less time to play now (job/school/family” and “My friends don’t play anymore.” (I’m basing that on having seen a lot of data - it’s not super open to debate.)
Dropping a game because of a specific design change (despite what you might read on forums / Reddit) is actually pretty rare. I know it happens, but if you’re stack ranking the reasons why people quit, those specific responses end up being so far down the list that it is hard for a development team to take actionable feedback. It’s really rare you see “Wow, that change we made cost us 10,000 players. Let’s revert it!” So overall, I would not advocate boycotting a game as a way to make a statement, especially if deep down you still love the game. You’re just not likely to drive change as a result.
(As an aside, the best way to drive change is still to try and clearly articulate your concerns in some public forum and hope that the developers take it seriously. I have talked to plenty of players to know how frustrating that answer might be, because at the end of the day, there just isn’t some kind of magic key that you can use to 100% guarantee that you will unlock that lock. Nevertheless, it’s still the best hope you have.)
Now, there are long term trends in the lifespan of a game. At the end of the day, I have really only worked on three games (Age of Empires, World of Warcraft, and League of Legends). All three are games that have lasted for many years, but there are macro trends of engagement, meaning sometimes you’re gaining players and sometimes you’re losing players over the course of a few months or a few years.
And it’s interesting. When you see a lot of players leave over the course of say half a year, it usually spurs two diametrically opposed views on the development team. You will get one faction of “Players are getting bored - we must be bold and innovate!” You get another faction of “We are changing the game so much that we’re losing our soul! We need to get back to basics!”
Like with so many things, it’s rarely so cut and dried that you must pick one of those directions over the other. Often the answer ends up being that you need to innovate in one direction, while still making sure the game is easy to return to, and perhaps even getting back to something familiar or even nostalgic in yet other designs.
My perception has been that the players and developers in the “We’ve changed too much!” camp tend to be those who are less engaged with the game than they once were. Losing track of change usually happens to players who once played every day and are now playing once a week or once a month. They remember being super engaged with the game and knowing everything that was going on, and so the dissonance of that no longer being the case for them is really striking, perhaps even alienating. On the other hand, players who are still really engaged are the ones most likely to need something fresh and new so that they don’t run out of stuff to do.
Overall as a developer, I tend to advocate being bold and innovating. This depends a lot on your business model. Some games really want to create new players as a fast as they can because they can’t hold on to current players for very long. (That’s not a holistic criticism - it’s just a different model.) But a game like League tends to be more reliant on keeping current players than it is on attracting new ones. (Example: if you’re a young man in Korea, chances are you either play LoL or have decided it’s not for you. There probably isn’t a young man in Korea who has just heard of this new LoL thing and wants to try it out.) For League, we weigh most of our decisions on resonance with active players. Yes, it is entirely possible to change so much that you drive players away, but we think the risk of stagnation is greater. So for League, the answer is usually double down. YMMV. (Source