I am not a professional researcher. I am not a professional historian. I am a professional accountant with experience in many different industries. One, in particular, relates to this post by Larisa about whether WoW is really dying. The industry I speak of and my part in it is the Mortgage & Real Estate.
I'd like to say first that "It's not my fault!" Seriously, I had nothing to do with you buying a house you couldn't afford thinking that it would appreciate 200% over the next 12 months but now you're upside down on your loan and can't sell your house and can't afford the higher interest rate from the 3/1 Arm you bought. It's not really your fault either, I just like playing with people.
I think the big difference between Blizzard and the individual who claims that WoW is dying is Data, or information gained through years of research. The big difference between the loan officer who was trying to sell you a loan you couldn't afford and you was information...they had it, you didn't, but they too had a family to feed.
If you want to know all the reasons for the real estate collapse, I know the circumstances more intimately than most but won't spell it all out in tedium here. My particular position with this billion dollar mortgage bank was one where I and my supervisors had a lot of data. And as it was my and others' jobs to forecast and interpret this data, I did my very best.
I recall a beautiful afternoon here in Las Vegas when I went to lunch with our CFO, Controller and other accounting friends. This was about a year before things started to circle the drain, a time of tremendous growth, tremendous risk, and tremendous profits. There had been signs, however, signs that I noticed a couple years before. Underwriters of loans began to question the results of home Appraisers. But when appraisers stood their ground and a second confirmed the higher than usual home value, underwriters were forced to allow the loans to be processed.
One point of data led to another, until this fateful lunch outing when I told my bosses that our business was bound to fail. "It's just too risky, and nobody is paying attention to the underlying values of these mortgages, which are being sold to people who can't afford them and bought by banks who have desintegrating purchase standards. There's no way these loans can be pooled unless there's collusion on the secondary markets." Come to find out, there was (separate topic). My CFO started to ask our Secondary Marketing manager to look closely at the loans being sold to our investors. And as the year waned our CFO brougt data to our owners and told them that we needed to pull back on the risky loans and form a more traditional model that would keep us in business.
One February morning, Valentines day I think it was, we all came into work and an email was waiting for us.
"We're closed. Go home. No jobs for anyone."
We had data, we had viable and verifiable information upon which we based our council. That the owners didn't listen was their choice.
Re: the immenent death of WoW, it's my simple belief that they, a multi-billion dollar public company, has more information and data than any single player in the world. No matter how smart you may think you are or how much you think you know, Blizzard simply has more resources to collect the data they need to base decisions on.
Does that mean that all their decisions are good or the right business path? Absolutely not. But having been a part of a billion dollar business and having access to ALL the company data, I can with confidence say that I would rather trust people with the information than those without. I am not referring to concepts and ideas of game mechanics, lore, etc, I'm referring to the "big picture" data and information. People don't tend to choose to NOT play WoW because of the chat window (which was seeminly messed up this last patch), no, I'm not a single voter when it comes to WoW, and I'd venture to guess that most of you aren't either.
Blizzard has the data and believes that they will sell X # of copies of Cataclysm, have X # of subscribers during months Y & Z. They monitor that data and use it as a PART of their decision making process. And so far the decisions that they have made have led to increased popularity and access, not less.
As I hinted at before, I don't trust their data 100% because there are always variables in product creation and general business practices that will alter the expected course. But given the vast amounts of research they have done, I dare say that they know more than you or me put together. WoW isn't dying the way I guess some people have claimed for the past few years. It is losing individuals, but I guarantee Blizz isn't basing their decision on the whims of some individuals, they have the big picture in front of them, something nobody out there except for them can claim to have.
So let's just see if the choices they implement upcoming and in Cataclysm make this game more or less popular. As of now it's all just guess work.