Blame Acti-Blizz

Closing in on Turn Nine

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-28 17-42-52-03 Monday night is traditionally the raid night of our static group in the Greysky Armada Free Company.  I had been wondering if we would actually raid since… well the expansion was released and we are all busy leveling.  We were wondering just how a lot of things would work out, how our gear levels would scale appropriately and how effective we would be down leveled back to 50.  It turns out I was pleasantly surprised on almost all counts and we stepped foot into turn nine once more making some of the most progress we have ever made.  We actually managed to make it through a dive bomb phase unscathed, so at least now we know what that feels and looks like.  The problem is shortly after doing so…  we started our normal “death by simple mistakes” meaning we were all getting too tired to continue on.

I have hope however that maybe this weekend or next week we can step back in there and finally get a damned victory.  Right now turn nine is our white whale…  which is ironic in a game that literally has a giant flying white whale for a boss.  This is one of those things that I just want deep down in my bones now, to move past this barrier and be able to say we have beaten it.  I realize at this point it is outdated content…  but that doesn’t matter to me.  What matters to me is taking down Nael and being able to move into the Final Coil of Bahamut.  I am hoping that we will continue plugging forward and taking down this stuff even when it is no longer relevant.  It makes me happy that the game continues to be challenging even though some of our members have long since reached the new level cap of 60.  I however was on my dragoon last night which is still only level 51.

Blame Acti-Blizz

activision-blizzard I was having a conversation yesterday with a good friend of mine, about the 6.2 patch and what has worked and what has not worked.  During the course of this chat, he threw something out there as though it were just fact… that surprised me a little bit.  This friend of mine is as diehard a World of Warcraft fan as they come, and both he and his son play on a daily basis.  So to hear it from him really took me back to an earlier conversation he and I had back in 2008, to the announced merger of Activision and Blizzard.  His comment was, that the current state of the game and the seeming lack of forward momentum… is entirely to blame on the merger with Activision.  Back when this happened he said that his greatest fear was that it would change the way Blizzard interacts with its games and with its players.  Last night he said that essentially all of his worst fears have been realized, and that the game we today is a direct result of this merger.

While we cannot say this with any certainty for me at least Blizzard has been on a downhill slide since the release of Wrath of the Lich King.  That was the last “great” expansion for me personally, and represented the closing of an era when I was completely enraptured by the game.  Granted lots of things have changed, and so many other games have hit the market… but it feels like Blizzard stopped being the revolutionary market leader… and started trailing behind in the days post Activision merger.  My question is more did they simply shift focus… did they no longer care as much about the World of Warcraft community as they did their other product offerings?  It feels like WoW is a game that has been left to largely fend for itself.  There is a large amount of hype drummed up each time a new expansion releases, but then that quickly dies down and we are thrown right back into the cycle of doing just enough to keep hope alive in their player base that things will eventually get better.  The problem is… this sense of hope is fading as players are staring down the barrel of potentially another Siege of Orgrimmar like lapse in content.

Following the Money

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2015-06-03 23-26-08-94 I think the problem is that quite literally World of Warcraft is no longer Blizzards most important asset.  You can see that pretty clearly as you look at the attention paid to each of their product offerings.  The favored children of Blizzard right now are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and this is evident by how much attention they seem to be getting by the company.  You have to think about the simple economics behind that decision.  If you can create a game where people will gladly plunk down $4 for five virtual cards, and potentially do so multiple times a month…  what is the pure money benefit of spending much effort on a game where the players are ONLY paying you $15 a month.  Similarly with Heroes of the Storm you have a game where you can churn out multiple new heroes a month and sell them for the priced to own rate of $10 a piece roughly, not including the skins which are also often around the $10 price point.  I saw a recent article stating that it would cost around $1000 to purchase everything that is currently available in the in game Heroes of the Storm store.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t begrudge them either of these games because I play both of them.  The problem is… if you can churn out a few champions a month, or a new hearthstone expansion… the potential investment of time to the money it makes the company is far greater than spending the year it takes to make a brand new World of Warcraft expansion.  Even factoring in the box sales it is no wonder that the Warcraft team seems to be starved for resources when the rest of this company is thriving.  So I guess I get back to my friends point…  that the Activision merger shifted the focus of this company from making great games “whenever they were ready” to making games to maximize investor profits.  I cannot be so naive as to believe that the Blizzard of old didn’t care about profits, but I think for a long period of time they were simply shocked and baffled by their own success.  I’ve said for awhile that when you start to believe your own hype… you are setting yourself up for the fall.  I think with the Activision merger…  Blizzard saw their valuation and consumed their own hype completely.  Ultimately as I watch the company change, I fear for the state of World of Warcraft, this game that in spite of all of my better sense…  that I still care about.

11 thoughts on “Blame Acti-Blizz

  1. The problem with WoW is not that its a bad game, its a great game, you just want all that nostalgia from 10 years ago. The game has changed for a newer crowd, not for veterans. If you want to say “back in my day” then I suggest playing on private vanilla servers like nostalrius

  2. They did launch with the RMT auction house, and the non RMT auction house. That’s what I was talking about.

    The console release launched without those things, while the PC version had them. It was after the console versions got such rave reviews for not having them that they turned around and said “you know, lets ditch this from the PC version too.”

    The game is far, far better for that decision. But if Activision was calling the shots, do they ditch such an easy revenue stream from PC just because they couldn’t do it somewhere else? That seems unlikely to me. They ditched it because it was proven beyond any doubt that it made the game worse, and the guy who championed it (Jay Wilson) was moved to another project. I mean, strictly speaking, if the game was made purely to get a console version out, there was no reason to ever have an RMT AH at all, since they knew it wouldn’t work on 360/PS3. (You’re right in that the game design had a console port in mind when it was made, but it wasn’t the only consideration.)

    The funny thing about the PC/console thing with Diablo 3 is that the PC is the first class citizen there. It gets events that the consoles don’t get, due to how much easier it is to patch and work with. It’s also getting a F2P Chinese release. I’m sure the console versions did well for them, but it’s clear which platform Blizzard gives the most attention to (something which console D3 players complain about endlessly).

    I’ve been a Blizzard fan since before they were called Blizzard, and I don’t see the evil hand of Activision here. I see Blizzard tried to make another MMO in Titan, failed, and decided to go back to what they did before MMOs.

    I certainly do hope the next WoW expansion is better than this one, though. The people still playing it should get the best Blizzard can do, and WoD was clearly not that.

  3. The counterpoint would be something like Diablo 3 – which launched with the cash grab stuff and then ditched it entirely when the team changed leads and the new guy was willing to admit “that wasn’t good for the game.” If it’s really all about Activision demanding focus on whatever turns the most profit, shutting down an easy revenue stream in order to make a non-subscription game (with no cash shop) better doesn’t fit.

    The more likely explanation is the simplest one: WoW is old. The team that did the amazing things with it moved on to Titan, and then when Titan failed they moved on to other things. That’s where Hearthstone, HotS, and Overwatch came from.

    Even Blizzard doesn’t have an unlimited pool of talent. Would you put your A list people on your ten year old game that will inevitably decline simply due to age and player fatigue, or would you put them on making new games to diversify and expand your lineup? I know which one I’d pick, given the trends in gaming today.

    If anything, I consider this a return to the pre-WoW Blizzard, which was known for going into genres, taking the best ideas, and putting out highly polished versions of those ideas. Even WoW embodied that in 1.x. Then for a while, WoW got so big that it dwarfed everything else in the company, and they largely stopped making new games except the inevitable Starcraft & Diablo sequels.

    Now? WoW doesn’t utterly dominate the company anymore. They’re making different games again. While WoW is worse for it, WoW is reaching a point where the code is getting old and limiting in terms of what they can do anyway. For the company, diversification is a good thing.

    • See I tend to take the view that Diablo 3 from day one was groomed to be the first title since 1998 and the horrible n64 port of Starcraft to appear on a console. Most of the current crop of games simply did not fit well on consoles, but Diablo 3 was made to work extremely well on the consoles, and seems to be doing well. We love to think of PC gaming as this pinnacle of things… but we are a relatively small slice of the pie overall. Console gaming is where the big market share is, and Diablo 3 gave them inroads to both the modern Microsoft and Playstation consoles. I fully expect at some point in the future we will see Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone on consoles.

    • Also remember that blizzard launched Diablo 3 with a rmt auction house, and I believe if I am remembering correctly the took a 15% brokerage fee of all money transactions. Even though they ultimately got rid of the system, I am certain for those first months they were making a fair amount in fees. When they got rid of it they had they console offering ready to go. While we think of them getting rid of RMT “for the good of the game” that feature would have had to have been dropped anyways to work on the previous console generation.

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