Closing in on Turn Nine
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 I realize at this point it is outdated content… but that doesn’t matter to me.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.
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
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.