Thursday, January 22, 2009

Has Blizzard Stopped Caring About WoW?

A comment on Tobold's blog by Gevlon got me thinking.

"There is a catch though: The whole game can get the "hype" of being "peon-game" played by losers, morons and small kids, that can eventually kill it. However Blizzard is already working on other games so they don't have to bother."

Has Blizzard really stopped caring about WoW?

First, I have to address Gevlon's first point. It's true that people will (and already are) start to perceive WoW as an easy, mindless kiddy-game only played by morons. But the thing that Gevlon is forgetting?

Almost everyone is a moron.

The entire reason Blizzard made this xpac so easy is because out of the 11 million subscribers, 10.5 million of them suck, and the Actiblizzard accounting department was tired of losing profits because paying customers were quitting when they found the game too hard, or hit a point where they could no longer advance because they were too dumb or lazy to improve.

In my opinion, the dumbing-down of the game is not a sign that Blizzard doesn't care about WOW's reputation and has simply moved on to the next-gen MMO we all know they're designing. I think they want it to have that reputation. They want WoW to continue to be the Nintendo Wii of MMOs: everyone knows that it's fun, easy, and anyone can do it. It's not as geeky or hard as those "hardcore" games that only those loser "gamers" play. Everyone plays WoW, because everyone can play WoW. Blizz-Act-ard wants that type of reputation for their flagship cash-cow. Cha-ching.

So I don't think that the dumbing-down indicates that they've stopped caring, I think it means simply that Blizzard has much different priorities in designing their game than you do (or that you think they should). I'd like WoW better if it didn't have a reputation as an easy game played by children, and if I didn't have to assume that 90% of the people I encounter in pugs will be flat-out terrible at the game. But Blizzivision's accountants like the game better when it prints copious amounts of money.

If anything, Blizzard seems to care more about the game now than ever. Or rather, they now have the resources to show how much they care. Ghostcrawler's new level of community engagement, the new (and better, imo) approach to design decisions (except for difficulty), all the new features, the fact that Wrath was full of innovation rather than a simple retread . . . all point to them continuing to care about the game, rather than letting it coast along while they work on "some other project that they actually care about".

Terrible bugs and balance issues have always been there, in one form or another. They just keep moving to different places. Three years ago, druids were by far the worst class in the game, now they are arguably the most desireable. Two years ago, classes that now dominate arena couldn't get a spot on a team. Warlocks are in terrible shape now (which NEEDS to be fixed soon!), but that was after being the flat-out golden children of most of TBC.

I love Gevlon's blog, but I think he's wrong on this one.

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