Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Done Reading Between the Lines

It's no secret right now that there are quite a number of vocal players who aren't happy with Blizzard, mostly centered around with what's happening---or not happening---with World of Warcraft. Even if you discount the anecdotes from folks e-explaining why they've quit, why they plan to, or why they're currently unhappy but still playing, you're left with the three million very real people who chose not to continue their subscription from Q1 to Q2....for whatever reason.

We can't assign a blanket reason for why those players left. Not even a general "dissatisfaction with the game" works, as surely among those three million are folks who left due to time constraints, finances, or an entirely different reason unrelated to their view of the game. At the same time, a lot of people have given reasons to why they're not happy. Everything from lack of content, to the implementation of garrisons, the removal (and now reintroduction) of flight, the current state of PvP, the lack of representation in-game, lack of a story, confusing lore...I'm surely missing a bunch.

Right now, it's quite easy to survey the forums and social media and see throngs of unhappy players. If you are an unhappy player, you may look around and feel a strange tickle. Sure, maybe you're not happy about the further monetization of the player base while someone else left over the flying issue, but the common ground is that you're both unhappy. Even if your qualms revolve around completely different issues, there are many others who are unhappy, so in some sense, you must be justified in your observations.

Inevitably, since we can't point to any one single wrong thing about the game, it's assumed there must be something wrong with the game as a whole. And if there's something wrong with the core of the game, let's extend that to mean that there's something wrong with the core of the company. Simple logic, right?

All of a sudden you have Warcraft players who have become hyper-focused on Blizzard Entertainment, analyzing and criticizing every micro-move they make that doesn't address their main concern. Players who've not once pulled up a chair became outraged at the fact Blizzard will offer purchasable skins for their Hearthstone class of choice. World of Warcraft Q&A pushed back in favor of keeping Heroes of the Storm in the spotlight? God damn it, Blizzard. The COO leaves which obviously confirms things are going to shit? God damn it, Blizzard. Trying to suck me into your other titles through cross-promotional in-game items? God. Damn. It. Blizzard.

God damn it, Blizzard. Fix ___________________________.

Blizzard has noticeably started to spend more resources promoting their other titles, and I feel this is what many Warcraft players struggle with. I think it's quite telling that most of the criticisms I've seen about the company as a whole came from the Warcraft forums, or from Warcraft players on social media. For a decade now, Warcraft players have been Blizzard's darling children, and I guess it can be jarring when suddenly it feels like you're not. It's like the five-year-old who throws a tantrum after he learns that mommy is pregnant and he might not enjoy her sole attention. Even if we want to pretend that Warcraft is still Blizzard's baby, it's not the reality.

The reality, in fact, might be that Warcraft to Blizzard is like that 19-year-old son/daughter who you love to death but wish would just move out of the house, or at least go to college---but you don't have the heart to kick out. I'm not saying Blizzard is trying to kill Warcraft, but that maybe they're trying to make it the game they want it to be for the time we're in---and they're in---now. And I'd have to imagine that's an awfully tall order when you've got pushback at every single decision from one of the most passionate player bases on the planet.

Perhaps Blizzard have ascertained the MMO of yesterday is no longer sustainable in today's market. I think it's easily argued they have ample evidence in that vein. No one can truly know whether they're phasing out WoW, reinventing WoW, or just doing their best---other than what they themselves tell us. But it's a battle they'll never win, as they're continuing the develop a game they never thought they'd still be developing while being fought tooth and nail at every turn. Like, they're making this game because we still play it. They have a right to maintain their vision for it, and we have the right to vote with our wallets.

If this is what the demise of a video game company looks like...someone better tell Blizzard. But it might be difficult for them to take you seriously. In the greater picture, one cannot discount the tens of millions of players around the globe who are currently enjoying Blizzard games, many of whom don't know who Paul Sams is (and wouldn't care), haven't read a quarterly earnings report, and didn't even know one could fly in World of Warcraft.

Even if I'm not the most cynical of folks when it comes to Blizzard's intentions and business practices, I'm finished with the paranoid speculation. I refuse to look at every Heroes skin, store mount, Hearthstone sale, and content patch with a sinister bent, wondering what angle Blizzard is trying to fuck me from this time. Maybe that's putting on the blinders full-force, but in truth I've never once felt that way about Blizzard. 

I'm well-versed in conspiracy theories. I know how Confirmation Bias operates. I understand how physically and mentally exhausting it is believing the government is actively hiding the reality of an extra-terrestrial agenda.* I've done my research there, but it's something entirely different with Blizzard. I don't need research, because I have personal experience: ten years of engaging entertainment. When I look at others' dissatisfaction, and what reads they get from Blizzard's action or inaction, it sometimes feels like we're playing two different games. Sometimes you just need to agree to see things differently, and part ways.

This is me parting ways. This is me accepting what Blizzard is offering for the time being. I'm still playing, and still enjoying it. Maybe it doesn't hold me for several hours per night like it used to, but maybe that's not a bad thing. At the end of the day, when I ask myself "Am I having fun?"

The answer is still yes. Seems foolish for anyone to try to convince themselves otherwise---whatever their answer may be.

*I'm not saying they're not hiding one. 


  1. I quite like the game still and frankly 3 million less whiners suits me.

    1. By the way I doubt the 3m figure is robust. I've cancelled my subscription and bought tokens to keep me in game until May 2016 (and will keep doing so, even though I wince at the 42k price on EU servers now).

      Am I in the 3m million who've left? I suspect that I am.

    2. I'd be surprised if Blizzard doesn't treat token subs the same way they do regular subs---they get paid for it and once applied, it's technically an "active sub." Once a token is applied to an account, you're granted access for 30 days, just as when you would purchase a month of game time outright.

      Not counting them would then decrease the total subscriber number. For investors, the higher those numbers the better.

  2. YEP.

    The paranoia and condition that Blizzard is "out to get us" just baffles me. I'm with you Ross, I enjoy playing Blizzard's games and I intend to continue.

    Great post. :)

  3. I love the heck out of this game and have loved the heck out of basically every Blizzard game since I started playing them in 1999.

    Sure, I give Blizz a hard time sometimes ... but it's banter, really ;)

  4. Hm, I thought the 3M number was from before the Token was rolled out officially, thus the clarion call of "OMG THEY'RE SOOOOO DESPERATE THEY'RE ROLLING OUT TOKENZZZZZZZ GASP GAG CHOKE THUD"


    I'd actually put "something wrong with the company" ahead of "something wrong with the game" since I feel that the corporate culture is going to inform everything it produces. But I suppose if you're talking about conspiracy theories, the opposite might make more sense.

  5. Thanks for the comments y'all. :D

    Have a great weekend!