Warcraft: Age of ChangeningSeptember 12, 2008
Random thought: Most MMO devs nowadays bend over backwards to be kind to WoW, praise how it’s expanded the market and drawn in craptons of new players, and claimed that WoW’s continued success equaled success for them all. Personally, I think that’s a bit of sycophantic slight-of-hand — you don’t see Paramount studios praising Universal for producing a smash blockbuster, but they might politely golf clap, smile, and grit their teeth while they plan to claw their way to the top. So for all that MMO devs tend to praise WoW, how much have you seen Blizzard turning around and praising these up-and-coming games/companies in return? Not so much. They don’t have as much to win from competition, you see.
I’ve been shaking my head as to the actions of Blizzard over the past couple months, empathizing with the bewilderment that current players — including many of my good friends — must be going feeling. On the surface, hey, they get a new class and expansion and other features. Good for them! But at the same time, Blizzard took another huge step forward in nerfing the leveling curve (making it easier to level from 60-70 in general, and much faster from 1-60 if you level with a friends through their new program), degrading the achievements of players who attained those ranks without a crutch. It’s a shameless move, but that’s Blizzard’s MO.
My spidey-cynicism tells me that Blizzard is planning at least one bold move for next week’s Warhammer Online launch, most probably putting out the “please please PLEASE stay with us!” 3.0 patch. However, they might have already played their hand: Blizz has also made the decision to reverse their long-standing policy by letting people transfer from a PvE server to a PvP one (for a modest $25 fee, of course). Players, to put it lightly, are not happy. This is a HUGE deal over in WoW-land, one which Massively takes as a gambit on Blizzard’s behalf to retain its PvP population ahead of Warhammer’s release.
Whether it is or not, whether 3.0 will come out next week, I’ve lacked the will to really care any more. I truly feel bad for current Warcraft players, because in trying to retain subscribers by throwing them everything but the kitchen sink, Blizzard continues to alienate the population by creating an environment of uncertainty and massive change. The PvE-to-PvP transfer is seen by the PvP servers as a huge sign of disrespect toward their efforts and achievements; now, any fool with a hunk of money can pay to bypass the hard content and get straight to the PvP endgame.
Companies like Mythic would do well to observe and avoid the mistakes WoW has done over the past few months. Players can smell desperation and pandering, and they don’t like it. Players have intimate investment into their characters, and they don’t like it when the rules are changed so drastically that it takes their efforts away (see also Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE change). Players expect a game company to stick by the rules that the company itself has made. I’m going to hold Mythic to the same standards I would out of any MMO company that I’m pouring money into, but on the whole, I’ve gotten more reassurance from them than red flags.