Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'll Cry if I Want To...

8th Anniversary Letter

but still nothing about the awkward mail we received.

That was indeed a bug, and it does not appear that it can be hotfixed.

Suffice it to say that we're not happy about that, but we are happy that you guys have all joined us for the 8th Anniversary of World of Warcraft.

Ratshag made an interesting point in yesterday's post, in reference to me wondering if the various parts of Blizzard actually communicate with each other as effectively as perhaps they could. Looking at this little (rather embarrassing) incident above, it does seem that is the case. Personally, I don't think this is a bug: I think someone simply forgot. They amended the number from SEVEN to EIGHT and assumed that was all that needed doing, without looking at what they sent last year, and forgetting the presence of a certain dragon in the text... ^^

What this incident has highlighted amongst the communities I frequent is how Blizzard deal with the rather prickly issue of player entitlement. Again we see how the company copes with the ongoing issue of their success: producing a pet every year as a gift became problematic when it was quickly apparent they could make money from offering the same thing from the Blizzard Store. Last year it was made clear we'd only see gifts again for a 'major' anniversary (I'd expect therefore if I manage to make it a decade playing this game to see something in my mailbox) but still, there is whining and muttering. The letter 'bug' doesn't make dealing with such complaints any easier, but it is becoming very clear that certain sectors of the game playing community are beginning to expect a certain level of 'added extras' in their normal scheduled gameplay.

You cam blame the marketing people for this: when your new game's Special Edition costs hundreds of pounds and is loaded with a ton of physical and in game extras, people get greedy. It becomes de rigeur to anticipate that special events will be loaded with free gubbins that you can pick up and sell at a later date to the poor saps who weren't able to play at the time: that's how it works right now with In-Game Holidays, after all. All those old timers like me who don't need any of the stuff in the holiday period but end up with a ton of tokens they don't need then feel obliged not to let them simply vanish and grind up to something they can go stick on the AH six months after the affair. You just have to take a look at my server as an example: tons of crap that everyone got, that most people aren't prepared to pay the amount asked to resell. If you could sell a Baby Blizzard Bear, I suspect even that after a while would lose tons of value because so many people would attempt to offload them.

I may be overly cynical, but I'm not sure that a pet is the best idea as a birthday gift to begin with ^^

The reward item that Blizzard did provide has also come under the community microscope: from comments in my Guild the only thing that the Celebration Package is useful for at 90 is to get one more for each mob that yields Black Prince reputation. I have to think that whoever is running the Blizzard PR machine has missed a major trick here: considering the amount of grief currently with reps, this could have been a great way to recoup some favour by tweaking the award to work with the problematic grinds. I know, things don't move that fast in the world of game development, but we can dream. So, if we look ahead to the 9th Anniversary, and we assume someone sits down and re-writes that letter, what would make a decent gift next time around?

I'd like to see a BoA item introduced next year: I think the current system is lazy. I'd like to see it delivered, one item per account to boot, because I'm also curious to see whether Blizzard can not default to the 'just send it to every alt regardless' mentality. The main character you specify on the Warcraft homepage will be the recipient at the time the item is dispatched, but it won't matter because of the BoA nature of the gift. It will be a Tabard, that for a 12 hour period, once a week (7 day internal cooldown), will give you a +10% increase to reputation and XP regardless of level. You get to choose who uses it, it doesn't go away, so acting as a decent and permanent reward to those who play regularly. It has more value than a mount or a pet to those who level alts or who wish to have a permanent aid to progression.

The problem I see, at least when it comes to player entitlement, is that making everyone happy really never happens. It wouldn't matter if Blizzard gave us what we asked for, you can guarantee at some point someone will complain that actually, they got that wrong too. It seems a better idea to provide an item that is clearly a significant boost for the long-term player, not simply the one who'll log in once a year just for the gift and then come back again when they're bored of Guild Wars 2/TOR/TSR (insert your MMO here) My tabard would, on that basis, ensure 12 hours of play once a week, which would at least keep the monthly subs rolling in...

Talking of which, there is one more elephant in the room that no-one's really sure about, and which I'm going to assume will surface as soon as Blizzard have something major to announce. Is anyone going to mention the Annual Pass is up for renewal, and if so, will there be any incentive from Blizzard to make it worth our while this time around?

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