Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Blizzard HQ, California. LOOKING GOOD!

Yesterday was like Christmas and New Year all rolled into one for some people. Not only did Blizzard buy itself out of potential drama from (what was) its parent company Vivendi but quietly tacked on the back of this announcement was the acknowledgement that the game's subscriber base has dropped to 7.7 million. For those of you who like your information delivered in graphical format, that means that this is what the number of people playing RIGHT NOW looks like compared with... well, since we started.

What goes up, must come down....

Down is a trend, as a whole, that isn't exactly great to recoup the kind of numbers Blizzard's just had to shell out to regain its independence. To say the Naysayers are having a field day as a result is an understatement of Epic Quality. It made me wonder: how many people who line up on websites and forums when these kind of announcements are made actually own a current subscription? After all, if you're playing a game and enjoying it, will you be moved to complain about something to begin with?

Using YOUR OWN BLOG as evidence: Priceless.

The discussion of anonymity and accountability did the rounds yesterday, on the back of which I did some slacker research on the kind of people that use Twitter to communicate their displeasure and otherwise with Blizzard on gaming matters. There are, perhaps unsurprisingly, a group of people for whom Twitter has become a very specific tool. They don't grasp the social networking aspects, they're not following their favourite pop star or posting Instagram pictures of their last great meal. For them, these accounts have one use, and that's to follow Blizzard employees, tweet them specific questions, and hope for an answer.

Names have been removed. Consider this a 'typical' Egg/Sock account.

This account is typical of loads I found during my investigation, and when I went to their 'About' page I was met with the same (rather depressing) set of statistics:

Only following Blizz employees. NO friends. ONLY TWEETING BLIZZARD.

I even discovered accounts that had been dormant since late 2011 that have reactivated in the last couple of months, and realised these people would have been complaining at the end of Cataclysm, left the platform, AND HAVE NOW COME BACK. I have to admire such individuals for creative use of the Internets, but it does make me worry that some people need to reappraise their priorities. It's also really unclear just how many people this means are firing questions at Blizzard: I know it's unlikely, but if I were to put my tinfoil hat on [FX: Rustling] there is an argument for saying that every Egg account like this could be run by the same person. Mind you, if I then jam that hat down so hard it covers my eyes, what's to say that Blizzard isn't instructing members of staff full-time to create said accounts and fire only the questions it wants to answer to ITS OWN EMPLOYEES?????

That's the trouble with paranoia. Everyone ends up as a suspect. EVEN THE GOOD GUYS.

Whatever happens, there will continue to be those who have been 'cured' of Blizzard's influence, standing on soapboxes, decrying the Evil That Warcraft Is. It ruins your life, steals your girlfriend, makes you ignore your children, and destroys your soul. Of course it does none of those without some other fairly complex psychological issues coming into play, does not consider circumstance or situation. Every story is different, every instance of damage impossible to comment on because no two instances of obsession are the same. What it does mean, however, that many people who don't play do seem to take the 'recovering addict' stance, which makes Warcraft as bad as cigarettes or alcohol in terms of being free from influence. It makes a lot of sense, but it's not fair, or indeed healthy. Obsessing about Warcraft EVEN WHEN YOU'VE STOPPED PLAYING doesn't mean its the game that was the problem. You've still got those answers to find.

I'd say if you think Blizzard's concerned about this week's turn of events, you're just looking at the figures without context. I'd be really rather happy if I were a Blizzard employee, looking at how their stock reacted to the buyout. People however, as we have established before, aren't happy unless there's something to complain about. This should keep loads of people happy therefore for quite some time...


TheGrumpyElf said...

As a person that actually enjoys complaining about the game I have to answer a question you asked, even if it was rhetorical.

"After all, if you're playing a game and enjoying it, will you be moved to complain about something to begin with?"

Absolutely. The act of complaining means you like something enough to have an opinion on it if it displeases you.

I actually wrote a post about it a while back. Feel free to take a peek.

Andy said...

It always baffles me when people say things like "You may be getting more negative responses due to those enjoying the game playing it rather than complaining about it." – as if it's impossible to do both?

As for The Numbers, I don't see any reason to be alarmed. It's not like any rational person expected WoW's subscriber numbers to never drop, or thought the game would continue indefinitely. My only worry is that the folks in charge of the purse strings pull the plug before Mr Street et al have finished telling their story. That'd be a shame.

Jonathan said...

I recall a Blizzard post several years ago which answered a question as to what the effect of reducing subscription numbers were. As I recall, the subs pay for the level of technical support, and the critical mass below which it has a major negative effect was an awful lot lower than 7.7m. Nearer 2m, if I recall correctly.

Timo Ruhnau said...

That was my anonymous comment on playing the game rather than complaining about it. I never said it was impossible to do both, I complain about nerfs and mounts not dropping from world bosses. This was for the complaints that WoW was failing. Those comments are hard to find in the game, and when they are posted it is from the good old trolls. But, other than minor inconveniences, I and those I play with enjoy the game. If I am not in class or working I am on one of my many alts. I enjoy your blog and it provides great reading while I have a little time between classes.

-Milch, Disc Priesting on Thrall