|Use your imagination :D|
I have no internet (again) at home thanks to two massive multinational corporations refusing to adequately communicate with each other. Therefore I am posting this from another substantive restaurant chain who happily provides free wi-fi in exchange for an obligatory advert and the hope you'll buy something largely unhealthy from their menu selection [*]. This has made me think about the nature of communication, and how without the Internet I'd not be writing about gaming. This in turn led to a larger reflection on the investment of time and effort into playing things.
My son is a fairly decent barometer for what gets people excited online (he's all about that VR headset right now, for instance) and he takes a very dim view of 'entertainment' like Candy Crush. He's also surprisingly aware of the nature of these game's addictive qualities and how game designers 'use' the need to complete a level/move forward as method of separating individuals from cash. In the end, despite what some people might believe, there is always a choice. You don't have to buy an extra life, your gaming experience will not be less rich and fulfilling if you choose NOT to pay the money. The decision really does remain yours. What all companies who offer such incentives are playing on is the hope that to get what you want you'll take the easy way out. When time is worth more than 99p and your mates are all ten levels ahead on you according to Facebook...
With 5.4 due in the US in 24 hours, Blizzard have finally conceded to themselves that giving people the monetary option to advance their aspirations in certain parts of the World is a sound financial move. There was a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth when this was all over the news what seems like years ago, but the reality at this point is that time is beating Blizzard on several fronts. However loyal their static 'core' audience may remain, to maintain the current level of financial investment will mean not simply keeping the regulars happy. Blizzard needs to do what very few MMO's have ever managed when their subscription base has begun to decline. Bringing subs back will be considerably easier if the player knows that leveling to 90 is academic and the least of their problems, because for a nominal fee you can simply buy your way there with ease. When all your attractive content sits at max level, the journey to reach it is half the battle.
The ever-present question of whether Warcraft would move Free-To-Play continues to be raised, and when 5.4 has settled I'd expect the prodding to begin anew, because the next time we receive a major content patch it will be to prepare us for the next Expansion. I'm seeing people assume we'll have a year to wait before that happens but we know that time is a bigger motivator than Blizzard may yet be willing to admit. Blizzcon will be all about the future, and I suspect that many will be surprised how little time will elapse before we're playing not simply in vastly stat-reduced gear, but with a new and longer journey to complete level cap. There's lots of expectations been challenged with Pandaria, and I have no doubt the rule book will yet again be re-written when it comes to The Next Bit [TM] What is needed is a constant movement forward, and no time to sit and get bored, because the moment you do something else will come along and capture the collective imagination, and at this stage in their 'game' that's yet another priority on the list of 'Things Not To Let Happen Before the Next Expansion.'
For now I'm using the time I can't have online to do all those important Real Life tasks that often seem less attractive than playing and are put aside in the days running up to a new patch. Hell, at this rate I don't even know if I'll be online for Wednesday or not. No matter, things will continue to rumble on without me because, like it or not, one person alone is not enough to stop the behemoth that is Warcraft from moving ever onwards. As long as it keeps everyone happily distracted, things look like they'll be staying on track for quite some time to come.
[*] In an ironic postscript, even the wifi outside is broken. However undeterred I now have a personal Wireless Hotspot using my phone. Some days, you just have to think a LONG way outside of the box :D