|Communications breakdown can mean only one thing...|
It's the most brilliantly simple of fait accomplis, when you think about it.
People want to play Warcraft, but in the main that means End Game. Getting there is tedious and demoralising when you have four previous expansions to plough through and the content is out of step with current development trends. There isn't either time or resources to go back and change that content to give it updated relevancy. Therefore it makes far more sense to eliminate the need to interact with that content completely, as it is has become impossible to remove because it is ingrained into what the game has become. The solution is elegantly simple. Just give people max-level characters now, and then everyone can do 90-100 together when the new Expansion launches.
Oh, and once the Expansion's established, allow people to buy L90's so they can play Warlords instantly.
So, that's the Future.
The gaming world sees things in extremes, in black and white, and rarely, if ever, accepts major change without throwing a hissy fit.
Looking back on November, the article from which this quote is lifted seems like a lifetime ago. I remember how I responded to that idea too, with dismay and disappointment. I was very careful not to be in any way hissy, because the writing was on the wall even before we had Warlords on the table. I'd said before, in these pages, that I thought the purchase of max level characters would signal the End of All Things (TM) and yet... the reality is that this is the future. I am not Blizzard's target demographic, and if I was and I had the cash... well, yes I'd buy into this, because this is now how the game is played. It used to be about other things, back in the day, but now it is about convenience and focus groups and online surveys, and if those are telling Blizzard to offer a service they can make money from on top of the Subscription Model, would they really not try and capitalise on that?
There are going to be a lot of sad and angry people this morning, of that I'm fairly certain. The fact remains: this is a game that is entering it's 10th Year, with a film tie-in soon to begin production. To maintain the level of quality and consistency in both content and perhaps more importantly customer service that the player base has become accustomed to requires a sizeable and continuous financial commitment. If this move will help Blizzard continue that, then so be it. As long as the system can be regulated to ensure people don't abuse it via the means of bots and 'farmers', then there is no reason why it shouldn't happen. The problem could come with people buying 90's 'off the shelf' and having no idea of how to play them... but there's still 10 levels to complete before you're maxxed in Warlords. In what I think is both a significant and inspired move you'll get your 'free' 90 when you pre-order the game digitally to give you a chance to gear it BEFORE the Expansion arrives. Blizz even suggest you could go for your Legendary Cloak in that time, which says to me it won't be long before that happens and that they too understand that just having the character is one thing, but actually being able to play it is something else entirely.
|Don't look for fault, look for answers.|
You could argue, as Cyn the Infinitely Wise points out, that a lot of us are using the system to do exactly what Blizzard are now offering without the need to drop the cash. This is the key here: those of us who have the time can put in the hours. If you're able to buy what you need, is it wrong to not offer the service because of the objections? Does this move simply indicate that Blizzard are fulfilling a need based on considerable customer feedback and demand? Well, yes it does. No giant spaceships are arriving to destroy the Planet. The Apocalypse could well be imminent, but frankly I think I'd be better off not knowing it was so I could enjoy my last days with the people I care about. The fact remains, people want to buy stuff to play games with, and after a decade I reckon this is one game license that could actually survive that kind of change and grow from it as a result.
Two things will now dictate whether this move is successful: just how good will Warlords be, and how many people might consider pre-ordering the game to get their hands on a free 90 once the offer hits.
I'm thinking we might not have that long to wait on at least one of those fronts to find out.