|Imagine this is green.|
I know it's been a while since we spoke, but since the pre-orders went live worldwide it's all been a bit mad around my part of the world. The servers and instance queues seems to be full of 90's all of a sudden and it's apparent that a lot of them aren't as prepared for their journeys as perhaps they should be. It's that I'd like to talk about, if you've got a minute, though I appreciate that with the Beta on the way you're all pretty busy. I'd kind of assumed because that other MMO, you know the one that's like Firefly with aliens, did their prelaunch too this week that you were keen to beat them to the punch and get your stuff on the table as quickly as possible. I know you'll never publicly admit why you do anything to us, and that's utterly cool, but that's pretty much how it looked from over on my server.
The thing is, I don't think anyone would have minded if you'd have waited. In fact, for a lot of us the whole instant 90's a bit of a waste, all told, because we don't have anyone really we want to max. I understand I'm not your audience for that too, but the notion is attractive. I'd like to try a DK but it's hardly the end of the world, because most of my friends are in the same boat as me. We'd rather have a Beta, but understand why that's not happening either. It is totally awesome that you're explaining what's going on and letting us take it in slowly, but somewhere along the way something has changed. I've been trying to put my finger on it since Monday night and finally, in of all places the shower on Thursday, I worked out what the problem is.
I think you need to explain to me about what you consider as value.
When I saw the adverts for the 90 Boost in my Battle Net launcher on Tuesday, my heart sank. There's that Worgen, doing that whole roar thing Worgen do so much, and next to him, in small letters, was the following: '50 Euro value.' I've been around long enough to know how advertising works, and what you must legally say in an advert not to get bitch-slapped by the Advert Police. I understand that value is of the equivalent boost you can purchase at the Online store. My first question was, before I even considered the fiscal consequences, very simple. At what point did you start advertising Warcraft on value? Why should it matter how much the boost is worth to begin with, why should that be the ONLY selling point of this entire advert?
I can answer my own question, of course; you want people to pre-order the game now. The cynic in me could argue this could be to make your Quarter 1 figures look good, or in the vain hope that if you snag enough people into end-game there could be a rise in subs whilst those 90's learn their classes and take part in all those wonderful endgame activities that you rushed the rest of us through at breakneck speed last year. However, as I can't afford to buy your game until next month, I don't really have the need to boost anyone, and am rather sad I got here what seems like six months early for the expansion. I find myself considering that the value of this boost, per se, is largely negligible for me.
This household has five recurring subs with Blizzard at present. That's a remarkable amount of money we give you each month, and the game is played, regularly, and has been since pretty much launch. Keeping that sub alive is, quite clearly, a massive portion of your active business model. It seems odd therefore that the need to part people with cash before a product is even at the testing phase and it might be viewed by some as, well, opportunism. I should point out here that I'm not about to cancel everything in disgust and wander away muttering: I still love this game, and the people who play it, and the people who make it too. Don't mistake criticism for anger or an argumentative stance: that seems to happen a lot on the Internet, because people seem to think that anonymity somehow translates into being loutish and unthinking.
All you need do is to spend just five minutes on this Website to understand I've loved Azeroth publicly for over FIVE YEARS, with a depth of passion that is not going to be dented by what is, I sincerely hope, just a momentary lapse of the ideals you inspire us to grasp. This shouldn't be about money, but more and more it is. Giving people what they want, allowing people to play with their friends is a great notion. Making them pay for it now is utterly ridiculous. I am very sorry but deciding that 50 Euros is the value of a levelling and learning experience if you don't buy into the boost is madness. It should be ten times that cost. There is so much you will singularly fail to grasp about ANY class if you simply arrive at 90 and are expected to just pick it up. It has taken me a decade to become a halfway decent Hunter and I'm still learning. With the subjectivity of individual learning curves, frankly, this looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Except it already is, and were it not for your Community writing guides to help out new 90's in distress there'd be nothing out there at all to aid the progression you'd made people pay for.
What I think you've failed to adequately grasp is that the massive nature of your demographic allows an awful lot of groups to hide in the shadows: the very young, the very old, those with issues of self worth and inadequacy, those who struggle with dealing with interaction, those who actively shun it and choose to play alone. These are the players you don't target, not simply those who are financially challenged or who have no need of the boost to begin with. These are the players who may look at what has now become a new notion of value and wonder what changed in the last year.
These are the people who, if they walk away, could significantly impact the future of your game.
I'm no expert on numbers but I can see how much money you've made in the last few days. You guys could sell sand to desert dwellers and water to fish, there is no doubting your depth of aptitude in finding the markets. However, we are here to play a game, and for those of us who don't want to spend the next six months kicking our heels the choice is a stark one: leave or stay. Ironically, while my 13 year old son will shrug his shoulders and go play Team Fortress 2 and my husband will LFR until he gets fed up of the stupidity and then go watch a movie, I will remain.
I'm going to level a character from scratch, not because I can't afford to boost, but because I don't see the point in playing this game unless you take the journey. It's not even a character I don't have, it's another Hunter, whose going to play through content that you won't update after it didn't go as planned in Cataclysm, and because I am told that people want new things at End Game anyway. I don't know who these people are, but one day I really hope you sacrifice some raid tier and go back and try to improve the world again. It's where all my characters were born, and where they will die when you finally turn off the lights and throw me off the Server. That would, at least in my mind, have a real notion of value.
As a mum to two children, I often despair at the notion of buying yourself into situations. It happens a lot in gaming circles: obtain this Beta and we'll give you a bunch of stuff that's not actually any use but you'll feel like it matters because it's free. I have to say, this is just how the 90's 'feel' to me: maybe it's because I have no friends I need to try and entice back, because they're all still here and never left. Maybe its also because the way you handled the entire thing makes it feel like there was little thought involved, although I'm fairly certain that is probably as far from the truth as it is possible to get. From the outside, over here on my medium-population EU server, my World of Warcraft often seems a long way away from the wonder of Blizzcons and the excitement of eSports tournaments. But I still love you. That's the problem, I think, that sometimes when you care so much about a thing you're prepared to look the other way when something happens like this, you chalk it down to experience and move on. The problem is that this time, I do feel cheated, and angry and disappointed, because I'd expected so much better from you than this.
I have friends who tell me to put this in proportion: its only a game, it doesn't matter in the Real World. Except, actually, it DOES matter. You're my friends too, I talk to people who make the game, you take the time and effort to involve me in a process that I know a lot of the time I have no chance of changing, but I can at least be a part of. I don't even think I'm looking for someone to blame either. That whole making CM's scapegoats thing is a great idea in principle, I get that. There's a joke in my Guild that my mate from Sweden is the guy we blame stuff on when we die in Raids or someone does something stupid. He even has his own Guild rank: Blame Me. I grasp enough psychology to know what that does in helping deal with issues. But it's not right to point a finger at one person. When you fail as a Raid, everyone fails, and it's about dealing with the consequences of the collective if you wish to move forward.
So, really, I should point my finger at the giant statue outside your massive Campus on this one and state, for the record, I think you guys screwed up. I really do. I think what could have been a genius way to give people a 90 was badly handled, priced and implemented. I think its made you look bad, and I think that had you been honest up front after Blizzcon and said 'here's the timescale we're working on, if things go wrong we'll admit it and tell you' might actually have done yourself more favours.
The thing is, I KNOW you guys don't work like that.
Maybe you could consider thinking differently about how you deal with the Expansion after this one as a result.
Anyway, I have gone on far too long and as your Hearthstone game's got it's claws into me now I think I'll be off to start building a custom deck. I'm not gonna cancel any subs, or go on the Forums and rant, or even start being mean to you on Twitter. You did this bit wrong. Make sure value never means your balance sheet and always refers to the worth of your players in intellectual terms. All of them, not just the ones in the target demographic and with the disposable income.
Have a good weekend,
Still with love,