Milking the Cash Cow – (How Blizzard’s attitude has changed)

Posted: 24/08/2011 in World of Warcraft
Tags: , , , ,

Warning, I know quite a few people will not agree with parts or all of this post, and I welcome comments from every angle. I realise this could be a controversial post but believe it’s worth writing about.

Since the release of Cataclysm there has been suggestions from some quarters that Blizzard are only interested in milking the World of Warcraft users for all they can get, and whilst for a very long time I’ve tried hard to disagree with that suggestion what I have read recently unfortunately leads me to the same conclusion.

Do you remember back in the day (get your walking sticks and Zimmer frames out people!), when patches wouldn’t be released “until they are ready” or Blizzard were willing to push back expansions because they didn’t feel they were complete? How the best design team was creating World of Warcraft and how the premium services were just that “premium” (now I know you are going to say that “well they are it’s only guild chat and the auction house”, and you’d be right but I’ll come back to that later). I remember when The Burning Crusade was pushed back because they didn’t feel it was ready to lunch how they deviated from original WoW and offered two raids per tier. For tier 4 you had Karazhan and Gruul’s Lair. For tier 5 you had Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep and for tier 6 you had Black Temple and Mount Hyjal. We were promised a return to these system for Cataclysm and did we get it? No we didn’t.

So why didn’t it happen? Simple really, they don’t have the number of people behind the scenes in the World of Warcraft department as they used to have. Do I have any proof for this? No, of course not as Blizzard will never release the amount of people who are working for each project, but a quote at the beginning of the year and a some quotes this week all point to that direction.

Before I mention what was said at Gamescom recently, I will like to point you to an article that was posted on Massivelyearlier in the year. In their article “Blizzard COO : We Hope Titan Will Still be growing in 20 years” (dated March 9th 2011), Blizzard themselves admit that We have some of our most talented and most experienced developers on that team. Many of the people who built World of Warcraft are full-time on that other team.” I personally think that we are now starting to see the consequences of this. Don’t get me wrong World of Warcraft is still a great game to play, and the revamped 1-60 zones have been done very well, but when I get to level 85 I’m left with an empty feeling. Even now 2 patches in the game is still feeling like a half-expansion, like they have not put in as much effort as they can. The patches we have had so far have for all purposes been half-patches. They claimed they were releasing 4.1 without Firelands because a lot of people still hadn’t seen the end game of 4.0, yet within days of 4.1 being released they then said that they wanted 4.2 out as soon as possible as people are bored. Which one is it?

Now even though I said it earlier, I don’t for one second think it’s because of a lack of effort. I personally think it’s due to a lack of resources, a lack of manpower. Now that might sound strange from a game that still has a higher population base then some countries, but from what I can see it’s got to a stage now where Blizzard are more interested in maximizing profits while they can. So what does this mean to us? I think it’ll mean less patches and a quicker turn around in expansions. Where it used to take 2 years to release an expansion and in-between the patches were massive, I think we will see a continuation of these “mini-patches” and a quicker release turn around of expansions from now on.

A few quotes from this years Gamescon really makes you think, well there are three which really stand out for me, one of them is more alarming so I’ll come to that one last. The first one is “Class Quests are unlikely to return due to the amount of time it takes to design and implement them.” Now whilst class quests are not everyone’s cup of tea, what was said here hints to me that is something is going to take too much time to design and implement that Blizzard are not going to bother.

The next expansion should be released with a “meaningful difference” in the release timeline compared to previous expansions.” This to me suggests that they want to release the next expansion quicker then before, which means less content going into the other expansion then in previous expansions.

That however is not the most worrying quote, this is. “Blizzard did a lot to save time while getting Cataclysm finished, but ended up happy with the final result.” This too me says it loud and clear that the “will be released when it’s finished” mantra is now well and truly out the window. They’ve basically admitted that to release Cataclysm when they did they took short-cuts, left out parts of the game. You see it now in patches. The two raid per tier idea was thrown out the window. 4.0 had 3 raids which all together had the same number of bosses as every other start to a version of WoW and 4.1 had a raid with 7 bosses. As much as some people would like to insist, 10 man, 25 man and heroic versions are not extra content, it’s the same content just with more players/change of difficulty. Yes I hear that Ragnoros has different mechanics in the heroic version but you are still in the same scenery, fighting the same boss. Heroic content has made Blizzard very lazy when it comes to raids and has seemingly given them an excuse to release as little as possible in each patch.

Now i’ll come to the premium content. As everyone knows the cross-realm REAL-ID grouping was meant to be a premium service but it got changed to a standard service prior to the full launch. I don’t believe this has anything to do with principles or how Blizzard thought that “the right thing would be to offer it for free”. They did it because they now want to try to stop the current hemorrhaging of the player base, and there can no longer be any denial in that factor. A 900,000 population drop since the start of Cataclysm is not your usual “wear and tear” of people getting deciding that after 6 years it’s time to play something else, I mean granted there will be some people in that 900k who have quit for that reason, but it wont account for that number of people. The real ID grouping change of stance is in my opinion to allow people to group with friends on different servers thus hopefully keeping them in the game for longer.

4.3 is said to be “the biggest amount of content since Cataclysm”, well in my opinion that wont exactly be hard. It’s going to have to be a monumental amount of content to appease certain portions of the player base who feel hard done by, or cheated by what they got from this expansion. With certain big games on the horizon, it really wouldn’t surprise me if we see 4.3 in November with the PTR going up next month. With the Deathwing fight in 4.3 everything to me points towards that they want their big bad-ass boss to be fought to stop people from going off and trying some other MMO’s around that period. It’ll be interesting to see if this actually pans out like this and my release date is accurate.

Finally I know a lot of people will turn around and blame Activision for this. Saying that this sort of attitude has only appeared since the Activision – Blizzard and to some extent they are probably right. Activision are well-known for not giving a damn about players and releasing half-finished games then filling them in with over-priced DLC’s, and whilst I would agree that Activision have probably knelt about on Blizzard’s back (everyone will deny that), I do think that that’s an easy excuse to make. Is it one that Blizzard hope that people will make so that they can get merrily on their way? Or am I being way too cynical and reading too much into it? Who knows.

To me World of Warcraft is still a very good game, and yes I still play it, but Cataclysm has not turned out how it could have done, or anywhere near Blizzards old high standards. Rushing Cataclysm and half-patches are quickly eroding WoW’s player base and while they will stay and dominate the MMO market for the foreseeable future, 900k is not to be laughed at and I do think that a change in attitude is needed, and is needed fast.

Thank you for reading.

  1. Dvotee says:

    Thanks for writing this, what a great post. I can’t see anything here that you’ve written that seems controversial and I whole heartly agree with your points 100%

    I’ve just started plaing wow again after a 6 month sabatical (I left out fo boredom too be honest) and whilst I am enthusiastic about it I don’t get the same buzz.

    Without doubt, milking the cash cow is spot on. Yes they are a business and need to satisfy CEO’s etc but I think releasing half botched patches, paying for mounts etc is for me not a good way forward.

    I do also think you missed a poInt and one that I hold dear and why people are moving away and looking at other MMO’s. When I started playing wow I was mesmerised by the lore of the game and the story lines of the characters but now, it’s just a money making machine that doesn’t follow what I believe the game to be about (i.e. choppers, quad bikes) and whilst there is a story line (as such) to each expansion it’s not like it used to be and it seems to be ‘what else can we add that has nothing to do with what our game is about! (I hope that makes sense)

    Yes I will continue to play wow but not to the extent I used to. End raiding is not for me anymore, I cant deal with all the grief so when I am on, I’ll probably just create alts and have fun levelling etc.

  2. Jadissa says:

    I hadn’t previously seen the Massively article you linked prior to reading your article, but at this point, it really doesn’t surprise me.

    WoW is still a very good game – the problem that the community has with it is that we know it COULD be better, and that based on past history, it SHOULD – but it is decidedly not.

    Even as frustrating as it was to try and gain traction as a new guild in Burning Crusade, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, because I felt every single patch was going to be something monumental, and with the exception of the lol-worthy voice chat addition, they were. I miss that.

    Wrath had some nice ideas, but the execution was off, and perhaps we should’ve seen the writing on the wall then. ICC had some interesting fights, but for an end-game, end of expansion fight, it had literally nothing on Ulduar or some of the more interesting instances in BC. ToC? Don’t get me started.

    Ulduar came out 2.5 years ago, and I feel like the game has been in a state of decline ever since. This makes me not want to try Titan when it comes out, solely because I do feel like Blizzard is milking WoW, and not providing continued value for something I’ve invested a large amount of time in.

  3. honorshammer says:

    I can’t recall where I saw it, but the quote that best supports your case came from a blue post where they talked about being unable to do something because of programmer bandwidth. We use that term in my office to refer to a lack of available time to program a requested feature.

  4. Nochecazador says:

    Good post. I think the patch will drop just before Blizzcon though. They’ll use it as a launch ramp to an exciting Blizzcon, then flitering out to mainly talking about the other titles. WoW will have a spotlight, or should I say Deathwing. Maybe he’ll kiss babies and hug trees or something.

    Actually I’m very disappointed in Mr. Deathwing. He’s only killed one of my alts and seems very lazy at destroying the world. The fear build up has worn off, and every thing is ho hum.

    I agree with a lot of what you have stated here and I think a good bit of the player base is feeling the same.

    The shine just wears off to fast. I also think that social media is partially at fault. With the super progression groups being promoted heavily and able to kill off whatever is thrown at them very fast, the trickle down effect in the regular player base is that stuff is to easy.

    Side Note: I like the new theme and layout.

  5. […] The busiest day of the year was August 24th with 95 views. The most popular post that day was Milking the Cash Cow – (How Blizzard’s attitude has changed). […]

  6. […] that it deserves being discussed in a blog. Back in August of last year I publish a post “Milking the Cash Cow – How’s Blizzard’s Attitude Has Changed“, and I guess that this post could be seen as “Part […]

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