.. or is there still hope?
It’s been seven months since my last blog post.
Whilst it’s true that I don’t tend to write too often, seven months is a long time since my last musings and much has happened in that time that has made it difficult for me to know exactly what I wanted to write.
In that seven months we’ve seen Blizzard’s legal troubles and the fast decline of a once great game in Shadowlands take centre stage and the rise of an old, over-looked competitor to pre-eminence in the MMO gaming sector.
It’s no secret to those of us that have been playing WoW for the last decade or more that the game has seen a general decline in recent years. As the founding developers and managers of the franchise have moved away to pastures new we’ve seen a change of focus from the new developers and managers, moving on from the players and the well laid out and structured plans of those who had the original vision of the game to focus instead on acronyms like MAUs, FOMO, real money generation and P2W micro transactions.
Today, the game is one where we’re dangled a carrot to buy a six month sub in periods of content drought and with each new patch, pushed to ramp up our activity for a new set of ever more temporary borrowed power systems and gating reputations.
Rather like the fashion industry after the advent of ‘Fast Fashion’, no longer do we have the usual slow rotation and obsolescence each expansion inevitably brings, but rather a new series of grinds with each incremental patch. Grind it, reset, grind it, reset all based on the FOMO concept. Fear Of Missing Out being the driver rather than you know, actual content to enjoy.
Understandably, despite the best efforts of our alleged lizard overlords, people aren’t hamsters and this process has become tiresome and insulting to many. It leads to faster and faster burnout each cycle and the natural desire to find something new where players are treated like you know, paying customers and human beings and not like patients or junkies that don’t know what’s good for them until Blizzard makes them consume it.
Have a carrot, buy a store mount.
This, admittedly with other factors such as age (player base and franchise) and the economic law of diminishing returns, prompted a rise in interest in the long running but hitherto very much second place occupying Final Fantasy XIV by Square Enix.
This sudden exodus, exacerbated by the defection of pretty much every WoW streamer, content creator and Mythic world first raiding guild to try out FF and then report back that it was indeed a superior product. So, we have a “where is everyone going?” moment of unprecedented proportions which when combined with the moral, creative, lore and game-playing dead end that WoW currently wallows in could not have come at a worse time for the game.
The last year has seen several of our longer term members move over to FFXIV, hell even my son Rag is playing it now and I spent a day or two as a sprout to see what all the fuss was about before deciding I’m too old and too set in my ways to start over again in a game that doesn’t really have any appeal for me anyway. I have never understood mangas or people that like them which is weird considering I love most other aspects of Asian culture and am a relatively competent chef in Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine and used to keep decent enough collection of true bonsai for it to be worth stealing.
Anyway, I digress.
As if this weren’t enough by itself we have the fallout from the lawsuits having a real and visible effect on the game itself at a time when things are already very fragile. The lawsuits have polarised opinions into employees vs corporate or presumed ‘woke’ agenda devs vs ‘toxic man baby players’ (as we’ve been referred too as by more than one WoW dev) and so we’re seeing WoW adrift with only a series of short-term polarising changes announced rather gleefully to much confusion and concern from the players whilst we receive no news on the game front that gives us hope that the future will also see game issues rather than personal, ideological or company changes being the focus that a seemingly oblivious group of devs feel is the most pressing change required.
The ship is sinking and they’re busy painting it in rainbow colours and patting themselves on the back rather than patching the holes in the hull.
Running a guild like Weekend Warriors through such an unprecedented drop in interest in the game, its stagnant and repetitive end game content with its increasingly long and usually unsatisfying patch cycles is not easy.
Guild activity has dropped from the usual 20 a day online with 40 or more on raid days to sometimes only 5 or 6 during the day and pretty much just the raiders online during raids. Many players whether they be progress or flex raiders just raid log at this point, hoping to push another kill before attrition starts calling raids more out of a sense of duty to the team than out of a real desire to actually continue playing and raiding.
It’s pretty grim, I won’t lie and personally as a 56 year old GM and Mythic raider, I don’t actually trust the current crop of developers and Blizzard beancounters to make decisions and changes that will convince me that the game is still aimed at players like me. A player of 14 years standing who has never bought a 6 month sub or pre-ordered a game but has never once dropped his sub for even one month in all that time.
Obviously, did I not feel a sense of duty to the people in this guild and to the legacy of Weekend Warriors, its past, present and hopefully, future then I’d most likely have chucked in the towel before now such is my disillusionment with the way the modern game has evolved.
Still, I’m here, still logging, still raiding if needed rather than actually wanting to be in on each progress kill. I’m not getting any younger though so this is realistically coming to an end soon.
The most worrying latest nail in the coffin seems to be Activision’s president Bobby Kotick accepting wholesale his developer’s demands in terms of positive discrimination affirmative action hires over ability or arguably the fairest and most effective strategy in terms of ensuring excellence, namely “blind hiring” policies. This will only serve to ensure that hires have an eye first and foremost towards meeting mandatory quotas rather than practical qualities and almost always lead to a decrease in the quality of the team and the rise of the deadly ‘group think’ mentality that leads development to some very subjective places indeed.
We shall see in the coming months but I fear that with FF Endwalker imminent, Blizzard turning in on itself and navel gazing rather than actually shaking things up things don’t look good at all.
What they should be doing is bringing in some new blood and transferring out or firing some of the dead wood that got us where we are today and who obviously have nothing new or different to offer than that which has already failed in terms of story, class and game design or some personal agenda to ‘fix’ a game they see as problematic rather than one they love.
Without such drastic measures it’s hardly surprising that many observers and players think this will be their final expansion if they even finish it at all.
Sadly, this time this includes me.
To return to my Star Trek reference above, I’ll add another: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one…”.
Focus on your players Blizzard, It’s the only solution.
Thanks for reading.