Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Mists and 'The Smart Kids'

Anne Stickney stirred up a bit of a hornets nest with her post on WoW Insider The Smart Kids -- Or Why Cataclysm Failed to Impress.  Her points about the complaints with Cataclysm --that it was not what we thought we wanted-- struck a bit of a nerve with people.

I can't say I disagree with her assessment that people thought they wanted one thing, such as a revamped Old World, and it turned out that they really wanted was something new and innovative.  However, her assertions that Mists has what will cure the complainers' ills has me raising an eyebrow in skepticism.

One thing that I have to point out is that the beta people say the stuff about Mists that they were saying about Cata:  how great, new, and interesting it is.  Remember how people got excited about having to work in the new instances, and how they made you use CC, etc. etc?  Well, that excitement didn't last long in Cata, and I don't expect it to last long in Mists either.

Blizz doesn't want to sit on its laurels, because pleasing only the complainers is a reactionary thing.  They want to grow beyond 10 mil subs, but the problem is that gaining new subs is becoming more and more difficult.  To a new sub, Pandaria is all about the endgame, because they have to go from L1-L85 just to get to Pandaria.  Want to start as a new sub with a Pandaren?  It's going to cost you, because you have to buy the whole shebang.  (Yes, Blizz does specials, but if you don't know someone who plays, then Blizz' specials are an unknown item.)

If Blizz pleases only a portion of the playerbase --like they did in Cata-- they'll be hard pressed to stand still.  The race to L90 is already being plotted out, and the talent changes haven't exactly put the theorycrafters out of business, either.  Pet Battles will keep theorycrafters busy as well; anybody who watches games of MtG in action knows that Magic players (and their Pokemon kin) are out for blood.  Before I hear someone tell me that "Oh, but it's all about FUN!", I'll say this:  are you nuts?  Don't people remember the Beanie Baby craze, where collectors when absolutely bananas over those stuffed animals?  I've seen how obsessive collectors can be --just go to a flea market and watch the sideshow-- and Blizz could be unleashing something they did not intend by mixing theorycrafting with pet collecting.

What I'm saying is that Mists isn't going to be a panacea.  It's going to have good points and bad points, and there will be unintended consequences of actions.  Take LFR for instance.  LFR is going to have a much larger impact on Mists than it did on Cata, and its mere presence will cause people to burn through endgame content more quickly than ever before.  So, while there may be more endgame content at launch, Blizz may find people complaining that they're bored just as quickly as with Cata.

Blizz is also a business, so they're going to make some decisions on economics rather than pleasing the player base.  Just because WoW is raking in cash doesn't mean that Blizz is not under pressure from Activision to increase profits.  If there's one rule of today's Wall Street, it's what have you done for me lately.  "Oh, that's great, you brought in $XXX this year.  But that's the same as last year.  Where's the growth potential?  Why haven't you increased subscriptions?  What is your plan to expand into the high growth Asian market?  How are you keeping your costs down?"

When viewed through the lens of the 'smart kids', as Anne did, I really don't see any other MMO that would cause the 'smart kids' to leave and stick with, because the EQ/WoW/standard MMO model is still the dominant form out there.  Perhaps if they wanted a true challenge, there's EVE Online*, but really, it's easier to complain than to actually try something different.

*The Secret World holds some promise of breaking the traditional mold, but it's still too early to tell.


  1. Yes, as someone who wanted to fly in Azeroth and now hates that there are no secret places left, I sure shouldn't have been given what I wanted.

    I will be interested to see if they can gain subs with Mists. I remember when I started playing in 2006 feeling I'd be left behind because it had been out so long, lol. I can't think what the strategy would be to gain subs other than through friends at this point.

    OMG! Beanie Babies! Haven't thought of those in ages, I'll bet I have one somewhere around here.

    1. Well, there are secret places left, but they're in the BC starting zones. I still grump that the places you can't fly in Azeroth are part of the expansion that introduced flying in the first place. I was so looking forward to parking on top of Windrunner Spire, but it wasn't meant to be.

      If Blizz gains subs with Mists, it sure won't be due to their pricing structure. The cynic in me thinks they'll get subs from gold farmers overseas farming for pets, but who knows?

      Yeah, I remember Beanie Babies. Oh boy, do I remember them. I was hunting around for an Atari 2600 at the time the Beanies were in vogue, and the scenes at flea markets or yard sales were absolutely nuts.

  2. The problem I have with a lot of the Mists coverage, specifically that coming from WoWInsider is that people are taking what little they know about Mists and assuming that it means things will be great or better than they were in Cataclysm.

    Rather than saying, we have X, Y, and Z, which we can see, and which we know will be better, people are saying "Look at ___ that hasn't been fleshed out yet." Sort of like the "No news is good news approach." I don't really agree with that.

    1. Yeah, I've been wondering about that too. Considering all of the discussions about which new talent is best for raiding, when the talents and their effects haven't been finalized is a bit premature. At best. But what also annoys me is that the same people will then turn around and state the company line that the new talent system is designed to eliminate theorycrafting. O RLY?

      I'm in the minority in that I really liked Vashj'ir in Cata, but I'm now wondering how many people had unrealistic expectations about the zone based on beta reviews.