Monday, August 15, 2022

A State of the Game Request

Back before the private equity firm that now controls them ruined the company, Fantasy Flight Games' annual InFlight Report was one of the most well attended presentations at Gen Con. Their presentations were more E3-esque than anything else, and their fans loved them as they brought their upcoming games to life. 

This is from the 2019 InFlight report,
probably the last of their really good
presentations in spite of the technical
glitch partway through.

Alas that FFG's masters, the holding company PAI, began to eliminate product lines and focus the company only on their big Intellectual Property titles. Additionally, to boost profitability PAI had FFG cut staff and trimmed the fat right to the bone. As one Redditor put it, "It's the first games publisher to have switched from hobbyist management to MBA management."

I was feeling nostalgic about the old, independent FFG, and I loved it when they leveled with their fans about how things were going, as well as the direction the company was headed. That got me to thinking about how things have changed, both in tabletop games and in video games. Because of that meandering path it took in my head, this nostalgia led me to a wish that more video game companies would provide a better window into their game statistics than they currently have. 


Let's be honest with ourselves for a minute: no publicly traded company is going to provide data that makes them look bad. 

So we can forget about a listing of total number of WoW subscriptions ever again, particularly once Blizz threw them out the window close to 7 years ago. 

However, that doesn't mean they can't play percentages.

I don't mean the Tenth Anniversary WoW Infographic, which is vague enough --courtesy of stretching over a decade's worth of playing-- but percentages about the current expacs (and Classic). 

Obviously, there's a lot that can be gleaned from the WoW Armory (for Retail) and Warcraftlogs (for both Retail and Classic) but that only shows things on a per toon basis, not a per account basis. That's where the rub comes in: when someone has a stable of 10, 20, or more toons but raids with only 1, the data from the Armory and Warcraftlogs can be deceptive. After all, I likely showed up in the Armory as having logged in on several toons over the past year, and I definitely am not playing Shadowlands.

In case people ever wonder whether
I (or Neve, in this case) actually
did the Quel'Danas grind in the past.

When people tend to say things about raiding and make generalizations --myself included-- it would be nice to put some real data behind it. One of the guild leaders from my ex-Classic guild made the assertion in the guild's Discord that you need about 6k worth of raiders to make a server viable, and I kind of choked. After all, the maximum number of players at one time on a server back in Vanilla was estimated at 2500-3000 players (out of 4k maximum that the hardware could handle), and I always felt that the 2500-3000 raiding toons found in Warcraftlogs for Myzrael-US back at its height resulted in a pretty healthy population. So I was extremely skeptical of that 6k number that was put out, and I felt it more along the lines of a justification for a decision --switching servers-- that had already been made. 

Another way of putting it is "What does a healthy population look like, and how would we know?"

I think it would also be a good thing if companies such as Blizz provided data that allowed us a better peek at who actually plays MMOs, and what they do when they're in game.

Do they spend their time crafting? Doing dailies? Raiding? Transmog? PvP?

A lot of WoW players I know suspect that far more people play WoW than actually raid, but what does the data say? If you looked at Wowhead, Icy Veins, YouTube, and other places, you'd think that raiding --and things leading up to raiding-- is all people ever do in WoW. But if the number of raiding accounts is something around 20% of the active player base, well.... That tends to put all those raid walkthroughs and meta guides into context, doesn't it? (For the record, I believe that the number is closer to 50% because I'd include LFR, but that's just an off the cuff observation.)

On the flip side, I have very little idea as to how many people play some other MMOs, such as LOTRO or ESO or SWTOR. In those games, I play in an extremely casual fashion --questing and sight seeing-- with very little time actually doing instances or other group content. I mean, I've done so little SWTOR group content over the last several years that I'm still wrapping my head around Tactical Flashpoints not requiring the trinity of Tank-Healer-DPS. But given that I play them in such a manner, I have no idea just how many people play like me, versus those who go all in on raiding and/or PvP or even just consuming current content.

Ah, the Prophet of Vodal Kressh.
Athiss is still my favorite Flashpoint
among the Classic SWTOR FPs.


This is all pretty much water under the bridge, because like I said earlier in the post, very few publicly traded game companies are ever going to post anything that puts them in a bad light. But it would be nice to know the reality behind the games, wouldn't it?

A Mage can dream, I suppose.

Oh no, not both of you...

/sigh Maybe I should take up Scrabble.
Hey, wait a second... You're both...
Oh, nevermind.


EtA: Corrected some grammar.

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