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Working and Playing Well with Others in MMO-Land

Sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek. My thoughts on my experiences in the MMO community as a whole.

Author: Nifa

It's All About Money - Or Is It?

Posted by Nifa Wednesday August 4 2010 at 7:57PM
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As gamers, we gripe an awful lot about the companies and publishers who bring us our games.  We really are a particular lot - and when we are paying for a service, we have a right to be.

But it isn't very often that, when a company or publisher goes out of their way to do right by us, we give them the pat on the back that they deserve.  We often consider it a matter of them "doing their jobs" or simply a matter of us "getting what we're paying for."

But that isn't necessarily always the case.  Take the recent RealID debacle.  Blizzard Entertainment did their jobs when, after 44,000 player posts encompassing 2,000+ pages railed against the idea.  The playerbase got what they paid for when Blizzard Entertainment listened and backed off that plan.  Numerous players gave the company pats on the back on the forums over this, and numerous people - including myself - said, "That's nice, Blizzard, but your wording of 'not at this time' makes us nervous, and so does the fact that it took you a week, 44,000 complaints, and a public relations nightmare in the gaming and non-gaming press before you changed your minds." 

Then Blizzard took it one step further and developed a plan to allow players to opt out of the current "friends of friends" feature of RealID.  Well, okay...I must grudgingly admit that now you are starting to get my attention, Blizzard.  Maybe you are paying attention...Here's a Scooby snack and a tiny pat on the head, but don't tell anyone.

Fast forward a bit.  An e-mail arrives in my inbox, and it doesn't dump to spam.  This is a good indication that it may actually be from Blizzard Entertainment.  I carefully open it and immediately look at the details before I read it to see where it came from.  Oh - it is from Blizzard Entertainment and not Hotmail, so I guess I should actually read it:  it's an e-mail detailing the fact that they've backed off the decision to use real names on the forums and are developing a method to allow players to opt out of the friends of friends feature of RealID.  It also invites me to e-mail them back to address any more concerns I may have about RealID, and (of course!) hopes that they have assuaged any concerns that may have prompted my cancellation so that I will be comfortable resubscribing.

So, I e-mail them the following at the address they've indicated I should, not expecting any response in return:

To Whom It May Concern:

Last night, an e-mail arrived from Blizzard's "Customer Care & Loyalty Team" discussing the fact that I recently canceled my World of Warcraft subscription as a direct result of the proposed RealID forum policy.

While I am glad that Activision-Blizzard listened to the playerbase and backed off of such a monumentally stupid idea, I am still greatly disturbed by the wording used in various announcements and interviews since the scrapping of the plan: "at this time."

The problem with that wording is that Bobby Kotick and Mike Morhaime are leaving the door wide open to strip customers (that is what we are: paying customers.  We pay Activision-Blizzard for a service every month, something Mr. Kotick at least, seems blissfully unaware of, even if Mr. Morhaime seems to at least be cognizant of it) of their privacy at a later time of their choosing and until there is clarification on this point, I'm not entirely comfortable rewarding Activision-Blizzard with my business.

In short, Blizzard Entertainment, whether of their own volition or by accepting Activision's mandate, has severely tarnished its reputation and seriously undermined and eroded the trust.  I now categorize Blizzard just barely above Sony Online Entertainment in terms of how far they, as a company, can be trusted, and can point you in the direction of many, many gamers who feel likewise.

Sony couldn't be bothered to repair their reputation.  Can Blizzard?

So much for expectations.  At about 6:30 this evening (within about 6 hours of my having sent off the mail to Blizzard), I received a phone call.  From Blizzard.  And a follow-up e-mail in case I should wish to express further concerns about the issue in the future without jumping through hoops to do so.

Now, in the past, I've had both good and bad experiences with Blizzard and I have always made a point of highlighting the great experiences (I'm looking at you, Jonathan in Support - you, sir, are freakin' AWESOME!) in great detail in the surveys they always send.  Honestly, such is the way of any major company - you get really great help and sometimes you get really, really awful "help."  And part of me - the cynical, jaded part - is sitting here right now wondering just how many subscriptions and sales Blizzard lost over the RealID debacle for them to go to such lengths to regain not only subscriptions, but the trust of their customers.

But in the end, my cynicism doesn't matter.  What does matter is the fact of my experience:  Blizzard screwed up, big time.  Blizzard knows they screwed up, they know they have seriously eroded the trust and faith of their customers, and they know that making it right means more than giving some kind of in-game item that will eventually become worthless (I'm looking at you, Sony).  I can't remember the last time a game company with a AAA title could be bothered to go to such lengths to regain trust with their customers after making such a colossal mistake in the public relations realm.  Even Turbine, a company that, in my experience, is fairly good to their customers (giving customers useful in-game items for unexpectedly long server shutdowns as they've been known to do, as well as extremely good customer service in my experience), has not gone to such lengths that I know of.

I've not renewed my account, nor have I bought Starcraft II.  As I assured the gentleman that I spoke with on the phone, Blizzard Entertainment won't be getting my money again until Mike Morhaime gives assurance in writing that no plan will be implemented at any time that requires Blizzard customers to make their real names and locations available to other players, nor will any plan be implemented that requires players to allow Blizzard to create any kind of social networking page or site on their behalf and that any kind of social networking system enacted in Blizzard games will have a clear opt in or an opt out policy that will not affect gameplay  for those of us that value and/or require privacy.  

Still, I do have to give kudos and props to Blizzard for taking the steps that they are taking to regain the trust of their customers.  That's not the kind of thing most game companies can be bothered to do these days, and especially not companies that bring in the kind of profits that Blizzard Entertainment brings in.  That kind of effort alone, in my opinion, earns Blizzard the right to a second chance with me - provided they follow through and make the necessary changes to RealID to protect their customers' right to privacy.

jinxxed0 writes:

I never got into the WoW fad so I had no idea about the RealID thing. It just sounds so stupid, but I see what they were/are trying to do. They see the facebook/zynga  success (making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year for horrible "games" ).


Google just bought one of those crappy games that facebook sheep play all the time for about 108 million about a day or two ago. So its natural for a company like Blizzard to try and jump on that. Its sad, but thanks to facebook being so popular and the hundreds of terrible games that it spews out, its making the internet much worse than myspace did.


Myspace helped make the internet more social, filling it with "normal" people so it wasn't just "geeks" or "computer" people anymore. Remember when pretty much every said/thought they were a geek just because it was cool at the time and though checking your email made you a computer person?


Now we have a super popular facebook thats no longer exclusive to colleges. And thanks to its crappy games making so much money, its affecting our games now.


Cityof Heroes has a going rouge promotion right now where they release some codes for a special costume once a day. But you have a twitter account and a facebook account to get them. Thats just absurd. Its not enough that I pay them every monh, but now in order to participate in their events, I now have to be a part of a social network if I'd like a chance at winning the events.


Hopefully game devs will get it together. Because just like everything else they try to copy, they always do it wrong. Like when they tried to opy WoW's success, they thought making a casual game would work.WoW's success has nothing to do with the game, granted, it has to decent enough to keep players, but the only reason it became popular is because Blizzard enough money to dump into advertising on TV. Its the only mmo advertised on TV in North America. You are going to reach millions of people on TV compared to thousands on the internet. So WoW brings in millions of people that have never played an MMO and then they fall in love with the concept, just like everyone else who first playe everquest or any other game. These people now think WoW is the best game ever and is original because ts their first game and its unusual success helps to back up this ignorance.


Now you have faceboo's unusual sucess that people are copying the wrong way. The online gaming industry is just dragging itself down. The games are getting crappier and crappier with each release and when decent games come out, everyone is spread too thin across the thousands of games. Mean while, companies like blizzard and google ae trying to copy facebook and create social networks.


Oh, and good blog post btw.

Thu Aug 05 2010 9:25AM Report
Nifa writes:

"Mean while, companies like blizzard and google ae trying to copy facebook and create social networks."


And this is exactly the problem in a nutshell, in my opinion.  It's not enough to do one thing and do it extremely well, as Facebook does with social networking and as Blizzard has done with gaming.  Everyone seems to want a piece of everyone else's pie because it might bring in a few more bucks.

The problem with this thinking, in my opinion, is that some of these companies maybe don't excel at the same things that other companies do.  Facebook excels at social networking but not at gaming.  Blizzard excels at gaming but not at social networking - and those two things are most certainly not one and the same.

There's nothing wrong with excelling in one area and making a boatload of money and developing a strong customer base and earning strong customer loyalty and trust based on that one area that you excel at as no one else in the market does.  Companies that forget that lose faith and trust with the customer and then spend a lot of time and money to regain that trust, as Blizzard seems to be trying to do right now, or they don't and they end up spending years as an example of what not to do in the industry, as Sony Online Entertainment has done and still is.

Thu Aug 05 2010 11:09AM Report
alkarionlog writes:

well thing is they burned they player trust lost some (mybe a lot) of pre order for SC2, that all just for a chance go milk a little more money, sometimes I really miss the time when if you really use a computer everyone look at you in a funny way, like you are a stupid inapt with people or a god to know how to make that strange box do things for you (yes i mess with PCs ever since 386 was a pretty new thing on the market :P).


and like jinx said a lot of games now want, feel, need to put they game with tweeter or facebook, things I don't like and will not use, no reason for it (even with people asking me why not :P ).


maybe if more people are more smart and vocal (not raging in forums), and drop giving ten money for that kind of things things would not be that bad, really in the last 10 years I don't feel the same thing I did when I played in my Snes and PSone games, the joy, the difficult fights things you did in games you could even brag I finish that game like this, and you really feel like you really did something big, and the wish to even repeat that game again to get the history again or just to make sure you get everything, but  now is just like Oh that was the last boss? oh well, what should I play next?


maybe its sign, maybe we should just get a new Hobby or something, because right now games are not to bring joy or fun times, its just a way to grab your money and not deliver what it did years ago, with is funny with even more tech to help in making things better it only make thing worse.

Thu Aug 05 2010 3:00PM Report
Nifa writes:

alkarionlog, you hit the nail on the head.  "Maybe if more people are smart and vocal (not raging in forums) and [stop] giving them money..."


I personally believe that, as Jon Wood wrote in his comments on RealID, speaking with one's wallet, as well as commenting in a clear, concise, professional manner as to why <insert company> is no longer getting our business will accomplish far more than a lot of people seem to give it credit for.

Thu Aug 05 2010 10:32PM Report writes:
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