Category Archives: blizzard

Do not crush the flowers of wisdom with the hobnail boots of cynicism

I may be becoming a terrible cynic, but I did wonder at first if the whole business about real names on Blizzard forum posts was just a money saving exercise to try and get rid of a few forum moderators. Then when they backed down within days it smacked slightly of something else: a highball negotiating technique, like where you want slightly nicer biscuits for your tea break so you open up with a demand for a 25% pay rise, shorter hours, longer holiday and Fortnum & Mason Date & Pecan Piccadilly Biscuits, and eventually haggle your way down to the desired Chocolate Hob-Nobs. The trouble is, from the outside the following all look pretty much the same:

Scenario 1:
  1. Blizzard wish to clean up their forums, and think real names will result in greater accountability and improved discussion; aware that it won’t be universally popular, they nevertheless believe that players will see the benefits and go along with the change
  2. Following the massive outcry and overwhelmingly negative reaction, Blizzard accept the well-reasoned arguments against mandating real names on the forums and adjust their policy
  3. Much rejoicing
Scenario 2:
  1. Activision execs decide nine swimming pools full of money just aren’t enough, figure they can squeeze a bit more out of Blizzard by cleaning up the forums and sacking a few moderators
  2. People point out this would be massively unpopular, and drive people away from the forums. Activision execs shout “CHA-CHING!” at the prospect of reducing bandwidth bills and sacking even more moderators.
  3. Backlash greater than expected, people unsubscribe from games citing RealID, demand removal of personal information. A quick bit of spreadsheet work suggests losses could cancel out savings, policy scrapped.
  4. ???
  5. Profit!
Scenario 3:
  1. A shadowy cabal including Blizzard and Facebook come up with strange and devious plans to link games accounts to accounts, then to Facebook profiles, allowing all sorts of information harvesting as well as the ability to spam friends with recruitment requests
  2. The blogosphere starts to get nervous about security and privacy implications
  3. Blizzard pick something they don’t really care about but know people will get worked up over, announce mandatory real names on forum posts (see also: “active decoy”)
  4. Internet goes crazy as predicted, massive coverage on news sites (see also: “no publicity is bad publicity”)
  5. Blizzard back down, appear sensitive to customer concerns defusing much of the negative opinion, proceed with original plans which don’t seem quite so extreme any more in comparison, eat chocolate Hob-Nobs

How about you, dear readers, do you believe in good intentions, greed, conspiracy, or a bit of everything? Or have you got any better theories, linking RealID to the identity of Kennedy’s actual assassin, the one who faked the moon landings?

The man on top of the mountain did not fall there.

I’m wondering what Blizzard will release as a counter to Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic; it is still my belief that they aim to time their game releases around those of their major competitors in order to cause maximum disruption, and thus not allow said competition a free run at gaining a foothold on the subscriber mountain. Many companies have tried to climb that mountain, and always there has been Blizzard, a few feet above, putting the Boot of Marketing in their faces and firmly but relentlessly pushing until yet another pretender to the title of King of the Mountain falls. Some MMO companies are sensible enough to not climb too quickly and use safety ropes on the way up, and thus when they fall they remain swinging, albeit helplessly, at the lower levels. Many others have fallen to their doom.

With SW:TOR looking to be heading towards an ’11 release date, what wrench will Blizzard throw in to the machine? Will they reserve Cataclysm for the duty, announcing later this year a delay to the expansion in order to ‘further improve the content’? I think that’s entirely feasible given the much-vaunted scope of work that is being undertaken.

Or will they, towards the end of this year, drop the bombshell announcement of their new MMO to be put into beta next year?

I imagine it will be the former, but I do wonder just how seriously Blizzard are taking the competition from Bioware: should they choose to use Cataclysm as their wrench and find that SW:TOR crushes it effortlessly between the cogs and gears of its own intractable machine, Blizzard will have that much more difficult a time regaining a footing with their new MMO against the newly established King of the Mountain.

The recently rumoured details of Blizzard’s new MMO, be they truth or fiction, come to light now, after Blizzard have managed to keep things pretty much entirely under wraps up to this point. Could this be the very first trickles of water leaking through those gigantic bulging, straining walls that dam the potential flood of hype water sitting behind? Did Blizzard themselves make the hole; have they armed the charges at the base of the dam; do they stand poised, detonator in hand, ready to unleash hype hell?

I think 2010 will probably not be a great year for MMO releases, but as far as MMO hype is concerned it’s going to be biblical, and the company that has built the biggest ark will find itself perched on top of the subscriber mountain when the floods subside.

Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah dare hope to survive.

The stampede across the gaming news savannah by the raucous rampaging herd of wildebloggers was dramatically split yesterday by the sudden and unexpected appearance of the Blizzard Speculation Lion, which leaped into the midst of the unsuspecting herd, sending groups off in wildly tangential directions, their eyes rolling around in their heads as they simultaneously tried to avoid being trampled by their fellow wildebloggers and to also stay ahead of the Speculation Lion itself. As such there has been a fair bit of discussion as to what Blizzard’s trademarking of the word ‘Cataclysm’ might mean.

Now if I was a Blizzard marketing monkey the first thing I’d do is take note of this manic phenomenon that occurs whenever their company so much as twitches its majestic mane, and then I’d go off and start trademarking random words from the dictionary, just to mess with the heads of everyone. I’d probably reserve the word ‘pogonophobia’ to start with, and then go from there.

Others have speculated, even before this latest fuelling of Blizzard’s perpetual hype machine, as to what might happen in the next World of Warcraft expansion:

“For the next expansion, the whole of old Azeroth gets a phasing makeover, we become servants of the scourge in a very dark setting.” — Spinks

Now just as a casual observation – because we don’t want to invoke the wrath of the rightfully snarkful – if such an expansion as that described above were to happen it would be quite the cataclysmic event wouldn’t you say? Also, were it to happen, it would solve the ‘nobody cares about the 1-60 game anymore’ problem for World of Warcraft, with Old Azeroth simply being made to go away, it being replaced with a freshly scourged Azeroth.

In the house of the Old Gods:

“Hi honey, I’m home! MMmmm, something smells nice!”

“Be down in a minute! Oh, and there’s some freshly scourged Azeroth cooling on the window sill.”

“Oooooo! Can I have a slice now?”

“Ok, but mind you don’t burn yourself on the Kalmidor, it’ll still be piping hot.”

And finally, if such an expansion did happen to be on the cards, I would casually observe that a really rather funky way to introduce it would be to do ‘flash-forwards’. Use that oh-so-clever phasing technology to have sections of the scourged Azeroth appear for shortish periods of time at random; have it last an hour or so, in order for those players who aren’t online to have a chance to be notified by friends and get themselves in to the game to witness it. Then revert back to the original Azeroth again, but perhaps leaving a little of the portent remaining: a few charred corpses in the streets, say. The added bonus is that because this would only affect the original 1-60 content of Azeroth, those elements of gaming society who don’t like to have their game time interrupted with inconveniences such as story telling and world changing dramatic events – as mused upon elsewhere recently – will not be effected.

As an aside, while speaking of using phasing for fun and profit: I’m really intrigued as to whether pjharvey’s mind-fondling idea of what I’d dub ‘socially networked phasing’ would work in its attempt to remove server boundaries between player populations.

Anyway, there’s no evidence as to what, if anything, the trademark of ‘Cataclysm’ might mean to Blizzard. It could simply be the marketing department deciding to have a bit of fun with the community after having returned from a particularly lengthy liquid lunch, but I found it fun to let the idea-ball roll around the roulette wheel of my inner mind, and when it finally came to rest, ‘cataclysmic scourging of Azeroth with portentous flash-forwards’ was the slot that it landed in. As such, I’ve reported the result here to you in order to see if it’s a winner.