Blizzard Didn’t Cave On Flying Because Of “Forum Whining”

On Heavensward: I am not prepared.

I did get the ARR 2.0 main story completed, with help from the wonderful folks in Greysky Armada. But now there’s all the other ones, along with the new things to do that pop open when you finish 2.0, and gearing, and my White Mage to also play around with… oh, and not nearly enough time. So, I will be lagging behind when Heavensward hits.

Fortunately, I know lots of other people who are too. I’ll be in esteemed company at least. 🙂

Flying And “Vocal Minority Of Forum Whiners”

Blizzard totally reversed course on that no flying thing in just two weeks. That is not shocking. I’m not going to argue if flying is good or bad, because that’s a whole other post. The question here is – why? They made a big production out of the announcement for no flying, and the reasons for it. This is a rather major capitulation, and on the surface it looks like it’s because of the backlash of complaining it caused. I’ve seen no lack of comments on sites like Massively Overpowered to that effect. In particular, that it’s just the vocal minority who complained a lot on the forums that somehow forced Blizzard to backtrack, even though people like it in this MMO Champion poll.

There are a number of problems with that, starting with the obvious invalidity of that poll. It suffers from massive selection bias and is thus statistically useless when looking at the WoW market as a whole. But more importantly…

WoW Populations Over Time
WoW Populations Over Time – Arenajunkies

There’s a trend here since Cataclysm: Expansions bump the population, followed by a gradual decline. The problem is that in Warlords of Draenor, that population decline fell off a cliff. Even WoW doesn’t loose 3 million people in 3 months without senior management starting to ask questions. Clearly, a lot of people were already not happy this expansion.

No flying was far from the only cause of that. But all the complaining that exploded? No flying was the spark that put it into the open.

Blizzard Listens To Many Things

Here’s the thing – Blizzard’s forums suck. Blizzard knows that. EVERYTHING they do is unpopular there, and ever since vanilla people have been claiming that doing one thing or another will be the death of WoW. Blizzard knows that. People on the forums complaining does not make them alter major development decisions, because people always complain about development decisions there.

As a result, Blizzard needs other ways to decide what the players think. They have quite a few; including random surveys (that I’ve gotten), other social media, metrics of what people are doing in game, but perhaps most crucially: the cancellation survey.

One version of WoW's cancellation survey
One version of WoW’s cancellation survey

If you’ve never cancelled WoW before, you may not have seen this. When you do, they ask you why you’re leaving. This is some of the most useful feedback they can get, as it tells them a lot about what drives people out of the game. There’s been quite a few versions of this over the years, but the last option is the one that’s relevant here, and it’s always existed. You can type in a reason. (This seems like it should be something every MMO does, but you’d be surprised. Wildstar didn’t seem to give a damn why I quit. That makes it harder to know what to fix to get me back, and you’d think they would want to know that.)

Back when Real ID was going to be forced on everyone, Blizzard pitched it as a positive. The forums reacted negatively (shocker!). More importantly: Blizzard’s phone lines were totally unreachable for days as they were flooded with people calling to cancel. The cancellation page got a lot of work. This wasn’t just forum anger. It was people speaking with a force far more powerful than words: their wallets.

Blizzard caved, real fast.


Wallets Speak Louder Than Forum Posts

Given how fast the turnaround was on flying, that’s almost certainly what happened here. This expansion has already suffered a major financial hit with 3 million subs lost in record time. There’s nothing to reverse that on the horizon, and although it’ll certainly slow down, the trend is not going to reverse until another expansion. Then they announced that no flying would be permanent, and things blew up. How many more people quit in response, and gave no flying as the reason? We have no way of knowing, but I strongly suspect that number is significant.

You don’t turn around on something you made such a big deal out of just because the forums are complaining. You do when it’s suddenly tanking your quarterly numbers and the CEO is asking questions about what the hell you’re doing to pull millions off the bottom line.

One person remarked on this that “the complainers put a gun to Blizzard’s head.” That’s wrong. They pulled their wallets out of Blizzard’s reach, which in a free market economy is far more powerful. It’s not complainers being mean, it’s customers using their purchasing power to make clear that the company is no longer delivering a product they want, and that they can go elsewhere with their entertainment dollar.

That is how a free market economy is designed to work. It’s why the saying “the customer is always right” exists (even though that saying is often wrong). It doesn’t matter how big Blizzard is – if enough of their customers speak with their wallets, Blizzard will take notice. That’s business, working as intended.

NBI Talkback Challenge 4 – Way late

Yep, I’m late. That’s just how it goes these days. Kids, work, games, you know the drill. 🙂 I actually wanted to write about XCOM 2, but at the moment I don’t really have much to say except yelling about how excited I am, so maybe later.

NBI Talkback 4 – Questionnaire

The NBI posted a series of questions to get some discussion going. As mentioned, I’m late. But as I once learned in grade 6 when I didn’t want to do an assignment because it required drawing and I was really conscious of my super lack of talent… better late than never.

Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Yes, but in the right circumstances. Here’s the thing – I really like games with different body options, including the ‘interestingly proportioned’ ones. I do use them when I think it suits the character. It doesn’t always. A scrawny orphan boy shouldn’t be built like a UFC Middleweight, and a lady Paladin probably isn’t going to have the same build as a lazy noblewoman (one will be much more toned than the other).

That issue especially applies to clothing. I really like lots of options here, including the revealing kind. But, they have to fit. It’s one thing for a mage to dress that way, as their “armor” doesn’t really do anything and is just clothing anyway. I go absolutely insane when I see things like boob windows on tanking plate. It’s immersion killing, because that armor is worse than useless. It has a giant target saying “aim here and I’ll die!”

Charisma doesn’t deflect arrows.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

I’m an avid Steam user, so that’s kind of an automatic yes. 😉 There’s games on sale that I want, so I pick them up. Other times a game I want comes in a sale bundle with 10 others, so I wind up with nine games I didn’t really care about. There’s games I bought and haven’t gotten around to playing yet in order to support the developer and genre. That’s a big thing in more niche genres, as a few sales really matters.

It’s the old line – as a kid I had lots of time but no money for games. As an adult, I have no time but lots of money for games. The other side effect is that I replay games far less than I used to, just because back then I only had one game and now I have tons.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

I actually don’t enjoy hand outs that much. Rewards are good, but just having stuff rain down on you defeats the whole point of playing. I have similar problems with games that are too easy. If I can play the game without having to pay attention, it quickly loses interest.

That said, incentives certainly help encourage me to do something. FFXIV is a great example of that – the only reason why I queue for Guildhests at this point is that there’s rewards for doing them. It also happens to mean new players trying to do them have a pool of experienced ones to help out, but at some point doing them for the hundredth time gets old.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I never AFK without telling people unless it’s some kind of emergency. If they choose to keep going clearing trash without me, so be it, but it’s not deliberate leeching.

I discourage others from attempting things if we’re in a group and I think we have no chance of success. Hitting your head against a wall pointlessly isn’t fun. I did progression raiding though, I’m used to having to learn a fight and failing many, many times.

And while I’m sure that more than once I’ve seen someone who needed help and ignored them, it’s something I try to avoid doing. “Never” is a pretty absolute word, and I doubt I’m that perfect.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

Yes, but then I matured some, and was given responsibility to lead raids in WoW. I learned pretty quickly that trying to help people improve was a lot more effective than yelling, as most of the people there actually want to win too. For people who are jerks, I just use the ignore button.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

Again, before I got older. Now I don’t really care. It helps that I don’t play anything competitively anymore, and rarely play PvP at all. I mostly play cooperative and single player games, and it doesn’t really matter if someone else is better at those.

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

No, and yes.

Look, there’s different types of content, and different types of groups. When I was a progression raid healing leader, I absolutely had to do that. If someone can’t cut it and refuses to work on improving, or even worse, simply doesn’t want to put the effort in, they’re harming the entire team. I owe it to every single person on the team to give them the best chance at success, and I’m not being a good leader if I just make the team carry someone because I refuse to be mean. Sometimes, leadership means being the bad guy.

That said, while I was a progression raider, I also ran a weekend “fun run” raid group. That group was alts of the regular raid team, family/friends of those folks who wanted to see the content, and occasionally people we just picked up who wanted to come along. That group was explicitly there to let people who weren’t regular raiders see content. Failure was expected. No particular skill/gear level was required. The only goal was to have a good time, and in that case the only people I’d kick were those who attacked other members.

We tended to have enough experienced people with us that we did fairly well, but we usually carried at least one person and nobody cared in the slightest. It was a blast seeing the spouse of a regular member do the content for the first time and get all excited about it.