Tobold has an interesting post up wondering about what might happen if the WoW database were visited by gremlins and all player data was wiped. The predictable comments range from “yeah, I’d start over, it’s fun to play” to “dood, that sucks, my toon is leet”. I suspect there are some Bartle pigeonholes that might correlate to some of those answers.
I’d take that thought experiment in two different directions, though, and while I could drop those tangents on Tobold, I figure it’s better to bring them over here. Mine is a smaller bully pulpit, but I do try to avoid extreme hijacking.
First, since it’s directly relevant to my game designs, how would people react with periodic server wipes? When you know it’s coming, how does that change your attitude? Also, if you know there may be ways to keep some stuff or abilities through the wipes, how far do you go to make that a reality? What would make a game fun enough to play after a wipe, and more, to keep playing through several wipes? (I see this as an extension of the Counterstrike “round” mechanic. People keep playing that, so how can we take that inertia and extend it to a quarterly wipe?)
Second, specific to WoW, what if the tectonic event weren’t a character data wipe, but the floodgates being opened and the game being made free to play with ads in loading screens, with the condition that everyone would have to start on new servers, and there would be no character migrations? Keep the old servers in the sub model, but open new servers for the F2P ad-driven crowd. No microtransactions (MT), no RMT, since that’s a bridge too far for most (though it would be a logical next step after the ad servers).
Who would play? Who would stay on their old servers and keep subbing? Would the ads drive enough revenue? Would they be able to go further and set up a MT server? Most importantly, would it make Blizzard more money?
It’s not unprecedented. Puzzle Pirates started as a sub game. They still maintain those sub servers, which still have vibrant communities. They added a microtransaction server, and it was successful. They still haven’t added another sub server, but they have added 5 more MT servers. (One German, one Japanese, three English.) They did introduce a dual currency and a blind currency exchange, as well as a handful of other changes to make the MT system work, but by and large, it’s been very profitable for Three Rings.
Yes, PP and WoW are different games, but conceptually, it’s not impossible to see Blizzard branching out, and profiting even more from doing so, especially in price conscious times. Then again, perhaps that’s what BlizzardMMO#2 will do. I guess we’ll see.
In the meantime, I’ll keep imagining what could be, and keep trying to find ways to leverage the demand that Blizzard isn’t meeting, and to find ways to take the money they are leaving on the table.