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Archive for November 9th, 2009

No, it’s not the Cataclysm, it’s the latest nerdragestorm about Blizzard’s cash cow.  For reference:

Blizzard Introduces Microtransactions (via Tobold)

and

Subscription Game Item Shops are the Third Trammel (via Green Armadillo at PvD)

So now Blizzard is TEH EBIL for taking another step into a larger MMO market, one where not everyone pays their $15 door fee and competes for epics and ego via state-sanctioned grinds.  This is the proverbial “straw” to break some camels’ backs.  (Never mind that the Refer-A-Friend program had a more significant impact on the wallet *and* gameplay.)  Yeah, democracy and the free market certainly suck.  (Must be why Bush and Obama tried to strangle them.  *rimshot*)

As Green Armadillo notes, markets change.  I’d say they mature, but too many gamers think that means boobs and blood.

What gets lost in the hyperbole is that in a mature market, savvy salescritters find ways to cater to all sorts of different customers.  Trammel didn’t destroy the “old school” servers where you had to walk to town uphill both ways with gankers stabbing your squishy bits and stealing your shinies every two steps.  The players voted with their feet and went elsewhere, yes, but those nasty, tricksy old servers were there for those who wanted them.  (Of course, with fewer “sheep” to prey on, wolves started on each other, and it’s never fun for a serial ganker to be on the receiving end.  Boo.  Hoo.)  The choice is still there, but now the market has a better way to get feedback from the players who are paying the bills.  That’s a Good Thing.  (Just like the increased granularity of the microtransaction model is a Good Thing for player-dev feedback design cycles and tight feedback loops.)

In the new, mature MMO market, there will still be subscription-only games.  There will be microtransaction-only games.  There will be hybrids.  There will be companies that offer different models on different servers, while offering the same game.  There will be companies who do a great job and companies who pull jerk moves.  Thing is, you can’t map “microtransaction” to Jerk and “subscription” to “Great” (or vice versa) any more than you can map people by their skin color or political affiliation (it doesn’t stop people from trying, of course).  No, there’s a whole range of business going on out there, and all sorts of Good and Bad game design that may or may not be directly related.

The democratization of the market (maturation, remember) should be embraced.  It fosters an open meritocracy where games can be judged by the content offered their characters, not by the color of their business model.  Customers can make decisions based on what they want to play and what they want to pay, and will have to look past whether a game is on “your team”, whether you’re with the “Hardcore Subbers”, “Casual Carebears”, “Mercenary Micros” or “RMT Raiders”.  Of course, that also asks something of the players.

It means players have to grow up, too.

If you like a game, play it.  If you like it enough, pay the devs for it.  If you don’t like it, leave it alone or vent about it to the world.  Whatever the case, stop letting the Joneses dictate whether or not you’re having fun.

To be sure, I can understand the hurt feelings that come when a game changes direction and goes where you don’t feel welcome any more.  I do have to wonder, though… if we’re constantly paying for these MMO things, always expecting them to use our money to work on the game, can we really expect it to always be the same as it was in the Old Days?

Games change.  People change.  It’s inevitable that some of those changes will not be in harmony.  When those moments of discord come, it’s actually OK to move on… and sometimes, it’s better to do so before you spend more money and emotional investment.  That way lies bitterness and continued resentment, which ultimately does absolutely nothing to the party who is the subject of ire.  Bearing a grudge is a burden on the bearer, not the target.

Witness the occasional blogger who just can’t seem to ignore reasons to hate a game they once loved, or who can’t leave a company alone, always waiting for them to make an error so they can pounce on it.  This is true in all things; the divorcee who gets lost in bashing their former soulmate, the apostate who denounces their former church, the spiteful ex-employee who burns bridges.

Life is change, as Remy of Ratatouille might note, and those who can’t learn to adapt and move with the changes are hurting themselves.  If the wave you’re on doesn’t suit you, find another one.  The ocean doesn’t care.  Life moves on.  Don’t get left behind, crying over changes that you had no control over.  Rather, take control of yourself, and do something else.

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