Friday, April 16, 2010

Fan Merchandise

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Celestial steed now for sale

Ever since Blizzard announced that they would be selling virtual goods for in-game use, via their webshop, I’ve had a sinking feeling in my guts. I’ve tried to put this feeling of uncomftability into words before.

Everything about trying to squeeze extra money out of the fans, just rubs me the wrong way, like standing in line to get your favourite actors autograph and he demands 10£ for it.
I know I am not the only one, lots of people have talked about slippery slides, and “where is this all heading”. Even my guild-leader took offense

 ‘Not keen on this direction, stinks of Activision more than Blizzard.’ 

Maybe that was it? Ever since Blizzard had sold their firstborns and souls, to be engulfed by the gaming company that embodies evil in the gaming world, fans and commenter have been looking for tell tell signs that the big corporate evil would soon crack into our world… of warcraft.
And that is hard to argue against. At least if you grew up watching the X-files, like I did.

Growing up

And maybe that is where the answer lies, maybe Blizzard went from a (semi-large) gaming company in the 90’s that made fun great games, then came WoW, and walls where blown down. Records shattered, buildings collapsed and the world of gaming changed forever. Maybe Blizzard feared that they could not handle their newfound success. Maybe Blizzard felt they needed the big guys supporting them, maybe they where afraid to end up like bullfrog. Maybe they thought it was time to grow up, just like their game had. Regardless, Vivendi blizzard and activision merged into the Death star of gaming.

 “he's always felt like more of a rebel on board the Millennium Falcon.

And yet, "suddenly I wake up and I'm on board the Death Star


Is it all bad?

Gamers and commenters seems convinced that it is the big bad influence of WoW as of late, is the excecutives, the top guys, the people who announced things like “quartly reports”, and not firmly but jokingly states that their games will be shipped when they are done.
All of a sudden there are stockholders who demands to know when there will be more money made, and even Blizzard has to have dates set –more or less- in stone as to when to release new content to have the bottom line look good.
I have a vision of the programmer who had to create the celestial steed, would have felt like he was whoring himself out to one of those text-services that offer to tell you whether or not your partner is cheating on you, by texting your name and theirs to a 20£ a call software that replies with random statistics.
I imagine him sitting there, wondering what he did with his life. He joined Blizzard because he wanted to make games that moved people, that made them feel like he did, when he played ‘Orcs and humans’, and now he is supplying 200’000 of his companies worst addicts with their weekly supply of dope.

Or so I imagine.

In reality there where probably more than one guy making it, and their department got a nice bonus for each sold unit, and had a great weekend due to the sales of said steed.

Like a concert

Kurnak of the many many Urnaks came with another point of view on this:
And that is a very good question.

Every concert I’ve ever been to, I’ve tried and leave with a T-shirt. Was that so I could lord it in the face of everyone else who didn’t get to go? So I could show up on Monday and show my co-workers that “Yes I had the time, the money and the tickets to not only see the band you wanted to, but also buy their t-shirt, because unlike you, I am a more loyal and better fan”.
On some levels, I think that ‘yes’, this is why. On another level I think that we buy those shirts, because shirts with a band-name can more easily explain to the world who I am as a person.
Nothing says more about a total stranger, than me a 190 cm guy, bald and with tattoos, walking around in a “spice-girls will return” shirt.
I only wore that shirt once, usually its springsteen and Tool, and Tom waits. Don’t you feel like you know me a little better already?

Been there, got the shirt

At home in my house, I have 5 big books. Well I have about a hundred books, but these ones are important in this discussion, because they are Warcraft and Diablo themed books. I’ve read em with great pleasure, even if some of them where of dubious quality (Richard A. Knaak, you need to write only 10% of what you are doing now, and spend 90% time on what you are writing, because… ugh), I still enjoyed them. I love the Warcraft and Diablo universe. My kids will get “Alliance baby-fan” baby tees, I am in many senses of the word, a fanboi.
I love that everything surrounding the game can (or will be) made to purchase. I enjoyed spending my summer holiday in Paris for the WoW-invitational. I loved standing with the huge crowd of people screaming “WOOOOO” when the guitar strings started playing announcing the launch of Diablo 3.
I loved even more the confused look on the teens and the ‘dragged-along-girlfriend/boyfriends’ who didn’t know what that guitar solo meant.
I did love that I am a bigger fan and know more about what I love, than most other wannabees. In that aspect I am very much an elitist-fanboi. I spend time, and dedication getting what I have, knowing what I know.
And in a weird way, I am proud of this.

So whats the problem then?

The problem is that, for me, WoW is a team sport. Imagine all players in wow played a big tournament of volleyball. Some played the rather silly but crowdpleasing beach version (PVP), while others engaged in the more fun, advanced but not so crowdpleasing (PVE).

When you where good at playing you got into good teams. Barcelona, or Ensidia or whomever. You also got pretty shoes and fancy balls. And trophies.
So far spectators have gotten a chance to buy team-shirts or better seats, that is fine with me. This equals mugs, mouses, books and other fan-merchandise.
 But now, players are starting to be able to buy themselves into better trophies.
“so what” some might say, “everyone knows these trophies are bought, who cares?”
Well, to me, as soon as the players on field can buy themselves better fancier stuff, how far off are we until they can buy new shoes, or better nets or faster mounts?
To me, we are getting closer and closer to this edge every time Blizzard releases new stuff for their shops.
And frankly this scares me. Or at least tells me, that soon it might be time for me to find another sport to play. 

8 comments:

  1. I can't put my finger on why I'm so bothered by this. A lot of bloggers, Tobold included, writes quite persuading about why they're totally cool with it.
    I'm not raging. But I've got an uncomfortable gut feeling that I can't rid myself of.

    Anyway you put it very well! Just wanted to say that.
    If you want to imagine what the creater of the mount felt like you can check Mike Schramm's fantasy over this. Quite believeable, don't you think?

    http://www.mikeschramm.com/general/the-slippery-slope-20100415

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  2. Oh wow, that was really good.
    And I'm glad you liked my post too lar :)

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  3. The only thing that really bothers me about this is the increase of stupid on /2 whenever I'm in town.

    I collect pets and mounts on my main toon. I do not have any pets or mounts that cost real money - I just can't justify spending money on virtual vanity items. I don't have any problems with people that do.

    If Blizzard were to sell items that weren't purely vanity, I would have a problem. I don't play games where RMT is used to progress or supply needed items. That would ruin WoW for me.

    Blizzard has provided similar vanity items for real money for quite some time, wether it be from collector's editions, the TCG, Blizzcon, or the new store. I think that they have shown that they know that money can be made from non-gamebreaking RMT.

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  4. I do believe you are right. What worries me, is when they decide to shut down WoW. Do you then think they will hold back in selling game-changing gear?
    Do you think they would start a year before? two?
    (yes, I have indeed grown up watching x-files).
    I realise it is hardly a fair question to ask.

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  5. I'm still not sure Blizz has crossed "that line", but probably is very close. To me the line stands where items you buy influence the game. Pets don't influence your gameplay. Mounts are in a grey area, because they're part of gameplay. A mount costs in-game gold, so buying it at the store saves you that... but since Blizz changed mounts so it was the skill what really costed money, this steed still belongs to the grey area. You still will need the appropiate riding/flying skill and so far can't be bought at Blizz store. I think what caused the biggest uproar was most people thought this mount would be a reward from some heroic achievement and ended in the store, at the reach of any player who has even put a foot in Ulduar (to name some 80 instance, Naxx already existed back in the 60 days)

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  6. As a volleyball player (though not high level), I can say that I don't even remotely care what stuff others get. I play because it's fun to play, and doing well at it is very satisfying. I don't play volleyball for the *stuff*, I play because it's fun.

    Ditto for games.

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  7. I do not agree.
    If you play in a run down building, with ripped balls (I used to play too)that don't fly straight, and then go to an away game to see brand new floors, balls, team-shirts and sparkly banners... You will get jealous no matter how much fun you are having at home training.

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  8. I'm talking about trophies and cosmetic fluff. Stuff that affects the game, sure, it's nice to have good gear. The Celestial Steed doesn't change how the game plays, so it's a nonissue for me.

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