It’s no secret that the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft is worsening since some time. Blizzard transformed a game with depth into a game that even you grandma would understand and love. In other words, the game is losing complexity and gets streamlined. It’s obvious, they did at least try to attract more players, people who would otherwise never touch such a game. This is something we see happening regularly in the game industry, especially when investors are in the boat. It’s not about creating or maintain great games anymore, it’s about maximization of profits.
However, once the ball is rolling, you can expect more and more features that are made to feed the greed of investors. The latest new feature of World of Warcaft is called WoW Token. When Blizzard announced it, the name of the feature alone did read like trouble.
What is the WoW Token? It is a new in-game item that allows player to exchange gold and game time between each other as they say. Players can buy this new item in the in-game store of World of Warcraft with real money and after that they can sell this item in the auction house at the current market price for WoW in-game currency gold. If another player buys a Token in the auction house, it will be bound to his account, which means the buyer can’t trade but use the item. So, if the player does use the item, it will redeem 30 days of game time to the players World of Warcraft account.
To be honest, I do at least what they try, I think they try to kill the “black market” that got created around the game World of Warcraft. Players did sell accounts and in-game gold on Ebay and in all kind of forums and through other channels. Blizzard will indeed kill this market which is not bad but I do also see several problems with the new feature.
With this new feature, Blizzard gives up and says “Ok, we allow this behaviour of buying gold now, but we will sell the gold to the lazy gamers”. Will this will probably kill the “black market” around World of Warcraft, while this will give the old gold sellers a hard time, it is also a clear message that they do support players who are too lazy to earn gold in-game by playing. To make it more clear, it’s a message to all players who played the game and earned their gold on this way, that Blizzard takes more care about those who don’t. It’s yet another sign that the game gets more and more streamlined.
The backbone of World of Warcaft is already broken since some time. Most serious players did left the game and never came back, or they activated at times but got disappointed very fast and became inactive again. I saw a whole WoW guild dying out and most people I still had contact to mentioned that they hated it how the game became streamlined. This means, there are probably not much people left who would complain about the new WoW Token. Blizzard did breed a user base that will actually welcome features like that one. The whole process of streamlining went slowly but over time they did effectively replace the whole community. They do now have a user base that loves it if everything is easy and if you don’t have to do anything anymore to reach goals in-game.
Blizzard successfully did what investors demand, the game shouldn’t just do well, the game should drive profit like hell. Investors never get the mouth full, to make them happy, developers really need to streamline the game until as said your grandma would play the game with you due to all the simplifications. That is as said nothing you would only see in World of Warcraft, it’s actually rather something happening with most games and the whole gaming industry, in fact it is something you do even see in other industries that are not related to games.
Not that I have a problem with capitalism, but this is capitalism gone wrong. It is not only damaging products, it is killing the creativity of a whole industry. It’s absolutely clear that a company needs profit, but if this is the only focus and not about the product anymore, you will notice it. If the game is streamlined to that point, people who loved the product once will leave it and never come back. This is why publishers breed new communities, players who accept that state of the gaming industry. This means, World of Warcaft is of course not done, it’s not done for those who accept dumbed down games that are purely updated to milk the player base, but it’s done for the players who made this game great.