Time for Plan B?

Last week I was having a girls’ night out with some of my admittedly “fringe-y” artsy fartsy friends, and someone brought up the subject of Plan B spouses. The theory being put forth was that most people in any sort of committed relationship have a secret “Plan B” significant other picked out in case anything god forbid should happen to Mr/Ms “Plan A”. Usually the Plan B person is just someone you know — probably casually — and likely doesn’t even have an inkling of their status in your life contingency plans. None of us admitted to having a Plan B but went on to say if we did have one, it would be So-and-So, and everyone laughed and pretended to be shocked, and then we ordered another round of drinks and went on to more serious subjects like Girlfriend you have GOT to tell me how much you paid for those shoes!

But over the weekend I started to think maybe it is time to start looking for a Plan B MMO game.

Everything I see coming from Blizzard these days seems to fit in with the idea that WoW is drawing down, kind of like how you stop stocking the fridge and vacuuming when you know you are going to be moving out soon. Every public statement from Blizz reinforces that idea to me. For an example, take a look at the recent VentureBeat/GamesBeat interview of Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas. He didn’t say anything really outrageous, and clearly the interviewer was tossing him softball questions, but the whole tone of his comments seemed kind of like he was just going through the motions, mindlessly mouthing Blizz party lines. I get that this is his job, but honestly I would have liked to hear a tiny bit of excitement about the game, some sign that even if WoD has disappointed some players there are really great things coming in the next year. Some indication that Watcher himself is still passionate about the game. And no, the mandatory hype of Patch 6.2 does not count.

When asked how Blizz views the recent rise and fall of subscribers, Watcher gave a fairly amusing answer. He said that the bump in subs at the launch of WoD “affirmed that we had picked the right idea and the right setting for an expansion and managed to deliver on an experience that really got a lot of people excited about the game.” But then he went on to gloss over the Q1 loss of 3 million subs, saying “It’s not about chasing numbers …” Later on he attributes the drop to “… things are just cyclical.”

Note that he did not attribute the bump to being “cyclical.” No, a 3 million bump was affirmation of Blizz’s design, but an almost immediate 3 million drop really didn’t signify anything. Mmmmmhmm.

About the only other thing that really struck me about the interview, other than the lack of passion about the game, was Watcher’s almost surreal view of WoD’s problems. The only thing he talked about when asked if there were anything disappointing about WoD was the irrelevance of 5-player dungeons after one or two times through. While true, it showed me that he was either unaware of or chose to ignore the causative issues, such as the domino effect of the removal of valor.

When asked about player complaints about time spent on garrisons, Watcher shooed away any such thought. He explained that many people loved just logging in quickly to send some followers on missions, then logging off, that this was time they would not otherwise have spent logged in.

Has he actually played this game lately, or is he just getting Happy Valley fluff briefings from sycophantic interns? Has he ever actually gone through 4 or 5 alts a night each with a level 3 garrison?

He also made a very telling comment that players “… aren’t necessarily viewing World of Warcraft as a year-round lifestyle.” Standing alone, the statement is pretty ho-hum, but viewed in context of Activision Blizzard’s stated goal of pursuing games that attract year-round participation, Watcher’s comment becomes almost sinister for the future of WoW. Corporate wants year-round games, and the very structure of WoW is cyclical. Something will give here.

Over the weekend I started for the first time to notice how my server has taken on a sort of ghost town atmosphere. I seldom find very many BoE epics in the auction house when I am browsing for gear bargains for alts. This tells me that fewer and fewer people are doing raids of any kind, LFR or other. I left my social guild mainly because we no longer had any active players and could not fill a raid team, but even my raiding guild has gone on hiatus because there are just not enough active and geared players available on raid nights. Even Watcher admitted that many raiding guilds are cutting back, especially in light of the high bar to Mythic. (Then he went on to explain it was basically too much effort to make Mythic more group-size friendly. So even though this design is adversely impacting high-end raiders — the one group Blizz seems to still care about — they will not be doing anything to fix it.)

Thus, I am starting to think about my Plan B. I’ve never wanted to play any other game than WoW, I am not what anyone would call a gamer. I don’t like the first person shooter genre, been to a few Call of Duty-type LAN parties with coworkers and tried to like that style, but just can’t. They just seem too grim and gritty to be fun. Before I started WoW, I tried Second Life but was bored silly almost immediately, never saw the point of the thing, plus the virtual landscape was a tad too virtual for my taste.

What appealed to me about WoW is that it is realistic enough to engage me, but not so realistic that it seems close to real life. From the start, I loved the graphics, and they have gotten better with each expansion. They hit the sweet spot for me, not too cartoonish, not too real. Same with the character depictions.

I haven’t found anything else yet that fills this bill for me. For awhile I thought Wildstar would be it, but I just could not get interested in it, even though I did spend a couple of months trying. For one thing, it was a tad too cartoonish. I probably could have gotten past that, but I also could not get interested in the story line. I am not a big lore-head in WoW, but at least until WoD I thought the story line was rich and full and engaging. Then of course the other thing with Wildstar was that it is PC-only, meaning I had to do some machinations to make it work on my Mac. (Don’t hate.)

So Wildstar is not my Plan B. I don’t really have a good Plan B at the moment, but I have started to look. I don’t think the demise of WoW is imminent, I think it is at the beginning of what will be a slow decline. (It occurs to me that for some number of years there has been speculation about what would ultimately claim the title of WoW-killer, wouldn’t it be ironic if it turned out to be Blizz?)

But it never hurts to have a backup. Any of you have a good Plan B to recommend?

 

 

 

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

7 Responses to Time for Plan B?

  1. TheGrumpyElf says:

    My top 3 plan B games are as follows.

    1) Final Fantasy 14
    2) Wildstar
    3) Rift

    I’d rather not go 2 or 3 even if I did like them but 1 seems like a solid pick. It is a good game thus far for me and to look at things in a wider view, their subs went up to 4 million in the last report and their expansion isn’t even due out for another 2 months. It is a growing game. That holds some attraction for me. Now if only I could get some friends to play with it might be more fun.

    • Fiannor says:

      Thanks, I’ll definitely check it out. There is something very attractive about a game that is growing with such respectable numbers, even before launch.

  2. Delirium says:

    The thing wow has going for it, in my head, is that even as most servers are taken over by little kids and trolls who act like little kids, there’s still a pretty awesome community sort of hidden in there. And that’s all I really want from an MMO. If I want a good story I’ll play dragon age; if I want to do some exploring I’ll play skyrim, but I play WoW because I want to interact with other humans from time to time (even if it goes against my instincts).

    So I kind of hope that at some point, everyone decides on a new game to play. I don’t really even care what it is, I just want the 3-5 million players (the players who aren’t just there to troll) to decide on a game and that’s what I’ll play. That makes it really hard for me to think of a back up, as I don’t think that game will emerge (if it even ever does) until people stop playing WoW.

    • Fiannor says:

      I like that idea! You are right about the awesome community that is hidden. I actually think there are such pockets of people on every server, it’s just that it takes more work to find them on some servers. Even if I find my Plan B, I will almost certainly stick with a WoW until the bitter end, whenever that may be.

  3. I hear people talk about Final Fantasy and Dragon Age a lot. I’ve not tried them, I’m still very invested in WoW and there is too much to do still; my guild is growing and starting Alt Raids now. Try those Plan B games, many in WoW seem to like them.
    And, I’ll say, Watcher is slick; very slick. He can spin like a Used Car Salesman who has been to Art School. I think you did a great job and reading between the lines, culling out what was barely said or not said at all.

  4. Gefion says:

    Hey there Fi, I thought I’d stop by and comment on an appropriate topic since the guild website seems to have tanked… A good “Plan B” game for me was Guild Wars 2, which I happen to have had for quite a while, and because it lacks a monthly fee, I don’t have to worry about breaking the bank to have some fun. The lore is something that’s built up over the game, and the story you receive is dependent on your decisions in character creation. It’s not quite a “cartoony” game, but it’s not super grisly either, I like to think of it as a good mix between insanity and detail, if that makes any sense at all. I decided to mention GW2 because it happens to be the MMO I’m playing the most right now since WoW is out of my price range.

    • Fiannor says:

      Hey Gef, good to hear from you. Thanks for the suggestion! (Ya, the guild web site has been dismantled, no one ever used it any more. I left the guild about a month ago myself, we just did not have any active members, sadly.)

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