Well, that answers that question

A couple of days ago, I posed the question, “Who is this game for?” I am pretty sure I now have my answer.

Official Blizz announcement:

This Tuesday, February 9, at 3:00 p.m. PST, tune in live at Twitch.tv/Warcraft to watch several top World of Warcraft streamers, YouTubers, and personalities from Europe and North America race against the clock—and each other—in some of the new max-level dungeons coming in World of Warcraft: Legion.

Our two teams will be racing through two dungeons: The Maw of Souls, a brand-new dungeon not yet available in the Legion Alpha, and the Heroic difficulty version of Halls of Valor, home of the greatest warriors of the vrykul. While these teams have had some practice with Halls of Valor on lower difficulty, this will be the first time any adventurer has set foot in The Maw of Souls—all these two teams know is to expect the unexpected!

For this challenge, we’ve assembled a colossal collection of some of the biggest names in the World of Warcraft community. Representing Europe: Treckie, Bellular, Qelric, and Alex and Loz of FatbossTV. To face off against them, representing North America: Towelliee, Killars, Monkioh, and Tattva and Tovo of Line of Sight Gaming. Both of these teams have a ton of experience, knowledge, and history with World of Warcraft—but will it be enough to triumph?

Assistant Game Director Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas will join Community Manager Josh “Lore” Allen to provide commentary and insight as each team fights through the dungeons in a race to earn the fastest time possible. The winning team will claim victory not only for themselves, but for the region they represent!

Who is this game for? It is clear from this announcement that Legion, at least, is for the elite players, for the “stars” and the wannabes. It is for the new Activision Blizzard eSports Division. It is for dev-execs like Watcher to indulge their Howard Cosell fantasies. It is for the advertisers currently losing revenue because no one is watching the WoW streamers whose channels they place their ads on.

Why else would Blizz make An Event out of an expansion draft that is not even in beta yet, with classes and specs far out of balance and buggy?

And not for nothin’, but apparently Blizz has reverted to what I can only assume is its core attitude of flippant and snarky answers to legitimate questions. As quoted on MMO-C’s Blue Posts today, in response to a serious question about when we might expect Legion beta with — presumably — a wider group of testers, there was this:
Community Manager
2016/02/04 11:44:00 AM


Nice. Such a great, respectful, satisfying response to a perfectly reasonable question. Now, I grant you that this CM may not know when the beta will be available, or indeed if it ever will be. But what a missed opportunity to show the community that a serious concern, if well presented, will elicit a serious response. The CM could have responded, for example, that she does not know, but here are some of the factors we consider in order to decide when to launch a beta.

But no, much better to give a snide one-word non-answer that has the dual benefit of demonstrating how very witty she is while at the same dismissing this player’s concerns as trivial.

Anyway, back to my main point: Legion is being developed for the less than 1%, not for the majority of current players, who have transitioned in Blizz’s view from customer-players to “audience”.

Going slightly tinfoil-hat here, but of note, this transition might even explain some of the extreme ability pruning we see. I am guessing that most people watch eSports for games with which they already have some familiarity. So it is to Blizz’s benefit to increase their audience by promoting it as accessible to new players. Accessible for the basics, mind you, not for the full end game experience. If you can draw in new players with the movie and possibly with a port to game consoles, if these new players only have to learn a few button fundamentals, that may be enough to profitably increase the eSports audience size for the game. (Better, it may lure them into other Blizz franchises.)

So maybe Legion is being written for two groups — brand new players who are never really expected to get to the end game, and the afore-mentioned “personalities” and “elite” players.

Another quick detour. This announced “event” makes it clear why Blizz went with the highly-restricted alpha test instead of a larger beta as they usually do. By inviting the “personalities” and streamers, they ensured these players would have a huge advantage in mastering the new stuff, thereby helping them to maintain their profit margins while at the same time allowing the eSports Division to create continuing events even between expansions.

(And forgive me for a bit of schadenfreude here, but wouldn’t it be awesome if the new Maw of Souls turned out to be a complete tech, mechanics, and class balance disaster during the live stream?  It won’t, of course, because even Blizz is not that incompetent, except when they are launching a live expansion (Mists, WoD). But still…)

So far, of course, these streaming events are “free” — i.e., revenue-generating through placed ads. But mark my words, soon you will have to pay actual money to view them, either as single events or through some sort of “premium” subscription. You heard it here first.

So we know who this game is for. Who is it not for? It is not for players like me, who love the game but who do not care to make it a profession.

It is not for the “serious casuals”, who play it for relaxation and sometimes escape, but who also like to challenge themselves to become more skilled — because when the class and profession mechanics totally change every expansion, you can’t really progress in your skills, you can only start new, become semi-proficient, start again, etc.

It is not for the social player, who loves being in a social guild or a leveling guild or a casual raiding guild.

It is not for the player who loves to level and quest, because that process has become chaotic and disjointed, a mere means to an end rather than the end in and of itself.

So I asked the question, “Who is this game for?” Now I know, and I regret asking. As my grandmother used to warn me, “Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.”






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.

4 Responses to Well, that answers that question

  1. Grumsta says:

    This is simply a continuation of the trend we’ve seen emerging during WoD, I don’t find it alarming or surprising, just tedious tbh.

    I will make a totally irrelevant comparison to the game of soccer if I may. Just because there are leet players of soccer who perform in front of millions on TV and earn gazzilions from it, it doesn’t stop me and my mates playing exactly the same game for fun in the park, with jumpers for goalposts. (You can be a filthy casual in any game, you know.)

    Blizzard are a commercial company, and if they can put on a few events that create publicity that brings in a few new players and subscriptions then fair play to them. I agree with you that the Alpha was being used primarily as a promotional event, but there is also good class feedback happening so it is also serving a genuine development need. Once the Alpha was opened up to 13/13M players I think the balanced shifted more positively to development input, as seen with recent Rogue tuning feedback.

    Those of us who lurk and comment here are probably some of the most cynical players of the game, but there are plenty even in the more stoic Europe guilds I’m in that are genuinely hyped for Legion. They need a steady trickle of teasers and stuff to watch and comment on or they’ll literally(tm) explode.

    Personally I’d like to see more dev engagement on class changes over this kind of slick TwitchTV PR non-event, but at least they’re doing something to keep the excitement levels up while we wait (patiently or not) for the movie and the next xpac to land.

    Despite the poor reception of WoD, there is a steady trickle of new players into the game in anticipation of Legion’s arrival. Anything Blizz can do to maintain their interest and entice more along is welcome.

    If Blizz want to charge people to watch live events a la WWF then good luck to them. Like Premiership soccer (and indeed WWF) I will simply ignore it.

    Quite what the new players who join having watched one of these events on Twitch and then playing the game for themselves think……. bit of a shock I’d imagine 🙂

    • Fiannor says:

      It is, as you say, a continuation of a trend. I think for me it is not so surprising as it is blatantly in-your-face, a confirmation of something I knew but stubbornly did not wish to be forced to confront. (I don’t like to think about things I don’t like to think about!)

      I think your soccer comparison is very apt, I have made my own similar mental comparison with American football. Where I worry about the model diverging is in the actual design of the game. This is stupidly silly, but I will use it to get at a point: What if the soccer rules were suddenly amended to require that goals could only be scored if the scoring kick originated from behind a line 25 meters from the goal? Or that the midfield line had to be an actual wall 1.5 meters high, that players had to vault over every time they crossed it, and use passes with height to move the ball across it? Such a game design would effectively preclude all but excellent athletes from playing the game.

      I am not saying that WoW is at the point where only hardcore gamers (“excellent athletes” from my silly comparison) can play it, but I do worry that end game design — combined with what seems to me to be design dismissal of many other aspects of the game — is trending that way.

      I also think that trend is reinforced when the only alpha testers are the gaming equivalent of elite athletes. What is fun and challenging for them can easily be insurmountably frustrating for the middle-aged part time player. I think I understand the pickle Blizz is in with this — they cannot afford to waste resources on testers who log in once and never give any feedback, but the fact remains that the testing pool is skewed towards something akin to professional players. By the time a beta occurs, if we go by past experience, nothing but minor tuning changes will be made, no matter what the comments are about major design features.

      There is no doubt that the game needs a major influx of new players, but they need to come into a game that keeps their interest for longer than the trial period. I am certain there is, as you say, a trickle of returning and new players in anticipation of Legion, and I am certain there will be a significant increase in players when it goes live. But if Legion cannot hold the interest of the majority of players (non-elite-raiding), the subsequent crash will be greater than the post-WoD decline.

  2. Crooked says:

    You make a pretty sudden leap from ‘Blizzard holding an event’ to ‘this game isn’t for 75% of the people who play it’, one that I can’t follow.

    Is it about who they got to participate? It only makes sense here that they would get people that other people would tune in to watch.

    Or is it about alpha/beta access, something which I am not labelling you directly of, but there seems to be a lot of entitlement surrounding. Access _should_ be exclusive, and I don’t see the appeal, as an average player, of select playtesting other than the ‘I got in first’ factor.

    Perhaps you can explain how you would change this event to make yourself feel less excluded?

  3. Even though I’m actually in the alpha, I missed this. I agree that it’s an upsetting trend. I noticed during the last BlizzCon livestream that the focus was about 90% on “eSports”, something that I’m really not interested in.

    I do raid currently, but that is literally the only thing I do aside from RP with a few friends. On other nights, we are all spread around to other games, mostly FFXIV. (I personally enjoy SWTOR a great deal, but I haven’t had much luck swaying anyone over there!) The ability prune is one of my major concerns about Legion and I think you may be correct in that they’re trying to MOBA-ize it. I already see them putting in a lot of Diablo systems, which also strikes me as strange since… that’s not the game I’m playing.

    Anyway I greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts and plan to stick around here! 😀 Hunter used to be my “main alt class” but I really don’t like the Legion changes so not sure if I’ll even play then or not.

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