Thursday, June 12, 2014

Who is Blizzard Catering To?

This could very well be a hot button topic depending on who you ask you will get a different answer.  If you ask a heroic raider they will tell you that blizzard is catering to the casuals and if you ask a casual player they will tell you that blizzard is catering to the 1%.  Both will say they are catering the the bad players and the bad player will tell you there is nothing for them in game because blizzard forgets about them.

In the end I think that blizzard is really catering to none of them, and all of them, and that is the reason there are so many issues with the game right now and they have been bleeding subscriptions for a long time.  Because they are trying to cater their content toward multiple specific audiences instead of just building quality content and trying to give people the means to access that content. Which is exactly the design they had used during the biggest times of growth, make content, help people get to it by giving them the means to do so, and let them do it on their own.

If you look at the period of growth from vanilla to wrath where it leveled off and then the period of decrease in cata and mists you will see two very different games.  It is still warcraft, the same one we always played, but the game during the period of growth was about making the content and correcting what they believed were little errors in the over all design so they could make the game better over all, not for anyone in specific.  When compared to the period of decline were you see them focusing on adding things for people only instead of improving what works already to make it better.

There is an old saying that goes something like "You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time." and that is where I believe blizzard has gone wrong.  They are trying to please all of the people all of the time.  That is something that can not and will not ever be done.

It leaves people to blame everything on the game as "things are bad because they are catering to the 1% / casuals / bads".  The thing is, they are right.  They are all right.  Blizzard is catering to all those groups.  Perhaps it might not be the definition of catering you might be using, but they are.

You might think that catering to the 1% means they are making everything for the one percent.  Or catering to the casuals means they are making everything for the random group making community.  You get the idea.  But catering means putting something on the table for those people.  So everyone is right, they are catering to all these groups.  They are not catering to "only" one of these groups however.

That is where the design error in the game started to take place.  When they decided to make things for a specific gorup instead of just trying to make it quality, quick, and enjoyable, which you could see was the basic concept of vanilla thru wrath.  When the game was growing they were making their game their way.  Since then they are making the game trying to appeal to certain types, and we have seen the decline since then.

Why is that, why would making more content specifically for more people a bad thing?

Because they tried to please all of the people all of the time instead of all the people some of the time like the saying says.   You know what happens when you try to please all of the people all of the time, you upset them all instead.

So if Blizzard is catering to everyone, and not catering to any one group specifically, why do we all always blame them for doing so?

Because we are human, most of us at least, and it is human nature to see what someone else has been given and think because I do not have it they must like them better.

When I mentioned this catering to everyone idea to a friend of mine who is a long time player he said he wasn't sure he understood where I was going with it and wasn't sure he agreed with me.  Then the next day he said, I think I understand what you mean now after thinking about it.

This is how he saw it, paraphrasing of course.

When blizzard created the game they had a story to tell.  They built their game to fit the story as a vehicle to tell it and as the moved the story along to further chapters with illidan and arthas they just updated their game to the times but still focused on it being about the story.  When they stopped having a story to tell, in cataclysm, and needed to find another way to keep people playing they started to mess with the content that was always great thinking that they could make the game better and instead of making it better they just alienated parts of their audience with some changes making it appear as if they were catering to people other than themselves.

I said to him, you nailed it.  That is exactly what I am getting at.  When blizzard was concerned about making a great game and telling a great story people moved along with it, people changed with it, people grew with it.  If they just kept designing their game their way they would probably be fine but they started to listen to people and their rose tinted "it was better when" glasses.

Did the original cataclysm dungeons cater to a different crowd than what their player base had become?  Yes.  Everyone will admit that.  People who loved it, people who hated it.  People who were indifferent.  They will all agree that those dungeons were made for a specific type of player.  That was the downfall of blizzard, when they went backwards instead of forward in an effort to design something for one specific sub set of players.  It is where the catering idea comes from.  Instead of moving forward as they always had, they took a step backwards.

They changed something that was a change in their moving forward development.  No matter who they changed it for does not matter, it did not fit the flow of the game any longer.  That was no longer the direction the game was heading, they made a hard stop and u-turn and people started to get off because the ride was no longer for them.

Since then they have consistently tried to make content for specific groups, not only one group, all of them, and by doing so each step in the way they lost people because it was a change.

Blizzard needs to get back to basics and stop trying to design the game for different groups specifically and back to designing the game to tell a great story in the way that they always had, their way.  Adjusting the game to the times because the times warrant the changes, not because the players, or specific groups, want it.

Because as soon as you start listening to us players someone is bound to say you are catering to one type of player over another and that is what loses players.

Just a theory of course, but I am just like everyone else.  I believe that blizzard is catering to a certain type of player and that player is not me and I am not alone because everyone no matter how they play the game things the same thing.  There are things that seemed catered for me as well, but as is human nature, it is easier to remember what you feel slightest by than what you have been given.  That is why they are losing subs, because everyone feels they are being slighted and forgets all the great things they have been given.

Who is blizzard catering to?

They are catering to you.  No matter what type of player you are, raider, PvPer, casual, bad, etc, you are being catered to and that is why the game is losing players.  It no longer has a focus, like it did when the game was still more about the story telling and blizzard was still making the game they wanted to make instead of the game they thought people wanted them to make.


  1. Not sure I get the premise that because everyone is being catered to, nobody is. The only way that works is if you subscribe to the "if someone else gets something, it hurts me" trade chat theory.

    I do quite a few things in-game but not everything.

    I acquire gold... I feel quite supported in that, it's never been particularly difficult and is no moreso now.

    I raid, currently heroic... I started running with a decent but unspectacular set of gear (based on current normal raid pug requirements I probably wouldn't have been able to NORMAL raid, let alone heroic) but I performed well enough and slowly geared up to the point where I'm now competitive. The fights are challenging but doable after this many months, something they wouldn't have been for me 6 months ago, so they've become more accessible. I don't feel required to do outside content to raid so I'm not burning out. I have no issues here.

    I play and (casually) gear up alts... I think I have at least 15 toons with at least one spec at 540+, most of whom haven't stepped into a raid. I'm satisfied with how the gearing up has gone.

    I collect mounts but avoid the low-% ones... I buy mounts, I'll grind for mounts (with guaranteed results, things like Netherwing) but I generally won't run instances every week for years trying to get something. Yet, I'm comfortably over 200 mounts and still have 10 or so that I could get relatively easily, just haven't gotten around to it. No complaints here.

    I can't think of one element of my gameplay that isn't at least solid... am I sometimes bored? Sure, but that's normal after all this time (my time in game, not a comment about the age of the game). When I feel like playing I can always find something to do.

    If the game stopped doing all that and went full-on story mode it would probably die... simple fact is that a single player game can always do a story better than an MMO, there'd be little to no market for an MMORPG that didn't actually have the core MMO elements.

    1. It basically means that blizzard is spending so much time trying to make everyone happy that the quality of the story and the game is going down. If they would just go back to a single "this is the path of the game" version like they had from vanilla up to wrath they would be better off over all.

      If they want back to doing it their way instead of making content for everyone all the things you mentioned would still be in the game. So you would still have all of them to do. The difference might be some things might be a little harder, or a little easier, because they would just design them the way they want to, and not have to consider what every single special group will cry about.

      The reward is too much to give casuals, the grind is too long for me, the mobs are too hard and I can't do the dailies, there is no portal here, blah blah, blah.

      Making everyone happy means there is more for others to be unhappy about. Just make one game, one way, and let people either play it or not. They were gaining customers back when they were doing that. Since they moved to the lets please everyone mode they have been losing customers.

  2. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    During Wrath, what patch was it that delivered the first Looking For Dungeon?

    Whatever the patch number, that is the point in time that your divergence occurred. For the first time, Blizzard made a mistake that was popular as a game tool but ultimately destructive to the social fabric of the game. That is not an easy feat to accomplish but Blizzard managed to do it. As I feared, the popularity of the Looking For system has insinuated itself firmly into the game, so firmly I really can't see them removing it anytime soon or to be honest, at all. But that was your turning point...

    1. Yes, that was the last patch, or second to last I believe. That was the beginning of the end. While I love he ease of having it and not having to make groups by hand, it can be argued it hurt the game in ways no one could have imagined.

      They will never remove it. It is here to stay and it keeps getting worse.

      I do like the new group finder they are adding where it shows a list of people that are signed up for it and you hand assemble your 25 or so people. That is how it should have been to begin with.

  3. Anon GL, It was Patch 3.3

    Just for a counter example for fun. I have played WoW off and on since Beta. I never got into the dungeons at all however, they were extremely inefficient for leveling, the time required to get a group together and complete them took way longer than just leveling. When I got to max level the guild wanted to try MC and invited me. It was the most painful experience in any game we killed 3 trash mobs in 2 hours. Obviously the group wasn't ready but I definitely wasn't ready for endgame PvE either. I quit my account a few weeks later. I always came back a few months later played with some friends and leveled up new characters, and dabbled in some PvP from time to time.

    Anyway to stop rambling, when Patch 3.3 came out I decided to actually play through the game doing the dungeons. I leveled my Paladin who was the most boring thing in the world when I tried to previously level him completely in dungeons. I went on to learn to enjoy the PvE aspect of the game and now Co-Raid lead (with that same Pally Tank) our team for the last 2-3 years. Which I can honestly say there is no way I would have gotten into raiding or played as much WoW as I have since then if it hadn't been for the LFG tool.

    1. For each awesome success story of the LF system like yours there are 10,001 nightmares that people have because they used it.

      Yes, there are a great many people that have used the group finder to good ends. Heck, I do as well, it is the only reason I have the legendary cloak on alts. But perhaps the game would have developed differently if it were not released. We can only speculate.

      I would have loved to see something added like OQ (which they are adding) instead of the LF system. It would have opened the group finding options and still made it so people would generate relationship, become friends, and reputation would matter.

      I remember those days of wanting to run a dungeon and sitting in the city for 3 hours to try and find a group that wanted one. Or having someone drop once you were in one and not being able to complete it because of that.

      A system like that, I believe, would have been better than the one we have. It would have really increased the quality of person (notice I did not mention player) that we run into. The random system that groups us with anyone has lead to most if not all of the toxic behavior in the game.

      I am sure a system like that, well implemented and zoning into an instance directly like the group finder has, would have made you stay and given you a better class of person to play with and possibly made you more friendship because you would group with the same people (the ones you liked running with) over and over.

  4. This seems to be the entire genre now unfortunately, mmo's that when release try to be a little of something to everyone but then the quality of every component suffers.
    I don't think any company, even blizz has the time, resources and man power to create engaging gameplay for each demographic.. that's just impossible so we have a lot of areas that don't get the updates, fixes and new content they need to engage the players. so people get pissed off on the forums that they're not being catered too enough, of course there's favouritism at times to certain parts. And then you have the problem of going, what is it now, 18 months without a decent update because that update is trying to be a little of everything

    1. I think that is really want ti all boils down to. They are trying to please everyone and in the process end up not pleasing anyone. It is an noble endeavor of course, who would not want a game that had something for everyone, but as you said, I do not think anyone has the resources to do so. They need to learn that and get back to making one game with one vision and picking up everyone that likes that vision instead of trying to be what everyone wants.