|Yes, we KNOW. You’ve been playing since before they invented the Internets… ^^|
You may remember last year I had some hassle with my (old) ISP. We’d been with them a LONG time, right back to the 1990’s when they were formed in the basement of a local cinema. We went from modems to ISDN and finally to a Router as the communications revolution gained momentum. There was never any hassle with them until the day that they started routing their traffic through one of the problematic European ISP’s, who believed that restricting traffic at peak times was a good idea, and who didn’t understand that throttling performance meant the end of usefulness as a supplier to a family of Gamers. Needless to say, we knew then it was time to move on.
Loyalty today, in the ever changing world of MMO’s, is a strange concept. With the average attention span it’s hard to believe that anyone can grind away at anything for an extended period of time. However, I know I’m not alone in the Warcraft ‘World of Dedication’. I see the same people every day online: I could give you half a dozen names, the ‘regulars’ who log in the morning the same time I do, who are at the Auction House or advertising their wares in Trade. I am part of a distinct subset, and with our chat yesterday concerning the statistical data that Blizzard has concerning our habits and actions, I find myself thinking that the Devs know this too. That’s why the 12 Month Pass was introduced, after all. Sign up for a year and we’ll give you a free gift, but most importantly we’ll let you play with the game before anyone else can.
For me, it’s the ultimate reason to keep playing: I’ve coveted Beta Access since it was offered. I’ve put on a brave face when it’s not come but yes, deep down, I’ve wished I had it. By tapping into this basic desire I am, like it or not, here until the Pandas are officially a playable race. After that… how do Blizzard intend to reward loyalty once Pandaland goes live?
Looking into the future is always a dangerous game to play, after all I could never have predicted I’d still be here six years ago (coming up for seven, I know) Blizzard’s ability to reinvent the Wheel will be remembered historically as the ultimate game-changer: it’s also clear that if an idea won’t work, they’ll change their plans (real names on forums eh?) Is there a cubicle at Blizzard HQ where a woman sits and analyses statistical data, looking for new avenues to exploit? [*] I’m betting it’s bigger than a cubicle, or else we wouldn’t have a free copy of Diablo 3 tacked onto our 12 Month Pass. We’d not have the ability to sell virtual items from D3 for real world cash. We’d not be seeing a service like Battle.net Balance to make it easier to purchase any Blizzard product. Question is, what happens after the next Expansion?
Blizzard’s new MMO, that’s what.
People already want to play it, and it doesn’t exist. If the day comes when Blizzard finally pulls the plug on Azeroth, there will be MANY PEOPLE who’s time and investment in the game will be as sizeable as mine, if not more so. What better way to reward those who have stuck with them since the start than not simply a free copy of The New MMO, and some free gifts, but a stack of free play time? Look at those days /played and translate them into new days earnt in your new endeavour. What a great way to get a bunch of people back into your old game in it’s final days to boot, sending you out with a last massive bang.
Hell, you don’t even need to wait until then. Why not award all those longevity players with a special title (sadly, can’t use Veteran or Elder. ‘Been here since Vanilla’ might work but is gonna break the 4th wall for the RP-ers…) Perhaps Blizzard could put up a Special Forum where Veterans could congregate. They could be used to arrange ‘introductory’ events on Servers, offering to ‘mentor’ younger players… to help to try and reintroduce a sense of Community which (it has been said) might have begun to wane on certain servers.
There is a lot of time and effort wrapped up in the ‘Veteran’ Community, and Blizzard is at least beginning to acknowledge that such loyalty does deserve to be rewarded. What might be beneficial for both players and developers would be if the relationship was more actively developed in the run up to the new expansion: not just the Hardcore raiders, but the Solo Players too. There are a lot of voices that are already heard via the data they generate, perhaps it is time to put some additional context to the numbers.
[*] Who am I kidding, it’s a secret floor that no-one can see in Blizzard’s HQ, and it’s run exclusively by Etherials. They know a good deal better than any Goblin… ^^