It’s been a good week for new readers on the Blog: welcome, all, and I hope I can keep you entertained in the months that follow. Today, it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that yesterday, ActiBlizz released their Q4 figures for the the financial year and in No Surprise to Anyone News, they’re making cash hand over fist. However, let’s be very clear here, Warcraft is no longer the #1 Game Worldwide for this company, not by any means. That title goes, rather ironically, to the game that began life as Warcraft’s spiritual successor:
Let’s face it, Overwatch is like the new partner your unpopular sibling snagged that everybody loves but you secretly detest. 55 ‘Game of the Year’ awards also makes 2016 sound like a really shitty year for gaming innovation, or that maybe you can stand on an orange box on a street corner and shout ‘This is the best game of 2016!11!11!’ and that opinion’s automatically legitimised by the Internet. That’s sadly not far off the truth, but I digress: everybody loves Overwatch and doesn’t play Heroes of the Storm as much as they did and that’s why it got the mount crossover with ActiBlizz’ Number 2 game. Importantly, Warcraft’s still here, and getting all whiny about how much there is to do in game is the new ‘This MMO is Dying’ rallying cry. ActiBlizz recorded 447 million Monthly Active Users in Q4, and your argument that anything is broken is so invalid as to be irrelevant.
Want some context for that number that is relevant and real? Here we go.
I really don’t care that ‘Garden Shed Monthly’ voted Overwatch as Game of the Year, but knowing that ActiBlizz titles are on a par with Netflix and ahead of Snapchat use is impressive indeed. It seems almost impossible (and some might say churlish) to then be critical of a company in this position but that’s not stopping anyone anytime soon.
Nope, you can’t insult this game, the people who make it or the profits rolling in. Heaven forbid you take issue at anything, because fangirls like me just want to make sure that your ineffective mansplaining at how being angry and cross at the Company is just going to end up being treated like the comment above. You will be Removed from the conversation because you cannot argue either meaningfully or correctly, and it all ends up as petty name calling. What’s sadder still is that a fair proportion of your well-reasoned, sensible and thought out rationale on what could be improved in any title will never be seen in the light of day either. Here’s concrete evidence that the surface aesthetics have priority: 55 largely irrelevant Game of the Year titles whilst simultaneously wowing shareholders with nearly half a billion users is what is front and centre in the corporate mindset.
Somewhere along the line, priorities have become somewhat confused.
You can absolutely complain about what is toxic in Overwatch and yes, you should be heard, but the fact that every single person I speak to says just this appears to be irrelevant to development at present. Please feel free also to continue to complain that Warcraft’s moving too fast for you, because it is a legitimate complaint if you live, sleep and breathe the game. What’s apparent is that the Company’s priorities are now in vastly different places depending on what title you’re most interested in. Oh, and I’m really sorry if you like Heroes because that now seems to have become a means to promote Facebook integration, and after the justifiable outcry over that yesterday its becoming clear, at least from where I’m standing, that communication between players and the Company is more important than it has ever been before, and yet still it is not happening in the places that matter. As the numbers of monthly users continues to rise, these issues are only going to get worse.
My biggest worry in all of this is that the cosmetic is becoming the means by which you appease (or even in some cases ignore) the real issues. No more is this true than with the Heroes/Warcraft crossover, where the carrot of unique has been used to fairly devastating effect. Watching people pile in to buy boxes of Overwatch loot as soon as a new set of skins is launched, or players falling over themselves to buy the latest Warcraft plushie is, of course, the exact reason why we now have a new Division whose job it will be to exploit that niche. However, Customer Service and Feedback are where the real jobs and effort should be being placed, not in further ways to make the Company richer. Certainly I’m seeing CM’s showing willing to explain issues as they occur and to keep players informed of developments, but there remains a fairly significant gulf in how the player base returns their input to the Devs. Sure, looking at customer usage data’s great at understanding what sells and doesn’t, but it only works to a point. Success should not be simply registered in how many bottles of champagne you used to ‘toast’ your project completion.
Maybe, in the current US climate, people should start mattering more and not simply as statistics or consumers. Perhaps it could be the ideal time to record success by other means. Awards are frankly meaningless if you create an environment where casual abuse, racism and sexism run riot. If your final marker of achievement is how much cash is made, then I’d argue that you’re doing at least part of the process wrong, especially when so much of it is made from items that, in reality, have no actual value. I think, from now on, I’m going to stop reporting on these Finance calls because ultimately they’re more depressing than inspiring. Perhaps that will change if I see a real effort placed in putting players ahead of profits in the future.
Let’s see how that goes.