Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 24, 2011
 
Zul'Content competition

In a timely fashion the news of today develops my point from the previous post a bit further: If we assume a market full of MMORPGs with relatively similar gameplay and mechanics, the competition in that market would presumably be about content. Just like competing TV channels, the question would become who offers the most engaging content at any given time. This is one area where Blizzard appears vulnerable, as for most players the amount of content offered in any one expansion plus related patches is not sufficient to fill up all of the two years Blizzard needs to bring out the next expansion.

On the other hand, any minor content addition to World of Warcraft automatically becomes big news. Thus today's headline on many MMORPG sites is not "Rift head-start launches", but "WoW brings back Zul'aman and Zul'gurub". With the conspiracy theorists of course claiming that this is deliberate timing by Blizzard.

Whether that is true or not, just the fact that some people can believe that shows us how far ahead in the content competition game World of Warcraft is. On any reasonable scale, the release of a whole new game with lots of zones and features would rank far ahead of an announcement that in some time in the future a 6-year old game will recycle two old raid dungeons as 5-man heroics. But no, most players are far more excited by another chance of getting their 17th "rare" mount than by a new game launching.

I am not a psychologist, but I would guess that this is coming from something like an endowment effect for virtual goods. Not only do you value the character you already have more than a similar character you could create in a new world; but also the "rare mount" in the game you are already playing is perceived to be more valuable than a similar "rare mount" in a new game.

I like trolls, at least in WoW, not so much on blogs, so I'm looking forward to playing Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub again, albeit hopefully shortened significantly, or split into wings. But as long as "WoW adds a third and fourth recyled old heroic dungeon to the game" remains big news, other games will have a hard time getting anywhere in the content competition.
Comments:
Or it's their big chance to catch up, if blizz keeps going to rehash old content.

"Boredom" is one of the most heard complaint about WoW nowadays, and I doubt such things will help with that.
 
"But no, most players are far more excited by another chance of getting their 17th "rare" mount than by a new game launching."

Eh, I'm not convinced. It's certainly 'new news' in that the launch of Rift's head-start has been known for some time whilst we hadn't known about this, but Zul'Again doesn't seem to be generating the buzz that the newsmongers seem to think that it should. Content-starved websites will jump on new info for the game that's their bread-and-butter, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the player base is particularly keen.
 
Meh, the ZA/ZG announcement was the lay bit of confirmation I needed that Blizzard has no intention of rectifying any of the mistakes made in Wrath.

Epics from 5-man content? Why not just delete Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight from the game when the new patch rolls around, while they're at it?
 
refurbishing the old content is a great idea. Not just from an efficiency point of view but I also never liked how so much of the content was left just to sit there and languish. Why shouldn't the goal be to make all the content playable again.

And I have no doubt that Blizz has been working on these instances for a good while and probably planned to bring them out around this time anyway.

But if you think that them dropping these to the ptr today is just a coincident then, I don't know what to say. You are living in a different world. I don't fault blizzard for choosing today. I wouldn't call it an evil plot. I would call it a sensible business decision for counter advertising and trying to retain your player base.

But if you really thing it was just by chance that the two days landed together and blizz didn't plan it at all? Well, I have bad news for you about Santa Claus as well.
 
If Rift is suffering from the 4.1 preview, then it has bigger issues and I fear for its future. Blizzard hasn't even released any information on the raids yet (beyond the Blizzcon preview). We knew 4.1 would add new heroics, it's surprising that they are ZG/ZA. But at the same time, it's not like Blizzard didn't hint at it in the past.

Now if only Blizzard could rework Outland and somehow find a way to release Black Temple as a 5 man (or even a 10 man a la UBRS), maybe then they could justify BC's price tag.
 
"the "rare mount" in the game you are already playing is perceived to be more valuable than a similar "rare mount" in a new game"

That's also caused by the number of people playing - people would rather have their tiger potentially impress 10 million WoW players than half a million Rifters. And the fact that it probably doesn't actually impress anyone at all doesn't matter to them.

As for the new dungeons - I wonder what the difficulty will be. Because a lot of people consider the current raiding tier hard - even you're not eager to try it. I like the current raid design of "close to 0 trash, long boss battles", I don't like current heroic 5-mans because of the time they take to complete (a 7 boss heroic takes almost as much time as killing 5 bosses in BWD raid), but I wonder how will people cope with more heroic heroics.
 
Emotional attachment to a game adds the extra value people place on the 17th mount. People that are presently enjoying wow do not really care about other games or the MMO genre or industry as a whole. It seems only ex- or non- or bored wow players are interested in other news.

So I would agree with you that as long as the mob drinks from the Blizzard well so to speak, they will be deaf to the clamor of competitors.
 
It's "big news" because the number of people (WoW players) to whom it's relevant is much higher than the number of people who pre-ordered Rift or have been following its hype. New MMOs launch every year, and, even of the notable ones, most of them have terrible launches and ultimately fail.

A real headline would be "Rift launch complete, bug-free, and with sufficient server space".
 
the "new" 5 mans will be grinded in less than one month... what will offer bliz then? the more you spread jelly, the more thin it gets :)

All boils down to what content will be available in both games three months from now. And that's not gonna be much, wow side.
 
Re-hashing old content is the thin end of the wedge.

It is a cheap option to placate paying subscribers.

Whilst I champion Bliz for the effort on the post-cata world/playing space... rehashed content like this as a patch is akin to picking up a book I have read 5 times already, simply with a new cover.

I already own the book, and wouldn't dream of buying it again even if it was edited.

The theme park stays static even if you have to be a bit taller for the rides.

Blizzard still astound me, with their resources... tangible content is not added to world to drive any aspect of the mo'RPG' outside of dungeons.

Blizzard need to play catch-up, as they still are 2nd class to the level of free content, quests, events, areas and game mechanics added to Lotro via patches.
 
@GG: LOTRO continues to be one of the least fun MMOs out there, for me.

It's all when and good having such a fantastic story, but if I don't reach it because your game's combat is so slow and ungainly and my character (and the models and animations in general) so clunky and just, well, weird, then you might as well not have that story at all.
 
Issuing a press release about an upcoming product on the same day a competitor launches a new product is pretty much standard operating procedure for most marketing departments. Marketers have this idea that there is only so much "air in the room" when it comes to the media. Personally, I don't buy into that theory since it depends so much on the circumstances surrounding the products at the time.

So it makes sense that we're seeing Patch 4.1 publicized by Blizzard today. But I'm not so sure it really sends the message Blizzard wants to convey. Here we have Rift launching and yes, it's pretty much a WoW-clone but it's a pretty good clone with some new and inventive ideas about classes and dynamic content among other things, and on the other hand ... we have Blizzard advertising the repurposing of old content. I'm sure ZG and ZA will be fun experiences for players but under the surface I'm not sure that's the kind of message Blizzard should be conveying to the player base -- "hey look, we're redoing some old content, so don't look over there at that new game." It subtly reinforces the image of Blizzard providing old content or ideas instead of new content or ideas. It might have been better to ignore Rift's start all together in that case.
 
> the "rare mount" in the game you are already playing is perceived to be more valuable than a similar "rare mount" in a new game.

Things are valuable in proportion to the number of people who recognize it and desire it. Thus to most people in the U.S. a Superbowl ring is more impressive than a Fields medal. So a rare mount in a new game is not valuable because there are so few players who know about the game, much less the mount.

About the rehashing of old instances: nostalgia is a powerful motivation. I remember how excited people were about Heroic Deadmines. In fact, I'd say that the whole flying-through-Azeroth and maybe the whole Cataclysm expansion is largely driven by the nostalgia market. I for one was quite excited to set my hearth to SW again and be able to fly round instead of risk falling in the canals. :)
 
Rift certainly doesn't have the same hype that AOC or Warhammer had. It's been mentioned, and I know people who are playing it, but it's not even in the same league as those games as far as mass defection goes. Given how AOC and WAR turned out, that might be a good thing, as you won't have the wow tourist's flight making the game look like a failure, and Rift will be allowed to grow organically to whatever level it deserves to me.
 
I hadn't even heard about this until reading here, while I've been seeing Rift head-start headlines at all the places I usually go. I think it's "big news" to WoW oriented sites (which, really, they ought to care about more) and just another tag line or even no news everywhere else.

Trying to claim it's being treated as bigger news than the Rift head-start/launch just demonstrates the bias of the news sites you visit, not evidence that old content in WoW is bigger news than a new game.

My friends have tried to log in to Rift this morning. All 33 servers were full with queues. The game is getting plenty of attention.
 
I don't know if this is similar to the idea of "investment" in Project Management.

In project management there is known human fallacy to over value prior work when project termination is discussed.

People don't like to end projects because of the perception of value is skewed to the assumption that prior work in valuable in some way.

Most orgs get around this issue by claiming any existing but incomplete work is a "sunk cost" that cannot be recovered. Therefore, any evaluation of future value is from the same start as zero.

It is difficult for humans to make rational decisions about ending anything. (yeah just like relationships)

Frankly the fact that we are discussing this issue of leaving a long running game IS indicative of end of life.

Wow is showing all the signs of a long in the tooth production that is trotting out the same tired routines to get the last few laughs.

All the cool kids went to Titan leaving B teamers like Ghostcrawler in charge
All the content is just recycled raids and heroics.
The zones are recycles (except Vashir)
And the wow community is behaving like the dregs of overboiled soup right now (down right crusty!)

Wow is getting old and it jumped the shark right when GC took over.

I knew that there would be a drop off when Metzen left but egads Cataclysm is a cliff. Overall I have just convinced myself to switch to Rift. Frankly, I think just playing in an environment where every man-child EJ doesn't whine "this is worse than TBC whaaaa" would be an improvement.
 
@Angrygamer.

Heh. Uh, you can still expect to see that. "Waaaah, this game doesn't have feature X I loved from WoW? That's it. Ragequit. Stupid waste of fifty bucks."

Eventually the WoW-tourists will drift away, but RIFT's open beta was a joy and beauty to behold, and the launch has gone incredibly smoothly if you don't mind joining a server that the rest of the freakin' world hasn't pre-designated as their new home in Telara. (WOLFSBANE, I'M LOOKING AT YOU. Seriously. You look up 'Aussie rift server' and hear everyone talking about how Wolfsbane is the new unofficial server, then do a little research and find out that ZAM and dozens of big US guilds had exactly the same idea... Brain surgeons, all.)

@Tobold: I've had trouble visiting a MMO site that didn't have at least one RIFT story up daily for the last few months.

What I think is perhaps a more subtle but far more ingenious marketing ploy is the very concept of a Head Start in itself.

How can you give people the benefit of pre-orders whilst still having active players believe they're playing the real deal and dragging all their friends over with shiny-new-toy enthusiasm and powerful word-of-mouth? Head-start. It's false entitlement, and EXCELLENT advertising material. Especially since they get their news stories covered =again= when they launch. Wonder what info-bomb WoW will release on March 2nd to coincide with the official RIFT launch?
 
@Angrygamer

But isn't Rift at its heart just a redone WoW? I have watched a few play-through vids on it, and it seems to be the same old same old, kill 10 rats to gain xp to gain levels.
 
Shawno said:
"People that are presently enjoying wow do not really care about other games or the MMO genre or industry as a whole. It seems only ex- or non- or bored wow players are interested in other news."

This is more true than I think most people realize. I asked four of my WoW-playing friends about Rift: three of them had never heard of it, and the fourth had heard about it through a guildie but does not care about it.

I believe it's easy to get a skewed perception of the WoW playerbase from reading blog posts and comments and forum posts where mostly disgruntled players voice an opinion. I think that an objective, scientific survey of WoW subscribers would reveal that the *vast* majority are satisfied, having fun and generally do not care about other games.
 
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