Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 06, 2012

Maturity is a really strange word. For example nothing is surer sign of immaturity than the frequent use of "mature" language. And when Blizzard changes World of Warcraft to be more attractive to a more mature audience in a more mature market, some people accuse them of making a game for children. Why do people conflate violence with maturity, and see anything that is more fun and non-violent as being childish?

In reality the numbers are just the other way around. Violent shooter games are played by teenage males, while the average Farmville player is a 48-year old woman. If Blizzard is adding farms, panda, and pet battles to World of Warcraft, they are targeting that woman, and not children. World of Warcraft has a T for teen ESRB rating, stating that it has "content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older". Why would Blizzard target an audience that isn't even supposed to play their game?

A reader wrote me about this, and had a very interesting theory: "They certainly are aiming the game at the majority of their customers this time, not just at the hardcores with loud voices.". I do believe that the average age of the people still playing World of Warcraft happily and casually is higher than the average age of the vocal minority that was always complaining about WoW and has left. If Blizzard has realized that they should rather create more content for the people who are actually paying for the game instead of for those who shout the loudest, it can only be good for them. It would be the mature thing to do.

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." ~C.S. Lewis
Maturity isn't always linked to physical age. I've played with teenage boys who were really empathic, focussed and sensible and middle aged women who were total drama queens.
I'm afraid I'm guilty as charged in that I very much see Pandas and My Little Ponies as a move towards childishness.

It may be effective in attracting older audiences in general - Pai's quote of C S Lewis is apt - but it's not effective in attracting this older gamer (ie me).

In particular, most of the comments about pet battles seem to be between wrong and trolling. You can't have been playing Pokeman back in the day and still be a child in 2012. My experience is the big pet collectors are much more likely to be a mother of children than children.

MoP seems to be aiming much more towards their target audience than Cataclysm did. But at times my old complaint about "hc developers developing for themselves rather than their customers" does resurface.

My complete guess is that if you looked at the subscribers who have been subscribed continuously for 15 months, it would skew to older than the average. Hopefully it is not just agism to think that they ones who need more content refreshes and go chase the FOTM (GW2 /sigh) are a bit younger.
My other thought, having taken a scroll of res and spent a couple of days back in WoW, is that the grouping game is dreadful (it's the community -- but I'm now used to the better SWTOR one).

No wonder they've put extra dailies in MoP which award valor/justice points. No one sane would want to do PUGs in WoW any more.
It is a good idea to view the MoP's pandas from the stanpoind of maturity.

My assumption is that violence is inversely proportional to maturity as far as it comes to computer games. For many teenagers, at least the male, violence is "cool", but as they grow up they learn to appreciate other virtual activities.

However, may it be that the design of MoP is intended just to attract (or make a tribute to) more Asian players? Before information on MoP I thought that WoW is purely Western-style MMORPG. Pandaren from Warcarft III expansion looked more like an easter egg...
I think one of WoW's most endearing factors has been its ageless quirky humor.

/train, ...Choo...Choo...woo...woo..chuga..chaga....Wooo...Wooo.
I don't know if the whiners have left. I just think Blizzard has come to realize after endless internet tempests in teapots, millions of threats to quit over every minor change in every patch for years, that the screamers don't actually represent much of anyone. Most of the time they don't even represent themselves, since they rarely follow through with their threats. The % of the client base that is even aware of these complaints is pretty small.

The reality is that except for dudes like Bhagpuss, most players have a limited lifespan in WoW. It's only once they are about done that the complaints start making sense to them. No reason trying center the game around retaining the burnouts a bit longer, or developing a raiding endgame that 1% of the population will actually finish.
Growing older is mandatory, but growing up is optional.
@Tobold, this reminds me of what Lore from Tankspot said in one of his shows. I don't remember the exact quote but it was something like that the effort that went into raids was bigger per raider than what went to other aspects of the game even though he doesn't identify the hardcore with the loud ones. (I agree with him in this regard.)

@Average Gamer, I keep wondering about the appeal to Asian markets too. I find the KR/CN MMOs in general less realistic compared to the grimdark realistic style of all other western games and also using the stereotypes more heavily than western ones and MoP might fit both while not alienating the western player base. (Sure, it will alienate some but there are western players who like the style more too.)
"MoP seems to be aiming much more towards their target audience than Cataclysm did. But at times my old complaint about "hc developers developing for themselves rather than their customers" does resurface."

I definitely agree with this. But what worries me more is that even their efforts for casual players seem pathetically misguided or uninformed. Blizzard's past efforts for casuals have always struck me as a hardcore gamer's interpretation of what casuals must be like, having never actually met a casual player themselves, but one time their cousin's girlfriend talked to one for a few minutes.

So yeah, considering how badly they have consistently sucked at it, I have my doubts that their efforts for casual players are going to be worthwhile.
Recently read an interview with Rob Pardo and he basically states that everyone in Blizzard (ok, everyone he knows) is a hc gamer. He also said that creative ideas could come from anyone.

You can definitely feel how the hc gamer cringes at the sight of pet fights but they are a public company and they need to add new game systems that work for solo players and a growing Asian audience. Hence the pet taming ad nauseam, pandas, etc.

Time will tell if this will stop the the decreasing sub numbers.

The biggest problem is that TITAN, their next gen mmo, ... well, no news is bad news. It was supposed to be ready by 2013. Diablo was announced 2008 and debuted 4 years later.
Interesting take. I have to be honest, if I have a choice between several pubs in town...I will always choose the one the most women frequent.
Are the pet fights really going to be that big a draw?

Do they feature the same level of preparation, education, complexity and reward as raiding? I thought they were just going to be a gimmick only slightly more complicated than Hunter pet skills.

It would be nice to support these kinds of moves in principle without actually throwing in the only support that actually counts (money). Sort of a, "Getting warmer, keep trying."

I've only ever quit twice.

1) RealID. Get your fucking facebook out of my anonymous fantasy dragons escape.
2) Cataclysm launched and I got to the dailies/raiding/PVP grind treadmill and realized I was done. No, I will NOT log in to do my chores every day for three months to buy a new piece of gear.
Are the pet fights really going to be that big a draw? Do they feature the same level of preparation, education, complexity and reward as raiding?

I would say they are really going to be that big a draw BECAUSE they are NOT requiring the same level of preparation, education, complexity and reward as raiding.
Okay, I consider myself somewhat of a hardcore gamer (though not a hardcore raider), I'm about 30 years old and male, and I'm excited as all get out for pet battles, farming and pandas. I'm being completely sincere. I've been playing since Vanilla and I think only Wrath can complete as far as my excitement levels for an expansion.
When I read some of the comments I wonder if I'm playing the same game as the commenters....

@spinksville: I've leveled multiple (as in 4+) characters doing exclusively LFD from level 20 on. I've had ONE (read '1', the number between zero and two) dungeon which ended in insults (and we still finished it). Most of the runs are completely silent affairs with the exception of "hi" at the beginning and "ty" at the end.

@Cam: 3 months for one piece of gear? One week after Cata launch I was in a raid, I've never farmed heroics for VP as raiding provided all I needed, actually a lot more since I got all the gear from raiding. Professions? Go to the AH and buy the stuff, I actually ended up making more money then I spent.... The only insane farm (which I'll refuse to do a second time in MoP) was the Tol Barad dailies for the trinkets.
Stabs said : It may be effective in attracting older audiences in general - Pai's quote of C S Lewis is apt - but it's not effective in attracting this older gamer (ie me). "

I agree with this exactly. Also they clearly made pandas exactly from Kung Fu panda. I don't think that Kung Fu panda will attract the 48 years old woman, but I am sure it will attract the 13 years old children. Some will argue that pandaria was in warcraft lore, blah blah blah, but they made it like kung fu panda. Nils explain it better
Helistar: Have you tried a level 85 heroic instance recently?
@spinksville: no, but why would it make any difference?
I could imagine the difference being that there is a very different group of people doing level 85 heroics than the group doing lower level instances, in terms of maturity.
I may be off base, but IMO casuals who stay subbed don't care that much about content. Whatever is there is good enough for them, or they would have unsubbed. The casual is also probably less prone to burnout because they don't play often, and have more left to do in the world.


Sounds like agism to me. When I was younger I stayed subscribed to the MMO I was playing for 5 consecutive years. I haven't repeated that loyalty since. The only MMO I've felt that deserved a continual stream of money from me was Rift, which I quit for SWTOR because that was the game I had been waiting for for years.
There seems to be a lot of nose thumping going on against Panda's and such. FYI, Manga and Anime are HUGE revenues in Japan, Asia, Europe and in the past few years USA. These people who love the addictive nature of MMO's (as constantly proven by games like MapleStory) are graduating to more 'complex' games like WOW. And a large percentage of them are not kids spending those millions on these online games.

Also a nitpicky point about Pandas in WOW and Kung Fu Panda. Kung Fu Panda cameout in 2008. Panda's in WOW came about because of an April Fool's joke drawing in 2005 about Pandaren Xpress. Since then, it has been one of the most requested races (some in jest I'm sure). The point being that Panda's in wow have had 7 years to stew and cook its way into the WOW culture.

I'll be 40 this year, I started playing wow in 2004 beta, I've quit wow 3 times the most recent being Mar/Apr 2011, currently on my longest break. I also spent 4-5 of those years on a Thur - Sun serious Raid guild. And I like Pandas in WOW.

So so on the pet fighting mechanic but I do have 106 pets on my main so I don't have to collect more pets to start playing if I choose to.

I don't think I'll be getting MoP when it comes out, currently playing DDO and looking forward to TL2 and GW2, but I'm sure I'll get into it eventually, even if only a month.

Bottomline, just because you don't like the Direction Wow is going towards doesn't mean others agree. I happen to like doses of cuteness with my high fantasy. Not all the time, but there's a reason why Fallout with it's bleak colors and barren wastelands simply don't appeal to me.
@Helistar: 3 months was a slight exaggeration, but doing the mental maths AND NOT RAIDING, it's not much of an exaggeration.

Also interested to note that you were only 'starting' your first raids in the first week. Wondering how many weeks before you first got gear? 2? 3? I remembered Wrath raiding. I had to get the majority of my tank kit from tokens because the drops/my rolling were so bad. A month without upgrades was pretty normal.

But yes, we were, in fact, playing a completely different game because I did not want to raid anymore.

If the response to avoiding grind is, "Oh, you want to have nice toys? Then be more hardcore!" that indicates pretty clearly what 'the game' is. And since 'being more hardcore' was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do, I bailed. Pretty simple.
@Carn: if you don't raid why do you care about gear? I have several characters, and the only one I bother gearing up is the one I raid with..... if I just want to run some heroics with a different class I definitely don't go through the rep grinding/VP farming. Sure, I'll get one upgrade every 3-4 weeks using VP, but who cares? In any case it'll all be disenchant-fodder in a couple of months.
Some of the people I met in WoW just ignore the gearing threadmill and focus on the stuff they like, be it some specific achievement or pet/mount collecting, and I see nothing wrong with that.

As for your question about "when I got the gear", I don't really remember. But I still had a lot of fun in those first raids, and since I raid more for the fun than for the gear it was all right.
Does MoP really swing away from violence? I agree its ridiculous how we tend to equate violence and maturity, but it is possible to have an immature environment without violence. Even vs. pet is still a form of violence, and decidedly immature at that (I am guessing that like all violence in WoW it will be relatively sanitary cartoon violence with no consequence) so it could be that the target audience for WoW with MoP is that demographic that wants clean, sanitized mild violence bwteen exaggerated cartoon fantasy characters....stuff that doesn't freak out children that WoW is being used to babysit, while mom also plays. Just my own tunnel-visioned narrow view on it...
The 'if you don't raid, why do you need the gear' is a common excuse raiders put forward as to why they should get the best loot - because their favourite content is harder than all the other content, so it needs better gear to master.

Of course, if you can successfully complete the raid to get gear, why do you need that gear, anyway? You proved you can complete the raid without it.

The answer to that question is the same answer to the question why do you need gear if you're not raiding: To progress your character.

What other options are there for growth of a character? What is the entire point of playing a character, through all the levelling, and gearing up, regardless of whether solo or raid? To grow. People want to see SOME kind of advancement in their character, and the unfortunate thing for people who hate raiding is that raiding is the last stage of advancement there is.
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