Selling the Service
Nov 16, 2007 18:32:05

Blizzard has always been known for their offbeat sense of humor - at least in its MMO. It is apparent throughout World of Warcraft (WoW). Typical of this sense of humor is the reaction of a city guard in Ironforge when I asked for directions to the alchemist trainer; only to be told by the guard, who had just returned from the alchemist that he "should have taken the red potion instead of the blue potion (a reference to the Matrix movies). The developers at Blizzard are not alone in bringing a sense of humor to their games. Not long ago I spent an evening playing Everquest 2 (EQ2) and came upon a hobbit...er...halfling, standing on the edge of a dock. He turned to me, beset with troubles concerning the adjoining island which was filled with fairies and yelled "THEY KILLED FRITZ, THOSE LOUSY STINKING FAIRIES KILLED FRITZ" (a reference to a famous scene in the movie called "Wizards")

For those of you who may not play WoW, the latest patch to the game introduced (amongst other things) a gyrocopter that can be produced with engineering and used as a flying mount. It greatly resembles a WWII airplane with a helicopter blade on the top and short stubby wings. It can only be a matter of time before we see squads of gnomes, flying in formation over the Outlands, dive bombing cities like the half crazed little blighters they are. The first question all this brings to mind is this...

Have the developers at Blizzard finally "jumped the shark"?

Still, with the subscription numbers for WoW reaching 9.3 million it is a little difficult to say that the game has passed its prime. It may take me awhile to get used to gangs of roving airborne gnomes in tiny twisted versions of B52 bombers zooming overhead while I try and play a swords and sorcery fantasy game. However, it is not likely to take quite as long as it to took me to get used to some of the more irritating game mechanics I have experienced else ware...

...like learning to play Eve Online (a nearly insurmountable task itself) and trying to earn virtual money in amounts that would go a long way toward paying off the debt of major cities - in ways (like mining suggested by the games developers) that make watching paint dry look like a wild drunken weekend in Las Vegas.

...like trying to earn skill levels in the "Voyage Century" (a Chinese Import that did the whole pirates thing before Pirates of the Burning Sea did it) - that brings new meaning to the term "grinding"

And that brings me to the real question - do you play a game for fun or is it a job?

There is little doubt that the average gamer, be it a PC gamer or a console gamer, buys the box off the shelf hoping the game will be fun. If a game isn't fun in the first few levels chances are the game will begin gather dust in the gamer's closet. But the critical difference between MMOs and Console games is that MMOs are a service - and that is an important distinction.

It is a distinction that Scott Hartsman, Senior Producer for EQ2, acknowledge in a recent interview over at Mog Nation (www.mmonation.com).
"My dad the professional sales guy, for his entire career, he was one of the good guys where he would always describe the bad sales guys as the 'used care salesmen' trying to get you on the one sale. The good sales guys are the ones who understand you're selling a relationship. I've always thought about MMOs the same way: they are all about the relationship. If you are not selling the relationship, as in you want to provide a service over a long period of time, you need to get out of the business. There's no room for people who don't want to play that way, and there's no room for people who can't afford to play that way." - Scott Hartsman, "Face the Nation: Talking Kunark with Scott Hartsman"

A console game developer can concentrate on getting that "single sale" as long as they turn out a game - there is little doubt that there will be a Halo 4. An MMO developer does not have that luxury. An MMO developer cannot concentrate on the single sale, they have to concentrate on providing a service - and a large part of that service is making sure the game continues to be fun once the level cap is reached. In that end, that is the most important question. How do you keep the players coming back when the leveling stops? Do you make the levels so difficult to reach that they are like trying to push an elephant across the rug on its nose? Do you make obtaining whatever virtual carrot you hold in front of the players' faces so difficult to obtain it becomes a job? What do you do?

And THAT is a subject for next time.

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Nov 16, 2007 18:32:05 CST (comments: 1)


Comments:


'fun' by Token
Submitted on 2007-11-18 09:13:43 CST
I can have fun on the Xbox360, I play mmo's to pwn people and be seen pwning by people I enjoy chatting to. I don't think gyrocopters are jumping the shark because I they have been part of the lore for 11 years and I have been asking for them BC announced flying mounts. I think they've done a wonderful job on them. Even the spaceship raid instance full of power conduits was done well. The next expansion will be less sci-fi though so you can look forward to more traditional elements is my guess.



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