When the Internet became mainstream in the 90s, many were celebrating about the greater availability of information as if this was a parallel to the printing press. But the printing press didn’t exactly bring out information. It brought rhetoric. When things that were written down were once seen as authoritative because it took scribes and much time to write something down, nearly anyone could write anything down. Far from uplifting all knowledge, the printing press was also a pandora’s box of rhetoric and the printing of falsehoods. There is always bad with the good.
Before the Internet, there was no such thing as alternative news. The news appeared on the TV or in the newspapers and that was that. This was problematic because if something wasn’t correct, it was seen as correct without any competition. But, at least, everyone shared the same reality, false or true.
With the Internet, we can create any reality we want. A conspiracy theorist might start off abnormal, keep filtering sites and information that fits what he is looking for, and after a while he goes so far off into Fantasy Land that he is invested. And once invested, he’ll refuse to break out. This is why it is important to ground ourselves in some sort of reality. For example, with the game industry, sales are useful to ground oneself to reality. When someone says, “This game is so popular!” but the game has no sales, we know that person is saying ‘the game is so popular’ either because he likes it or the people in his social circle like it.
In video games, there is something called the Hardcore Alternate Universe. Our hardcore friends, who believe they know more about gaming than anything else because they play so much, think they have the most refined taste of gaming. If a game sells with them not liking it, they declare the game only sold due to ‘marketing’ (as if hardcore games don’t have marketing!). It never occurred to them that maybe people do like the game and that people are different.
Let’s look at something with World of Warcraft. To those unfamiliar, the release of the game and the expansion packs went from World of Warcraft (the game) and then the expansions: Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm. When Cataclysm was released, it made record sales for a WoW expansion. But then, the subscription numbers dramatically fell. Many game websites picked up with these numbers with the dramatic headline: “Is WoW dying?” Quarter after quarter, more and more subscribers were lost. It is normal for some subscribers to be lost after a drought of content (such as the time from December to before Mists of Pandaria is released or the time between ICC and Cataclysm). But it was not normal for such a plunge so fast after the expansion came out.
Why was WoW losing subscribers?
Everyone has their own answer to it. Blizzard’s answer was that they misanalyzed the demand for harder content. Wrath of the Lich King, which had easier content than Burning Crusade, had many people complain that the game was too easy. The heroic dungeons were too easy was one chief complaint. Healing was so easy that people could watch TV and heal at the same time. So with Cataclysm, Blizzard increased the difficulty. Heroics were harder than they were in Wrath. Healing became harder. And then, all these subscription losses occurred.
Blizzard has responded to the subscription losses in several ways from the Annual Pass to the Resurrection Scrolls. But the biggest change was how the content was made. For 4.3, Blizzard made much easier and shorter heroic dungeons. Raid Finder was introduced. The result is that subscription numbers stabilized.
If you are the Hardcore Gamer, what do you make of this? You had your wish. You had harder content. You made it more necessary to use guildies for dungeon runs. Then Blizzard says, “Psshhh, this is the wrong direction. Let us return to the Wrath way. Let us casualize the content,” and then the result is the end of subscriber loss.
The reader suggests, “Maybe the Hardcore Gamer will say, ‘Wow. I was wrong. It seems to make the game more popular is not go the hardcore way.’”
No! Oh, you are a naive reader. The Hardcore Gamer is many things, but they are never wrong.
“Then how do they cope with these facts on the ground?”
By entering an Alternate Reality. I’m quite serious.
Above: Hardcore Alternate Reality
To summarize the video: ‘Early WoW had attunements (long quest chains in order to enter a raid instance) and ‘hard’ raids (weren’t hard, just had to grind a ton for gear) and this was when WoW had growth. Now, it doesn’t have those things and WoW had decline. Therefore, bringing back attunements and ‘hard raids’ is what will make the game good again.”
Correlation is a fallacy. You could as easily say that being able to ride a mount at level 20 as opposed to 40 correlates with the growth and then the change correlates with the decline of the game. Blizzard, themselves, said that only 1% of WoW’s playerbase ever saw those raids. So why were the 99% of the other people playing the game since they weren’t raiding? “Doing spontaneous and crazy things throughout the world like world pvp.” And, lo and behold, the emphasis of doing things out in the world is the priority for the upcoming expansion Mists of Pandaria.
It is a professional challenge for me to get inside the mind of the Hardcore Gamer. If I was the Hardcore Gamer and thought the things I did, I would say, “If attunements and hard raids are the key to success, certainly a hungry WoW competitor will pounce on it and kill WoW.” Funny enough, the WoW competitors do what the Hardcore want and make games like Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The games don’t succeed. Blizzard is watching this all unfold and then hear the Hardcore Gamers, who apparently don’t see any of it, repeat the same lines they always have.
The Hardcore Alternate Reality is a mysterious state of mind. Imagine how confused Blizzard must be when someone complains that Pandas are ‘too childish’ and ‘don’t go with WoW’ while they raid on talking cows and space goats. How can you listen to someone not living in reality?
After many years of doing this blog, the hardcore still fascinate me but for a unique reason. Carwrecks are to cars what the Hardcore Gamer is to gamers. No matter how many times you pass the wreckage, you feel compelled to slow and look.