Thursday, February 4, 2010

AH Access Offline: Slightly Worried – But Not Freaking Out

I’ve been pondering a bit upon the news about Blizzards work on giving us access to AH when we're offline - provided that we pay for it.

What do I think about it? Is this yet another step on the slippery slope that started with the introduction of the pets for sale? Are my pigtails vibrating and sparkling with electrical charges, am I ready to punch someone because this is the end of WoW? Am I working up myself to a TotalBiscuit state of mind, exploding in an aoe-wave of utter contempt at the current development of the game?

After debating a bit with myself, I've come to the conclusion that I'm definitely more worried than Matticus, who simply says "yes please!". Like Healer Trek, Miss Medicina and Green Armadillo, I see some potential problems. But I'm not freaking out in the way I would have expected.

The gold game
To be honest my reaction - or lack thereof - is a bit surprising. They're suggesting that you should be able to pay for a service that is likely to give you a real advantage in game, which is a change from the payment model they've had until now. I'm a fan of the simple flat all-inclusive subscription fee, which saves me from a ton of reoccurring, energy consuming choices. So why not rage, Larísa?

I think it's because I deep down don't really care about the gold game. I've got the gold I need, as I wrote a while ago . (My fortune has increased with 10 k g since that post was published, and I swear I really haven't been doing ANY effort to make this happen. You don't NEED to do business at AH to support your raiding).

Sure, thanks to this change, there will be some people who spend a part of their time at work or school flipping, flopping or whatever they do at AH. Probably it will have some effects for the goblins fighting for the spot as the richest man on the server. I suppose the competition for bargains will grow harder, especially if some clever people will make bot like addons that will crawl all day long, digging through the piles of AH junk, fetching goodies for their masters.
On the other hand, in real life you can still do business on the stock market, even if you're not spending all your day in front of a screen, watching the numbers minute for minute. You can do it in the evenings if you want to, and I can't see the reason why the WoW market should be any different. I can't imagine that for instance Gevlon would buy this additional service from Blizzard, and yet I'm convinced that he'll be able to keep up his wealth, doing good business in the future.

The AH players might be a little bit affected - but I doubt that players like me, whose transactions at AH consists of the sale of a daily transmuted gem and occasional stacks of disenchanted mats from pugs, will suffer badly. Regardless of at what hour the goblins do their business, regardless of if they do it from work, behind the back of their bosses or from home, behind the back of their spouses, simple market mechanisms such as supply and demand will keep prices to an acceptable level for everyone.

Developer resources
What bugs me most, apart from the one-step-further into the RMT model, is that Blizzard are putting developer resources into it. You could argue that WoW players come in all shapes of course, and that the ones who are in it for the gold probably are as entitled to development as raiders, role players or PvP:ers. But still - have you ever heard anyone subscribing to WoW because you can have so fun getting dirty rich at AH? There might be a few hard core goblins out there, but are they so many that they really matter to Blizzard from a financial point of view? Even if they charge players who use feature I doubt that they'll be so many that the fees will cover the costs for creating it.

And I can't understand why they put such an effort into it - they admit is a complicated thing to do - while the player base is craving for more game content.

Everyone knows that the player activity and general interest in the game will decline as it always does before an expansion. The question is how soon the valley will come, how deep it will be and how long it will last. Even if Blizzard isn't panicking about it, since they're pretty certain people will come back for Cataclysm, they probably don't want the fall to be deeper and harder than necessary. Do they sincerely think that people will keep subscribing, even paying more for it than before, just so they can flip flop at AH?

Test balloon
The final question is of course: how long will it before we see this come true? Are they really far gone or is the announcement rather to be regarded as a test balloon, where they're awaiting the reaction from the community before deciding to proceed?

I honestly don't know. We've seen a couple of features recently that have become reality quicker than at least I expected, such as race and faction changes. On the other hand there are also those "sometime" projects that we're still waiting for to finish. Dance classes, anyone?

There is a difference though. The dance classes were never marketed as a premium service. They were supposed to be something you with your ordinary subscription. Maybe that's why they're still waiting for the attention of the developers, while other features, such as this, are worked on. The RMT projects. And who can blame them? Business is business and time is money my friend.

My personal belief - and now I'm just speculating, I admit that I might be dead wrong - is that the offline AH services won't be available for a very long time, if ever. I base this on the lack of interest for it among the players. There won't be enough people willing to pay for it to finance it fully, and while it may be a nice "extra" for a few players, it won't sell any additional subscriptions.

You see: most people play to explore fantastic scenic worlds, to slaughter cool dragons or other avatars or to chat with their friends (the socials.) Those things are fun. Mass posting inscriptions just isn't. It doesn't get more fun just because you're not logged into the game.

And that's probably why I'm not outraged. Even if it will be launched at some point, I don't think the impact will be huge and I doubt it will be any success.


Toes said...

Perhaps I am slightly anti-alarmist, but I think it's a bit too much to look for "warning signs" in the development of a hobby. When it comes to governmental processes, sure, but to spend too much energy debating whether the much-discussed pets was a breach of customer-given trust? It seems a little.. over the top.

Similarly, something I've noticed (very anecdotal here) to be common especially on the US forums is the "You have X resources/time, why did you use it on this and not Y" rhetoric. It does not mesh well with specialized employees and revenue never Being That Simple.

But, one thing you do have my full agreement on, is the big questionmark after the word "Dance". It's not a promised pony, it's an advertised feature, and while I doubt they've taken a shovel to the Dance Department and rearranged it to be the AH Department Two, it's still a little disconcerting.

Perhaps it's just the other side of the coin when you have such a powerful company, able to shake their heads and hips at any and all publishers.

Anonymous said...

1 more nail in the coffin of Wow !!

All this will do is encourage more botting, which is against the EULA in the first place!!

Blizzard/Activision are just doing this to generate more profits for their share holders, of which im one !! :P

So wtf am i doing here complaining about it ? Well i hate to see a game i know and love (in a non-sexual way!!) go down the tubes like this.

Does it mean the AH will now be a mini stockmarket? The price of wool is up....OMG!!! kill all the sheep!!

Once again its another "gimmick" from blizzard, i would truely like to meet the guy/girl who dreams this shit up and beat the ever loving crap out of him/her!!

p.s. and yes my shares are going up well ty!! Keep up the good work (paying your subscriptions!)


Cacknoob (the filthy rich geezer)

Green Armadillo said...

My guess is that the person capable of making the armory interface with the auction houses of hundreds of servers worldwide is not the guy responsible for adding new quests to the game. Perhaps they could be doing something else that players would rather have, but I doubt that having this project underway is actively delaying new game content.

Larísa said...

Yeah... it's just a game Toes. I know that too. But forming opinion on it and expressing them in sometimes colorful words makes the debating more fun. If we all just shrug at anything, saying that it doesn't matter, not throwing our hearts into it, what's the point of blogging at all?

Anyway: this post was NOT intended to be alarmistic. I hope I got that through?

@Cack: it's YOUR fault! You're the shareholder! Make your voice heard! Show some muscles!

@Green Armadillo: no, the guy who makes AH available through a web browswer isn't the one designing 5-man instances. But his salaries come from the same source of money. It's all about choices, where to allocate your resources, what your man hours should be used for. They apparently think this is more important than hiring another guy to work on real in-game content.

scrusi said...

You don't just fire your web team because you only have a project of questionable value right now. They know they will need those people for something else soon enough, so they might as well keep them busy until then.
Additionally, this is a natural evolution of the armory tech (interactive elements) that will be of value in further developments. Possibly even for their new mmo.
I don't like the payment thing, but I don't think this is a waste of development resources.

gnomeaggedon said...

It's something I wanted for a long time, a long time ago. Now, really couldn't care less.

But damn you Larisa, you got me thinking about the developers time.

Something I have wanted for the longest time and have employed addons to do with at best 80% effectiveness, is know what I have/own in game.

This is something that effects every player, not just AH junkies.

What quests am I on? What the hell do I have in my bags..? in my bank..? Do I have enough honor, emblems, marks etc to buy that piece of gear I have been drooling over all day long on Wowhead?

Why do I have to use an addon like characterprofiler, which has fundamentally ceased support due to the frequent interface changes, to know what I "own"?

RAWR is a great tool, but relying on Armory data - it's... well, it's not rubbish, but it could be better.

So I use Character Profiler for something that Blizzard could, and I think should have been providing for years.

A way to see what you own, so you can maximize your online time.

It seems so simple, give value to 11 million, rather than value to 1 million... but I guess if we give value to the 1 million, then Cracknoob can buy me a ticket so i can come visit...

Dwism said...

Honestly I cannot be bothered with what blizzard does next to suck our wallets dry.
It just leaves me feeling more and more empty and less and less loyal to the company.
I've already scrapped on my plans to get SC2 and diablo 3 on pure good faith of the company

lonomonkey said...

Well they want money and if we are willing to pay for it they'll keep pushing things like this. For the company it's very good time investment since they get direct money out of it.

RMT is there to stay and I'll be happy as long as it doesn't become required to enjoy the game. When I need to buy extra to have access to basic game elements or content then I'm out.

Bristal said...

Most of the posts on this topic seem to be missing the point and value of the ability to access the AH remotely.

On your lunch hour, break, commute home, etc. you can purchase consumables, mats for tradeskills, look for bargains for BOE recipes or gear, and on and on.


I make lists all day long at work of things I need to do when I get home and online. Now I can get some of those things done remotely.

It's not about PLAYING the game on your tiny little screen, it's about getting "errands" done so you can play when you get home.

Plus I HATE logging out and onto my bank alt. Let me just buy something with my phone and BOOM it's in my mailbox.

I will gladly pay a few bucks a month for that.

Carra said...

Blizzard must have their army of people trying to think of ways to get more money. Add pets for sale! Add AH access! Sell authenticators!

Offline AH access might be nice if it's for free. But even then it's something that I probably wouldn't use much. Are there really enough people willing to pay for it to make this profitable?

So yes, I do think that Blizzard could make more money by focusing on adding more content. That would cause less people to freeze their account for a few months.

Larísa said...

@Scrusi: No, but you can really think about your priorities. Is really the development of armory what will keep the player base hooked at WoW another few years until they’re ready to release their next game? I doubt it.

: yeah, I’m not prepared to pay for either of those off-line services, but I’d definitely find it much more useful to be able to sort out the mess in my bags once for all than to do AH transactions.

@Dwism: yeah, every company needs to make profit, there’s no doubt about that. But still… there’s something missing with the focus on RMT services rather than astounding stories and scenarios in game. The soul? The passion? I don’t know what it is. But it’s a bit… meh

: It remains to see if this one will pay off. But then I don’t know exactly how big the time investment is, how much RMT from the players they need to break even.

@Bristal: haha, yeah, that’s what I’m trying to tell my family too, that I’m not PLAYING the game when I’m doing errands stuff. For some reason they find it hard to make the distinction. 

@Carra: I guess the monetary output from added content isn’t as easy to measure as an RMT service is. It’s probably much harder to argue for putting resources into it.