Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the issue of celebrating an anniversary

One of the mysteries as I grew up was the lack of interest the grown-ups showed for their birthdays. The older they got, the less presents did they get, and the more reluctant were they to even acknowledge the event. And I could never figure out why. Who doesn’t like to get presents and cake?

Companies on the other hand tend to make a big fuss about their birthday these days, and it usually grows the elder they get. While they normally don’t expect gifts and congratulations from their customers, it’s a natural opportunity to come up with a PR event.

Free pets
Blizzard is no exception from this. The last couple of years, they’ve handed out things such as free combat pets to anyone logging in during a period around the “birthday” of WoW. For the five-year WoW and 15 year Warcraft anniversary they went far bigger. Among other things there were a lot of competitions, and that huge mosaic image consisting of photos that fans all over the world had sent to them. For my own part I appreciated the video interviews made with high profile members of the staff for this occasion.

This might be the reason why I can sense a bit of disappointment in the reactions to the announcement of the upcoming six year anniversary on November 23. There won’t be any cute pet gift this time. If you want that sugar sweet moonkin hatchling, you’d better be prepared to open your wallet. All you get is a “feat of strength” if you log in at some point between November 30 and December 14.

This is a mind boggling for two reasons:

  1. In what way is logging into a game a feat, something that is worthwhile noticing in your records to remember afterwards and show off to the world?
  2. If you assume that it IS worth recognizing, why isn’t it about logging in on the actual birthday, November 23? Why do you get this feat of strength if you log in three weeks afterwards?

It’s not that I’m against celebrating this birthday. I think it’s a great opportunity to do something “extra”. And I don’t complain about the lack of pets. I can’t help it, but I find it hard to value a pet that I get in the mail for doing nothing more than logging in as high as I value a pet that I’ve had to work for to get. My current count on pets is at 94, so I have a great menagerie as it is.

But this “feat of strength” looks honestly a little bit pointless to me. Does it even make the most dedicated achievement hunters any happier? After all it won’t award you any points. And the bragging worth of it is minimal.

Alternative events
So what could they have done instead if they wanted to celebrate their birthday in style?

If I could wish anything I wanted, I’d love to see some Blizzard employees come online on our realm. What if the GM:s could appear and either arrange something in the game (I’ve heard that this kind of events exist in other games) or at least participate somehow. What if you could run into them in a battleground or a PUG group?

And if this is just too much to ask for, due to the proportion how many GM:s and realms there are, they could have settled for something smaller. How about a silly little one-day event on the lines of the Pirate Day?

Or what about doing something outside of game, such as putting up a nice behind-the-scenes video about Blizzcon from the perspective of the staff or a brand new in-depth interview with one of their more entertaining developers or artists on their website? That would definitely feel more like a treat than this ridiculous “feat of strength”.

Come to think of it: maybe there's a reason for them to tune down the celebrations as the years pass, just like my parents did. After all, is it really only a merit for a game to grow older?


Nils said...

My reaction to my new feat of strength is this.

And once again we agree, Larísa ;)

Larísa said...

That was a short one! But I'll give you some link love nevertheless. :)

hound said...

You know, lately Blizzard just seems to be in a lethargic mood. Sure, it's probably because they are putting all of their efforts into the new expansion, but really, mood swings can have lasting effects.

From their lackluster Blizzcon, to not updating their recent holiday events (no new stein in Brewfest? Is there anyone who did not think that the steins would be annual?), and now this Feat of Strength for logging in.

I just saw a bit about Blizzard leasing approx. 40% more office space and also "considering" a Diablo-related product for consoles...which they have open positions for.

Maybe they need to slow down and stroke their egos a little less? Their fans still have some expectations...

Battle Priestess said...

Random Thought: What if Blizzard released patch 4.0.3a on the 23rd, thus Shattering the world 6 years to the day that it was created?

If that were to happen, I'd probably forgive their lethargy.

Gevlon said...

You wrote about the guy who refused to defend the city from the elemental attack since no feat of strength is given for it.

He is the guy who will value the "unique" gift and feat of strength for loging in.

Larísa said...

@Battle Priestess: Actually you said something there. You might be a great deal smarter than I am. They're shattering the world on the day it was born. That's kind of poetic! Good spotting. I hope they'll make use of it in their PR!

Battle Priestess said...

@Larisa: I have no idea if that's really what they're going to do, it's probably just wishful thinking on my part. But if they did release it on the 23rd it would be appropriate. :)

Nils said...

Well, I did not think that there was anything else to say when I read the announcement this morning and made the post.

It is simply ridiculous and everybody knows why.

Mmh.. yeah .. thanks for the link love ;)

Shintar said...

To be honest I'm not sure what the fuss is about - I got a Feat of Strenght for logging in on WoW's 4th and 5th birthdays too. Though I don't think those were available for two whole weeks...

Bristal said...

The "feat of strength" is really just so they can make a big banner flash up on our screen that they've been around for 6 years to any that don't already know it.

It says, "Hey, be nice to me, it's my birthday!"

It's obviously not a feat of anything, it's just their simplest mechanism of communicating to active players.

Klepsacovic said...

The feat is clearly there to help people who desperately need old school cred.

Liore said...

I'm happy we get a FoS for this. It's sort of like.. having a ticket stub for a concert you really enjoyed. Three years from now I can look at my Feat and remember what I was doing when WoW turned 6.

I know a number of people are upset about not getting a pet, but I'm not one of them. I will be satisfied with getting two continents of new quests and updated terrain, as well as new class/race combos. ;)

Asilwen said...

I agree with you, how disappointing to have nothing happen.

I am an avid pet collector and have been waiting to see what was gonna be given away for year number 6. For the longest time my friends and I would discuss what pet would be the one they gave away for the 6 year anniversary. None of us guessed no pet, so none of us were right.

Ever since they data-mined "Lil' Ragnaros" I was hoping and praying to the WoW gods that this would be the one they gave away. It would be fitting! But no.

I hate to say this about a company that I appreciate so much... but I think the big difference between the 5th anniversary and the 6th anniversary is they got a taste of micro-transactions in the year between them. Give us a pet? Not when so many people would gladly shell out $10 dollars for it.

This is a very disappointing trend. Let's hope it's not a sign of things to come.

redcow said...

I didn`t look closely enough at the dates as compared to the actual birthday - the fact that the dates don`t even coincide, and last far far longer than any birthday celebration I`ve ever heard of is kind of...ridiculous. Bristal probably has it right - just a way to remind players how long WoW has been around? Other than that I agree with you Larisa, the achievement itself rewards no points, takes the absolute extreme minimum of effort, and simply serves as bragging rights for...logging in during an extremely generous amount of time that vaguely represents the birth of WoW.

I am pretty disappointed about the pet, though! I love pets so I was looking forward to another opportunity to get one. Even without actually doing anything, if the pet were charming enough I would still treasure it - the Blizzard Bear I could do with or without, but the Ony Whelpling is so precious! I was really excited about getting another big-eyed, bobble-headed mini of something menacing in the gameworld :(

KiwiRed said...

This is pretty much a non-issue for me; while a new pet might have been interesting for a few minutes, I'm far more likely to get real use out of a more mainstream pet than most of the novelty ones they've put out so far, which are more in keeping with the characters of, well, my characters (such as mechanical pets for my engineer, or my bank alt's Mr Pinchy).

A FoS really doesn't mean anything to me, but we have a shiny new expansion right around the corner (and new dwarves to level even sooner, personally) and that's more interesting to me than out-of-character feats or adding a number to the number-of-pets achievement.

Perdissa said...

I think it's actually a nice gesture, similar to the yearly brewfest steins they (used to) give out. But I agree with hound that they appear to be getting lethargic.

We had lvl 80 Onyxia, an Onyxia pet last year and a blizzard baby bear the year before that. But those do seem to be going the way of the brewfest stein.

Granted none of these are critical, but its all the little things that make up a relationship. The best way I can describe this is if I stop getting my wife flowers on her birthday this year. Probably its not a big deal to her after 6 years, but I'm pretty sure she'll feel that something has died.

Larísa said...

@Hound: If they’re overwhelmed – or lethargic as you put it – I think they would have been better off not even offering the feat of strength for logging in. It looks ridiculous and cheapens the idea of feats of strengths.

@Gevlon: Yep, I figure he’s pleased to learn about it. Yet another flash on the screen, yay!

@Shintar: I don’t know if there’s any “fuss”, is there? I just think it’s a bit silly to give out feats of strength for logging in. I thought it was silly before too, no difference there. And I think you didn’t have to hit the very birthday on previous occasions either.

@Bristal: They could easily communicate this as a realm message without making it a feat of strength. They had no problems to tell us that the ice stone had melted if you remember.

: old school cred? I don’t get it.

@Liore: Wouldn’t a screenshot serve you better in that manner? I doubt I’ll remember what I was doing on the day I got that achievement. Or if they release the shattering at that very day,
I might. But I wouldn’t swear on it.

@Asilwen: Yes, I think you might be right about the microtransaction aspect of it. Why give away something for free when you could charge for it? I don’t buy the idea that they’re saving it for the “big” events. Why did they then give away a pet for the 4 year anniversary? Doesn’t make sense. All this said though, I’m not too bothered about the lack of pets for my own part. But I can imagine it’s a bit disappointing for the most dedicated collectors.

@Redcow: I actually think the bear is rather sweet, although I kind of prefer pets that are connected to certain memories – for instance of the player who once gave it to me as a gift. Getting one in the mailbox like everyone else isn’t quite the same thing. This said: yep. Ridiculous is the word.

@KiwiRed: I think FoS could mean more than they do. More about that in the post of tomorrow.

. Hehe, I loved the analogy of stop getting your wife flowers on her birthday. Yep. It’s not that hard to keep your players happy, is it?

Edawan said...

Others have already said it, but that little "I was here" note is enough to commemorate the event.
We don't really need something special for every birthday.

Now if we only get a Feat of Strength when WoW turns 10, maybe I'll be a little upset. :D

Nils said...

There are a lot of commenters here that say that they expect Blizzard to 'give' them something when the game has a 'birthday'.

I am curious, because I do not understand this.

Why should a game give your character something because it turns x years old? It's not like a FoS would cost Blizzard anything to create. Even a pet is extremeley cheap, of course. But what is the connection between the 'birthday' of the game and a pet/FoS/'achievement'/item/etc ?

I mean, I understand it economically: If players want it, and it makes them happy and it doesn't not cost much, why shouldn't Blizzard do this.

What I do not understand is how anybody can enjoy to be given something in a virtual world that is totally unrelated to content of said world. Isn't that immersion breaking for you?

theanorak said...

Hey, last time I went to a friend's birthday I gave *them* a present. They didn't give *me* one.

Are my friends all evil meanies, or is expecting a present from WoW every time WoW celebrates it's birthday not a bit... back to front?

Larísa said...

: actually I thought a bit about that too but it never made it into the final post. I suppose I thought that we already give them quite a lot of money in sub fees. It's not as if they're doing this for free. But nevertheless, it's worth thinking about turning them around. I suppose that what they want most is our money. But how about sending them some love letters, drawings and home made cookies? I bet it would make someone crack up in a smile and in the end - happy employees will give us better games.

Klepsacovic said...

It's a market that says "I was here now" and in a few years that will mean something to some people

Thistle said...

"What if the GM:s could appear and either arrange something in the game (I’ve heard that this kind of events exist in other games) "

One of my best memories in FFXI was a Halloween maybe four or five years ago. The GMs (in the shape of demons), came into one of the towns, "took over" the auction house (guarded it), swooped at PCs, etc. It was so fun, surprising, and different!

Anonymous said...

"they’ve handed out things such as free combat pets"

I always try to get my baby blizzard bear to maim and kill the horde players in dalaran but he just sits there. Stupid bear!

hound said...


I don't think everyone used to expect anything for a Blizzard/WoW anniversary. But they set the precedent for the past two years.

No one expected anything for the first three years simply because Blizzard didn't give anything out. Doing so on the fifth anniversary would have sort of made some sense and maybe everyone would expect something on the tenth. But they also gave a pet out on the fourth anniversary.

Simply put, it's their own fault that people are complaining about it now.

Frankly, I couldn't care less one way or the other. I have more pets than I know what to do with already...