I have not posted about this before pretty much because… well, because I don’t care very much, and whatever Blizzard is working on is not on my radar. But Blizzard’s recently announced plans to monetize Battle.net, add ‘Paid Character Customization’ (whatever that means – I tend to think of it as similar to Vanguard’s free feature that lets you redesign your avatar,) to WoW, and to release StarCraft 2 in three separate installents is drawing a lot of fire and bile.
Yeah, it’s money-grabbing. That said, just because WoW is making Blizzard tons of money doesn’t mean that any other given project doesn’t need to be able to stand on its own feet in terms of profitability according to whatever standard Blizzard wants to set for it. Furthermore, there’s good reason to trust that any Blizzard product will be of at least good quality, and if, say, Starcraft II, Chapter 1 (or whatever) turns out to be half-baked on release, I will be very surprised. In other words, if Blizzard is breaking up SC2 into three different products, I expect them to be good and complete enough to warrant that. As to the Paid Character Customization thing, they already charge for server transfers, and this may not be substantively different from that. As long as they don’t actually take any functionality away from what paid subscribers already have, I don’t see much of a problem. I would like this kind of service to be free, of course, but Blizzard is under no obligation to make it so. Nobody should be surprised at the introduction of additional microtransaction-type features to WoW.
I’m somebody who doesn’t plan to buy SC2 or Diablo 3, and who plans to never play WoW again. But it’s easy to criticize success. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more success. Blizzard is not a model of Hitlerian Evil just for wanting to grow their market share. Remember that WoW may doiminate the MMO space, but Blizzard is merely one player (albeit, with Activision, a significant one) in the much larger video game market.
If Blizzard decides to make you pay real cash for WoW respecs or something like that, I’d see it as something worthy of condemnation, because then they’re taking value away from the product for which their customers are already paying. If they plan to make the features of Battle.net, a service that is currently 100% free (and which has aided the growth of StarCraft worldwide immensely,) only available to paying players for existing games rather than just the new ones… that will be worth complaining about. That may be happening, but I’m not sure I’m ready to read that into the announcement without more details, and I am willing to operate under the assumption that the decision-makers at Blizzard are not actually stupid until I learn otherwise.