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World of Warcraft: Schadenfreude Is the New Emo

“…They found you amusing for a little while. … But the one thing they love to see more than a hero, is to see a hero fail. Fall; die trying.  In spite of everything you have done for them, eventually they will hate you.

Why bother?”

-Green Goblin from Spider-Man (2002)

Everybody loves an underdog.  David n’ Goliath. Rebels n’ the Empire.  The Chicago Cubs n’ the game of baseball.  You name it, people will generally go out of their way to root for the ‘Little Sister’ instead of a ‘Big Daddy.’

Fight the good fight, viva la whatever your slogan happens to be, etc.  I get the general appeal.  So and so is huge, and the other guy is tiny.  If you are going to lend a hand at all, might as well give the tiny guy a boost.  He’ll likely lose anyway, but you did your part.  And if he wins, hot dog!  It doesn’t take a horse-betting fanatic to know how well an upset pays out.

Enter the biggest subscription-based game to date.  World of Warcraft has somewhat in the range of over 11,000,000 active subscribers, but you wouldn’t know that based on the current ‘news’ on the web.  Every Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Sue online is not only stating the sky is falling, but that they are rejoicing the ‘fact.’ This ‘fact’ is not only law, which they will repeat constantly as if it really were, but it is also expected to be common knowledge because anyone who still likes that game is clearly behind the times.  Nearly all of those comments need to be read with a flared velvet top hat, smoking pipe, and a well-polished monocle accompanied with a drolling, nasal voice for the full effect of smarm and smug.

WoW has been so big for so long that it is now not only fashionable to hate on WoW, but to do so is an almost a right-of-passage-like fad.  (Apparently it is guaranteed to make your e-peen huge and your crits even crittier.  I haven’t seen the ad for it, but that’s what I gather from the commotion.)  Granted, I have raged about the game quite a bit in the past and I always joke that it’s my inner-Warrior burning through.  While I disapprove the direction it was headed, I don’t think I’d ever see myself gleefully doing the worm on its casket as it is lowered ceremoniously into its final resting space.

The game has been going on for quite some time now, I am well aware. I also know that if it was not for a two month time card I got for Christmas and the Misses wanting to play the game, my account would have likely remained frozen since a month after Cata came out.  Believe me, I understand the problems with the game.  (Personally I think this is more of a Powers That Be issue more than Blizzards losing its touch.)  While I dislike a lot and can easily see the formulas in place, I will not outright pray to the flying spaghetti monster wriggling in the heavens above for the game to fail, nor will I sadistically cheer it’s death throes for several reasons.

One, you’ve got a long, long time for that to happen.  Admitting ‘victory’ now is at best ignorant and a clear sign of your favoritism, be it conscious or not.  As everyone was mentioning recently, they are opening markets in Brazil and China and all that. Even if all of the US/EU subs magically disappear into the Nether the game will live on for at least another five years easily without a moment’s pause.  They will continue to do what they are doing until it is no longer tangible to generate revenue.

Note: Remember WAR and how that was the next game changer?  Remember how terribly fast people flocked back to WoW spouting “it burns us!” ?  WAR is still hanging on.  It is in a full body cast with an erratic pulse,  but the life support is still plugged in.  Heck, from what I hear it’s coming out with a DotA mode.  Good luck with that but hey, I’m not gonna cheer if/when it does actually die off.

Two, cheering for anything’s demise?  Not a silent nod that it’s pain is over, but blatant jubilation?  The last time I heard someone do that was Jon Stewart openly admitting he was too biased to cover Bin Laden’s death.  Ignoring the admission of bias for the sake of comparison, you have inadvertently placed a man who thought up plans to kill thousands in the same category of an online video game.  Bravo.

Not everyone is jumping on the Schadenfreude Express, though.  Syp made a very good post two weeks back which didn’t throw a single jab WoW’s way.  It was a casual and friendly look at WoW and how it might be the end of an era.  Not the end of a game as some read it, but an era.  Zee proof:

Just because the WoW era might be over doesn’t mean WoW is, and even after this next year’s worth of releases, it’ll still be alive and strong.  I just hope that as it rejoins the MMO crowd, WoW will forgo an ego about its former position and embrace a new, smarter attitude.  I think we could see great things if it did.


For better or worse the game will continue as long as it turns a profit.  Any diehard anti-WoWers out there know three magical words that can bring even the dead back to life:  Free. To. Play.  (If it worked on a dreadful, dreeeadful game like DDO, it’ll do far more than just keep WoW afloat.)

As for my thoughts on the game itself, I remain unsubbed.  Till the Misses gets back into the game, I will not touch it.  The 4.3 changes did pique my interest though, and that alone is a milestone.  Since virtually December, nothing has been going on in WoW that interested me in the slightest iota as everything seemed teeming with greedy intentions on the developer(s) part.  But, seeing Actiblizzard revoke the charge on Real ID grouping and then follow it up with LFRaid, that did capture my attention.

It is fairly safe to say I’ll give it a go for a month once it arrives, but I am more than happy to play Minecraft and wait for the adventure patch 1.8.  Or design symbols and songs in APB.  Or shoot it up in Team Fortress 2.  Or read up on news for Guild Wars 2, or look forward to playing Twisted Metal in maybe February, or whatever else I’m interested in.  Will all of these games make a mistake somewhere?  Most already have.  But it doesn’t mean I’m going to sign my name with the blood of the innocent just to clamor and cheer at a video game’s funeral.  As David Jaffe recently said via twitter:

It’s all so f—ing Win/lose with people. What have we been conditioned into?!? It’s like the gamers and the biz folks have been so trained to only care about who wins and who gets their a– kicked that there is no room to appreciate a game can do well enough to turn a profit and please many fans. But doesn’t have to win awards like ‘most money made in a weekend by an entertainment product’. Sure we all want that success but it’s not the only definition of financial, social, creative, or execution success. There ARE still some shades of gray.

6 responses »

  1. It makes me sad to think about it dying but I can see it already. More and more ppl don’t log in all the time. Sigh. Wow has been my game for 5 years, I don’t play anything else… but hopefully my friends and I will continue to have the fun in it.

    • Mmm hmm. Wrath it started to falter a bit, but was fairly solid until 3.3. I know a lot of people don’t care about the story, but they marvelously botched the storyline on all accounts. From the Arthas book to in-game, it was a massive ball of bleh. But the game was still fun to play, so I did. Got bored of waiting after Arthas unlocked and went full on Minecraft. Cata comes out, tried it. Was not very fun (story took even HARDER hits with Garrosh and all that bs) and as an end result I haven’t played in months.

      What I think it all boils down to is supply and demand. Kinda odd comparison, but give me a sec ^_^ More or less, the “this is so AWESOME” stage was far over and done with by the time I hit 70 in BC. But it was still fun to play as the fun stuff outweighed the gripes. Everytime I was about spent on things to enjoy, another patch came out and extended the fun again.

      As a consumer we get charged per month. That means different things to different people, but to me that means I better darn well enjoy what they have to offer as the month I get charged and I dislike what I see is the last month they get cash from me until I DO like what I see.

      They kept putting out good stuff in BC and Wrath, enough to keep me afloat and logged in most of the time. Towards the end of each expansion there was quite a lull, and that’s generally when I tapped out. A LOT of other players also tapped out, and this is where the ‘end of the expansion lifetime sub drop’ sets in. They know and understand it.

      But in Cata they dun f-ed up. Again, I mostly blame Activision here because even though it wasn’t perfect before, the quality and customer satisfaction was far, far higher before Acti got involved. Because of that Cata is by far the most I have not been logged in in the history of my time playing WoW. The ‘end of the expansion’ lull has started months before it should have for this very reason.

      Now is this the end of the world? Hardly. The first thought other people have is that the people left to go to Rift, when they peaked at 600k subs and has since dropped to about 350k and falling. This is hardly a competition issue, this is a quality issue. There was hardly anything, to date, rewarding and engaging in Cata. It was pushed out like a typical CoD/Madden title without enough effort behind it.

      But, the next patch does show quite a bit of promise. Like how 1.8 is giving adventure to people who have been neglected in Minecraft, 4.3 is bringing stuff back to the core audience of casuals in WoW. Looking for Raid will be huge, and while the Transmogrification appears small, we all know we’ll quickly get sucked up into that. You change a goofy helm to a better one in your bags, which leads to you remembering a cool one dropped in Wrath, and an even better one in BC… and suddenly you are grouping up with a bunch of server people you’ve never met just to get old raids and content down to get cool looking gear.

      They are still adding end-game raid content for the more-hardcore players and the casuals FINALLY get content in 4.3. (What new content was added specifically with casuals in mind in 4.1? 4.2?) This should not have taken this long, and I deeply wish this is a sign Activision is backing the heck off and letting Blizz take up the reigns again.

      Stay hopeful, Cinna! The end is not neigh yet. Still a few months off till 4.3 and I suspect the venomous posts will continue until the day 4.3 drops. Well, maybe till Blizzcon which I think will occur a month before the patch drops. New info will come out, and as long as it is not as hilariously bad as the Cata reveal info, it’ll be great. (As last time when I read in on MMO-champ I honestly thought it was a very late april fools)

      They still are by far the most dominant in the market, but a brand name only will buy them time without content backing it up. They are still in a good place, but they cannot drop the ball again if they want to keep current on-the-fence fans in place.

      • Screw Activision.
        They destroyed Guitar Hero, another great game – and I’m sure they’ll do the same thing to WoW.
        Every thriving franchise that Activision buys out and gets their hands on turns to Sh*t. You would think they’d figure that out eventually, but no. It makes me sad, WoW’s a good game that I’ve been playing for years – I want to see it continue doing well… but it’s looking pretty ugly right about now. I personally have been unsubbed since March, playing MineCraf and re-discovering some older games I missed the first time around, like Lionhead’s The Movies.

      • Seems that were are sharing the same boat, Mike! My two month time card ran out in March and I’ve been Minecrafting up a storm in it’s absense.

        It is a shame Activision’s history is so bad. I still hope the dip in subs got through their wallets and into the greed processes of their brain to churn out an idea that they might just make more cash if they weren’t so short sighted. They can’t see the bank vault from the register, to kill an analogy.

        I never picked up The Movies, but I did like Black and White. Funny enough the guy incharge of Lionhead really likes what Notch has done with Minecraft. Wonder if that will affect his game design in the future?

  2. Very well said. Just because the game might not have as many players it still has a LONG way to go until it bottoms out below any other game’s sub numbers. Only time will tell if the slowly bleed out or if other games steal the spotlight- As of now nothing has. I’m still playing Everquest after a decade, I am sure WoW will still be around in another decade.

    • Thank-you, Kaozz. I totally agree that nothing has been an honest threat to WoW’s dominance yet. The competition market is getting more difficult, but honestly at this point (and what Real ID and Cata both actually ‘proved’ for me) is that the only thing capable of killing WoW off is itself.

      As long as they keep coming out with fun content, I’ll keep coming back. I happily await 4.3, but in the same breath they won’t get a penny from me until then. Or until the Misses nags… ‘politely requests’ that we start playing again -_^


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