Does Blizzard enjoy a competitive edge from the community?

I was thinking some on what I briefly touched on the other day; the explosion of WoW information available among the online community.

What I was considering was certainly nothing new. WoW has a massive following of dedicated players, and many of those people, like myself, enjoy the game and our long-distance friends within it so much that we talk about it outside the game incessantly.

There are probably thousands of websites at this point hosting opinions and information about everything to do with WoW.

Some of them, like MMO Champion and WoW Insider, take it to the next level and become sources you can depend on for the latest news and info as to what is happening to the game RIGHT NOW. Server down? Wintergrasp crashing every 15 minutes? Chances are quite high that checking either of them will tell you if it’s just you, or a more widespread problem.

Some sites like Wowhead and Wowwiki provide data and information that is, and I sincerely mean this, absolutely essential for serious “I want to know what is available in game” questions.

And still others find a single rich topic of info and focus on it, and do so to a brilliant degree, like Petopia.

Whatever it is, there is a TON of information available about WoW, a supporting framework around their game that Blizzard, in their wildest dreams, could never have imagined or created.

And here is what I was thinking, my unoriginal thought; it is the community that ensures that the chances of my leaving to play another MMO is somewhere between slim and none at all for a very long time to come.

Age of Conan, Warhammer, City of Heroes… any of the up and coming MMOs like Champions and the DC Universe.

They all have solid things they either brought or are bringing… but the one biggest draw for me in playing isn’t just isolated to the game itself anymore. I am not kept in WoW because of the rich lore, the available player classes, the races, the quests, the game mechanics, the PvE or PvP gameplay, or the graphics.

It’s the massive community that has built up around it to help me feel that no matter what question I may have, or what enthusiasm I may feel overwhelm me… there are lots of other people all over the web that either have answers, or want to talk about it and share it too. And not just on asshat-ridden official forums.

The information is there to help me play the game smart, if I only were to reach out my hand and grab it. The data to help me make informed decisions. The people that share the same enthusiasm that write about it and share their knowledge, experiences, and fun.

I don’t care how good any other MMO is going to be… I don’t care what killer graphics they are working on, what new gameplay mechanic they are planning on implementing, what neat new class ideas, PvP scenarios, rich Lore from an already established fan favorite genre, what accessories or big name design talent they are bringing to the table.

None of them will have the insane depth of community in place like WoW does, and so I won’t feel all that tempted to try them.

Many, perhaps most other players probably don’t feel the same way. They might see them as games that stand alone, seperate from any community, and really don’t care if there is a Wowhead out there or not. And as soon as they get bored with WoW, they are eagerly looking for the next game to distract them with shinies. It’s just another thing to put $50 down and have a little fun with.

That’s cool, and it might even be the most clearheaded way to look at the game.

It is, at it’s heart, a video game like any other, after all. It’s a very good one, no question, but it’s still just a video game. When it came out, it was running head to head with Everquest II, and few folks thought it would stand the test of time against a juggernaut like the Everquest community.

But they weren’t up against the Everquest community… because you couldn’t transfer your Everquest characters to EQ2. It was a new game, with different everything… and it stood up agaisnt WoW on it’s own.

WoW seems to pretty clearly have won that battle, yes? And the original Everquest is also still going strong… but why would that be, with new expansions still coming out for it, when they had a new graphics engine and everything else for a ‘better’ more up to date game in EQ2 already in place to move to?

Could it be that the community just refused to pull up stakes and move on?

I think that IS what has happened… and what truly sets WoW apart from all the other games that have come since is the sheer, crazy size of the interactive community, and the high quality of websites that talk about all aspects of the game.

And that the game itself is still good enough despite it’s age.

Oh, and when I talk about the quality of community websites, no, I don’t mean this website. The other websites. You know, the good ones.

It sometimes amazes me that Blizzard often seems to act as though their game is so massively successful based solely on the brilliance of their game design. They seem to either not be aware of the powerful draw of the community, or even to wish it would go away and leave them alone.

For example, Blizzard has long shunned WoW Insider, for completely unknown reasons, to the extent of occasionally granting exclusive interviews to gaming news journals that barely have anything to do with WoW or MMOs, and leaving WoW Insider in the cold. Blizzard absolutely does not court WoW Insider in any way, or reach out to help share news and upcoming events with them, so as to reach even more of the community.

A damn strange behavior to consider if Blizzard understands the role such news and opinion sites play in strengthening the sense of community WoW players share.

It makes me wonder… does Blizzard understand that, in many ways, they should not be breaking their arms patting each other on the backs over their long term success? That it is not just the excellent quality of their product that keeps people like me coming back all the time?

Do they really understand that it’s not the occasional Californian Blizzcon that I’ll never get to go to that makes me feel part of something bigger that is hard to walk away from?

I don’t know… maybe they really do feel over there that their game is just THAT much better than every other new MMO that has come out.

Regardless, I really wish the other MMOs that are being developed success and good fortune. And I hope that the design teams are putting serious thought into more than just new graphics and gameplay innovations.

Becasue you aren’t just fighting a successful game when you want to bring players over from WoW.

You’re trying to break up a relationship.


13 thoughts on “Does Blizzard enjoy a competitive edge from the community?

  1. I will have to say this. When considering WoW’s community vs another MMO. Its apples and oranges. It isn’t fair to compare the WoW community of today which is 4 yrs running strong to another MMO that has just started up. The community we enjoy with WoW wasn’t there in the beginning it grew over time. Give the other MMOs time and see if they garner as much community support. I know Mythic actively supports their community and post on the realm forums regularly. (which is part of why they opted not to do their own forums for WAR)

    WH40K only wins if I get to play a Sister of Battle and truly flame the hell out of ppl. *pets her exorcist tank*


  2. I think Blizzard is very aware of sites like wow insider – how could they not be? I even remember an interview with Jeff or Chris – when asked about the popularity of the game, they responded that it’s really all about community. That’s what keeps people coming back for more. But in the grand scheme of (wow) things, wow insider is just not that important. Blizzard have so many ways of reaching and responding to the community: I see no reason why they should give special mention any one of the thousands of third party websites out there, nor would I draw any conclusions about the publications they do choose to talk to, or those they dont. There’s just too many reasons flying around behind the scenes – and most of those reasons are probably pretty prosaic and un-significant at that.


  3. Interestingly, the community is what kept me away from WoW for the first few years. (Beside the subscription thing.) I just don’t want to play with a bunch of anonymous internet jerks. Now that the old world is nearly empty, it’s much more appealing.

    That said, it’s thanks to the community that I can analyze a metric crapton of data about the game, effectively data mining the community for game design concepts without actually needing to play the game. As such, I’m pretty indebted to the WoW community… at least the part of it that’s professional and dedicated enough about it to make merely reading about the game interesting. (Which is one reason why I hang out here, by the way.)


  4. Honestly, I think Starcraft: Ghost getting axed might have been a good thing. The whole action/shooter/platformer thing was a new kind of game for Blizzard, as all they’d done by that stage were a bunch of RTS games, and Diablo. If you remember, there was supposed to be a point-and-click adventure game about Thrall’s quest and rise to power before WC3, but that eventually failed to materialise as well. For whatever reason, Blizzard were unhappy with both, and canceled them. Failed experiments, as it were. Given their track record with the titles they *have* released, I’m inclined to trust their judgement here.

    I think it’s a good thing that there’s at least one company out there who isn’t willing to release garbage despite the fact that it’d most likely sell very well just on the strength of its franchise. One only has to look at the existing libraries of some consoles for some examples of how bad Starcraft: Ghost could have been.

    As for the WH40K thing, as much as I love the setting, I’m not sure how it’d work as an MMO. It doesn’t even work very well as an FPS, as Fire Warrior demonstrates. Relic did make a damn fine RTS game using the material though, called “Dawn of War”, and it actually captures the scale of the table-top game pretty well, and the attention to detail is amazing. There were 3 more expansions, and there is, at last, a sequel around the corner. We might even see Tyrannids in it this time. 🙂


  5. Some of you that remember BBB give me just a bit o’crap about being bribed into playing EQ2. Took me just over 2 months to get thoroughly bored & subsequently quit. In comparison I played WoW for something like 2 years. I think a good part of the difference is the amazing amount of info that is available to WoW players. I was spoiled, EQ has nothing to compare with the quantity ANd quality of the sites for WoW.


  6. Actually, you are selling yourself short … It is not the big sites like wow-insider or even wow-wiki/information sites that really comprise the community. Having specific sites like yours that tie a player to actual people playing the game as they do is far better social reinforcement than the larger ad driven and subscription driven sites could ever do.


  7. I think from a community standpoint, the only way that another game will pass wow is if blizzard takes a big time fall. They have a 4 year head start, and 11 million subscribers, how do you topple that? Answer – you don’t.


  8. From a community standpoint, I think that any edge that WoW enjoys is purely based on the large numbers of the community. Blizzard’s 11+ million subscribers by default will ensure a larger community, and from that a larger quality blogging community. Warhammer Online has one of the best blogging communities I’ve seen outside of WoW, and since Mythic has no official forums (which they reversed course on today and announced official forums for WAR oddly), they have actively reached out the blogging community and forum owners to give them interviews and information. I’ve never seen that level of community outreach from Blizzard, at least not to those of us that blog about mmo games regularly. When you are making so much money (400 million this year, half of Activisons total revenue o.0) I guess you don’t have to work as hard at community relations as the smaller guys do.


  9. I disagree with you, BBB. I think the community exists because WoW is such a great game.

    Communities exist around every game. WAR, EQ, Civilization, Quake. All have communities. WoW’s community only differs from them in scale, not quality.

    Indeed, I think that Blizzard’s policy of non-interference is a good one. Say they gave an interview to WoWInsider. That might slight the other communities, and they would be aggrieved. I’ve seen large complaints on other forums when a blue occasionally posts on EJ.


  10. I’d like to see The Old Republic succeed, and by succeed I mean be an extremely good game that captures the imagination of a large fanbase.

    I’d also love to see Warhammer 40K be brought to life, if only to drive a solid silver spike into the eye of whichever Blizz executive crushed Starcraft:Ghost, and to punish them for not bringing out World of Starcraft.


  11. I agree. Sometimes i wonder who’s running their PR, because overall it’s not very well thought out (for example during the WotLK alpha leaks, when they threatened sites to remove the leaks or lose press status for Blizzcon).

    I think they need some real, serious competition, that can only come from a game that launches with at least some semblance of community. Warhammer could’ve been it, but it never got enough momentum. I think we’ll have to wait for The Old Republic to see some real competition. The power of the Star Wars community plus Bioware’s wide fanbase sounds like it could put Blizz on the alert again.

    I really enjoy WoW, but competition is good for the consumer, so i really, really hope that TOR becomes an excellent game with a great community.


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