Virtual Realms: Height of Cynicism

Alright, maybe Virtual Realms were the unannounced feature of 5.4. Or the tutorial zone, aka Proving Grounds. But, no, probably Virtual Realms:

New Feature: Virtual Realms

  • Virtual Realms are sets of realms that are fused together, and will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm. Players on the same Virtual Realm will be able to join guilds, access a single Auction House, join arena teams and raids, as well run dungeons or group up to complete quests.
  • Players belonging to the same Virtual Realm will have a (#) symbol next to their name.

I guess they finally solved that otherwise insurmountable naming problem, amirite?

Anyway, there are two (other) reasons this announcement is the height of cynicism:

1) Server Merges by any other name.

I get it, you get it, we all get it. Actually saying “server merges” is a sign of the apocalypse and bad PR besides. Grouping several low-pop servers together “virtually” is putting lipstick on the pig of 1.3+ million subscriber losses in the last quarter. At some point though, it’s just sad. You aren’t fooling anyone with that ridiculous comb-over. Just shave your head and get it over with.

2) Aren’t you glad you just spent $12.50+ server transferring?

I read the comments on my earlier post, regarding how things “usually go on sale before they are obsoleted.” For as jaded and dour as I can be under normal circumstances, I generally have some minimum level of faith in humanity. Obvious displays of naked greed are actions that can still genuinely surprise me, even if I distrust the “altruism” of corporations as a rule.

But, Jesus Christ, did Blizzard just take a huge shit on their playerbase.

There was a running joke in the PlanetSide 2 community regarding something similar: Item of the Day. Usually, the deals are 50% off the Station Cash (i.e. RMT) price of some garbage item or another, including items that are way cheaper to purchase with Certs. Every now and then though, some recently-released gun or something will pop up, prompting a lot of sales. People always joked that whenever something good snuck its way into the rotation, that meant it was getting nerfed by next week. And the shitty thing? It usually did.

The assumption got so pervasive and accurate that Higby, one of the PlanetSide 2 devs, actually stepped in and rolled back a planned nerf to one of the vehicle weapons that had just went on sale. He assured the community that these sales are planned out 30 days in advance, that the sale/nerf cycle was just coincidence, but who can you really believe when it comes to capitalistic incentives?

That question is not so rhetorical anymore. It was not an accident that Blizzard put server transfers on sale for the first time in their 8+ year history a mere week before announcing (free) server merges. Maybe they see some distinction insofar as players can choose where they go versus leaving it up to random chance. It’s still absolute bullshit though, because how many people would have bought a server transfer if the sale was this week, or next week? QED.

I mean, this is a new low that even EA hasn’t achieved, not for lack of trying.

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Posted on June 13, 2013, in WoW and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Couldn’t agree more with this. I’m glad my WoW sub had already expired days before the offer started or I’d have been sorely tempted to finally race/faction change my Horde warlock to join my mostly Alliance characters. In the end I talked my partner out of paying to server transfer a character to free up a slot – I’m so glad I did now as this is just such an obviously cynical move by Blizzard.

    How the mighty have fallen..

  2. I know that the dev team is not the sales team. I get that. I don’t understand why a dev team would ever put up with the crap sales does to their team. Had there been no sale, this would have been seen as something different to mergers and much easier to manage from an IT side.

    Now though, holy crap this seems opportunistic.

  3. Speaking of buyers remorse. Rift aggravated me with the “going F2P” hype. They said if you buy Storm Legion before the switch you were locked into the expansion souls and they’ll only be available a-la-cart after they go F2P. So I bought the expansion assuming the a-la-cart cost would be more. $40 for the expansion, after the F2P transition the souls are ~$25 for the bunch. Guess they got $15 out of me. :\

  4. Actually I think that the naming problem is something more than a simple technical difficulty, and the main reason is that it can turn into a support nightmare in case of harassment/etc. where getting the right person becomes a TON of extra work. Internally I doubt that GUIDs for same-name characters are identical.

    Anyway it’s sad that they are milking customers for a “feature” which will disappear, the server boundaries were growing thing already, but this “50% off” thing is a bit of a slap in the face when it occurs just before a server-merge-without-calling-it-so.

    BTW I keep that they should kill servers off once and for all. It would also solve the “server merge = bad PR” problem…..

    • Like I posted about before, I find the same-name excuse especially weak because they already solved this issue in LFR and especially BGs years ago. When I talked in /bg, my name was Auchindoun-Azuriel. Or they could have went with the Battletag route and had me be Azuriel.1234. The problem has always been incredibly easy to “solve,” so it seemed as though the only hang-up was this irrational fear of just merging the goddamn servers already.

      Going server-less or some megaserver is definitely something I can get behind. In fact, I’ve been calling for this sort of solution since 2011.

  5. The naming issue could have been solved simply by making names less restrictive. 10 characters, no spaces was pretty basic even back in 2005. What does Blizzard have against last names?

  6. First question. Why so hostiel with blizzards method of handeling the low population issue? The problem will, potentially, be solved on way or another. Why be mad at what they are calling it so long as the issue is done?

    Second(ish) question. Let’s say that this feature does not go live come 5.4. What happens if virtual reams do not affect high population servers, what if virtual realms cap at the high end of ‘medium’ population realms? What if it does go live, does not work properly for whatever reason and has to go back into the lab for further testing? Would it still be underhanded by Blizzard then? If server transfers were the only service being offered at half price, I would agree with you more, but they offered all the ancillary serves on sale. Do I wish they would have done both at the same time and said, “Get where you want your home server to be now.” Yea sure, but I would not call this EA levels of low. I expect that kind of exaggeration from Gevlon not the usually sound minded Azuriel.

    • To answer both of your questions: it has everything to do with timing.

      I have two friends that still play WoW, and they ended up “taking advantage” of the reduced-price transfers to move to a medium-high pop server on the last day of the sale. Technically, the whole guild ended up moving. They based this decision almost entirely on the fact that this was the first time in history that such a sale has occurred, and on the fact that Blizzard has never done server merges/free transfers off of the dead realms.

      Would they still have paid for the transfers even with the “virtual realm” news? Maybe. We still don’t know what kind of realms are being merged, and like you said, it could be a while until things are actually finalized. But at least they could have made an informed decision. They might not have paid to move all their characters, or just 1-2 to get them by. The sequence of events casts Blizzard in an incredibly shady light, even if was unintentional, just like with what happened with PlanetSide 2 (hence the anecdote).

      Beneath all of this remains the latent ire I have for Blizzard for allowing the underlying situation to fester for so long in the first place. Server merges should have been happening years ago. Server transfer prices should have been reduced by 50% (or honestly 75%) years ago. You would assume that losing 1.3 million subs in a quarter would do something to affect the incredible hubris that seems to infect Blizzard’s business decisions, but here we still are with $25 automated server transfers as if the price is justified in some bizarro alternate reality.

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