Post-Interview, and Diablo 3

The interview went… more or less okay.

For the curious, my interview in Chicago was for the JET Program; basically applying to teach English in Japan for a year (or more). I spent a semester in Japan during college, I want to go back, and we will all have to wait to see how it shakes out because results aren’t announced until April. If selected, I’d be in Japan by August. If not, it will be business as usual. In fact, considering this blog (and commenting on other blogs) is my only outlet for gaming discussion, it’d be business as usual anyway.

…okay, maybe business as usual. Let’s jump off that bridge when we come to it.

In other news, in catching up on Diablo 3 blue posts, I wanted to highlight two things:

In the near future, we’ll be implementing several changes to the posting limits and fees related to the beta version of the Diablo III auction house. Here’s a quick summary of what’s in store:

  • Listing fee is being removed.
  • Transaction fee is being increased to 1.25 Beta Bucks.
  • Minimum listing price is being raised to 1.50 Beta Bucks.
  • You will be limited to 10 active auctions per auction house.

With the removal of the listing fee, players will no longer need to worry about whether they’re going to run out of free listings for the week. In addition, introducing a limit on the number of active auctions means players won’t feel as though they should be trying to sell everything they find, potentially flooding the auction house with unwanted items. Under this new system, players will only pay an auction house fee if and when an item actually sells. This has the main advantage of allowing players to try to sell their items risk-free. In addition, because the transaction fee is already baked into the price when an item is listed (as part of the minimum listing price), it’s no longer possible to be in a situation where you don’t have enough Battle.net Balance to list an item, forcing you to have to charge up your Balance just to attempt a sale. We think this will be a much cleaner process for selling items and will ultimately lead to a better experience when using the currency-based auction house. (source)

What I am finding curious is A) such fairly radical RMAH changes are being iterated on so late in development, and B) how there is now an effective floor price of (presumably) $1.50 for any given item, and C) holy shit, an 83% Blizzard cut of the profits on said floor prices. Even if you sell things at $5 or $10 a pop, that’s still 25% and 12.5% respectively.

I am beginning to wonder if these margins won’t start creating a space for the gray markets to move in – if you broker a “10 items for $10” outside the game, the customer saves $5 and the seller gets $7.50 more than they would have. Perhaps Blizzard doesn’t feel like people would bother with small sales? Easy typically trumps cheap, so who knows.

The other bit was this… unfortunate analogy by Cashiok Bashiok:

On a more serious note, I too worry that we won’t be able to meet the expectations people have built up for themselves. Part of my job is managing people’s expectations, so… eh… stop it. Stop thinking about how awesome this game could be. Just imagine it’s a new M. Night Shyamalan movie. Sure Sixth Sense was amazing and Unbreakable had it’s moments, but this right here is the sequel to The Village … or The Happening … or Signs … or any of the movies besides the two I first mentioned. So just like, lower those expectations, but still definitely buy the game please, and everything will be just fine. K? (source)

Now, there is certainly a tongue-in-cheek context to the quote and the thread it was responding to. Is Blizzard seriously trying to lower expectations as they scramble with radical 11th hour changes? I guess we will know for sure when it releases.

What is unfortunate is that I use Sixth Sense as a go-to example of why developer/director/artist worship is a bad idea. You see, Sixth Sense was a brilliant, brilliant film. It was also, based on the movies that proceeded it, a complete fluke. There simply is no reason to believe that a beloved whatever will continue creating quality content. I read bloggers casually throwing out “We will have to wait on Titan to move the genre forward” and arch an eyebrow. What makes you think Blizzard even knows why WoW was so popular? There isn’t some secret formula for quality gaming, and even if there were, what worked in 2004 doesn’t work the same in 2012.

Just ask Nintendo and the company that sold me Chess on my flip-phone for $5.99 how mobile gaming is treating them these days. Oh how things change.

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Posted on February 23, 2012, in Commentary, Diablo and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I lived in Japan for 17 years and my wife is Japanese. We are thinking of moving back. Any idea where you would be teaching?

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    • Unfortunately, no. I won’t even know if I’m selected until April, and then it will be several weeks after that until I know where I have been placed. On the application, I put Kyoto, Osaka, and Okinawa as my preferences, but they can place you anywhere. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have put Okinawa on there (I’d prefer the ability to travel places by train), but I suppose I could apply at the military bases once the program is over – all the civilian jobs I looked at require you to apply locally, rather than over the internet.

      17 years though, eh? Assuming you are interested in MMOs and such, have you had any problems with playing them in Japan? Or do you play offline games? Or, I suppose, Japanese games?

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  2. “What makes you think Blizzard even knows why WoW was so popular? ”

    Exactly ! Is it not entirely likely, if not probable, that Blizzard have messed up WoW so spectacularly exactly because they didn’t know then or now what they did right ?

    Beyond this all analysis is meaningless and the next alignment of the gaming planets is unknown.

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    • It has been my theory that Blizzard didn’t understand why WoW was so popular, and that with Cataclysm their luck finally ran out and they messed it up badly. Previous missteps were small enough to be bypassed by the players.

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  3. “What makes you think Blizzard even knows why WoW was so popular? ”

    Statistics. Whatever the real state of thing is, WoW still has more marketshare than all the other MMOs combined, so the people at Blizzard definitely know what they are doing a lot better than the competitors. Or to put it differently, chance does not last through several years and several expansions.

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    • Well, the counter-argument is the performance of the past year.

      Stats can demonstrate what players currently enjoy, but it doesn’t predict what they enjoy in the future. In general, people are very bad at knowing what they want – they only know whether they like something right now or not.

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  4. Ever think the reason WOW was popular was due to simple blind luck? You know being in the right place at the exact right time sort of thing. Happens very often for actors, singers, writers , painters etc. So why not for a game?

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  5. Wow, Mongo, are you really so jaded that the success of others is due to blind luck?

    That actor’s career might have appeared to skyrocket (in retrospect) due to a chance encounter, but his talent, hard work and commitment got him to that point. Not to mention the thousands of doors he knocked on before finally finding the “lucky one”. And maybe the “lucky one” was the guy who gave him that big chance, not the actor who was headed in that direction no matter who gave him the chance.

    No, having played WoW for 4 years I do not believe their success is due to blind luck. The game works when you want it to, there are layers of complexity that inspire intelligent and creative conversation, and it continues to risk and reach despite past success.

    That said, a certain degree of especially über popularity is clearly out of your direct control. You can’t know or even understand every detail in such a complex recipe, but clearly stagnating is a sure path to failure, and Blizzard appears committed to avoiding that.

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    • There absolutely is a quality product underneath it all. It is more a matter of “do they know what they did to make it quality?” Or perhaps more importantly, could they reproduce the same success today? M. Night Shamamamlalalalan got it right with Sixth Sense, and wrong to increasingly large degrees every movie thereafter. Nintendo dominated the handheld gaming scene since it began; now they’re still trying to pawn $40 games in a $0.99 app world and hemorrhaging money.

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  6. Blizzard is in my opinion the greatest game company to grace the face of the planet. They have evolved from the days of “Battle Chess” and built successful franchises and brands as well as changed cultures around the world with their games.

    Perhaps they yield some type of secret-power derived from the synergy of some of the most creative minds on the planet — and success through our drive to “escape” through engadging entertainment is timed just right with the economy etc.

    Now they’re providing players with financial rewards for playing their games by opening up a market where they can make real money…. again, I think it’s just another brilliant move and mark in evolution of Blizzard and their games.

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  7. Hi! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to correct this issue. If you have any recommendations, please share. Appreciate it!

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