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Preconstructed

It’s been a few weeks already, but one of the latest additions to Hearthstone has been Battle-Ready Decks. These are full decks (one for each class) you can buy straight from the Battle.net store for $20, and include 2-4 Legendary cards, a half-dozen Epics, and some smattering of Rares and commons.

Given that Hearthstone is a CCG, it is refreshing not to have to consider the Pay-2-Win angle. Of course it is P2W, like every CCG. So the addition of what Magic: the Gathering players would call “Preconstructed decks” into Hearthstone is not entirely shocking for the genre. That said, the manner in which Blizzard has rolled it out is a bit interesting.

To start, Blizzard included an FAQ regarding these decks:

  • Why can’t I buy a Battle-Ready Deck when the expansion launches?
    • We want to make sure we preserve the exploration phase of each expansion when everyone is trying out new and interesting things. We won’t be offering Battle-Ready Decks right after an expansion launches because the meta always needs time to settle at first, and we need time to analyze the resulting data to determine which decks we should offer.
  • Why can I only buy one? Will more Battle-Ready Decks become available for the next expansion?
    • We’re trying this limited run now to gauge community interest before we decide how expansive this should be.

There is a lot to unpack here.

The simplest “real” answer as to why these decks aren’t available to purchase right away is because it would cut into pack sales. Most Hearthstone decks these days heavily lean on their Legendaries to either close out games or flip bad situations on their heads. Thus, what you’re looking for in packs is cracking open the necessary Legendary cards to make a deck function. Getting all the ones you need straight away pretty much eliminates the need for you to open additional packs and then dust the unwanted cards and try to craft the missing pieces that way. Disenchanting a Legendary gives you 400 Dust, but crafting one costs 1600 Dust. Huge savings being able to get the right one straight away. Less need for packs means more Gold accumulation which you can use to purchase either cosmetics (which otherwise cost cash) or the mini-sets (same).

But let’s take it on face value that Blizzard really is more concerned with “preserving the exploration phase.” That’s good… and really good for Blizzard. By being able to analyze “hundreds of thousands of play sessions” prior to offering anything on the shop, they ensure that A) people early in the expansion buy packs/craft Legendaries, B) they identify what the most popular meta decks are for each class, C) they save themselves the embarrassment/costs of offering a poor-value or easily-countered deck for sale. That is technically a win-win-win.

Unless you are trying to not spend money, of course.

I do find it very fascinating though about Blizzard limiting the purchase to just one deck. I suppose there would be a mini-PR disaster if it seemed Blizzard was just straight-up saying “playing Hearthstone costs $200.” It does cost that much (technically more) for what I would say is a good time, unless you are willing to be considerably patient and underpowered for a few years. No one “needs” every Legendary from every expansion, but the tricky part is identifying the Legendaries – and class! Just ask Shamans – that will last 3 expansion cycles.

In any case, I ended up buying the Rush Warrior deck for $20. Why? To make the $5 offer more valuable.

Blizzard lately has gotten on a tear with limited time offers that are random Legendaries + X amount of packs. The offer that has recently come up is $5 for 5 packs and a random Legendary. Objectively, this is a real good deal, considering two packs are $2.99 in the store. What makes this deal a bit sweeter is the fact that Blizzard has enabled duplication protection for a while now, which means if you have Legendary X, you are guaranteed to not receive another copy of X until you have collected all other Legendaries.

Have you read this blog long enough to see where my mind started going?

All I was particularly interested in was the $5 deal. But if I took it and opened, say, Rokara, I would be sad if I later decided to purchase the Warrior Battle-Ready deck because Rokara was already in it. You do technically end up with two copies in that scenario, so you can disenchant the other for 400 Dust, which ain’t nothing. But it’s certainly not the equivalent of getting 1600 Dust (cost of crafting a specific Legendary) by changing the order of operations a bit.

My random Legendary ended up being Zixor, by the way. I had not realized that the random Legendary pool included all of Standard cards, and thus something from three expansions ago. It will still be Standard legal until 2022, but my internal calculous was based on the erroneous notion of it coming from the current expansion (good until 2023). Oh well.

Ultimately, did/will I get my money’s worth? Probably not. I do find myself playing Hearthstone more these days than, say, in the last few months. On the other hand, $25 is 2.5 months of Game Pass. Or any one of the dozens of games that I have on my wishlist but never buy even when they’re on sale because of the minute possibility they end up on the Game Pass. Gamepassgamepassgamepass. Sometimes it really fucks me up, you know?

What I do know is that Hearthstone is still somehow in the small rotation of games I actually do play for whatever reason, so perhaps this was a better deal than I think. For the average player who just wants to be able to play a competitive deck in Hearthstone, it is also a good deal for them. So even though I believe Blizzard is coming out ahead in a secretly nefarious way, maybe you just grudgingly pay for the $5 bottle of water at the theme park and then get back on the rides.

Stick of Carrots

A few weeks ago, Blizzard acknowledged that their reworked rewards track system in Hearthstone wasn’t sufficient. This week, they are acknowledging again that, yeah, it still sucks:

  • We’re adjusting a variety of daily and weekly quests to make them easier to complete
  • We’re removing weekly quests that require Legendary cards and Arena runs
  • We’re changing the weekly quest “Win 7 Games of Ranked Play Mode” to “Win 5 Games of Ranked Play Mode.
  • Tavern Brawls and Battlegrounds will now contribute to quest progress.
  • We’re making small tweaks to certain quests
  • All 800 XP daily quests will now reward 900 XP.
  • We’re reducing the amount of XP needed to reach certain levels in the rewards track.
  • We’re adding more gold rewards to certain levels of the rewards track.
  • We’re adjusting rewards track bonus levels to provide steadier gold income.
  • We’re also planning a one-time log-in reward of 5 Darkmoon Faire packs and 500 Gold

To be clear, the only rational reason the reward track was introduced at all was as a justification for a Battle Pass. Hearthstone, a game that already brought in hundreds of millions of dollars for very little cash outlay, was apparently not profitable enough. Despite, you know, the designers slamming in an extra expansion a year.

Of the changes they are proposing, the only particularly relevant one to my interests was them allowing Brawls to contribute to quests again:

Tavern Brawls and Battlegrounds will now contribute to quest progress. Tavern Brawls and Battlegrounds will reward progress for any daily or weekly quests that they should naturally apply to. This should allow more flexibility in how to complete quests and make the rewards more consistent with previous gold earnings. For example, you’ll now be able to complete a quest like “Play Three Games as Priest, Rogue, or Warlock” by playing Tavern Brawls, and quests that require you to play Beasts, for example, can be completed by playing Beasts in Battlegrounds.

I like how they phrased it “this should allow more flexibility,” as though this was a new feature they were introducing. No, these morons took it out of the existing system for… what reason, again? Seriously, it made zero sense, even if they were trying to shove everyone into Ranked or whatever.

Time will tell as to how long this dumpster fire burns. The /r/Hearthstone community is a bit split on the changes, which I suppose is an improvement over the constant meme rioting. The goalposts though have moved from the gold revenue reduction (which appears largely solved) over to the Dust Economy in general. That is one area in which I agree has been messed up since Day 1. It takes 1600 Dust to craft a Legendary card, but you only ever get 1/4th of the Dust back when disenchanting other cards. That is generous when compared to paper CCGs, but pretty weak when compared to the competition that Blizzard has not crushed in the digital CCG space.

More relevantly, it just feels bad within the context of just the game itself, considering many decks hinge on their Legendaries and Epic cards. Sure, no one is necessarily entitled to a collection full of meta decks. But considering that your options as a non-whale are A) destroy your older cards and gamble the deck you are crafting will be useful even a few weeks from now, or B) simply get ran over by meta decks, it might be worth looking into how stingy you want to be for the health of the game. Especially when you start introducing quests and game modes that are dependent on a person’s collection (that may or may not have been dusted).

We’ll see how this plays out. Of special note is the fact that Blizzard is introducing a “mini-expansion” soon, whatever that means. Well, we know what it means ($$$), but how terribly will it be implemented? Based on their track record thus far, I would guess the worst.

Morhaime’s Shade Blots Out the Sun

Mike Morhaime, the cofounder of Blizzard who stepped away in 2018, recently announced that he would be starting a new game company called Dreamhaven. It will act as a parent company to two sub-companies, filled with ex-Blizzard developers.

In the interview with VentureBeat, this line shot out like an arrow:

“We’re almost trying to create a haven for creators who want an environment that is development friendly, values product, and player experience over short-term financial pressures,” Morhaime said.

That garnered a literal LOL from me. Because, you know, the implication.

Supposedly the two sub-companies are developing a game apiece, but there are no details as of yet, not even what genre they are eyeing. Given how most of them are ex-Hearthstone developers, I would assume at least one of them will be a card game.

ApoligiCon

So how ’bout that BlizzCon?

Let me dedicate some space to the The Apology. Or, rather, “apology.” A lot of my fellow bloggers seemed surprised that one was offered right in the opening ceremony, but it seems unthinkable that Blizzard would have tried to not address the one thing that threatened to overshadow their whole trade show. Can you imagine the headlines all weekend if Brack said nothing?

Which is amusing to think about, because he did say nothing:

Before we start the opening ceremony, I want to say a few words. Y’know uh Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone Esports moment about a month ago and we did not. We moved too quickly in our decision making and then to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about, there’s really two things. The first one is we didn’t live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves and the second is that we failed at our purpose. And for that I’m sorry and I accept accountability.

I’m going to pause here, as it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine whenever someone says “I accept accountability” when there aren’t any consequences to account for. Imagine a parent saying that to the store manager when their child knocks over a display case, but then just leaving without, you know, paying for the shit that got broke. Brack “accepts accountability” and that means… what? Nothing. Is he going to take a pay cut? Resign? Maybe this will be filed in his Permanent Record?

[…] We will do better going forward. But, our actions are going to matter more than any of these words as we walk around this weekend. I hope it is clear how committed we are to everyone’s right to express themselves in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places. I’ve actually seen and heard many of you expressing yourselves this morning.

This is likely a reference to the protesters outside, the people wearing Hong Kong tshirts, and possibly the person walking around in a Winnie the Pooh costume. Which SynCaine sees as a huge deal, for Blizzard allowing someone to do. Because allowing them through the door is surely more potentially damaging than ejecting someone for an obscure reference to China’s president.

Give me a break.

What this apology did was give enough cover for those that were only reluctantly boycotting Blizzard to go back playing games guilt-free. As Brack clarifies in this PCGamer interview, the 6-month ban on Blitzchung (and the casters!) is staying. Would people have boycotted at all if this was the initial punishment? I don’t know – you tell me. The prize money confiscation was especially egregious in my mind, but the whole thing kind of reeks. At the same time, having no policy at all regarding non-Hearthstone speech during a Hearthstone victory interview seems untenable as well.

But, whatever. If an apology with nothing behind it is good enough to allow you to have fun playing videogames again, then have at it. I never joined the boycott myself, because half the items in my house come from China so it all seemed kind of hypocritical. Yes, Blizzard said the quiet part out loud. But if you think the makers of your George Foreman grill would not have also done the same thing in a hypothetical grilling tournament scenario, you are naive to the extreme. Same with the people flocking to Final Fantasy 14 after the controversy, as if Square Enix made some kind of heroic stand against China. You know, what with their partnership with Tencent and all.

I have nothing against principles. I love’em, in fact. But they only ever mean anything when you actually stick with them. If what Brack said at BlizzCon was enough to move your needle, well… maybe you were better off in the peanut gallery with the rest of us.

Internalization

To recap: Blizzard banned blitzchung on Tuesday for 1 year and took away his prize money.

Late in the day on Friday, Blizzard reverses course… a little bit. Basically, J. Allen Brack releases a non-apology hitting on Core Values and mission statements like it was co-authored by a guy desperately applying to the last open position in Human Resources. The brass tacks are that Blitzchung gets his prize money and he and the shoutcasters are only banned for six months.

Blizzard also very much wants you to know that while “the process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly,” that this speedy, inadequately processed response was not due to China:

The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.

We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took.

If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.

That’s certainly in line with the Official Blizzard-China social media account of the incident back on Thursday (translated by IGN):

We express our strong indignation [or resentment] and condemnation of the events that occurred in the Hearthstone Asia Pacific competition last weekend and absolutely oppose the dissemination of personal political ideas during any events [or games]. The players involved will be banned, and the commentators involved will be immediately terminated from any official business. Also, we will protect [or safeguard] our national dignity [or honor].

Oh, wait, no it’s not.

The broader context of the drama is also instructive. Specifically, the General Manager for the Houston Rockets tweeted a pro-Hong Kong message that threatened to upend billions of dollars in NBA deals and merchandise in China. That tweet went out on October 4th, and the Chinese backlash – including banning broadcasts of Rockets’ games – started on October 6th.

The NBA sent out this tweet on October 7th:

“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” NBA said in a statement, adding: “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

Then on October 8th, after considerable domestic backlash, the NBA basically said “just kidding, we’re totes in favor of free speech.” To which China responded by immediately halting all NBA preseason broadcasts and issuing this statement:

“We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Silver’s stated support of Morey’s right to free speech. We believe any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability do not belong to the category of free speech,” the network said. “We will also immediately examine all other cooperation and exchanges with the NBA.”

Then, October 9th, all official Chinese partners with the NBA suspended ties.

…only to reverse course on October 10th, per the New York Times. The speculation is China started to realize how visible its hand up the asses of these puppets had become, and started to worry maybe things were becoming a bit too counter-productive. Indeed, China’s insane overreaction certainly has brought Hong Kong protests and China’s ethnic cleansing of Muslims into greater awareness, if only for a little while.

So, to summarize:

  • Oct 4th: Pro-Hong Kong tweet by Rockets’ General Manager
  • Oct 6th: Chinese backlash | blitzchung’s pro-Hong Kong interview statement
  • Oct 7th: NBA apologizes to China
  • Oct 8th: NBA takes it back, China angry | Blizzard apologizes to China, bans blitzchung
  • Oct 9th: China suspends relationship with NBA
  • Oct 10th: China unsuspends relationship with NBA
  • Oct 11th: Blizzard lessens ban on blitzchung

Funny how that all works out.

In fairness to Blizzard, it is possible that everything is just a big coincidence. I doubt it was Brack himself who decided on the punishment – whomever made the call did already have a set of rules in black & white to follow, including the bit about zeroing out prize money. Beyond the bullshit, Blizzard also has a vested interest in not having the winner’s interview becoming a political podium. Imagine a parade of “Make America Great Again” and “Black Lives Matter” and “But Her Emails!” After seeing the wide-ranging backlash, it’s also entirely plausible to need a few days to properly vet a review and response.

However.

The deeper concern here is how much American companies and institutions may have internalized Chinese (government) values along the way. It is one thing for China to threaten to shut down access if a punishment is not meted out. It is a far more pernicious thing if the NBA and Blizzard preemptively overreacted on behalf of China, in anticipation of the belt. Their behavior this time has been very visible. What is less visible is when they change rules, company culture, and otherwise align themselves in subtle ways such that it becomes impossible to offend China in the first place.

No amount of free speech will overcome self-censorship, the Great Firewall in your mind.

…And Then Blizzard Lost It

These are interesting times we live in. And ones that seem to, on occasion, move very quickly.

The context, for posterity’s sake, is Blizzard confiscating the prize money from a recent Hearthstone event winner and banning him for a year due to a pro-Hong Kong Live interview statement. No, really. Here’s a link to the official Blizzard blog post, for however long that stays up:

Upon further review we have found the action has violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules section 6.1 (o) and is individual behavior which does not represent Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports. 6.1 (o) is found below.

2019 HEARTHSTONE® GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4   p.12, Section 6.1 (o)

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. 

The Hearthstone and WoW subreddits have since erupted into a roiling boil.

HS_Boil

At least two prominent bloggers on my roll have said they will be canceling their subscriptions. If posts on Reddit can be believed, there are thousands of others doing likewise. Not a particularly good bit of PR right as patch 8.3 previews are making the rounds and Blizzcon is less than a month away.

Of course, none of it is likely to matter. Blizzard made a completely rational business decision.

Tencent owning a 5% stake in Activision Blizzard is almost wholly irrelevant in the broader truth that China is an insanely large market for games. Like $31 billion and growing to $41.5 billion in five years kind of big. By 2023 there will be more PC gamers in China than the entire population of the US. The latest news is that the US pulled ahead this year in terms of market size, but that is attributed to the fact that China freezed approval of new game licenses for almost a year and put restrictions on screen time for children. Even with zero investment from Tencent, losing access to that “second place” market would be a significant setback for any gaming company.

Don’t get me wrong, I consider China to be one of the most repressive, authoritarian regimes on the planet. But… up to this point, that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. It could be that this was just a particularly egregious example that shocked people into wakefulness, similar to certain phone calls to Ukraine. And that’s fine! Whatever it takes to get people to pay attention to the fact that corporations are not your friend, and that if it were profitable, these men and women board members would have a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders to destabilize the United States and/or any other country.

Canceling your subscription and deleting Blizzard games is one way to protest. I hope you don’t close Battle.net and boot up League of Legends (100% Tencent owned), anything on the Epic Games launcher (48.4% owned), PUBG (11.5%), Path of Exile (80%), Clash of Clans/Royale (84.3%), or any of the other games on the list though. Perhaps that is unfair, as I don’t think the Path of Exiles devs have banned pro-Hong Kong players for interviews. On the other hand, I don’t think these other companies were forced to let go of the tiger’s tail just yet. Nevermind any non-Tencent companies that would be willing to walk the same road for access to hundreds of millions of Chinese customers.

Incidentally, the makers of Gods Unchained (another digital card game) came out with this statement:

.@Blizzard_Ent just banned @blitzchungHS and stripped his Hearthstone winnings because they care about money more than freedom. We will pay for ALL his lost winnings and a ticket to our $500k tournament: no player should be punished for their beliefs.

Cool, huh? I suppose it’s a bit easier to stand up to China when you build your card game around one-time printings of cards, including Mythic-rarity ones of which only four are printed per year, one of which just sold for $62,000:

GU_62k

A bargain at twice the price!

Ultimately, I do hope that Blizzard reverses course. I hope that all the negative PR and boycotting is effective enough at providing change. I hope that American companies will stop bending over backwards to appeal to oppressive regimes.

I had also hoped in the last election that people who would have literally died without Preexisting Conditions protections would not have voted for politicians expressly running to remove said protections, but here we are. This is the world in which we inhabit… until it bursts into flames.

Blizzard Still Got It…

…in the movie department. Well, the in-game movie department, amirite?

The above is an “official” compilation of all of the cinematics in Battle for Azeroth proper. Clocking in at nearly 24 minutes, it’s quite a lot. This does not include the three Warbringers shorts (Jaina, Sylvanas, Azshara), or the copious amount of in-game animation. It’s almost enough to compel me back into the fold.

Almost.

Alas, unlike my blogging peers, I have but 1.5 hours a day to play games, and I sure as shit ain’t playing Beta for Azeroth anymore. Maybe it got better since I last played… which was an entire baby ago. Ah well. We’ll see how things go an expansion or two from now.

Not Hurting Enough

No matter the dire economic news surrounding Activision Blizzard, one thing always keeps me grounded: when there’s a WoW “sale.” Then it’s made clear they aren’t hurting enough.

WoW_Discount

A bargain at 70% of the price, clearly

Stock price of ATVI was $83.19 in September 2018, and it closed $42.92 Monday. That’s damn near half the value in six months.

Now, obviously, cutting prices for (apparently) extremely lucrative services will cut into profits, but it nevertheless boggles my mind that twenty-one dollars ($21) is the sale price of this sort of thing. Or that moving servers – which is a cell on a data table somewhere – costs seventeen fifty ($17.50) on a discount. Especially when you can buy an entirely new copy of same goddamn game for $40. And that comes with all the expansions, 30-days of game time, and a level 110-character boost.

Blizzard has gotten a bit clever over the years though, as it says “new account required.” It used to be that you could buy another box and basically merge them under one account, thus netting you a level 110 boost token for the sale price of a box instead of the $60 or whatever nonsense they sell it for in-game. Maybe it still works that way? Regardless, the process is obfuscated enough to likely dissuade most from realizing it.

As for me, it’s a bit of a moot point. Even if the BfA expansion was any good at all – it isn’t – I have less than zero desire to head back to WoW at the moment. Seeing the naked hubris of “sales” like this though, only reinforces my resolve to stay away from a game in which people are so invested that these prices “make sense.”

Taking Stocks

As gaming pundits, we often make claims that X change or Y addition are terrible design decisions that will cause companies to lose money, subscribers, etc. They are easy claims to make, when there is absolutely no sense of follow-up or acknowledgement that something like stock price is affected by many different factors.

Well, color me surprised when I stumbled across the actual stock prices of gaming companies the other day. That gaming stocks have been pummeled this year is putting it mildly.

ATVI is Activision Blizzard, currently trading at $46.52, and the stock is down -26.53% year-to-date (YTD). If you look at just the last six months, it is down -36%. EA is, well, EA, currently trading at $81.18 and down -22.73% YTD. Again, if you look just at the last six months, EA is down -40%.

It is incredibly easy to say “well of course.” Beta for Azeroth will probably go down as one of the worst expansions in WoW history – or at least give Cataclysm a run for its money – so of course the stock prices reflect that. Then with EA, you only have to look at all the “historical inaccuracies” they added to Battlefield V and the controversies that spawned. Get woke, go broke, right?

Well… hold up.

TTWO is Take Two Interactive, and is currently trading at $101.69. You might know this company as the one who released a little game called Red Dead Redemption 2. The YTD movement has been… -7.87%. That is certainly less of a drop than Blizzard and EA though right? Yeah, sorta. The three month decline has been -24% though, and that’s with a critically acclaimed (Metacritic: 97) title coming out a month ago.

This is not to suggest that what a company does, or any sort of controversies it generates, has no impact on their bottom line and thus stock price. But sometimes it’s good to acknowledge that there is a large gap between what we feel should be the natural consequence of a given design choice, and what actually happens in the real world. On occasion, things line up and we appear prescient. A lot of the time though, we rage in our little bubbles and the world moves on without us.

Warfronts Sinkhole

Very clever, Blizzard. Very clever.

I had a post all queued up to go on a rant about how terrible professions have been designed this expansion. I still feel that way, actually, so let me just say it: professions in Battle for Azeroth are a lazy copy & paste job from Legion, including all of the mistakes. Well, most of them: at least alts aren’t as punished by needing mythic dungeons or whatever for Rank 2.

One of the principle sources of my ire however, were all the useless crafts and crafting materials.

Remember Unbroken Tooth in Legion? Well, the functional equivalent of that is Calcified Bone in BfA, which is selling for an average of 6 copper on my server. It’s supposed to be a higher-tier material, but all it does is displace the actually-useful Blood-Stained Bone material in Skinning – which will be relevant all expansion due to people crafting and scrapping leather wrists for Expulsom. So why have Calcified Bone at all? Why not split Blood-Stained Bone off and make Calcified Bone the crafting material needed for mail gear or whatever?

There’s not a good reason other than the lazy interns tasked with designing professions. But they’re going to get away with it because of Warfronts.

Basically, Warfronts are going to be item sinks for the entire expansion. The Horde have the turn-ins this week, and they include things like Great Sea Catfish and Straddling Viridium. Before this week, Great Sea Catfish was absolute garbage. Not only did you catch it in fresh water (huh?), you could only cook it into non-buff food. It’s greatest claim to fame was setting the floor price for Aromatic Fish Oil. Now you need 60 of them to get 500 Azerite Power and some reputation.

Meanwhile, while the 3% movement speed gems were nice in the first three days of the new expansion, I had bought several for below vendor price in the past few weeks. Now? There was about ~6 hours in which they were selling for 400g apiece. It says a lot about the game that people were willing to pay nearly 6000g to get 500 AP, but whatever, I just supply the things.

Guild Wars 2 has a similar “solution” for its own terrible loot system, in that the Mystic Forge lets you throw 4 (stacks of) items into a hole, and sometimes get a goodie out the other side. It kinda makes up for the fact that you accumulate an astronomical amount of debris in your inventory, and Warfronts provide a similar sink.

It’s all a bandaid, of course. The fundamental issue is that Blizzard regrets the existence of professions, and doesn’t know what to do with them. Should they be the source of the best gear in the game? “No, that should be raids.” Should they give better gear than WQs? “Also no, we need people out in the world.” Should they give gear that invalidates dungeon gear? “No, unless it requires dungeon drop materials, in which case we’ll allow it.” Should crafted gear be a catch-up mechanism? “Sure, that sounds fine.” You do realize that as soon as you put on crafted gear, then WQs will start immediately offering upgrades, right? “Working as intended.”

But, whatever. Warfronts are a thing now, and I just made 60,000g in a single day because of them. Mostly from Coarse Leather Barding and Prospecting Platinum Ore for gems. Next week should be much the same, up until people stop caring about maxing out AP. Which, given how the anti-alts philosophy Blizzard had in Legion has dropped, might not be for a while.