Raiding and fun

I’ve been watching the ongoing squabble about the importance of 25 man raiding, and how the increased 10 man raiding is going to destroy WoW, and think I want to stick my two cents into the thing.

While it’s not quite this simple, there’s an important thing to recognize.  There are several million players out there who will never, ever see a 25-man raid, but who’ve managed to get to the 10-man raids.  If you’re blizzard, do you continue to interest the 5% of the paying players who can manage the 25s, or the 60% who can manage the 10s?

I think it’s important to recognize some of Blizzard’s incredible strengths – reasons why Wow has done so well for so long.  One that gets noted and then forgotten – probably the BIGGEST – is that they aim for center mass, not the bleeding edge.  WoW, even with TBC, will run on a Dell Latitude 110L (1.3G Celeron) with a mere 1GB of memory.  The pipe to the servers need not be huge – 56k dialup works.   Instead of playing to the bleeding edge only and leaving the masses drooling, it allows the masses to play.  Other companies envy the player population, then screw it up by only targetting the handful with power machines.

This is not a new Blizzard phenomenon.  It’s instead the norm – aim for the middle.  Have some candy for those who CAN run the edge, but make sure everyone can get meat.

25-man raids is candy for the edgers.  10s are meat for everyone.  The balance is ensuring the masses don’t think they’re missing meat – rarified meat, but meat nonetheless.  And the reality is… they were.  Kara, ZA, and then… go start another character.  That narrow edge of players, on the other hand, got hours – days – more play out of the game, seeing sights that most will never achieve.  And that, friends, is contrary to the model that has made WoW stay so successful.

It’s a game, and several million people are paying a token fee every month to have fun.  And if 10% leave for the new bleeding edge, but 90% stay not only because they don’t have machines that’ll handle that edge but because there is new stuff that they can do…  it’s worth the loss.

Should the 25s be a ‘bit more’?  Yes.  Should there be a goal only a few can reach?  I think so – I think the knowledge there’s a bit more is part of the appeal – it prevents the “well, finished it all.  next game?” problem.  But the trick is to make sure that unattainable candy isn’t a mountain, but rather a teaser.

And Blizzard may have figured out a better balance.  We won’t know, of course, for another year.  But my gut feel is that they’ve succeeded in this regard.

I’m not so sanguine about the level 70s and Death Knights, but that’s a different issue.

~ by Kirk on May 21, 2008.

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