Pursuing Blizzard corrected

A lot of the secondary stuff – the laughter and all that about other games – is still the same as the last post, so I’ll not repeat it. What’s changed is how to get to Blizzard because of who owns them and how they’re owned – well, sorta. So, another rambler that’s not about actual gaming. Sorry in advance.

Everything I said in the previous post is true AT THIS INSTANT. It is also going to have large chunks of change very, very soon now. That’s because Vivendi is sorta selling Vivendi games at the same time it’s sorta buying Activision. Oooookay, let’s examine that – but not in the nitty gritty.

Activision and VG are merging – announced last year for those who remember. Basically, there’s this sorta trade. Activision gets VG. At the same time it’s going to create a crapload of new shares, and in exchange for both VG and a crapload of money, Vivendi gets those shares. The actual amount of shares is still kind of floating because it’ll depend on the actual price at the time of the event, but V will end up with between 52 and 60 percent of the shares. Current activision shareholders (to include AV itself – companies can own stock, you know) will end up with the rest. The dollar value of a stock holding won’t dilute particularly, but how powerful a vote (or block of votes) is has reduced. Now that’s all background because unless you’re into real world finance stuff, you don’t care. You want to know how to get Blizzard to change how it does its process – to improve the customer service interface.

Answer – very soon, you don’t talk to Blizzard. Answer – very soon, everything we know will change. At this point we’re close enough we THINK we have some answers, but certainty? HA! So what’s about to follow is… call it informed guessing. We’ll all have a better idea in about three months.

First, I SUSPECT that Activision will take over most of the account management stuff. Ex-Blizzard, now the WoW department (guess) will handle tech support and server ops and, well, all that sort of thing. Second, I SUSPECT that Activision won’t change its customer service process at first, except for maybe adding WoW issues as a line in the robo-answer system. Third, I suspect Activision has no clue what’s about to hit it in this area. But they might – Guitar Hero and Call of Duty had large sales and several little bumps of one type or another.

OK, I said Activision will probably take over the “fix my account” hotline. But they haven’t yet, so that means I cannot give you a phone number. For all I know, they’ll keep the current Blizzard number – after all, it’s in all the manuals and that would cause the least disruption for them. So that’s going to be my guess.

That said, I didn’t recommend the phone, anyway. Oh, sure, if you’re trying to get YOUR situation fixed, you betcha. After email, though, not before. Yes, it feels better to talk to a person, but having worked a couple of help desks I’ll tell you that frequently phone is more frustrating from the ‘trying to help’ stage.

What I focused the big part of the pursuit was “fixing the system.” Folks, we have a golden opportunity, but need to avoid killing the goose.

Activision Incorporated (will become Activision Blizzard, Inc., but not yet)
3100 Ocean Park Boulevard
Suite 100
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Write them with a request – polite and professional – to improve the current mess that is the World of Warcraft customer support system. When you do this, be specific. As in, specify you mean the out-of-game support. As in, you mean the account support. As example:

“Since World of Warcraft has a global customer base, i would like to be able to contact account services when my account has difficulties regardless of when it happens. To do this, I would request staffing the department as close to 24 hours a day, seven days a week as possible.”

As example:
“One of the long-term frustrations I have experienced with World of Warcraft’s account management customer service has been the lack of immediate feedback. I understand it can take time to investigate and resolve problems, but I believe knowing a person has received my problem and is working on it would be a great improvement in public relations. And I need to add, a mere form letter saying ‘We have received your concern and are reviewing it,’ is probably not going to be enough.”

You get the idea. This is our chance – new ownership inevitably brings some changes, so we can try to get changes that work for us. That said, there’s another, somewhat unique opportunity that I will suggest.

Activision-Blizzard will be a publicly traded company with its stock registered on the NASDAQ index. ATVI (its code on that index) is currently selling for a bit less than US$33 per share. Want to make a big splash? Buy enough shares to matter. Well, we can’t really do that – most of us aren’t running around with several hundred thousand dollars free. But if you’re willing to take a chance, buy one to ten shares.

And then pay attention to the shareholder rights. And at appropriate times, take the opportunity to ask on various WoW forums and blogs that other game-holders (yes, I’m creating that term) proxy or move themselves to act in unison. To raise the question of customer service. Or far too obscure rules of banning. Or, “Darnit, Let my friend back IN.” Just remember when you do, that you’ll probably have no more than a handful of percent of the vote. Just enough to have a voice, not enough to decide. Thing is…

As I noted in the previous version of this, the people trying to get your money listen to the squeaky voice. Your trick is to multiply that volume. And the ability to speak directly to the deciders of paychecks… yeah, that’s pretty loud.

For now – for this banhammer – follow the existing sequence. Use the email appeal. If nothings happened by next week, add a phone call. And wait…

But for the merger – acting now will pay dividends down the road. Think carefully, then write. And… consider spending a little more money.

[disclosure. I own no shares of Vivendi or Activision or any of their related companies. Nor do I receive any income from any of them. I am considering purchasing some Activision, though.]

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~ by Kirk on May 23, 2008.

4 Responses to “Pursuing Blizzard corrected”

  1. […] [edit – SIGNIFICANT PARTS OF THIS ARE IN ERROR. CORRECTION POST IN PROGRESS. FAST SUMMARY – VIVENDI NO LONGER HAS SOLE OWNERSHIP OF […]

  2. Both excellent posts, Kirk. Have you any idea how many shares it would take to have a meaningful bloc? I would think gamers, owning some small amount each, being able to vote in their own interest as a bloc would be a powerful statement to the executives of these conglomerates.
    ~MostlyKaldorei

  3. […] EDIT: As Kirk pointed out in his comment, he posted even more information. […]

  4. Oddly, it can be very small and still be noticable. Which is a good thing when you think of something like this.

    ATVI has just under 300 million shares outstanding. There are approximately 9 million WoW accounts worldwide. Even if we all bought one share – and that is NOT going to happen – it’d be a mere 3%. That won’t win any votes by itself.

    It’s the fact it’s a block moving in unison — even though a tiny fraction — that’s noticeable. Or rather “meaningful”. News media notices. And the folk that DO own big chunks notice when customers vote. So… it’s an idea. Possibly a dream. We’ll just have to see.

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