Friday, April 16, 2010

Has Blizzard put the WoW blogging community on ignore?

A little while ago WoW.com put together an excellent list of WoW resources, providing links to good news sites, databases, blogs and podcasts devoted to WoW. I’m sure there’s room for improvement – a short description of every linked-to resource wouldn’t hurt for instance. But they've made a good effort.

When I saw this list it came to my mind that I should go and check out the equivalence at Blizzard’s official fan website. I was curious to see what resources they would link to. I knew they had a Fan Site program and was wondering which blogs and news sites had made their way into it.

Ugly and thin
Before even looking I was prepared for a shorter list than the WoW.com one. Surely they would have to be pickier, checking up on the quality of whatever got their Blizzard approval stamp.

But what met me was far tinier than anything I would have imagined. There were so few Blizzard approved sites that it resembled to a joke.

Sure you’ll find a few favourites on the list: Wowwiki, Wowhead, Tankspot, The Instance and a couple of addon-download sites. But apart from those it’s void of content. They link to a couple of “news” sites that are pretty much useless as far as I’m concerned, since all they do is repeating the official announcements from Blizzard’s own site, without having the slightest ambitions to add something of their own to it such as an analysis.

Why would anyone want to visit those sites? I have to be really creative to find up a reason. Maybe if the official site is blocked for you at work and the copy-news sites aren’t? That could possibly be a reason to visit them. But it’s not a reason for Blizzard to link to them.

It’s also worth mentioning that the European Fan Site Program there are links to a couple of resources in other languages such as Polish, Serbian and Turkish. I can’t evaluate those sites; maybe there’s a need for them if people don’t understand English in those countries.

However my overall impression is that Blizzard’s fan site program isn’t only presented on an extremely messy and ugly, not to say hideous website; it’s also so thin that it’s close to non-existing.

The Fan Site Guidelines
When you look at the guidelines for what it takes to qualify for the Fan Site Program it appears that many of the sources listed at WoW.com could be included.

These are the requirements:

The site must be entirely about WoW, be up and running, updating at least once a week, be run by someone over 18 years old and not link to content that violates or encourages to violating the WoW Terms of Use.

Not too difficult, is it? And if you get elected, you won’t just get linked from the Blizzard website, you’ll also “receive regular updates and heads-up on news along with some additional surprises from time to time.”

To help aspiring fan site creators, Blizzard offers a free kit that you can download, including not only a bunch of pretty nice pictures, but even templates to help you get the right WoW-feeling on your site.

That is as far as Blizzard’s love for the community goes and to be honest I think it sucks. It sucks badly.

Writing to Blizzard
To give them a chance to explain their views on this – maybe they just weren’t aware of the existence of the blogs – or maybe they had some new upcoming link list in pipeline? – I wrote a letter to them. Or to be more precise: I left them a little note. The contact form to get in touch with the Fan Site Program staff only allows you to write 500 letters, which is cool for the Twitter folks, but a joke for a blogger.

Anyway. I wrote them and asked why there weren't any blogs in the program. And here’s the answer I got:

“Unfortunately our Fan Site program does not have capacity to lend support to individual blogs or websites that consist mainly of blogs. This is due to the (in many cases) limited interest they hold to our community as a whole, the limited amount of content and low update frequency, and lastly also due to the sheer number of these websites.

That being said however, we are not against mentioning and linking to individual blogs in our weekly Community News, and fact we have often linked to various WoW related blogs that someone made a post about in our Events and Fan Creations forum. We go through that forum every week to look for interesting things to mention in our weekly news updates: http://forums.wow-europe.com/board.html?forumId=110221&sid=1

Kind regards,
The Community Team
Blizzard Entertainment Europe”
Why they won’t link blogs
So let’s look a bit closer at this. In the first part they list the reasons why they don’t link to blog. They blame:
  • the limited interest they hold to the community (translated as “they suck”)
  • their lack of content
  • their low updated frequency
  • the big amount of them.
While I agree on that there are a ton of awful blogs out there which aren’t really worth spreading to a bigger audience, I still think the answer is inadequate.

“There are too many of them”. What kind of answer is that? I can’t imagine that they’re drowning in applications from bloggers. And even if they received many requests, how hard would it be for them to check them out and weed out the good from the bad? As a matter if fact I think there are many blogs out there that provide way more substantial content than those copy-paste crap news sites they have linked to so far.

The Community forum
Now let’s look closer at the second part of their letter. They say that they’re linking to WoW related blogs in the Community News if someone has posted about it in the Event and Fan Creations forum.

Right. It’s possible that they’ve done this in the past, but if it happens, it’s a rare event. I checked out the forum – which hasn’t got any equivalence on the US side as far as I can see – and noticed that it’s not exactly a vibrant one. The posting is rather slow and is more about promoting ingame-events than blogs. I can’t see any mentioning of blogs in the Community News. Of course we could try to change this a bit. We could start to promote our best blog posts through the forum and see if it will result in some link love in their Community News letter.

The Mythic example
But even if Blizzard would start promoting not only comics and machinima sites, but also to WoW blogs once in a while, they still have a long way to go if they want to develop a closer relationship with the blogging community.

Other gaming companies show a far bigger interest for their fans and understand the PR value they can offer them.

Mythic recently announced that they had invited four leading WAR bloggers to a special visit to their studio, where they would meat the design team. Here’s a quote from the announcement:

Everyone knows that here at Mythic Entertainment we love our blogging community. The close and personal ties that each of these wordsmiths have to WAR is a constant source of inspiration and motivation to all of us here in the studio. As a continuation of our close relationship to the WAR Blogging community we’ve selected four of our most active bloggers to receive a special trip this week….
I can’t help letting out an envious sigh as I read about it. That kind of attention is never showed even to the biggest, most influential podcasts and blogs in the WoW community. They won’t even get as much as a Beta invitation or a presscard to Blizzcon.

Has Blizzard put us all on ignore? Not entirely. It happens that they read blogs. We can see that from a couple of in-game references they've made, paying homage to the ex-bloggers BRK and Resto4life. Every blogger isn't on their ignore list.

Still I think they could do a lot better. I think they could pay back a little of all the love and help they get from the blogging community, which keeps promoting their game and helping to educate the playerbase, making it a better experience for everyone. They do it for free. All we're asking for in return is some link love.

52 comments:

Matticus said...

I can't really delve too much into this publically, but there are a few reasons. I know Lodur and I have lobbied a few times for WoM to be listed as fan site but we heard no response at all. There's a few reasons for that though, and I do sorta understand. The interaction between Blizzard and its fans just... isn't that great at all.

The company made it from small time company to super big awesome company while bypassing the middle, still-evolving, could-use-more-fans stage as a company. There are millions and millions of Blizzard gamers around the world. Their franchises are top notch. People are still playing Starcraft, Warcraft 3, and Diablo 2. I won't even mention WoW.

As much as I hate to say it, Blizzard doesn't seem to need to cater that much to the blogging community or the multimedia community simply because they don't really have to. They've made attempts via their Twitter developer chats and so forth, and I do applaud them for that. But in terms of networking with fans and social media base, they need a lot more work. The Celestial mount went on sale today at 10 AM. It didn't reach twitter until the early afternoon hours of like 2 PM.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I'd probably get fired so I'll just end it at that.

Klepsacovic said...

Blizzard has said themselves that even their official forums aren't used by the vast majority of players. So ch for the "limited interest" argument.
What does lack of content mean in this case? I'm not quite sure. It sounds related to "low updated frequency", which is quite false when you consider the number of blogs with one or more posts per day; and that's note even counting the multi-author blogs that might have 2-3 in a day.

Big amount of them is... well that's just a stupid response.

Video game journalism gets too little respect already, and bloggers seem to always be a tier below journalists, so... I'll go back to scrubbing the catch basin, sire.

Anonymous said...

I think "too many blogs exist" is a much better reason than you are giving it credit for.

I mean, WoW is HUGE. I'm certain that it's a scale or two bigger than you imagine. Likely the same reason they don't actively enforce the RP rules on RP servers applies here: there are simply too many blogs to be worth the manpower to sort through them, either actively or passively through submissions.

Saithir said...

The linked resources in Polish:

- Polish edition of WoWWiki, with a bunch of translated articles (1300 out of 81000).
- four copy-news sites, each of course with its own ~500 user forum and a sprinkle of original content (like a Love is in the Air guide for example).

However, there's just nothing else in Polish to link to, so they have what does exist - some copy-news sites for those that don't understand English for some reason (I think most young people here do, or at least should). We don't have any Polish WoW blogs at all (excluding two guildsites), and hardly any MMO or gaming blog. No tools or podcasts either.

Anyway, more on the topic. Is leaving the blogs out of the fansite list really that bad? The bloggers would feel the pressure as well - you're linked on the official website, so now you have to behave or you'll lose your fansite status. The fansite program itself seems to encourage the copy-news type of sites. "Think your completed site should be part of our program", they ask at the bottom of the page. Well, is PPI or World of Matticus ever "completed"? I don't think so. ;)

What I'd rather see is some links in the Community News section. They already do this with comic sites, so it would be a good place to list a few more good articles from the blogs.

pugnaciouspriest.com said...

No one takes bloggers seriously - they probably consider us as part of the social media and our blogs are just 'fan' ravings. I'll be the first to admit - that I probably don't have the polish to write legitimatly about wow - but I am writing for me first - I'm not sure I would want the pressure to continue writing for free - to a much larger audience with open comments ( not all news articles get reader comments enabled) while keeping in mind that my official affiliation with the 'brand'

Fitz said...

There's no doubt, blizzard could do more to embrace the blogging community. However, they focus on the best way they can make money (outside of selling mounts and pets in RMT...zing), which is spending their resources solely on development of the best gaming products in the world. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not, but they are doing it their way no matter what we say.

For the record, you'd certainly be on the short list if they listed a handful of blogs. I don't think anyone could deny that.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I dunno. As much as I love Larisa and her Inn, it's hard to imagine Blizzard officially linking to her on their website.

A good way to describe why is to think of Tobold. Tobold, I think, is quite a name in the WoW blogging community, but at the same time, his blog is not a WoW blog; it's a Tobold blog. The same can be said of, say, Tamarind's Righteous Orbs and, yes, the Pink Pigtail Inn. We don't read them for the WoW, we read them for the blogger, but is that really something that Blizzard wants to link to on their website?

Cassandri said...

I just want to point out that I like not being "affiliated" or given a stamp of approval from Blizzard. It makes my writing and analysis less biased.

I think the main problem is that there are too many blogs. Too many for them to decide what makes the cut and what doesn't, therefore, none do.

Also, I believe they'd be worried about getting bad publicity (and they should) from an opinion-style website which is pretty much what blogs are.

As for "not much interest to the community" I can understand that. Many blogs are specific to one class or one aspect of the game - pve, pvp you name it. That's what makes blogs so fantastic - they're not written for everybody to read and love.

Dwism said...

@mat: Oh matticus, you tease!
But I think you are very right in the fact that Blizz blew up -succeswise- and didnt get the comunity to follow.

@op: Somehow I imagined you would get the celestial steed intertwined into all of this. Very good post though

Larísa said...

@Matticus: it sounds as if WoW.com has some pretty strict NDAs? Well well, we'll just have to be patient and wait for your future self biography. "Now the full story can be told".

I think you'r right about the leap they made. And yeah, they're doing pretty fine without caring much about the community. But as they used to say back in those days: memento mori. I think they too can benefit from interacting with the fans - in a better way than they're doing now. Sure, they have GC. And sure, they write their blues on the forums. But they could do more. And I don't understand why they put so much emphases on their own forums. They need to look out through the window from time to time and see what's going on. You know... having that huge ear open. If they turn the back to the fans it might catch up on them one day, I'm pretty sure. I'm not a hyped "OMG we must do social media" kind of PR worker. I'm pretty cool and layed back about it. But I think Blizzard is doing a mistake. If I don't misremember I think they've hired someone to care about the social media and improve their work on that front. Hence the twitter sessions. I hope that person will take some interest in the blogosphere as well.

@Klepsacovic: yeah, i think the arguments were pretty lame. They're a bit lazy in this aspect if you ask me.

@Anonymous: that is an assumption. I think they should try it out though. Look at the wow-resource list. There's a lot of links there but it isn't THAT overwhelming.

@Saithir: Frankly I'm not sure I'd like to be a part of the program either. I enjoy being free and non-associated with Blizzard. I think it ads to the trustworthyness especially of an opinon blog to stand on your own feet. nevertheless there are quite a few theorycrafting blogs, blogs with strats and other kind of inforamtion that have FAR more content than some of the fansites they link to. And that bugs me quite a bit.

And yeah, I don't understand why they like so much to link to comics but never ever link to for instance an excellent blog post.
Bloggers are artists too you know. We just pait with words.

@Pugnaciouspriest: I think they're dismissing the blogosphere a bit too easily. We may be small islands (good idea to remind about Tim's map in your commenting post today!) but we DO have some influence. We're like a thinktank for the community and I think Blizzard should care a bit more. Ofc not every blog is like that. I don't claim to be a thinktank at all. But there defnitely are those that are.

@Fitz: thanks for suggesting me for the list, but honestly I don't think I'd qualify. But there are others that would.

@Anonymous: I'm not sure if the more opinion-personal-related blogs would fit in there. But have a look at for instance Gray Matter. Look at this post the other day. THAT is the kind of information that is invaluable to players who are a bit new and want to learn how to improve. How are they supposed to find it? Why can't Blizzard point to it? http://graymatterwow.blogspot.com/2010/04/general-rules-of-raiding.html

@Cassandri: Once again: have a look at wow.com:s list. Is it really THAT overwhelmingly big. Aren't we exaggerating the size of the blogosphere a bit there?
And what's the alternative? Why are they linking to crap news site with nothing new on them? In what way is THAT better than linking to content filled blogs?

@Dwism: I wrote about the pony in the post before, in case you missed it? I've been working on this post a little while so I didn't have any reason to include the sparkling horse there. Do you think it's somehow related?

Anonymous said...

This is something that's been on my mind since the beginning.

I can't identify myself with those on the official Forums.
Whenever I post something serious there, or read an serious article, I have enough of it for the rest of the year.

Sure, the Forum is the best way to show how huge the crowd is that asks for Blizzards attention, but it also represents, how much their community management failed to evolve according to the changed situation.

For me, the Blogsphere actually feels like the way discussions should be. There are bloggers whose opinion does not match with mine, but I keep on reading them, because they offer me a different perspective in a mature way.

From my observation so far, the noise on official forums, drove serious people into the blog sphere, where they can have reasonable discussions.

From that perspective, ignoring you blogger guys, they miss getting first class information on how their customers think.
We are doing expensive market researches and customer care projects to find out what our customers think, and here it lies openly in the net. Our Marketing Departments would kill to get that kind of insight, and they are just giving the opportunity away.

Matticus made a strong point. At the moment they simply do not need it. But expansion is not unlimited, at the time market reached it's saturation they will have to fight for their market share.
At that point, they will probably find out, that some other Newcomer has filled that niche using to it's advantage what Blizzard left unoccupied.


Usiel

gnomeaggedon.net said...

Are we on Ignore?

Yes, I think generally we are.

At 1st I would assume it is because we would be rogue agents and often we express or honest opinions about Blizzard and their many products without much fear.

Of course (If I understand correctly) podcasts like Bind On Equip have been supplied with samples direct from Blizzard... when was the last time even the most prominent of the bloggers was supplied with, I don't know.. a beta key.. to use or give away?

Do I care, not particularly. In the same way that I don't mind if WoW.com links to me and sends 10k visitors every few months, I wouldn't care whether Blizzard sent a single one my way.

In fact, some might suggest that the Blogsphere is a better place without the forum trolls stomping all over it... maybe they do it for our own protection.

I guess one piece of evidence that we are a low priority comes from something about 12 months ago.

As I say, about 12 months ago, two reasonably prominent Mage bloggers put up some posts on the official forums.. one US, one EU.

Generally the EU forum Blues are more proactive in highlighting & stickying things of interest to their communities, but this time the response was the same.

Now maybe it was the lack of bumps, the lack of posts... but what I thought would be a good reference died about 3 days after the 1st posts.

No blue.. no sticky... forgotten, if not gone...

US:
http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=16904299628&sid=1

EU

http://forums.wow-europe.com/thread.html?topicId=9158149452&postId=91573365120&sid=1

Anonymous said...

One thing to consider as well: by linking to a website, Blizzard gives the impression that they officially support that website, including security, viewpoint and content. So is it any surprise that Blizzard is hesitant or completely unwilling to link to blogs, which by definition are opinionated and highly personal viewpoints on both WoW and other matters?

Spinks said...

I think Tobold said that he did get a press pass to the Blizzcon thing they held in Paris the other year, actually.

We Fly Spitfires said...

@Spinks But I think Tobold also said that he's never heard back from them again within the last 2 years. Possibly Blizzard's policy has changed in that time?

Honestly (and it's a shame to say this) but I think it's all just arrogance on Blizzard's part.

Tam said...

I guess I'm coming at this from a different angle? Blizzard provides the game, that's all I need and/or want from them. The blogging community is audience enough. We don't need Blizzard to acknowledge our value when we have each other to do that, do we?

Larísa said...

@Usiel: it is possible that they still read the blogs at the marketing department even though they have a policy against including them in their fan site program. But yeah, it seems like a waste that they're not doing more.

@Gnomeaggedon: The blogosphere is indeed a preservation area where you can have a decent conversation. And maybe we should keep it a secret for our own sanity. Yet I think it's a pity that many forum visitors never get aware of that there is a better world out there... where good discussions are held. Your efforts to make a break-in didn't work unfortunately. Well, basically it's their loss. We can live pretty well without their support anyway.

@Anonymous: it depends on how the linking is done. There's nothing that prevents them from using disclaimers. Modern companies who have some guts have a more free look on those things, welcoming an open dialogue and free speech. They know that it adds a ton of credivility to their own brand to have this open approach, emberacing the customers.

@Spinks: what Gordon said. He was included years ago, but not now.

@Tam: no, we don't need Blizzard. But would it hurt them so much to just hand out a few presscards or beta keys to a top-selection, giving some recognition? It would strenghten the ties between Blizzard and the fan community. And I think it's a pity that many of the WoW players who actually would have great use of some of the more information-heavy blogs never get to them, in the belief that the crap official forums is all there is.

But you're totally right Tam. We shouldn't be begging for Blizzard's love and attention. THEY should be the one crawling on their knees trying to motivate us to keep doing what we do, since they benefit a ton from it. Even though they currently fail to see it from that point of view.

Markus said...

{begin cynical mode}

I have to agree with the notion that Blizzard just doesn't care for the bloggers. Blizzard's Official Forums are nothing but whining and complaining and rude comments and the only reason I occasionally read them is for blue posts about mages. I have learned more about the game through blogs and from Elitist Jerks forums then I ever did from Blizz's forums.

But there is no reason for Blizzard to care about bloggers. People are going to play WoW and other games regardless of community interaction between Blizzard and their players. Blizzard became big business in a hurry and we are nothing more than numbers on a balance sheet.

While there have been some upgrades based on what they read in their forums, it's few and far between. If they would expand their horizons a bit, they might find even more ways to improve the game. But I am sure they feel they have all the answers.

{cynical mode off}

thenoisyrogue said...

I understand everything that is being said here, I really do. But at the end of the day, Blizzard didn't ask us to start our blogs. We started them ourselves. If all of our blogs were whisked away tomorrow it wouldn't have any effect on Blizzards game.

But I also think that Blizzard takes a step back from this stuff because they don't want to have to get involved if something goes awry. If they link to us then they would be taking a small measure of responsibility for what we write. That could get tricky for them, and why would they want all that extra work? The blogs are doing fine as they are without Blizard having to lift a finger.

And if some big drama blows up, ala Cranky vs Anna vs the rest of the world? Blizzard might look pretty stupid linking to stuff like that. I just can't see it being in their interest at this point in time.

adam

Anonymous said...

Tam and Larissa:

It's not aboutBlizzard showing some sort of Sympathy or honoring your effort.

It's plainly not Community Management. Why having this unit, if it is not doing it's job?

Let's say they read your blog my dear, actually caring what you think, but not publishing it. What keeps them away from sharing their ideas with you, without putting you on some sort of Memorial Board. Like sending you an invitation or key?

In Marketing, we do analyse our Market and Customers, your blogs are a vein of gold, because I can acquire a lot of information about a target group, that usually does not appear on my radar.

Look at your project work Larissa, the worst thing that happens is, if a project get's canceled without knowing the cause.

Our customer relations spend a lot of money to get into touch with our customers, because otherwise the only contact we have, is on cancellation. When it is too late.
Here we have the situation, that you can get into touch with your customers for free.

My girlfriend works for the Marketing Department of our competitor and she would kill for the chance to get into contact with their relevant market in the way, that is possible here.

So don't make yourself smaller as you are.

It's not about showing respect, it plainly a missed chance.


Usiel

Leafshine said...

I think there's a distinction between Blizzard ignoring blogs and Blizzard not letting most blogs into their fan site program.

We know, for sure, that Blizz follows blogs. BRK and Phae were name-checked in items when they quit. At least one Blue has name-checked Graylo. I've seen Blizz's IP address in my analytics. They read us.

What they don't do is admit us into the fan site program, which is construed in a very narrow (and very pre-social media) way.

Now, Blizz could do much more with blogger outreach than they do - but their CM team don't seem to have the base knowledge needed (look at the lack of proper engagement on Twitter, for example).

Chewy said...

Pinky pigtails, do you really,really,really want your blog linked by Blizzard ?

I could only imagine that it would bring a pressure to bear that might spoil the blogging experience for you. There would be an implied, if not real, threat that if you say something they don't approve of they'd take away your link.

Keep on writing from the heart, without the pressure and we'll keep on reading. At least we know they're your unfettered opinions.

Saithir said...

@Chewy - Basically it depends. Linked as in being a fansite? There's a lot in that, as you noticed already. It's not for an average blogger.

Getting your awesome guide to whatever linked in this week's Community News, because it's awesome and a lot of help to players doing that whatever? Why not. We can't have that, though, for some reason.

Larísa said...

@Markus: Yeah, we’re nothing more than numbers and they’re making a good profit. But companies need to be in touch with their customers and the trends in society… understand our mindset. I think caring more about blogs could be one out of many tools to get a fuller picture of their audience. PLUS I think a good community actually is one of the things that keep players hooked to a game. A game that lacks it is more likely to die away. At least that’s what I believe. I think Blizzard is missing an opportunity.

@Thenoicyrogue: I’ve never suggested that they should link to any kind of emo blogger. The should be picky, absolutely. But what bugs me are that there are quite a few solid, content providing blogs out there which are WAY better than some of the fan sites they link to. It doesn’t make sense to me. Not at all.

@Usiel: you’re absolutely right. What I also answered to Markus. They’re missing a chance.

@Leafshine: old fashioned is probably the name for it. They’re out of touch with it. And yes, it’s not entirely easy to get the grip of what it’s about. I was totally clueless when I started to blog myself; as a matter of fact I partly did it as a way of educating myself. Those Community Managers evidently need an upgrade. Send them to a seminar or an inspiring class, or force them to start blogging themselves. Whatever. Just so we can wake them up.

They’re doing some fumbling trials with Twitter, but there’s much more for them to explore.

@Chewy: nah, I don’t think so. But I want others to suffer from it. ;) Actually I’m pondering upon if I should put a link to this blogpost in the forum they suggested. Just to see if it could provoke a blue reaction. But on the other hand it could pull trolls to my blog. So maybe I shouldn’t. What do you suggest?

TechDeft said...

Using the contact form, I made a formal complaint about the lack of blog resources, and questioning the quality of the content on the page as opposed to the much more useful WoW blogs out there.

Anonymous said...

If Blizz wants to pay someone to review the blogs for content accuracy and to make sure that Blizz doesn't get raked over the coals to badly, I'll take that job. Hell, I do it for free already.

Spiritus

River said...

I have a unique view of this situation. I use to run a Warhammer Online site http://wayofthechosen.wordpress.com/

They held many live events, and for their mini expansion for Land of the Dead. They had a clue type thing, where they sent several bloggers a bone, with clues on it. It was really...really cool to be a part of the game in that way. It inspired me, and inspired me to inspire others to check out this game. And I still play it, and blog about it despite their troubles. Mythic made me, and the other bloggers feel like we were invested in the game, and maybe that's why Warhammer is still around, and still profitable according to EA.

On the World of Warcraft side, they don't even respond to my emails, and that kind of well hurts. I dedicate alot of my time to their game in it, as well as out, and they can't even write me back.

Rilgon Arcsinh said...

I just want to point out that I like not being "affiliated" or given a stamp of approval from Blizzard. It makes my writing and analysis less biased.

Bingo. It was one of the reasons why I had a bit of respect for WoW Insider before they started hiring absolutely worthless writers for their staff and diminishing the quality of their editing, fact-checking, and quality control.

I wouldn't WANT to be a Blizzard-affiliated or Blizzard-sanctioned blog. I like having the freedom to pan Ghostcrawler for his soul-searingly stupid ideas (like Hunter Focus - anyone remember how well THAT worked in Vanilla Closed Beta) without worrying about "oh, is this article going to lose me my fansite tag?". I like having the freedom to be myself and write in my own voice without worrying about someone disapproving of it and yanking the merit.

SES is me, and my math, analysis, opinions, and editorials on WoW as it relates to raiding Marks Hunters. Nothing more (usually), and certainly never anything less.

Hugmenot said...

Blogs are typically one man or woman's very biased point of view of the current state of the game.

I believe it is very prudent for Blizzard to refrain from linking blogs on their fansite page because such links could result in giving one individual (or a small group of individuals in the case of WoM) too much recognition and potential influence over the game.

I also believe it is naive to believe Blizzard is paying little attention to the blogger community given several items were created to honor bloggers.

gnomeaggedon.net said...

@Rilgon (not 100% directed towards you).

In the modern media it is not only acceptable to have people "rebel" against a companies thoughts, it's sensible.

Is that you question things bad?

Of course not, especially since you question them in a rational (if occasionally unappreciated) way.

I think I can say confidently that Larisa, and for that matter most bloggers, wouldn't sell their soul for a link from Blizzard.

Yet, haven't we all experienced the trauma of looking for information.. cohesive information... and found nothing through "official" forums.

then one day, we all stumbled across blogs.

Here were passionate people who not only answered 1 question about 1 talent applied to one skill... but took the time to analyze it and write guides that got you not only going, but helped you excel.

How many hunters would be melee hunters today based purely upon the beginning of life of a hunter and the lack of official or approved content?

People like BRK received Blizzards attention because they filled a gap that was lacking...

but when did they receive that acknowledgment?

Ohh yeah... when they quit.

I can understand why, according to the rules, Blizzard wouldn't list Armaggedon's Coming! as a fansite... but you know as well as I, there is information, inspiration, joy and frustration of the game there, that everyone needs or relates to.

Yet Blizzard, to date, (and my today being their yesterday, so anything is possible tomorrow) haven't done the simplest of acknowledgments.

Volunteers like TNB & Blog Azeroth are cataloging the sites that Blizzard could refer to.

Fim brought it up on the last TNB, at my request. I see so often the question in forums, official and unofficial...

"Where can I find reliable information on x, or where can I find a blog about y."

Some people want theorycraft, others (like my most loyal of readers, Prelimar) want nothing more than to share in the joy of shared stories.

Am I a small blog.. by Blizzard standards I am sure yes.. only 300,000 reads in just under 2 years... hardly worth a mention.. yet I continue to get emails and comments about how inspired people are.

yes I bag Blizzard... nearly every post... but I never damage their reputation, because anybody can tell that the reason I speak out is quite simply, that I care.

the question is...

Do Blizzard care?

PS: Blizzard... there better be a Gnomeaggedon of Gnomeregan statue when we reclaim it.. or... or.. I'll blog about it!

Rilgon Arcsinh said...

Is that you question things bad?

In my opinion? No, not at all, because that's why I exist - to question them, and to question whether they have my class's best interests at heart.

In Blizzard's opinion? With the frequency with which I pan Ghostcrawler, Kalgan, and a good deal of their staff? Probably. :P

Chewy said...

@Saithir
It's degrees of recognition I guess and what you sacrifice to get that recognition. The mention from Blizzard of a great piece of work, the nod towards your blog, isn't too much to ask and I would agree with you that it seems almost petulant of them not to provide just a simple listing.

@Larisa
I don't know what to suggest. I just worry that the bright lights of Blizzywood might turn your head and I won't get such a good daily read :)

Bristal said...

Too many responses to read them all...but I'm a bit surprised by all the naivete regarding business.

WoW is a BRAND. A huge multibillion dollar one. I would imagine they have a sizeable marketing staff managing that brand. To protect a brand you must tightly control anything that may even appear officially associated with it, or defines/reflects upon it in any way.

Ever see a Pepsi commercial that says Coke sucks? Not legal.

If not for Blizzard's savvy, experience, and amicable hands-off relationship with the interweb community, not only wouldn't you see blog/forum endorsements, they might well be legally pursuing the community quite aggressively.

I'm always surprised that I see the occasional blog or forum using the official WoW logo. Even screenshots are likely officially their property.

Obviously it would be a huge and impossible job to control blogs in this tech age, but expecting the company to actually endorse any particular blog or forum without having direct control over them is kind of laughable.

Personally, I LOVE that all these blogs/forums/data sources are completely independent of the company. It's one of the best things I've found about MMO gaming. I don't care what Blizzard thinks about the PPI. I Love it!

Granted Larisa does a huge amount of work and it's always great to be recognized, but expecting Blizzard to send her a shout-out is like wanting Apple to publicly praise my blog talking about the Ipad.

@klepsacovic
"Video game journalism gets too little respect already..."

Journalism is not about respect. Many may disagree with that, but respect is showing esteem or regard without questioning. You respect your leaders, elders, people of authority, etc.

Journalism seeks to break down simple respect by questioning the obvious and casting doubt on things we accept.

Klepsacovic said...

@Bristal: I'm not saying the point of journalism is respect. But that people prefer that what they do is respected. Journalism is respected overall, not to ignore that every politician seems to hate journalists the day after someone exposes their finances or affairs.

Respect doesn't need to be unquestioning. You're confusing respect with blind loyalty and stupidity.

While WoW is indeed a brand, it's folly to think that Blizzard would even attempt to manage every apsect of its image. They post comics which come from sites which are not alway... clean. Same for fan art. While they have gone after a few cases of misuse of their names, as you said, they seem to let logos and screenshots and whatever else go where they will.

"Coke sucks" would make an excellent ad campaign.

gnomeaggedon said...

Actually, there are a significant number of "coke sucks" commercials out there (just search YouTube for something like pepsi vs. Coke... and vice versatile).

In most cases they are officially endorsed, occasionally a real one goes live long enough to go viral and the company gets a slap over the wrist.

Some companies handle alternative and viral marketing well. Others not so well. These was a recent example, a month or so back, where a company (maybe Nestle?) handled their Internet publicity policy so badly that they received huge amounts of unofficial (ie facebook) and traditional media attention - and it wasn't good attention.

Not that I can imagine it likely, at this point in time, Blizzard has a large autonomous collective (thank you Monty Python) that could easily turn on the hand that doesn't feed them.

To be honest, I don't think Larisa is even suggesting official approval, rather that there is a significant range of talent people out there who would have a positive impact on the player base, that Blizzard could at least list as a group of unofficial and unendorsed resources.

People burn out when something is single focused. Blogs, videos, podcasts, comics etc, the wealth of freely giving content is a way to keep the fires burning, if not educate and make peoples lives easier.

I have been writing a whole lot of PvP posts lately in part because the new Blizzard battlegroubd changes have injected a lot of people with no idea. This makes me angry and my decision was to make the game better for them, thus for me.

It occurs to me that if Blizzard were to pick 6 bloggers (etc) at random, they would be able to get the Blizzard message out much better than a 1/2 arsed podcast and occasional dev chats on Twitter.

They are either unaware of how to use this media, or afraid that in using it, their marketing department would be made redundant (rather than strenghtened)

Brigwyn said...

Heya Larrissa!
Great post. And an interesting topic I've often considered myself.

There is so much to consider when responding to this post. So I'll try to be brief. (And you know how difficult that is for me...)

Let's face it. There's a few serious players out in the WoW Bloggosphere, with yourself being one of the premiere and probably Matticus, Elitist Jerks (albeit their forums) others.

As a small (And trust me, I may make a lot of noise maybe but I'm small potatoes compared to you guys.) blog and community site I can understand why Blizzard doesn't encourage Blogs as "OFFICIAL" Fan Sites.

Mostly for the same reasons you stated and others have so there's no need to delve into that further.

But maybe we're looking at this all wrong. Maybe it's the definition of "Fansite?"

Maybe blogs don't really qualify by their nature alone.

Here's what I mean. We're not usually there for "Blizzard" fans. As many have said, we write for ourselves and not for our "audience."

Granted we might decide to transition from being a "personal" blog or even a game/class/ "community" into something more, but mostly? We're just not there for "Fans" but ourselves.

The "Fan Sites" listed are really their for "Blizzard" or "Warcraft" fans. They're not there for our own opinions, but as resources for the fans.

So, should blogs get recognized as part of a "Community?" sure.. Why not? Maybe press that angle and see what happens.

But I'll be honest, I don't think that most of the blogs out there qualify for "Fan Site" status.

Kiddo said...

"The site must be entirely about WoW, be up and running, updating at least once a week, --be run by someone over 18 years old-- and not link to content that violates or encourages to violating the WoW Terms of Use."

Not exactly easy, seeing as WoW will be gone by the time I accomplish all of these. =/

Euripides said...

You had me at "meat the design team" :P

Seriously, though, I think that the whole media relations wing of Blizzard is basically understaffed and conservatively avoiding making any changes to something that's not hindered their success so far.

Larísa said...

@Tech Deft: Cheers! You're a man of action! It will be interesting to see what kind of response you'll get. Please share it if you get some!

@Spiritus: Did you hear that, Blizzard people, if someone is reading this? We have a volunteer here!

@River: You really know what you're talking about, not just speculating like I am. Thanks for sharing, even though it's sad to see that my assumptions were correct.

@Rilgon Arcsinh: well, as I said - the loss is more on Blizzards side than on hours.

@Hugmenot: I think you overestimate the potential effects of a single blog link. Honestly. And if they linked to a number of blogs it would rather be like a buzzing bar than just a one-man show with one voice that grew too strong.

@Gnomeaggedon: You Sir put out those things much better than I could myself. Thank you.

@Bristal: I don't agree with you to be honest. Modern marketers are working their asses off to find ways to get on good terms with bloggers. Because they realize the value of viral marketing.

There's probably a ton written about this. I did a quick google search and came up with this one http://www.socialnetworkingtodayblog.com/?p=415 which I sincerely recommend you to read. And if someone happens to know someone at Blizzard, please send them the link as well! It's a good starter.

But I DO agree that blogging isn't journalism. I've written about that before. http://www.pinkpigtailinn.com/2009/08/few-thoughts-about-blurry-wow.html
This doesn't stop blogs from being important. They're important for what they are.

@Brigwyn: you must be drunk or something suggesting that PPI is playing in the same league as Matticus and EJ. But it gives me some nice egoboo (fandom expression, here's the explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egoboo), so thanks!

You have a point however. If the official "Fan Site" model doesn't fit for blogs, maybe there's something else that is needed. Maybe they just don't need to be so serious about it. What's the huge problem with having a link list in the line of wow.com when you think about it?

@Kiddo: awww... The 18 year thing. Yeah. That sucks a bit. Honestly I don't quite understand why they've put it there. I guess they fear some crazy parent aggro and want to prevent getting sued for god-knows-what.

@Euripides: sigh. I do that kind of stupid errors sometimes. WTB native English. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll correct it when I've got some other post up so I won't bump this post unnecessarily in blogrolls.

Larísa said...

OK I've found another example of a highly commercial company that thinks that the blogging community is serious business and makes an effort to keep on good terms with them. Listen to this speech by a Coca Cola representative. It's damned impressive in my opinion.

Don't come and say that Blizzard is commercial and therefore shouldn't bother about the blogs.

Others have shown the opposite. I just think Blizzard is way behind in this area.

http://vimeo.com/4778751

Tim Howgego said...

Congratulations - at least you got a reply! I gave up trying to illict any response years ago.

What you're missing is that Blizzard's Public Relations has almost nothing to do with community. Blizzard's PR is interested in the non-WoW mainstream press. Typically the very large commercial general gaming-related news sites. These are the sites that can be guaranteed to get the word out to as many non-players (new or lapsed) as possible. The people most likely to bring in new earnings.

We've seen this logic just recently with the "press Cataclysm invites". Even big, commercial WoW sites, like WoW.com, are reporting that someone else (like Gawker media) got an email about pre-registration. Not that WoW.com got that email.

The brutal truth is that they don't need to encourage the player community to promote WoW, because the player community does that anyway. This is a commercial business: Why pay for what you already get for free?

It's even more accentuated for Blizzard, because of their tendency to perfection. Put simply, they can only be loved, they cannot love. There is no natural sense of a need for reciprocity. And they don't seem to be doing so badly as a result...

The odd tributes you refer to do not come from Blizzard's marketing department. They come from the developers. Those people are much closer to the community itself. They might not read every 'blog and fansite, but they do read some.

Anonymous said...

How big are sites like EJ and WoW.com and they don't seem to be the ones getting interviews with Blizzard reps. More generic gaming sites tend to get the interviews which then get linked to by all of the other blogs.

I just don't think Blizzard PR even cares about the blog community at large despite those sites being a faster and more up to date source of information than Blizzard's own website.

Stormdragon said...

I find it a bit amusing that so many of the larger Blogs feel like Blizzard should give them some type of nod to legitimize them, quite frankly this is why Blizzard keeps as far away from these sites as possible. A very good friend of mine who worked with Blizzard during the initial stages of TBC and on SC II told me once that Morhiem and Pardo especially Pardo always felt like such sites were basically self appointed Entourages who tried to gain influence and credibility just by hanging out, and Pardo has a list of horror stories about such groups Name dropping ever chance they got whether it was true or not, and basically causing the company embarrassment and grief. And quite frankly they are not liked by Blizzard management they are in fact loathed, they could go away tomorrow and Blizzard would not shed a tear, but they won’t go away because they are too profitable. (more on that in a bit)

Apparently it all pretty much came to a head During Blizcon 05 when some fan site was telling folks that there were back door deals being made between Blizzard and certain supposed pet Raid guilds and folks were believing it, since then Blizzard has distanced itself as much as possible especially from entities like WoW.com and such..the average Joe thinks that these blogs are ran by Joe gamer and that isn’t the case some of them if you look hard enough are owned by AOL, IGN, NBC and other very large very corrupt companies . When you actually peel away all the noise and sound bytes there is a very practical very just reason for Blizzard to ignore most Blogs.

Larísa said...

@Tim Howgego: Wow. Thank you. I didn't realize they normally don't even bother to answer. I should feel honored then! It's an interesting observation that the developers are more involved in the community than the ones that are supposed to be working with public relations. It's as if they're sending out secret messages to us, just to let us know that they still care. Even if they're kept behind the corporate business wall.

But I still think Blizzard is making a mistake in their policy. Even though it might seem like good deal, getting promotion for absolutely free, I think it might turn against them in the long run. Anyway - it definitely gives their competitors an opportunity to get an advantage. The community means a LOT to the success of an MMO. If someone else manages to take better care of their community it might be the beginning of.. well who knows what.

@Anonymous: yeah that practice bugs me since I find general gaming sites incredibly boring and don't read them at all. So there's a risk that I miss those interviews, which I really want to read. I wish they were published on more MMO-oriented or even Wow-oriented sites.

@Stormdragon: thanks for inside information. If the situation you describe is true, it's even worse than I had believed. Good lord. They REALLY need some better PR people over there.

I definitely don't think Blizzard improves anything by including piss poor sites in their fansite program and not including good ones.

I can see the problem with linking to all-commercial sites like wow.com. But there are high quality sites that are non-profit and I can't see any good reason for putting them on ignore.

Perdissa said...

I don't know, I see it this way: Blogs are very much personality-driven, as compared to pure fan-sites, which have little personality of their own, but makes up for it by organizing information in useful ways.

I tend to skim thru blogs, and only read the ones where the writing style appeals to me. When I read them, I am wondering what other people are thinking about particular issues (pony!)or what whimsical thought of they day they might have.

If I'm browsing a fan-site or information site, I have very specific information that I'm usually looking for. When I find it, then off I go.

That's pretty much the difference I see between fan-sites and blogs. But should they list blogs on their links page? Absolutely.

Reversion said...

So they ignore blogs because there is lots of content but most of it is of no interest to anyone...

Sounds just like the official forums!



On second thought I apologize to all bloggers everywhere for that comparison.

This is the sort of thing that annoyed me most about this recent stuff with the tree changes. The feeling it conveyed to me was that they did some forum only survey, made up their minds, and now are ignoring anything else anyone else brings up to counter argue. The change itself bugged me but what bugged the most was the demonstration of Blizzard’s lack of understanding or interest in a segment of the player base.

Tim Howgego said...

To add a little to Stormdragon's insightful "fansite" comments:

The top tier of WoW "fan site" are all serious commercial endeavours. Curse (including World of Raids, Arena Junkies), Wikia (WoWWiki), AOL (WoW.com), MLG (MMO-Champion), Yantis/etc (Wowhead/Thott/Alla). Dedicated paid staff, properly financed, even capable to mounting legal actions - proper business. There's then a middle tier of sites, that tend to cover niches, but are very popular in their respective niche. Often run by one person, but have such high overheads and technical scale, that they have to be actively operated, and as such start to resemble a (small) business. And then there's a lower tier of not-so-popular fansites. Good ideas that nobody bothered to maintain, hobby sites, right down to "content free" pages assembled out of an official fansite kit.

What's the difference between a fansite and 'blog? Consider bloggers as an extension of the player community, and fansites as replacements for missing game features. There are cross-overs, but generally: 'Blogs are primarily personal memoirs, opinion based, often written for the benefit of other people in the blogging community. In contrast, fansites tend to be provided as services to the wider play-base - players who just want a question answered in as few lines as possible (meaning less opinion, better structure), or who want to feel part of a community (yet don't have the literacy or commitment to 'blog).

This all neatly explains why Blizzard seems to pretty much hate everyone with anything invested in their games: Individual bloggers risk being akin to that "self appointed entourage", even if that doesn't apply to most of them. Yet at the other end of the scale - where the people involved are much more likely to just be trying to get a job done - the loathing turns towards "those unlicensed people profiting from our Intellectual Property", with varying degrees of acceptance of the fact that the popularity of these "third party" services is a tribute to Blizzard's own communications and design failings.

This "can of worms" is a little more complex than a biased public relations strategy.

Instead consider the argument that everything not currently considered by their PR should instead be directly controlled by Blizzard - they've merely failed to design a sufficiently flexible online platform to do this. Yet. Take a step back and ask why we so often leave WoW in order to learn about or discuss it, when almost everyone interested in WoW plays? Encouraging the development of game-related things outside the game now, creates an ecosystem that is less likely to fall into line (willingly work within a licensed, Blizzard-controlled environment) if the time comes. Such a transition would be akin to (recent) Twitter strategy - initially letting independant developers provide assistance with "core gameplay" (like clients), then abruptly taking all those functions in-house (in their case, by giving away what independent developers were selling).

Whether Blizzard ever do that is moot. I suspect that WoW is already far too developed for anything radical to occur now. But it's an interesting one to watch when we look at, say, the relationship between Facebook and the operators of some of the games run on that platform. Adventures in virtual feudalism... And no, I don't mean Evony.

Dorgol said...

@Pugnacious Priest

"No one takes bloggers seriously - they probably consider us as part of the social media and our blogs are just 'fan' ravings."

But that's exactly what blogs are. Even when you get to the WoW.com articles, you are still reading "fan ravings".

Back in Ulduar when we saw "Phaelia's Vestments..." drop, only 1 other person in my guild knew that it was a reference to a particular blog. Similarly we saw little interest in the BRK rifle.

Blogs just aren't that big an influence on WoW as a whole. The fact that Blizzard has put items in game to honor important Bloggers is MUCH more than they needed to do.

Larísa said...

@Perdissa: well, there are some blogs that are a bit of both. The more theorycrafting/strategy oriented ones, which often also include good archives with links to how-to-spec, how-to-gear etc kind-of-posts.

Personally I'm not a huge fan of that kind of blogs though. I visit them sometimes, like now that I'm levelling a druid and need a bit of guiding in how to do it.

But to cater for my need for a daily dosis of blog entertainment/thought stimulation/whatever, I stick more to the personal/opinion related blogs. They tickle me. The info heavy don't. On the other hand probably the info-blogs are much better suited for being linked by Blizzard.

@Reversion: yeah... I think they need to work a bit on their image. I guess the twitter-stuff they're doing and GC:s appearances in the forums is an effort from their side. But we definitely could need a little bit more. They don't have to embrace the entire community. But if they acknowledged a few blogs/fansites they could be like representatives for the rest of us if you get what I mean.

@Tim Howgego: You make clear that the situation is more complicated than I made it and I defintely agree on that. I would love to see you musing over this at your own blog, maybe using your wonderful map from a couple of years ago. A sequel sort of... You've put out some ideas very nicely in the comments here but I'd love to see you wrap it up and expand on it...

Don't know if this is the right forum to order blogposts from you, but there's no harm in trying, right?

@Dorgol: I think blogs might be more influencial than you suggest. There is a reason why Coca Cola and other huge well branded companies still care about what they prominent bloggers think and try to treat them nicely. You know the rings-on-water thing. I think that even if the blogs are tiny, some ideas from them might get wings and spread over a larger part of the community - even though everyone might not be aware of from where the ideas first eminated.

Darthregis said...

Maybe it's got something to do with the semantics between "Fansite" and "Editorial"?

Blogs, of course, are the latter. Opinion pieces (which can often include mis-information as well) are not things that companies wish to be associated with. So, despite the fact that they could easily use disclaimers, it's probably a lot less headaches to just not associate with the WoW "editorials" out there.

I don't know the entire list of the fan sites they have on the offical website (can't check from this PC), but from the examples you've used, they are mostly fact sites. Whether they be data on quests/gear/etc or a re-post of Offical Forums stuff, they seem to be opinion free. (Barring comments sections, but those aren't from the sites themselves.)

So, I don't think it's so much of an "ignore bloggers" stance. It's more of a "cover their asses" stance.

Anonymous said...

"(...)I can’t evaluate those sites; maybe there’s a need for them if people don’t understand English in those countries." <- As i was reading your blog entry i stoped at this sentence. I know that you meant people in those countries might not know english well enough to use english news sites, but what you said sounds more like sarcastic"maybe people in those countries are just too stupid to learn english". It's just a bit offensive phrasing, thats all.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: I assure you that I don't look down on lack of English knowledge. If it sounds as if I'm sarcastic it's not intentional. It was meant as a neutral statement/fact. As you probably notice my English is far from perfect and I understand that others may have far bigger problems, even not understanding a word of it. It's great if fans volontary help out translating stuff since Blizzard only supports a few of the biggest languages.