We can never know for sure, only speculate, based on what we see with our own eyes in the game and the gossip we hear in the community. This post will begin with a bunch of wild guesses and then go over to some personal ponderings over the incoming mobile guild chat. It will be long and ranty and not entirely on topic. Be warned!
The sparkling pony
I think we all agreed on that the sparkling pony became a huge instant success – despite the fact that you hardly ever see any of those around these days. Maybe the stigma of being so “foolish” that you actually bought this steed (yes, I was one of the critiques) became too strong. Maybe the novelty wore off. Or maybe it was just too annoying to see everyone else flying around on the same horse. My guess is that they don’t sell many mounts now, but they certainly must have made a fair amount of revenue on them during the first couple of weeks.
There was so much buzz around that pony – and you actually could see it in game to begin with. I really don’t see any reason to doubt that people bought it.
Then there are other features that aren’t as obvious. One development project, which they included in the game rather than making it something extra to pay for – which they probably could have - was the in-game voice chat. From what I’ve read through the lines in interviews it appeared to me as if it took the quite a bit of effort to get it in place. But does anyone ever use it? I can’t show any evidence, but I really doubt it. Surely you would have heard of it? If you ever get into a PUG ambitious enough to try arranging voice communications, they won’t ask you to activate your voice chat. They’ll give you the address to their existing TS or Vent server. I’m not sure why it was such a failure. Maybe the marketing wasn’t good enough, maybe the sound quality was too bad or maybe everyone who’s interested in that kind of communication already had the tools they needed and didn’t see any reason to swip.
The AH app
Some novelties, are marketed more heavily, namely the ones they hope to make money on. Early this year Blizzard launched an application that lets you make some (limited) business at AH even when you’re not logged into the game. And without having any hard facts to back it up with, I have a feeling that it didn’t turn into a mega hit, as I suspected from the start.
It’s about as quiet about this feature as it is about the voice chat. Do you know of anyone that uses it? I sure don’t. It could of course be due to the fact that it’s an overall downtime for WoW. If you’re on a break until Cataclysm, like so many are, there isn’t any strong incentive for you to pay extra to browse AH from home. So it could be about the timing. But for some reason I don’t think that’s the entire truth. You see: I never heard of any enthusiasm for this even back in the days when you could test it for free.
Here’s my speculation for the day: I think that the mobile app doesn’t sell as well as they had expected. And that’s why they now are adding more features to it, in the hope that it will be appetizing enough to make more players open their wallets. If the AH device had been standing well on its own legs, they could as well have sold the new guild chat remote access separately for a lower cost, letting the players chose for themselves what extras to use.
I know there are other new features incoming as well, such as the possibility to see your own character as a 3d model and to see all of your latest doings in the game. I’ll leave it out of this discussion, because it’s beyond my comprehension in what way that would be interesting to anyone? Do we feel such an urge to look at our toons that we can’t wait until we log into the game next time? Don’t we remember any longer what we did last night? It boggles my mind.
Let’s focus on the mobile guild chat feature, which according to me is the biggest news to the deal. This is clearly another step in the direction to change WoW from a game into a social network, in line with Real ID and a lot of other recent changes.
I can see why Blizzard thinks it’s a good idea from their perspective; players who have deep connections with their guilds are more likely to keep playing. And how do you make them loyal and feel as if they’re “friends” with their guildies? Well, getting to know each other better, being able to chat even when you’re not online. certainly would help.
The question is: are people really prepared not only to use this, getting more attached to their guildies an the game following Blizzard’s social engineering plan, but also to pay extra in order to do this? Will this become the hit that the AH app never was? Let me doubt it.
It isn’t as if we’re completely lacking other ways of keeping in touch with your guildies when you’re not logged into the game. Many guilds have forums, or perhaps you’ve set up a mailing list, joined MSN or some other chat device.
I’ve heard the argument that this device will be perfect if you’re stuck on a train and will be late for the raid. But as it is today you can leave a message to someone in the guild through a text message or a phone call. Would you pay several dollars extra per month just to be able to say that you’re late for the raid in the guild chat rather than by some other means? Mind you, we’re not talking about a one-time-only deal, such as the pony was, but about a subscription – a commitment that will add up after a while. It’s a fair amount of money, not only for students and unemployed.
The magical portal
Finally: how do I think for my own part? Do I feel an urge to participate in the guild chat all day long? Well, I don’t think it comes as a surprise to you when I say: I don’t. It’s not just the thing that I’m still a stranger to some parts of the modern social networking, such as Twitter.
I think it also has to do with my view on the game as a magical world that I want to enter, leaving my normal life behind me. A 24/7 access to the guild chat somehow blurs the lines a little bit too openly for my taste.
But… but! Larísa! You already blog and you visit your guild forums! You’re socializing a lot with WoW players outside of WoW! So why not through the guild chat? Well, that’s not easy to answer. I think I just want to draw the line somewhere.
Let’s put it this way. It’s often good for a relationship if you come around to spend some time apart from each other, doing things on your own hand. When you finally meet again, your time together will be that much sweeter than if you had been text messaging each other every twenty minutes all through the day. You have much more stories to share and you’ve built up some sort of longing for each other.
When I log in I’d like to feel: “yay! How awesome! Finally I can go and kill dragons together with him and him and her, it’s been a long time since I saw them, and gosh, I enjoy spending some time together!” rather than….”omg… I’ve been listening to his/her ranting the entire day now, can’t he ever shut up… I’d better log off and do something else where I don’t have to hear this I’ve had enough of it.”
It’s just like seeing family. Sure, it’s nice to see your brother and sister and parents and aunt and cousins, but it’s nice since you’ve had time to miss each other. I certainly wouldn’t like to spend all day long in their company.
The login screen is my magical portal to Azeroth where I can meet my friends and kill dragons. It’s a separate world. It’s a bit like the kids who entered Narnia through the wardrobe. It wasn’t as if Lucy had an online chat with Mr Tumnus as she was back at home.
And I like to keep it pretty much that way. So even if I had one of those modern fancy mobile devices, which I don’t, I wouldn’t subscribe for this. Some players will though, no doubt. I wonder how many.