As an observer of Blizzard for many years, I’ve noticed that they rarely engage or debate the public in open and independent forums. The Blizzard public relations machine runs a tight ship and only designated Blizzard employees are allowed to even talk to the media and then it’s to deliver a controlled and cohesive promotional message.
Yet at every BlizzCon, Blizzard plays the role of the benevolent ruler and opens up the floor for one hour for questions from attendees. This is the only time every year that those purported 12 million subscribers ever get to confront the Masters of the WoW Universe and demand some accountability from their overlords. But as we shall see, very few people get to ask questions.
The scene at BlizzCon is rather bizarre and medieval. It usually goes like this: there’s the wise Blizzard panel sitting high up on the lighted stage like royalty, while the questioners are like groveling peasants come to ask favors of a king. Yet these few petitioners are the lucky ones.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to take time off and afford to travel to BlizzCon and lucky enough to even purchase a BlizzCon ticket and even luckier to ask a question and then even luckier to have Blizzard give you an honest response then you’ve experienced something very rare in a pastime shared by 12 million subscribers.
Despite the myriad of “dude, why did you nerf my class” questions, the occasional good question gets asked at BlizzCon. So I thought to myself, what would I ask Blizzard if I got the chance. Naturally I’d ask tough questions because quite frankly I’m tired of the softball questions posed by most video game journalists and the usual suspects at the sycophantic official WoW fan sites.
Here are 12 serious questions that I’d like to see asked and answered at BlizzCon:
1. Why is player housing in WoW being continually kept on the back-burner while Blizzard continues to experiment and spend resources on various iterations of PVP? If SOE can implement player housing for non-paying Free Realms players why can’t Blizzard implement it for their paying subscribers?
2. Why isn’t Blizzard creating meaningful role-playing mechanics, supporting role-players and enforcing their own role-playing rules on role-playing servers?
3. Who’s story is more important: the personal stories and memories of your players or the stories created by game designers?
4. Blizzard developers often claim that much of what they develop is based on player feedback. However the only time a subscriber is ever asked for their opinion is when they unsubscribe. Why don’t you ask for your subscribers for feedback and opinions on a regular basis?
5. Why did it take 6 years for Blizzard to update the original zones of vanilla WoW?
6. At BlizzCon 2009 one of the questioners on the floor asked Blizzard to do something about in-game gold spammers. Due to Blizzard’s unwillingness to curtail trial accounts, this problem is still happening and it’s gotten worse. Why has nothing been done to stop this once and for all?
7. What is the exact criteria for the selection of beta testers for World of Warcraft?
8. How much did Blizzard spend in airline tickets, hotel reservations and other perks to pro-Blizzard gaming journalists to attend World of Warcraft press junkets?
9. What percentage of the profits from World of Warcraft are put back into the development and maintenance of World of Warcraft?
10. How many WoW current paid subscribers are there in the Americas/Oceanic market?
11. How many WoW current paid subscribers are there in the European market?
12. According to the official WoW Twitter feed the current time it takes to answer a petition in WoW is 5 days. Do you consider this an acceptable level of customer service?
These are just a sampling of the questions I’d like to ask Blizzard if I had the opportunity. I’d like to hear other people’s concerns and possible questions for the Blizzard panel.
Let’s be honest, most of these questions would probably be deleted promptly by the moderators of the official WoW forums. Which leads me to another question, if it weren’t for independent blogs and discussion forums that are not beholden to the overwhelming pressure exerted by big video game companies, who would ask the MMO industry the tough questions?