A BattleTag is a unified, player-chosen nickname that will identify you across all of Battle.net – in Blizzard Entertainment games, on our websites, and in our community forums. Similar to Real ID, BattleTags will give players on Battle.net a new way to find and chat with friends they’ve met in-game, form friendships, form groups, and stay connected across multiple Blizzard Entertainment games.
Well, this is fairly large news. Blizzard is set to add a new vanity pet for World of Warcraft to its out-of-game shop – the difference being that unlike all the others they sell, this one is freely transferable in-game. And Blizzard is not shy about pointing out exactly what that means:
While our goal is to offer players alternative ways to add a Pet Store pet to their collection, we’re ok with it if some players choose to use the Guardian Cub as a safe and secure way to try to acquire a little extra in-game gold without turning to third-party gold-selling services. However, please keep in mind that there’s never any guarantee that someone will purchase what you put up for sale in the auction house, or how much they’ll pay for it. Also, it’s important to note that we take a firm stance against buying gold from outside sources because in most cases, the gold these companies offer has been stolen from compromised accounts. (You can read more about our stance here.) While some players might be able to acquire some extra gold by putting the Guardian Cub in the auction house, that’s preferable to players contributing to the gold-selling “black market” and account theft.
If this back door to monetizing in-game gold transfers looks familiar – well, it should, as Eve Online has a similar scheme where players can buy monthly game-time codes and then sell them for ISK (in-game currency) – CCP even has an out-of-game secure transfer website set up to facilitate this. Trade in these GTCs are very active, and the player base has essentially embraced this pegging of in-game ISK to out-of-game currency value (currently US$ 1 / ISK 40m). It hasn’t eliminated in-game botting but it has put a stake in RMT dealers – why bother, when everyone is an RMT dealer. It also, ironically, at the highest end of the game turned Eve into a free-to-play game since it is possible in nullspace to earn more than 400m ISK / monthly and thus pay your own way via purchasing game time from people who don’t want to bother to.
Blizzard’s moneypet isn’t the same, and that may be its weakness. For while Eve’s GTC traffic is based on an actual good (a monthly subscription, which already has implicit value, at least to people who want to play Eve), WoW’s moneypet is literally created from thin air. Which, while better financially for Blizzard in that it literally is printing gold and/or money, it also inherently has less value than a more tangible good. There is also the small matter of the moneypet being an in-game manifestation of “Hi, I like to sell gold”, and that, to put it gently, may not be a popular opinion.
So, unlike Eve’s GTCs, investing in Blizzard moneypets for resale is far from a sure thing. The irony may well be if a game company sells a moneypet and no one actually buys it, does anyone care? It would, after all, be a market-driven response of disapproval that would say more than any message board post…
…oh, who am I kidding. Blizzard is going to sell 9 trillion of these in an hour.
With the Diablo III Auction House, players will have a fully-integrated marketplace that allows them to buy and sell items, gold, and components with real-world currency (tentatively divided into U.S. dollars and euros, among others) in their respective territories. According to him, it’s based on theWorld of Warcraft Auction House, but with refinements. Diablo III‘s iteration allows for auto-bidding and instant buyouts, smart searches based on class, a shared stash, and secure item transfers.
Pardo was swift to mention that it’s not an official “Blizzard Store,” but a clearinghouse for players to have an open market to facilitate the trading of in-game items with each other. Players will be anonymous during trades, and there will be restrictions on the buying and selling of goods with real-world currency for those who choose to play in Hardcore mode.
He then outlined initial details of transactions. There will be a fee for both item listings and sales. Should players accept in-game currency, their payment will go toward their Battle.net e-balance, which covers auction items, WoW subscriptions, and pets. Should players decide to cash out their items, a currently-unannounced third-party payment provider will handle the transaction and take a percentage of the sale. There won’t be any limits on item trading, but there will be a 24-hour cooling period before players can resell a purchased item.
And why are they doing this? According to Pardo, because, well, if they didn’t, you would.
“Players want this… We could take a harder stance, but with Diablo, we think [the Auction House] will end up being a good thing,” he said. The fact that in-game bartering and selling had “become a metagame of its own,” in his words, was another motivator for launching the new feature.
Left unspoken of course, is that with the arbitrage fees from Diablo III Blizzard will make enough money to fix the Greek debt crisis. I’m sure that was a very minor consideration, though.
As a game developer, I can see Blizzard’s logic behind this move. There’s obviously plenty of a market for RMT transactions, and in the long term a clear benefit over and above the strictly financial in channeling them into an outlet controllable by people who at least theoretically have the game’s best interests at heart. And given that it’s similar to a system I had designed for a free-to-play title, that makes it even more difficult to argue against!
But as a player – I have no interest to pay to win. At all. For me the ideal F2P experience is one offered by titles such as Lord of the Rings Online - one where I can play on or off at a whim, and occasionally dig into my wallet for conveniences such as a horse or such, but never feeling as though I was missing a huge chunk of the game play by keeping my wallet in my pocket. Explicitly pegging the in-game currency to a real-world analog (the implication of Diablo III’s announcement) – well, that certainly is a fairly huge chunk of game play to bypass.
Is this a good decision? For Blizzard’s business, yes. For Blizzard’s design, yes. For Blizzard’s players? Probably not, though the actions of people who can’t resist the immediate gratification of RMT make it inevitable.
From a long term standpoint, I think this also makes it fairly clear that World of Warcraft and Starcraft II will be the last Blizzard titles that aren’t driven by RMT. Thanks, usual suspects!
MMO Champion has what is probably the best analysis of this. Unsurprisingly, Activision Blizzard is in full license molestation mode.
Note no sign of the long rumored “new next-gen MMO property” Blizzard has been hiring for for a while now, unless it’s the “Titan” entry at the bottom – and a Q4 2013 release for a WoW-scale MMO is, to put it mildly, unlikely.
Other then that, no real surprises: Blizzard is preparing to turn Battle.net into a digital DLC distribution portal and eventual Steam competitor (apparently the whole turning it into Facebook thing didn’t quite work out), Diablo 3 and the first Starcraft 2 expansion pack are both due out late next year, and World of Warcraft will have expansion packs slammed into it, starting in 2012, on a yearly basis.
Still, this chart is very handy for every other gaming company on the planet to schedule when NOT to plan their MMO releases.
I fully expect this blog to disappear today. In fact I hope it does. I am tempted to file an abuse report on it myself.
Robert “Bobby” Kotick The big man at Activision. CEO. The source of all Blizzard’s community problems of the last few years. Here’s his facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Bobby-Kotick/637011873 He’s not very open, but his friends and family are.
Big donations to the GOP ($28,000 in 2007, and raised over $200k for Bush!) but makes $1.5 million a year and just dumped a huge amount of his company’s stock at the beginning of this year. You know, I’d be selling my Blizzard stock right now too.
But hey, he’s a busy man. He’s got a wife and three young daughters, ages 6, 9, and 11. The oldest is Gracie, she likes skiing. There are pictures of her that can be found, but I’m not posting them because I think I’ve made my point there.
Here’s some information on his wife.
We have been planning this change for a very long time. During this time, we have thought ahead about the scope and impact of this change and predicted that many people would no longer wish to post in the forums after this change goes live. We are fine with that, because we want to change these forums dramatically in a positive and more constructive direction.
It’s been very obvious over the last few years that the forums are an exceptionally valuable source of information both for players and for us to gather feedback. There are many threads on this forum now, and over the last few years, that people have been constructively discussing many aspects of the game. They’ve received new wisdom and have then been able to go back to the game and enjoy it further with the new knowledge acquired through the forums.
These threads, however, can often be lost amongst a great deal of other threads that are basically filled with trolling, name calling, flaming, off-topic conversations and that’s just a small amount of some of the content that has been found in these forums over the years. We don’t want that anymore, and we believe the Real ID change will bring about a lot of the improvement that we are hoping for.
There’s a lot of scare-mongering going on about the change, but there seems a need to make something very clear. The forums have always been an optional extra — something you can choose to participate in if you wish to. With our Real ID changes for the forums, this is still the case. The only difference will be, if you do choose to participate in the forums, then you will do so by using your real name. But only after you’ve been warned and accepted this in advance.
Wryxian, Blizzard Europe (again):
A lot of legitimate and understandable concerns are being raised. It would be hard for myself or any caring individual to not empathise with the fears and concerns people have. But amidst these concerns there is also a bit of something going on that I can’t easily describe with other words, but I’ll try.
Posting on the forums with your real name will be optional — yes, in the sense that the options are simply post and show your real name, or do not post and you keep it confidential. If people are happy to post and do not feel intimidated by this, then great — hopefully they will also post constructively (though it’s fair to say, this isn’t a given). It might be scary to consider posting with your real name, in which case it might be advisable simply not to post in these forums. There’s a whole load of other forums across the internet where you’ll be able to post in a more anonymous way, and maybe you will make a useful and constructive contribution there instead.
If you really do read all posts in this thread and others, like we are doing, then you will see some examples of what I was meaning by “scare-mongering”. There are posts from some people who are either confused by the changes or generally uncertain, and they are getting understandably scared and then posting in a way that scares other people in the process. With such a change as we have outlined, it is completely understandable that people can and do feel this way. Describing the process of scaring others and raising the level of general fear as “scare-mongering” does not in any way diminish people’s validity in doing so, nor does it dismiss the usefulness of anyone expressing themselves in any way, including in a way I might describe as “scare-mongering”; the term simply describes it for what it appears to be.
It is completely unreasonable to expect that people will understand the risks of using their real names on a message board – and if they DO understand, I contend that most people won’t bother posting anything at all.
- The trolls now get more information to harass
- The best players will leave
- The casual players will panic when they realize that their private-time activity is now public.
This is lose-lose. The worst kind of change. The only upside I see is the ability to lay off board moderation staff as traffic (good andbad) plummets.
We won’t know the legal truth until Blizzard gets sued for wrongful death.
Yes, I said death, and no, I’m not overreacting. Someone is going to get stalked through because some whackadoodle fell in love with an avatar. Maybe the victim did a little roleplay and the stalker took it too seriously. Maybe the victim hurt the stalker’s widdle feewings during a message board discussion. Who knows. Marriages break up (and reform) every day thanks to MMO drama leaking out into the real world. Blizzard should know this better than anyone. Good lord, you can’t go a week without an international advice column posting some complaint about a spouse or a kid that is too involved in WoW. That’s not Blizzard’s fault. “Here’s the real name of the person who sexxored you and then changed her mind/called you an idiot in front of all your friends/won’t talk to you because you’re creepy” will lead to something disastrous. Unfortunately, the person to whom the disaster occurs will be one of the people who is sitting here today scoffing at the “scare-mongerers” and “alarmists.” Because the scare-mongerers and the alarmists won’t be posting.
There was a time when Blizzard was viewed as a company run by and for gamers. That time is now over. Even aside from the wrongs or rights of the proposal, no company that fails so badly in understanding gamer culture can really claim to be one of us any more.
It’s a game. Or, it’s this blog. It’s something I do in my spare time that has NO relation to my professional or a large part of my personal life and I see no freaking reason why everything should be made public when it’s not my explicit there-and-then decision to share said info. (So my decision in this case is going to be: keep your fucking games thank you very much.)
It’s not that I object to people knowing who I am if *I* choose to share it with them. After all, I don’t get on the bus and tell every bloody passenger on it what my name is. They have no particular right to know it and I have zero obligation to tell them. So why the hell should every asshat — and god knows there are a lot of them — in a given game be able to find out exactly who I am, where I live, what my gender is and how much I enjoy being stalked?
Social networks using real names can work, but the history of Facebook shows that one fundamental rule for these networks is that you can’t have people signing up with some level of presumption of privacy, and then withdraw that privacy protection later. Thus it would be okay for Blizzard to lets say release their next MMO game with a RealID system and inform everybody that their real name will be used in that game. It is *not* okay to let people play for nearly 6 years under anonymity, and then strip that anonymity away. Even if the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory predicts that stripping people of their anonymity will make them behave better.
If we can’t communicate with Ghostcrawler through the forums anymore, since they put adults with concerns about their personal integrity in the same group as trolls, we can always go back to old-fashioned hand written letter writing. It’s a forgotten art, but it’s not as hard as it may seem. All you need is a pencil, a paper, an envelope and a stamp. Quite handy when you think about it. You don’t even need electricity!
Can this thing launch already? This is like watching a car accident, only instead of seeing the flaming wreck after it happens, you’re like Nicolas Cage in that movie no one saw where he can predict the future, and you actually get to wait for the car wreck to happen right in front of you.
The idea of merging RealID into the Blizzard forums is dumb. The more places that say it’s dumb the better (which includes here). If your post violates our forum rules we will infract you for it, but the do not whine rule is waived for this thread only. Carry on.
People won’t actually harass other people outside the game, come on.
This is just wrong. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s a lovely thought, but people go to great lengths simply to harass others in-game, and just handing the real name to them without their even having to do any work for it makes it easier to harass them outside the game. If you really, truly think it won’t lead to harassment, you are underestimating both teenagers and angry, socially ill-adjusted people — a ton of whom play WoW, alongside all the normal people. People already go to crazy lengths to e-stalk people and some of it already culminates in real life confrontations. I have trouble believing that anyone who says this has actually ever played an MMO, so if you haven’t, please consider that you might not know what you’re talking about and people aren’t just paranoid and complaining about nothing.
And, more on this in a moment, but one really needs experience in the gaming community to comment on it. Particularly those in doubt of women being SEVERELY harassed in-game and, yes, on the forums. The gaming world is way more hostile to women than you think. I wish it weren’t, I really, really do, and I know you mean well, but please do not say you doubt those things when I and other women have been through a lot in that regard. The WoW forums is not Metafilter by ANY stretch of the imagination. I would not mind my real name being on Metafilter and I’ve posted things here I wouldn’t tell my mother, but I would probably cry if my real name was next to my WoW posts.
Anonymous RL friend, IM conversation:
1:56:58 PM Friend: ok go ahead and realid me 1:57:04 PM Friend: cause you and i will be the only two left playing 1:57:10 PM Me: heh! 1:58:07 PM Friend: i’m serious 1:58:08 PM Friend: everyone is leaving
Remember those halcyon, carefree days past, when Blizzard introduced the RealID system for friends lists, saying it was completely optional and that you should only use RealID with your closest friends?
According to Blizzard today, once Cataclysm ships, everyone that uses the official forums are your closest friends.
Normally I stay off the Internet for Amateur Hour (aka April Fools’) but Blizzard’s entry this year is, as always, worthy of note.
Seems like everyone’s talkin’ about Warhammer these days. Including, you know, those wacky guys who work on the most popular MMO ever made. Jeff Kaplan in particular had a few things to say:
Now that “Warhammer Online” has been out for almost a month, I wondered if Kaplan had gotten a chance to try it. Even though he’s been busy working on “Wrath of the Lich King,” he revealed he has spent a little time with it.
“My character is like level 13 right now, and I’m playing Destruction on a server that’s imbalanced,” he said, referring to the factions in the game. He also said leveling his character has been going a bit slowly. “I’m at the point where I’m thinking about quitting because it feels like the best way to level up is in the battlegrounds,” he explained.
Hmm, sounds kind of familiar. And you’d think it would make sense for the Lead Designer of World of Warcraft to keep himself aware of the state of the MMO marketplace, right? However, the interviewer decided to poke Kaplan a bit about Mythic’s somewhat draconian beta/NDA policies:
I asked Kaplan why he thought he and other Blizzard employees weren’t allowed into the “Warhammer” beta. “That’s a great question,” he said. “I’m always fascinated by betas in general and [non-disclosure agreements] and how tight-lipped they tend to be. It’s Blizzard philosophy that if you’re really confident in your game, then you have nothing to worry about. So I guess that would be my big take away from that.”
WELL then. That’s a pretty diplomatic way to say “O SNAP”, I thought. Surprisingly, Mark Jacobs disagreed.
Frankly, what got me steamed is a piece at MTV where the guy talks a bit of smack about WAR, our Beta policy and stuff like that. My reaction to that was, interesting.
You don’t say.
I’ve always said nice things about WoW as I thank Blizzard for expanding the market, bringing more attention to this space, most important MMO of this generation, etc. But for Kaplan to shoot off his mouth about our beta policy, lack of confidence or criticism about WAR is just BS and it’s wrong. And so, I deviated from my long-standing policy of not criticizing other developers, especially on subjective issues. It will be an interesting read.
No, really. You don’t say.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I remember one interview with Pardo prior to WoW’s launch where he saud that WoW’s PvP system/realm point/honor point/etc. would be, unlike DAoC, useful. Hmm, how many times have they redone that system? Developers should stick to worrying about their own games and companies as none of us are perfect. People who live in glass castles and all that.
No, really. You don’t say.
“I’m disappointed with the decision from a leader in the MMO industry to go down a path which in the past, has been an anathema to them and remains so to just about every other MMORPG company in the industry. I think that not only supporting the sale of in-game characters, items and currency, but also taking a ‘cut’ of those sales, is not only a mistake but one of the worst decisions in the history of the MMORPG industry,” says Jacobs.
I guess “long-standing policies” began in 2005. Hey, it’s a long time in Internet years! Or maybe John Smedley made fun of DAOC. Because, as Mark says, he gets an exemption when those fools be steppin’ up.
They have made billions off WoW and they really don’t need Kaplan dissing, in any way, a competitive product. That’s just wrong, period. I didn’t diss EQ/AC/UO when we were developing DAoC and that’s always been a standing rule of mine. If another developer doesn’t want to play by the same rule, I reserve the right to respond, which I did. In Kaplan’s case, talking about “his issues” with WAR during it’s first 30 days is laughable especially since WoW had plenty of issues of their own at launch and considering that they spent 2x as long working on WoW as we did on WAR, some of their issues were just as bad or worse than ours. And his nonsense about our Beta is even more laughable considering Blizzard runs internal-only (NDAed by employment agreements) alphas at the same point where we would already be inviting thousands of regular people (under NDA) into our game.
I’m not normally a conspiracy kind of guy but within a few days of each other the COO and the Game Director of Blizzard both diss our game (though Paul did damn us with faint praise) does make me wonder.
Yes, of course the fact that, you know, Warhammer Online launched last month and garnered almost a million subs and people in the MMO industry might have opinons on that is besides the point: BLIZZARD IS GOING TO TAKE MYTHIC DOWN. Oh, if only a corporation with very large pockets stood behind plucky little Mythic.
As Mark clarified to the same MTV reporter (who is apparently hellbent on making MTV A GAMING JOURNALISM FORCE):
Referring to Kaplan’s mention of the 30-45 minute wait times for battlegrounds (called “Scenarios” in “Warhammer Online”), Jacobs said that “World of Warcraft” also had long queues just to get into the servers to play the game when it first launched in 2004.
Well, yes, to a neophyte on online games (like, dare I say, the MTV reporter), sure, that’s a fair cop. Of course, Blizzard’s queue times (which were often far greater than 45 minutes) were the result of half the known world trying to access the game servers, and Mythic’s queue times are the result of, well, half the known world choosing Destruction. Note to Mythic: not buying enough servers is something your Ops team can fix. Making one side have heavy metal Vikings who can turn their arms into battering rams and the other side having poncy elves? Um, that’s not something Ops can fix.
Responding to the user interface similarities, Jacobs said that “World of Warcraft” wasn’t the first game to feature customizable interfaces. While he credited them for polishing it, he also said that it should be pointed out that “World of Warcraft” learned from Sony Online’s “EverQuest” and Mythic’s “Dark Age of Camelot.”
Again, Mark taking advantage of a credulous reporter’s lack of knowledge here. Actual MMO players would know that there is a WORLD of difference between the ability to skin an interface (seen in EQ and DAOC) and the ability to SCRIPT an interface (seen in WoW and Warhammer). Now, if Mark had simply said “Yes, Warcraft’s interface scripting set the standards for user interfaces, much as Everquest set the standards for easy UI skinning and the whole getting 40 friends to kill a dragon thing”, that would have been more accurate. As it is, I have to wonder if he’s been giving debate advice to John McCain.
“If you look at ‘Warhammer,’ there were so many points [where] we consciously made the decision not to be like ‘WoW’ and to try to push the envelope. I think you’ll find that if you’re actually going to compare the two products, I would say ‘WoW’ is certainly a more polished game now than ‘Warhammer is — of course they’ve had four years and billions of dollars — but if you look at the innovations in ‘Warhammer,’ you’d be hard-pressed to find as many in ‘WoW.’”
Billions? BILLIONS of dollars? Um, no. Bobby Kotick said it would TAKE a billion dollars to compete with WoW – which, ironically enough, Mark Jacobs quite correctly called him on. To date, the most expensive video game production has been Grand Theft Auto 4, whose budget is in the $100 million range. But that’s a side tangent – the point is that if World of Warcraft and Warhammer developers are going to get into a slapfight over which team was the most derivative, um… er… I think we’ll all laugh quite a bit. And then both developers can collapse, tired and beaten, into their HUGE VATS FULL OF MONEY.
For more cranky bastard commentary, see the relevant f13.net thread, where I ganked these thread links from (apologies for the inexact direct linking, but, hey, you know, Vault Network.)
(Edited 7:45p Central: added Mark’s comments to MTV, testing KEWL POLLING HYPERTECHNOLOGY)
While I was at a party frightening everyone to the core with my Rock Band-fueled vocal rendition of “Flirting With Disaster”, apparently forces were in motion.
Item: EA is no longer the biggest dog in the playground. It looks like Activision and Vivendi-Universal Games’ management has merged, and taken Blizzard’s name, because, well, hey, wouldn’t you? No idea what impact this will have on, well, anything. Heck, EA still hasn’t fully digested Bioware/Pandemic, and now this. Some days I’m glad my soul is kept in a Korean jar safely away from all this buyout mania.
Item: Gaming journalism blows up. Apparently Jeff Gerstmann was fired for Reviewing While Honest. Call it Kanegate. Or Lynchgate. Or Kaneandlynchgate. Depending on how you remix the Gamespot website ads! What may (or may not!) be a Gamespot editor leaks all about it to Valleywag and in response, 1UP pickets Gamespot. I’m pretty sure I can’t make any of this up, which means I don’t have a future in corporate gaming reviews.
And y’all damn sure know what I mean. Whop-bop-a-loo-bop.