Greedy Goblin

Monday, March 30, 2009

WoW tourists

Tobold sacrificed himself reading Syncaine's TL:DR, and found a valuable point in a post that was mostly about bashing another guy.

The point was that the WoW tourists, people who mostly play WoW, but jump on any game destroy these games by "When the tourist interfere with the core player base, and that core is weakened because of them".

Tobold disagrees, claiming that the $50 of the 1M WoW tourists is a really nice reward and cannot be bad. I have to agree with the point of Syncaine. That 1M tourists are bad even if they pay $50M.

Once upon a time my GF and I were looking for a flat to rent as we moved to a different city. The agent shown us several. Some of them were nice and expensive, others are in bad condition and cheap. However one of them was really nice. The walls were clean white, the tiles on the floor did not moved, the furniture was almost intact, the view was nice and on the top of that it was cheap. We were going to rent it, we were reading the long-long contract seeking for some "nice fine print". I was almost done with the contract when loud voice came through the wall:
- Get your a## up you f##### w#### and get me a f##### beer or I beat the s### out of you!
- Get your own beer you f##### impotent son of a b####! - came the answer
- Who you called a b#### you f##### nobody? You were a street w#### before my son took you here! - replied an older female voice
- Can all of you shut the f### up and eat d### I want to watch the TV! - said a forth voice.
The estate agent facepalmed since she knew we won't take this flat even if she pays us.

In any activity where the interference of other people cannot be completely locked out, or even worse, you have to cooperate with these people, the quality of these people is more important than the quality of the inanimate environment (unless it's completely useless or dangerous). The main reason for that is you can improve the inanimate environment by working. On the other hand you cannot improve the people around you.

In a MMO the environment can (and usually will) be improved by the desingners, so initial flaws can be tolerated, unless they make the game completely unplayable. However you can't improve the playerbase, and due to the MMO nature, you have to cooperate them. If the other players are useless, you cannot play the game, no matter how great the game design is.

The "WoW tourists" are the worst kind of M&S for several reasons:
  • If they would be skilled players, they would either be in the endgame or would quit WoW completely.
  • If they were friendly people (skilled or skilless), they would stick to their friends in WoW or would switch games together with them.
  • If WoW would be not their type of game, they would quit and not be a tourist.
They are the kind of M&S that not even a social guild would have. They are forum trolls, drama queens, or "I'm the king of the world" guys.

We in WoW have several defense mechanisms against them, so we survive their presence:
  • WoW is a "casual friendly" game, where failure has no consequence. If I unfortunately group with one of these M&S, I get myself some wasted time and some corpseruns. In a serious game, I can lose gear, XP or other valuable game wealth because of them.
  • We already know the game, so we are capable to notice the flaws of others. If the tank loses threat against the healer, that's a quick kick. In a new game, which is just being learned by everyone, "who's fault it was" is not clear, so the player only notices that no matter what he does, his group suck.
  • We already know each other. We have established guilds where the leadership did enormous work to keep the M&S out. We have friends and ignore lists to know who can we cooperate and who are those who are worse to have than 9-manning. In a new game everyone is a stranger, we have to fish out the pearls from the sea of sewage water.
  • WoW is already a stable game. Practically our only challenge is to fight the M&S trying to infiltrate our groups. A new game will surely have flaws, problems, loopholes, bugs, freezes, server queues to deal with on the top of the M&S.
  • WoW has 11M players. So this extremely harmful M&S gang is diluted by the not too skilled, but friendly social masses who can perform acceptably after the strat is explained to them and don't cause drama, sometimes even help supressing drama. A new game has a couple 10K, maybe couple 100K players at start. If we add 1M M&S, we get hell.
  • For WoW we have established blogs and forums for game information. For a new game, such resources are unavailable, unknown or not yet cleared from trolls. If trolls are not feed but deleted, they go away. But it takes time until they learn that. I had to delete dozens months ago, now I have one or two/day with 3x more subscribers. In a new game's few new blogs/forums, all the new trolls take their chances.

So this swarm of scum can destroy and otherways great game, making players to find the game terrible, creating bad PR of the game. By buying in masses and leaving quickly they can demoralize the management of the game company. The management only sees that the initial sells were high, believing that it's because of the great work of the PR department. Later they see that the subscriber number is constantly decreasing, and they will blame the designer departmend, demoralizing or even disbanding it.

Solution idea: an unified MMO record, similar to the credit record. If you don't repay your loans to a bank, you can't just go to another, they will know that you are a notorious non-payer and won't contract with you. The same way if you are a notorious game-jumper, a moron who cannot do 2K DPS, or on the ignore list of half of the server, the new game company would know about it, and could choose not to take you, or only for a higher subscription fee, or only after the game is already established enough to survive your presence.

Of course Blizzard would be strongly discouraged to participate in such cooperation. The swarm of "tourists" is the strongest weapon in their hands in bashing any competition. And I have a feeling that they use it actively. On May 20 2008 500K botters were banned, making 500K of the lowest beings of players, cheaters to seek other MMO. Blizzard never ever made mass permanent bans before. Why did they do it that time? Was that day somehow special?

PS: of course not everyone who tried out other MMO and comes back to WoW is an M&S. So please don't comment "I tried out this or that and I came back and I'm not M&S because I killed Illidan" because it's completely irrelevant. Even if everyone who killed Illidan would join the toursists, they would still be just a 10% minority.

PS2: I'm honestly surprised how can some people not understand that "$50M can be a bad thing". If I go to an elegant restaurant and start cursing and drunken singing, I'll be kicked out, no matter how much I pay. They do it not because they don't want my money, but because they don't want to lose the other customer's money.

An MMO is created for a long run. The income comes from the subscriptions. The whole enterprise is designed for the long run. Servers are purchased, GM-s are hired, long term contracts are made. If the game makes insane numbers in a week and then zero, they may get out with positive profit but their work and investment is wasted.

The opportunity cost is visible if we consider a "fake MMO". $10M PR budget, $1M production costs, $1M on renting servers for two months. $50M comes in, and after two months the "game" is shut down, the business disbanded. $38M profit. If someone spent $10M on production and $10M on servers and employees, I've just lost $18M.

The M&S is profitable only three places: single player games (where they can hurt nobody), a "fake MMO", and a game directly designed to survive them: WoW.


mute said...

I agree with the most of the post and pointing out massive banning in May in correlation with AoC release was a very useful information which I find quite correct. However, I disagree with the solution idea in details. The terms you listed in that part are very subjective, changes from person to person and in situations. It would be very hard for the MMO-gaming companies to share the datas they collect. When you loan money from a bank, your liability is to pay the money back with interest in a certain time. This is what the bank is interested in - if the loan contract doesn't involve any term regarding the usage of the money. Our contract with Blizzard (or any other gaming company) is to pay our subscription to continue playing under certain rules which are very clear - such as "not botting" etc. Other than that, how we play, how bad we talk in forums etc. is not of great interest of Blizzard. Trolling is regarded as something that should be endured within the community (mainly official forums) and only extreme examples suffer from temporary bans - which don't push them out of the game. If Blizzard wanted to create an elite community, I say they would have much much less subscribers - which means not only "trolls" and other harmful elements are pushed out but also the average people would feel under threat as well.

A distibution and sharing of data among MMO-game companies in the way bank do is not a bad idea but in this industry, there's no powerful regulator like government or national bank. Everyone has their own rules. A top-management or a consensus between these companies is very impossible.

Cassini said...

Rule 1: Don't make a game that sucks. That way some of those 'tourists' may stick around. I agree with Tobold. $50m to the gaming company is more help than hinderance. I brought and tried AoC when it was released. I didn't bother playing even up to, let alone past, the free subscription period because the game just flat out sucked (imo). As I feel no brand loyalty towards any one game, if it had been good enough I'd probably have switched over to that from WoW.

PS> I don't consider myself one fo your 'M&S' since I completed (near enough) end game in both vanilla and TBC despite raiding only twice a week, and so I don't agree with your conclusions.

Anonymous said...

There's a university CS group planning on making something like this. Check out this thread at

Stabs said...

The fallacy is that they're not tourists for the main part but migrants.

They leave WoW as economic migrants leave their countries for a better life elsewhere. After a couple of months of tedious buggy crap they pack their suitcases and go home.

I do like your point about the mass bans though, what an ingenious way to spoil a game. Still AOC did not fail because of the community (which was better than WoW) it failed because the game was bad. I tried many different characters and just got frustrated because the content I wanted to do was either horribly imbalanced or simply so bugged it didn't work at all.

Unknown said...

As mute said, agreeing on the common criteria for M&S would be a futile task, and frankly I don't think that the game company could or should do anything as long as the M&S follow the EULA & TOS. Furthermore, setting up a new identity on the Internet is trivially easy and thus ensures that the anonymity part in GIFT is always satisfied. And I wouldn't have it any other way. The cure would probably be worse than the disease.

Anonymous said...

So many of your assertions are wrong its comical.

Its not a binary choice for achievers--play WoW or quit. And people burn out on raiding too--even (or perhaps especially) the hard core raiding guilds have lots of turn over due to burn out or boredom.

The mechanics of WoW aren't that different from DAoC which aren't that different from Earth and Beyond which aren't that different from EQs. Once you know agro mechanics, you know agro mechanics.

By the time there is a open beta there are usually passable, if not good guides to any game that is out.

And you know, after watching a post WoW launch or 3, the expectation of success will change: that a game will move a million units on launch and then contract--its not like you can't plan for it.

And your theoretical WoW Tourist won't be interacting with the core much even after the first week or so since they will have mostly leveled out of interaction.

Additionally that $50m launch bump is 347,000 months of paid game time (at $12/month)--or somewhere between 1 and 2 years income.

And so far, the post-tourist crash hasn't killed a game. They've looked a little beat up--but that is because we expect them to do what WoW did to EQ--you'd be talking about game that had a 100 million players. You will note, too, that EQ is still a going concern.

And you miss the case of EVE which has been pulling steadily increasing numbers since a launch and crash.

But if I were designing and launching a MMO, I would take the WoW tourist money all the way to the bank.

I can't believe that you are advocating throwing away almost 350,000 subscriber months of income.

Anonymous said...

I normally enjoy your posts and agree with your well constructed arguments and objective debate, but this one is well off the mark.

It seems you are disagreing just becuase it's tobold.

Your whole assertion of WoW Tourist = Worst kind of M&S is utterly flawed. I could list many players in the tope guilds on my server that tried out the competitor MMOs. You think nobody in ensidia tried AoC or WAR? You think they are 'M&S' if they did?! Totally unfounded and I think even you'll admit that there is ZERO correlation between trying a new to see what it's like and turning up in unenchanted greens to a Naxx raid. That whole section is just a subjective rant, and unfortunately it underpins the whole post.

I'm suprised someone with a capitalist mind such as yourself would honestly say $50M revenue from an investment of anything less, is a bad thing.

Xtian said...

You're right in that a single terrible individual will ruin the experience for a lot of others, and companies typically choose to cut off their income from that one asshole rather than scare away other business.

But Syncaine's "Wow tourists" make up significant chunks of a given game's post-launch player base. They include M&S's, but they also include competent casuals, burned out hardcore, and MMO enthusiasts who like to see a variety of games. When games like Warhammer have to reduce their servers by more than 50% after near-forced mergers, you can't talk about single incompetent individuals who ruin the experience for others. As Tobold says, there are just too many people who left the game to blame it on a single demographic. And you can't talk about refusing business from one to protect the many - by banning "Wow tourists," those companies would be refusing business from the many in order to please the few.

Granted, that business model is not necessarily bad. It seems to be working well for Darkfall. But Darkfall's devs and backers (hopefully) knew that going into the project. Mark Jacobs does not have the luxury of refusing service because he was trying to make a Wow Killer.

Yazilliclick said...

This post just didn't make any sense. You failed at all to backup the wild claim that a WoW tourist is a M&S which is crucial to all your points. This is especially important considering that common sense would dictate that WoW tourists represent a cross-section of users of all skill sets, MMO backgrounds, play styles and game knowledge. These aren't tourists they are the potential customers and user base of the new MMO and it's their job to impress and keep them.

Considering the huge portion of the MMO market that WoW makes up, it would be the death of every future MMO if they turned down World of Warcraft players. WoW is a common game now that the majority of MMO players have played (at least in the NA & European markets).

Yaggle said...

For some reason when I read this post, I think of the Batman: The Dark Knight movie. The Joker would completely disagree with you. He would take great joy in the way these people destroy the games they invade, because he "wanted to watch the world burn". I guess I don't want Jokers in my world either, whether it be RL or an MMO. It's fun in a movie but when you're stuck in it, it really is hell.

Anonymous said...

Correction of my own math: that is 350,000 subscriber /years/.

Hatch said...

So let me get this straight...

...if WoW players try other games, it's bad. (because they ruin the community)

...if WoW players don't try other games, it's bad. (because WoW players should be open about other games instead of assuming WoW is the best without even trying others)

A pretty nice little system for someone (Syncaine) whose real motivation is just to bash WoW players over some other issue he has with them.

Anonymous said...

People aren't as dumb as most 'wow tourist' rants assume. Games like War, AoC and Darkfall just don't offer WoW quality. People don't leave one service for a worse alternative, simple as that.
I can see how the 'wow tourists' may have a bad impact on new games, technically (server queue's, lag, server mergers, etc), but they are not changing the game itself.
Tobold is right, the large amount of bored WoW players are a huge opportunity for game developers, they'll just have to realize it's a very, very hard job to get it done right. War, AoC and DF failed, let's see what comes next :)
Tbh, I think a previous poster is right, you're only disagreeing because it's Tobold. ;) This post doesn't fit between your other posts at all.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it actually be the case that these games actually welcome 'tourists' for their money because they do not cause much harm to the 'core' community?

I imagine in a pvp game, M&S wouldn't stand a chance to pretend being anything else: impact pvp would impose upon him the marks of the 'loser' in the form of frequent deaths, xp penalties, lack of gear.. perhaps not even being able to level at all (if xp loss is a feature of death).

Let's not even talk about games with more or less perma-death implemented... What could the M&S possibly do in such games other than donate money and quit in frustration?

phoenixboy said...

Your black and white views of the world are really starting to show.

Yes, stupids really can make a game unbereable (See DarkFall). But people that just want to know what is the thing that "12 million players online" think that is cool is not necesarily bad. In the other extreme i could say that MMO veterans are elitist jerks.

Its just an stereotype, paying 15$ a month doesnt affect your level of stupidity. See all the "i pay 15$ a month so i can [insert stupidity here] in most MMO forums" just for example.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you don't want tourists in the game? Using a real world analogy (that you seem to love) tourists are gold mines to sleep little towns. So why shouldn't tourists be a gold mine to you in game?

I agree with the comment regarding your black and white views, unfortunately life has many shades of grey and, for your own sake, you really need to start recognising them.

Unknown said...

I refuse being called M&S because I haven't entered the WoW endgame nor have quit it. Then again, I haven't jumped from one game to another in search of the 'perfect game' to call home, even though I don't find WoW perfect by far.

I'm pretty sure I could cope with raid content, but I'm pretty sure, too, that I don't want to put the time in that. Already I'm too much in Azeroth instead of spending time with my family.

Look what happened to BRK and Phaelia.


Mongo said...

I've never judged an MMO based on the other players. And your flat analogy doesn't work because in a game world you are not stuck right beside a group of obnoxious jerks, you ignore them or go somewhere else.

I think most MMO players realize that any game, like any chunk of any population, is going to have its share of jerks mixed in with the decent people, and they'll naturally ignore the jerks and associate with like-minded players. It is the quality of the game itself that matters - because you can find other people you enjoy being around in *any* game.

Thallian said...

Mute has some good points. I really enjoyed your post though monsigneur greedy goblin and I hope you keep giving such thought to why things happen the way they do. I had a number of M&S people Only takes one really, but we had a few one after the other, slowly destroy my guild and everytime I got rid of one another popped up, it was like whack a mole. Lotro is starting to get some of these people now that it is becoming larger and more prosperous. price of success? Maybe.

Grimhawke[EB] said...

What is M&S?

Jason said...

"What is M&S?"

They're just like M&M's...but instead of chocolate they have a poo-flavored center.

Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive who likes to sign his comments because it makes them 10x more valid)

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be dim but what does M&S mean?

Rich said...