It began after this post brought to light the timeline of developments after the Blizzard-Activision merge, which put into a larger context the attempt to integrate real identities into the forums (no, it was never about just 'stopping trolls').
For insight into the character of the man that the CEO of Blizzard has to report to, here are some choice quotes:
"The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks [people not part of the gaming culture] into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games."Kotick got rid of several popular Activisiion game franchises:
"[They] don't have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million dollar franchises. ... I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus... on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we'll be working on them 10 years from now."And finally, Escape Hatch sums it up nicely:
"We, the players, are no longer the World of Warcraft's customer base. Advertisers are."In the past, when MMOs were a niche geek hobby, the gamer WAS the customer. This connection between dev and player was reflected in how loyal people got to a certain company, how invested they were in the game's wellbeing and success. But it was only a matter of time before the businessmen saw this attachment as the potential for huge profit. This is why you have Robert Kotick bragging about taking the fun out of making games, of how he wants to turn game-design into an assembly-line of franchises and sequels churning out products filled with as many microtransactions and advertisements and profit-expanding features as he can get away with. Because he doesn't give a crap about the players. To him, we're just geeks whose emotional attachments to our games and the devs that make them makes us vulnerable to being exploited by guys like himself. To be fair, it's not all this one guy's fault, but it reflects the kind of attitudes that start cropping up when a company quickly shoots up into becoming worth billions of dollars like Blizzard did after it made World of Warcraft. The bean-counting vultures start circling.
However these kinds of guys control future of the 'modern AAA MMO'. This is the kind of guy dev companies have to impress to get initial funding, to survive (i.e. get MILLIONS of players as fast as possible or else be labeled a 'failure'), and to be considered 'successful' on the business side of things in a world where having 'only' 3-500k players is considered 'not profitable enough'. However I think for many of us, this change from 'small tight-knit company to mega giant' is a sad one, especially if you've been in MMOs a long time and remember when things were smaller and more personal. It's the price we've payed for embracing the MMORPG 'going mainstream'.
This is why I'm starting to prefer the smaller F2Ps, and indie games. They're lower budget, sure. Not so shiny as the 'big games', rougher around the edges. But a lot of times, when things get bigger they don't always get better. And I think we've finally crossed that line in the MMORPG sphere. Sure, it means bigger budgets, flashier graphics, bigger expansions and tie ins, and more prestige. But I think the MMORPG as a genre has lost a part of it's soul; a part that had originally appealed to many players in the first place.