Today I read on MMO-Champion that apparently Blizzard has decided to send "Veteran Rewards" to eligible World of Warcraft accounts that are ten years old. I've been playing since a few days after release so theoretically my account qualifies, but as I did not receive an email I am assuming that one has to have subscribed for the entire duration which rules me out. Naturally this created controversy. On one side we have the people who think it's a great idea and I'd imagine the "People eligible" and "People for it" circles on the Venn diagram of this opinion have a lot of overlap, but not necessarily. On the other side are players unhappy with this decision, and I'd imagine that side has a disproportionate amount of overlap with "Ineligible players."
Not knowing what the item is I can't really say how I feel. If they were shipping a new car Oprah style to everyone who has played for ten years I'd probably feel a little jealous. If it's something small I'd imagine I'll be more or less apathetic. Furthermore, if this is something they will do for everyone who hits 10 years going forward then it will eventually pick up players who weren't initially eligible so players like me have hope for the future.
However, it got me thinking about the pitfalls that veteran and time-reliant rewards can have on an MMO community with as long a history as WoW. Looking out at my twitter feed I see a variety of players who joined the game at different times. I've encountered players that are rabid fans now but were in single-digit age when WoW came out. Some of the most well known and iconic people in the community didn't join the game until well after release, with some not really getting into WoW until Pandaria. Are they any less a fan than someone who has been with the game since release?
Gaming in general has a huge problem with gatekeeping, where fans of a genre set arbitrary limits to fence other people out of their particular fandom. There is certainly merit to a company like Blizzard wanting to thank players who have given them somewhere around $1800 in subscription fees and $200-$300 in box purchases. That's a damn loyal customer. At the same time, however, this can tacitly sending a message to newer players that they just aren't quite as special or held in as high of esteem as the older ones. There's a tough balance to be struck, part of which is dependent on what the item ends up being, which we should discover in the next few days.
That said, Blizzard is far from the first MMO to be rewarding "customer loyalty." Planetside 2 has historically improved the benefits for subscribing the longer a player stays subscribed, Marvel Heroes rewards players for logging in (with the rewards for logging in 100+ days being random heroes and such), and Final Fantasy XIV rewards players with some cosmetic items and in-game pets for subscribing up to certain increments (with the current highest at 630 days). Blizzard is just the first that I know of to do a physical reward.
All I mean to say is that I understand and sympathize with those who feel somewhat slighted by this decision, but also understand the company's desire to reward those that have been with them this long. This is one of those issues where there is no perfect solution; someone is going to be a little unhappy either way.