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Thursday, January 15, 2015

[WoW] Veteran rewards controversy

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.


  1. I think the interesting thing is the idea that newer players tend to be rewarded already. Many MMOs, WoW included, often have deals to draw in new players (i.e.: Recruit a Friend, which thankfully in WoW does reward the senior player as well), but people who've been handing them money year after year are assumed to have been "caught" and require no upkeep. Veteran rewards aim to ameliorate that particular issue.

    The question comes up, is content not enough of a reward? Those people who've been subscribed all those years have seen content that newer players have not. Is that sufficient?

    And of course, as you mention, the folks caught in-between. Blizzard hasn't made an official announcement yet, but I think they'd be wise to release the official specifications for eligibility, otherwise it's going to seem super arbitrary and people will be upset. If they say, "Folks who've been subscribed since day 1 of launch and didn't let it lapse", then it'd be hard to rationally argue against the reward. Sure, folks will still be upset, but at least there'll be a reason. Right now it's all very nebulous.

  2. Nevermind, they did say something:

    "These gifts were sent to physical addresses of eligible registered accounts. To be eligible for this gift, a player must have created a World of Warcraft account within 60 days of the game's release in America or Europe."

    1. Also seems to require that you never let it lapse (I bought within the first week and got nothing but have let it lapse)

  3. People are certainly going to be unhappy either way.

    I've never agreed with the idea of veteran programs and/or gifts. What has exploded in the WoW community today is why I've been on that side of the fence - and often at times alone.

    It's not that I 100% disagreed with the idea, but I believed it to be an idea that would do more harm than good if done incorrectly.

    This was done incorrectly, in my opinion. The whole thing is a lot worse than I thought it would be.

    Players who began playing in that 60-day post-launch time frame are few and far between. It's almost as if they selected a time-frame that had the least amount of players still playing to decrease time, money, and effort.

    I could be completely wrong. They may have bought folks a car. That's a little overboard, but the eligibility requirements would make sense in that case.

    If this gift is a keepsake of sorts then they should have expanded that time frame.

    As far as in-game rewards that you mentioned other games having, those sound interesting! A good balance would mean rewarding veterans with in-game novelties, rewarding new folks after they've been subscribed for a certain amount of time, and allowing new folks to gain veteran status so that they, too, are eligible for these treasures.

    But, selecting a small amount of people to do this for not only feels cheap - it's a slap in the face to the majority of their player base - most of which have been playing long enough to be considered veterans.

    One could argue that our prize was being able to see MC returned to its former glory (sort of) for a short amount of time, as well as the chance to experience the epic battle of Southshore vs Tarren Mill. The helm, mount and title were great and I'm grateful for all. However, the fact that they placed a pet and an enchant in the mix with low drop rates and only obtainable for a limited amount of time was uncalled for. Those items should have been a 100% drop rate or at least added to the level 60 MC loot table once the event was over. They said so themselves that this was supposed to be a fun experience to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of World of Warcraft, but letting RNG select who gets what wasn't fun at all. Some people are more into pet battles than mounts. Some people don't care for either and are more into collecting enchants. Some people already had a better helm and/or a helm with the exact same appearance for transmog (it already existed for cloth and mail wearers). There is no reason why these other items could not have been 100% drops.

    TL;DR: If it's not a car or a gold statue or a wish granted, a lot of people are going to be very upset. Not because they didn't get a car, statue, or wish granted, but because the item these players do receive probably could have been afforded for a lot more people and Blizzard chose to be a bad and cheap date.

    Great post! I enjoyed reading it. :D

    1. Don't get me started about the MC pet/enchant. That frustrated me beyond belief. Fully disclosing, I did not run MC non-stop until it closed so I'm sure some people will say "Well you didn't try hard enough." But I find that a little ridiculous. The instance took anywhere from 1.5-3 hours to complete depending on group, and was a stark reminder (IMO) of WHY Blizzard chose to reduce raid times in the first place. I had to plan out the days I could even attempt MC. Plus it came with all the aggravation of a usual LFR run (+15 more people). In short, I fully agree that the choice to make the pet/enchant a random (small) chance was a VERY poor one. I hope they eventually make it available somewhere else. Chalk it up to Blizzard's typical inconsistency regarding the permanency of rewards.

  4. Since Ultima Online added them, I have been a fan of Veteran Rewards.

    Like you, I do have some serious concerns about eligibility. I think it should solely be 'age of account', not requiring a consistent subscription nor going back too terribly far (I think a five year mark seems fair). I especially like these reward programs when they are never retired, so all players can eventually get these rewards, it just takes more time ...

    I am most fond of them because there are so few, justifiable excuses to reward players exclusive content. I think this is one of them; in fact, I think it is one of the "purest" reasons.

    While veterans have enjoyed far more content than newer players (often things which no longer exist or which have been substantially altered), that doesn't mean they should go unrecognized entirely. Moderns MMOs are focusing on widening accessibility to more and more content, and whether that is better for a game or not, it does in fact cheapen the content to some extent or forces a heavy reliance on RNG mechanics. The Phoenix mount, for example, is just a question of luck and a lot of farming, where as once it was luck, farming, and only for a subset of players (not necessarily a good thing).

    I think new players already have a ton of opportunities to be rewarded. For starters, there is a brand new game before them that they've yet to fully explore. Similar to the obnoxiousness of only providing new phone discounts to new customers, I love when companies take the time to honor their most loyal customers fairly!

  5. I haven't played WoW in a while and I don't see it in my future, so take my response as someone with no horse in this race. However, I did join WoW on Feb 14, 2006 (happy valentine's day to me!) so I believe had I been continuously subscribed I would have missed the cutoff for this reward by a few weeks.

    The upset response to this veterans' initiative seems like the same complaining that people do whenever someone else gets something that they don't. Oh boo hoo, slap in the face, I'm special and I deserve a prize or an NPC or item with my name on it or whatever. WHY IS LIFE SO UNFAIR.

    I remember multiple times in the past when recruit-a-friend rewards were announced and people were all upset because "what about the veterans, we've been here supporting you forever, why don't we get any love"! Now they do something for the veterans, and it's the opposite complaint. Players, man.