An Open Letter To MMO Publishers – You Fail. Hard.

Posted by on October 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm

You’re doing it wrong.

In the last couple of years, your players have been leaving you at a staggering pace. This is because you’re alienating them.

Read on to find out how.

It’s become commonplace for you folks to release letters and blogs and videos apologizing to your players for doing things they haven’t liked. You seem to be spending an awful lot of time making wrong turns and running in to brick walls and not a whole lot of time doing the right things and endearing your customers to you.

This is, in short, because you completely suck at delivering what players want.

I’ll happily give you some examples:

CCP : You released Eve Online several years ago and quickly amassed a large following. Over the years, you made updates and improvements to your software and grew your player base to hundreds of thousands of players. You eventually decided that you wanted to bring in some new markets and started planning Dust 514, which would have allowed you to expand into the console market and take a big bite of the FPS pie.

Then you decided to make it a PS3 exclusive, which cut of over half of your intended market by eliminating the Xbox 360, in a move I can only describe as “myopic”.

You also decided to try expanding your PC market share by introducing what you refer to as “Walking in Stations”, which would allow players to get out of the ship and into the bars, shops and corporate offices aboard the stations. You felt it necessary to use groundbreaking new graphics and physics technology to do this and, at some point, dropped the ball. You released a half-update which would allow players to access their “Captain’s Quarters” and, in the process, decided to change a bunch of other stuff as a part of your “new vision”.

A lot of the changes you made (like inability to view and fully access a player’s ship(s) from the CQ) pissed people off so decided to undo the small stuff and completely refocus back on ships, apparently deciding to abandon “walking in stations” (at least, according to your devblog) and making new cyno effects. LOLWUT?!

The problem here is that you have no idea what your players want so you’re fumbling around like a near-sighted child trying to find his glasses after being tackled by the school bully. In doing so, you’re pissing people off. I can tell you, just based on the people I, alone, have spoken to that “walking in stations” is something people want. Whether you want to think so, or not.

CCP is just one example of a company who has decided to follow some dream their CEO had one night after too many tequila shots and a batch of bad mussels. They’ve completely lost the plot.

And now on to Blizzard.

You have completely alienated every World of Warcraft player I’ve ever personally known, and that’s a lot of people. The changes you started making, with the release of “Burning Crusade” turned players off at an alarming rate. Your player base hit its high in February of 2007, when you released B.C. amidst a blizzard of hype and publicity (see what I did there?) and almost immediately started to decline again.

It seems you listened to a very vocal few and decided to make the game way too accessible to children and anti-socials who almost immediately started to run off the more dedicated players. You removed any and all need for teamwork and cooperation, which were things that most players enjoyed about the game. You also started to kill off the need for strategy and tactics in the PVE world and turned the entire game into a DPS race which is dominated entirely by people who spend hundreds of dollars buying gold from farmers which they then use for re-specs and the auction house while they search for the perfect DPS build and then run randoms, battelgrounds and dailies over and over and over until they can ninja/buy the gear they need to perfect their character’s DPS dealing abilities and turn all of the boss fights into facerolls. No strategy, no tactics, no need for knowledge of the game.

Also, the classes. Not only did you never balance them, OR make them what you always said they would be (whatever happened to the “glass cannon” mage?) but then you just decided that you’d make just about any race play just about any class on either Horde or Alliance. You completely stripped the individuality out of your own game.

I, alone, could list 100 people who have quit the game over this.

These are just 2 examples of the worst offenders in the MMO world but tons more exist. SOE, Atari, Turbine, NCSoft and many others are guilty of the same crime, namely, ignoring their players and just doing whatever the hell they want at the time. All of you who have decided that your own goals and visions are more important than the player’s experience and enjoyment amount to little more than a big box of fail.

So for all of you, I suggest taking a big step back and having a look at the big picture. Actually ask your players what they want and then – wait for it…


Don’t give us crap about technical limitations. Don’t lie to us and tell us you’ve done broad polls and it’s not really what we want. Don’t piss down our leg and tell is raining. Just give us what we want and maybe, just maybe, you can all stop writing open letters to your players, apologizing for eating all the dicks.

And, while you’re at it, you may just make some people happy. Or is that too much to ask?

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  • I don’t like this article, you make assumptions and statements that are plainly wrong.  First off lets start with Dust 514, I pretty sure they did want to release to the Xbox, it is stupid not to.  However Microsoft has a lot of restrictions for XBL especially for MMOs and content delivery.  Makes it almost impossible for any company to want to run the MMO they want with XBL.

    WoW’s largest active player-based peaked in 4th Quarter 2010/1st Quarter 2011.   The reason for that many player was because of the reasons of allowing easier access to the game and end-game content.   While at the same time creating harder difficulties for people who do want a challenge.  It is not their fault not many players utilize these features.  I know and talked with Blizzard Developer at industry events, they are always concerned about these problems, it is impossible to balance a game like World of Warcraft, they watch the data carefully and make the best decisions possible, they are not perfect and a lot of times go on gut instinct over something more reasonable.  Bottom line is they do care, probably more than most companies.

    I do give credit to NCSoft for trying to create a subscription-free open world MMO, with Guild Wars 2, if it works can change some of the dynamics of the MMOs.

    Finally, player ideas are usually stupid.  Most people don’t understand the complexity of game design, especially MMO design.  However I do agree there is a problem when developers do completely ignore the player base.

    • First – Dust 514 is a shooter, much like any other online shooter.

      Yeah, we all know that WoW’s player base has grown and shrunk over the years, usually around expansions, but we also know that, overall, it is in decline.  Blizzard stated, voluntarily, that WoW is unsustainable in the long term – they know the game is dying and instead of fixing it, they’re trying to squeeze every last penny out of it.

      Also, if you’ve played WoW, since the beginning, you KNOW the difficulty hasn’t increased, at all.  It’s gotten much easier.  Also, the assertion that it’s impossible to balance the game is, in my experience, hogwash.  It’s a simple equation.  class A deals W damage and is vulnerable to X.  Class B deals Y damage and is vulnerable to Y.  If A*X =/= B*Y, unbalance exists.  Fix numbers.  (yes, it’s a little more complex but algorithms can easily be developed).  They SAY they can’t fix it because they’re busy working on expansions, content, new games, etc…

      Maybe they do care but that doesn’t mean they care enough to fix what’s been broken for 7 years. (They were told during beta that the game had serious balance issues but they never fixed them).

      Also, DPS races are their biggest failure and is the cancer that’s slowly killing WoW.

      And saying that player ideas are usually stupid is offensive.  You seemingly don’t know a lot of MMO players, or have met the ones who still live in their parent’s house and hump socks.  I know a LOT of MMO players and the vast majority of them are far smarter than the average bear.  It’s attitudes like that which allow companies like Blizzard to defend their actions.