Will BioWare Be To Blizzard What Blizzard Was To SOE?

SW:TOR - Force Choke

"Blizzard, I have you now"

Ah BioWare, thee who can do no wrong, how I love you so. Come hither and perch upon the pedastol before me so you might bask in my admiration.

Sound familiar? Turn the clock back 7 years and that might have been SOE I was talking about. Everquest was at it’s peak with it’s highest number of subscribers ever (just shy of 500k) and some hugely hyped Star Wars based MMO was right on the verge of release. But then something happened. Over the next few years SOE made a handful of bad decisions (most notably the NGE for SWG) and suddenly all faith in them was lost. Justly or not, SOE had turned from the Kings of the MMO genre to the butt of every harsh remark about screwing over the fan base and selling out their morals. $OE was their new name and woe was them.

2005. Enter Blizzard, the new kids on the MMO block. They had polished leather shoes, gelled back hair, a packed lunch from their mums and a great reputation for producing awesome high quality single player game. These guys were ready to kick ass, recite Pi to 17 decimal places and launch the most successful MMO the industry had ever seen. They trampled SOE into the ground in the process, condemning Everquest, SWG and EQ2 into a overshadowed, second class oblivion. Blizzard changed everything and shook the very foundations of the gaming community, turning MMOs from being the equivalent of the foreign film market into the Holywood summer blockbuster.

Skip back to modern day now and where are we? Blizzard aren’t looking as fresh and sharp as they once did. They seem to be making slews of unpopular decisions, one after the after. High priced “added value extras” for WOW, RealID, increasing the price of Starcraft 2 and releasing it in three parts. Justly or not, it’s probably only a matter of time now before we hear the cries of their new nickname ‘Bli$$ard’ around the web.

Does this mean BioWare is going to be the White Knight of the current MMO industry? I’m betting it does. Gamers are fickle creatures with a strong (perhaps inflated) sense of right and wrong and can easily heap praise onto developers as fast as they can condemn them. And so in turn, does this mean we’ll see history repeat itself and witness BioWare do to Blizzard what Blizzard did to SOE? I guess only time will tell…


P.S. Personally I don’t really have any massive moral issues with either Blizzard or SOE. I enjoy Blizzard game’s a lot and, in fact, I actually also admire SOE greatly for the work they put into EQ2 and how they swooped in to save to Vanguard from never even seeing release. It does go to show though how easily the gaming community can create, and maintain, a negative reputation for a company that slips up.

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  1. Tesh says:

    I tell you what, if SWTOR releases with a Guild Wars business model, I’ll never need to look at Blizzard again.

  2. adgamorix says:

    How true – I never played EQ or EQ2 – CoH was my first MMO – but everything I’ve ‘heard’ about SOE is generally negative. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, but I still love WoW, and I can’t wait for SC2 or D3.

    And yes, I have a sparkle pony. And the pets.

  3. Longasc says:

    I think it is rather ArenaNet who will become the company by gamers for gamers. Bioware’s patching policy for Awakening and the unfortunate connection to Electronic Arts make me believe even the ebil Koreans behind ArenaNet cannot be THAT bad.

    SWTOR plays it very safe, I am sure they go the double-triple-quadruple-dipping route: CE+sub+item shop+DLC+premium services.

    Guild Wars 2 shakes up gameplay and even if they will most likely have more stuff in the item shop, since GW1 I am convinced that the future is with this company.

    Cryptic: I quite like STO, but even if they have potential, their low-cost massproduction of MMOs can’t be the future for demanding gamers.

  4. Scopique says:

    Well, it’ll all depend on the community. If those who cried foul the loudest renew their accounts and re-activate their SCII pre-orders, Blizzard will come back stronger then ever. They’ll know that no matter how controversal their decisions, all it will take is an offer to rescind and people will start the love-in all over again.

    • Stabs says:

      As any good sociologist would tell you, Scopique, the larger the sample size the less binary the behaviour patterns are.

      Will there be some people who spend the same? Yes.

      Will there be some who don’t? Some players have cancelled. They were happily in their little WoW-cave for years and have now gone “stuff this” and left. Some will even be already playing the game they replaced WoW with.

      There is other fallout as well. In Europe an even higher value is placed on privacy (and a lower value on corporate freedom). A number of bloggers have complained to government privacy watchdogs. This may mean that Blizzard’s behaviour gets examined in minute detail over here. And they’ve certainly broken their own privacy policy that states that a minor’s details may never be released without specific permission because of the addon fiasco where it was possible to write addons that extract RealIDs.

      It’s cost them quite a lot of money to cock this up, even though they’ve tried to put it right promptly. For many of us we realise we’d become too cosy with our game-making friends and that we need to rethink how we do business with them.

  5. Docholiday says:

    I really hope that SWTOR does well but lately I just haven’t been impressed. Gameplay seems just like every other MMO with cooldowns and the class trinity. Couple that with the issues Longasc points out with their DA support, not to mention other DA fiascos and I’m just not sure they’re quite ready.

    I would love them to adopt a hybrid model or at least a trial system similar to AoC such that I can check it out before jumping in with both feet.

  6. I certainly see the parallels, but only time will tell. This may be the cynical side of me talking, but I’ve seen too many companies go down this path, with humble beginnings and eventually becoming so big in the end that it’s no longer about making games anymore, it’s about the bottom line. If history does repeat itself I do hope it’s Bioware coming out the white knight, but not to the point where they themselves lose their way (though I admit, “Buy-o-ware” has a nice ring to it that “Bli$$ard doesn’t) :P

  7. Pid says:

    I really don’t see SW:TOR taking down the giant, but I believe it will turn into the thorn in Blizzard’s side. Hopefully it will be enough to make the company take a step back and start making decisions that are actually good ones rather than those that are least likely to negatively impact sales.

    No matter what item a company is hawking, the quality goes down if there is no competition, even if BioWare is the AMD to Blizzard’s Intel, it will make both companies better in the long run much to the gamer’s liking!

    PS I do like the “Buy-o-Ware” moniker. Good stuff that.

  8. Tipa says:

    EverQuest *never* had the untainted, non-critical love people have for WoW. Everything people remember fondly about EQ, like forced grouping, death penalties and mega raids, really pissed people off WAY before there was any decent competition. EQ only stayed #1 because games like UO, AC and DAoC were, next to EQ, niche games.

    You think Blizzard forums were bad? You should have seen EQ’s official forums. I thought people were going to hunt Gordon Wrinn/Abashi (EQ’s first CM) down and kill him. Poor guy is probably still running. EQ and SOE survived to find almost all their friends turn on them.

    • Dril says:

      Un-tainted love? All you have to do is look at the whole bunch of morons who bash WoW because they don’t understand that their first MMO will always be their rose-tinted best and that WoW suddenly does it do it for them anymore and instead they let out their boredom and frustration in stupid arguments rather than thinking. Yeah, I hate the WoW haters with a passion.

      Anyway. no, not for me. I don’t like Dragon Age. I don’t like the 4-player parties idea in TOR. Everyone was falling over themselves saying how DA:O was a great experience and really immersive. Meh. I found it boring, without a goal, annoying characters and terribad combat and gameplay (yes, I did play past the tutorial(s?) as well). TOR isn’t getting any of my money unless all my friends play it, but if the gameplay is crap then WoW will lure me back. Avec Goblins!

    • Bhagpuss says:

      I was just about to hop on and point out that Gordon’s historical analysis is resting on shaky foundations but Tipa beat me to it.

      Back in the early 2000s I was lucky enough to have a job that let me spend large portions of my day web-browsing. Consequently I was on the EQ forums pretty much constantly. The main forum, which I think was officially called “Gameplay” was generally referred to as “Whineplay” and it was so incredibly negative and toxic that I could barely stand to read it. Neither, it turned out, could SoE since they eventually decided to close it down altogether, along with all the rest of the forums.

      I was a regular on TNZ, The Newbie Zone, which was an extremely well-mannered forum that had a very strong community. There was much lobbying at the time to persuade SoE to save that forum when all the rest were swept away and it was eventually allowed to continue in a heavily modified, and moderated format, but it was never the same.

      SoE went for some time with no forums at all before they gradually re-introduced them with a lot of restrictive rules and draconian moderation. All of this happened well before WoW launched, probably before it was even announced. In fact from the moment I began playing EQ in late 1999 I was aware of deep hostility from many players against the company that was providing the world in which we were all playing.

      At first that hostility was directed at Verant, later at SoE, and from then on in a mish-mash of confused, illogical havering at both or either, as if the participants in the name-calling were unaware that the developers emained the same regardless of the corporate branding. I saw a weaker version of the same player/developer hostility when I moved to DAOC and have watched soemthing much like it play out in almost every MMO I have played since then.

      It seems that quite a lot of MMO players just aren’t comfortable without they can feel they are sticking it to The Man on the forums, even when they often seem to have no real idea who The Man actually is.

      • Gordon says:

        As I said to Tipa, I think I was lucky because I didn’t surf the forums much in the early days so I never noticed it. I didn’t really see it starting to happen until SOE acquired Verant and then when SWG flopped.

        I think you’re dead on with your point about players needing someone to stick it too. I suppose we all feel like that deep down and get a certain amount of satisifaction from telling a company how we hate them :)

      • gareth2w says:

        I’m puzzled by the bad reputation some people hold up for SOE here myself, they’ve released some trail blazing games so far (Planetside still has no competition for scale with 400 or so players on one battlefield at a time), while other companies just copy and get applauded (Global Agenda, I mean 10v10, I remember reading through that thinking how cool it was until I read that bit!).

        Yet while the forums are pretty well moderated now there are still quite a few emo types on them (its a six year game, its only got a skeleton crew running it, even if there are 1/3 the number of devs that WoW has…).

        Yeah, while I’m no fan of WoW any longer I do see some particulary thoughtless posts on there too directed at the devs, Ghostcrawler might do a lot of things I don’t agree with, but I have to applaud him for his explanations on why he is doing something, definitely the best of the WoW devs posting.

        As for SWTOR, I’m not sure, I’m not a big fan of the star wars IP anyway (even though I’m a bit Sci-fi fan), so it’ll have to be very good to impress me. I have a feeling it’ll be slick, but linear and not give me that immersive feel, at least thats my prediction so it’ll be interesting to see how that holds up.

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe, yeah I do remember some of that now that you mention it :) I didn’t really frequent forums or blogs in those days so I suppose I was immune to a lot of it.

  9. You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

    I’ll play whichever I get the most enjoyment from. If that’s STWOR then so be it. Is it possible for Blizzard to destroy their own game through failing policies? Sure, but the same could be said for any game company. In the end, we pay them to have fun with their product.

  10. rowan says:

    Of course it is possible, even likely, that Blizzard will eventually become the has-been; with a new company, maybe BioWare, supplanting them as teh new roxxors. Will it happen soon? Less likely, IMHO. Blizzard’s fairly quick response to a legitimate privacy concern on the part of the subscribers (not just fans–clients) shows that they haven’t completely ossified.

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