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Mike Morhaime on Accessibility and Declining Social Experiences in WoW
29/04/2020 alle 02:07
Mike Morhaime, cofounder and former CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, spoke with Seth Schiesel of the New York Times at the
VentureBeat GameBeat Summit
yesterday, and while many topics were discussed, the former president had some interesting things to say about the evolution of World of Warcraft and the MMO genre. The full interview can be watched below, with the conversation regarding MMORPGs starting around 13:50.
The initial popularity of World of Warcraft surprised everyone, including the developers - it was initially believed the game would only appeal to a small audience and grow over time, but it quickly attracted a massive amount of players well and beyond their target audience, something that was attributed to the social systems of the game. Despite high rising success, those numbers have dwindled over the years, and while still certainly popular, the MMO genre is not nearly as popular as it used to be - something Morhaime at least partially attributes to the push for greater accessibility.
I think that's a question of accessibility and time investment.... maybe there are other types of games that are able to capture the social experience even more. I would also just observe that as World of Warcraft evolved over the years, it actually kind of became less social, because in an effort to achieve more accessibility, we kind of removed some of the reasons why you need to play with the same group of people over and over.
I think that it takes away some of the reasons for some people of why they play, and why they might want to continue to play.
Accessibility has long been a watchword of game's development - retaining players, continually reaching out to new and bigger audiences, though it can come at a cost, either in or the decline of social systems which helped launch the game's popularity in the first place. Despite these losses, it's hard to say the game is definitively worse for it, as that accessibility has certainly helped bring in new players and keep the game going over the last fifteen years as well; as Morhaime relates, it's a fine line.
The Holy Grail is to kind of capture that easy to learn, difficult to master sort of shallow learning curve accessibility which gets people to a place where they have a deep engagement with content and ability to share it with other people.
Schiesel, a long time WoW player himself, points out that the hardest part isn't actually learning the game, it's finding and organizing enough people to play with regularly. It's why WoW dropped down from 40 to 25 to 20 person raids, and flexible group sizes beyond that, as well as why many games focus on smaller group sizes in general - it's easier to find, organize, and coordinate smaller groups than larger ones. This is a keen observation, because the Morhaime's comments might otherwise imply that pushing for greater accessibility is inherently bad for the game, when that's really not always the case; it's a balancing act in order to attract and retain a wide audience of players.
Also brought up was Blizzard's increasingly dinged reputation as the result of controversies over the last few years, such as the lukewarm reception of Warcraft 3: Reforged. While it was held a sterling reputation as a company beloved by its players, the downturn seems to have coincided with the departure of Morhaime and fellow cofounder Frank Pierce. Morhaime's response was diplomatic, acknowledging that they certainly made mistakes while he was at the helm as well, and the community was quick to call them out on it then too, while also restating his trust both in those still with the company and the community's willingness to speak up.
The interview in its entirety is certainly worth watching, as plenty more topics were discussed, including Esports, BlizzCon, and monetization in video games.
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