I’ve seen several people making much ado about the newer, harder heroics and raids. “Isn’t this great?” “It reminds me of BC.” “You actually have to work for gear now.” And so on. Yeah, everyone from the hardcore crew to the not-quite casuals to the game developers themselves are waxing philosophic about the awesome new state of heroics and raids. Guess what? It won’t last. Nerfs are already on the way with patch 4.0.6 and it will be more of the same from there on out. Blizzard can talk tough as much as they want, but there’s a basic economic truth that they won’t be able to dance themselves around no matter how much they may want to.
This introductory phase of the expansion is Blizzard’s nod to the hardcore and serious casuals who want more of a challenge out of the game. These people deserve their due as much as anyone else and I’m glad they’ll have their opportunity. The frontrunners pave the way for the rest of us, giving us great strategy advice that makes our path just a little bit easier. They deserve a bit of pride about being the fastest, the first, and the best of the best. But, see, the thing is that the vast majority of WoW’s fanbase plays the game for fun, not ego. The newer, harder system is putting a dent in Blizzard’s bottom line as it chases away those who are just looking for a good time. Concentrating on a challenging encounter is great for making you feel like you accomplished something. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that if what you want is to put in a lot of effort to eventually earn a reward. You know what that’s called? Work.
The problem comes in because not everyone enjoys so much work in their entertainment. Call them what you will, casuals, morons, slackers, whiners; the label doesn’t matter, the bottom line is that they comprise the bulk of Blizzard’s subscriber base. Remember that simple economic truth I told you about? Well, here’s the deal: Blizzard has made the entire game, in one way or another, all about grabbing gear. The grind to 85 is just the introduction. Blizzard has made sure that at least half of the game is about the “end game” – the gear grind, the rep grind, heroics, raids. People are going to want to see the content and get the gear. Yes, even the unforgivably “lazy” ones who don’t want to put in 20 hours of grinding for every one hour of pleasure. Blizzard can’t help but to cater to them if they expect to pay the bills, so it’s only a matter of time before Cataclysm becomes Wrath’s purple parade part 2. For good or ill the people who want more fun and less work are the ones who put cars in the developers’ garages and roofs over their heads. I know that Blizzard has said repeatedly that they want you to work for your rewards. They may even mean it, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Principles are nice, but they don’t feed your family. Nerfs WILL happen, little by little until Cata is easy enough to please the casual crowd. You can count on it. It’s happened with both previous expansions. Don’t expect this one to be any different.
One final piece of food for thought: how long will the shiny last? I can’t speak for everyone on this, but here’s an example of what I mean. The very first time I accepted the ride to the Argent Tournament grounds in Wrath, I felt it was truly epic. The long, slow swooping path was incredible as I saw everything for the the first time. The second and third time it was pretty cool. But long before I ever got my first Crusader title I was cursing at the stupid griffin to stop wasting time swooping around and just frickin’ land already. All of these people who love the new heroics now: are they going to still love that much work on the 30th time through? The 50th time? Or at some point are they just going to want to zerg through the stupid content so they can earn a little gold/rep/gear/justice points and move on to what they really want to do?