I can’t stop playing / paying for these shallow games.

It’s finally been made clear to me. I had questioned why Blizzard would change the name of it’s classic and well-known Battle.Net service. It has brand equity, is catchy, and has been the Blizzard catch all for multiplayer gaming since 1996. Changing the name to “GENERIC APP” seemed like a stupid decision and I couldn’t determine the marketing angle.

Have you heard this one about Battle.Net? They changed it to Blizzard App

Their stated reasoning was:

“Over time, though, we’ve seen that there’s been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls — Blizzard and Battle.net. Given that built-in multiplayer support is a well-understood concept and more of a normal expectation these days, there isn’t as much of a need to maintain a separate identity for what is essentially our networking technology.” source

I didn’t buy it. But now I don’t have to. The Destiny 2 release on Blizzard App goes to show it’s going to become another distribution platform ala Steam, Origin, etc. This shouldn’t be surprising because…

Do What Valve Does

Valve used to make games. Steam was used to publish those games. Then Steam became used to publish other people’s games. Then Valve realized that a billion people played Team Fortress 2. Then Valve realized they could get people to spend more money on other publishers’ games, increasing their own income, by doing cross-promotions with their “in-house games”. Quick, want this AWESOME Team Fortress Chicken Hat? Buy this game you’ll never play.

Blizzard has become very adept at being Valve-lite. Blizzard’s model has become:

  1. Rarely release new game.
  2. Release new content for games.
  3. Try to get a player of a single game to play all the games. Cross promote library on Battle.Net with CHALLENGES.
  4. Get loot crates.
  5. Buy more loot crates because these items are only available for a limited time.
  6. People are actually buying this stuff! Keep doing it.
  7. Game becomes unpopular. Do another promo, get people back into playing that game.
  8. People begin to spend money for cosmetics in that game.
  9. All the games are linked. All your gaming is done inside the Blizzard world.
  10. Be owned by Activision

So, now that the model of cross-promoting and living inside Blizzard App (Battle.Net) has proven to work, Activision thinks (and probably accurately) that throwing new games onto Blizzard App for distribution will work as well. I am guilty of spending hundreds of dollars in Blizzard games. I have fallen for every promotional ploy, begrudgingly and complaining the entire time. Most recently, I spent $50 in Overwatch, a game I stopped playing, to nab a Tracer skin so I wouldn’t have to play the game to unlock it. Even more recently, I spent the past 4 weeks playing Fisher-Price DOTA to unlock skins and crates…and now I un-ironically enjoy the simplicity of the game. This was originally going to be a review of Heroes of the Storm, but we’ll have to postpone that.

The second secret to Blizzard’s recent success has been the shift in their mindset for their games. The hardcore audience has gotten older. Most of them don’t have the time to invest in the games they grew up with. World of Warcraft is somewhat of an exception, but over the years — the time sink has dwindled. Early Blizzard excelled at world building and lore building. Their casual games, like Hearthstone and Fisher-Price DOTA are essentially nostalgia simulators. They have all the sound, visuals, and flavor of the older games — and for some fans (like myself), that’s the general appeal. I started playing Hearthstone and still play, because I think the art team does a great job and it’s an excellent Warcraft soundboard.

Oh — and matches last like only 15 minutes. This is huge for me.

I started writing several Blizzard articles in the past, but haven’t finished them. Part of the reason is because I’m wasting large chunks of 15 minutes at a time on Blizzard games. Here’s an except from one about Hearthstone I never published, from 2016.

I’m getting old. In actuality, I’m just about to hit the new 20’s (30) and as an ‘adult’ I feel like the time I’m able to invest into games has dwindled. In reality, this isn’t necessarily the truth.

 

I was born in 1988, and played games pretty much from the time I was out of the crib. I supplemented gaming with outdoors and social life as a kid, but in college in what my primary form of entertainment. I invested large quantities of time into many MMORPGs. While I dabbled in many, my primary time-sinks were (in order): Nexon’s Dark Ages, International Ragnarok Online, Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade, WoW: Cataclysm, Final Fantasy XIV, WoW: Nostralrius.

 

If my estimates are correct, I’m still playing 20–30 hours of games a week.

So, instead of investing those 30 hours into less than 30 matches of DOTA, I’m able to play roughly 120 matches of various Blizzard titles.

For the younger audience, their attention is already shot. These games hold their attention, are mostly free, and start to build that Blizzard loyalty.

Casuals and Destiny

With these changes in formats, the games have become easier and simpler. I miss deeper mechanics and I hate micro-transactions, but I can’t stop being compulsive. I’ve resigned myself to this when it comes to Blizzard games.

BUT…

Here’s one thing I can guarantee. Activision had better think carefully before moving more games to the Blizzard App. No doubt the cross-promotion will be successful, but that Blizzard loyalty bridge doesn’t extend to Activision titles. I won’t buy Destiny 2 and I’ve already started to see fans disgusted that it’s taking a slot on their venerable Battle.Net.

I don’t think this strategy will fail. It will be quite successful but accessibility becomes a problem moving forward. If Battle.Net brought brand confusion, then Activision Blizzard had better just change its name to Blizzard, because Blizzard App for unrelated Blizzard titles makes me ill.

Enjoy your cash guys!

Please hire me.


Also published on Medium.

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