How long before the bubble bursts?

| Wednesday, June 16, 2010
WoW really does look a lot like a speculation bubble. We think the gear and achievements and whatnot matter because someone else thinks they matter. So we chase gear and achievements and then we realize we're falling behind so we chase faster which only reinforces the perceived importance of it all.

It's a mass delusion of a sort, and unlike an economic bubble we do not even have the benefit of historical data to suggest a bubble.

Tobold put it another way.
What I observe more and more, is a culture in which the dedication you show towards a single game and character gives you status in the eyes of other players. Everything players in MMORPGs are so proud about is stuff they acquired because they spent more time and effort on achieving it. Thus they concentrate on a single game and a single character and advance him as much as possible.

It's a fashion trend. Someday we may look back and wonder why we cared so much and our children will laugh at screenshots, just as we laughed at our own parents for wearing bell-bottoms. Or in some cases, you were the parent, so I'm going to throw in an extra laugh for you (lol).

Few people like questioning good times. We get mad at and ignore the doomsayers before the bubble bursts, and then after we ask why they didn't warn us. There is something to it: economics is based so much on confidence and moods that a bubble can seem normal, though we don't like to say the same about a burst. But still, there is an underlying reality to the economy and markets, which eventually, always reasserts itself. Maybe we can say there isn't such a thing for WoW. It's all just $15 a month and there is no price bubble. Oh no? Oh yes. Race changes, ponies, pets, perhaps even server transfers. There is a bubble and we're all pouring in money, what happens when we stop thinking its worth anything?


Anonymous said...

Replace "WoW" by "soccer". You'll see your text is still reasonable. However, soccer survives somehow.

Yes, it's completely useless, world in itself, virtual has achievements (did Brasil's 5 champion titles helped the country to live better then complete soccer-loser US?).
Yes, people take soccer too seriously, fans get drunk, break cars and are beaten and jailed by police; people pay up to half their month's pay for a ticket etc.

Obviously the soccer is the bubble. Why doesn't anybody see that? It will explode pretty soon, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I put that 15 bucks into my gas tank and go out and do something real like go the lake or to see some family.

Anonymous said...

The basic premise of your post is horribly flawed. One doesn't need to play only one character to keep it geared. Gearing a new character in 251's/264's is incredibly fast right now, to get the 277's is slower but if you're talking about a bubble, such a small percentage of people do hard modes that you would then be instantly irrelevant if you started talking about 277's.

Some people do keep one main because of achievements, but because achievements are non transferable and bubbles are a market phenemenon, to describe achievement grinding as 'bubble-like' is at best an incoherent argument.

Klepsacovic said...

@Anonymous1: You make a good point. Soccer, and sports in general, are more socially supported, which gives them greater staying power. The World Cup isn't liked to end anytime soon, or possibly ever. WoW will die someday, and realization of that may deflate the bubble.

@Anonymous2: But there are no achievements for that!

@Anonymous3: Go re-read more carefully before you attempt to assess the coherence of an argument.

LarĂ­sa said...

I'm a huge fan of bubbles as hideouts as you know... I've written about it a couple of times before.

Anyway: I think there is another bubble aspect of this, which is the fact that it takes a certain amount of players for an MMO to feel you know... massive. There's a lot of psychology in this, a bit like the stockmarket. You buy shares because other people do and it normally turns out to ba a good idea to follow. But if someone jumps the train it can spread fairly quickly. I think there are a lot of players who stick to WoW because their guilds and friends do. But if enough people sill go somewhere else, the "bubble" may burst quicker than you might think.
Imho. How many times haven't we heard people declare that they keep playing WoW for social reasons, long after they've actually grown tired at the gameplay as such.

We Fly Spitfires said...

It's a tough one. WoW will inevitably decline but it's still had 6 strong years. No doubt Activision will try to milk the game for all it's worth before the number of subscribers dip too much but will probably take a while and they will have had a good run.

Klepsacovic said...

@Larisa: Quite often. Let's just look at your posts, how you're connected so much to your guild, far more than the game, the raid, the environment.

@Gordon: I wonder if they'll switch it to f2p and see how much they can get right before the end.
I'm not suggesting that's what happened with lotro.

Ngita said...

By your definition almost? everything is a bubble, the ski'ing I did when i was younger that eventually resulted in a couple of knee operations,my long term habit of enjoying a good read , means the books I brought as a adult 20 years ago are now starting to full apart and results in my thinking evil thoughts about things like ipads and kindles.
Travel, music, movies,cameras,good food they are all ephemeral and at the end of the day, its all a few pixels on a computer or paper and memories.

But they make us human.

Klepsacovic said...

You're making me depressed now.

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