"I am not the target audience" is an uncomfortable thought

| Friday, September 2, 2011
Before you read this, go read Syl's thoughts on not quite the same subject.

Back in Chicago they have a really great public radio station, WBEZ. It has a lot of different programming, mostly news and interviews about any subject imaginable. But mostly news. I liked that. Up in Madison they have WPR which has some news, but is mostly classical music. It's pretty good music and nice to listen to, but not something I want all day.

I am not the target audience.

This is my conclusion with WoW as well. It has good and bad points, but for me, the most relevant aspect is that it is not for me. If they are making focus groups to see what customers want, I am not in those groups. I'm not quite sure who is, but it's definitely not me. This means that WoW is not a game for me anymore. I suspect it wasn't for a long time, but I kept hoping, rejecting the trend even as I whined about it here.

I am not the target audience.

Explicitly expressed, this is an arrogant statement: should I expect a multi-million dollar game to be created to match exactly what I want? I might be pushing the limits when I ask them to not fill my overpriced iced coffee with 90% ice, but an entire game? Of course not! It's not just for me. Other people play or played WoW or other MMOs and liked what once was. Maybe it was novelty or low standards, but those are the easy, lazy explanations, as useless as "they are stupid" is for explaining human behavior.

WoW isn't for me. But what is? Well now that I have no internet for my desktop, single-player games are where it is at. I'm having a blast in Dragon Age: Origins. I might write about that, as part of my continuing series on reviewing and talking about games that you stopped caring about years ago.


Stabs said...

There's a silver lining.

At one point WoW really was the game for a huge range of target audiences, as shown by its market share. Now we have more variety of games and more picky audience sectors so we should see more and more variety of MMO being produced.

xJane said...

I'll humbly say that, "I changed." I started late in Vanilla and raided some in Burning Crusades and raided heavily in Lich King. I enjoyed crafting (such as it is), the auction house, and battlegrounds but not arena.

At some point, I no longer wanted to keep up with the raid schedule, even if that was the only way to keep up with WoW friends. Not raiding did not provide enough stuff for me to do as there wasn't a real sense of shared accomplishment in PUG dungeons and PUG battlegrounds. So I quit.

I don't know what, if anything, would lure me back. I am playing DDO casually with RL friends. I look forward to TOR but I've been looking forward to that since KoToR. I have no hardcore expectations from that game. I've changed.

Christopher said...

I think the updated/simplified/streamlined gameplay changes are a big part of why people are losing interest in the game. When gear dropped off bosses, and dungeons required assembling a group and actually GOING there, the process was less smooth and took more time; it also disguised the feeding tube so it felt like a game. Now that everything is points it's less of a game and more like a job. I'd call it farmville-ization - the grind is the whole game, outside a few hours a week of actual raiding. I don't think you can really go back, either, as the stuff that's been taken out would feel clunky, time-consuming and frustrating. I guess blizzard has killed the golden goose, to some extent. It's too bad, because the goose was a whole lot of fun for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't care if I'm the target audience or not. I'll play with the toys I want and make what fun I can with them. Everybody knows that when you've played with something for a long time, it can get old. The new hotness is hot. Sometimes, the play runs its course and you've done what you want with a toy. And sometimes, we change what we want to do. Or the Hot Wheels get made with plastic bodies and suddenly crashing them together loses that visceral feel it had when they were metal. That doesn't mean I can't have fun. I'm good at having fun and I'll find another toy. The toy isn't the thing after all. It's a means to an end and it's value is in how well it serves that goal for me.

Focus groups are look at the wrong end of the stick.

Tesh said...

I'd argue that the stupid gear/level grind was always there. That it's laid bare these days doesn't mean the game was more virtuous in the past. If anything, it was more deceptive. Maybe the bigger problem is our own level of garbage design that we're willing to eat and pretend we're eating top sirloin?

...so yeah, we change. There's no going back, and we move out of the target audience. That's healthy.

Klepsacovic said...

@Stabs: I liked it when I could get about any sort of content in WoW. If one bit was boring, I did another. Now I'd need to play a half-dozen different games to do that. I guess it's good that they've all gone freemium.

@xJane: Clearly you changed, but I wonder if the change to PUGs as well prevented those from being an alternative when raiding ran out.

@Anonymous: Multiple words: Post about legos imminent.

@Tesh: The grind was always there, but when it was shrouded, it also had a layer of meaning added to it. The chest of +6 agility was not merely a mathematical upgrade over the Chest of +5 agility, it was also the symbol and reward from having done something of significance. What is something of significance is possibly for another day, but definitely important.

Syl said...

"WoW went from a game I used to like to a game I don't like anymore."

I think it was you who wrote this simple and yet so true line a while ago. it wraps everything up many of us are trying to say in our lengthy debates and articles.
and it doesn't even deny that the game changed, imo it DID (not to say it was ever perfect), but ultimately it's US who decided that we can't appreciate it that way. and that's all there is to it in a nutshell.

Klepsacovic said...

"it's US who decided that we can't appreciate it that way" I don't understand this sort of claim. It always struck me as an attack on personal preference. It suggests that if we don't like something, it is because we chose not to like it, rather than because of some aspect of the thing.

For example, I like eggs, but my brother cannot stand them. He's tried to like them, and is definitely a more adventurous person than me, open to more food concepts, but he cannot enjoy them. It's not anything wrong with the eggs or with him. But he tastes something in them differently than I do. So he has a personal preference against eggs and it would be ridiculous to suggest that this is due to his attitude.

Why would a game be any different?

Syl said...

Hmmm..an interesting thought. I don't think I disagree with what you're saying, although I don't see that big a difference between what you call personal preference and I called personal choice. maybe it's a semantic thing, either way I didn't mean it in an attacking kind of way, but simply an explanation.

taking preference is an active, conscious thing for me, usually, something I am responsible for (just like I believe that we choose how to react to things). however, not necessarily when it comes to liking certain foods, I can't say 'why' I dislike mushrooms. or well, I can explain that I dislike the texture and smell, but I can't explain why I find it revolting when others don't. I'm not sure the same is true for what I appreciate in games though; that my preferences there are somehow 'inherent' in me. but maybe you're on to something here...

does that mean we might as well stop debating all our reasons to like or dislike game aspects then, if we're just acting out natural impulses rather than making active/informed choices?

Syl said...

"It's not anything wrong with the eggs or with him. "

...on top of it all, this means I cannot blame anything anymore??

completely unacceptable! sheesh

Hofflerand said...

i feel the same way. my subscription is still active as i enjoy the odd battleground with an old friend, but i don't know how much longer that'll last

Azuriel said...

I do not think there is anything wrong about a game having a finite shelf-life.

Think about your favorite game of all time. Are you still actively playing it? Why not? Probably because it is not an MMO for one thing (rather telling in itself, yeah?) but also because you have already consumed the novelty of the experience. You cannot cross that same river twice.

You could be exactly the kind of player Blizzard has focus groups designed to amuse, and still find yourself losing interest. Once the novelty of the experience wears off, WoW is a lot like refrigerator magnets: there are only so many ways the letters can be rearranged, and at the end of the day they will still be refrigerator magnets.

Klepsacovic said...

@Syl: I wonder how long it would take me to ramble off onto a tangent about free will vs. determinism...
I am using preference to indicate innate aspects of a person, while choice is what they add on top of that. Preference may change, but choice is the more dynamic element.

"does that mean we might as well stop debating all our reasons to like or dislike game aspects then, if we're just acting out natural impulses rather than making active/informed choices?"
We should not stop, because we're not doing one or the other. We have preferences, but we have the ways we pursue those preferences and what we are willing to pay for them. Beside that, the existence of an unchangeable preference makes understanding it even more important, because if we cannot address it as it is, then there is no progress to be made. Contrast this with a "choose to have fun" model in which there's not much point in making anything in any particular way or better or worse, since under that model a failure to have fun is the fault of the consumer, not the producer.

You can always blame God or the Wages of Sin. Those have never failed in the past.

@Azuriel: I think the payment system may have something to do with it. The one-time payment system of most single-player games implies a one-time fun outcome, with games with high replayability being unusually good value. In contrast, MMOs have the recurring payment, suggesting recurring fun. Logically we stop paying when that fun ends, but if they keep accepting more money, it is tempting to think that we should be able to keep getting fun, as long as they are accepting money.

Amanda said...

"This means that WoW is not a game for me anymore. I suspect it wasn't for a long time, but I kept hoping, rejecting the trend..."

Oh, this. So much this. I have quit WoW and come back so many times that it makes my head spin, but apparently I can't grasp that it's no longer the game I once enjoyed tremendously and never will be again.

Anonymous said...

This is the last truth an old wow player has to face after a process of quitting and resubing, that the game's no fun for you because it's not for you because you're not the target and so in 6 more months when you get nostalgic once again and want to resub it'll still be the same thing that wasn't fun before.
Just gotta let go and move on.

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