What a difference a week makes.
November 7 – Blizzcon 2014: During Blizzcon’s opening ceremony, Blizzard President and co-founder Mike Morhaime gives an impassioned speech about the negativity and bitterness poisoning the gaming community. He didn’t mention GamerGate specifically, but he addressed the entire thought process. He asked everyone in the gaming community to take a stand against hatred and harassment, and redouble our efforts to be kind and respectful to one another. Remind the World what the gaming community is really all about.
Hear that cheering crowd? Everyone, attendees and Twitter folk alike, really got behind the message. Hugs all around.
They forgot the message less than a week later.
November 13, 2014 – Blizzard’s new World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor, went live. Two things happened that Blizzard was not expecting:
1) They were the victim of a serious DDOS attack.
2) Ravenous players attack the new starting areas in numbers much larger than were expected.
For almost a day, the game was unplayable. Servers were down while Blizzard tried to deal with the DDOS attack. Then, to regain server stability, they lowered the player cap per server. This created queues that were thousands of players deep. Wait times in the neighbourhood of 8-10 hours were not unusual. People who had taken vacations from their jobs so that they could play, were left staring at a login screen.
Well, players lost their shit.
People hated on Blizzard something fierce. “Unacceptable,” they said. “How does this happen after all this time?” Valid questions, and while there may have been technical answers the players decided to make up their own conspiracy theories. Blizzard became the Big Bad who, according to some, were deliberately keeping them from playing.
The poor Community Managers took the full brunt of the player’s wrath. They apologized, and assured everyone that Blizz was doing everything it could to get things running smoothly. They released hourly updates all weekend so that everyone knew exactly what was going on and what steps were being taken. Friday, servers came down for patches and updates, and equipment was upgraded.
Saturday, adjustments were being made on servers to allow more people to log in. But players were reaching their breaking point. Things got uuuuuugly.
There were those during this “crisis” with fully functional brains who realized this was a video game. They often reached out, offering a reality check and asking those less patient to take a bloody chill pill.
Some folks didn’t get the message and tried to make a point.
If they hadn’t started turning on each other yet, they started doing it now in droves. The angry and entitled vs the patient and devoted. Those who tried to hang onto Morhaime’s message of kindness, and those who wanted to burn it all down and piss on the ashes.
By Sunday, things had calmed down. Queues were short or non-existent. People were tweeting about garrisons, leveling, or just how pretty the game looked. Fewer and fewer complaints as more people managed to log in.
Today, people are discussing tips on making gold, leveling, or running instances. It’s pretty much business as usual. But for some, the damage has been done. I’m sure there are still plenty of angry players out there who feel Blizzard let this happen intentionally. I’ve read forum posts where they accuse Blizzard of being “cheap”, not wanting to do the hardware upgrades and just let the angry players unsubscribe so they didn’t have to spend the money. This release has left many with a sour taste in their mouth, and they will never fully forgive Blizzard for it.
Blame Blizzard? Sure. They knew what their sales were. They had to know how hard their system was going to get hit. They could not predict the DDOS attack, but they freely admitted that they underestimated the number of people who were going to log in at once. They’d never seen numbers at a launch like they did on Thursday. Blessing and a curse to be so popular.
Mike Morhaime’s message to the gaming community though… I don’t think he changed any minds. Good people are going to be good people, and haters gonna hate. Blizzard may have been at fault for much of it, and nobody is arguing that (including Blizzard.) But the players were in full control of how they handled the situation. A great deal chose to handle it poorly, and that vocal minority who overreacted and raged to anyone who would listen, suffocated the voices calling out for patience.
The World of Warcraft gaming community had the opportunity to show the World something this weekend. They did. But instead of sending out a positive message, I think all the World saw this weekend was a bunch of gamer nerds who lost their shit because they had to wait to play their video game.