Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Age, luxury, and World of Warcraft

I am 41 years old. Whether wisdom comes with age is debatable, but one thing that is for certain is that for most people the financial situation improves with age. And with the improved finances comes more luxury: I'm driving a new car, while as a student I drove a clapped-out 10 year old Ford. I can always afford the latest graphics card and other hardware. I sometimes visit nice and expensive restaurants, which I could never have afforded 20 years ago. I even fly business class, though that is paid for by my company. The one thing where I am paying exactly the same, and receive exactly the same level of service, is for World of Warcraft and other MMORPG.

Recently there was a discussion going on here whether playing a harder MMORPG would have the advantage that less children would play it, thus improving the level of maturity of chat and behavior. I'm not sure that would work; it could be that older, more mature players have too many Real Life ® constraints, and would rather play an easier, more casual game. While bratty kids with lots of time on their hands aren't really daunted by hard games, taking it as a challenge. It would be possible to create a MMORPG for a mature audience, for example by making it a lot less violent, see A Tale in the Desert. But if you prefer the more game-like MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, it is hard to think of a configuration where the mature players wouldn't have to suffer from the immature ones.

So I was thinking about luxury servers for World of Warcraft. Imagine special WoW servers where the monthly fee is $30 instead of $15. In exchange you get faster server hardware, 99.9% uptime guarantee by having servers doubled up, faster GM response to your problems, a better customer service telephone line, and whatever else you could think of as improved customer service. But the real advantage would be a non-advertised one: most players on these servers would be older, and more mature. Because kids simply couldn't afford it, or would be unwilling to pay for the luxury, while middle-aged people like me wouldn't mind paying more for better service.

I know Everquest tried something similar, but I don't know if the idea ever took off. I know a lot of older MMORPG secretly wish they could somehow get rid of the immature kids that can be such a nuisance, with their potty mouthed general chat, attention span in the millisecond region, and hopping around like Kermit the Frog all the time. But would they actually pay to get rid of them, and to enjoy a better customer service from Blizzard at the same time? What do you think?

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