As I am sure many of you know, the number of subscribers for World of Warcraft has fallen a bit.
The numbers, of course, do not spell doom for the game, because Blizzard is smart in that it finds various ways to keep players going. Ways which reflect our desires in reality, transcended into the game.
I recently heard about the show Hoarders on A&E, another reality show – this, of course, about hoarding. As gaming moves closer to reality, Azeroth also has its share of collectors, though I wouldn’t call them “hoarders,” as that would be an insult to the Horde. Regardless, Azeroth is full of collectors, which leads me to another point – one of the reasons why World of Warcraft has been so successful and holds on to so many players is that is satisfies an individual’s craving for the past and collectibles.
Virtual collectibles that is, i.e. items that don’t turn your actual house into something like this:
To a certain degree, we have spent much of our lives collecting things and having a hard time letting them go. When I was a kid, like so many boys, I had a solid comic book collection. Unlike so many boys, though, I never understood baseball cards. My brother was equally bizarre and loved anything that had to do with sea life – even though we lived in the high desert of New Mexico. Regardless, his room was adorned with posters of the sea, marine fish tanks, shells, and the like.
Let’s face it, so many of us have a difficult time letting go of things. My comics are in a box in the basement. My brother’s room is rather non-desript right now, but many of his old marine decorations are stashed in a box somewhere in my mom’s house in New Mexico. Blizzard, I think, spends a fair amount of time looking at what makes people tick – and, subsequently, think of ways that they can bring these cultural drives into the game.
As many of us have collections of one thing or another, in reality, the game gives players plenty of things to collect there, too. Furthermore, if we look at achievements as a form of currency, there is a sense of reward for collecting – on the flip side, we could collect items that hold monetary value in actual reality. In the game, we can collect pets, mounts, armor sets, and the like. Some of these things serve a utilitarian purpose, while others serve simply as decorations. As in reality, we define ourselves to a certain degree by the things we surround ourselves with.
Along this line of utilitarianism, there are those who collect cars in reality, and while they may not drive them frequently, they are there for the occasional Sunday afternoon out. In Azeroth, we have the ability to collect mounts, some being flashy, others very rare – but all magical. My collection for utilitarian purposes is a decent array of guitars and gear. In the game, though, I don’t have many collections.
Part of this desire to collect, I contend, is that we have a very difficult time letting the past go. We all grew up hearing stories about the old days when life was simple, and those who told us those stories held on to items that embodied that simplicity they talked of. When we were kids and heard those stories, so many of us thought that we would never say things like that. But here I am at 42, thinking about how easy it was when I was kid. This doesn’t mean I am going to stop using my Mac to write, but I do catch myself saying to others how easy it was when I was a kid.
Keeping this desire in mind, Blizzard, is adding transmogrification to its next patch – which will enable a player to take his or her current armor set and make it look like an older armor set, while keeping the current stats. This has fostered quite the debate and discussion in the Trade Channel on the server on which I play. People have spent time talking about the coolest armor sets since the beginning like any aficionado in reality. Players seem to be looking forward to the idea of having “old school” armor, without losing the stats of their current armor.
We have fun talking about our collectibles, and showing them off. When I was playing guitar around town, we had so much fun bringing in our latest acquisition to show off. Come on, there is nothing better than seeing the look in another’s eyes as he eyes your new toy. It is fun, though, to see people flaunting their rare mounts. Every weekend or so, the Dairy Queen near my house has a car show where the old men strut their wheels for all to see. These cars don’t get used too much, of course, they are for show. But, there is the person on my server who loves to hover on his Pureblood Firehawk above the auction house seeming to taunt so many of us with his rare mount.
A game only works for longevity, it seems, when it is able to give gamers a sense of their real lives. Blizzard has figured this out. Again, while the number of subscribers may be falling a bit, Blizzard gives the remaining 11 million players various reasons to stay. Part of this, again, is that it pays attention to our desires in reality and brings those desires to the game.
What do you collect in the game? Will you transmogrify any of your armor sets? Let’s see your character in the comments.
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