Tag Archives: Blizzard

AH Issues Resolved

It would appear that the ongoing AH issues we reported on yesterday have been resolved. While scattered reports of AH instability and missing items remain, our own investigations have found nothing conclusive. The items that were ‘missing’ were returned to the AH if they had time left on their auctions or to player’s mail boxes if the auctions expired during the outage. This includes items that were lost in both ‘waves’ of disappearing goods in the AH resulting in some fairly skewed market pricing data due to wide price ranges for many items.

Compensation

We do not expect to be compensated for the lost deposit fees in any form. While it would be a nice gesture, we suspect that it would be a significant drain of resources for Blizzard and therefore not worth the effort to the company.

Cause of Issues and Ongoing Concerns

We also do not have any information as to the cause of the issue or the likelihood of it happening again. This is the most concerning aspect of the ordeal to us as having a stable, functioning and, most importantly, reliable Auction House is a cornerstone to successful MMO trade. Our GM ticket was answered (after a 20 hour wait) with a form message prompting us to check our in-game mail. The in-game mail message was a generic form letter apology and statement of the issue’s successful resolution.

Further Problems

If you have further issues with the AH the people at Blizzard would like you to use this forum post to make them aware. Please note, that this thread is not the forum to vent your frustration or ask questions but rather the best place to make the developers aware of ongoing issues. There are plenty of other places to rant over on the official forums.

Further Reading

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Breaking News- Some Servers Experiencing Missing AH Items

Ongoing updates are listed at the bottom of this post.

Every realm we surveyed this morning reported experiencing rolling restarts. Most reported this happening more than once. Several, however, also reported experiencing ‘missing AH items’ after the latest restart.

It appears that, for a few select realms, the AH was cleared of ALL items. New auctions can be listed, but the old goods were not returned to players, nor are they relisted in the AH- They’ve simply gone… missing. We’ve logged into one of these realms and have put in a ticket to speak with a GM about the issue. WoWenomics would like to know where the items went, if they will be relisted or simply returned to the user and if the deposits on these items will be refunded. Naturally, the GM’s are experiencing ‘high ticket volume’ on these servers so responses are delayed. Stay tuned for an update on this issue, hopefully some insight into the cause and how the ‘missing items’ issue has been resolved.

UPDATE #1: The issue remains unsolved. Auction Houses were back up for a few hours on most realms but missing items were not returned or relisted in the AH. New items could be listed, but old ones are still in WoW limbo. A forum thread was started and a blue left a few comments concerning the issue but gave up somewhere around post #190 (it was over 300 last we checked). The TL;DR version of Blizzard’s stance is the predictable “we are aware of the issue and working…” Of note, the blue poster responds that all items will show up again in the AH or mailbox but, so far, this has not been the case. Further, many of the AH’s that were back up are now, again, unavailable. This time no items can be seen or posted and the message returned is the ambiguous, “Internal auction error” we’ve become so familiar with. For what it is worth, we’ve had a toon on one of these servers with a GM ticket open for over 8 hours. No response yet. We will continue to investigate.

UPDATE #2: 12 hours since our ticket was opened, still no response from Blizzard GMs concerning the issue. Also no more blue posts in the forums. There was, however, the following message was recently posted on the Status Alert page:

“SERVERALERT:
October 24, 2009 8:50 PM PDT

We are aware that players across several realms are having trouble accessing the Auction House or viewing their characters’ posted auctions. These items have not gone missing, however we are actively working to restore the Auction House to its intended functionality. In the mean time we do appreciate your patience and will keep you apprised of any updates we are able to provide.”

Some players are reporting there auctions have been successfully reposted in the AH and those that expired returned via in-game mail. Others are reporting that they’ve now lost items two or more times since the AH was wiped clear at least as many times on there servers. We still have no direct word from Blizzard concerning the issue or when all players will have their items returned. We continue to monitor.

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Blizzard, Customer Service and Reasonable Expectations

As reported widely, connection issues are widespread here in the US tonight in the wake of the implementation of a (relatively) minor patch. Presumably these same issues will also affect the EU realms in the following days. Server instability post-patch is nothing new. In fact, regular readers will note that here at WoWenomics we don’t particularly mind and, in fact, we’ve even developed a profitable strategy for dealing with such issues.

However, what we really ask today is the following:

Is server instability, the game generally being unplayable and unforeseen extended downtime acceptable?

It seems strange to us, from a purely consumer perspective, that we have grown so accustomed to this near weekly outage of service from our favorite game. We’ve been pondering this point for some time at WoWenomics because this is actually the very moment that real and virtual finance intersect. By being unable to play the game that we pay real money for, we are also not able to make in-game money. So, in a sense, we are losing money both in the real and virtual worlds at once. As finance wonks, this just doesn’t sit right.

Agreeably, it’s a big game, there’s lots of unforeseeable stuff going on, they’re working as hard as they can. Yeah, yeah… We get it.

But, regardless of the explanation, the game’s still unplayable isn’t it? Why is this okay? Moreover, why are we not compensated for this down time? If, on Wall Street, we told our clients, “Gee, sorry we didn’t get that trade made in time for you but we were having technical difficulties.” That would more than likely be the last time we heard from that client. Moreover, if we committed to the trade and didn’t actually execute it we’d have to compensate the client, and possibly still face legal, disciplinary and regulatory action. To take it a little closer to home, what if your bank said one day, “Sorry, no money today. Computer upgrades. Should be back up by 11. Okay, now it’s 1. Well for sure by 2. Whoa, hey look at that, just moved a decimal in your account by accident. Whoops!” Would that be acceptable? What if it was the power company?

But this is Entertainment, Not a Critical Service

Well that’s a fair statement. After all, WoW is hardly integral to our day-to-day life. It’s a diversion and a game. But we wouldn’t tolerate the same sort of outages in our other forms of entertainment either. How long would you sit in a movie theater with no movie showing? What’s the longest amount of time you’d sit at a restaurant table waiting for your food? Would the waiter coming over saying “another hour or so” every few hours appease you? Or, perhaps more pointedly, would you stay in an amusement park very long if the rides were all non-functional? At what point do you ask for a refund or at least some form of compensation?

The Waiting Room and No Room for Waiting

One of our team members tells a story of a business professor he studied with while pursuing his MBA. This guy was a well known, published and highly respected businessman- Somewhat of a celebrity in both the worlds of business consulting and writing. Supposedly, this guy would pro rate the amount he paid for doctor and other medical appointments if he was left sitting in the waiting room. He would allow for 10 minutes of tardiness, beyond that he felt that what they lacked was organization and appropriate management. His time cost a significant amount of money (he was paid handsomely for speaking and teaching engagements) so why shouldn’t he charge them for wasting it? After some time pro-rating his payments, guess what happened. His doctors (and even his dentist) started finding a way to see him with fewer than ten minutes of wait time… Always.

Now we’re not advising you pull this kind of thing with your own medical professionals. For one thing it is quite possible that you don’t have the same amount of clout or spending power but the lesson still resonates. What’s your time worth? Is that time of the same value to the people that serve you? Or are you, your money and your attention, expendable?

Blizzard and Service Delays

It would probably be a much more minor issue if we could have a clear indication from the service provider as to the delays and anticipated issues. But Blizzard’s stance is always one of shock and surprise. “Ooops, we didn’t mean for that to happen.” And how about the cryptic messages that come after the predicted up time is missed or new issues occur:

“We are aware of the stability issues affecting several realms and instances this evening and are actively working toward addressing these matters as quickly as possible. Additional updates will be provided as they are made available. In the mean time, your patience during this process is greatly appreciated.”

That sounds like it was dreamt up by a legal team and regurgitated by the public relations department. Is that the best they can do? Why aren’t they “working toward addressing these matters” prior to their start? What, they couldn’t be anticipated? Well guess what, they can. In fact, we’re going to call it right now. You heard it here first folks: next patch day will bring more issues, more lag, more down time, and more bulls**t messages from Blizzard. Now it has been anticipated. And we don’t even work there.

This all seems, again as consumers of this otherwise fine product, a little circumspect. Why is it that we allow, and at this point even expect, these types of hiccups from the provider on patch days? And let’s not even get started talking about expansion pack release days right?

So that’s what we’re asking. Why no financial compensation blizzard? Our monthly fee already allows for a few hours a week down time but an entire day? Why do we accept this as consumers? Why do we come back week after week? Why is it always so unforeseeable and unpredictable? Are we owed anything at all here? Are we really paying for 6 working days a week at the price of 7? And just why is that okay?

Perhaps, at least from Blizzard’s perspective, the apparent lack of giving a s**t starts at the very top no?

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Activision Blizzard CEO Speaks on Corporate Culture

Yesterday, reports Gamespot, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) CEO Robert Kotick spoke at the Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference in San Francisco. During the 45-minute presentation he, apparently, discussed a range of issues including the timing of the next cycle of gaming consoles, the possibility of a console-less Guitar Hero future and, most interestingly (to us anyway) the “Culture of thrift” that he instills at the company.

Extracts of Mr. Kotick’s speech include:

  • His intent “to take all the fun out of making video games.”
  • Touting an employee incentive program that “really rewards profit and nothing else.”
  • Pride in instilling a culture of “skepticism, pessimism, and fear” of economic conditions.

While it is understandable, and to be expected, that a CEO of any company focus stringently on the bottom line, we do have to wonder what message this sends to those that create the games that we so enjoy. Already, a few noted game industry insiders have expressed their discontent with working in such an environment. It is worth noting that the Activision Blizzard merger is still in its infancy (or perhaps adolescent years depending on scale of measurement) and, as yet, it is difficult to quantify how this culture might influence Blizzard’s current and future creative efforts. Superficially at least, it does appear to be counter-intuitive with the culture of fun and awesome that we were shown during the Blizzcon ’09 Irvine, CA office tour. Mmmmm, not really seeing the thrift there.

It is, perhaps, relevant to note that Mr. Kotick was speaking at an investment-banking forum in which one would probably be well advised to speak of thrift and restraint given our current economic climate. Along those lines, Kotick also focused a significant amount of his time on discussing “mouth movement technology”. Given that he was talking to a bunch of bankers about one of their favorite topics, savings and thrift, we wonder to what degree he was simply providing a demonstration of the advancements in this emerging field. Mastery of which is, of course, another key trait of any successful CEO.

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