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?