Following on from Tuesday, MCV continues its talk with Jay Wilson, this time focusing on in-game purchasing models with Diablo 3.
A lot of the services (the Auction house etc) in Diablo 3 are becoming normalised these days. Are they being included here because they’re expected, or because you have a particular passion for these kinds of business models which include in-game spending?
The decision really came from looking at Diablo 2 and what players did there and what players want to do.
I think one of the things we try really hard to do at Blizzard is not make a lot of assumptions. We’d say: ‘Don’t go against what your players are trying to do. See if you can find a way to enable what they want.’
A great example is the quest system in WoW. In most MMOs before that, you just grinded to level up, and we didn’t think that was very fun, so we wanted people to do questing. We could’ve hardwired players into that, but instead we wanted to include it while allowing grinding, giving players appropriate rewards. It just made questing more beneficial.
What we’re really doing there is embracing what the player wants to do. We found that the player is looking for efficiency – they’re doing the most efficient thing even if it’s the least fun thing. So we just decided to make the most fun thing also the most efficient thing. And that’s making sure we’re following player instinct.
It’s the same thing with the Auction house. People want to trade. They traded in Diablo 2 (for real money) – they just did it outside of the game. And players want to buy items. I can’t tell you how many hardcore Diablo players I know who pay money for high-level items. I also have a lot of friends who went to pay real money for in-game things and got ripped off. It’s a game about trading items; it’s a game where trading is the best path to getting the best items.
But Diablo 2 didn’t facilitate trading at all, so in doing the Auction house we really want to facilitate trading, and we really wanted to embrace what players were doing, and what we knew players were going to do regardless of whether we did real money or not.
And is this ‘ideal’ Diablo player someone who played the hell (no pun intended) out of Diablo 1 and 2 back in the day, are they current WoW players or is this one about reaching an entirely new market?
For us, I think it’s really capturing what we think players want to do. We don’t really try to overly categorise out players. So if we think that a significant percentage of the player base wants to trade for real money, we’ll try to support that player base.
Is it people coming from WoW who’ve never played Diablo before? Yes. Is it super-hardcore Diablo players? Yes. Is it brand new players who’ve never played any role-playing game? Yes.
With in-game trading, if players are able to do that, they’re going to do it. There are certainly some games where doing that is harmful. I actually think it would be really harmful for us to sell the best items in the game for real money – that could potentially be quite harmful in Diablo because now, we’re actually removing the impetus for why you play the game in the first place. But if it’s facilitating trading, I think that’s very different because it still requires them to acquire the items by themselves.
So you’d say that the release of Diablo 3 is the continuation of an ongoing learning process?
So it’d be safe to assume you couldn’t tell me anything too specific about your plans to grow and support the game post-release then (DLC, patches, additional services etc)?
Yeah, but we certainly have some plans. We generally keep our cards a little close to our chest, so it’s never a good idea to move forward without some good ideas in mind. As far as support goes, we’ve got a very solid plan for how to move forward with any technical or balance problems. Those things we always have really solid plans for.
In terms of what we do next, we have some ideas. So when it comes to say doing an expansion, I think that’s one of the decisions we can make without waiting to see how players react. Part of the plan, however, needs to be planning for not knowing. You’ve gotta assume that your players are going to change the game somehow. You’ve gotta assume that you are going to play the game and understand it a lot better than you did before, and that’s going to cause you to change how you want to develop it further.
You can’t move forward and blindly hope that you can make good decisions. You can make pretty good ones, but maybe a third or a half of what you’re going to do in the future is really going to be based upon what you see when the game actually hits the audience.
Thank you for your time!
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