Many of you were wondering why we hadn't talked about the Champions Online failures this past weekend -- The "Blood Moon Blunder." Well, it was because pretty much the second we started getting reports from you guys about the client not working on Steam, or subscribing players complaining of the lag that the servers had over the weekend, Shawn turned to me, slapped the story on my desk and said, "All yours for Anti-Aliased."
And I sat there, smiled, and politely responded, "Oh crap. This is going to drive them all up the wall even further than last week's article. I'll do it."
So was the Champions free weekend a failure? Absolutely, but not for the reasons you may think. Come on, follow me after the break, and we'll go into yet another (and hopefully the last for a while) opinion column on Champions.
Impressions are everything
First of all, before we get anywhere near this topic, I need to say something very important. "Lolz guys, 10 dollar pets." I'm happy to finally say that aloud, and I'm very happy to see that Blizzard has finally shown to everyone that they do indeed run a microtransaction store on top of their subscription fees. The only thing I'm disappointed to see is that some people still have a "Blizzard can do no wrong, this is a great idea!" mentality. I wouldn't have a problem with that except I'm pretty sure some of those people loathe the Champions Online C-Store. Guys, they're the same thing. If you hate one, you should at least dislike the other. Consistency, people.
With that out of the way, let's get back to the topic at hand -- the Blood Moon free weekend. It was pretty appalling. I logged in briefly to see what the fuss was, and I got slammed with a good case of lag myself that sent me off to play some more Borderlands. From what I hear, Steam users couldn't even get into the game, while other users were patching their clients extremely slowly from the run on the patch server. In other words, it was a trifecta of pain.
Further digging through the forums, however, turned up players who had gotten in alright, players who enjoyed the weekend but didn't think they'd resubscribe for various reasons unrelated to the weekend, and players who were even enjoying the game and had picked it up for themselves. So everything hadn't gone wrong for the weekend, but that didn't matter. The damage was done.
No one remembers the nice things
Free weekends are tricky business. It's a period of time when the company doesn't make money, it instead pays extra money to take a gamble. You need to up your server capacity, ready your patching server, and prepare for the worst all in hopes of making a few more people smile and stick with your game. It's a chance for you to give players a glimpse of your game and make them want to invest money in you.
But doing this is a double-edged sword. If something goes wrong, even if you prepare for the worst, you'll get more than just egg on your face. You'll get a nasty case of bad mouth momentum. If that begins to happen, all of the money you just invested in the weekend is lost. Doesn't matter what company this is or what game this is -- this is applicable across the MMO market.