I'm not an Old Republic player, but one thing I appreciate about the game is BioWare's active approach to supporting guilds. During the game's development, BioWare offered a pre-launch guild registration and the ability to test the game with guildmates. Now the company has announced a weekend-long summit where guild leaders can meet and discuss the game with BioWare staff.
I've always thought Blizzard could do more to support guild officers. Thus, when I first saw that article on Massively, I was happy to see BioWare taking steps toward that end. Then I read the comments below it, and I realized that not everyone feels the same way I do. Should Blizzard institute its own guild summit? Let's look at both sides of the argument.
The threat of influence
The argument brought up by those opposed to the summit is that guild leaders -- and especially the leaders of the largest guilds -- are usually raiders. Allowing them this type of access may give raiders an undue influence on the future development of the game.
For one, I don't think it's actually true that most guild leaders are raiders. The statistical evidence hasn't been gathered, but based on what I've seen in WoW, I'd be willing to bet that nonraiding guild leaders outnumber raiding guild leaders by two to one or more. Second, I'd also wager that the more players a guild has on its roster, the more likely it is to be a social guild. Guilds that focus solely on raiding tend toward a leaner roster.
Certainly it would be unfortunate for Blizzard or any other MMO developer to decide that what's best for a small handful of guilds would be best for everyone. However, I think the days of MMOs catering to elite raiding guilds are over.
For good or ill, Blizzard has realized that designing WoW for the masses rather than the few is a better business model. It's glaringly apparent when you compare the accessibility of vanilla's Naxxramas or The Burning Crusades's Sunwell Plateau to Raid Finder Dragon Soul runs.
The paranoia that people express when they hear about devs meeting with guild leaders is a remnant of an earlier age in MMOs. We could see smaller niche titles bring back that attitude in the future, but a game that costs as much to develop and operate as WoW or TOR simply can't afford it in the current market.
The benefits of a summit
Few players are more in touch with the current opinions, attitudes, and preferences of the WoW community than guild officers. We hear the excitement from our members and see the increased activity when they are happy with the game. Conversely, we hear the complaints and all the reasons they give for no longer logging in when they are bored with a lack of new content or upset with changes. We see our guilds flourish or wither based on these inclinations, so we pay close attention to them.
Thus, Blizzard could benefit from a greater degree of communication with us. It's likely that Blizzard does speak privately with select guild officers. It's only smart for the company to do so. But such interaction isn't made public, so the perception is that Blizzard doesn't seek out this feedback.
BlizzCon has always been Blizzard's largest public interaction between the company's staff and the community. However, BlizzCon is more like a giant party. It's hardly the focused, intimate venue that BioWare is offering.
In light of this year's BlizzCon's cancellation, a much smaller event focused purely on discussion among guild leaders and developers could be a way for Blizzard to engage with the community in a focused setting without impacting their 2012 development schedule. Also, by moving such talks into a more open forum such as a summit, the risk of a few select guild leaders' unfairly influencing the game would actually be reduced.
What do you think? Tell us below!
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