Monday, October 10, 2011

A Customer or Guest? Part 2

Most of you likely know about the CCP's player council known as the CSM (Council of Stellar Management). Given the opinions that many of the blogs I read have of the CSM, finding out the S stood for Stellar made me chuckle a bit. Regardless, this is the most famous example of the voice of players having an impact on the game that they play. There are plenty who would love to say that devs mainly listen to people complaining on the forums after their favorite class was nerfed, but outside of the WoW forums most MMORPG's have very passionate, vocal and well-meaning players who post on their forums. The City of Heroes forums come to mind, as the devs even invite players to PM them on the forums with concerns, issues and questions.

Our question then is quickly answers: Being able to voice your opinion about things that devs control (game balance, feature suggestions, Moose mounts), have your "hosts" listen to them and have them actually address those concerns is clearly a game company treating you like a guest rather than a customer. Obviously the forums are a good place for this, as the most verbose and vocal of your customers will tend to congregate there. Or create their own blogs, which is pretty much the same thing with a dash of narcissism.

Is that even a good idea though? As Stabs could tell you, letting the wrong people into something like a Council can cast suspicions and doubt on every decision your company makes. But being so choosy about who is let on will make it appear as though you are only letting those who sympathize with you onto the Council. Having no council at all, yet expressly saying that you are listening is working great for Blizzard, as no one could tell if they were paying attention to their players until they started dropping subs like they're hot. You can see how this quickly becomes a PR nightmare. Yet, not listening to your playerbase will give you a situation like the NGE, so opting out is a huge mistake.

A customer is in some ways more than just a guest. A guest in your home is someone you enjoy having around, to laugh and have a good time with while you serve them dinner or host a World Cup party or what have you. A customer doesn't need to be any of those things, and yet you need them more simply because alienating them will bankrupt you. Like the guy who decides to tell you all about this neat thing that happened when he was drunk. He pays you to be there, and you need to tolerate him. Not only that, you have to act like you appreciate his presence within the system. Until he breaks a rule, of course, but the point is made. If that guy is a good portion of your playerbase, you need to work with him and not against him.

Players don't always know what they want, and what they want might not even be best for the game. As flawed as the system may seem, Blizzard's policy seems to win out. You can do your best to assure the customer that they are being listened to, and then take the action that needs to be taken. Their implementation could use a little work, such as when they made the leveling in WoW a joke, but the policy is solid. Ultimately the best voice a customer has is his or her dollar, which can be taken elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. I think the concern with Eve is the potential exists for a fringe group of lunatics to get themselves voted in then damage the game. While they're only advisory they can do a lot of PR damage if they don't get their way.

    I don't think that actual damage is being done to any serious degree. Most of the changes are popular.

    But it's Russian Roulette.