Blizzard co-lead Mike Ybarra courts controversy selling WoW dungeon runsun

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World of Warcraft’s own developers seem out of touch.

World of Warcraft is a game on the ropes. Over 17 years old, the game remains immensely profitable for Activision Blizzard, but its popularity has started to wane for various reasons. Disregarding the fact Blizzard is embroiled in a massive legal drama with the state of California, owing to discriminatory workplace allegations — World of Warcraft is just a downright bad game as of 2021. Weak writing, poor investment, slow updates, and an irredeemably toxic gameplay environment fostered by Blizzard’s own design decisions have left the game in turmoil. Final Fantasy XIV and Amazon’s New World have seen a wealth of interest this year, at least partially on the back of World of Warcraft’s continued failure.

As if that wasn’t enough, former Microsoft staffer Mike Ybarra courted controversy on social media, advertising his own personal guild’s sale of dungeon runs. These cost anywhere up to 300,000 in-game gold as per his own advertisements on World of Warcraft’s forums (via PC Gamer). Given the fact Blizzard now lets players purchase gold in-game using real-world currency, this is Blizzard’s co-leader effectively endorsing what is essentially pay to win, given that 300,000 gold works out to around $30 of real-world money.

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Selling dungeon runs is a controversial topic in World of Warcraft. You pay an “elite” guild to run through a dungeon or raid without having to put in any effort on your own part, essentially bypassing the only portion of the game you actually have to be competent at.

Blizzard’s in-game systems also allow for third-party mods and services, which essentially rank players based on their participation. You can “trick” these ranking systems by, you guessed it, paying for dungeon runs, to inflate your ranking and thus, inflate other players’ perception of your skill and dedication.

World of Warcraft’s in-game chat systems are an absolute plague of ads for these types of services, offering to circumvent the game’s mechanics for gold. Players can use in-game gold to buy game time for the game, bypassing the subscription, which incentivizes this type of player behavior.

© Provided by Windows Central WoW Mythic raids are some of the hardest content in the game, designed to reward player skill. However, you can just pay $30-40 to bypass the skill checks by having guild’s like Mike Ybarra’s boost you.

And of course, Activision-Blizzard has no issue with this type of system, since it incentivizes players to, you know, buy gold using the WoW Token system, while avoiding “pay to win” controversy. In my view, this is indeed “pay to win.” The relationship between the ability to purchase gold from Activision, and the pressure cooker Blizzard’s game design has created, essentially shaming players who do not have high participation rankings not only erodes the quality of the game, but it leads to toxic player interactions.

The fact Blizzard’s co-leader himself is lauding these types of systems has been seen by many as just another indicator of how out of touch Blizzard has become with its fans, and possibly, an indicator of how WoW’s death spiral is likely to continue.

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