Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Do-Nothings

I live in Pennsylvania, don’t remember if I’ve ever said that before; didn’t want my legion of fans to break down my door (…). In my hometown, lately there has been talk about whether or not to renovate the aging high school or build an entirely new building. It’s something every town goes through, especially in these difficult economic times. What is somewhat different is that this isn’t the first time it’s come up.

A while back, a previous school board voted to build a new school. A grassroots, but vocal and angry, section of the residents cried foul about the way the decision was made. They even managed to get the school board voted out and themselves in; as such the discussion was tabled. Years later a new council is faced with the same decision, the school is out of date, not up to code, and frankly needs to be overhauled or torn down (the land is worth far more than the buildings). In the end no matter what happens, the ‘do-nothings’ won. All the outcry and fervor was pointless and meaningless in the end, little more than a pyrrhic victory.

I look at Star Wars The Old Republic and I am impressed, the game is better today than it was a year ago. The switch to F2P alongside subscriptions has revitalized both the game and the company. Sales are up and the cash shop items are better than ever. Better yet, the game caters to both sides of the equation. Gamers, who are flush with cash, can go straight to the cash shop and get pretty much anything they want. While gamers who have more time than money, can buy everything the cash shop has to offer on the market for in-game currency; it’s a win-win for both parties.

I’m reminded of the steady and unrelentingly bad press that has dogged The Old Republic from nearly the time it launched. No matter what EA and BioWare did, their naysayers would point to flaws wherever they lay. And make no mistake, there were gaffs made across the board, as with any new enterprise, nothing ventured and nothing gained. The missteps were compounded by the lofty and unrealistic expectations both from within the company and from without. The Old Republic is likely to be a harsh lesson to any potential newcomers into the MMO world for sometime to come.

Through it all The Old Republic prevailed, fixing mistakes slowly but surely and adding new content and ‘cost of living’ upgrades along the way. It’s been an eventful one and a half years, but TOR is a better game for it. BioWare had to make the hard calls over these last couple years. Lowering costs by cutting staff in half is never popular but it was necessary, going F2P with a subscription attached made for some vocal naysayers as well, even making gamers pay for content announced before the switch to F2P has made some critics but it worked out in the end. BioWare made decisions, while the ‘do-nothings’ wanted no change at all.

Making hard decisions before the problems become obvious, is about as fun as pushing a giant boulder up a mountain, naysayers point out that it isn’t broken and ask why the ‘fix’ is necessary. Getting people to look forward into the future, to look at the longterm, is never easy and making decisions that will have costly repercussions now rather than later is harder still. But decisions have to be made; as the saying goes ‘you pay now or you pay later but you’re going to pay’. BioWare made the hard calls, when doing nothing would have garnered them far less criticism, this gamer for one, is mighty impressed with the results.

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