Welcome back to Massively Overpowered’s formal end-of-the-year awards!
Today’s award is for the Biggest MMO Blunder, which was awarded to the Activision-Blizzard/World of Warcraft clownshow last year. This award isn’t exactly fun, but it’s important accountability and a complement to the praise in our other awards. We believe identifying where the industry went wrong this year is crucial to both avoiding these genre trainwrecks and preparing for them in the future. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end!
And the MassivelyOP staff pick for the Biggest MMO Blunder of 2022 is…
BLIZZARD’S EXIT FROM CHINA
Andrew Ross: The Blizzard pullout of China. Can we just give Blizzard a lifetime achievement award here?
Andy McAdams: The Blizzard pullout of China. There’s a lot to call Blizz out for in general, but specifically in terms of MMOs, leaving China is on top. As many Chinese players have noted, Blizzard was big over there for a long time. Even non-gamers knew Blizzard. Closing down World of Warcraft over there… I’m not sure what happened, or if behind the scenes, Blizzard is doing something good (as we know working with China has been tough when addressing human rights), but just in terms of our genre, this particular issue seems like a critical hit against the company at the least. China will be fine, as it’s got its own home-grown MMOs (I’m still jealous they got a Monster Hunter MMO we never officially got), but I’m all for companies that can transcend nations and bring people around the world together. This sets Blizz and the genre back.
Brianna Royce: The Blizzard pullout of China. Activision-Blizzard’s various scandals from 2022 – including the ongoing lawsuits, the entanglement with various federal agencies, accusations of involvement in state-government corruption, and well-documented and super illegal unionbusting – were all mentioned dozens of times in our nominations for all of the “topical” awards categories (like “blunder”), but we ultimately narrowed it down to just this one rather than crown Blizzard the winner (or loser, in this case) for all of them. But that’s not to the company’s credit. Personally, I think the biggest mistake made in our genre specifically in 2022 was whatever greedy shenanigans are going on between Activision-Blizzard and NetEase that caused Blizzard to take its ball and go home, leaving millions of Chinese gamers digitally homeless. I am pretty sure neither of them is remotely innocent here no matter what kind of rumors and insinuations they float, and while both are content to downplay the amount of money lost in the cracks, Blizzard will never have the trust of East Asian gamers ever again – and that’s something money can’t buy back.
Carlo Lacsina: The crypto clownshow.
Chris Neal: The Blizzard pullout of China. I still wish that someone would leak the details of what happened here, especially if it fuels the fires of my schadenfreude over Blizzard getting taken down a peg. They did so much and tried so hard to get all of this Chinese money, only for some unspecified “jerk” to cause it all to collapse. Delicious.
Colin Henry: The multi-month Shroud of the Avatar rollback, Blizzard leaves China. I’m old enough to remember when rollbacks for bad updates were a fairly common occurrence in MMOs, but it’s not something you see much today. Even if it happened, I would be willing to overlook it if it came with clear communication of the problem and what the rollback would entail, as well as reasonable and timely compensation. Shroud of the Avatar did basically none of that with its rollback earlier this year. I haven’t played SOTA in ages, but if I were playing, this would be a major blow to my confidence in the studio. Meanwhile, Blizzard losing its partnership with Netease to publish its games in China is also a huge misstep. I’m still not convinced it’s not a bargaining tactic on the part of one or both of the companies, like when cable companies would run ads telling you “Such-and-such company wants to take this channel away from you! Call this number and tell them you want to continue receiving this programming!” when really it’s a way for the cable company to put pressure on the channel to give them better rates (or the same thing in reverse). But even if an agreement is reached everything goes back to normal next week, it’s still a blunder because you’ve just reminded your players that this whole arrangement could go up in smoke at any moment and then your game world will be gone. And of course it makes 2019’s Blitzchung blunder look even worse, as Blizzard lost a lot of player confidence in the U.S. to save face in China, and now that was all for naught.
Eliot Lefebvre: Blizzard screwed up a lot this year. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone paying attention to the company recently. But it takes a special level of “haha oops” to screw up so badly that your long-time business relationship crumbles, especially after you specifically caused your prior huge scandal to protect that relationship. This is the equivalent of going for a free throw in basketball and not only missing, but having your shot go so wild that it bounces and hits your coach, your manager, your agent, a celebrity in the stands, a child, and your own throat.
Justin Olivetti: Blizzard and Netease failing at the negotiation table, resulting in the imminent end of Blizzard titles in China. This seems like such an unforced error that either masks a larger strategy or a whole lot of arrogance and boneheaded decision-making.
MJ Guthrie: The Blizzard pullout of China. OK, saying that just highlights my distaste for the studio and why I don’t usually engage in discussions about it. But seriously, what the heck with the whole China thing? Is that supposed to be positive for the studio somehow?
Tyler Edwards: The multi-month Shroud of the Avatar rollback. I don’t think anything tops that massive rollback Shroud of the Avatar had. Even rolling back a day is considered catastrophic in this genre, and they lost weeks.
Blizzard’s exit from China took our award for Biggest MMO Blunder. What’s your pick?
Reader poll: What was the biggest MMO-related blunder in 2022?
- Blizzard pulling out of China (16%, 99 Votes)
- The crypto clownshow invading MMOs (27%, 174 Votes)
- Shroud of the Avatar's massive rollback (4%, 24 Votes)
- EVE Online's bargegate (1%, 9 Votes)
- Gamigo bungling RIFT and Atlas Rogues (3%, 21 Votes)
- Daybreak canceling the Marvel MMO, again (3%, 17 Votes)
- Richard Garriott's new crypto game (4%, 26 Votes)
- Roblox's shameless monetization (2%, 11 Votes)
- Diablo Immortal's shameless monetization (13%, 84 Votes)
- Maintenance moding of Red Dead Online (2%, 11 Votes)
- Legends of Aria blockchain trashfire and rebrand (2%, 13 Votes)
- Bluehole's Elyon and TERA sunset spree (2%, 15 Votes)
- The fall and fall of Google Stadia (2%, 15 Votes)
- The doom of Crowfall (4%, 27 Votes)
- The flop of Babylon’s Fall (2%, 12 Votes)
- Games like Nightingale and Starborne Frontiers downgrading from MMORPGs (0%, 3 Votes)
- Lack of LFD in WoW Classic WOTLK (2%, 13 Votes)
- TitanReach's dumpster fire (0%, 0 Votes)
- Elyria's dumpster fire (1%, 8 Votes)
- The slow collapse of Elite Dangerous (2%, 11 Votes)
- The cancelation of Project Neptune (0%, 0 Votes)
- Skull and Bones' eternal delays (0%, 0 Votes)
- Overwatch delaying headline features to 2023 (1%, 8 Votes)
- CCP's sunset spree (0%, 3 Votes)
- NCsoft slowing down Blade and Soul's cadence (0%, 0 Votes)
- Funcom abandoned Conan Chop Chop (0%, 3 Votes)
- Blizzard abandoned Heroes of the Storm (3%, 21 Votes)
- Something else (tell us in the comments!) (1%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 439