No, it’s not a Christmas post for Grinches, it’s a thought on how Video Game companies get us to do more with their games by giving us less. And that means, The Grind. The Grind is all that levelling stuff and makework for incremental upgrades.
It’s not a new concept, back in the days of Final Fantasy VII, there were times where you were so under-leveled for the next part of the big story, you had to go fight random mobs for a couple hours until you were leveled up enough to take on the next big chunk of the story.
That’s how a 20 hour game becomes a 60 hour game. It’s an artificial way to get them spending more time (and these days, time IS money) on their games.
Let’s take two examples of the Grind, and my visceral response to it.
First, World of Warcraft.. They HAVE to give you Grind, because well, there’s no reason for you to keep paying them fifteen bucks a month if you’ve done everything and got the shiniest gear. So it’s a series of incremental things designed to make you run the same content over and over and over again.
First they section off areas of content for weeks at a time, opening large scale raid areas at specific times for the casual raider (if you’re REALLY good, it’s open all at once, but Looking for Raid (the level which most people will cap at) opens a couple weeks at a time.)
Then, when they’ve milked everything they can get out of that, they allow you to make your gear even MORE awesome.. by repeatedly doing things you’ve already done. For example, in the latest patch, they reinstituted a system of small upgrades that you can apply to your gear by doing Looking for Raid or Mythic Dungeons (most folks won’t do Mythics, which were kinda the black sheep of WoW until they made doing a Mythic Dungeon worth double of even the highest level raid content). So, you are getting slightly higher numbers for your gear (not even a change of the gear’s look, even) for spending weeks of time in their game, and Blizzard laughs all the way to the bank.
And WoW’s still a moneymaker. It no longer makes tens of millions of dollars of profit weekly, I would guess, but it makes enough during the months away from expansions (which STILL is a license to print money) to be a very profitable part of the Blizzard empire. Not bad for an 11 year old game. (and really, what games are still going concerns 11 years after release. In console time, that’s the era of the PS2 and original Xbox.)
In my next post, I’ll look at the grind from a different angle, that of the Free to Play game Marvel Puzzle Quest.