A short blog post was published yesterday detailing a new type of bundle and gem only skins. This has spurred quite a bit of feedback within the community, most negative. So I wanted to get ahead of some of the stuff I'll be talking about on Lords of the Storm, and try to cover all the angles.
So what's the deal? Basically starting with the release of Alexstrasza, Blizzard will be introducing gem only hero launch skins. These skins will not be craftable, or be found in loot chests. They will however remain in the store permanently as a gem only purchase. There are several pieces to unpack from this blog (link here), so we'll start with:
The timing, which honestly couldn't have been worse. The way this blog was posted, right after a large bundle of news from Blizzcon, seemingly off-hand, did not do it any favors. Regardless of the intent, from a community standpoint, this has the appearance of trying to "sneak one in" or trying to play it off as a small thing. While in fact, this could have major ramifications for the game going forward. It could just be coincidental, but it certainly doesn't start the blog out on the right foot.
Speaking of feet, there's also a little bit of "foot in mouth" going on with the wording of this blog. The main line being, "that should offer greater control over how you acquire these items going forward". This is good PR speak, but I'm pretty sure 1 option (gems only) vs 3 options normally (gems on launch/sale, loot chests, shards) is not greater control. Don't sugar coat it guys, we're all adults, just tell us how things are and then we can respond with feedback appropriately.
Now that we've gotten some of the negatives out of the way, it's time to discuss the why (or the why as TBK sees it because I'm not employed by their monetization department). We very rarely get any real numbers for Heroes stuff, either player base or money made. We have to remember that at the end of the day, Blizzard is a business, they let people play this game for free, and they have to find some way to make money. Since we can only speculate, it's clear that they're wanting to try a few new avenues beyond what 2.0 brought us. However it does feel like they're going about it the wrong way.
The Dream: Everything drops in loot boxes. Everything is craftable with shards. Everything is purchasable with gems. This 99% won't happen. The reason being that it takes away from the whole loot box strategy that seems to be the current monetization implementation for Heroes. I would honestly be ok with slightly higher than normal gem prices on everything just to have the option to grab something if I really wanted to, but again, I don't think it will happen.
The Compromise: In this case, I wanted to provide two. One, if Blizzard wants to stick with this new strategy of gem only skins, I would propose that they still be craftable. Maybe there's a two week gap after they come out before they're available to craft with shards (that's fine), but if you don't allow that you suddenly have another category of items on top of an already somewhat confusing system/interface. This also takes away from how the whole 2.0 system inherently works as well. No one is gonna miss an item in a loot chest because there's so many items, but it will definitely be strange when you start to have a whole other section of non-craftables in a system built upon allowing it.
Two (and my preferred option), just drop the whole idea of gem only skins, and rethink how store sales work. Right now store sales are a very random affair, of random skins from random mounts and heroes. I would propose that more structure is added to the store, as well as an expanded selection. For example, maybe the store sale lasts for one week (maybe two) and has all the skins and/or tints for a certain mount, and then all of the tints for one or two skins for three or four heroes. This would basically theme the store a bit, and allow them to provide a much larger selection for gem sales without being random, and hopefully allow players more choice when buying their favorites.
If the above was a bit confusing, here's a better example of a proposed sale that's on the smaller side (you could easily have another hero or another skin set per hero as well):
Dire Wolf, Horde Dire Wolf, Brown Dire Wolf, Ironside Dire Wolf, Goldenside Dire Wolf, Cobaltside Dire Wolf
Valla - Gem Sale Price
Lavender Deputy Valla, Deputy Valla, Rosy Deputy Valla, Grassy Deputy Valla
Uther - Gem Sale Price
Judgement Uther, Penance Judgement Uther, Blessed Judgement Uther
Thrall - Gem Sale Price
Earthbreaker Thrall, Soulbreaker Thrall, Dreambreaker Thrall
Remember, no matter what happens, keep the *constructive* feedback coming. The dev team does listen, and I really hope that whatever happens we will end up in a spot that will be beneficial to both parties.