Why Bans Won’t Fix ‘World Of Warcraft’

You may have heard that yesterday, Blizzard brought the hammer down hard in World of Warcraft, banning more than 100,000 players. That’s a not insubstantial chunk of its subscriber base of 7.1 million… so why did they ban so many people? Because it’s easier than fixing their game.

Blizzard banned a whole swath of what’s colloquially known as “botters,” people who connect their account to a WoW account to do the grinding for them. The problem is that this grinding usually takes the form of collecting “honor,” which you can only earn fighting other players. That leads to situations like this…

… which is even more boring than it looks. So, Blizzard decided to make the game not-boring for the paying customers, and banned bots. Even people who were automating other boring tasks like crafting got the boot.

The problem, though, is that word I keep using: Boring. Part of the issue with any RPG is the fact that you largely play to progress, and as you build up your character, you have to put more and more work into leveling up in order to, say, play advanced raids or join a guild. Every game with an RPG mechanic has this problem; just ask Destiny players. But it’s been an issue with WoW right from the start, and frankly it’s only been getting worse.

This isn’t to say botters aren’t cheating, because they are, and they deserve to get banned. But the fundamental issue here is that a fairly large number of the game’s subscribers seem to feel that it makes more sense to have a computer play the game for them to collect the points to buy the gear than to actually play the game they’re spending $15 a month on.

And the worst part is, as crappy as they make the game for other people… it’s hard to fault them. Sitting there breaking down herbs into pigments isn’t fun, it’s work, and the idea that you need to do work in order to have fun, in a game you’re paying a monthly fee to play, is a very strange concept once you stop to think about it. Getting bored with a game is nothing new, and to be fair to Blizzard, they’ve been asked to entertain some of their customers for more than ten years at this point. But the fundamental issue here is that World of Warcraft needs some new, fresh ideas to keep people playing, and than banning bots is just, at best, a short term solution.