Just a day from from Halloween, and we’re right in the midst of my favorite time of the year. When the leaves turn and there’s a crisp to the air and night falls with haste instead of lethargy, life is just somehow a little more delightful.
As I was walking outside this evening, my mind cast back to a little over a year ago, when I first discovered and became enchanted by the world of War Robots. Back then it was December, the ‘Autumn chill’ having made way for genuine freezes. As I’d go out for my nightly walk around the capital, I couldn’t wait to pull out my phone and start blowing up reds, upgrading my gear, and discovering different builds.
Very often I’d play as I walked, until the cold so numbed my hands that they were unresponsive, at which point I’d finish the battle, put the phone away and thaw them out in my pockets… before starting the whole cycle all over again.
Ahh, to be young and in love, right? But what a difference a year makes.
To date on MECH*SPECTRUM (and preceding that, Gepard Diary), I have sought to highlight my experiences as a War Robots player, and understanding of the game and the way it is. Plenty of aspects of Pixonic/War Robots have caused uproar in the community, but I’ve generally felt that if someone wants to read screed and ranting, there are places a’plenty for that. Perhaps I could offer greater service to the community with a more data-driven and analytical approach.
Instead of railing against the latest frustration, I wanted to ask the important question: is this really as bad as we think? When Pixonic has rolled out new advances in the game, I’ve gone the other way: is this really as good as we think? I’d hoped the data- however imperfect- would help us cut through the noise and make a rational, educated decision. The degree to which I’ve succeeded is not for me to decide, but for you, the reader.
However, we’d have to be living in a cave not to notice that something has fundamentally changed in the game in the past year. If for a moment I was to put down the “Jay as gamer and researcher” hat and simply focus on “Jay the gamer,” would I still fall in love with the game that I fell in love with a year ago if I only found it today?
After much consideration, I’d have an answer.
No. I’d uninstall it.
I would look at a game with nearly every competitive element monetized, with dollar amounts that increasingly beggared belief. I’d see a community in outright revolt, organizing boycotts and one-star-review campaigns. I’d see an unbroken chain of frustration- on all sides, frankly- stretching back almost a year. In short? I’d see a hot mess.
But as it happens, the hook is firmly in mouth. I’m stuck with War Robots, because I still love the game.
It’s on that note that I’m kicking off this five-part series examining the trajectory of War Robots and Pixonic, to explore what’s gone wrong in the past year. I’ll be focusing on three main areas of concern.
The first is the credibility crisis. No matter where you go, from their official Facebook page to Facebook Groups to Reddit to the Wiki Forum, cynicism of the company is at an all-time high. While wise consumers always maintain a healthy skepticism of the things they consume, we’ll examine how the seeds of this were planted half a year ago, and the bitter fruit that’s blossomed.
Next is the lack of vision that Pixonic has exhibited with regards to their franchise product. I’ve often referred to this as the “law of unintended consequences,” and their failure to account for this has set them reeling from one unnecessary crisis after another.
Finally, I’ll be diving into the monetization model, which has left the game almost unrecognizable from what we were playing a year ago. Longtime readers will know that I have tended to be reasonably sympathetic towards a company’s need to generate revenue off a game (and have contributed no small sum myself). Here I’ll talk about my recent “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment, and how the drive to revenue could be lethally myopic.
By the same token, I am not entirely bearish about Pixonic’s ability to deliver a world-class gaming experience. There are a number of things that could feasibly do to course-correct in short order. The final article in this series is the most hopeful one, a plan for Pixonic to emerge from the annus horriblis of 2017 stronger than ever, with a game that will keep entertaining players- and generating revenue- for some time to come. What now, Pixonic? will examine how they can fix this if there is a sincere desire to do so.
As we’re a community of players, I also look forward to hearing your thoughts as we review those areas for opportunity.