It just is. Easy is fun.
Hardcore gamers will argue that games are too easy and to them, this level of difficulty is not fun. And they are all lying. You see, hardcore gamers aren’t playing for fun. They are not just playing the game for simple amusement or to pass some time. Hardcore gamers play games for an entirely different reason – a feeling of accomplishment. When you play a difficult game, the game play itself is not what you get enjoyment from. The game play usually sucks. It is punishing, difficult, and frustrating. However, beating these odds, overcoming the difficulty and the frustration gives the player a heightened sense of accomplishment and ego.
You will never hear a casual player bragging about how they beat the game on hard mode. Why? Because they don’t play on hard. They play on easy or normal. Because they’re playing to play the game and find enjoyment from the game itself.
It is because of this difference between the goals of the casual gamer and hardcore gamer that arguments over difficulty spawn all over MMO forums. The hardcore complain that the game is becoming too accessible, too easy, and the enjoyment they once received from being the only one with the tolerance to slog through hours of brutally punishing content has diminished. They are no longer having “fun” because of the casuals. Because their “fun” is based on a psychological factor, the feeling of being superior through accomplishment.
The casual players, on the other hand, complain about the game being too difficult. Their issue is with the game itself; the content being too inaccessible to their level of play. And therein lies one of the major balancing acts of developing an MMO. Balancing the hardcore player’s need for a sense of accomplishment (usually provided with raiding) and the casual’s need for a fun game without difficulty or frustration. You can’t have both. One side will always be favored over another.
And that brings me to World of Warcraft. WoW is an MMO that doesn’t bother at all with this balancing. They are firmly and squarely situated in the Casual camp and show no signs of budging. WoW is, without a doubt, the easiest of the major MMOs on the market. And by a very, very large margin at that. Don’t believe me? Play some WoW, then try any other major MMO on the market – EQ2, LOTRO, EVE. The drastic differences will be immediately evident. Even the “hard” parts of WoW, end-game raiding and PvP, pale in comparison to the difficulty, complexity, and level of challenge of everything else out there. The game is easy by design in every way it can be.
Which is why it is the most popular game by a large margin. I’m asked every day by other developers and gamers alike on why I think WoW is so successful. And for some reason they never believe my answer: “Because WoW is easy and people like easy.” They refuse to believe that. They want to believe there is some other underlying mystical formula that World of Warcraft uses to attract and maintain their millions of players. Nope. It is simple.
Easy is fun.