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Forced Digital Migrations

June 29, 2012


My MobileMe account has expired.  This bothers me, a lot.  I was paying for an online service and was content with the quality of the service I was receiving.  This transition isn’t happening because I decided to quit the service.  Apple (the service provider) decided to re-architect their services into the “iCloud” moniker, and make them be free.

I don’t want free.  I actually feel better paying for a service.  I was predominantly using MobileMe for the purposes of email.  It makes sense to me that I should have spam-free, ad-free email, and that such a service costs money.  I never wanted to move to a Gmail account for the simple reason that it’s free.  Google pays for server maintenance and upkeep and gains profit by automatically parsing your online data (emails, in this case) to deliver targeted advertisements to you.  I don’t want people reading my emails.  I don’t want code scanning my emails.  Since this seems like a higher quality of life than provided by the “free” situations, I’m happy to pay for that service.

I believe Apple’s new concept is that some portion of the profit of their hardware sales gets divided off to fund the iCloud data storage facilities.  This basically means that Apple will continue to make their own products obsolete rather quickly, and you’ll feel compelled to buy the new one because now they have your data, and if you don’t upgrade you’ll lose all of your email, calendars, contact information, and music collection.  While this is conjecture on my part, I can’t see how else they cover the costs and provide ad-free operation.  Since I’d rather avoid being pummeled with ads in the future, paying the subscription rate makes it seem more like a long-lasting agreement.

Also, paying for the MobileMe subscription made me feel like a customer, which means there should be some accessibility to customer support.  If I’m having problems with a free product or service, I don’t really expect there to be any support available.  When it comes to a fundamental communication system in this day and age, I want to feel secure that I can ask for help when something is going wrong.  Paying a subscription makes me feel like that’s the case.  With it being free, I now have to have the device(s) under AppleCare to think I’m going to get any customer service.

(copyright Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.)

How does this possibly relate to gaming?  Well, a while back Blizzard made me transition my WoW account to a Battle.Net account.  This was probably a smooth transition for you, if you went through this, because your account was probably active when the transition fell.

In my case, I quit WoW for a span of time.  That’s when Battle.Net dropped on everyone.  When I came back to restart my WoW account, I couldn’t do it until I had it as a Battle.Net account.  Well, I couldn’t access the WoW account because it was inactive.  This attempt to get back into the game was not an easy process, and there were certainly times where I thought, “I’m jumping through all of these hoops just so I can pay them money again?  Why am I doing this?”

SW:TOR’s forced server migrations affected one of my friends in a very similar fashion.  He had already quit SW:TOR in favor of Diablo 3.  He very conscientiously maintains a monthly gaming budget, so a game purchase means dropping subscription games for an equivalent amount of time.  Because SW:TOR was going to delete his non-active character once the server shut down, he renewed his subscription just to make sure the transition went smoothly.  At least he knew it was coming – Blizzard didn’t give me a heads-up.

During the SW:TOR server migration, my friends had multiple alts, and wanted to bring over all of their alts.  Totally understandable.  Except, they queued up their transfers.  Thanks to the unique name requirement in game, having all of these players on the same server means that sometimes, their name was taken.  Ok, that’s understandable.  A bit annoying, not the coolest thing ever, but I get it.  What went wrong, however, was that the names were attached to different toons after the migration. For example, two characters, Jed the Jedi Knight and Smug the Smuggler, are queued for transfer.  After the transfer, you get Jed the Smuggler and Smug the Jedi Knight.

They didn’t test this before they launched it?  Surely they must have thought people had alts!  I mean, the primary point of the game is the leveling experience, which means to see another experience you have to make an alt.

Apple’s recent forced migration wasn’t any better.  If anything, it was actually worse as it pertains to the iTunes store.  As the years go by, I’m already inevitably forced to migrate my email address, whether it’s a change of job, a change of ISP, whatever.  My email addresses don’t last forever.  I thought the address would last, but alas, they end-of-lifed that a while ago, when MobileMe replaced the @mac system.  At least the address was grandfathered in.  So, my iTunes account was under an email address that I was forced to abandon, but it was still the id on the store.  I was able to attach a functioning email address as the primary contact address, but I couldn’t change the ID.

Eventually, Apple decided that didn’t make sense, and made some new requirements.  Every ID had to be an AppleID, and part of that requirement was that the ID is a valid email address.  That sort of makes sense, no reason to force people to continue to use an abandoned email address as a user ID.  There was one little catch to this whole process, you can’t convert to an existing AppleID, and every MobileMe and iCloud account counts as an AppleID.  This means that my primary, personal account can’t be used as my store account, and there was no way to merge my purchased assets to my existing AppleID accounts.

In order to get all this to work, I had to go to their competitor (Google) and get a free email address so I could have a valid email that wasn’t already an AppleID.  Way to go, guys!  That’s a lot like saying you can’t unlock your Battle.Net assets without an Origin ID.

Speaking of Battle.Net, I’m adding my BattleTag, Khuruuk#1578, to the about page.  I’ll accept any and all polite requests.

How could any of this be made easier?

  • Assume your customers like you.
    • They may already have the type of account you want them to have.
    • They are your customers, they’re probably paying you money or already have.  Treat them like that!
    • Be especially kind to returning customers.  They decided you weren’t good enough to keep paying, so they walked away.  Don’t make anything harder for them to give you their money again, they already walked out on you once.
  • Offer reimbursements for change of terms.
    • I agreed to pay for a service with the given terms.  Changing the terms means I should receive notification of those change of terms, with the option of opting out.  In the case of Apple, iCloud was available LONG before my MobileMe subscription ran out.  They didn’t give me that money back.  Instead, they kept the MobileMe service running for that span of time.  There was a free, equivalent system already in place, and because of the yearly billing cycle, I had already paid for an outdated system.
    • SW:TOR, to their credit, botched a patch release a while back and gave everyone affected a free day of service.  While I was still under my 30-day evaluation period, they even gave that day of service to me.  This was a really nice thing to do, certainly above and beyond Apple’s above treatment.

Thanks for reading!


From → Blizzard, SWTOR, WoW

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