The week long protest held by the Secular Gamers of America in front of Blizzard Headquarters at Irvine, CA came to an end today when Blizzard President Michael Morhaime held a press conference announcing their intention to remove the “Soulbound” terminology from within their most profitable game, The World of Warcraft, and replace it with the less controversial “Fleshbound.”
“We’ve always appreciated the Secular Gamers’ passion and support for World of Warcraft” said Morhaime, “and we’re excited that they’ll soon be able to enjoy all of the great content we have to offer without fear that they’re sacrificing their own moral beliefs in the process.”
Shortly after the press conference, Morhaime held an interview with the Associated Press where he detailed some of the reasoning behind their decision and also discussed future plans for expanding the game’s audience:
Associated Press: Thanks for joining us today. For those that may not have been following the protest, can you give us a quick summary of what their demands were and the conclusions that you were able to come to?
Michael Morhaime: Absolutely. We at Blizzard are focused on creating products that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. The Secular Gamers of America is an organization that is simply expressing its concerns about some of the details within our games which they feel are detrimental to our ability to appeal to as many individuals as possible. Most recently, they’ve expressed concern over the term “Soulbound” which we use in the game to describe an item that belongs to one character and cannot be transferred to any other characters. The SGA believes that for such a simple game mechanic, there’s no reason to involve any religious terminology, and we have come to agree with them. The soul is a concept of belief that is not held by all and by removing our use of this term we can open up our consumer base to a much larger audience.
AP: So now if the SGA has concerns with the use of the term “soulbound” then why aren’t they concerned with the tons of other religious concepts and references that can be found within the game?
MM: They absolutely are concerned, however we have to be careful of which concerns we can and should respond to. Many times they will have concerns regarding particular spells or pieces of lore that we’ve added into the game, but we have to remember what our core goal is and that again is to make sure that as many people as possible can enjoy the game.
AP: Can you give us an example of another time they’ve raised a concern that was warranted?
MM: Oh, absolutely. Adding Shamans to the Alliance faction and Paladins to the Horde faction was heavily influenced by their reasoning. The SGA believe that players should always be given a choice of how they play the game and that their characters should be given the options to believe whatever the players themselves believe.
AP: So freedom of choice is really what they are looking for then?
AP: Can we talk about class choice then? It seems that some players who might want to play a character with no religious beliefs don’t have very many choices.
MM: And that’s something that we’re continuing to work on. Hunters, Rogues, and Warriors are three classes that a player can choose with freedom of any religious belief and that gives them the options of tanking or dealing damage from both melee and ranged distances. Healing is the biggest concern since all healing spells are currently tied to particular beliefs. One of the biggest requests that we get is to add a Battle-Medic class to the game, but there is a lot of work that goes into that process and we’re not quite ready to unveil the details of our plans yet.
AP: Back to today’s announcement, how do you think players will respond to this upcoming change?
MM: I think most players will see little to no change. We have to remember that our game is constantly evolving and we’re very lucky to have a player base that is continuously supportive of the changes that we make. We’ve made many changes like this in other regions and they’ve gone over very well. We’ll continue to make changes as we see fit.
AP: Many of those critical of this decision have expressed concern that you’re simply caving to the demands of the SGA in order to prevent any sort of large-scale incident from breaking out at this year’s Blizzcon which is less than three weeks away. Do you care to comment on this?
MM: We’ve had peaceful discussions with the SGA for many years now and we have no reason to believe that this would be their intention. Any speculation that they would do something like this is completely baseless.
AP: Anything else you’d like to add?
MM: We’d just like to thank all of the players out there that continue to support us. Good luck on all of your journey’s throughout Azeroth!
*Interview reproduced courtesy of The Associated Press