We don't really have a category for rant, but we should!
Okay here is the existential question that begins my rant: Why do ALL virtual worlds and game companies have technical and customer support during work days between 9am and 5pm or some rough equivalent of that? I really don't know of a single virtual world that has customer service hours AT NIGHT or ON WEEKENDS which is when the use of their service is the highest. It does not take an ethnographer to figure out this simple fact: the majority of MMOG/Wers, with the rare exception of retirees and people with disabilities, play games AT NIGHT and ON WEEKENDS! So this policy which seems to be pervasive is like having a restaurant that has a sign in the window that says: "Dinner Served 9am-5pm." It's the ultimate oxymoron.
I know that these game worlds are designed and managed by very intelligent people. So why do none of them seem to get it? Here is an example: The following incident occured in a virtual world I frequent that shall remain nameless: A popular location for weekend activities was literally sold out from under the community that essentialy squatted there. Everyone who LIVED in this virtual world was aware of this community who seldom logged on on weekday nights and pretty much never during the day, but took over this location with temporary structures literally every weekend (which by the way cost them money, which is why they took the structures down during the week when they were not in-use). The Community support person responsible for parsing out land to groups, a relatively new feature at that point, had never been in-world on the weekend and was entirely unaware of this group's regular practice of using this area. He unwittingly sold the land to another group, causing a pretty severe fracas and backlash (particularly against him) throughout the community.
This is such a simple and really essential problem and I am utterly baffled as to why no-one seems to grasp that "support" that is available exactly when you don't need it is equivalent to having no support at all.
My current problem that precipitated this rant is with technical support, but anybody who has experienced a downed server in WoW after hours knows that basically, the world has literally come to an end and there's not a damn thing you can do because there is no-one there to answer the phone. In this case, I have purchased a brand new game from Sony (Pirates of the Burning Sea) with which I'm having repeated installation kacks. And because I have not had the sense to try installing it between 9am and 7pm during the week, I basically cannot play it for the entire weekend until Monday morning when service reopens.
Sorry to go on and on about this. But the problem is that people who make these games seem to have no idea what their players are actually doing. They still are working from the old "a game is a product" model. An MMOG or virtual world is not a product. It's a service. And it's a 24 hour service that ought to have 24-hour support. Or at the very least support when people are actually using the product.
I've heard it suggested that MMOG companies should have embedded ethnographers whose job it is to hang out in-world and just find out what people are doing. Most customer support or community support as Ron points out is only there when there's a problem. And in some cases, as with the story described above, at that point, it's too late. Why not avoid unhappy customers and learn about what they are doing BEFORE there is a problem, provide them with services when they need them, pay attention to what they are actually DOING intstead of waiting for them to have problems and then expecting them to be addressed at your convenience.
Next time someone asks me about the future of MMOGs, I'm going to say, the next innovation!!! Customer service!!! When you actually need it! Wow, what a concept!