A conversation over in the commments at Spinks' place got me thinking back to something I wrote a while back.
When Warhammer's Tome of Knowledge launched, many people complained that its "tome unlocks" are hidden until players actually complete them - many preferred WoW's approach of making the information freely accessible, so that players could know what to strive for. My response at the time was that I felt that Mythic and Blizzard were doing slightly different things. Warhammer's Tome is intended to commemorate things players have already done, while WoW's achievement panel is an incentive to doing things that players might not otherwise do.
(Mythic has since backed up my idea with their World Event tome page, which DOES specifically state what needs to be done to unlock each reward, because that's the goal of those events.)
So, were WoW holiday achievements intended as incentives, or commemoratives?
The question that I'm pondering now, in the wake of the semi-disaster of Blizzard's Valentine's Event is whether this whole thing is a misunderstanding. It's clear from reading the developers' comments on the whole affair that they WANTED the mount from the achievement to be a truly rare and remarkable thing, on par with the other 310% fliers in the game. That is, obviously, the opposite of what players who are actively pursuing the mount as a goal want to hear. Did Blizzard actually intend to set players on a path, knowing full well that many would fail? Or did they simply underestimate the draw of the achievement system?
I'm sure they have numbers for how many people participated in these events in the past, and could estimate what portion of WoW's players were willing to do world event content that did not offer gear rewards in the pre-achievement world. Perhaps the system was really set up with the intent of commemorating THOSE players, rather than to convince players who didn't want to be doing the content in the first place that they needed to do every last bit of it, even if it wasn't enjoyable for them.
If so, then Blizzard seriously underestimated the draw of the achievement system, and the frustration that their desired "this achievement should be rare" philosophy would have on people who were under the impression that achievements exist to be achieved. Still, it fits all the information that we have, and it seems just as sensible as the suggestion that Blizzard set out to design content that would frustrate most of its participants.
Either way, the sad consequence has been a compromise which is going to result in a mount that will be much more common than Blizzard wanted, and much less fun to obtain than players wanted. Miscommunication or not, that's a pretty unfortunate outcome.
In other news....
Meanwhile, Blizzard just announced Blizzcon '09 for August 21-22. Seems to fit my speculation that patch 3.2 (which should be either recently released or at least on the PTR's by then) may serve to set the stage for the next expansion. I guess we'll know for sure in August....