I've taken some cold medicine, and I anticipate some meandering thoughts ahead, so please forgive me. And go easy.
1. They are accessible to everyone with an active account. Due to a myriad of reasons, not all players can or choose to post on the official forums to voice their opinions (ahem, players with "forum bans" or players who simply do not utilize the forums).
Totally agree with you there, the forums, fansites, front page, and even gaming-websites as a whole is just one slice of the playerbase. Most players don't learn about new patches until they log in when it's released. Which probably seems crazy to everyone here, but that's because you're the type of person that would come to a gaming forum, read the posts, and even less
likely actually log in
and post(!). Most or all of your friends are probably like you as well, because (unsurprisingly) we tend to make friends with people that are like us. It's that projection bias that makes it difficult to understand that there are people out there that are not like us. We love you for being who you are, passionate people coming and giving us feedback is a big reason for why we exist, but we all have to understand (and account for the fact that) most people just don't do that.
Still, I don't think surveys would be as useful as you may think.
05/09/2013 12:46 PM2. Surveys allows players to "vote" once per active account on features they would like to see implemented. No more players jumping on alts to voice their opinion for or against a given feature in forum threads!
Posted by Celista
Surveys can be great on getting individual's perspectives, but it can also be dangerous in creating expectations. As much as some people say they won't get their hopes up, asking people which of three new features they want to see will absolutely incline them to expect the feature they chose to be implemented. Some more than others. And - not to get into it too much, you can find all sorts of papers and articles and such on it - what people say they want and what they actually want are two different things. Sometimes it's interpreted as game developers telling players what they want, and to some degree that's true. It's important as designers to be able to filter things down to their root causes. Sure someone says they want Dance Studio, but in fact what they're really after is ... I don't know, more character customization options, and in fact the Dance Studio is probably a pretty poor way of achieving that, and the development time investment to do it would compromise our ability to ... have unique raid bosses, item tiers, have to cut an entire zone, or etc. etc. Most people don't care to think about dev resource management, and that's good, because it's not very fun.
05/09/2013 12:46 PM3. Surveys tied to accounts allows developers a way to analyze a lot of player opinion data very quickly (who does and doesn't like x feature, their pve/pvp participation, subscription history, etc). This way, Blizzard can see what type of player likes which particular features, and can adjust accordingly.
Posted by Celista
We do have a lot of data already. We know what PvE/PvP participation is, we know how often people are using their farms, we know often often people take talents or glyphs, we know how often people are using specific abilities, we know subscription history, we know how often groups are clearing content, we know queue times, etc. We can anticipate what the majority of players are looking to do, and develop that content. Not too long ago Heroic dungeons were a big thing and a lot of people were upset and wanted more in this expansion, which isn't possible to pull off before the end of this expansion, but we did hurry to put together some challenging small-group content with decent rewards to see if we could scratch that itch with Heroic Scenarios. It will be interesting to see... well first what people think of them, and second how close it gets for people to filling that role, but also just how many people actually try them, considering how loud of an issue that was.
Ultimately though there is no right single way to gather feedback. We use a variety of methods and venues to see and experience how people are playing the game, what they think, and what they want. We're always looking for more, and certainly surveys could be a part of that, but we get so much feedback and data already I'm not sure the pros for surveys outweigh the cons.