Blizzard announced yesterday that the number of World of Warcraft subscribers increased .2 million last quarter, a reaction to their announcement of Warlords of Draenor. Yet Blizzard needs to act fast to capitalize on that bump, as one would expect their subscriptions to start dipping as the wait for Warlords drags on. At this point, all we have for Warlords of Draenor is hype. We have little more than Blizzard’s words to keep us excited and invested in WoW, and that needs to change soon.
It has been just under three months since Blizzard introduced Warlords back in November. At that time, Siege of Orgrimmar, the final patch of Mists of Pandaria, was already two months old. Mists has featured a rapid content pipeline – patches had roughly three or four months before they became outdated – and while that kept the game fresh, it also trained players to expect a steady stream of new content to replace the old. We’ve already five months into Siege. Patch 5.4 has lasted for 150 days. That’s longer than the time from Mists’ launch to the release of Patch 5.2. (135 days). This delay is unnerving.
We all knew that this period would be a long dry spell; the ends of expansions always are. What makes this especially concerning is that there is no sign of when it will end. Hopes coming out of Blizzcon were that Blizzard would launch Warlords as early as June or July. Based on the Mists’ timeframe, beta access should have started by now. Mists’ beta announcement came on March 20, 2012, over six months before release. If Warlords keeps the same schedule, then even if Blizzard announces the beta later today, the earliest it will be available would be mid-August. That still means that Siege will have been current content for almost a full year. By comparison, Cataclysm’s lengthy Dragon Soul patch only lasted ten months. Even optimistically, this will be the longest WoW has gone between content updates.
The disappointment here is that there is no solution. Blizzard has already said any resources that they might commit to making a patch 5.5 are already working on Warlords. It is possible that beta may take less than six months (at this point, I cannot imagine stress testing will be a priority for a game that has already lost 4 million players.) The sad fact is that all any of us can do, Blizzard included, is grin and bear it. Its easy for players to temporarily unsubscribe while they wait with baited breath, but that is a terrible outcome for Blizzard. Subscription fees are Blizzard’s lifeblood. Its nice to know that all those players will come back in due time, but that isn’t good to see numbers drop so precipitiously, especially since they have admitted they need to keep content fresh (which is what resulted in Mists accelerated schedule.)
For years, Blizzard has said they wanted to increase their output rate, and they finally did so with Mists of Pandaria, but while they have adjusted patch development times, they have not adjusted for how long it takes to produce an entire expansion. We know that the follow up to Warlords is already in the works. Based on the delay we are facing in waiting for Warlords, it would need to be if Blizzard wants to have any chance of avoiding this type of drought before patch 7.0.
Chen Stormstout cautioned Li Li in the Valley of the Four Winds to slow down and enjoy their trip through Pandaria. Even at Chen’s pace, he would still be approaching boredom with the current content. The sooner Blizzard can start the beta, the sooner Warlords will be released, and the sooner we can resume the cycle of rushing through new content until we get bored again.
Blizzard has challenged players to author Garrosh’s trial in the fan fiction forum. It says you can’t kill main characters, but Aggra’s not a main character, right? Cuz I need to have Jaina kill her so she and Thrall can be together. ITS OKAY, DURAK, YOU HAVE A NEW MOMMY NOW. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11581188323
The Blizzard Store has re-opened as Blizzard Gear. I keep thinking I should buy a hoodie, but it doesn’t say what the ilvl would be. http://gear.blizzard.com/
The Siege of Orgrimmar raid will be converted to the Normal-Heroic-Mythic system in patch 6.0. Garrosh would be the kind of ass who thinks he should be the first Mythic-level boss. https://twitter.com/WatcherDev/statuses/430429251070742528
Expect patch 5.4.7 to launch on 2/18, as that is when PVP Season 14 ends. Just in time for February sweeps. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/12801592/pvp-season-14-ending-soon-2-4-2014