Patch 6.2 was released to the PTR with surprisingly little advance notice. For people who were underwhelmed with patch 6.1’s (lack of) content, patch 6.2 offers up much to chew on. But the most noteworthy aspect of patch 6.2 cannot be datamined: does patch 6.2 contain the final raid tier in Warlords of Draenor?
Shortly after Warlords was announced, Tom Chilton commented to a German fansite that the expansion may only have two raid tiers. While Blizzard never officially confirmed nor denied this, as recently as the release of patch 6.1 Blizzard was still being coy with the answer. During a streaming Q&A with Ion Hazzikostas, he was asked about how many raid tiers would be included in this expansion. He responded:
“Ultimately, our focus is on reducing the gap in content in terms of time between our final raid tier, our final patch, and the next expansion. Because we know that the time elapsed between Siege of Orgrimmar and Warlords of Draenor was unacceptably long – that was way, way too long. And we are all committed to reducing that gap. So whatever the right number of raid tiers is to avoid having a huge gap like that is what I think we’re gonna settle on. In my mind, you know, six, seven months is a good amount of time for a large, hefty raid tier with, you know, thirteen bosses, fourteen bosses like Siege of Orgrimmar had to breathe. Thirteen months? That’s way too long, so that’s our goal.”
Given that the pre-selected questions allowed the answers to be prepared in advance, this answer is when I stopped holding out hope for a third raid tier. Blizzard has a habit of attempting to mitigate the impact of bad news when delivering information. When discussing the lack of flying in Warlords, Greg Street admitted, “We’ve even talked about delaying [flight] past level 100, like maybe patch 6.1 or something.” Now, patch 6.2 is upon us and our inability to fly is so crucial to the story, we need to build our own shipyard to sail into Tanaan. Instead of openly admitting they had no plans to implement flying, they claimed they were just talking about delaying it, and ultimately, what they proclaimed was less of a change than what they did. No one would have expected the “or something” in Greg’s quote to be the course taken, and yet here we are. This is exactly how Blizzard is handling the two-or-three-raid-tier topic.
Now, with information about that possibly final raid tier datamined, their plan is becoming evident. The Legendary Quest Chain will be completed. The final boss is Archimonde, which parallels Kil’jaeden being the final boss of The Burning Crusade. Characters from throughout the expansion have returned for their curtain call as raid bosses, including Gorefiend, Iskar, and even Mannoroth. The only character missing from the boss list is Gul’dan, but given the monument of him battling Khadgar, it is entirely possible he meets his fate as part of the Legendary Questline if he does not survive this expansion and drive the narrative in the next one. Blizzard could theoretically produce another raid in Draenor (this expansion still needs a troll raid…), but it would be thematically and narratively unrelated to the rest of the story of this expansion. The Throne of Thunder raid made sense in that it focused on attacking the Mogu seat of power, but the stories of characters such as the Klaxxi, the Sha, and the Golden Lotus all culminated in the Siege of Orgrimmar. Currently, Hellfire Citadel feels more like Siege than Throne.
Previous raid tiers have spent two to three months on the PTR. The patch 5.2 PTR released in early January for an early March launch, while the Patch 5.4 PTR started in June and went live in September. With Patch 6.2 on PTR now, we can expect to be in Tanaan in either June or July. That may seem fast coming on the heels of Blackrock Foundry, but Blackrock is the second part of the tier that started with Highmaul in December. Hazzikostas’ six or seven month raid tier shelf life premise certainly seems applicable. Assuming Hellfire Citadel launches in July, the next raid tier would need to be ready by February.
The real question becomes whether Blizzard could announce an expansion at Blizzcon as expected, and then have that expansion ready three months later. Even as Warlords was announced, Mike Morhaime claimed that the follow-up was already in the works. It is possible that while we have been sitting in our Garrison dispatching our followers to explore Draenor, Blizzard has been hard at work and the next expansion would only need a short beta before releasing it to the masses. This matches the pace they have desired to reach for years; a pace which a company with Blizzard’s resources should be able to hit. The only reason this seems implausible is because Blizzard is notoriously slow. We will only know if they figured this out when, at Blizzcon, after announcing the expansion, they reveal that the beta is playable on the show floor, and keys will be immediately distributed to everyone.
While faster development is a boon, this is also lamentable. No one wants another thirteen month content gap, but no one was claiming that three raid tiers per expansion were too many. The problem with Mists of Pandaria was not that Throne of Thunder existed. What is happening is Blizzard further adjusting the cost of their game, at great loss to the player. With three raid tiers per $40 expansion, the actual cost of a raid tier was $13.33. Now that Warlords cost $50, each of only two raid tiers will cost $25.
While the $10 price increase was begrudgingly accepted when disclosed (no one likes a price increase but even the $40 cost of Burning Crusade in 2007 would be inflated to $45 now), it was under the assumption that the expansion would still provide the same amount of content. But by increasing the price while slashing the longevity of the expansion, Blizzard has almost doubled the price of each individual raid tier. Furthermore, if they are successful at introducing a new expansion every fifteen to eighteen months, players will be paying more money more often just for the expansions; all while Blizzard continues to collect the $15 monthly subscription fee.
The real concern here is that as Blizzard slashes content and increases the price, there is no market pressure to counter that. When faced with a $50 price tag to enter Draenor, three million players returned to the game. Subscriptions may drop as players are getting bored again with Warlords content after several months, but there is no incentive for Blizzard not to push out smaller expansions faster. If Blizzard is successful with two raid tier expansions, what disincentives are there to release a one tier expansion, or even to start charging players per patch, effectively turning all new content into DLC? The monthly subscription fee is supposed to ensure that there is a budget for new content, but Blizzard has now subsidized that for most players with the introduction of the WoW Token (which, taken with the general gold boon that garrisons have been for regular players, ensures a sizeable player-base that is not paying for content).
Activision has just announced that Destiny’s House of Wolves expansion will have no new raid, and while Destiny’s concept of expansion has been rather loose, that could be the direction that Activision-Blizzard management wants to steer the MMO market. The primary difference is that Destiny’s entire income is generated through content sales, while Blizzard thrives on WoW’s subscription model. The media may be pushing for WoW to go free to play, but there is no pressure for Blizzard to act on that desire at all. Perhaps the groundwork is being laid so Blizzard can nimbly adjust their price point in the future should subscriptions drop enough that making WoW free-to-play is justifiable, and players will be used to paying per raid tier or content patch at that point. Or perhaps this is the sign of a hungry management team looking to capitalize on a player base that regularly screams, “Take my money!” for every shiny new expansion.
Despite all this, it is possible that another raid tier is incoming. Perhaps Blizzard is playing coy with the number of raid tiers because they are still calculating when the next tier will be ready. If the next expansion will not be ready until late Summer or early Fall 2016, then a February raid tier would tide the player base over until that content is ready. Gul’dan or Grommash could indeed still prove to be the final boss of this expansion. And many have pointed out the the Legendary Cloak was intended to be completed without setting foot in Siege of Orgrimmar, as the reward for earning it was to be able use it on that content. Another raid tier would give us opportunity to use our completed rings on current content.
Ultimately, only Blizzard knows what their plans are for how many raids will be in this expansion. Information about 6.2 is still being datamined, and it is possible something will be found that can better shed light on this question. While it will be disappointing if there is not a third tier in Warlords of Draenor, Hazzikostas is right about what is important. I would rather have two raid tiers if it would ensure that there is not another year long gap before the next expansion. I just don’t understand how cutting a raid tier would help.
The Warcraft movie is pushed back to June 10, 2016. They had to delay it because that’s when Blizzard will have the next expansion ready. https://twitter.com/Legendary/status/591405523775324160
Blizzard posted a feature on the new Timewalking feature. Well that’s one way to provide more max-level 5-player content! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/18710308/patch-62-preview-timewalking-4-14-2015
The WoW Token has launched in Europe. I wonder if they can handle the socialism of allowing the rich to subsidize the play of the poor. https://twitter.com/Warcraft/status/590171548939616256
New bonus roll currency coming! Seals of UNTempered Fate, perhaps? https://twitter.com/WarcraftDevs/status/588397781439549440
There’s a patreon to support Warcraft Logs. I see the problem. They wasted time developing Wildstar Logs too…. https://www.patreon.com/warcraftlogs