MMORPGs are famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) for their expansion packs. We don’t know who started it, but we sure as hell know expansions aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are about as many reasons for this as there are to hate the fact that they exist. Hopefully though, after really thinking about the issue, gamers will come to realize why expansion packs are necessary in the world of MMORPGs.
First, what makes MMORPG expansions so special? Well, for one, an MMORPG isn’t your typical single player adventure. After you’re done with a single player game, it’s really your choice whether or not you liked the story and want to continue it by purchasing an expansion. In an MMORPG though, it’s not the same. The online game is as much about the story and the adventure as it is the social interactions. Once you engross yourself in an MMORPG universe, chances are you’ll have made a group of friends who will rely on each other in the game. This creates a unique social constraint and pressure for players to consider. What happens when all of your friends are downloading the new expansion and waiting for you to get it so that they can continue questing? It becomes really difficult to say no.
The main reason for expansions is, of course, to expand the in-game universe! No matter how much you enjoyed the original game, you’re bound to get bored of repeating the same events over and over. Once you hit the level cap and get the best items, there’s very little incentive to continue playing. Expansions continue the story and add new items, quests, and features. They often spruce up the graphics and look of the game as well, which is always a welcome bonus. In addition, well-made expansion packs address gameplay features that players may have complained about in previous versions of the game. To sum it all up, expansions give everyone a reason to continue playing, and to enjoy the game even more than before.
This all sounds great right? You can’t really argue against these goals, but there are concerns with expansions as well. The primary concern of course, is cost. Nobody really likes to have to pay for something that they feel should have been included in their initial purchase. I’m not going to sit here and argue with players about whether or not this concern is justified, but it is definitely an issue on most gamers’ minds. Another issue with expansions is the fact that they make certain items in the original game dated and rather useless. This is a valid concern, since you might have started the original game a while after it was released and just obtained a rare weapon, only to find that the next day an expansion pack comes out where the most common NPC drops an item that is nearly as powerful as the one you just earned. Lastly, players who are ready to join an MMORPG near the release of an expansion often decide to hold off on making an account, so that they can purchase the expansion set that includes the original game and the new expansion for a reduced cost. This of course, means others have to wait for more players to join their MMO world.
Here at ChangYou, we recently celebrated our first successful expansion to our flagship game Dragon Oath. Being a F2P game, we still have the same responsibilities as all other popular MMORPGs, which is to foster the continued interest of our players and to give them new content as often as possible. Our expansion, titled Age of Destiny, does all that and more, with a huge list of new artifact weapons, dragon mounts, new quests, and fantastic new maps. However, as an F2P MMORPG, we have a few advantages over other games in the area of expansion. For instance, although we reward players with a brand new item pack for downloading the expansion, old players get the same items the first time they log on after the expansion’s launch date. In this way, nobody is discouraged from joining the game regardless of when they decide to make an account. Another example of how we differ is the fact that, although we are introducing a new set of weapons, the overall power structure and in-game economy has been carefully balanced so that there won’t be any huge shifts with any of the new items introduced in the expansion. Lastly, and most importantly, our expansion is 100% free. True to the goal of an expansion pack, we are releasing the new content solely to encourage players to continue playing and enjoying the game that they already love. For more information about Age of Destiny, check out the expansion’s mini site!