A Cataclysmic Event, Azeroth Reborn
'Cataclysm' the third expansion in the World of Warcraft series, was announced on the first day of the annual Blizzcon event. The expansion brings back one of the mightiest and the maddest of dragons, Deathwing. The theme for this expansion is a cataclysmic event that redefines and reshapes Azeroth as we know it. This expansion will bring us five new levels instead of the ten we saw in both previous expansions. There are some large additions and changes happening to the game that will improve character choice and game play quality.
Combat statistics - Some of these are being removed from the game, some merged into primary stats such as strength. Blizzard has decided to simplify the combat stat system so people can make easy and intelligent decisions on whether or not an item is an upgrade for their character without too much confusion.
Guild leveling - Guilds can now increase in level. This makes it more essential for players to be a part of an interactive community that will help them improve their character or get through the levels faster. Items such as Guild Heirlooms are being added to the game as one of the benefits of increasing your guild's level. Your character, after level 20, will earn guild currency which is used to buy items for the guild; this is a system similar to the Prestige system found in City of Heroes.
Races - Although there are no new classes being added to the game, two new races are being introduced. These are Worgen for the Alliance, as Blizzard felt there was nothing monstrous for the Alliance, and the Goblin race for the Horde which has caused some tension in the community as some people feel it's wrong to give a neutral race such as goblins over to a faction.
Character based improvements - There are new secondary professions being added to the game, which mean that everyone will have a chance to use this profession. Blizzard has stated, however, that there will be no increase in the number of primary professions for a character. Character customization is also being addressed and they are working on allowing players to change the look of their toon in greater detail such as through possibly changing the colour schemes of your armor sets.
Recent Changes, Paving the Pathway
One of the big changes in Patch 3.2 was to lower the level requirement for mounted movement. This made the game a lot more 'alt friendly' - encouraging people to level their other characters and keep their interest in the game. It will be interesting to see how 'alt friendly' the game still is once Azeroth has been redefined, however, it may bring a better feel back to Azeroth instead of all zones being barren and empty of anyone at max level.
The other recent change that I thought I would discuss was Blizzard's controversial decision to allow players to achieve "Emblems of Conquest", now the second highest tier of badge, through heroic dungeons. This decision infuriated many people that I know as they worked very hard in Ulduar to achieve these badges and now they are all too easy to obtain. There is a motive behind this which is to get the maximum amount of players experiencing some of the end game content before the expansion comes to a close, as a company this is a key requirement to keeping the majority of players interested.
End of the Cold Road: Icecrown Citadel
We are now preparing for the next large content patch in the game. The trailer for Patch 3.2 tells us that it is next on the list; however this is the point of the expansion, to fight Arthas. After Icecrown has been explored, Blizzard need to find new ways to keep people interested in their company, although an expansion will be out, they will have to look to marketing their new MMO project and trying to retain current subscribers to their current MMO.
A Few Ideas for the Future
In the past, the most you could customize your character on World of Warcraft would be to change the name or sex of your character at a price for real currency. I believe to maintain much of their market share they need to increase the customization you can do to your character.
The abundance of instances available would give players a great amount of choice in what they want to do when they log onto Warcraft. Many people I have spoken to had very bad experiences with the low level instances as many players were new to the game and may not have understood the structure. Allowing you to revisit these instances with more experienced players would really give a great experience to the player base.
Ultimately, keeping a good market share for a company like Blizzard it is most important to ensure that the maximum number of players can experience most of the important and well thought out content in the game, by which I mean all of the raids available at the maximum level. This is also the reason that the stats are being re-simplified in the next expansion as to gain more revenue it is easier to appeal to ease of use than sitting and thinking gamers.
It would be interesting to see what some of you believe could help Blizzard keep the market share, See you in the forums!