If we learned anything in May it is that Blizzard still holds all the cards in terms of sales. The 6.3 mln copies of Diablo 3 that sold set all kinds of records. Honestly the game is amazing and being a fan of Diablo since day one it is great to play it. This massive response does bring up a phenomenon that cannot go ignored in the MMO market. World of Warcraft remains king of the heep in terms of hardcore MMOs and will Pandaria prove to be the expansion that continues to set the game on top?
World of Warcraft is finally getting a very serious group of contenders in 2012. Eight years after its mighty reign, the game is about to face its toughest challenge yet from Guild Wars 2. If the hype is anything to be believed, Guild Wars 2 really does present the largest threat to WoW in the MMO space. In many ways it challenges Blizzard’s MMO model with some old and new ideas combined, these parts that have not really been major game mechanics in Warcraft. The one thing Blizzard does extremely well though is adapt new ideas into their games. They take what is best and make it smooth and polished and just downright better.
So the question between these two games is will Mists of Pandaria really rock the Warcraft universe? I think there are many factors to the expansion that will. For starters people will absolutely play the pet system game. They will love it and collect them all. You will see pet tournaments and challenges all over Azeroth. This may not be a big deal to hardcore eight year players who have downed every boss in the game. But it is a big deal to much more casual players and more importantly their kids or girlfriends. That aspect alone could net Blizzard more players in an instant. So if you don’t have any faith in the pet system have faith in the fact that Blizzard will do it right and make it fun. That alone will bring the hordes of fans screaming.
The next is the top tier system of dungeons and raids. Having new grounds to cover for the raiding guilds and top players is always the draw for WoW. Players want to explore in the world they are used too. They want the new boss fights that they will feel comfortable with. The raids and dungeons will hopefully have some grand new twists in them this time. Having the three tiers as well should help players with the Looking for Group tier in the mix as well. Again WoW continues to try and service their hardcore and casual players as much as possible. Trust me that is no easy task. They are doing a very good job of it though.
If anything I think you will see hardcore MMO players moving over to try some of the other games this year. The real key is if those games can keep the players who try them. The long standing thing about WoW is that players always return to it. I still maintain that Lich King was the real expansion that brought a lot of players back to the game. Maybe Pandaria will have that same effect. The fact that WoW is so popular in Asia and Pandaria now gives them their own landscape could have a very popular effect for the game.
I would say their biggest draw back is the Pandas themselves. I know the Pandaran have been around for a while, but sadly for me it is just too Kung Fu Panda. I do love the idea of the Monk class in the game though. Yet, when I started out an Orc Monk in the beta I found myself right back in the Valley of Trials. Hopefully they will do more to break races out of their zones and allow them to start in different places.
I do think Pandaria will be a huge hit among WoW players. Especialy if they make some really cool changes to the PvP system. With almost every new MMO having three Faction PvP, there is a good bet WoW will do something amazing with Faction PvP warfare. This remains the big question for the expansion. I guess we will have to wait and see, but I do think Pandaria will perform much better than some of the doubters realize.