How long is too long to wait for an expansion? That’s the question many WoW players are asking themselves this week after learning that patch 6.2, released on June 23, will likely be the final major patch of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
The announcement was slipped into an interview between Cory Stockton, Lead Content Designer for World of Warcraft, and a French games website. During the interview Stockton said that Hellfire Citadel, released in 6.2, is “planned” to be the last raid of the expansion, and that Blizzard decided to “probably” only include two content patches to shorten the time between expansions.
How Long is too Long?
The response to this news from WoW players and bloggers has mostly been negative. Blizzard has taken a lot of criticism in the past over lengthy content droughts between patches, with players sometimes going over a year without any updates. Blizzard has promised faster development times, but now all signs point to another extended period between expansions.
While the WoW team is doubtlessly already hard at work on the next expansion, history shows that they’re likely going to wait for a convention to share any details. Right now Gamescom 2015 in August or their own Blizzcon in November seem like the most likely candidates for a release announcement, and again based on past history players are unlikely to get their hands on a release version of the expansion until at least six months after that.
Then there is the little matter of the World of Warcraft movie, currently scheduled for release in June, 2016. Blizzard of all publishers would know how to harness the marketing potential of a major studio release! It’s all speculation right now of course, but a November Blizzcon announcement for a June 2016 release makes a lot of sense from a business perspective.
Of course, that timeline leaves players with few updates to look forward to for the next 11-ish months. There will definitely be a future patch to unlock the updated flight achievement and give players the ability to use flying mounts in Warlords of Draenor zones, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be a lot planned.
There have been many complaints levelled at World of Warcraft over the years – too casual, too hardcore, too simplified, too.. subscription-y. It’s ridiculous, in my opinion, to say that anything will “kill” an MMO with over 7 million subscribers, but I think if anything is going to cause WoW to steadily lose players its these long stretches of stale content that mark the end of each expansion.
Final Fantasy XIV is also a subscription-based themepark title, and they release significant content patches almost every three months like clockwork. As players we don’t know the relative size or budgets of the two teams, so it’s not entirely fair to directly compare the two games. But FFXIV’s tight patch schedule certainly makes it more difficult for players to view Blizzard’s release dates with a lot of good will.
Are Garrisons and flying mounts enough to keep players satisfied for an extended length of time? Or will Blizzard surprise us all by a shocking new expansion by the end of the year? Only time will tell, but I hope the WoW team have an aggressive release schedule planned because their players seem restless.
Reactions From Around the Blogosphere
Of course as with any big MMO news, particularly about WoW, bloggers had a lot to say on the subject. For the most part the responses seemed to mimic those in the general player base – skeptical, but hoping that Blizzard has the next expansion well planned.
Alternative Chat argues that people who are unhappy with how Blizzard is running WoW need to just unsubscribe from the game and walk away. She feels that Blizzard knows that they are under a deadline to satisfy players with the next expansion, and they deserve a chance to fix things. What Alt would really like to see is “more people putting their own [opinions] on the line here and commit either one way or another to being behind the Company”.
Murf Versus has a slightly less positive response to the news in his post “July, The Month Blizzard Forgot How To Expansion”. Murf really enjoyed his initial experiences in Warlords of Draenor but never quite clicked with Garrisons or the end-game content. Still, he writes that two content patches is far too few for one of the most profitable games in the industry, particularly when FFXIV is setting the pace. Murf wants to believe that Blizzard will do better with the next expansion but he’s finding it harder and harder to deflect criticism that the company is “money-hungry”.
Marathal from Rambling Thoughts About WoW is trying to make patch 6.2 work for him, but he’s having a hard time getting over the lacking story and grind mechanics. As a casual player who sticks to LFR (public raid groups) and isn’t terribly into lore, Marathal is wondering what he will do to see himself through the end of the expansion. He wants to play his character and not worry about stats and numbers, but instead to create a story about beating up baddies and being a hero. Is there still room to do that in WoW?