Last week marked the big Fury of Hellfire v6.2 patch to World of Warcraft. After what seemed like months of waiting for much more and much better content, players spent the last several days adventuring through Tanaan Jungle and checking out the usefulness of the new Shipyard. What has been the reaction? It can be summed up in three very pointed, very accurate, words.
Players logging into World of Warcraft last week found the entire population of WoW logged into the same relatively small location and faced with mounting frustration trying to find required mobs and resources in order to complete quests. Of course, this is expected with any new zone opening or expansion -- crowds gather at the new spot. But this seems to have gone beyond the norm.
It’s not simply the usual questing through Tanaan that is causing the frustration, but the fact that this is not something that will resolve itself in short order as players move beyond the location and to the next big thing. This is end-of-expansion content -- there isn’t going to be any more added of any consequence and everything that is 6.2 is tied to this spot. Dailies, reputation, best/most current resources, oil for shipyards -- everything -- is tied to Tanaan. It is Pandaria’s Timeless Isle times ten.
Then there are shipyards, effectively Garrison 2.0 without even the courtesy of having the two mission tables in the same room….or the same overall location. Grab your favorite ground mount and ride away to the shipyard (gee...would be nice to fly….oh wait…). All of this also comes with potential permadeath of your “followers”, or ships, if unsuccessfully completing a mission. The endless grind for resources to fuel the missions also voraciously consumes regular garrison resources as well, and all this with the potential loss of an epic ship via a single battle with ~5% chance of failure.
The system is extremely alt hostile, YET AGAIN as many other things in the garrison are. At the beginning the missions are too difficult and can easily maneuver you into a brick wall from where there is no escape (had a situation where I could only build 2 ship types and had most equipment on the vendor red and locked out, so I couldn't get ANY mission above 44% success). The blueprints for counters are also character specific and locked behind reputations & rare mob farming - holy crap WHY?! That's like forcing us to grind the level 3 blueprint prerequisite on EVERY CHARACTER in order to unlock access to it. That's beyond stupid. To the point of discouraging participation in this on these alts. Honestly, if you want to force me into this grind on 8 separate characters then you will achieve the exact opposite of that. I will not bother with this on ANY alts. None. Nada.
In case you didn’t get it from the post above, the second word most on any WoW player’s mind is: GRIND.
Blizzard itself warned players that to earn the Draenor Pathfinder achievement that unlocks flying account-wide, it would take approximately three weeks of daily excursions into Tanaan to reach revered with the three factions.
This is just one example. There’s the grind to raise the shipyard to level three; ships to epic level; the collection of resources to craft the top tier armors and weapons; the collection of Apexis crystals; and the list goes on.
Grind in WoD is a systemic problem -- it started the first days of the expansion’s release and it has risen to its current height of ridiculousness with the Fury of Hellfire patch.
[T]hey said, "oh we can't do a new patch after SoO, because that would push the next expansion further into the future, and we'd rather work on delivering it fast" when we had the SoO drought.. And WOD is what they came up with? Wait.. What? We waited 16 months, for WoD, twitter, apexis grind and staring into the neverending void of a garrison wall?
None of this means that players want all handed to them on a silver platter, though there certainly are those who loudly proclaim that this is so. It simply isn’t true. Players who love the game, who have played it faithfully for a decade, are apathetic about even wanting to log in. This level of grind is no fun and it shows. The forums are awash with threads about players leaving due to boredom.
Remember the promise Blizzard made of bigger, more frequent updates, with expansions coming more often? At the minimum, it will be a year before we see another expansion. Imagine another twelve months of dailies and rare grind in Tanaan before the next expansion comes out….
What it all comes down to is that players are disappointed. Fury of Hellfire is the symptom of a much larger issue with World of Warcraft overall: It has lost its edge. Tanaan Jungle is a bad reskin of Timeless Isle. Warlords itself is a tired rehash of old content that has no relevance to any other story that has come before. Sure, there is a chance to see “the past unfold” to learn more about Orc and Draenei history, but there is no connection to “our Azeroth” -- you know, the one that matters to players.
Even separating the fact that many players are happy with the Hellfire Citadel raid, it appears that Fury of Hellfire epitomizes everything that is wrong with Warlords overall, the infamous zenith of disengagement of its player base.
With Activision-Blizzard’s quarter two financials due within a month, it is highly probable that another precipitous slip in subscribers will be seen as it was from WoD’s initial 10M subscribers in November 2014 to its 7.1M in March 2015. Will it be another three million? We will find out in a month.
What seems to be happening with this release is that players’ hopes have been dashed, to some “yet again. Player apathy with regard to the latest content is symptomatic of a general malaise that could be very difficult for Blizzard to overcome WoW-wise without something truly epic to staunch the bleed. Even an expansion announcement might not be enough. Players are wary and weary now and Blizzard will be hard-pressed to overcome such.
When everything is said and done, one has to wonder what Blizzard can do to staunch the outward flow of players. Can anything turn the ship around?
Stay tuned to our next column where we re-review Warlords of Draenor now that the final major content release of the expansion has been launched.