Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Miss in the Pattern

I find it interesting that we're on the last raid patch of Mists of Pandaria but we still don't know about the next expac.  Consider the following:

  • Wrath was announced in August 2007, before the Sunwell and Zul'Aman raids dropped.
  • Cataclysm was announced in August 2009, before the Icecrown raid dropped.
  • Mists was announced in October 2011, before the Deathwing raid dropped.
  • And now we have the Siege of Orgrimmar dropping, but no expac announcement as of this date.*

I presume that Blizz is waiting for BlizzCon to make the announcement on the next expac, but given that Blizzard likes to follow patterns, this isn't a good sign.

Unless, of course, the Siege of Orgrimmar isn't the last patch in the Mists saga.

If 5.4 is the last Mists patch, then Blizzard might be setting themselves up for a big problem:  a huge length of time where nothing is going on in-game.  Last time, Blizzard softened the blow to subscriptions by creating the annual pass, which included access to Diablo III.  What will Blizzard do this time?

  1. Move up any release date to Q1 or Q2 of 2014.  This is the most likely solution, given that any expac Blizz is working on has been done in secret.  However, after the long lead in to Mists, including the massive beta, any push to release so early will be seen by some pundits as a sign of desperation on Blizzard's part.
  2. Introduce a bridge raid (or two).  This is IMHO the second most likely solution.  The only thing that keeps this from being the most likely solution is the lukewarm reception the last bridge raid (Ruby Sanctum) received.  Blizzard would need to devote a lot of time to these raids, which would impact any release of the next expac.
  3. Take WoW F2P.  An intriguing possibility, but one that I have to question in its soundness.  Blizzard makes a lot of money on WoW subscriptions, and taking WoW F2P would mean that they'd have to either eat that money or make up for it in other ways.  They'd have to severely restrict access to endgame content if they wanted to keep subs up, because WoW's model is based upon "the game starting at max level".  That would be at best a temporary fix, but an intriguing one nonetheless.
  4. Announce Titan.  This is possible, but given the "back to the drawing board" announcement in August, I suspect this is the least likely of all options.

Anyway, this is pure speculation until the announcement comes at BlizzCon.

*Ha!  "By the powers of Murphy, I summon the expac announcement!"


  1. I believe Blizz is very clearly on record saying that 5.4 will be the last content patch of MoP. If they haven't already backtracked on this it's far too late now, they'd have had to be working on something for a while to release another raid and I can't imagine they'd keep something like that secret. They want to keep folks subscribed and NOT telling them about upcoming content can't be the best way to accomplish that.

    My guess is simply that, timing-wise, they weren't able to (or decided not to) announce the next expansion as early in the process as they have previously. They seem to be waiting for Blizzcon and while that will make for a *relatively* short turn-around (although whether 6-9 months can be called short......), the announcement date really has nothing to do with a release date. They're working on the next expansion and it will be out when it's ready regardless, whether they announce it 12 months in advance or 12 days. They will need enough time for testing, though, so I'd expect the announcement a bit earlier than 12 days before release. ;)

    I read a comment somewhere that indicated that Blizzard is staffing up in hopes of eventually releasing an expansion a year. In that vein, I don't think an earlier next expansion should be a sign of anything negative, just a phased shift in schedule.

    1. I have to wonder about the gearing up for an expac per year, given that it's not strictly a 1:1 situation where 2x developers/artists = 1/2 release time. Having spent several years in a software developement house, we actually found it harder to reduce time for development the more developers we hired. More developers does mean more code, but it also means more bugs and a more extensive code integration period.

      Just flinging more developers at a problem won't make software fly out the door more quickly.

      If nothing else, I'd expect the Activision side of the business lean more heavily on monetization of WoW for profits, since they don't have Vivendi around anymore.