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World of Warcraft: Why This Coming Expansion is Either Fly or Die for the Series.
Will it be Boom or Bust for Blizzard?
Blizzard Entertainment; the megalith dominating the MMO world for quite a while now. It has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people, yet it is at a crossroads. The next expansion: World Of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria better fly, or Warcraft will fall to a horrible death. After numerous let-downs the player base is getting quite tired of false promises and sketchy work. They are demanding a good game from Blizzard, and Blizzard knows it.
WoW has been in decline for a while now. Some may argue that it is normal: WoW has a unique cycle to it. Subscriptions rise before and continue after an expansion, slowly rising after the main lurch for a while until they hit their peak. However, as the expansion keeps going people get tired of the same content and eventually unsubscribe until - next expansion. Fresh content like a breeze fills WoW with life again. This is the normal cycle of WoW’s subscription base. However, this is not taking into account a lot of the sentiments of the older players.
The latest expansion, Cataclysm, left something to be desired. Blizzard painted up the old world and made it pretty again, added new content, and updated a lot of things. The problem was that most of the content they updated was content they had been saying they were going to fix for years, creating murmurs of unrest within the older spheres of the game which could remember this. A main problem Blizzard has is announcing ideas to the public: things they get people excited for and then don’t deliver. Warlocks were going on about Green Fire to separate them from Mages. They announced male/female counterparts for summoned demons, new demons, and much more that people promptly celebrated before finding out it ‘wouldn’t make the cut’.
Public Interaction Problems
Other than just announcing things too early, Blizzard has a problem with PR. Recently there was a scandal over wording in advertisements for t heir Annual Pass. This wording led people to believe (and actually stated) that as soon as the beta for Pandaria went live, they would get a key. This was not true however, and many had to wait a month or so for their keys. Because of the false advertising, there was an intense amount of animosity towards Blizzard with loud conversations about legality and ramifications; a lot of people got the pass because of the beta itself rather than any other rewards offered - they felt a contract for 1 year (around 160-180 USD) was more than enough for a key.
Further public interaction problems come from the support and forums. Oftentimes people ask for help or advise on WoW forums and there is a set of Blue Posters to help them. This would be wonderful, except a lot of the times they do not post constructively, or antagonize posters. Bashiok is constantly ‘trolling the forums’ as people say, antagonizing people or adding fuel to the fire. Recently Blizzard had to damage control one of these postings that was talking about Diablo 3 hype and how people should not get worked up because they will get disappointed. I know it is hard to understand tone and sarcasm online, but almost everyone took his post the wrong way sparking mini riots in forums. Other problems with Blue Posters: you can track them via many websites. This would not be bad, but the bulk of the responses they give are “Closing this thread, it has become derailed” rather than answering legitimate concerns about the game which causes a lot of people to loose faith that the company cares about anything other than the subscription fees.
The lists of problems can go on - Cataclysm was smaller than all the other expansions, general unhappiness with certain game plays, etc. However, Blizzard is noticing. Through reading comments and my personal Beta play, I can see that they are indeed trying very hard to make Mists of Pandaria the best expansion ever. I am quite enthusiastic about the direction this is going: some go so far as to call MoP WoW 2. New fun play styles are being introduced, as well as system overhauls and graphic increases which make Mists of Pandaria both more beautiful and full of content than ever.
Danny has played World of Warcraft for 7-8 years now, participated in many Beta - PTRs and has been a guild leader for years, constantly writing articles about WoW.