Archive for October, 2011


Is Diablo III now the biggest threat to WoW?

A lot of folks have been talking as if SWTOR is the impending WoW-killer (as if we hadn’t heard that before from Rift and Conan and LotR and especially from Warhammer).

Has Blizzard set themselves up as their own killer with their Diablo III special deal?

If you missed it, Here’s the announcement…

For a limited time only, players who make a 12-month subscription commitment to World of Warcraft through the WoW Annual Pass will receive the following epic rewards: 

  • Diablo III FREE – Download the digital version via for free when the game launches early next year. This is the full game, not a trial edition.
  • Tyrael’s Charger WoW Flying Mount – Ride for the Archangel of Justice on all current and future characters on a single World of Warcraft account. Tyrael’s Charger will arrive via in-game mail with the upcoming launch of patch 4.3.
  • Access to the Next WoW Expansion Beta Test – Get a guaranteed spot in the beta test for the next World of Warcraft expansion (at a time to be announced in the future).

Blizzard is trying to guarantee future revenues by locking people into long term contracts.  This is not an uncommon practice.  A number of the trolls commenters have said that this is a bad sign, and that Blizzard knows its product is failing.  Oh really?  So is AT&T failing, because I had to make a two year contract with my cell phone.  Certainly not.  On the contrary, this is a prudent business move.  They assure themselves of your $15 a month for a year ($180) and in exchange give you a digitally-downloaded game for free.  That costs them almost nothing.  Yes, it impacts their initial sales on the Diablo III release, but they will get to brag about a huge number of D3 subscribers.

It seems almost a no-brainer for long-term WoW players to sign up for this.  If you expect to play for the next 12 months anyway, then why not get something for free with it?  So lets assume that this turns out to be a popular option.

On Diablo III release day, that means that a lot of WoW players will probably be playing D3.  Will Stormwind become a ghost town on that day?  Will Orgrimmar be abandoned?  Will raids be canceled due to low attendance in the week after D3 goes live?

What if Diablo III is a really good game?  Will it actually draw enough people away from Azeroth?  What is the tipping point for it to go from a distraction to an actual draw away from WoW?  How many WoW-to-D3 conversions do you need before guilds start to fall apart and raid teams lose viability?

Also, everyone who signs up for this is guaranteed access to the Mists of Pandaria beta.  Will beta then become the de facto live game?  What do you do if half your guild is busy in the beta while you’re poking around in Cataclysm content?

I don’t really think that this will happen.  Warcraft and Diablo are very different games and appeal to different types of gamers.  However, I do see that Diablo has the potential to leech away a fair number of WoW players due to nothing more than convenience through this innovative offer.  I also think that the beta for MoP will be a very different experience than past betas due to a large number of subscribers having access.


Blizzcon Quick Impression

Opening ceremony and the big WoW announcement is, as expected, the next expansion.  And, also as expected, its the Mists of Panderia, with Pandaren as a playable race.

Immediately, a lot of players boo-hooed this as the death of the game and claimed that they were not going to play a game with pandas.

My first question is, why are pandaren any worse than werewolves?  Are there a lot of closet Twilight fans out there that really liked werewolves?  Would this announcement have been better with sparkly vampires instead of pandas?

Anyway, on to serious impressions.  I think this could be a good thing.

The past few expansions have been leading more and more to WoW being a pure endgame treadmill.  They follow a similar pattern…

  • expansion comes out, people powerlevel as fast as they can to level cap
  • jump into endgame, where most bosses are the target of complaints that they are either rehashes of old bosses, or too gimmicky
  • stay in endgame for two years until burnout ensues
  • next expansion, start over
This model cannot continue.  I think that repeating the same ideas for another expansion would have been much worse.  Since this expansion doesn’t have a big-name end boss, I am hoping that the pattern will be different this time around.
We need more things to do when not raiding.  We need a reason to leave Stormwind/Orgimmar.  We need more interaction between players.  Whatever may come of this expansion, if its not all endgame-focused then I have hope that Blizzard is ready to try and break the mold.  Perhaps it will keep my interest for another few years.

Blizzcon is coming

…and once again I am not going.  But I am going to watch online.

I think this is a make-or-break moment for WoW.  They need to generate some excitement, because its getting a little old.  This always happens late in the expansion cycle, but I think more so this time because (1) the game is almost seven years old, and (2) there are more high-quality competing MMORPGs out or coming out than there have ever been.

I worry that they will focus most of Blizzcon on Diablo and Starcraft.  In that case, I think that WoW’s death spiral may begin in earnest.

I think the biggest mistake they made with Cataclysm was that their changes remove or changed rather than added.  Previous expansions added not just zones but also new avenues of gameplay.

  • Burning Crusade added new races (Draenei and Blood Elves) and playable classes (horde got paladins, alliance got shamans).  It also added expanded talent trees and new talents.
  • Wrath of the Lich King added a hero class (Death Knight) and expanded talent trees and new talents.
  • Cataclysm gave us no new races and no new classes (they did give us worgen and goblins.  I overlooked them since they were purely cosmetic additions).  It shrunk the talent trees and decreased the number of talent points.  I know they had good reason, but it still becomes a “taking away” action rather than “adding”.  It had only 5 new levels, which re-emphasized how the leveling game was being pushed aside in favor of endgame.
Because of this, I really think that the next expansion needs to add more than some new levels and zones.  I think that it needs at least a new class and/or race.  I also think they need to add some kind of new mechanic in the game that is new.  I can’t imagine what it could be, but I think we need some kind of departure from repetitive  instances/raids with the holy trinity.  I won’t even speculate, but Blizzard has very well-paid developers who spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff, so I am hoping they will surprise me.
Finally, a graphical upgrade is vital.  WoW has survived this long on its cartoony graphics because it was still the only big game on the block, and the expanse of the world superceded any graphical complaints.  Also, the low hardware requirements made it accessible to the masses.  Now that Rift has taken its best shot and Star Wars is coming, I think that WoW needs to grow up a bit and realize that they can’t continue to survive on gameplay alone and formatting the game to be playable on 5-year old hardware.
We’ll see how it all plays out.  Maybe some of this is planned but it won’t be announced this week.  By next week either our excitement will be renewed, or we’ll all be disappointed.


Classic WoW:
Dinaer - 11 Assassination Rogue
Cepheid - 13 Prot Warrior
Cartho - 11 Elemental Shaman

Retail WoW:
Dinaer - 120 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Cartho - 120 Elemental Shaman (US - Quel-dorei)
Derence - 120 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 120 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 120 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 120 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
October 2011
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