Thursday, June 10, 2010
What if WoW had an expansion every year?
The release date of Cataclysm isn't even announced yet, but it seems many people already have their head deeper in the next World of Warcraft expansion than in the current one. On MMO Champion there is the first Cataclysm talent calculator, and I'm certain that Elitist Jerk will have worked out all the optimum talents, stats, and spell rotations, before the expansion is even released. I find that somewhat sad, but I think it is a consequence of World of Warcraft's biggest flaw: A too long delay between expansions.
I'm not buying all that bullshit about it being impossible to release expansions faster. Previous major MMORPGs had no problem to release expansions once a year or faster. And while certainly twice as many people don't advance a project twice as fast, three times as many people should certainly get the job done twice as fast. With Blizzard having a 50% profit margin, which is indecently much higher than that of even banks or other industries accused of price gouging, the money to speed up development would certainly be there.
And for Blizzard there would be a payout too: For many players a 2-year wait is too long between expansions, thus people regularly quit World of Warcraft, and might or might not resubscribe when the next expansion finally comes out. Add all those lost months of subscriptions together with being able to sell many millions of copies of twice as many expansions, and you get quite a nice heap of money, more than enough to pay for the faster development.
More expansions would not only mean adding more levels to the game with every expansion, but it would also mean more features. Whether that is player housing, or more hero classes, or other features that have been for a long time been discussed for World of Warcraft, with a bigger development team and an expansion every year, we would certainly have seen more features than we have now.
With more expansions World of Warcraft would also be more balanced. Currently major changes, like the Dungeon Finder, are patched into the middle of an expansion, and often unbalance the existing content of the current expansion. Thus the emblem gear from the Dungeon Finder resulted in WoW currently only having a single viable raid dungeon, less than it had at any point in its history. If the Dungeon Finder had been part of a new expansion, the gear reset you always get from raising the level cap would have made it easier to give out rewards for random groups without making the rewards for the existing game unattractive.
Blizzard should really think about speeding up their expansion production in the future. World of Warcraft stopped growing a while ago, and is getting a bit long in the tooth. With more and more other MMORPGs coming out in the coming years, including Blizzard's second MMORPG, World of Warcraft will have to fight harder to keep subscribers. And making an expansion once per year could be just the ticket for that.