Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Mists of Pandaria release date

So Mists of Pandaria finally got an official release date: September 25. That is actually faster than I thought, Blizzard usually needs until the end of the second year to release another expansion. Still, they aren't far off the 2-year cycle.

For the record, I do not believe in the usual release-date conspiracy nonsense. Whatever release date Blizzard would have chosen, some people would always have interpreted it as a conspiracy against Guild Wars 2. I think that Blizzard is well past the point of caring about the competition, especially since GW2 isn't subscription-based. If anything, the minimally accelerated release is a feeble response of Blizzard to Cataclysm having done not so well.

Releasing an expansion for World of Warcraft is still like printing money. It will sell 5 million copies in the first month (not 10, because the other 5 million players are in China, where it will be released later if ever). And it will increase subscription numbers by a million or two for a while. That is a pile of money, you do the math.

I believe this will be the shortest time they've had between the release of two expansions (by 2 months), but also the longest period with no content patch (since dragon soul).

Whether players think that was worth it, I'm not sure.
Remember Diablo III release. It was postponed several times. The true release date can only be known when you are in Pandaria.
No intention to go to Pandaria, the new race isn't appealing, my pals left long ago, and pet fights??

Come on, Blizzard, you are not trying to be Zynga, are you?
Less then two months? Looking at beta state now, it's hard to believe... though i guess broken quests on release is business as usual.
Speaking of MoP, I find it mildly amusing how two, wholly and utterly different features added are both attracting me intensely: Pet Battles and Challenge mode dungeons. One is for the casual, one for the hardcore. One a fun little distraction for your free time that offers no real traditional advancement for your character, one a gruelling test of skill that requires precise action from a group of people that offers no real traditional advancement for your character.
And super-buggy PTR being thrown in our face during BWE3 of GW2 is coincidence too. We'll see if they release pre-MoP patch near GW2 launch. May be they would not.
@Sine Nomine: (nice name, btw :P) Diversification of endgame activities has been a strong point of WoW for some time, I'm really not surprised that they're pushing even harder in that direction.
If you look they're adding stuff for ANY kind of gamer, from the farmville-grinder, to the pokemon-tactical-combat, to the casual raider (all new raids have LFR), to the zergman (scenarios), to the hardcore (challenge/HM raids).
The opposite approach compared to Cataclysm, I would say. My guess is that after this initial wave of new activities, they'll prune and prioritize, focusing developement on the ones who turned out to be most successful.
The 'no real traditional advancement' part is also interesting: I think it's the result of wanting to make sure that it doesn't become required activity for end-game raiding. Separation of activities (= avoiding people who want to do A to do B) is also a good idea, something where WoW had its ups and downs.
I wouldn't call their diversification of end-game activities a strong point for sometime. They HAVE been working on it, but considering where they started (Completely linear endgame progression through raiding/collecting better gear), even the changes they have made soon still leave them in the "slightly disappointing" range IMO.

But yeah, this is a great step to take. I would wax poetically about the advantages of horizontal progression instead of vertical, but I think Tobold has already had multiple posts on the issue in the past.

Ultimately it isn't the difficulty, or lack thereof, that keeps people yoyoing their wow subscription over the years, it is lack of content. Lots of new things at level cap should go a long way to staving off boredom for longer.
I see two things that will forever change wow:

1. Pet battles will be a whole new sub game, eclipsing character progression. People will be surprised when it becomes more popular than raiding.

2. PVE scenarios. This has the potential to be the new endgame main activity. It all depends on the rewards though.
It coincides with Brewfest which starts 20 sept and lasts 2 weeks. Harvest event starts the day before MoP is released.

Blizzard has said long ago they wanted less than 2 year release cycle. Perhaps people are surprised they are pulling it off?

The new pre-patch event will also last only 2 weeks according to blues. This patch is currently on PTR so w/o beta access one can try out e.g. the new talent trees.
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Diablo 3 actual release date was never postponed. Their hoped for unannounced release date was many times. But when Blizzard FINALLY sets a date they stick to it.
It isn't conspiracy, it's just good business sense. I believe you are right in that Blizzard is past the point of being concerned about other games, but they are a business. You're sadly mistaken if you think Blizzard doesn't care if they have 10.5 million subscribers or 10.7. If they see an opportunity to grow their subscriber base (or hold on to what they already have) by ANY amount, you bet your ass they are going to take it. So releasing major patches at or just before a well-hyped game being released to hold onto as much of your subscriber base as possible, and/or releasing one of your major titles a month or so after, is just smart. If you look at typical Blizzard patterns, you will see this is exactly how they work.
Maybe other companies simply should stop to release games in the second half of even-numbered years.
You can tell a lot about what they do and don’t care about by how they behave.

I received an email recently advising me that if I resubscribed and brought a new friend with me, we’d get all sorts of delicious in-game co-op friendly bonuses. I emailed them to ask if this could be used to bring back another friend who also had an existing account, and they advised that no, it could not.

They do not want to reactivate old bittervets, because we are fickle. They want to use bittervets to draw in shiny new players who aren’t experienced with MMOs. They expect they will probably get several years out of those players who haven’t grown skinner-box tolerant due to overexposure to high-quality MMO gaming.

(Qualifier for the logic jump: If you have not played WoW, you are not experienced with MMOs. Declining or not, it remains the industry standard, the 500lb gorilla in the room, a universal genre-defining reference point, the undisputed market leader whose competition has yet to match half its numbers WoW isn’t in a race. Others are racing behind a WoW exhibition. Its very existence affects all games within the genre – not just the clones, but by those who attempt to prove how they are dissimilar. In the context of MMOs, WoW is the baseline. This isn’t approval or disapproval – I don’t play anymore. It’s just observation. You don’t discount the impact or significant of a black hole on a solar system just because you don’t like it.)
Cam, my guess would be that you posed the question in a narrow way and received a narrow response from an inexperienced customer service representative.

The correct answer is: No, you can't use WoW's "Recruit a Friend" on somebody with an existing account. But there is the "Scroll of Resurrection" with which you can. Different set of bonuses for the inviter and the invitee, but otherwise essentially the same marketing scheme targeted at what you call the "bittervets".

Saying that Blizzard doesn't have a marketing scheme to reactivate veteran players is false.
Yeha, I should rephrase. It's not that they don't want us. It's that they're not actively targeting us. Yes, the 'scroll of resurrection' scheme exists. And as far as I know, it has existed for the last five years or more.

No, I'm thinking specifically about the bonus mounts, exp, ability to teleport between friends, gift levels to alts for catch-up purposes.

A promotion I actually received an unsolicited email about.

I was very specific, because that showering of rewards was the stuff that interested me. The friend teleport in particular. The fabulous prizes are not available to bringing back a friend into the fold. Just a little extra game time.

There's a really big difference between giving someone a 10% discount if they ask for it, compared to going door to door offering prizes and convenience improvements.

One would indicate a strong company preference compared to the other. Yeah, they want us... about the same as you want a dollar you see on the ground.
As the Mists of Pandaria release date has made me consider whether I should resubscribe to WoW, I'm a little better informed about the current Scroll of Resurrection. You can read details here.

While the friend teleport doesn't exist for "resurrected" friends, you *do* get a mount for resurrecting your friend, and your friend gets free levels for catching up (to 80).

That you received an e-mail promotion for one and not the other is just random. I've seen mails promoting the scroll of resurrection instead of the recruit a friend. And I'd call Mists of Pandaria a huge marketing operation to get old players back into the game.
They may not be doing it well, but I disagree with Cam a bit. I thought the point of the Chuck Norris ad campaign was not to be new or hip but to target no longer playing WoW players. I.e. if you need 300,000 new subscriptions, is it easier to get past players or new-to-MMO players? IIRC correctly, Blizzard pointed out they were big enough for past customers to be a large demographic.

Blizzard is not terribly adept at financial matters (insert obligatory snide Cataclysm comment here. OTOH, looking at EA & Sony in the land of the blind the one-eyed guy is king. ) However, end of September makes it into Q3 financial quarter and they are a public company and quarterly results drive stock prices. October 1 would be Q4. I was not surprised to see an end-of-September date.
Yeah, I'll pay those arguments.

If there's additional/random exposure to the resurrection scroll (and since its bonuses have improved since I looked at it last), then I'd reckon Hagu especially's got the right of it.

I still don't believe they seriously consider expired accounts to be as hot property as newbies who have their 'trepidation' barrier to entry reduced by being introduced by a veteran...
But if their goal is mostly to pad the numbers by Q4 with fickle, returning tourists, I reckon they won't be especially concerned with whether the bittervets disappear again 2-3 months after Pandalaunch.

Unrelated: First WoW expansion I won't be buying. Feels weird. I was crazy pumped for the other three.
First WoW expansion I won't be buying. Feels weird. I was crazy pumped for the other three.

First WoW expansion where I have to think whether I want to buy it or not (thus the research of the scroll of resurrection thingie).
I will honestly probably pick it up. I finally got internet in Kuwait and I can play video games all day on shift. I'm looking for something to kill hours and WoW has always delivered on that.
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