Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 28, 2008
WoW is fighting back

Blizzard just announced that parts of Wrath of the Lich King content will already be released "in the coming weeks" in a patch that will presumably be called patch 3.0. So we get the new spells and talents, barbershops, new arenas, guild calendar, and the inscription profession in advance, for free. Death Knights and Northrend you'll have to wait and pay for. Not a huge surprise that, they did the same with patch 2.0 before The Burning Crusade.

But many people interpret the patch announcement, and the new features that were announced for Wrath of the Lich King and which just happen to be similar to features that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has, to be a defensive move by Blizzard. Are they getting nervous of losing a million customers to WAR? Well, they would be stupid if they did nothing. Even Age of Conan cost them subscribers, even if they said later that 40% of those came back.

I wouldn't read too much into specific announcement or release dates, nor into specific features. I don't think Blizzard conjured up Lake Winterspring in a week because they realized they needed keep siege warfare to counter WAR, features like that must have been in preparation for a long time. Who can say whether the inspiration for the new WotLK achievement system was WAR or one of many older games already having that? And frankly, stealing features from WAR wouldn't even be a good strategy to fight it; the WoW keep siege warfare and achievement system will naturally be inferior to the WAR one, because they weren't integrated into the game right from the start. If WoW wanted to really hurt WAR, they would have to announce features that WAR doesn't have, like player housing for example.

Anyway, I'm happy if both the Blizzard developers and the Mythic developers are well aware of their competition. I hope it will make them work harder and better. Especially Blizzard was a bit too complacent about their invulnerable market position. Competition in the end is always good for the customer.
I really don't think that Blizzard have just magically conjured up content in this coming patch just to counter WAR. What I suspect though is that since this stuff was in the pipeline already they speeded the process up a bit so that it will arrive at roughly the same time as WAR hits. Of course I have nothing to back that up but that's my personal suspicion.
"Competition in the end is always good for the customer."

Only with strong regulations that prevent the cartelization of a given business.

I am glad that in the Gaming Industry, unlike Oil, HEalthcare and Arms Industries, such cartelization is much harder to achieve.
I doubt that Blizz is "worried" so much about WAR any more than AoC. They are not so clueless as to be jumping at shadows, as so many bloggers insinuate.

Sigh. I know. Gotta write about something.

Having said that, Blizz didn't become the most ginormous MMO in the known universe by playing the fool. This is clever marketing, plain and simple. It also gets more eyeballs on features that will need some kinks ironed out, I have no doubt.

But - desperation, or something like? Pshaw. "Citation needed." "Many people" are taking a page from Valleywag.
They announced the seiges and holding territory over a year ago when WAR and AoC announced the same things. (And of course AoC never even delivered.) So .. on one hand I think it is a response to them, (just like many features people have wanted like guild banks were not added until AFTER LOTRO had them) but it's not all of a sudden. I guess some people forgot all these press releases over a year ago.

However, the timing of the press release might be something. We've seen this same tactic from Microsoft and many other market leaders. Keep putting out the press releases saying "hey we're going to have this or that just wait".

Of course that's not the same as saying they are "worried" or "afraid", they are just trying to keep on top.

Though I'd be surprised if the new tradeskills are in the patch, they didn't put jewelcrafting in the 2.0 patch last time.

wyrm cartels are anti-competative. So the point is still sound.
I don't know why Blizzard wants to release all of this "expansion" content as a patch. My only guess is that they want to keep a large amount of subscribers when WAR is released knowing that some of those subscribers may not return to WotLK due to WAR. My second thought is that maybe Blizz is doing this for the same reason as the BC.....WotLK won't be out for a long time.

Either way, this kind of sucks for me. I'm going to have WAR, spore and other games to play. I think I'm gonna hold off on playing WoW until the actual expansion comes out. That way SO much seems news, rather then just new content and one new class.
[I doubt that Blizz is "worried" so much about WAR any more than AoC. They are not so clueless as to be jumping at shadows, as so many bloggers insinuate.]

Well they should and shouldn't be, WAR seems to be alot better built than AoC, not only that but im sure a lot of people who joined wow for pvp (and pretty much those that miss pvp in the start of wow) will be heading to WAR however on the pve side of things wow still has the advantage and probably always will, WAR is about pvp/rvr its not a pve game.

In that respect its kinda hard to compare the two wow is definite a better pve game but honestly its pvp system sucks really bad, full of honor camper with no skill and farming arena hoping your not facing a team that completely out gears you.
Will this patch include the planned faster 60-70 leveling? The announcement is a little vague but this would be a great idea - give people more time to experience the current endgame content.
I think it's funny that people keep talking about whether WoW "stole" the achievement system from WAR.

Achievement logs, journals, in-game bestiarys, accomplishment awards, etc,etc. have been around much longer than BOTH games.
I am thinking a Million to 1.5 Mill is not going to hurt Blizzard to much.
WAR will be fine, or may even turn into a niche title like LOTRO and AoC.
Blizzard will still own everyone (except us lucky few who broke out of that drug like state)

I don't know why Blizzard wants to release all of this "expansion" content as a patch

Because only 40 percent of thier AOC losses came back. And War is sounding far more casual friendly than AOC. Since thier bread and butter is the casual player I'd bet they are a bit worried.

Losing a few million in revenues is a painful thing at a publicly traded company regardless of how well you are actually doing.
There are two huge facts here and separating them will provide a lot of clarity.

1) Blizzard's development process is not influenced in any way by an external schedule. In order for Blizzard to time a release with something else, they either have to sit on finished product and wait (not likely) or take drastic steps to reduce the cycle, such as removing features or quality (not likely).

Blizzard's history indicates that they will never, ever be affected by the calendar, whether that calendar item is a holiday or a competing product.

2) Blizzard's marketing team and PR team have no such restrictions. They are free to say anything they want (subject to the normal Blizzard filter) at any time.

The timing of chatter about 3.0 and other items is not a coincidence with all the War talk going around.

Actual release, however, is still subject to much debate.
@tobold ditto on complacency and competition. Blizzard needs it just as much as we do. (competition I mean)
Actual release, however, is still subject to much debate.

You got that one right! I mean, the patch promises to introduce the inscription profession, and that one isn't even half finished yet in the beta version.
As I've said before, death of a thousand cuts.

With LOTRO, WAR, and AOC, players will always have a game to play once they burn though WOW's new content. This means that customers have real options (assuming Funcom gets their act together) and won't stick around once they consume the new expansion.

Of course this will put pressure on Blizzard to step it up.

Just watch.
I'm glad that the competition from new games forces Blizz to switch some things up. It is a bit annoying when they put off something for years, and only finally offer it after their competition does and they are essentially forced to.

One thing I'm really looking forward to in WAR: You can dye your armor. This is something WoW players have been wanting forever, both for customization and just to stop looking totally mismatched. WAR's got it, and hopefully WoW will follow suit - I only wish they had done it first, because their customers clearly want it.

@anonymous (Fedaykin98? maybe?)
As to dyes, there is a lot that WoW has missing that people have clamored for.
Good guild tools

Runes of Magic has ALL those features. And even LOOKS like WoW.

*Ponders RoM being better than WoW
I'm not suprised to see dyes in WAR, Mythic had that in DAoC as well.

I remember wasting alot of money making my plain brown armor into something much more pleasing to the eye.
Its hard to believe people would rather play anything than WOW since its still the best MMO.
I don't get the debate. Blizzard did the same thing before BC, released a patch that made changes and updates for the new expansion. I was a little suprised about Inscription being released, especially as people without the expansion are apparently going to be able to learn it. Do you think they'll release jewelcrafting to non-BC folks now?

openedge1: LotRO has two of those three features and looks similar to WoW, yet isn't considered a better game by most. I think it takes a bit more.
I'm not really a housing guy, wasn't in EQ2 nor DAoC. But in LOTRO I thought it was great.
[...] Tobold is of the opinion that this announcement is probably not related to WAR's upcoming release. I disagree.[...]
If War gets a million subscribers from WOW that is $180,000,000 in lost revenue a year. 500,000 is $90,000,000. Even if the game flops, its a major hit to Blizz. Blizz won't lose money, obviously, but its still more than enough money to worry about.

You bet their ass they worry about every MMO out there. Even one solid competitor will act as a leech as people will have an alternative to WoW when they get sick of it but need to get their MMO fix.

And frankly, given the massive f'ing turd AoC is, the fact they only recovered 40% of the ex-WoW subs is kind of horrifying. And they probably count me as one of those 40% who returned--- but I only activated my account to sell it, so I don't really count.
Lets but it another way-- AoC sold 800,000 copies. Assume half of that was WoW guys.

That 60% that didn't come back cost Blizz 43 million a year.

The Ishtar & Waterworld of MMOS still cost Blizzard 43 million a year.

So they are probably sweating bullets about WaR. It won't flop like AOC, it has a larger pull, and since they aren't releasing WAR in the same late Alpha state AOC came in, people won't be fleeing in disgust before they get too involved in the game. Any which way this goes, high or low, flop or not, Blizz is going to lose plenty of money.
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