So I was perusing through the countless articles and blog entries I've let slip the past few days while I've been on a vacation to work-a-lot land, and there's rampant speculation out there about when WoW: Cataclysm will drop. There are many who think late 2010, and a few others who see that this timeline does not quite add up without another major content patch or two between Icecrown Citadel and Cataclysm. Not only does that seem unlikely based on the trailer from Blizzcon for the new expansion, but Blizzard has publicly stated that they would like to move more towards an expansion every 12 months instead of every 21-24 months. However, I wonder if this is such a good idea for the game.
Blizzard has set the bar high for expansion content, including new zones and leveling experiences. Perhaps part of the solution is to cut this content in half, whch may be happening with only 5 new levels in Cataclysm. However, there's a whole new way to add customization to your character and your guild, and the number of new zones rivals that of Burning Crusade and Northrend, or at least comes very close. Adding in all the changes to the old world, and Cataclysm has just as much content as TBC and WOTLK. Can Blizzard get enough development on staff to keep the game this vibrant and new while refreshing the scene every 12 months? Furthermore, will people pay $40 every year for a game they subscribe to already? These are the tough questions Blizzard must face if they are serious about the 12-month time window.
On the bright side, the storyline for an expansion could really be solidly packed into 9 months or so, slamming out 4 tiers of raiding with a new tier every 3 months or so. While that will keep endgame players refreshed and happy, I don't think there will be time for you to truly experience the total beauty of an expansion at that pace. Of course this all assumes Blizzard keeps expansions at the same high level, which they may not. Two of the huge storylines in the Warcraft universe is the blending of Draenor and Azeroth and the Arthas fall...we've now covered those. While Deathwing is a true villain, I don't believe any other setting can reach the same potential...not even the Maelstorm or the Emerald Dream, both longtime rumored expansion settings. Perhaps it is time for Blizzard to bring out less content in an expansion, but they better believe the box game is not worth $40 anymore if that is the case. I can stay up to date with my other love which is sports games for $100 a year ($50 per game for the newest football and baseball games every year on console). For WoW, the price would jump to $196, and that's if you pay in 6 month increments and get the discount. That's a lot of money even considering it's great bang for the buck.
So it will be very interesting to me to see when Cataclysm comes out. One has to believe we are only a few weeks away from Patch 3.2.2 and Onyxia reloaded now that the Tier 9 Coliseum raid is fully released. Then it's hard to imagine Blizzard would hold Icecrown beyond the beginning of December, which means people will be chomping at the bit for new content by March or April. That's only 18 months from the release of WOTLK, and it could let us infer that expansion content/quality/timing will continue to change. Only time will tell if this is a good business decision, but perhaps by the time these changes become a problem, Blizzard will have out their second MMORPG and will be crushing the market with something else. Dare to dream, Blizzard. Dare to dream.
Do you think 12 months is too soon to experience the content? Let me know in the comments as I'm really wondering if I'm alone in this belief. And I hope to be back to more regular posting soon, but the closing on our house is in 8 days and moving/sportswriting/work have cut my WoW time to about nil. Thus, I have very little to report on now. Thanks for dropping by and we'll see you around!