Consequences: Reactions to potential release dates for Warlords of Draenor

By now, most of the WoW player base is likely aware that Warlords of Draneor is available for preorder. Pre-purchasing a digital copy of the expansion unlocks one Level-90 boost available immediately for one toon, with the Collectors Edition offering additional rewards in the form of a unique mount and pet.

More pertinent to this post however, is the fact that Blizzard has declared that Warlords of Draenor will see a Fall release. In the fiscal calendar, this allows a comfortable leeway for WoD to be released anywhere between September-December, thus giving Blizzard plenty of time to work on last-minute issues that may arise during Beta (or presumably issues that have existed since before Beta).
Watcher has been quick to clarify on Twitter, that the 20th of December is not an official release date, but rather the maximum possible date under which a WoD release could still technically fall under Fall (pun intended).

At this point however, I’m going to make an educated guess and say that it seems highly unlikely that Warlords will be out any time before September. When Blizzard first previewed WoD last November, there was speculation that Beta would start very shortly before Christmas, and that we’d see a summer release of Warlords at the latest.
Guesses about Beta obviously turned out to be wrong, but I’ll admit that even I’m taken aback by the prospect of a Fall release for WoD. If a summer release is out of the question, then it will mean that Tier 16 (a.k.a. Siege of Orgrimmar) will last for a minimum of 11 total months, with the potential extend beyond an entire year if Blizzard chooses to make full use of the period under which Fall lasts in the fiscal year.

Understandably, there’s been a great deal of debate and upset on various forms of social media about this. Even with progression still continuing for a majority of guilds, a sizeable chunk of Heroic raiding guilds are left with the prospect of farming SoO for a period that could rival or even beat Tier 10’s duration (i.e. Icecrown Citadel in WoTLK). The beginning of a brand new PvP season just now, combined with Holinka’s tweets about the maximum length an average PvP season could last (again: NOT a declaration of actual length), does little to allay concerns about how long it could be till 6.0 goes Live.

In #Acherus, we’ve been debating what this could mean for a potential Beta release. Truth be told I was disappointed when Beta wasn’t released towards the end of January, and with this announcement I could even believe that it would be pushed all the way into mid-April. #Acherus also debated about what this could mean for potential subscriber loss, which is a definite concern that I’m sure Blizzard has also been considering.
My friend Scott Helfand (@SvelteKumquat on Twitter) asked an interesting series of questions in two tweets that I believe many of us should consider: Is it not possible (probable, even) that the number of subscribers lost to a rushed and half-baked version of WoD would outweigh the potential number that will likely be lost due to the projected Fall release date?

I’ll sidetrack here with a cautionary tale: That of 3DO’s. 3DO was the company responsible for the first half the the Heroes of Might and Magic and Might and Magic series of games. Unlike Blizzard, 3DO stuck to their deadlines- to their ultimate detriment. After a number of games were rush-released with cut features, buggy content and downright shoddy scripting, subscriber numbers flopped. Both Might and Magic IX and Heroes of Might and Magic IV were 3DO’s last games; the company eventually declared bankruptcy and sold the rights to both series of games to Ubisoft (which continues to produce them).
As someone who played 3DO’s rushed games, I can personally tell you that there’s nothing worse than sampling a much anticipated product of this former caliber only to find it tainted and defective due to a rushed job.

Blizzard seems to have learned from these mistakes, and has previously shown qualities that I admire: They rarely stick to firm deadlines and are also unafraid to scrap an entire project if it doesn’t meet their community standards, rather than release a bad product. This applies not only to in-game features, but entire games such as Starcraft: Ghost and, if rumours are to be believed, the original incarnation of Project Titan.

Don’t mistake this as me making excuses for the way MoP seems to be destined to end- a Fall release means that Siege or Orgrimmar will still have been a single tier of content for far too long, and WoD’s “unravelling” process has been painfully slow thus far. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is also that Tiers 14 and 15 were unnecessarily short and could have had at least 6-8 additional weeks (Tier 14 especially) added to them. This, in turn, would have pushed the release of Tier 16 till Christmas and thus not made it seem so long.

Ultimately, the best I feel we can hope for right now is that Blizzard uses this generous allotment of time to develop an expansion that matches their high standards and outpaces our own. My next couple of posts will cover my critical analysis of certain announced WoD features.
See you then!

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2 thoughts on “Consequences: Reactions to potential release dates for Warlords of Draenor

  1. I can admire the desire to only put out a product when it’s polished and ready, but why haven’t they learned anything about pacing over the last years? It’s a topic I’ve written about a lot, since it drives me crazy.

    Tier 14 was so short. 5 months for 32 encounters? I know my guild could have used another month or two to get more heroics down. I thought Tier 15 was a reasonable length when looked at on its own, but compared to T16 it was a bit short too. In Cataclysm, the boss encounters to time spent in the tier ratio went down with each tier. I wonder if Blizzard has no concept of holding things back? Just because the 2nd or 3rd tier of the expansion has been tested and deemed ready to go live, doesn’t mean that it needs to right away. We always get a glut of content right at the start of the xpac – a lot of raid bosses, a number of individual raid instances, plus all the non raiding stuff. We still need to level up, get rep, see the new sights. I can understand wanting to have a lot to offer so that people want to buy the new expansion, but not at the cost of a horribly dull and overly long last tier.

    1. Fully agree with both of the preceding tiers being too short, T-14 especially. If I recall correctly, T-15 was slated for an even earlier release. A negative community reaction delayed that by around 3 weeks, but what’s interesting is that I noted a high number of non-raiding individuals pushing for an early 5.2 release, presumably because they had long since outpaced all non-raid content.

      It makes me wonder if Blizzard’s decisions to cut both tiers short was the result of miscalculating T-16’s potential length, coupled with a nervousness about losing subscribes mid-expansion. Whatever the reasoning then, it’s had an unfortunate snowballing effect that’s culminated in the monster T-16 is looking like right now.

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