While thinking over a comment for Wilhelm’s list of 2014 MMOs, I began thinking about World of Warcraft and the Warlords of Draenor expansion. In a separate post he’d predicted that Draenor will ship in September of this year. That seems entirely reasonable as Blizzard has favoured an autumn or winter release date for all of WoW’s expansions to date.
In thinking about the games I’ll play this year, I also am certain I will not be subscribed to World of Warcraft the entire year. Ghostcrawler stated in interview that the Timeless Isle patch (5.4) was the last content patch except for the customary pre-expansion patch near to the launch:
Patch 5.4 is the last content patch, but we will release bug fixes and balancing patches after that as usual. A preview content patch will also be released pre-expansion. Blizzcon is a good time to tell something about that.
That’s pretty crazy given the current overcrowded MMO market, it’s nothing new for Blizzard, but in previous expansion cycles they didn’t have so many competing MMOs with faster update cycles. The main point here is not the specific month interval between patches but that World of Warcraft is a bit of an anomaly in that the playerbase are essentially told to “stick it” at the end of a patch cycle and to wait ages for new content of the expansion. For example the gap between September 2011 (Cataclysm) and August 2012 (launch of Pandaria) was a very long time for players to be repeating the same content. Likewise now we’re faced with potentially a year between the launch of patch 5.4 (September 2013) and the as-yet-unannounced launch date for Draenor (Wilhelm speculated Sept 2014 in the linked post above).
I have some more stuff to do in Pandaria before I’m done with the expansion, such as the legendary cloak grind and finishing off the last few bits of cooking mastery. I can’t see that taking me much past February or March though. The inevitable gear reset from Draenor’s quest rewards also deadens any desire to ‘gear up’ my characters beyond the bare minimum to see the current tier of content. If it weren’t for the requirement to grind various raiding tokens for the cloak I would have been happy with one complete run of each raid just to see the story elements contained in each.
In my recent post about games for 2014, I mentioned that the subscription model is an impediment to my wanting to try certain upcoming games. I think this applies equally to older games though. Buying game time in blocks of months doesn’t seem that sensible anymore as I’m not likely to get my “money’s worth”. It’s no issue with hybrid games (like LOTRO or EQ2) since I can drop the sub as desired and still play sporadically as a free-to-play player. But the holdouts of subscription-only access (WoW, FFXIV, upcoming Wildstar and Elder Scrolls) do not seem attractive anymore. There’s been some suggestions on the blogosphere that 2014 will herald a “return of the sub” – given that several high-profile games are launching sub-only. I remain skeptical that such games will prosper under that model beyond the rush of the launch-day zerg. I suspect we’ll see more free to play conversions coming in the year ahead.