11 March 2012

This Just In: Bombshell Edition

My apologies for the lack of posts this week.  I told myself when I launched this blog that I would not allow myself to turn it into a second "job."  When I feel an interest to post, I do.  This week I lacked inspiration in terms of topics to discuss, so I didn't want to force myself to write something up when I really wasn't interested.  Honestly I believe that is best for both me and my readers.  You guys don't want to read uninspired drivel any more than I want to write it.  So let's just stick to the juicy stuff.  That being said, it was pretty easy to pick out the "big three" news stories for this past week.  There was some big news involving some heavy hitters, so let's get to it!

Blizzard REALLY Wants you to Come Back to World of Warcraft!

The first story I want to discuss comes that big ol' MMO train that just keeps chugging along, World of WarcraftBlizzard announced major chages to the "Scroll of Resurrection" program designed to encourage old players to return to the game.  On top of the current XP bonuses and travel benefits, the Scroll now provides the returning player with:

1)  A free upgrade to Cataclysm, regardless of your previous account status
2)  One character automatically leveled to 80
3)  One free realm/faction transfer to the realm/faction of the referring character
4)  One week free game time

And for the referring account, a free faction based flying mount.

Wow, that is quite the gift bag.  The only "catch" I suppose is getting a friend already in the game to shoot you a Scroll, but I would wager that almost every former WoW player still knows a current WoW player.  Heck I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't start seeing current players offer their "services" on various blogs and forums to send Scrolls to old players wanting to return.  Blizzard sure seems to be in the business of giving away value these days.  First it was the "Annual Pass" that essentially gave away Diablo 3 for free, and now they are giving away expansions and microtransactions in these new Scrolls.  But on the other hand, they have to realize that three expansions and their associated cost is a barrier to entry at this point.  Expansions aren't exactly optional in WoW and that is a cost that adds up fast for a truly new player.

At the same time I find the "free 80" especially interesting.  One of the major focuses of Cataclysm was the old world revamp and the changes to 1-60 questing.  This freebie essentially lets you bypass all that.  Is this just yet another way for Blizzard to say, "The leveling game is meaningless.  Just get to endgame as quick as you can?"  I don't know, but I will say this... it would be worth it to me just to skip Burning Crusade leveling.  60-70 is easily the most painful experience in WoW right now.  It just feels so antiquated compared to the rest of the game and sticks out like a very ugly sore thumb.

Diablo 3 to Ship Without PvP

Staying in the wild, wild world of Blizzard we also had big news on the Diablo 3 front this week.  D3 will be shipping without its major PvP features enabled in order to meet its intended release date.  Now from my personal point of view, this does not bother or concern me one bit.  As I have said before, I am no PvP'er and so its absence would not affect my decision to buy the game one way or the other.  However I know that PvP is a huge consideration to a small portion of the playerbase, and an important one for many others.  Even those who are only marginally interested in PvP are going to be somewhat dismayed by this decision.  So I know this will affect a lot of people besides myself.

That having been said, I don't think this will really have that much of an impact on initial sales or overall interest in the game..... provided that Blizzard is able to patch in and activate the PvP features within a reasonable time frame.  As I understand it, PvP will be mostly an "endgame" activity in D3.  In other words, players will want to finish the game itself and acquire gear and skills before engaging in PvP to begin with.  So, if Blizzard can get those features in before those players that are interested in it reach that point in the game, all will be well.  If it is delayed and those PvP'ers are sitting around with nothing to do for a considerable time, you will see some grumbling.  Although, since D3 is not a true MMO, and there is no recurring fee to play, what are those players going to do?  Blizzard already has their money.  Not like they can "vote with their feet" and cancel.

1.7 Million Denizens of the Galaxy Far, Far Away 

As we have discussed previously, one "side effect" of an MMO being run by a publicly owned corporation is that they are obligated to release more in the way of specific information regarding sales and subscriptions.  So this week EA released some new numbers regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic sales and subs.  They are reporting 1.7 million active subscriptions and that the "vast majority" of those accounts are outside their free thirty days and have paid for at least a one-month sub.  While it would be nice to know how many exactly qualifies as the "vast majority," it can be safely said that a large number of people found the game to be a worthwhile investment.

Now you already know that I am one of those that has already left the game, so take what I'm about to say here with a grain of salt.  Believe it or not, I think SW:TOR will continue to do just fine.  You have to keep in mind the game's target audience.  The people it is designed to appeal to (MMO newcomers and Star Wars fans) are going to enjoy rerolling new characters, using the Legacy system, etc.  And perhaps more importantly, they are not going to be "tempted" by the spate of new MMO releases coming down the pipe this summer.  The average player of SW:TOR is not going to be interested in niche games like TERA or The Secret World and perhaps minimally interested in Guild Wars 2.  Most of the players interested in those games have either already left SW:TOR (like me) or never bought it in the first place.  So to suggest the game is "set up" for a huge decline is a bit premature in my mind. 

Ok next week I plan to bring you fully up to date on my return to Telara and my thoughts on RIFT after a six month absence.  Plus I want to look at TERA in a little more detail.  The more cursory information I come across regarding this game, the more curious I become about it.  Is there anything here worth getting excited about?  I'm going to try and find out.

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