|So, I have a problem.|
I was involved in a quite serious discussion Friday night over how Blizzard makes this game. A lot of very relevant points were made, and it became apparent in my mind that there is a fairly serious issue with the path Warcraft has taken in terms of its 'development' cycle. The problem is beautifully simple: the Big Red Reset Button of Doom is no longer fit for long-term use. For the purposes of this post, I really don't care what new features Blizzard wheel out for Legion. Content in this debate is completely irrelevant. What is causing the bigger discomfort, and is now abundantly apparent from where I sit, involves the time it takes without anything different being presented as content from the end of one Expansion to the start on the next.
Let's be clear here, I'm not asking for a shortening of the timescales between Expansions. As far as I am concerned you can take three years to go from Legion to whatever happens next. However, if you leave a year with no new content to cover the shortfall? Then nobody has learned anything. A company really can't announce the end of organised raiding and then take over a year to get the next bit of the puzzle into place. That's just unacceptable when Blizzard's other slew of titles are perfectly capable and keep producing rolling, organic updates. More importantly, I cannot see how Blizzard in good conscience can 'sell' another Expansion like this again. It's painful and frankly embarrassing to watch the 'let's reinvent classes again and see if we can get it right' and 'oh yeah change all these mechanics too in the hope that things are enticing and people stay for longer.' Also, having Alpha/Beta as some kind of 24/7 marketing jamboree cannot realistically be a long term solution, because the people you're using to do so will we burnt out husks by the time the game launches and that's just wrong.
Should Legion finally bring some much needed sanctity to Azeroth's almost perpetually altering mechanics? Could we just leave the damn thing alone and stop fiddling with it?
I've lost count of the number of things I've suggested ought to be changed over the years, and this isn't about the nuts and bolts any more. Here is the basic concept that you buy this game, and then you play it. Blizzard finally got the memo that said 'if you don't get new people into Azeroth this is Game Over regardless' and now anyone with a cinema ticket to That Movie could end up with what for me was several hundred pounds worth of investment for probably less than a tenner. That stings a bit to start with: the investment made over the years in this game, devolved down to the price of a ticket to see a film about a place that bears only a passing resemblance to the concept it's being used to sell. However, that is nothing compared to the slow strangulation I'm watching of 'new' content that, let's be honest, may not be available for the majority of the population for close to SEVEN MONTHS. This is ridiculous, that I watch websites making news out of something that doesn't even exist for 95% of the active subscriber base except on their webpages, or in Twitch broadcasts, or on You Tube.
Yes, I know that includes me. That actually bothers me most of all, because the people I would want to share this with aren't those who'll make me money from clicking through my adverts, or subscribing to my stream. Many of them are friends who have said they don't want to know what happens because otherwise it'll be lame and sad to play when Legion goes live. I'm beginning to see their point.
And so on Friday night there was an epiphany of almost earth-shattering proportions. Yes, I'll test Alpha this week, and Beta, and whatever else I get given, but this has to stop. Why can't we just have rolling, constant updates like Hearthstone and Heroes? Why can't Warcraft stop reinventing what actually exists, sticking new maps on top of one another because people won't play unless the content is 'new:' really, truthfully, there is only so much you can shove into your Universe before people lose interest. This isn't about big and showy any more, it's the process of maintaining a living and breathing world long term in time-scales that are at present not being met or even adequately considered. That's just dumb. More significantly, the long-term marketing objectives of this title need a do-over, they really do. The mystery and excitement of this Expansion can be hyped to kingdom come for the new people, but I'm beginning to get a real sense that Blizzard's lip service to the existing player base is just that.
Maybe the suits could stop selling the upcoming stuff and genuinely consider producing new content all the time, that covers the end of Expansions and that keeps things ticking over every day, regardless of the long-term objectives. Is that possible? Could we at least try that at the end of Legion and see where it takes us, because honestly I'm not sure that the title will keep supporting the amount of money you keep asking from people to do so, and when that stops, we're all out of a job.
Mostly, I'm tired of watching people making money from something that doesn't actually exist for potentially another seven months.