So then. Pandas.
This is a pretty bold move for Blizzard, I'd wager. Let's face facts, these guys were a joke to begin with. To make them a playable race could be construed either as a mark of genius or one of utter stupidity. Of course you don't have to play them, their new class (the Monk) will be available to (nearly) all the existing races, but you will need to enter the vast floating world they inhabit to raid at Level 90. I suspect this might be a move too far for those who already consider introducing a 'cute' race is somehow a dilution of Warcraft's essence. They are out there as well, blogging this morning, saying that their time with the game is over. However, the vast majority of comment I'm seeing appears to be positive: the vanity pet lovers are celebrating Pokemon (Azeroth Edition), the Runescape lovers are applauding Scenarios and there are even a few people looking forward to doing all their Dungeons in Gold Medal times. If you look hard enough, there appears to be something here to appease everyone.
The fact that so many people actually require appeasement to begin with should make Blizzard realise that they might actually have dropped the ball with Cataclysm. Having been forced back to basically redesign the game's Talent System again FROM SCRATCH seems to me like an admission of guilt. However there is a clear message in all of this that I suspect will only sink in as people walk away from the Convention: people have been given more stuff to do THAT'S NOT RAIDING. All of these things, all of the stuff that's been added to the game, NONE of it is really related to making 10 and 25 man raiding the focus. Of course the Hardcore Guilds will still do it, there'll still be the Paragons and the Ensidias plugging away... or will there? There's no big boss to defeat this time around folks, no nemesis to thwart. That's probably the boldest of moves in all of this: you get to the last Patch of Pandarea and there is no battered bloody head to hold aloft to proclaim 'you won.' I wonder, for the progression guys, will there really be any incentive to want to run this content any more?
I for one am waiting to see how the Hardcore react to all this. A part of me imagines that if That Lucasfilm Game can present the unhappy raider with a viable alternative to what Warcraft has offered for nearly seven years that they could well capitalise on this move towards content dilution. Again, as was the case with Cataclysm, this new set of opportunities may simply be a convenient excuse for some people simply to pack their bags and move on. What is clear is that Blizzard have obviously identified the areas where there is interest in game for those people who don't currently raid 'full time' and is now clearly catering to those people with limited time. The vanity pet fights, let's face it, is a whole mini-game in itself waiting to be launched as an iPhone app. Scenarios are deliberately meant to last no more than 30 minutes. This for the generation who don't spend hours farming the same mobs until their eyes bleed. This is for people who want quick rewards without a lot of effort.
The biggest issue with all the information right now is that none of it is actually set in stone. The Dance Studio, Path of the Titans... many Blizzcon-launched features have been lost forever in the mists of Development Hell. We'll be waiting for the Beta to see if all this actually comes to pass, and of course as you've all bought your Annual Passes already that means the Beta will be yours to command. That's an utter master-stroke on Blizzard's part, hats off to the guy who thought that idea up. You guarantee $XXXXXXX up front for a year, Blizzard know just how many people are prepared to commit their money up front for all this effort. I'm guessing this morning there's a LOT of people who've put their money where their hearts are, even with the current climate of Economic uncertainty. This will be the true measure of Blizzcon's success. How people react as a result will be very, very interesting indeed.