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We are gathered here today to mark the passing of an MMO that was, for over a decade, singularly incapable of maintaining its own hype.

Inevitably, after an Expansion was launched, there’d be a glorious and brilliant honeymoon period where everybody you knew played, often well into the night or for far longer than was healthy. In fact, making time to be in Azeroth became a life skill many of us juggled with ease, much to the annoyance of non-players or those who had jobs which prevented them from full immersion. Then, as content dried up, so did players and the frustration at ActiBlizz’s inability to plan more than an Expansion ahead would rise, only to be appeased with first Blizzcon and then a Launch event.

That game died on August 23rd, 2017. From its still smouldering fel ashes rose Legion Patch 7.3 (aka Yes We Finally Cracked the Release Cycle, BE IMPRESSED), a glorious phoenix created by a year’s solid and unerring dedication to keep to schedule and provide long term, sustainable content that will last some of us for years after this Expansion is a memory. It paves the way for a huge, glorious Homecoming Opening Ceremony reveal at Blizzcon… and as 2018 arrives we’ll begin at least six months of Alpha/Beta testing, an interim patch (7.3.5) to provide content to reach as far as a new Pre-Expansion event and a Q2 launch, probably at the end of June.

Finally, everything came together: marketing, Social media and designers who have made recycled content the basis of everything that has taken place since your character hit Level 110. Everything from continental layouts to doodads (the building blocks of the game) can now be repurposed and redesigned in a fraction of the time of previous Expansions. The reason why things look familiar is, undoubtedly, that you’ve seen them before: just recoloured or subtly redesigned versions of previous zones, with changes to flora, fauna and architecture. This has allowed the game to keep pace with progress, and maintain a push to keep players engaged. In effect, players now dictate change on their own terms.

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From wowhead.com

Those amazed that 7.3 is due next week fail to grasp that Warcraft is increasingly being streamlined to provide content for all forms of competitive players, not simply high end raiders. Instead of waiting for everybody to have completed content, it is now front loaded in a manner which suits the broadest range of consumers. This means it doesn’t matter any more that less than 25 Guilds have ‘beaten’ the previous Tier. 7.3 will provide the means for even more individuals to complete outstanding raids, catching up to the most current point, allowing anyone to dip in and out as they choose. Knowing this is how Azeroth is now consumed, the game itself is currently on special offer to buy until the start of September.

It’s all part of a concerted plan to pull as many people as possible back into the experience.

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I’d not expect to see 7.3 raiding activated until late September, or until there’s at least 250 Guilds with Mythic ToS complete. There might, in certain places, be expectation of a last mini raid in early 2018, but after that? Well, historical wisdom would predict at least six months of the last tier will fly in the face of the relentless pace of progress, but we know that’s not the game being played any more. The fact that hints of the next Expansion are hidden in current game files is enough of a prompt for me to be confident that when the time comes at Blizzcon, this will be an Expansion reveal the like of we have never seen before.

This will finally herald the beginning of the next generation of World of Warcraft.

Watching the 7.3 reveal on Wednesday was a reminder that this is no longer the game I began playing in 2005. The innocence of discovery and exploration has passed: I doubt its like will ever be seen in any game again. It isn’t just the period that version of Warcraft was born in, it is the people who made that history a unique part of their own existences. This Warcraft is stronger, more robust and can be produced with the speed demanded by a modern audience. It is fully monetised too, both in merchandise and esports. That’s the key: what began as a happy accident has now been moulded and shaped into a fully self-funding behemoth, which shows no signs of reducing in popularity or scope as time marches on.

The old Warcraft is finally dead. Long live the new Warcraft.

4 thoughts on “The End

  1. Funny enough, I liked it better when there was a lapse. I am not your typical WoW player anymore I suspect though. I liked getting the expansion, playing all the content I was capable of completing, and then going to play other things and shelving the game until the new expansion came out. (this was after I stopped being a raider).

    This time, I absolutely loved the game. And then I hit my own wall, and stopped before the new, high level loot repeatable content zone was created (whats that called again?) but I did make it to see half the bosses in Nighthold via LFR and ran all the 5 man content to my hearts content.

    It was a good expansion. I am now waiting for it to ‘end’ so I can just play through to the ‘end’ and then get into my waiting pattern. But that may never happen!

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  2. Great analysis, and it points to the differences in the current game compared to old. I was never particularly bothered by the long, end of expansion content gaps, because I could just dip out and play something else in that time (or get all classes to cap), but under the current structure, I’m remaining pretty engaged with WoW and I think that’s a good thing. Certainly justifies staying subscribed, if nothing else!

    I’m curious to see if they’ll stick the landing on an expansion launch, though – Legion itself has been fantastic but the testing schedule we’ll have to see to launch an expansion on the same timetable is ambitious, to say the least. But I do think they’ll do it – because it’s the promise that Legion has made and (so far) kept.

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  3. I am optimistic but don’t you think it is a little early to declare victory, especially when Mists and Warlords had similar release schedules at this part of their cycles and might still get 18 months without a major patch.
    The community feels more pessimistic than ever these days (I’m drowning under complaints that either the patches are too frequent or that 7.3 is content light and heavily recycled for a major patch), but i guess that just explains why I try avoiding the community these days.

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  4. I’m optimistica becase as alt points out there is a lot leading into the next story line already and things like the Key art – its a bold and ballsy move if you can’t back it up. Blizz know they have hit the point where if the previsous behaviour and timescales comeback they have lost everyone for good. They know eSports will not forgive them and if they want a competitive Mythic+ eSport – you need new and fresh content to pit people against – not just the current stuff. And this may be where we see expansions end in their traditional sense as the patch cycle makes them meaningless. Sport / TV will lead them to a ‘season’ approach – a subtle shift but one i think we’ve already seen happen.

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