WoW Factor: The good and the bad of World of Warcraft’s patch 7.2 date

Boy, this is a time I am glad to be wrong. I was outright worried that Blizzard was going to hold patch 7.2 for a much longer span of time, but no, it’s hitting World of Warcraft on March 28th. That’s good! It’s still squarely aimed at trying to kneecap something else going on that same day, arguably, but at least it isn’t being held for months. I’m going to count that as a good thing.

In fact, there’s something very good baked into the announcement, something that’s easy to miss. Of course, there’s also something very bad baked in as well, or at least the hint of something bad, a thought I’ve stated before in passing but I haven’t really elaborated on before. So today I want to examine both sides of this. Why this patch date makes me very happy and very worried at the same time. (Mostly the former, if you’re wondering, but the latter is relevant.)

Walking the walk

The walk involves putting your shoulders back and thinking of murder.One of the things that I think I’ve harped on more than once with regards to Legion is the idea that it’s not enough simply for Blizzard to say that the company has learned lessons. Fixing the massive amount of ill will acquired with Warlords of Draenor would not and could not happen with anything less than active changes to the way the game updated and how it approached content. This was vital. More than talking the talk, the game needed to walk the walk.

Thus far through the expansion cycle, it seems safe to say now that the effort is being made in a genuine sense.

Since the expansion’s release in late August, we’ve had seven months and three major patches: 7.1, 7.1.5, and 7.2. That doesn’t work out to a clockwork schedule, and you can argue how major 7.1.5 wound up being in the long run, but the effort was there. There’s a definite concentrated effort to give players new things to do, adjust the way the game plays, and improve areas based on feedback. No, we haven’t seen some adjustments that I might consider smart, but there’s a definite sense of delivering on promises.

That’s a big deal, and I think it’s way too easy to overlook that. There’s a notable gap since the last big patch, which was in late October of last year, but 7.1.5 was meant to bridge the gap and largely filled that promise. We’re getting a lot of things in 7.2 we didn’t have before, including things that will appeal to players who may not have experienced some of the content in previous patches like non-Mythic versions of certain dungeons.

One patch alone doesn’t establish that as a pattern, but three in relatively quick succession? Yeah. The effort is being made here. The walk is being walked.

It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen this degree of vigor in the game’s updates, chiefly because the last point of comparison we have was two expansions back before a very lengthy expansion gap. As a result, it feels very new for the game, like a real return to form. I can’t help but admire the dedication going on here, the amount of focus being put into the game’s content. More to the point, we know where we’re going from here. After Warlords of Draenor’s song of “we’re doing this, wait, no we’re not, wait, yes we are” ad infinitum, the fact that we have a course and a plan and patches actually hitting live on a regular basis means a lot.

The goal with Legion has, in no small part, been about restoring good will after abusing it rather badly for a while. The game’s development and patching cycle is bearing that out so far, and the fact that the patch date for 7.2 wasn’t determined by holding it over until another company launched a major expansion is partly a sing of that. It’s being launched when it makes sense for this game. Good show.

But what happens next?

We do indeed know where we go from here, of course. The next raid opens up, there’s another interquel patch, then we get 7.3 (which we’ve already had hints about). At our current pace of updates, that’s probably all going to be out by about, say, August at the latest. And… then what?

This is the one thing that’s always been kind of bothering me since 7.1 hit so quickly. Yes, the developers are definitely making an effort to fix the issue of having no patches for so much of the Warlords cycle, much less patches with no real content. But playing everything that the expansion has too early creates a different problem, the rightfully dreaded expansion gap.

Having power over time would have prevented this.

Already, speculation is floating that we won’t hear about the next WoW expansion at BlizzCon. That’s far from certain at this point, but it is a very real possibility. And the fact of the matter is that between what we already know about Legion’s planned patch cycle and the game’s development, there’s a very real possibility that patch 7.3 will be it until that next expansion.

So if we don’t hear about it in November… when do you think we’re actually getting that next expansion? Because I see another year or more of nothing on the horizon, and it’s not pretty. It’s even uglier now, because while the studio has finally promised to stop promising faster expansions when it keeps not happening, you don’t want to be saying “it’ll be even longer until the next expansion” when players are looking at a solid year of nothing much to do.

Good news for people who have too much stuff on their gaming plates right now to fit everything in, as you’ll have plenty of time to catch up. Bad news for people who want the game to not stagnate and lose players who just won’t bother coming back the next time around.

Obviously, this is partly speculation. But we’re looking at a rather long expansion gap anyway even if we first find out about the next expansion in August (which, you’ll recall, was a big surprise when it happened for Legion) unless development is already well underway on the expansion. I do not exactly have faith that the team has revamped its production cycle to be closer to that of another game, which has maintained a clockwork-like update pace. The thought that we might be looking at something even longer than that…

So that’s the bad thing, really. It’s no longer a question of whether or not the current team can walk the walk on delivering more content; that’s being done, and it’s being done admirably and efficiently, which makes me happy. What is still a question is whether or not every part of that walk will be followed. That puts a question mark on everything.

As always, feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. I look forward to your own theories about when we’ll see more updates and whether or not we should expect an expansion announcement this year; they’re all theories unless you work for Blizzard, after all. (And if you do work for Blizzard, telling us would probably get you fired, so don’t do that.) We’ll find out one way or the other.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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21 Comments on "WoW Factor: The good and the bad of World of Warcraft’s patch 7.2 date"

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Dobablo

I wouldn’t be surprised if Legion was effectively a double-A side of an expansion with several episodes of Legion-Azeroth being followed up with multiple episodes on Legion-Argus. I semi-expect 7.3 to introduce several Argus zones and instances where save outposts of the Army of Light then a later patch adding a final zone where we overthrow Kil’jaeden.

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Ben Stone

I think the last WoW speculation article showed how accuate your guesses are. It was also full of misinformation about the content cadence. Guessing noone on the team actually still plays? Might be important if you are going to do speculation articles.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Legion launched on 8.30.16 with a 7-boss raid, and Nighthold launched 1.20.17 with 10 bosses. In between they threw in Trial of Valor, a mini-raid with 3 more bosses. With 7.2 coming out on schedule 3.28.17, and the announced 11-week lead-in campaign to Tomb, that means we will see Tomb on or around 6.13.17.

All of that is right on track with the comments Blizzard made before and soon after Legion launched that they think a major raid should last 4-5 months. They have consistently hit that pace so far this expansion, with some other odd bits thrown in between major raid openings.

Based on their comments that they have given up trying to push expansions out faster, in favor of doing longer expansions with more content throughout, it’s safe to assume their target is for Legion to be a two-year expansion, which means the next will launch 8.30.18.

And we already know that they have announced something having to do with Argus, which likely will be another content patch like 7.2, with a new zone. On the pace they have kept so far, we should see Argus come out with 7.3 in August, and whatever raid will come with it, assuming there is one, in late October or early November.

At that point, all that would be left, and what would most obviously fill in the gap, would be to release one final raid in March – April ’18 (maybe another mini-raid like Trial), to give everyone one last thing to work on until the next expansion launches five months later.

So far, all signs point to them being able to do that without a whole lot of trouble. They could drop the ball, but nothing we have seen so far, in Legion, gives a good reason to think they will.

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Brother Maynard

Where was it written that 7.3 is supposed to be the last Legion (content) patch? I must have missed it.

Why couldn’t it go to 7.6? 7.9? 7.11? It’s not like there’s no precedent for that in WoW history…

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David Goodman

I haven’t seen it anywhere either, but I see a LOT of people assuming it is – nobody who is close to the development to be a safe source. Everything just THINKS Argus is it for the xpac.

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Targeter

At Blizzcon, Ion got up and said that the final patch would take us to Argus. While ‘final patch’ was not the *actual* verbage used, it was heavily implied by the statement “wrapup to the Legion story.” I don’t think folks are too far afield to assume that 7.3 will be the end of the Legion expansion for all intents and purposes.

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David Goodman

I mean, I understand WHY it can be taken that way – Argus and what it implies can easily be argued as being an end-point, and it would be a good one.

But unless he said that as actual verbage, I don’t like making assumptions and implications on things. You can’t trust Blizzard to be clear- they’re craftly little devils :)

Plus there’s any number of sub-patches they can do still – 7.3.1, 7.3.2… and if 7.1.5 is any indication of what they consider “Small’, then I’m OK with that too. There can still be plenty of ‘content’ even after the main xpac story wraps up

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Sally Bowls

While cynics could call 7.1.5 major by WoD standards, devs explicitly called it a small patch. Kinda similar to the old Intel tic-toc, the plan is for alternating large and small patches.

Whereas on yesterday’s dev stream, the dev characterized 7.2 as the largest patch in the history of Blizzard.

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Jeff

/Looks at patch and state of game….goes back to playing ESO.

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Rick Mills

I’m not convinced that speculating about a content drought can be a viable “bad thing”. It’s a straw man argument and you are currently wrong about the current patch release, which weakens your straw man.
My advice – “Don’t worry, be happy”.

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Vincent Clark

“squarely aimed”…touche, sir!

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Jeremy Barnes

So what is this other thing on the 28th that this patch is kneecapping?

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Sally Bowls

IMO, kneecapping is a bit strong. It is only FF XIV. I don’t think Bliz is sad to drop on a FF day, but I can’t see that FF would matter that much to them. Conversely, are there that many FF who would be wooed away from WoW?

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Ben Stone

Yeah I doubt the launch date has anything to do with another game. Anyone following the updates on PTR could see they just polished it and launched it when it was ready.

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Vincent Clark

FFXIV is releasing their final (supposedly) patch before the next expansion on the same day (which will conclude the finale to the Heavensward main scenario quests).

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Targeter

Not announcing the xpac at Blizzcon (or at Gamescom this year) would be suicide.

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chriskovo .

The part 2 Flying achievement is bullshit, the first part was bullshit too. I’m getting sick of WOW and Blizzard in general. Think the whole manager team needs to be fired and the game fixed. They should not be shoving forced content requirements we don’t want to do down our throats. IM the customer and decide what’s fun or not. Not them!

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Robert Mann

I remember having that same attitude way back when I played… although about different activities.

I argued and debated with their CM teams for quite a while, and eventually realized that no matter how logical a point they would simply say “No, it’s not” like the entire thing was a children’s fight. At that point (when “No, it’s not” was applied to a word definition where the community had linked multiple sources and none were linked to refute) I decided I was out.

Good luck, but don’t expect that tune to change!

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

Yeah, the weird attachment to gating flying is just something I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense from a gameplay perspective, it doesn’t make sense from a lore perspective. It feels like with the last patch the stun and dismount effects were increased, too, so I’m really disgruntled with that.

I get that there are in-game economy ramifications to flight. That’s been made a lot more tricky now that you can buy game-time for gold. Maybe it’s time to figure out alternative methods to pure node-gathering.

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Celestian

I agree. The whole “fly” “no flying” every damn expansion is old. If I want to fly over your “content” then let me. It’s my choice.

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Castagere Shaikura

This my big problem with mmo’s now. The Dev’s just seem to come up with crap that players think are just stupid. In ESO right now they have this jester event where you are asked to do something that makes you a criminal if you get caught. This is so stupid and caters to players that like being a criminal and sucks for players that don’t. I swear these Dev’s are so clueless now. They think that everyone liked the Thieves guild dlc. There are people that don’t. I know this was about Wow but it is a problem with every mmo today.

wpDiscuz