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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.