Blizzard has really been pushing the whole anniversary thing for World of Warcraft hard and early this year. On the one hand, I get why; it’s got WoW Classic coming up sooner, so that’s a thing, and it also is something to focus on other than Battle for Azeroth, which seems to be somehow coming in behind that Classic version. Does it strike anyone else as more than a little odd that the live game’s patch was considered less important in driving subscriptions than the beta for Classic? It certainly seemed to be the implication.
Regardless, we’ve got some stuff going on with the anniversary, and I think all of the above are now worth talking about, especially since it turns out the physical edition is pretty darn rare and hard to order. So let’s talk about this, starting with the new edition of the game and moving on to the currently only speculative facts about the anniversary event. Which… are not exactly good bits of speculation.
Gosh, the… aesthetics here didn’t hold up quite like someone must have predicted, did they? I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between the aesthetic here and the Sin Eaters of Final Fantasy XIV, ranging from “humorous observation” to “did Blizzard just rip this off,” and… well, look, ivory and gold are not exactly a combination of values and aesthetics that got invented just for Sin Eaters. The color choice is probably unfortunate in the sense that it does really draw those comparisons, but it’s basically impossible for me to believe that these colors were chosen recently enough for it to be anything more than an unfortunate coincidence.
That having been said, I see what the goals were, but it also… sort of doesn’t work. Like, the minimalist aesthetic and everything has an understandable design goal for the mounts, but the lack of any additional details beyond very faint gold makes them look… honestly, kind of untextured. That’s not actually the case, but it feels like someone decided on a box aesthetic and the mounts had to go along with that regardless.
As for the box itself… look, everyone is going to have different feelings on hoarding video game ephemera, and my feeling is that as long as you have a healthy management of your own space, you can have whatever you want on your walls within your own living space. It doesn’t appeal to me, and I feel like the black on Ragnaros kind of washes out sculpt details, but that’s just me and may be more in photos.
However, I feel like the weirdest part of this is that this is, functionally, the CE for WoW Classic. But the in-game reward is… mounts you can’t use there? I know, you can buy them separately, but that’s a bit of the problem. What is this actually for? There’s not a new release, the existing subscription covers it, so what you’re basically buying is a statue, some small art prints, and a few other physical doodads along with a month of game time.
I freely admit to being probably the wrong market for this (my “physical doodad” shelves are filled with Transformers). But it seems like an odd set of decisions to me.
So, do we get an anniversary event?
Here’s the somewhat more rambling part. We do, in fact, know what the anniversary event is going to be, a gauntlet of memorable bosses from the game’s first three expansion raids. Some of the choices seem a bit odd to me, like the fact that Illidan isn’t in The Burning Crusade lineup or the lack of Kel’thuzad in Wrath of the Lich King, but that’s all picking nits. Nine bosses, with a specific nod to Chromie. Sounds fun, right, like that LFR Molten Core?
Well… here’s the thing. There’s not actually any data about these fights being available on LFR; in fact, they seem to be listed in the Timewalking category, which might very well mean that they would require a pre-made group to challenge. And some people are already stating that Blizzard couldn’t possibly lock the big anniversary event of the year behind pre-made groups for fights that require high coordination.
This sentiment is wrong. The developers could do anything they want.
I feel like an element of this drives right to the heart of something that an awful lot of people have noticed without necessarily articulating: Queueing for content basically doesn’t exist any more in WoW. If you’re still trying to parrot “LFG killed the game’s community, it’ll be better if it’s gone,” it’s time to wake up and smell the two expansions ago when it already was functionally removed. LFR for new raids shows up far later; there’s no point in queueing for dungeons because the best you can do is Heroics, and those stop mattering basically immediately. People who are still on this really need to find a new scapegoat because this ain’t it.
All of this is a problem with the game’s overarching design philosophy which has gotten talked about at length (and let’s be honest, I’ll probably find new ways to frame it in a few months and/or have new incentive to discuss it, so that’s not going away until the problem does). But here’s the really messy part: All of that is covering content for some form of progress. For advancement. And the whole point of anniversary events is that they’re not about that.
Celebrations are supposed to be a chance for you to stop worrying about in-game gear grinds and progression and just have fun, doubly so for anniversary events that offer you cosmetics and a chance to hang out and look back over the decade and a half of operation the game has enjoyed. The idea of these things not being LFR-friendly fights wherein you have to carefully coordinate with people to figure out how to fight Kael’thas on-level again is just… exhausting. It’s exhausting to type the words.
The reality is that taking things out of the queue options means that you are, effectively, locking people out of content. There’s a lot of places wherein that isn’t appropriate, but I’d think most people can agree that forming a new progression group for clearing a holiday event runs counter to the spirit of the content.
And yes, you could just as easily ask questions about whether these bosses are iconic because so many players saw them or because so many players heard about them as an unattainable thing. I’d love to see official stats on clears and such. (If someone has those lying around, please, let me know. That wasn’t sarcasm.)
Do I actually think this is what the game is going to do with the anniversary event? I really don’t know. I can see three major outcomes. The first is that this was speculation based on nothing; either there are changes to Timewalking that makes this speculation groundless, or the category doesn’t have any bearing on the queue option. The second option is, of course, that it’s exactly what it looks like and you’re going to have to get a pre-made group able to coordinate and you can probably hear me making an exhausted sound again.
And the third option is that you don’t have a queue option, but it’s really simple and stripped-down and don’t worry because you don’t need to know the fights cold; just form a group since they’ve been made more simple so anyone can clear it. This is also a really awful idea… but it’s the kind of awful idea that also sounds awfully plausible.
The 15th anniversary is kind of a big marker. It feels like the fireworks are getting moved into place a bit early for it.