WoW Factor: Shadowlands needs an excitement boost it’s not getting

All over again.

Back in February, I wrote about how Blizzard could help restore some player confidence about Shadowlands. And we’re a few months in, and… yeah, that’s not really what we’re getting. What we’re getting, instead, is a whole big lot of not much at all.

One some level, this is not entirely surprising. Blizzard has proven increasingly inward-looking over the years when it comes to World of Warcraft, marketing much more heavily toward the converted than those who might be coming to the game for the first time. This makes a certain amount of sense, even; with the game’s extant cultural footprint, it’s probably easier to remind people of fun from the past than try to court people who aren’t aware of your title.

But what’s interesting to me is watching the overall community reactions and how Blizzard is managing (or not managing) that. In a far cry from prior expansions that had a lot of people anxious ahead of time, it feels like the approach to Shadowlands so far is to just assume it’ll get hype. And that… I don’t quite see happening thus far.

The reason I linked that column is that I laid out three points that Blizzard could address to start getting people in the mood of “yes, this expansion is worth getting excited about.” The first was seeing ability previews and what’s getting un-pruned, which… we did! And it honestly looks pretty lackluster, without many changes or alterations that people requested. As for future leveling plans? Silence. Customization options? Completely absent from previews and discussion.

Oh, there’s been a lot of datamining for these things. I already know new options I can’t wait to use on some of my characters. But the thing about datamining is that while it can help drive further hype, it doesn’t really build hype by itself. It has to focus on things you’re already excited about, and it exists only in spaces that you go to if you’re already paying extra attention to the game.

Yes, this is in fact my jam.

Customization options are themselves a weird point because… as much as some people (me) love them, they don’t really sell you on the game. They’re an enhancement to a game you’re already sold on. All the customization options in the world won’t sell you on a title you’re not already having fun with, and the lackluster options already present in WoW sure didn’t stop people from adoring the game during its high points.

I am, of course, reading all of the datamining about new changes. I keep up with this stuff. I also keep up with the community, with people who are both in the pre-sold group and people who are very fond of the game but increasingly tired of it. There’s a lot more people in that latter group, and past the people whose employment hinges upon being excited for WoW, I’m not seeing much, if any, pop for this particular expansion.

It doesn’t help at all that this is a feature-light expansion following up another feature-light expansion. Technically, Battle for Azeroth shouldn’t feel feature-light; it added six new races with Allied Races, and while the unlock process had significant issues, that’s still a lot. But the lack of any new classes and the general awfulness of the Heart of Azeroth meant that it felt like a downgrade across the board. Now that Shadowlands includes no new races or classes, it’s definitely light on features.

There’s good cause for it, sure. Revamping leveling probably takes a lot of work. But at the same time, who bought that the number squish in Warlords of Draenor was a “feature”? Especially when we got another one two expansions later, and then another one not long after? I’m guessing just about nobody.

Even then, the problem as I’ve discussed before wasn’t so much that there needed to be a level squish so much as “the game does not have 120 levels worth of stuff.” And the overall look of specs and classes doesn’t seem that different now that we’re staring down a more complete look at what everyone looks like from 1-60.

That’s why I find myself looking and feeling a need for some actual hype here. People who are going to be playing WoW in a year’s time no matter what are going to buy the expansion because of course they are. This is more content and more stuff to do. What the content is and why doesn’t matter nearly so much as “this is more content, we need more content.” That’s not the audience you need to convince.

Friends now.

One of my friends is pretty far into the WoW fan mines but the other day prompted a pretty dark discussion about looking forward to the expansion. It’s the only game in town, but just… why? When the community remains exclusionary and unengaging, when the game has gutted most social activities outside of “guild drama,” and when the next expansion isn’t something you really want to engage with… why bother playing the expansion?

The answer, of course, is that the expansion is necessary to keep playing the game. But that also prompts some uncomfortable thoughts about why you’re playing a game when you aren’t having fun.

And it’s a hard question to answer. This is a friend whose presence in the game matters to me, but also a friend who finds the game just not very fun to play at the moment. (And if you’re about to suggest “Classic” in the comments, that is literally where said friend and I met. What, you thought that long-form narrative just made up a friendship? You’re silly.) And there’s nothing about Shadowlands that makes you sit up and say that you need to see that.

really want to be wrong about this, but as someone who reads loads about WoW on a daily basis, I’m hard-pressed to explain to someone why the expansion is exciting beyond “it’s more content.” Heck, the more I learn about Torghast, the more it feels like a mild diversion away from the same M+/high-end raiding endgame that’s already been an issue in the past two expansions, right down to the randomness.

Oh, and we’re losing emissary quests, too, in favor of something more like Mechagon… which was a daily, and the whole point of changing to the Emissary setup was to move away from the daily feeling of missing out, and…

You knew that joke was coming around again. Be thankful it happened near the end.

Obviously, it’s not as if the game can really add features to the expansion at this point; right now we’re into the point of implementing and refining features. But I feel as if even the developers are out of ways to give us an incentive for playing and enjoying this expansion. The lack of details on covenants and how soulbinding is supposed to work – presumably, some of the big hype elements – isn’t helping matters either. I feel like the game dearly needs to give fans a reason to pick up this expansion and play it, and as of yet, that hype just isn’t there.

And the longer it fails to materialize in any way, the harder it’s going to be to convince people to come back or pay attention. It’s weird to me.

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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Ben Stone

Mechagon’s daily structure was terrible and ranged between super quick and dull, or grindy and also dull. Some days I got stuck there for a few hours hoping a boss would spawn and not be demolished before I got there to get the daily complete (needed the neck essence for my build for raiding).

4 world quests in comparison was quite enjoyable for a quick fix if I didn’t want to do much that day, it also let me pick which types of world quests I felt like doing.

The only emissaries that sucked were if you were stuck doing a buggy jumping puzzle, but that was more of the world quests fault than the emissary system.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Speaking as someone whose been in and out of WoW like the local burrito joint since it launched, there may be hype out there but it is no longer penetrating my reality. I’m no longer reaching that sweet spot, frequently called “suspension of disbelief” in film and theatre going, that advertising and hype wants to get you to so that you part with your hard-earned.

This is where Blizzard’s missteps and it’s lame to non-existent attempts to smooth things over with fans demonstrates a cumulative effect. Just a list of things I remember without googling ‘Blizzard sucks’.

BlizzCon2018: Dimmortal announced. ‘You have phones, don’t you?”
The Hong Kong Freedom penalties and firings
Dull Battle for Azeroth following the really good Legion
Warcraft 3 Reforged becoming Refunded and screwing longtime WC3 players

I’m sure there are more in games I don’t follow or news that didn’t make international headlines.

The hype train may be pulling out of the station, but I’m not getting on it. Because who knows where it is really going?


I can’t disagree more… Not one mention of Torgast….
Rogue like game play element. You only need to take 5 minutes watching some of wows big name streamers to see that this has everyone super hyped for it!
This one end game feature getting massive discussion and deliberation

Along with classes feeling better to play, a better story and yes maybe a bit clumsy return to rpg elements! Not only that the Devs have had massive interaction with the community this time.

How have you missed the hype on this?
Even if you don’t like wow’s lore, if nothing in shadowlands gets you excited it’s probably time to cancel that wow sub

Oleg Chebeneev

Yep. Literally every high profile streamer praises Thorgast and Shadowlands expansion. There is alot of hype on WoW forums too.

Bruno Brito

I’ll repeat myself:

The game doesn’t start, nor it ends, at Torghast.

Bree Royce
Bree Royce

From the article:

“the more I learn about Torghast, the more it feels like a mild diversion away from the same M+/high-end raiding endgame that’s already been an issue in the past two expansions, right down to the randomness.”

I can’t speak for Eliot here, but MMOs have been doing this kind of content for so long – it’s not some amazing new thing. I remember it all the way back in early Aion. No doubt it was there before that too. I’m sure streamers are hyped for things they can stream, but Eliot’s opinion of the quality shouldn’t be dependent on their hype.

Bruno Brito

Man, i think Torghast is amazing. Honestly. If it doesn’t fall to the pits and traps of Blizzard making it obsolete come the end of the xpac, then it’ll be great content.

But this is a MMO, not a Roguelike. Torghast doesn’t solve new players being shoved into BfA. Torghast doesn’t solve class imbalance, nor it solves their terrible design choices, like the one i said before: Their addiction to making anything obsolete when the xpac ends.

Robert Andle

Also, Torghast is one feature. Even if it’s an honest to God masterpiece, it won’t turn a bad expansion into a good one.

Oleg Chebeneev

Every time I hear someone complains about no new races in WoW (which already has 24), I see a person who cant think of anything to complain about but really, REALLY wants to.

And its sad to see that most people who bash WoW in comments are exactly this type.


Look at all those lovely cosmetics that will get hidden under your armor!

Bruno Brito

Which is mostly glued to your model.

16 years later and WoW still has a worse armor system than Age of Reckoning.


Want to get people excited? How about a new class or race?! I find it unacceptable that we don’t get a new class every expansion. I don’t want to hear lore reasons.

Instead, they seem to focus on fixing problems they themselves created. Awesome, we get a new expansion as good as the one 4 years ago! Ugh.

Robert Andle

A new class should be included in every expansion. I don’t care if it costs us a raid tier or whatever other nonsense they say. A raid tier will be forgotten the moment the expansion is over, but the class will be here forever.


At this point I want Blizzard to stop inventing new in-game systems because most of their systemic ideas as of late have been horrific. I just want them to look back at the previous expansions, identify what worked, and iterate on that.

Robert Andle

A lot of the old systems I was never fond of at the time, but I always felt they had great potential if only they weren’t abandoned. Take the garrison, for example. It was pants in WoD, but how cool would it be if Blizzard had added to it bit by bit over the years and kept it relevant? We could have an entire village now customed to our heart’s content.


“Customization options are themselves a weird point because… as much as some people (me) love them, they don’t really sell you on the game. They’re an enhancement to a game you’re already sold on. All the customization options in the world won’t sell you on a title you’re not already having fun with, and the lackluster options already present in WoW sure didn’t stop people from adoring the game during its high points.”

Pretty much this. As in, when I had my fun personalizing my characters what exciting thing is thee left to do after that? Torghast? Sounds like something you use to tighten the nuts of wheel of a car that you just replaced. (And just about as fun!) /bleh

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Paragon Lost

Ugh, Mechagon style daily quests?

Robert Andle

That’s a great way to discourage people from buying it right there.


The answer on why there is no hype is because WoW is no longer a passion project for developers who wanted something more accessible than Everquest. Blizzard is all about statistics and player engagement. They know how many alts most people have, what quest zones are the most played, what content most players enjoy. How many are raiding and so on. Then Blizzard develops the expansions around those metrics, but the issue is that metrics can’t tell you whether or not something was fun.

The other thing is that Blizzard put themselves into a bind with the presale of expansions. The developers need to keep a specific release date or face legal trouble. Even if the expansion is undercooked and could use a few more month of development, it is not being delayed. So some of the intended features get removed, abilities pruned that are hard to balance and so on. Warlords of Draenor shipped with about half the planned features, because the release deadline was looming.

tbh. I would rather wait for another 6 month or another year on an expansion than getting half baked expansions early. But it would never work because the hardcore raiders would be up in arms about it.