Vitae Aeternum: Analyzing New World’s ‘content drought,’ comms chaos, and lack of a 2024 expansion


The always cantankerous New World community is in even more of an uproar than usual lately. Go to any of its social media, and you’ll hear the constant refrain that we are in a severe content drought, with no end in sight. But… are we? We’ve gotten a lot of updates lately, and only by employing a severe and arbitrary definition of what qualifies as “content” can the current state of the game be called a drought.

This might almost be a non-story, except for the fact that Amazon Games has decided to fan the flames through some truly baffling communication gaffes. So buckle up, friends, as we delve into what led to the raging garbage fire that has now overtaken the New World community.

One of the most common narratives lately is the that the greatly delayed season five has no new content. A lot of people like to add that season four had no content, either. These claims are just plain false.

Season five’s biggest feature is the final leg of the main story quest revamp, including total redoes of Shattered Mountain and Ebonscale Reach, currently two of the most empty and under-developed zones.

A lot of people aren’t interested in anything but endgame content, so they don’t care about this. And that’s fine. You’re not obligated to be interested in everything a game offers. But that doesn’t mean it’s not content. I’ve never set foot in the sandworm raid, but I’d never argue it isn’t content. I’m just choosing not to engage in it.

As someone who enjoys story and plays alts, I know the final leg of the MSQ revamp is going to be a huge update for me. I’ll get hours of entertainment out of it. Devoting attention to leveling content is also a sign that Amazon is committed to investing in the game’s long-term health, rather than the last gasp of a dying game like some people want to claim.

We’re also getting a new raid in season five, the Winter Rune Forge. This also doesn’t count as content in the eyes of some because… reasons. Presumably because it’s tuned to be PUGable, and as well know, the more people who can engage with a piece of content in an MMO, the less valuable it is (/sarcasm).

I don’t think complaints about previous updates hold much water, either. The dungeon finder is also written off as irrelevant, and in a very technical sense of the term, it’s true that it’s not new content, but it made existing content a lot more accessible, expanding options for many players. From personal experience and anecdotal reports, I was far from the only person experiencing many dungeons for the first time after the dungeon finder’s release. And of course season four also continued the Silver Crows story and added a new dungeon, the Glacial Tarn.

I’d also like to point out that it has historically been the case that the first half the year is slow for New World, with the big updates saved for summer and fall. This is a lot more than we usually get this time of year.

Here’s what I think is really happening: Amazon Games is a very data-driven company, and I suspect its data showed that pretty much everyone engages in casual content like the seasonal stories, while raids and PvP only attract a minority, so they decided to devote the majority of their resources to the kind of content that attracts the most players. We know from a recent video only about 30% of players engage in PvP regularly, and of those many also participate significantly in PvE, so it makes sense that PvP wouldn’t be a priority.

Devout endgamers are used to MMO devs catering to them, and New World in particular has a strong contingent of players who joined because of its original promise of being a hardcore PvP game. They can’t accept that it’s pivoted to a highly casual PvE game. I can even sympathize with them to a degree, but the healthy thing to do would be to move on and find a game that better matches your tastes, rather than trying to burn down the game and its community because you didn’t get your way.

It’s gotten so bad now that most threads by new and prospective players on reddit are inundated by bitter veterans telling them not to play the game, which is incredibly petty and childish, or claiming that New World is going to shut down within the year, a claim for which there is absolutely no supporting evidence.

But that’s not to say that there’s no cause for complaint. New World launched before it was ready, and while it’s done a lot to catch up, it’s still relatively content light for a two year-old AAA MMORPG. I think it’s fair to say that while Rise of the Angry Earth added some great new systems like mounts and loot biasing, it did underwhelm a bit on the content front.

I have my own pet peeves with the content cadence: I think the rollout of new weapon types is too slow, I think housing is a neglected feature that needs more support, and I’m getting impatient with the devs’ refusal to confirm repeatable soul trials as a future feature.

And of course, the lengthy delay of season five is frustrating, and it’s here that Amazon starts to shoulder some of the blame for the current furor.

Slayer Script — the ground-up rebuild of the game’s combat code — is a massive project that the team needs to get right, so as disappointing as it was, delaying the release was probably the right call. But the way AGS handled the situation leaves a lot to be desired. The studio basically just announced the delay and went full radio silence on the topic for two weeks before finally confirming the release for April 2nd on Friday night, meaning the it’ll launch nearly a full month after its original intended release. Until that point, there was no ETA on when the updated release date would be, no new PTR, no compensation in the live game, nothing.

The only major communication we got in that time was a Forged in Aeternum about soul trials and a post about bringing back some popular skins to the cash shop. Both of these things would be totally harmless and even welcome under normal circumstances, but in the context of the deafening silence around season five’s delay, it felt very tone deaf (and the player replies were not shy about saying so).

And it was in this already hostile climate that Amazon decided to casually drop the bombshell news that we aren’t getting an expansion this year.

Amazon, what are you doing?!? Everyone assumed that expansions were going to be an annual thing going forward. Brimstone Sands was an expansion in all but name, and it’s generally believed it was a free update as an olive branch following the game’s rough launch. We had every reason to believe that a fall expansion would always be the standard.

Now, it’s quite possible — probable, even — that “no expansion” just means we’re doing the Brimstone Sands thing again, wherein we get an expansion-sized chunk of content minus the price tag. If true, “no expansion” is actually good news, as it saves players some money. It’s also possible that the delays around season five have pushed back their schedule enough that the late 2024 expansion is now an early 2025 expansion, which would be a big deal if true.

But if one of those two things is the case (and I do believe that’s so), you need to include that context when you make the announcement that we aren’t getting an expansion. You can’t just drop the news and say nothing else on the matter just as the community is in middle of a massive uproar about lack of content (justified or otherwise). It’s just pouring gasoline on the fire.

It’s especially surprising because up until this month Amazon’s communication with its players has been truly excellent. It’s probably the best communication I’ve seen in my long MMO career, from the sheer volume of dev videos and blog articles to the consistent transparency and humility displayed within them. I don’t know why things went so badly off the rails all of a sudden.

I do think AGS needs to start rolling out some kind of compensation to players for the season five delay. Cash shop currency, a free skin, a bonus event, something. It’d be a big financial hit, so I don’t see it happening, but I think the devs should just give everything the season five premium pass for free, once it finally arrives. Not only would it be a generous gift that could soothe frustrated players, but it’s also a roundabout way to boost the game’s population. You still need to actually play to unlock all those goodies on the premium pass.

The next Forged in Aeternum video should be going up an hour or two after this column, and it may well address some of these issues. I myself submitted a question for their next Q&A asking for more context on the expansion news. I don’t know exactly what they’ll say, but here’s my prediction.

Scot Lane will offer an apology for the issues with season five’s release. It will be heartfelt and sincere, but that will not matter to the angriest players. Questions about the lack of an expansion and the future in general will be brushed off with another reminder to wait for the roadmap in June.

When the June roadmap finally comes, it will have a lot of good stuff on it, and casual and midcore players like me will be happy, but it won’t have anything earth-shattering enough to mollify the most bitter ragers (likely nothing would at this point). The long wait and extreme secrecy will decrease the excitement around the announcements rather than heighten them, as expectations have been built too high to ever be fully met. Ultimately, however, the game will continue to chug along as the mid-tier success it has been, 2024 will be a decent year for the game, and the current controversy will just be a minor bump on the road in the greater scheme of things.

But that belief doesn’t help right now, when we’re in the thick of it. And while it’s clear some players are just never going to be happy, things didn’t need to get this bad. Hopefully Amazon’s ability to communicate with players gets back on track soon.

New World’s Aeternum is a land of many secrets. In MassivelyOP’s Vitae Aeternum, our writers delve those secrets to provide you with in-depth coverage of all things New World through launch and beyond.
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