Expansion Watch – A General Lack of Excitement September 11, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Gaming Industry Trends, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Neverwinter, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft.
Normally I would say it was just me, content in my little gaming routine, that was feeling a lack of excitement about MMO expansions right now.
But after working for a good minute or two on the subject, I began to see some signs, and get a general sense, that I might not be alone on that front. Certainly the game companies haven’t been doing much to light a fire. And I say that while noting we are headed straight into the last quarter of the year when some companies traditionally ship, or at least announce, expansions.
This is what I have noted down so far.
CCP has been on the “about two a year” track for ages now. Just look at the list up to June of this year. Sometimes they slip one way or another, with their expansions running early or late. And I am not sure if Revelations II should be counted as its own expansion or not. But for the most part CCP has a system and it has worked.
Yet here we are into September and we just got Odyssey 1.1 with a whole pile of changes. That seems awfully close to the margin when you want to start off rolling new features into the main code branch for integration and sanity checking reasons. There is a hazard in changing things up too frequently.
On the flip side, CCP has not been very successful with the long wind-up for things. See DUST 514. And EVE expansions tend to have a pretty short cycle between announcement and go live. So they may still be operating as normal.
The big news maker at SOE Live was EverQuest Next. That was what everybody was talking/writing about. But, somewhere amongst the sand art the talk of voxels was an announcement about the next EverQuest expansion. The 20th expansion. A big, fat hairy deal, making it to 20 expansions one would think. And so this important milestone was named…
um… where did I put those notes…
It was named Call of the Forsaken! There is even an official title/logo/graphic thing, which puts it well ahead of the game compared to most other expansions at this point.
Given how much press it has been getting, that name might give the Chains of Eternity expansion a run for its money in the unintended irony department.
SOE has announced beta and pre-orders for the expansion, but as far as I can tell has not bothered to post a feature set or other details on the main EverQuest site. I suspect that this is in part because the name of the expansion does not follow the standard naming format of “Something of Something,” which has lead to some internal rebellion by the web team. Or they were part of the layoffs.
Like its older brother, EverQuest II had an expansion announcement at SOE Live which was likewise completely overshadowed by EverQuest Next. The new expansion, Tears of Veeshan, was announced in a hallway somewhere and hasn’t been heard from since as far as I can tell. Unlike the EverQuest site, the EverQuest II web pages appear to have no mention of the expansion whatsoever. Remember what I said about SOE and keeping excitement going?
The expansion is planned for November, so SOE has some time. But it is starting to feel like past versions of Norrath are on the back burner while EverQuest Next hogs all the excitement by… uh… talking about whether female dwarves should have beards or not. Jesus wept.
Guild Wars 2
No expansion for Guild Wars 2 has been announced or even discussed to my knowledge. But when you are clearly making most of your revenue from selling boxes, and you have a history of selling boxes, it seems like you might want to get another box on the shelves at some point.
Lord of the Rings Online
At last, somebody who has an expansion in the works, who has announced it, and has followed up with… something. They have a press release posted on their site at least. And a logo.
And I guess they showed some stuff at PAX. But if you were just me poking around on the web trying to find information about it, you might wonder if they were really serious. Usually Turbine is out with the per-order incentives and such about now. So far it seems pretty quiet for the Helm’s Deep expansion.
[Addendum – There is now an announcement for the expansion release date.]
Star Wars: The Old Republic
SWTOR already had an expansion this year, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. That came out six months back. But now, if you are a subscriber, you get it for free. I am not sure what that says about how well it was doing. And I have to guess that, if you’re a subscriber, it means you really like the game, so you probably bought it already. Well, They have a little something for your trouble at least.
World of Warcraft
Ha ha ha, I know. They just released Mists of Pandaria like a year ago. That is practically yesterday in World of Warcraft terms. And they just gave us the Siege of Orgrimmar update with all sorts of new features. Even Kihei was on her level 90 reaping the rain of loot that is the Timeless Isle at the moment. I am sure that will be nerfed significantly before I get there, while all the best noodle cart locations will be taken. Yes, we got noodle carts with the patch as well. I am not making that up. Go read the patch notes I linked there, you’ll see.
Anyway, will the new stuff in patch 5.4 be enough? Can a patch, no matter how feature rich, have the same draw or get the same attention as a full blown expansion. As much as expansions expose the ludicrous nature of the level based system, often stacking the shiniest new content as far out of reach of new players as possible, it is the sort of thing that will get people to buy boxes and resubscribe. So I will be surprised/dismayed/annoyed if Blizzard does not announce something like a WoW expansion at BlizzCon this November. Hints about character remodels are not enough.
As slow as they are, Blizzard did get a Diablo III expansion into the queue for next year, so there should be something.
That is just the stuff that springs to mind. Are there any other expansions that ought to be noted?
I figure that Final Fantasy XIV and Neverwinter are too new. Trion is probably too busy with the free to play conversion and their own internal turmoil to have anything set for Rift. And who else is there that might ship an expansion?
I am not sure how well selling expansions mixes with free to play in any case. LOTRO has kept it up, and SOE is trying. But other players in the space seem to be just dropping semi-regular content updates in the hopes that they can tempt you into spending at the cash shop, or at least annoy you into returning to the subscription model that I suspect some free to play developers still secretly love. Why else would you sell hot bars at your cash shop?
But expansions have been, in the past, a community focal point, a way to get both your current and former customers excited about your game again. Only I am just not feeling it this season.
Am I alone in this? Are things different this year? Or is it just too early in the season?