Today’s Conspiracy Theory – The WoW 5.0.4 Patch

I love a good conspiracy theory.  For me few things beats fanciful speculation based on cherry-picked facts and impossible to prove or disprove motivations.  It makes for grand entertainment.

For example, it seems to be almost a given in certain quarters that Blizzard’s decision to drop the WoW 5.0.4 patch today is an attempt to distract attention away from the Guild Wars 2 launch.

Evil pandas are EVIL!

If you ignore the fact that major patches and launches always happen on Tuesday in the US, that there are only so many Tuesdays between now and the Pandaria launch (which itself had to launch before the WoW year long subscription deal started to expire), that Blizzard always drops this sort of new content about a month before an expansion launch, and that it is a freaking patch that really only impacts people who are already playing WoW… with all of that irrelevance out of the way, you can clearly see the conspiracy unfolding.

So let us look at what the evil masterminds at Blizzard have deployed to spoil the Guild Wars 2 launch!  What bits of candy and other tasty tidbits will become to WoW in this spoiler patch.  The patch notes tell all!

Details after the cut to protect the young children from these stunning and graphic revelations!

Are you ready to go down the rabbit hole?

Well, then lets start from the top.  What is the first item on the list?

Account-wide Achievements, pets, and mounts

  • In Patch 5.0.4 and beyond, the majority of your character’s Achievements, pets, and mounts will be shared with your other characters.

That is interesting I guess.  I suppose I should be happy that I do not have to do every achievement with every character in order to feel complete.  But I wasn’t really doing that in any case.  I suppose the only question I have here is about mounts I got for referring friends.  Do all my characters get them now?  I suspect those are not in the majority.

World Event: Attack on Theramore Isle

  • Warchief Garrosh, obsessed with assuring the Horde’s supremacy over Kalimdor, launches an all-out attack against Jaina’s island home of Theramore. Though valiant Alliance defenders rush to repel the sudden onslaught, they’ll soon find themselves unprepared for the terrible scope of Garrosh’s true plans…
  • This Scenario will become available in the weeks leading up to the launch of Mists of Pandaria on September 25.

We have plans for a world even… which won’t actually be available until September 18th, and will be for level 85 characters only.  Not a big draw today I am going to guess.

AOE Looting

  • Area of effect looting comes to World of Warcraft with this patch. After killing a group of enemies in close proximity, when you loot one of their corpses, the loot window will include items from all of the nearby corpses for which you have loot rights.

Put this under the heading of “about time.”  Anybody logging in just to AOE loot?

BattleTag support in World of Warcraft

  • Players who have enabled their BattleTag will now be able to:
    • See BattleTag friends in your friends list.
    • Add and remove BattleTag friends.
    • Send BattleTag invites to other players via right-click.

This is a needed item.  I had a couple of odd instances where people I shared Battle Tags with in Diablo III could see me in WoW but I could not see them.  This was apparently because they were also using Real ID.  Not really a game changer though, more of a late to the party again item.

Cross-Realm Zones

  • In some zones, players are now able to form a group with other players from a select pool of realms.
  • When a player is in a zone that is set as a “cross-realm zone”, in addition to seeing other players from their native realm, they’ll also seamlessly see (and be able to play with) players from other realms.
  • Players will always be able to group and quest as they normally would with players from their native realm.
  • This functionality will be enabled for a limited number of realms at first, and will be granted to additional realms as we near the release of Mists of Pandaria.

On one level, I guess this is neat.  One of the biggest problems I have had with WoW in the past is that I know a lot of people playing it, but we’re all spread out over too many servers.  However, the “select pool of realms” aspect means that I likely won’t group with my friends.  And how often do I ever need to group in normal zones in WoW in any case?  I guess for Pandaria that might been neat, but  what I need today is cross-realm groups for dungeons and raids with people with whom I have exchanged Battle Tags or some such.  This doesn’t give me anything really.

All classes have been updated with a new talent system, improved abilities, and spells (accessible throughout levels 1-85). Your character’s talents have been reset.

  • Many old talents have been converted to specialization abilities.
  • Druids now have access to a fourth class specialization: Guardian.
  • New spells are now learned automatically. Class trainers are only needed to change talents, glyphs, class specialization, or to utilize the dual specialization feature.
  • All characters now take 40% less damage from other players.

Because we all love learning a new talent system.  Bleh.  That might just be me though.  And it gives the WoW fan sites a chance to write survival guides to help the non-enthusiastic.

Currency Conversion

  • Valor points have been converted to Justice points, and Conquest points have been converted to Honor points.
  • Neither of the resultant currencies (Justice and Honor) have an enforced hard-cap at this time.
  • Players are no longer able to earn Valor or Conquest points (bosses drop Justice, and arenas are closed).
  • Items formerly purchasable for Valor/Conquest are available for Justice/Honor.

Another currency revamp.  I don’t even know what currencies I have at this point outside of gold.


  • Spell Penetration has been replaced by PvP Power on existing items.
  • Head enchants removed
    • Enchants that modify the gear in your head slot have been removed from the game. This includes older head enchants of every type.
  • Relics, ranged, and thrown items
    • The slot in which ranged, relics, and thrown items were previously equipped has been removed. All weapons should now be equipped in the weapon slot.
    • Ranged weapons, including wands, have been adjusted to be more powerful.
    • Ranged weapons no longer have a minimum range.

No more head enchants.  No minimum range on ranged weapons.  The ranged weapon one is good if your focus is on that I suppose… which probably makes you a hunter.  Another simplification.


  • The glyph system has been updated. Many class glyphs have been added, altered, or moved to different glyph types.
  • Prime glyphs have been removed.
  • Chef’s Award and Dalaran Cooking Award have been removed. Existing awards have been converted to Epicurean’s Award.

More changes I will need to figure out… if I go back to play.  And now we have consolidated another currency, creating a unified cooking award.  Yay.


  • The cap for daily quests has been removed.
  • There is no longer a displayed count of daily quests completed.

No longer will you be limited to just 25 daily quests.  I am sure there is a giant sign of relief going out across Azeroth over this one.  I think, maybe once, on a particularly ambitious day where I was grinding faction, doing Argent Tournament, and working on cooking, I managed to do 20 daily quests.  Maybe I am just a low achiever.

User Interface

  • There is a new user interface for your mounts and pets.
  • Character creation screens have been updated.
  • Buffs have been consolidated in the UI.
  • New roll results frame added. This new feature can be accessed by clicking the word “[Loot]” in chat, or by typing “/loot”.
  • The PvE queue frames have been unified. You can now queue for dungeons, raids, and other queue-able content in one handy place.
  • Vendors now offer item filtering.
  • Spellbooks have been updated to reflect changes to core abilities, and now include a brief overview of specializations.
  • The Dungeon Journal has been expanded with information on all pre-Cataclysm encounters.
  • A new help system has been added to many frames. You can toggle this on and off by clicking the “i” button in the upper left corner of the frame.

This looks like part of the traditional “break all the addons!” preliminary portion of the expansion.  This is where we find out how many addon authors no longer play WoW I suspect.


  • Mac OS X 10.5 is no longer supported.
  • Added full support for Retina displays.
  • Added support for game resolutions that match Mac screen aspect ratios.
  • Switching between Windowed and Fullscreen display modes should be faster.
  • A “Help” menu has been added, so that players can quickly navigate to support pages.
  • A menu item that allows players to copy system information to the Clipboard has been added.
  • A menu item that reveals various game files and folders in Finder has been added.

Macintosh issues actually impact our household.  My daughter plays on an iMac.  But none of this will likely be incentive enough to come back and play WoW.

And then, not actually in the patch notes, but an item promised in the 5.0.4 patch:

With the release of patch 5.0.4, we’re making all the races of Azeroth playable by anyone, no matter which version or expansion of World of Warcraft they own. This includes the enigmatic pandaren, who will become available for play when Mists of Pandaria is released on Tuesday, September 25. We want the entire World of Warcraft community to be able to embrace their inner goblin, blood elf, worgen, draenei, or pandaren from the moment they step foot into the world of Azeroth.

If you play WoW and haven’t purchased the Burning Crusade (blood elf, draenei) or Cataclysm (worgen, goblin) expansions, you should be able to create characters of those races now.  And when Pandaria hits, you will also be able to create Pandaren characters without buying the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

Which is kind of cool.  I think Blizzard is at the point where they ought to be rolling up everything into their latest expansion.  Expecting new people to show up and buy the base game plus three expansions in order to be able to play the fourth expansion is beyond the state of reasonable expectations.

In fact, I think the winning move would be the Mists of Panderia box, digital or otherwise, giving you everything from the base game forward.  Even EverQuest, the king of expansion boxes, found they needed to roll things up once in a while, while EverQuest II went for the “expansion plus all previous content” pretty early on in their expansions.

And if we’re going to throw everything on the plate, I should also bring up that the WoW remote app is now free of a monthly fee as well.

And that is about it.  This is Blizzard’s couter-stroke against the Guild Wars 2 launch.

Aside from the opening up of races… and they key race, the Pandas don’t show up until September 25th… there doesn’t seem to be a lot there that would legitimately appear to be a temptation to bring players back to Azeroth.

The best I can come up with is that Blizzard is somehow trying to clog up the internet by patching on… well… patch day.  And I think Microsoft is more likely to cause problems on any given Tuesday in that regard.

But that is just me… and there is the distinct possibility that, because I am not playing either game, I really can’t muster up the energy to care.  Honestly, a new talent system makes me want to stay away from WoW.

What do you think?  Now, in the calm light of day, what was it all about?

And, of course, do you think this patch influenced anybody to change their MMO path this fall?

23 thoughts on “Today’s Conspiracy Theory – The WoW 5.0.4 Patch

  1. Tesh

    I suppose it’s just as easy to suggest that GW2 was trying to guess at Blizzard’s big patch day to steal *their* thunder. *shrug*

    The racial unlocks are a smart move. Now, if they would just let every race be every class… and implement interfaction chat and even faction betrayal mechanics…


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Tesh – Yeah, we covered some of the faction stuff in comments yesterday. My gut is that the Human/Orc conflict is the overriding theme that can never be resolved in the Warcraft lore… and the other races are stuck going along for the ride.

    Except the forsaken. I always bring them up. They could be the breakout third faction is Blizzard wanted. They have their own agenda.

    And yes, as I have said elsewhere, Blizzard’s 1 year commitment plan dictated the latest optimum date for Panda launch. You wanted all those people who jumped on the bus right after BlizzCon to still be subscribed and have at least a month left to play when Pandaria became available. So some smart guys at ArenaNet could have done the math as well.

    Though I find that equally unlikely. Again, the caring thing.


  3. flosch

    The races part is interesting. I assume that means that the Panda Isle will not be locked behind the expansion? Feels hard to imagine how you could play them otherwise.

    Unless, of course, they also cut the connection between race and starting zone. Want to play Goblin, but never liked Kezan? Go to the Valley of Trials! I doubt that’s the case though, that would warrant its own patch note mention.

    And I’m totally with Tesh on the whole faction breakup thing. But you already know that I’d love that, and we both know it won’t happen.


  4. scott_h

    I seem to remember some similar claims when Warhammer came out, it must have been Wrath that was announced around that time. Blizzard is evil, so it is to be expected.

    As far as the expansions go, all four previous expansions were available for $20. I am not sure if they are still. It is still a pain though, and I am sure messing around with the previous expansions is a barrier to some people. The extra $20 in revenue seems small next to $15 a month, so I am not sure what Blizzard is thinking. Maybe they have a lot of boxes in a wharehouse they need to get rid of.

    I don’t see them allowing communication between factions, and I am not sure would be a good idea. Battleground chat is bad enough when I can only talk to my own faction.


  5. spinks

    There is also some new content with this patch, new questline about the fall of theramore, which will only be live until the expansion. That’s the big draw (plus getting some practice with the new talent trees).


  6. Gripper

    I will log in to take a quick and I mean quick peek around, but still planning in October to not continue the sub – I was one of those get on the bus 1 year plan guys – but for me Panda’s and also learning the system again, is not sitting well with me.

    But who knows – still have 2 months to slowly tempt me – but with GW2 and my time there, I am not very excited.


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Spinks – I believe I mentioned that specifically in the post and provided a link to details. The key item is that the quests won’t be live until September 18th. So that really isn’t a draw today.

    Furthermore, is either item you mention likely to be something to divert somebody from GW2 today?


  8. Aufero

    Given the number of changes to the talent system over the years, (and their general unpopularity) I’d think that feature would be more likely to convince diehard WoW players to try GW2 out for a month before the new expansion becomes available.


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  10. Bristal

    Since when is it considered a “conspiracy” for a company to optimize the release of a new product (or marketing thereof) based on its competitors?

    What about pet battles? Was that implemented?


  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bristal – It is considered a “conspiracy theory” when a bunch of people who ought to know better try to assign malice and ulterior motives to something that really doesn’t need them. It is fun, but it doesn’t really wash.

    Blizzard dropped a patch on a day when they would have likely dropped a patch in any case.

    Did Blizzard drop the 5.0.4 patch yesterday because it was GW2 launch day? You seem to be saying so, though I am not sure how that “optimized” anything. I am not sure how it would be a win for Blizzard to do so. It seems more likely that Blizzards patch news would get lost in the GW2 launch cycle blitz.

    I quoted 100% of the release notes, plus all the additional items I could find. Pet battles were not mentioned. That doesn’t mean they are not in. Today seems to be devoted to finding all the things that got into the patch but did not get mentioned. But if they are in, Blizz doesn’t seem to be making a big deal out of it.


  12. Mimfollee

    In E-urope patch is dropping today and everyone who wanted GW2 got it on release I presume, so its only in NA that they coincided.

    I also think that if they really wanted to mess with GW2 they would have gone for MoP on 28th August.


  13. JC

    I am so sorry to see that Blizzard had to dumb World of Warcraft down so much that it killed the game for me and a lot of friends. The talent tree gave me choices and more freedom, streamlining it and perhaps building it better with more direct control where points go might have been better than making it into the most basic of choices for the inept. I feel it would have been more feasible to take the time to truly rework it, but all in all, Blizzard just had to dumb it down completely.

    Simple example of the first impression of 5.0.4 patch – Going into a Dungeon the night before with my Death Knight and being able to kill a 49 elite with my “Howling Frost” with one shot was a good thing, but then going into the same Dungeon with the 5.0.4 patch coming online and no more one shot kills on same 49 elites, there’s something wrong there. PVP oriented game is where this has all gone, why then go into Raids or Dungeons with a PVP game?

    Next let me touch a bit on the whole “Pokemon” pet battles that are designed for the children at mind and children to get younger players to start playing. Again, PVP pet battles, no pet Dungeon to say, just pet PVP arena. Yes get over it; it is “Pokemon” plain and simple. All of you, who are all wining about those of us calling it that, get a clue “Pokemon” is exactly what it is. You just want to hide your head in a hole and pretend it’s not; you want to think it’s a Blizzard original idea.

    I won’t lie, I pretty much did PVP the past year, but only having the major focus now on PVP is an issue all in its own; Looks like the days of raiding and dungeon crawling has gone away. The two classes of players is what brought a lot of people to the game, now to focus only on one major aspect of the game of PVP will drive some players away.

    Right off the bat the Action House is totally glitching when it comes to sort, really, why is there such a major glitch, maybe Blizzard became clueless in trying to rush this patch out to compete with the same day release of Guild Wars 2, good job there. Again, quit hiding your head in a hole and thinking that Blizzard had planned releasing this patch on this date all along.


  14. JC

    Finally, all the talk about World of Warcraft killers such as Rift and Star Wars: the Old Republic was hype and the real reason World of Warcraft survives is because of 8 years of updates and solid content to keep players interested. Time placed in the game and the hardcore players will always return because it is comfortable knowing the game so well. Change and trying something new as a so called “Noob” is hard for many, so their interests will always come back to what they are comfortable with and where they have the powerful characters they spent time creating. It’s hard to start from scratch when you have everything in World of Warcraft.

    What I see as the World of Warcraft killer is World of Warcraft itself. By Blizzard doing such a large change in game play, adding more than just good solid expansions like Cataclysm was, Blizzard itself is the one that is going to be the World of Warcraft killer. Is Blizzard seeing the run of World of Warcraft coming to an end and helping it on its way in order to pave the way to “Titan”? Take a good hard look at the whole picture and maybe figure out for yourself.

    I myself have more than a few “Toons” on more than one server and a great percentage of them are at the top level, but I have no problem breaking away and playing other games. I myself do the 2 months on and 2 months off thing. When a game card expires, I take a break and see what’s going on outside of the World of Warcraft gaming era. Guild Wars 2, Torchlight 2, and others peak my interest. Maybe with Mist of Pandora I am finally going to take a long break and just listen to what friends have to say about it in time.


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  16. Arcadius

    And yet, my guild has seen a huge activity surge over the last couple of days, from 2-3 players on a Wednesday evening to 15+ concurrent accounts for the last two days. Guild applications have jumped significantly and from them we’ve added 4 solid prospects.

    I very much enjoyed your review of the patch changes; entertaining and insightful, But I would observe that despite there not really being anything big there, the patch did, indeed, draw a lot of players back into the game.

    I think it served as a marker for people who were on a comfortable hiatus from the game that it was time to come back and get reacquainted.

    I’m not going all in on the conspiracy theory, but I’m sure that Blizzard was expecting this bounce in activity, and very aware of competitor’s release dates.


  17. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Arcadius – But you are arguing something that is different that what I was saying. Yes, more people log in when there is a patch, especially in the warm up for an expansion. I patched up and logged in myself, as did my daughter. I am going to bet a lot of people who were already subscribed did so, that a lot of idle but still paying accounts saw log ins.

    The conspiracy theory though, that insists that Blizzard did it to screw with the Guild Wars 2 launch. My assertion is that while one can assign motive (though cannot prove it and, can in fact point to reasons that work against it), the means is completely missing.

    How did Patch 5.0.4 impact the GW2 launch? How many people said, “Oh, there is a big WoW patch, I guess I’ll skip this new game” and forgot all about GW2?

    Initial sales numbers (past a million pretty quickly) and concurrency on the GW2 servers (400K online at one time, shutting down digital sales due to too many players) seems to indicate that the impact of the patch was close to nil.

    Which is what I would expect, and what I suspect the people at Blizzard knew too.

    This far along in the panda release, the patch just went when it had to, which happened to coincide with the GW2 launch date.


  18. Arcadius

    It appears to me that you are asserting that “there doesn’t seem to be a lot there that would legitimately appear to be a temptation to bring players back to Azeroth.” And in response, I am saying that regardless of the goodies offered, the patch nevertheless did bring many, many players back to Azeroth.

    And not for a passing visit to “patch it and go,” but to begin to engage in long-term “I’m sticking around” behavior like running through the guild app process, discussing future guild events, assembling leveling parties, and running test dungeons to try out the new builds.

    And this may only last through the weekend, before it’s “see you in two weeks.” But even if that’s all it is, it will have done what it needed to do: refresh the player’s interest in Azeroth.

    I am sure that Blizzard knew exactly the kind of response its announcement would provoke. They, and we, have all lived through this phenomenon at least twice before with Wrath and Cata. Blizzard knew that anytime it pulled the trigger, a large number of its players were going to come back to the game.

    Was this some kind of super-secret stealth contra-counter corporate espionage on Blizzard’s part? Of course not. It was the most obvious and overt move by one corporate entity, responding to the actions of its competitors in order to maintain its presence.

    Do I think that Blizzard “Skinner-Box” Activision knows how to influence the behavior of its subscribers? Absolutely, I do.

    I think a large number of players said to themselves, “WoW hasn’t changed since December, I think I’ll give GW2 a try.” And Blizzard had an opportunity to allow some portion of those players to think, “Oh look, WoW is ramping up again, guess I won’t need to mess with that other game after all.” To not take that opportunity would have been negligent on their part.


  19. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Arcadius – I think you are taking your own spin on my quote there. I meant people who had unsubscribed and went away to play other games. How much of your anecdotal guild activity is from people who were still subscribed? Those are the people who would come back for a patch, because they were still paying in any case. No net win for Blizz there.

    Mists of Panderia is the level of event that would draw in unsubscribed players to come back, because there will be new content to explore.

    You will have a tough time convincing me that a patch a month before an expansion launch is a draw and had any impact at all outside of what the expansion was already set to create.

    And, as such, the idea that Blizz was going to manipulate their patch schedule, which is part of a very complex launch plan, just to try and piss on GW2 for no real benefit strikes me as absurd.


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