I might as well finish out the week on WoW Legion. I have an EVE Online post mostly done, but it can wait. Things keep changing on the topic I want to cover in any case. Back to WoW.
So probably the most important aspect of WoW Legion right now is the ship date.
Whether or not you are enthused about the features announced (and people are all over the map, from “meh” to “best thing evar!”), they will all likely be up to the Blizzard standards of polish, sufficient to sell many many boxes and boost the subscriber base again. Legion has about the same long-term prospects as any WoW expansion in its ability to revitalize the faithful and bring back some of the flock that has strayed.
(As an aside, I think some of the “meh” from yesterday might have stemmed from a lack of Chris Metzen on stage. He is the go-to creator of enthusiasm for the Warcraft franchise, but he also doesn’t appear on the list of key people involved with the expansion. No orcs, no Metzen I guess.)
But how many people leave Azeroth between now and when the 7.0 pre-launch patch hits, when subscriptions will start ramping up again in force, depends largely on the date when Legion will launch. Barring any special offers or pre-order bonuses for the expansion, I would be very surprised if the Q3 2015 subscriber numbers stayed firm at 5.6 million. Warlords of Draenor is done, 6.2 was the last patch, we’re destined to lump it until 7.0 hits.
So the big question for me is much less “WHAT is Legion?” than it is “WHEN is Legion?”
People have gone through the numbers before, but in general there has been about a year gap between announcing an expansion and then launching it. But right now, a year would put certainly put us much further back into 2005 subscriber numbers.
(2005 was quite a year, with Blizzard announcing 750,000 subscribers in January, which officially put it past EverQuest at its 550,000 subscriber peak, and 5.6 million by December, by which point it had begun its decade long reign as the unassailable champion.)
So it cannot be a year… or more… away. Blizzard has to know it can’t get away with that again, not without tossing out some serious incentives. Remember them shoring up the post-Cataclysm numbers by giving away Diablo III if you committed to a year-long subscription? That locked in over a million players. But does Blizzard have something like that they could do again? Because I don’t think early pre-orders and letting people use their free insta-100 boost is going to play out as well as the insta-90 boost did.
No, they have to ship sooner. But how soon is sooner?
It cannot, in my estimation, ship before BlizzCon in November, and would almost certainly ship after that date if it even hit in November. We’re not even in beta yet.
And while somebody last time around compiled numbers that indicated that the gap between start of beta and launch was never less than six months, I will cut Blizzard some slack and allow that they might be able to pull that in some.
So the launch time frame for Legion is somewhere between 4 months and a year.
My own pick, for no real good reason, is March of 2016. That would be soon enough, but still in a possible time frame.
I have seen people mention the Warcraft movie and that the launch of Legion will be set to coincide with that. But the movie isn’t slated to hit theaters until June 10, 2016, ten months from now. That feels a long way off and, since the movie itself will focus on a much earlier era in the story of Azeroth, launching the two together might not be a requirement.
Anyway, this leads into another poll. When do you think Legion will launch?
And then, as a bonus question, what enticements will Blizzard roll out to keep people subscribed?