Tag Archives: Shadowlands

World of Warcraft Dragonflight up for Pre-Order and Promising a Q4 2022 Release

Blizzard would like you to please give them some money now for their upcoming “all the dragon things we could come up with” World of Warcraft expansion Dragonflight.

Dragons are a thing

Announced back in April (on 4/20 no less) you can roll up the dragon race to play the dragon class on the dragon island where you will fly around on a dragon and do all the dragon things with your dragon pals while seeing all the dragons and dragons and dragons dragons dragons.

I swear, if Hemet Nesingwary isn’t out there asking you to collect dragon poop it will be a travesty, because Blizzard is going so deep on dragons that I’m starting to wonder if they’ll have a dragon colonoscopy quest for us.  We’re going all in, so why not go ALL the way in?

After the descent from “good” to “bleh” that was the Legion, Battle for Azeroth, Shadowlands expansion progression, I still need to be sold on this being more than a few gimmicks to get me to buy a box.

A more expensive box.

When I was looking at expansions and pricing and pre-orders back in late 2019, Blizzard was charging $40 for the base Shadowlands box, $60 for the Heroic option, and $80 for the Epic expansion ride.

But inflation is hitting in places beyond the gas pump, and Blizzard wants ten bucks more for each level now.

Dragonflight pre-order pricing

And then there is the physical collector’s edition box, which will set you back $130.

Once again, you don’t get a character boost with the base box, something we got the last time an expansion was $50.  You need to pony up another $20 for the boost… though given the price of one ala carte is $60, that might be a deal if you feel you need one.

There are also some in-game pre-order bonuses, but you will need to have the Shadowlands expansion it seems.  It is there in the fine print.  A chance to sell even more boxes, though at least they’re selling some of those at half price right now. (Though if you shell out the $90 for the Dragonflight Epic edition you get a $20 copy of Shadowlands if you didn’t own it already.  So I guess if you didn’t own Shadowlands and wanted a character boost it would be cheaper to buy the $90 virtual box.  But I don’t need either.)

I guess if you’re really into dragons, you’re probably all in.  But some of the things they’re bragging about are not all that impressive in the context of the game’s history.

Level 70? What, again you mean?

Meanwhile, the most interesting part of the announcement is in the fine print, as it

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight will be available on or before December 31, 2022.

I had written off a 2022 expansion launch for Dragonflight previously, just based on Blizzard history.  Announce an expansion and ship it in the SAME CALENDAR YEAR?  Unpossible!

But there it is, on the page, as immutable as any web content… which means they’ll change it the second they need to and maybe comp you a mount for your faith in pre-ordering if they do.  I wouldn’t bet money against that happening.

I guess the plan for 2022 is Diablo Immoral for Q2, Wrath of the Lich King Classic for Q3, and Dragonflight for Q4, with whatever Overwatch 2 really is somewhere in the middle, and however many Hearthstone expansions they can fit into a calendar year.  Oh, and Warcraft Arclight Rumble.  How could I forget that?

They have to keep up the product roll outs to make whatever metrics they promised Microsoft when they signed the deal to be acquired.  Remember that from back in January? It slips my mind some days, but all of this may soon be Microsoft’s problem.

I think I might wait until WoW is on the XBox Game Pass PC to come back to retail.  We shall see.

Related coverage:

The Next World of Warcraft Expansion to be Announced on April 19th

I haven’t played retail WoW in over a year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye on the news.  This past week Blizzard gave us a date for when they would announce the next World of Warcraft expansion.

I had other posts planned and, honestly, an announcement that they’ll tell us something more than a month down the road didn’t seem to me to be a dramatic story that needed to be discussed right that minute.  Even the post by Blizzard features a gray map of Azeroth as its header image, not something that exactly sets fire to your soul.

Can you feel the excitement this gives off?

And the statement itself… at least the part about the next expansion… was very brief.

On April 19, the World of Warcraft development team will reveal the next expansion. We’re excited to show you what we’ve been working on and where your adventures in Azeroth will go next.

The rest of the press release was about Hearthstone and Shadowlands and other items unrelated to the next expansion.

Normally an expansion announcement like this would come at BlizzCon.  What, if anything, is BlizzCon useful for other than a big announcement with follow on panels to go into the details?

But there was no BlizzCon 2021, when we might have expected to get news of the next WoW expansion.  The pandemic and its own internal and legal troubles kept that from being a thing.

Likewise, there was no BlizzConline.  The pandemic didn’t stop that, but internal turmoil no doubt made it untenable.  That and the fact that Microsoft was negotiating to buy Activision Blizzard, as announced back in January put a damper on things.

But business must go on, and the cycle of business for Blizzard is a new WoW expansion every other year or so.  That is a revenue stream the company would be loathe to skip.

Back at the start of the year I predicted that Blizzard wouldn’t ship an expansion for WoW this year and I still feel somewhat confident in that prediction.  Again, turmoil at the company, the acquisition, and the need to come up with something good to undo the damage that the Shadowlands expansion all mean that Blizz cannot be too hasty.

They cannot delay too long either though.  A December expansion launch might be in the cards.  Maybe even late November.  But the time between announcement and launch of past expansions has rarely ever been short enough for me to believe they could squeeze this into Q3 2022.

But, as I said, the clock is ticking.  The time between Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands was already the longest stretch between expansion launches.  The expansion gap list:

  • WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
  • The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
  • Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
  • Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
  • Mists of Pandaria to Warlords of Draenor – 779 days
  • Warlords of Draenor to Legion – 656 days
  • Legion to Battle for Azeroth – 714 days
  • Battle for Azeroth to Shadowlands – 832 days

If Blizzard could manage a December 1, 2022 launch, that would put us at 737 since the Shadowlands launch, which would give us a mid-pack gap.  However, I would find that a rather aggressive schedule, again given the company turmoil, and if they give us a Q4 estimate in April I suspect that it will be late Q4… some time in December… and that the initial launch will be shy of a lot of planned content.

Of course, not throwing everything at us at launch might not be the worst plan.  If Blizz has a problem with their two year expansion cycle, it is that they have not shown themselves to be consistent at metering out content over time.  But I wouldn’t want them to make that problem even more pronounced by showing up at launch day with a very light content delivery that people play through then leave before Blizz is ready for the next installment.

And, finally, they cannot put of another expansion forever.  WoW expansions and WoW Classic launches are the tent pole events in their financial forecast.  Blizzard has revenue numbers to meet and neither Overwatch 2 nor Diablo IV are going to show up to save the day in 2022.  That leaves Diablo Immortal as the backup plan and maybe some sort of WoW mobile title, unless they have Classic Wrath of the Lich King ready to go this summer.  The new lords and masters at Microsoft will want some payoff for the 69 billion dollars they are spending on Activision Blizzard.

As for what the expansion will be focused on… well, it had better be good.  But not another re-roll of The Burning Crusade again.  We’ve been after the Legion and the array of bad guy orcs enough I think.

The Orc Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Will it be new locations, old locations revived, or some mix?  There was that whole Empire of Dragons thing floating around a couple of months back, but the consensus seemed to be it was a fake because the logo lettering was well below Blizzard’s standards for such things.

We will see in a little over a month.

WoW Classic and What We Left Behind

In the post I did late last month about the metaverse and VentureBeat’s summit, I included a video from the Folding Ideas channel on YouTube about NFTs and crypto and what they’re really about.  I do recommend listening to that video (you can watch it, but I think you get 90% of the content just through audio, which I’ve done twice now) even if it is two hours long.

Impressed by that video, I went an explored what else the channel had to offer, which includes an interesting and deep look at the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings movie from the 70s, but the more relevant gem I uncovered was a video about WoW Classic.

Classic is as classic does

The video, which runs 40 minutes is a look at World of Warcraft back in the day, how it was part of the role playing game genre, its roots in EverQuest, and a comparison between WoW of 2006 and the more recent version of the game.  As with the previous two videos I mentioned, it is a thoughtful examination of the topic, delving into mechanics, social dependency, and self-directed play.

As a note, the video is more than two years old at this point, and much of the comparison being done with vanilla WoW focuses on the Battle for Azeroth expansion though, as you might expect, Cataclysm also come under some scrutiny.

For me, the comparison between Battle for Azeroth and vanilla, and how the myriad of options that expansion offered when it came to things to do could quite easily lead to a sense of obligation, a feeling that you HAVE to do all the things to keep up and current, seems even more relevant in the era of Shadowlands.

Shadowlands, having shortened up the already short run to level cap that Battle for Azeroth offered, stuck me as an expansion almost entirely devoted to generating a sense of obligation within players, a false need to get out there and work on faction rep, do the dailies, run Torghast, and work your way up towards the current raid meta.

Whatever gripes I have or had with Battle for Azeroth, I did play it through, getting multiple characters to level cap, unlocking all the allied races, unlocking flying, and generally “doing all the things” that could be done without having to queue up to play with strangers.

So for me it was interesting to consider the direction Blizzard went with Shadowlands and how its design runs against the idea of self-directed play.  I made it through to level cap with a single character, then fell off the wagon without even a thought of coming back later to pick up the thread.

Anyway, a food for thought video on a Saturday.

Answers to My Questions for 2021

Back at the start of the year I eschewed the usual predictions post and instead went in for a round of questions.  After 2020 I was clearly feeling unprepared to predict anything, though this was not the first time I went down that path.  Now we have hit the middle of December and it is time to see if any of my questions got answers we like.

2020 plus 1

There is a long pattern of me making such posts on the first of the year.

Anyway, let’s get tucked in and see what I can come up with.

What will a return to normalcy bring to the video game industry?

Right off the bat I am going to have to object here to the assumption that we’ve returned to anything like normalcy.  We’re not in 2020 anymore, but we’re not not in 2020 anymore either.  The shadow of that year lay heavily over this one, its poison seeping in.  People who can are still working from home, Covid is still spreading, the economy is still in a bind from the pandemic, and the world still seems to be going to hell at a rapid pace.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Well, at least we have an easy one here.  The answer is “no.”  There are a few reasons, not the least of which is Blizzard not releasing much in the way of additional content and Blizzard being revealed as a nightmarish Dickensian workhouse of misogyny and intolerance.  Also, maybe “run Torghast every day for the next two years” wasn’t the winning plan that somebody thought it was.

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

Another easy one!  And another “no.”   Wyatt Cheng once asked if we had phones.  Many of us probably have new ones since he asked that question at BlizzCon 2018.  Now does he have a game?  That seems to be a more pertinent question at this point.

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

Three for three here on the easy questions, with another big “no” on the tally.  Diablo II Resurrected is about as “new” as they got, and they had Vicarious Visions do the remaster of a twenty year old title for that.  It was a good remaster, but it wasn’t new.

Along with that we had Burning Crusade Classic and WoW Classic Season of Mastery, also not new.  Even the solo mode for Hearthstone didn’t feel very new.  I guess their bigger company issues got in the way for some of that, but it still feels like they came into 2021 just winging it and hoping something would come up.  And, honestly, they don’t seem to have much lined up for 2022.  How can such a big studio… more people work on WoW than most MMO studios have total employees… deliver so little?

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

A reverse merger, with Ji Ham now at the helm?  I wouldn’t have called that one.  Otherwise there has been some promises for the future, but the first year really seemed like business as usual for Daybreak… except maybe they didn’t lay so many people off in 2021.  That’s a plus.

Will Norrath continue to boom?

Kinda, maybe, sorta.  As noted above, things were mostly business as usual.  That has generally been good for the Norrath titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, which get an expansion in November/December and a major content drop in late spring/early summer every year.  So things roll on there.

But when it comes to doing anything new, it is LOTRO they want to put on consoles, DCUO they want to update, and an unannounced Marvel IP MMO that gets all the headlines.  They even keep bringing up H1Z1.  But EverQuest as a franchise?  Any plans for that look to be dead.

What happens with H1Z1?

Nothing.  As I wrote above, EG7 keeps bringing it up when they talk about the important IPs they control.  There is clearly some wishcasting going on about the title returning to the top of the battle royale genre. But actual progress?  There was some mention that they had a few people look into being able to run a build, but otherwise nobody appears to be working H1Z1 in any meaningful way.

At least they stopped renaming it I suppose.

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not with Daybreak and EG7, we know that much.  Somewhere between the announcement that Daybreak was purchasing Cold Iron and the launch of their game Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Cold Iron went somewhere else.  Details are hazy, the story is mostly inferred, but Cold Iron never made it into the EG7 stable of studios.

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Pretend nothing has changed and announce an expansion?  This is the problem with bringing up studios and games I do not watch closely.  A bunch of key people left ANet last year, but back in August they announced the End of Dragons, slated for February 2022, so I guess everything is good.  Maybe?  I don’t really know.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

Nowhere?  Seriously, after the Triglavian story cycle the company has been been focused on the new player experience and trying to force the in-game economy into a form that they believe is best for the long term survival of the game, ignoring the short term “hey, can you give us something fun?” requests from the players.  Short sheeting the economy isn’t fun.  Even if you don’t care about the economy and mock miners and industrialists who are complaining, you have to admit that there is very little fun in what CCP has been doing for the last year.

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

No.  There was a promise over the summer that the end of scarcity was coming.  But the Q4 quadrant, New Dawn: Age of Prosperity, involved very little prosperity.  For every relaxation of the economic restrictions there was some matching nerf to offset things, often hidden behind some oppressive new game mechanic.  CCP said they were listening to feedback, but they mostly slowed their roll a bit (compression will be in 2022 now) and tried re-arranging the deck chairs some (“waste” got renamed to “residue”) as they carried forward with the goal of resetting the economy to some past halcyon state.  I am sure this will end well.

How Will World War Bee End?

The side with the 3:1 numbers advantage got tired and went home.

There are many ways to spin who “won” the war.  PAPI can claim that they forced the Imperium down from four regions to one constellation and destroyed trillions of ISK in ships and structures.  The Imperium can claim that they held out, denied PAPI their stated victory conditions, and in the end destroyed as much in ships and structures as PAPI did.

As for losing the war, that award generally goes to the group that loses their space and has to move elsewhere.  That makes Legacy Coalition, the main instigators of the war under Vily, the losers.  TEST, the leading alliance in Legacy, lost their old space, couldn’t hold their new space, and ended up trying to live as far away from the Imperium as they possibly could.  Brave gets a special mention for losing hardest of all, as not only did they lose their old space and their new space, but now the rest of PAPI is attacking them because Brave sold structures to the Imperium so they could at least asset safety their stuff and get some seed ISK in the bank to carry on.

Really though, the honor of ending the war goes to CCP.  It was already somewhat obvious after the second battle of M2-XFE that their servers were not going to be up to a final mighty battle.  And then CCP made changes to resources and production that made capital ships too valuable to expend freely, so the attackers were limited to subcaps.  In the choice between investing a lot of time and effort in a real blockade of the final Imperium constellation or just going home, they opted to go home.

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

Yes, goddammit, yes they did.  About freaking time.  And it has shipped and there is a copy for me and my daughter under the Christmas tree.  We’ll see how that plays out soon enough.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  I mean, Crowfall went live I think.  I am not sure it will survive, but it shipped.  And they are a stand out in the stable of crowd funded MMOs, which mostly promised things they couldn’t deliver.  Don’t spend money on things that you cannot play today.

Project: Gorgon is the right path, as it was in playable form from the day of the first monetary ask. Camelot Unchained is the wrong path, asking for money, blowing through every promised date ever, and starting a new project before the promised one is even in beta.  And then there is Star Citizen… well, they certainly know how to milk a community.  Star Citizen is a lot of things, but being an actual video game seems to be a few bullets down the list.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

The metaverse maybe?  That seemed to be the topic for 2021.  I don’t know if it is Raph Koster’s desire to remake the simple days of MUDs in the 90s or Mark Zuckerberg’s dystopian vision of an all controlling metaverse that turns our very desires against us, but I guess either might be something new… at least for MMORPGs.

Oh, and something about crypto and NFTs.  But we’ll probably burst that bubble in 2022.

Will I play anything new this year?

Valheim.  That was a bit of a left field star, but ended up being our main game for about two months earlier this year.  New World showed up and, once the initial chaos settled down, the instance group got into the game.  And then there was Forza Horizon 4 & 5.  Open world driving for the win.  There were a couple of other small titles that were new, but nothing that I invested more than a couple of hours in.

That I played three new games made 2021 a departure from the usual routine.  In 2020 80% of my game time was spent in WoW, WoW Classic, and EVE Online.  The year isn’t over yet, but so far those three titles represent less than 50% of my tracked play time.

Will VR get a killer app this year?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  VR will remain a niche so long as it requires a real world obscuring mask strapped to your face… oh, and the motion sickness issue gets addressed.  Ready Player One and Zuckerberg’s idea that we’re all going to live in his ad laden VR metaverse hell is a pipe dream.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

Not really.  The industry’s best defense so far has been regulators being interested in other things to further their own interests.  It has to be a slow news day for lockboxes to make the headlines of late, so politicians and regulators have mostly been busy elsewhere.   Except for Blizzard.   Yeah, Blizzard is having some regulatory issues, though not over lockboxes and that sort of thing, just mundane things like running a hostile, discriminatory work place.  The usual corporate thing.

But the industry keeps on trying to get the government to come down on them hard, with cryto and NFTs on their list of things to try next.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not yet, though Facebook seems to be pushing to have that taken away, because they have the money and the staffing to deal with any new regulations which would help them cement their place in creating our dystopian future… and present… and recent past.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

Write a post about it.  That is my answer for most things I suppose.

So that was the list for 2021.  As those were just questions rather than predictions there is no score.

I think I’ll be able to warm up to doing some predictions for 2022.  I have a couple of weeks to get on it.  But first I need to make a 2022 graphic.

Diablo II Resurrected and the Rest of BlizzConline 2021

BlizzConline has come and gone.  It was certainly more subdued than any BlizzCon though, when you don’t have a packed auditorium cheering, you cannot expect the same energy.

BlizzCon Online over yesterday

Yesterday I went through what I considered the “important bit” for me, the status of WoW Classic and the coming of The Burning Crusade.  But that was obviously not all that Blizzard had to talk about.  So here, in my order of importance, are other bits from BlizzConline.

Diablo II Resurrected

This was the other item I was keen to hear about, and I was not disappointed.  Blizzard officially announced their remaster of Diablo II.  Having just replayed the original last year… and no longer really having the option since my big new monitor simply won’t work with it… I am excited to see this.  I am pretty much a guaranteed sale here.

The return of the classic

What they showed… remastered 3D graphics as well as the option for the 2D experience… up on screen side by side with the original looked very good, both true to the original and updated to current standards.  They also have some improvements… a larger stash, a more comprehensible character and skill sheet… that looks good.  The details are up on the site for the product, including the graphical comparisons.

Plus they are going to launch it on PC, XBox, PlayStation, and Switch.  Seems like they are going all in on this.  They are even hyping up cross-play for different platforms, so you can access your character on any of the above hardware.  I am only interested in it on the PC really, where it will be $40. (Or $60 with Diablo III and all its addons thrown in.)

As with Burning Crusade Classic, the deep dive panel (video here) was less technically focused… again, no slides or charts or numbers… and more about the drive to deliver both an authentic Diablo II experience and bring the game in line with modern expectations.  The level of detail discussed was impressive.  I suspect we’ll hear again from David Brevik about how Blizzard can’t do this, that, or the other thing, as occurs whenever talk of a Diablo II remaster comes up, but Blizz seems set to prove him wrong.

And it is expected to launch in 2021, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they did a repeat of the original for an end of the year release.  That fact that the list December on the page where you can pre-order it… because of course you can pre-order it… seems a likely sign.  We shall see.

I am excited about this, though I know Blizz has dropped the ball on the remaster thing before, back with Warcraft III.  I hope they learned the right lessons from that.  But if they are going out on consoles, this will have a lot of resources behind it.

Shadowlands Updates

It isn’t so much that I dislike the Shadowlands expansion… it seems interesting and fun in its own way, and I jumped on board at launch… it is more than when I stack rank what I want to play on a given evening it tends to fall into third or fourth place… fourth now that Valheim is on the scene.  Unfortunately, that means I am so far behind on covenant stuff (they barely know me at this point) and have missed so much that I am probably out until the second summer of Shadowlands when they smooth out the curve to let the slackers catch up.

Anyway, they announced the first big content drop, the 9.1 Chains of Domination update.  Kaylriene has a write up that covers it and the presentations in more depth than I could manage, so that probably ought to be your destination if this is relevant to your interests.

Blizzard Arcade Collection

Blizzard, on a retro rampage with their 30th anniversary, has brought back their original console titles, The Lost Vikings, Rock N Roll Racing, and Blackthorne, in the Blizzard Arcade Collection.

Back in the lineup

I have never played any of these titles.  I know just enough about them to get the occasional reference to them in WoW… the Vikings, for example, are in Uldaman.  But the games have been brought up to date and will be available on XBox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC.  I might actually give this a try on my Switch Lite.

Diablo Immortal

We have been hearing about this since BlizzCon 2018 when Blizzard failed to manage expectations after putting the Diablo franchise in the position of honor in the schedule, leading everybody and their dog to expect a Diablo IV announcement.  They told us directly to not get our hopes up, but it was right there on the schedule.  And then after the keynote the schedule was updated to say Diablo Immortal.

Phone Diablo

Still, the word out there is that it is a pretty solid title, sitting in the story line between Diablo II and Diablo III.  I would probably give it a try on my iPad if it isn’t to dear in price… absolutely if it is free, though we know how that can go.  Of course, that is part of the problem;  we still don’t know many solid details about the game and the Blizzard site about it doesn’t have much to add.  I feel like I know way more about Diablo II Resurrected after two days than I do about Diablo Immortal after more than two years.

Hearthstone Classic

I’m not going to play this.  I played just enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed mount in WoW, and then a bit more on my iPad, but it isn’t a game that holds me.  I am just amused that they’ve thrown so many expansions and changes into the game that they’re ready to drag out a classic version… though I guess it has been six years.  Time flies.

Diablo IV and Overwatch 2

We heard about the rogue class in Diablo IV and about the myriad PvE missions in Overwatch 2, but both titles are still more than a year out, so I just cannot get myself at all worked up.  There are too many things to interest me between now and whenever to divert my attention.  Also, the announcements were not all that earth shattering.  I’m not saying there isn’t something Blizz could say about either that would kindle a deep interest, they’re just not there yet.

BlizzConline Overall

Not bad.

I mean, it is hard to argue with some of the solid announcements they had.  There was enough WoW focused stuff to keep me engaged along with enough other stuff that it didn’t feel like the “WoWCon” BlizzCons of a decade back.

I was also happy it was free and readily available via multiple services and that the videos from the panels were uploaded and ready on YouTube almost immediately.

Still, it didn’t quite have the full BlizzCon feel.  As I said previously, it felt different not being in front of a live studio audience.  I may love the written word, but writing “the audience roared” and hearing a BlizzCon audience roar of its own accord in reaction to something announced on stage at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I didn’t mind the chatty nature of the panels.  I like to hear the devs talk and they have done some nice videos in the past like that.  I especially remember the series with some of the original devs talking about making WoW as part of the WoW Classic launch build up.  But I am not sure that eight minutes of that in a 30 minute panel that is labeled as a “deep dive” is quite on the mark.

I felt that there was a lot less hard information presented and that the details that were given us often were not accompanied by the bullet point slide pages to which we have grown accustomed from past BlizzCon panels.  It isn’t real unless it is in PowerPoint, right?

I also wouldn’t be surprised to find that the panels and presentations were all pre-recorded and just queued up to play.  With no live audience and nobody holding up today’s paper in frame ransom note style how could we tell?

In fact, in writing that, I will swap to saying that I would actually be surprised to find that most, if not all, of the panels were NOT pre-recorded and queued up to play.  I mean, why wouldn’t you go that route?  Though, if you did, you’d think we’d get more slides.

So, it was good for what it was.  Life in the pandemic dictates what we can do.  I think they could have done better with info, but maybe the things I wanted had not been nailed down yet.  I don’t think it had quite the impact that a live BlizzCon would have, but we still got some very big announcements.

SupreData says WoW Jumped in Subscribers and Revenue

SuperData Research put out its report for digital revenue for November, which saw record numbers.

  • Digital games earned $11.5B in November 2020, the highest monthly revenue ever. Overall earnings were up 15% over November 2019. Mobile grew 9% while PC rose 22% to reach a new revenue record, which was driven largely by the release of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Console earnings were up 24% but fell slightly below the all-time record set in April 2020.

According to another report they put out, Black Friday fell short of 2019 by 10% due to a variety of reasons, mostly on the console front.  But PC sales were the big winner, with World of Warcraft topping that end of their monthly chart.

SuperData Research Top 10 – November 2020

World of Warcraft took first place on PC for digital sales, leaping past the usual suspects that make up the top four names nearly every month, due to the Shadowlands expansion.

  • The release of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands led to the game’s highest monthly revenue since 2008 and player numbers since 2010. Compared to the launch of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in August 2018, earnings and user numbers were 50% and 34% higher, respectively. It is unlikely the game will sustain these high player numbers for more than one to two more months. The title is now highly dependent on major expansions to drive temporary spikes in revenue and user numbers.

Great numbers… the highest revenue since 2008 and the most players since 2010… but the caveat is pretty real.  This spike was driven by the new expansion and history shows that those numbers will taper off if they don’t have content that will deliver for players over time.  It would be good to follow strength with strength, like maybe having some news in time for BlizzConline in February about plans for WoW Classic and The Burning Crusade.

After WoW we have the usual four, League of Legends and the heavily Asian titles, Dungeon Fighter Online, Crossfire, and Fantasy Westward Journey Online.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War dropped into six place with its Warzone free to play mode.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War sold 5.7M digital units in November, a 7% increase compared to the previous franchise record holder Black Ops 4. The ongoing success of the free-to-play Warzone mode in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare helped drive interest in the latest title. Warzone will likely continue to be the most common way gamers experience Call of Duty on PC or console in the near future. Thanks to Warzone, Modern Warfare had 2.7 times as many players as Cold War in November 2020.

World of Tanks returned to the list in seventh position, followed by Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, which launched early in November.

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla sold 1.7M units, 50% more than Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at launch. The latest game benefited from a positive reception to Odyssey, from being a showpiece game for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S and also from a last-minute delay of Cyberpunk 2077. Even though the game’s overall revenue was up 23% over Odyssey at launch, in-game revenue was down 62%. This was likely because Valhalla did not offer a paid experience booster at launch, which Odyssey was criticized for featuring. However, Ubisoft did add a booster into Valhalla in December.

Then the list wraps up with Roblox and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which was in sixth spot last month.

On the console list Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War topped the chart while Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla managed fourth position.  Staple of the console list, Grand Theft Auto V managed to hold on another month in eighth, while Fortnite grabbed 10th spot.

On the mobile side of the chart Free Fire, the mobile shooter from Singapore, returned to the top spot, while Pokemon Go fell into second place after topping the list last month.  Bell weather title Candy Crush Saga held on in seventh position while Honour of Kings, which held the top spot for many months this year, stayed on the list in ninth position.

Not on any of the charts, the sleeper hit of 2020, Among Us, gets a special mention in the November report.

  • Among Us had roughly half a billion monthly active users in November. The title is now by far the most popular game ever in terms of monthly players. Since Among Us is not heavily monetized, earnings figures are comparatively smaller. The PC version (which has a $5 upfront price) accounted for the majority of revenue from August to November (64%) despite having an extremely small share of the total player base (3% in November).

So that is November.  For December we will no doubt see Cyberpunk 2077 jump onto the PC and console charts, and we’ll have to see how well World of Warcraft holds on after its trip to the number one position.

Choosing my Covenant in Shadowlands

I’ve slipped a bit on keeping up with Shadowlands, though that is less to do with the expansion and more to do with my ability to juggle multiple games.  I can generally focus on two MMOs… and only if one of them is EVE Online, which is different enough from everything else to not overlap.  So if I get hooked up with something in WoW Classic… which I have been… then I am generally playing that and not retail WoW or some other fantasy MMORPG.

Anyway, I left off last time having finished up in Ravendreth, at which point you get sent back to Oribos to make the big decision.

Choose your destiny – Bastion, Ravendreth, Maldraxxus, or Ardenweald

As I noted previously, the whole level 50 to 60 experience and tour through the four zones is just an elaborate intro to the expansion. I know for many the end game is the game, but this looks like Blizzard’s attempt to make the end game the game for everybody.

And I am not necessarily against that.  I have done a lot of the world quest and story line quests and other events after hitting level cap since Wrath of the Lich King.  We’ll have to see how people deal with the idea that you can hit level cap so quickly and then spend the next two years doing events and alternate progress.

So there I was in Oribos to pick my covenant.  There are representatives from all four hanging out there by Bolvar Fordragon and you have to talk to each one to update the quest that ends with you picking one.  Given my reactions to the various zones, Maldraxxus, the Necrolords, or Ravendreth, the Venthyr, seemed the best options.  In the end the Venthyr abilities won me other, and I made the choice.

As sure as I can be

Once you click the button you are semi-committed.  I hear it is a bit of a pain to change covenants, but I haven’t felt the need to track that down.

Oh, and an achievement.  Always an achievement.

I have chosen

And then it is off to your chosen covenant to dig deeper into their tale.  There are more story lines to run down, world quests to do, and currencies to acquire, with which you can unlock various things.

I am not sure why I chose the command table, it ended up being exactly what I expected

And, eventually, you get back into the Maw and back on the trail of Anduin, Jaina, Thrall, and Baine, the four leaders who helped get you out of the Maw in the first place, after which you spent ten levels getting introduced to people while they suffered.

In fact, the commute to the Maw becomes a pretty regular routine, such that the awe and amazement that NPCs first displayed when you showed up seems somewhat misplaced.  You’re jumping down the portal to the Maw as part of your daily commute because there is always something to do there.

Jumping into the Maw yet again

That doesn’t necessarily make me happy.  The Maw is one of those zones where it is really easy to get in over your head or have an unfortunate respawn.  I die a lot in the Maw, which seems odd in the land of the dead, but you roll with it.  It is inconvenient and usual, and my repair bill is huge… or it seems huge.  It would bankrupt me in WoW Classic.  But somehow my gold balance keeps slowly rising due to the rewards.  I had some gray vendor trash that would have paid for an epic mount in vanilla.

But the Maw is the path to Torghast, which is the center of things.  I do a bit better in there than out in the Maw solo.  My ret pally has just enough oomph to deal with most things, if I choose the right zone boosts.

I’ve been in and rescued Blaine Bloodhoof so far, though he seemed surly afterwards.  He probably knows how much time I spent dawdling before I got to him.

Blaine just sitting there in Oribos

I haven’t gotten much further past there, though I have run down a couple more stories in Ravendreth.

That achievement

But I don’t feel in that much of a hurry to carry on.  If we’re going to be doing end game for two years, then there isn’t any reason to get burned out on it a month in.

And then there are alts.  With the easy run to level 60… and, honestly, the run from 1 to 60 is pretty manageable compared to the pre-squish days… this seems like an expansion where people can get a lot of max level alts going.  I pushed my hunter, always first among my alts, into the expansion, but haven’t decided which path to take with him.  Once you have one character at level cap you get a choice.  You can go the full tour route, or you can commit to a covenant straight up and run with that.

Choose your experience

I haven’t decided for my hunter yet.  You can go on with the tour path as long as you want, but the moment you choose a covenant you give up the tour and cannot return to that path.  I am not sure which covenant would suit him, or even if I want to jump straight into end game world quests and what not right away.

As for the rest of the group, Skonk went with Kyrian and Bastion, that seeming compatible with a priest, and Ula went with The Night Fae in Ardenweald so she could spend more time with her pal Moonberry.  Ula has pushed ahead and already has a mount even.

My pally will keep swinging away in Ravendreth.

More places to explore

And I’ll just have to see where it ends up taking me.

WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

This has become a staple post after every WoW expansion release, usually because Blizzard puts out a press release about the first day sales full of superlatives.  And so it goes for Shadowlands.

This time though Blizzard has out done itself with a press release declaring Shadowlands “the fastest-selling PC game of all time industry-wide” having had 3.7 million first day sales.  That is some boast, though the previous champion was, by their accounting, was Diablo III which had 3.5 million first day sales.

They also have a few additional brags.

  • In the months leading up to the expansion’s release and the time since launch, the game reached and has sustained its highest number of players on monthly or longer-term subscriptions compared to the same period ahead of and following any WoW expansion in the past decade, in both the West and the East.
  • Players have spent more time in Azeroth year to date than in the same period of any of the last 10 years.
  • In addition, total player time in game this year to date has nearly doubled compared to the same period last year.

The last bullet point is a solid one, since numbers were up a year ago due to WoW Classic, so topping that says something.  The first point is time bound by expansions that launched in the last decade, which basically means since they pissed a lot of people off with the Cataclysm expansion.  The game’s peak no doubt remains in the Wrath of the Lich King era.

A chart from 2015 back when we used to get subscriber numbers

Still, it is good to see the game doing well, though for the video game industry the pandemic has been a rising tide that has lifted all boats it seems.

Anyway, like I said, there is a press release like this every expansion.  Battle for Azeroth had one two years back which pegged its first day sales at 3.4 million, and Legion had one before that which put it at 3.3 million, and so on down the line.  The totals, so far as I could figure it out some time back, should now look like this:

  • Shadowlands – 3.7 million
  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

Those are mostly “first 24 hours” of sales, except where noted.  After Cataclysm Blizzard needed to give Mists of Pandaria a bit more runway to get into the zone I guess.

And, of course, we get into what really counts as day one sales.

With the original World of Warcraft  launch, that was all boxes purchased retail.  I recall the story of Blizzard having to divert the truck filled with employee versions of the collector’s edition to the retail channel because the game was selling out.

Day one of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King both saw midnight launch parties at retailers.  I recall a pallet of TBC collector’s edition boxes sitting on the floor at Fry’s in Sunnyvale the day it launched.  But I haven’t been down to a retail store to buy a physical box for a WoW expansion since WotLK.  Since then digital sales and pre-orders have been my thing and have no doubt come to dominate the sales numbers.

Because, technically, that 3.7 million number isn’t the first day sales number.  That is the number of units they were able to recognize revenue on due to having shipped the product on November 23rd.  The expansion had been selling via pre-orders for a long time.

I have a post back from November 7, 2019 where I compared four upcoming MMORPG expansions that mentions that the Shadowlands pre-orders were already open and available.  That is more than a year ago, so we are not talking a single day sales record… or probably even “fastest selling” if we were able to get the actual sales data from Blizzard.  I strongly suspect that the most sales in the shortest space of time still belongs to some of the older titles.

I am now also curious about how long pre-order periods have been for WoW expansions over the years.  I am going to guess that Shadowlands, which ran over a year in pre-order mode, would top that list.

Still, that is a lot of sales, and with that big revenue recognition burst I expect we’ll see World of Warcraft pop up a few spots on the SuperData Research November chart when we get that later this month.  Can it dethrone League of Legends?

Of course, as that list I made indicates, nobody is likely to debate whether or not Blizzard can move boxes, virtual or otherwise.  Can they keep the subscribers though?  That has been a problem for several expansions in the last decade.

Other coverage of this announcement:

Addendum: Shadowlands record broken already by Cyberpunk 2077.

Fitting in with the Venthyr in Ravendreth

The fourth and final faction zone in the initial tour of the Shadowlands expansion is Ravendreth.  Saving the best for last?  I think so.

Here’s the thing.  While I am far too lazy, cheap, and self-conscious to try and pull off the sort of overwrought goth vampire look myself… also, I live where it is warm and sunny most of the year… I am way into it as a voyeur of sorts.  I read a bunch of Anne Rice in the 90s and had a girlfriend or two who wore black lipstick and liked to hang out in graveyards.  That probably cements my poser status, but whatever.  I’m into it in my way.

So if you put me in an overcast zone with Gothic architecture, and a host of crazily coifed pale NPCs in high boots, tight breeches, and flowing gowns and I am ready for adventure.

Yeah, I stand out in my green armor and engineer’s goggles, but I’d fix that if Blizz would let me transmog into any of the outfits around me.

Transmog me please

Granted, I was a little worried when I got in and the first thing I heard was another bad British accent.  But the hired help speaks their with their own low dialect and accent and, if nothing else, class based accents are a thing in Britain.  The main cast has the effete and cultured tones of a long run down aristocracy.  Just the ticket.

The story starts out with an introduction and then a carriage ride.  I was a bit disappointed that, unlike such vehicles in past zones, I did not get to hop onto the back and ride along on the outside.

In the carriage through the night

That said, I did end up outside the thing soon enough.

We seem to have fallen

This sets up a bit of exploration and exposition in the zone before getting into the meat of the tale and the range of exotic characters that make up the cast, like Sire Denathrius.

The Sire speaks

My problem with this post is that, like my previous zone posts, I don’t want to give away the story, but I am tempted to post too many screen shots of various aspects of the zone.  I took a lot of screen shots.

Suffice to say that in such a baroque group of characters there is strife, intrigue, and not everybody is telling you the truth at the start.  Also, everybody is very tall.

The guys without shirts fit in better than I do… also, I still have candy canes in my bag

Like every place else in the Shadowlands, Ravendreth is short of anima, though the Venthyr can extract it directly from the souls sent to their realm, souls tainted by greed, pride, and like sins that are there to have their flaws corrected.  But the Venthyr themselves seem to reflect much of what they are there to address.  Also, did I mention the architecture?

Mirror adjustment time

Their infighting ends up sending you back to the Maw once more… by this point everybody is calling you “The Maw-walker” because the place seems to have a revolving door the way you can come and go.

You also get a peek into Torghast, the tower in which the captured heroes… Jaina, Andiun, Thrall, and Baine, who helped you out then were captured and faced torment while you explored four zones of content… are being held.  You don’t actually see them, much less make any move to help them, but it introduces you to the mechanics of amina powers you can get there.  It is the dungeon where the expansion will no doubt focus for now.  And then you’re out again, though you go through a ritual to exit rather than just taking the usual door out in the Maw.

It isn’t as painful as it looks

And then there is the return fall… you do a lot of falling in Ravendreth.

Here I go again

Somewhere around then I hit level 60.

And at the cap again

It is clear to me at this point that all of this, the journey into the Maw, the visit to Oribos, the runs through Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald, and Ravendreth, and the climb to the level cap, are all part of one coordinated intro to the expansion.

I’ve seen a few people throwing stones at those rushing to level cap, but in the case of Shadowlands it is more like you’ve finished the tutorial.  It is something of a bold strategy for Blizzard, and we’ll have to see if it pays off.  Lots of people will make it to 60 easily.  That can be heady.  I enjoyed something similar last year with the EverQuest II expansion.  But will people stick around or will it be only the hardcore and late comers in two months?

Anyway, I finished up the main story and got the achievement.

Ravendreth Story Complete

I liked the story, the twists, and the characters in Ravendreth.  And, of course, the scenery.  Even the cut scenes have some great locations.

I want to go to this location

And in looking around I found that I could actually ride the carriages that seem to follow a regular route.  You just jump on and go.

Along for the ride

On the other hand, this zone felt a tougher than the previous three, though I will admit that things seemed to start ramping up towards the end of Ardenweald.  My pet theory is that we’re encountering a bit of the BFA scaling problem again, where difficulty is boosted with both your character level and your equipped item level, such that equipping new gear rather perversely made you less powerful and the trick was to never upgrade until you were at level cap.

Normally I would just say I am bad, but I was an unstoppable killing machine in Bastion and Maldraxxus, felt a bit of slowing in Ardenwealed, and had to work to keep up in Ravendreth.  Either the zones got harder, the scaling is still broken, or I got worse as I played through, take your pick.

Anyway, done there it was time to go back to Oribos and make the decision about which covenant to join.

Ardenweald and the Electric Blue Dream

Having finished up the main story line in Maldraxxus, it was time to move on to the next zone, Ardenweald, which is home to forest dwellers and nature lovers of all kind.  After the mayhem of Maldraxxus I was a bit skeptical of a tree-hugging zone.

This was not helped by the fact that the first couple of fairies you run into are named Moonberry and Featherlight.  How very granola.

But then pretty much the first thing they ask you to do is kill a guy, not because of bad feelings or memories, but because he is simply in the way, and I was appeased.  Murder for hire is the same in Birkenstocks as it in hobnail boots.  So off we went.

Faeries gotta slay too I guess

While I am not a huge fan of the elven forest lifestyle, I am also not set against it either.  Ardenweald isn’t as bright and sunny as Bastion, nor does it scream out at you to have your war face on at all times like Maldraxxus.  There are stretches where the zone presents an inviting open vista.

Out on the open road into the blue

But like the elves, there is always a darkness out there somewhere, and you end up delving into it naturally enough.  Darkness and blue.  So much blue.  Dark blues, medium blues, and the blues you generally encounter in the UI’s of science fiction games.

There is a “blue bear-y” joke in there

After the grotesque intensity of Maldraxxus, Ardenweald was a bit more of a relaxing ride.  There were some intense points, and being in a forest with hills and valleys always means that the path to where you want to go isn’t always straight, but it moved along smoothly.  Maybe a bit too smoothly, as I kind of lost the thread of the story as I went through.  In the end it was all about getting an intro to the Winter Queen, proving your worth, and getting her to make the right decision.

And something about a dragon that has since slipped my brain…

Anyway, I made it through to the end, and got my audience with the Winter Queen.

She is taller in person than in the visions

After that it was back to Oribos to report in and get the achievement for the story line.

Add another one to the list

There wasn’t even a side trip into the Maw this time around.  Not a bad zone, but it didn’t really stick with me.  By the time I was done a lot of what had transpired was forgotten.

But finishing up there opened up the next zone for me, Ravendreth and the final faction of the expansion.