Rumours of a Pandaren Based WoW Expansion (are greatly exaggerated)

Rumours sprang up earlier that the next WoW expansion will be centred on the fluffy race of panda people and their mysterious homeland (which cunningly doesn’t seem to fit on regular maps of Azeroth so that’s some clever island hiding right there.) This was based in Blizzard having taken out a trademark for the name, “Mists of Pandaria.”

Far be it from me to doubt Boub’s research but I won’t be surprised if this turns out to be either a hoax or Blizzard are moving away from the large 2-yearly expansion model. Two reasons for this:

  1. Pandaren are pretty much a joke race. That’s not a showstopper in itself, lore can be written. But there doesn’t seem enough meat there to justify a whole expansion even if they throw in an entire east asian fantasy themed continent.
  2. WoW is going to face some stiff competition in the AAA MMO field over the next year, with SWTOR, GW2, Diablo 3 (we might as well call it a quasi-MMO now), and smaller MMOs like Prime, not to mention whatever Blizzard has up its sleeve with Titan. Wrath and Cataclysm were both fairly epic; are they really going to go with the fluffy pandas for their next outing?

The sadness of pet collectors

I’m always interested in finding people who play MMOs in a very different way from the way I do, so I was intrigued to read comments on the official forums by pet collectors who felt that the Blizzard Store was ruining their game by selling minipets. There is a fantastic site for WoW pet collectors at warcraftpets.com — and even on the front page, they mention that they are catering to hardcore pet collectors as well as ‘people who just want a new pet.’

I’m impressed because that specific site has pretty much created the entire pet collecting minigame. You can register your collection, compare it with other people, see who else is collecting on your realm. Why it doesn’t have a proper forum I have no idea.

(I also wonder why these guys don’t play EQ2 because it’s the most collector-friendly MMO I’ve ever seen.)

Just as background, there are lots of novelty non-combat minipets available in WoW. Some can be bought cheaply from an in game vendor, some are given as rewards for quests, achievements, or for being logged in on an anniversary week. Others are rare drops which can later be sold for high prices on the auction house. And you can also buy them with real cash — not just in the pet shop, but buying rare CCGs with minipets attached, buying collectors editions of the various expansion packs, and so on.

I’m quite surprised that so little of this pet collecting minigame has ever been incorporated into WoW formally. Sure, the pets are there, but the tools to locate, compare, and brag about them really are not. There are a few achievements involved but otherwise, the pets are just thrown in willy-nilly. I’m sure that for the collectors that is part of the appeal. Because there’s no real rhyme or reason to it, collecting a lot of pets shows that you know how to research the game.

Also, there are no mini pets which drop in raid instances. Pet collecting absolutely can be done solo — there’s one pet in a 5 man instance but all the rest are not. This is a type of gaming which lends itself to soloing or even casual play.

So why would adding buyable pets change that? It doesn’t. There has been a notion that cool or interesting pets should be more difficult to collect but that’s rather down to personal taste. There’s also a notion that it’s cooler to be seen with rarer pets, but with such a wide range to choose from, it should be easy to pick one that no one else likes. What the cash shop changes is that now it’s likely that cute pets might be very easy to get in game. You don’t even need to visit the local pet vendor.  And I think that is what is messing with people’s heads.

To non pet collectors, it’s a non issue. Pay cash for cute pet, job done. But for pet collectors, it’s more of an adjustment. Should they even include the buyable pets in their pet count, because there is no difficulty involved?

And for the rest of us, we can ponder whether or not Collector is a different style of play from Achiever (I think it is), and the happy coincidence that led “ok, lets throw in some more minipets'” to becoming a fun game for the minipet collectors.