The release date tango

  • The Secret World has just started its early access period prior to launch on July 3rd.
  • Arenanet have made the (gaming) internet explode by announcing GW2 release date as 28th August. (Like Tobold, I plan to pick my copy up then because I think it will be cheaper.)
  • Also Turbine will be releasing their Rohan expansion for LOTRO at some point this Autumn/Winter. I don’t imagine that will have a big impact on the other games, but you never know.
  • So the big question now is when will Blizzard release Mists of Pandaria?

In previous years, MMOs have tended to shuffle their release dates around each other. There is an advantage to having an earlier release than competitors, in that bored players will pick up your game just because it’s new. On the other hand, the typical MMO tourist spends a month or so in a new game and then moves on, so timing your release for a month or so after another game might work better.

  • Notorious clashes in the past have been when Warhammer Online released on Sept 18th, 2008. Blizzard released Wrath (probably their best expansion to date, imo) in November of the same year, just in time to pick up disaffected WAR players.
  • Cataclysm was released on Dec 7th, 2010. Aion released in the West on Sept 7th of the same year.

As gamers, we may tend to read too much into these things. Q4 is popular for gaming releases in any case, it picks up the Xmas market, returning students, and gets cash inflow before the end of the calendar year.

Still, it’s interesting that the big MMO releases this year seem to be edging earlier and earlier. There are good reasons for Blizzard to launch MoP as early as possible:

  • If players get hooked on GW2 before MoP launches (I see GW2 as more of a competitor here, as it’s also a fantasy themepark MMO), the barriers to switching from a sub-free game to a full subscription + pay-for-expansion WoW are much higher than switching from another sub game.
  • Players who picked up an Annual Pass (these are Blizzard’s core gamers, the ones they can least afford to lose) may get pissed off if they can’t get at least a couple of months of MoP as part of their annual lockin. Especially since this year in WoW has been rather a content desert.
  • No Blizzcon this year to act as a distraction to the playerbase.

So will Blizzard release against GW2, or will this expansion, like the previous ones, get shunted back to the end of the year?

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18 thoughts on “The release date tango

  1. The MoP trailer is suppose to be first shown at Gamescon international on August 15th. If they go by their normal 2 month release date notification they do, MoP will release in Oct. that could explain why they are not having a BlizzCon this year.

  2. I don’t think GW2 will be as direct of a competitor to MoP simply because there’s no monthly fee and the gameplay style is so different (no raids, no gear progression, very different combat). I think many people will just get both games.

    • From what people have been saying about GW2, even those who have been playing it, I kind of suspect that they do not actually realise this.

      I also kind of suspect it’s going to hemmorage players when they do.

      • I agree; it doesn’t need a hook because it doesn’t have a sub model, but once people burn through the content I don’t see there being a real reason to stick around.

        GW2 will be very interesting to watch; by far the most enjoyable part of the BWE was the UI and the small group PvP, but, as I’ve said before, the latter was only good because it was a lot like LoL (no healers, despite its disastrous impact on PvE, is a really, really good thing in PvP).

      • I’m going to predict that a common complaint from many PvE-ers will be that ‘there isn’t enough endgame content’.

    • Yet many people don’t rain in WoW (and therefore don’t get showered in raid epics). Might not be so different after all if you look how and for what those people play the game.

      • This was my thought too, I’m not sure how many players aren’t really gung ho any more about the WoW raid model, or are on the fence about MoP anyway. I think the similarities to WoW are much greater than the differences.

  3. I will cancel my sub as soon as my annual pass expires, I will certainly not be buying MoP, it’s more of the same and bland as can be. I’m sure I’ll be happily playing GW2 instead by that point.

  4. LotRO’s Rohan expansion date was already set for September 5th before ArenaNet announced the GW2 date. I suspect this is going to take some of the shine off Rohan. Rift also has an expansion in the works, date unannounced but Trion have a reputation for turning stuff around fast so it could well be before the end of the year.

    I see Blizzard as having three options: release early to steal GW2′s thunder (going to have to move pretty fast on this, and risks their rep for quality if they aren’t really ready), release late and hope that their players will be bored of GW2 and be ready to come home to Warcraft, or release when it’s ready and let the chips fall where they may.

    • I think if they go with the latter, it’ll be the last time they do it. I don’t see MoP reversing WoW’s decline (like Spinks I’m inclined to agree that Wrath, specifically pre-ToC, was WoW at its very best) whenever it’s released, and I don’t see the Activision side of the business letting Blizz get away with it any longer.

    • I’ve noticed talk around the net that the GW2 release set barely a week before Riders of Rohan was intentional.

      I know a lot of gamers like to laugh at LOTRO but it seems it is still some kind of threat if one of the biggest new games of the year is trying to pee on its parade.

      The audience isn’t growing for any of these games. It may have reached the limit, which is why everyone is fighting for the same group of eyeballs. Players only have so much free time to devote to games even free ones. And since free games depend on players buying little fancies, it is imperative that they have a dedicated fan base. Which goes back to LOTRO is direct competition to GW2.

  5. I’m sure that for MoP there’ll be at least an element of “it’ll be done when it’s done,” and they won’t want to usher it out of the door early if it means sacrificing polish. Also they only just released D3 and they’ll want at least 6 months between major releases. November at the earliest in my opinion.

    • It’s also worth remembering how big WoW still is. It can afford to take it’s time with MoP because WoW doesn’t release around other games, other games release around WoW.

  6. Honestly, I don’t see any of these games bringing in new gamers to the MMO fold, so the MMOs are left to cannibalize each other.

    This is a situation that may not concern hardcore MMO players, but it should. MMOs are a niche market –a niche within a niche, really– and if MMOs are going to grow and get more people into the fold, they need to expand their reach.

    • There are many people who have quit playing MMO and are still looking into a MMO they like to play.

      GW2, lacking subscription and containing fluent questing makes the game very casual friendly. Many casual players have quit the subscription-based MMOs because they could not keep up with the grind, nor play enough to warrant their sub.

      Me, I am pretty tired with the grind, and if I enjoy GW2 so much I may not play (much) MoP because I know MoP will be another grindfest to keep people busy in the game. That is how good subscription-based games work.

      Keep in mind patch 4.3 was much more casual-friendly than Cataclysm 4.0, 4.1, and 4.2. This patch was released 3 weeks before SWTOR was released.

      I don’t expect game companies to release their games within a short time (2-3 weeks) of each other and I don’t expect MoP to be ready in a few weeks so I expect MoP to come in october. As for the state of MoP we’re currently raid testing, final balancing, and the 5.0.1 patch containing the MoP changes in Cata as well as the pre-event will soon be tested on PTR.

      Given the Maya prophecy I’d find it ironic if Blizzard would release MoP on that date and end the Cataclysm there. I always found the name of expansion quite ironic in that light.

  7. My guess would be before Christmas, although TBC was released in January.

    And I honestly don’t think that WoW has much competition from GW2. I’ll probably just pick up both and spend a month or two with both of the games.

  8. Blizzard would have wanted a later GW2 release so they could strangle it in the crib – make no mistake about that. When ArenaNet announced the end of August, I honestly though MoP would ditch something (such as the Tiller’s Farm) and aim for mid-August in order to compete directly.

    The fact Blizzard are taking a huge risk in releasing as late as October tells me that they’re either not worried about the competition at all, which would be arrogant, or the bean counters just don’t care about their players. We were promised that the Icecrown dearth of content would never happen again, yet here we are suffering the same raid starvation.

    Only, it’s worse thanks to the smaller number of individual bosses and the fact that Dragon Soul is utter crap.

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