Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why are we Charged for Patches?

I am sure there will be a great deal of people that disagree with me on my assessment that every expansion that has come out so far is a patch.  There is a solid argument that the burning crusade and wrath of the lich king were true expansions, but there is absolutely no argument that can be presented that would convince me that cataclysm was nothing but a patch. 

BC and wrath were completely new content whereas there is nothing new in cataclysm.  All five zones we were given have been in the game in some way since vanilla.  Uldum, twilight highlands and hyjal most noticeably but the other two were there as well.

I am sure I am not the only person that ever made that trek up the long hill with all those elite dragonkin in the wetlands just to run into a locked up entrance to grim batol.  It has been there forever.  As have the other places in cataclysm.

But this is not to just pick on cataclysm which is without a doubt the easiest expansion to argue is just a huge patch, it is to express the feeling that all expansions are patches and that we should not be charged for them at all.  Add to that, it is the expansion concept that forces us to have to wait forever for new content.  Because instead of releasing things as patches, they hold back stuff so they can release it as content for an expansion and charge us for it.

Lets look at what I believe is the definition of expansion, which others might disagree with.

Expansion:  A furtherance of storyline and addition of new content.

What was BC?  What was Wrath?  What was Cataclysm?  What is Mists going to be?  A furtherance of storyline and addition of new content.  A patch.

The only thing that expansions have that patches don't, when relating it to what blizzard pushes on us, is new levels and the related leveling zones and a possible skill reset as we have seen twice recently.

Releasing new content like raids, dungeons, arenas, battlegrounds, etc can be patched in and has in the past.  Heck, dungeons and raids being released and the occasional quest zone is what we usually get as a patch isn't it? 

They do not need to be part of a new expansion but blizzard makes sure to hold them back so they have something to offer in an expansion.  Releasing new questing zones, like molten front this expansion, can be added at any point to a good reception, but they are held back for expansions. 

Redesigning talents happen all the time as well with tweaks and changes, but instead of just doing them a little here and there blizzard just waits and gives us a lot of huge changes all at once holding it back for an expansion.  If anything, that is perhaps the only thing I can see being released as one huge thing.  All the other stuff could be released in small pieces.

Expansions ruin content, they make the time between content take longer, most noticeably at the end of the expansion previous.  Just look at hate most people have toward dragon soul now.  It is only because we should not still be doing it.  It is old content now, even if it is still current.

They could have easily released the starting zones to the pandas and increased the level cap to 86.  They could have easily released pet battles as a patch just like they released transmog as a patch, like they released LFD as a patch, as they released LFR as a patch.  There is a history of adding new things that are game changing in patches.  It is not required they wait for the new expansion.

Don't you think that if we had the level 85-86 zone released two months ago, and the 86-87 zone released this month, and the 87-88 zone released in two months and so forth and so on that it would have been better for the game?

It would be continued content being released all the time in two, or possibly, three month intervals.  It would be great for the game, it would make it seem like the game is constantly evolving instead of what it feels like now.  Now it feels like it has been in a stagnant stage of nothing new for what seems like forever.  Actually it not only feels like that, it has been like that.

They hold all this back so they can charge us for an expansion.  Instead of doing what would be best for the game and continuing the release content at a steady rate, they drag out expansions as long as they can so they can create new stuff to charge us for.

You know what?  I am getting a little sick of that.  We should never have to pay for an expansion when there is no such thing as an expansion to a constantly evolving MMORPG.  There are only patches.  BC patched in outlands.  Wrath patched in northrend.  Cataclysm patched in those forgotten vanilla areas.  Mists will patch in pandaria.

I think blizzard needs to break the expansion concept and stop charging us for patches becuase they make us wait forever for them and then do a lot of changes all at once.  We pay, most of us at least, $15 per month to play and that should be more than ample to pay for these patches. 

If they really want the money, just release a collectors edition every so often with a mount and a pet and book and pictures and whatever else that covers all the events of the past year.  It really costs them absolutely nothing to make and no matter what price tag they put on it the idiots like me will buy it anyway even if I can get all the content as patches just so I would have the goodies as well. 

Just look at all the sparkle ponies running around, there are lots of us idiots out there that buy everything.  They could release a collectors edition every year and I would buy it.  So would so many others.  That means they might sell less, but they would release them twice as often and charge more for it making up for it.

Lets look at how things are now and how things would be if blizzard used a patch system instead of trying to make everything for one huge expansion.

Released content for 2012:

1) Nothing...
2) Nothing...
3) Nothing...

Now, if they released things in patches as it should be:

1) First Tuesday of February: End of arena season
2) Second Tuesday in February: Release of new talent system
3) First Tuesday of April: Theramore scenario released, scenario queue system released
4) First Tuesday of May:  New zone introducing pandaria for level 85-86 released.  New arena season for level 86 begins.  1 new level 86 dungeon released.
5) Third Tuesday of May: 1 New scenario released.
6) First Tuesday of June:  Pet battles released.  Only old world wild pets in game, no rares.
7) Third Tuesday of June: Outland wild pets added, no rares.
8) Forth Tuesday of June: Level 86 arena season ends.
9) First Tuesday of July: Level 86-87 zones added.  2 New normal dungeons.  2 new scenarios.  Level 87 arena season begins.
10) Third Tuesday of July: Northrend wild pets added, no rares.

Okay, we are up to date, and you see where I am heading by now.

Which version of 2012 is better?

Blizzards version of 2012 where you get nothing so they can save it all and release it in one big expansion they charge you for or my version of always evolving game play with many releases as time goes on?

Sure, mine might have been a little quick, but I did not even start to touch on the stuff that will be in mists.  Keeping with my time frame, which seems like nearly constant updates, we would not have the full mists until January or even February but there would be constant additions to make it feel like we are getting something new.  Also with the patch system, when 90 is reached there could be three different raids being released in three different months, so it is not a case of three at one time and the top guild burning through them with nothing to do until more comes out.

Another nice little addition is there would no longer be a need to nerf raids.  People would be getting level 86 gear, which would in effect nerf it some.  Plus with the addition of each new level there would be new valor gear and new conquest gear which means people would nerf the content on their own by over gearing it.  The drops might not be relevant any more once we start getting the better gear but this is the build up to the next big raid tier so why not just make the raids what they are for most raiders now anyway, stuff to do for fun only or achievements.  With the leveling making it nerfed on its own, now the players that needed the nerfs can do it without the nerf by self nerfing it with gear.

I don't know about you, but I would love a constant release schedule instead of the save everything for expansion bull crap they are doing now.  It is not about the money.  I do not mind spending 40 or 50 bucks for the expansion.  It is about the fact that I think because they are so hung up on the idea of making expansions to sell, it is why we are often left with huge gaps in content with nothing to do instead of a steadily evolving game, as a MMORPG should be.

They can patch in class chances, they can patch in new dungeons, they can patch in new raids, they can patch in new arenas, they can patch in new battlegrounds, they can patch in new zones, they can patch in level increases.  There is no need to save it all up to charge us for it.

The MMORPG world is changing, and the subscription model needs to change as well if they want to keep it.  I think the change that the subscription model needs to make if it wants to survive long term as we move forward is to make more patches and no more expansion releases for new content that we have to pay for.

Not to mention, it looks bad to a new player that is thinking of starting.  I need to buy how many expansions?  For how much?  And I still need to pay $15 a month to play it?  Screw that.

Buy one thing, world of warcraft, pay your $15 a month, and get everything up to date all the time.  Now that would really attract new players.  And keep us older players buried in constant new content.

What could be so bad about it?  Blizzard need to stop charging us for patches and calling them expansions.  It is as simple as that.  If anything is going to hurt blizzard long term it is that old thinking.  It is time they stepped up and made the decision that more content is better instead of letting everyone wait so they can charge them for an expansion.

I can even think of a monetary example that would make it worth their wild to do it that way.

People get bored with nothing new, they unsub for 6 months to wait for the new expansion.  They buy the new expansion for 50 bucks, but blizzard just lost 6 x $15 = $90 to make that 50.  More patches, less expansions.  It is the only way to go, even from a business standpoint.  Not to mention, if the customer stays with you all the time there is no chance of losing them to another game.  My outline for 2012 would have been a much better business plan than blizzards.

The time has come for the subscription model to change and stop charging us for patches they call expansions.  Don't save everything up for one huge release, release it in bits and pieces and keep the flow of new content going on forever.  That is the future of the subscription model for MMORPGs.  Not the expansion model.  The time of the expansion model has passed.


  1. 1 month long arenas seasons would not be cool. Also how would you go about testing this on beta with stuff constantly being put out? I guess you could keep the Beta servers up year round to keep testing up, then you have people having to make the choice to play the beta and help the gaming community out, or to play the new content being released. Also no one is forcing you to pay for the down months between expansions (or patches as you call them). Simply stop your subscription, and continue playing when the new content is released. This way you will have no down time in wow.

    1. Well, my release days where really short. It would be more like 3 months between them.

      I know people do not need to keep subscribed, but many do, actually most do, that is why you do not see larger drops in active subscribers.

  2. I don't necessarily agree with your example for a release schedule, but I sure agree with the principle of it.

    Honestly, I plan to touch on this when I'm on Twisted Nether in a few weeks, but I have a growing frustration with Blizzard constantly "holding back" on things just to deliver it later and have the playerbase think it's amazing. They do so many things incredibly well, but then constantly only offer half the cookie.

    The subscription model is a fading one, and I honestly and truly believe Guild Wars 2 is going to prove that and that's when World of Warcraft might finally be pressed to evolve. GW2 isn't going to kill it, not by a long shot. But, there's always hope it will make WoW better.

    1. Perhaps they can learn something from GW2 like they did from Rift. It is easy to see the influences rift has had on the game, even if only in small parts.

      The subscription model is a dying one, unless they can boost some life back into it, and constant updates is the way to keep the model alive.

      I know my timeline was a quick one, too quick, but it was there more for example than function.

  3. Great post, some details would definitely have to be worked out but there is no reason this couldn't happen and it would make for a much smoother play experience in my opinion.

    1. I, for one, would love knowing that something new is always around the corner.

  4. I have to disagree that Cataclysm brought "nothing new". You may have made the trek up there and saw the closed gate of Grim Batol, or wallwalked into where Twilight Highlands was, but just because the SPACE for those area was there, there was no actual content. So at minimum, you're looking at the new zones. There's also Tol Barad (2 zones), three raid instances, new quests, hundreds of new pieces of gear, etc. You may not LIKE them, but you can't really say they weren't *new*.

    And it's not like they were withholding content only to make us pay for it like some other games do - where you pay for new content and simply receive a code that magically reveals this previously-unknown content. We clearly see them develop and create the content of new patches. Some of it might already be in the works or in the system, but it's clearly not done and just waiting for them to open the mystical patch door and let it all out into the world.

    Also, "Just look at hate most people have toward dragon soul now. It is only because we should not still be doing it." How many posts on this very blog, when Dragon Soul was new, was talking about what a terrible raid it was? How LFR was silly and this was a poorly-designed, shoddy raid? People being tired of DS is certainly one of the reason people are complaining about it, but it's definitely not the only one.

    Disagreements aside, your constant-update idea would certainly be great. I think it'd be a lot harder than just surprise, new content each month, but hey, we can dream. Something interesting about this idea is that The Secret World is supposedly taking this approach, with monthly new content. I'll be intrigued to see how well this works out for them - it definitely sounded appealing when I was reading about it.

    1. While it is true I was no fan of cataclysm at the start, for how it abused the average player, or the end, for how it abused the raiders, or the middle, for how they abused everyone with just 2 heroics, everything they added in Cataclysm, in my opinion, is patch material, new areas or not. It was not worthy of the expansion title is what I am getting at.

      I think if any MMORPG has the ability to do it blizzard does. I like the idea of adding things as patches. Even if they raised the cost from 15 to 16 each month, it would easily offset what they would lose by charging for an expansion.

      I think it is about time that the subscription model changed and part one of that change is no more charging people for content they are already paying for with monthly fees.

  5. When I think of an expansion, the first thing that comes to mind is not 'new content'. It's 'I have to relearn my class'.

    Expansions are new beginnings. As we say in my country, full stop and start over. Entry barrier is much much lower at the start. People make easier changes, rethink what they want to do, what character they want to use, what server, what faction, what guild, what type of player they want to be. Trickling content is good but you have to have an end and a beginning. End gives you a feeling of completion which is needed.
    When a new expansion is launched, many guilds reset ranks for their raiders. They start fresh, green gear and all proving themselves once more. Why don't they do that every tier? Expansions are more than patches because they rework almost all aspects of the game. They make the game fresh once more.
    I think expansions are still needed in some shape or form.

    1. I see what you mean, the restart thing does make sense. However, although new expansions bring the time to relearn your class they actually don't.

      We will have the class changes before mists comes out. We had the class changes before cataclysm came out. We had some class changes before wrath came out.

      The class changes, although part of the expansion, are always released as a patch. We do not have to wait for the expansion to get them.

      The point of guild resetting rankings does make sense however. My guild does that as well. As soon as the new expansion comes out everyone that is a raider is no longer a raider. Once they hit max level and are in all heroic/valor gear gemmed and enchanted, then they can become raiders again.

      Outside of that reset, I don't think the patches coming slowly would really effect much outside of keeping new content flowing instead of letting us stew for months and months and months on end with nothing to do.

    2. It's natural to be in a patch prior to expansion. But the patch is actually not part of the current expansion. Current content is dead and is not designed to work properly with the new class rework. As you may have noticed, they are usually interested of things being balanced on max level only.
      At the end of Wrath, when Cata patch hit, I wasn't able to kill LK hc anymore because I had lost my 50% damage reduction CD, they had moved it to lvl 85 under a different name. My gear had no mastery and I felt squishy. They removed my judgement of light which meant a huge amount of self healing. When they do such changes, the changes assume the current content is dead. The overall changes are too big to not feel like a complete new flavour. And when you change flavour, you need to let people know beforehand, to give them time to adjust, to give them time to finish what they started (people are still working on hc DS btw, even with the 30% nerf).
      This is getting more or less a thing of semanthics. You need endings. You need gaps. You need beginnings. Only problem is, there shouldn't be such a huuuuge gap.

    3. I loved when they made the changes at the end of wrath on my mage and my hunter. I went from doing around 19K on each of them in ICC to doing 40K thanks to the changes.

      So I surely see what you mean, but it worked out for me.

      Some characters get the short end of the stick when things change. I wonder what they are doing to do with the dispelling changes. Are they going to adjust DS or will DS become impossible to do? I think that is a fair question.