Friday, August 8, 2014

Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Box Expansion Model?

When warlords comes out we will be at a nice and even level 100.  A nice end point for a leveling process in my opinion.  Being it seems the only true reason for a new box release to come out is to give us new levels and new zones we need to wonder if it is even worth having new expansions, at least as we have come to know them, as in buying a new box every 2 years for 50 bucks give or take.

If I had to guess I would say that we will get more levels with the next expansion, be it 5 or 10, but levels none the less and they use these levels as a way to sell us a new box.  I do not believe that is needed and if anything this long wait between content patches has done nothing be reenforced my opinion on the matter.

We sit around for a year doing the same old same old for what seems like forever again, just like we have in the expansion before this and the one before that.  It has become a pattern, a pattern of abuse of their power as I see it over the player base that loves the game and keeps putting up with it.  They know we will stick around, at least in large enough numbers, so they let us stew.

When mists came out and for its first full year blizzard showed us exactly what could be done when they put their mind to it.  We had story patch followed by raid patch followed by story patch and then raid patch again.  Every three months we were given something and then it stopped dead in its tracks because, to paraphrase, "if we give any more new content it will delay the expansion".

The question is, do we really need a new expansion?  Could they have just added new zones and new story content and new raids and dungeons and kept moving forward instead of leaving us in a holding pattern while we wait for a new box that we will in turn need to pay for even though we pay every single month for it already in the form of our subscription fees.

Being the game uses the subscription model I think I would prefer to pay an additional 2 dollars every month for my subscription, which would be 48 over the 2 years and effectively the cost of a new box, and continue to have new content every three months in one steady flow instead of having them throw everything together into a box and call it an expansion.

The big sell of an expansion is new levels with the new zones to level in anything else, historically, could be added as a patch.  Raids, dungeons, new mini content like the garrisons will be, heck even some zones have been added as patches, so there is no way they could say it can't be done.

They could change the leveling model now that we will be level 100.  When they want to do a complete gear reset, which is something we routinely see when we move to a new area in a new expansion, instead of giving us a "catch up" zone like timeless island in a patch which give us lower than raid level gear, they could move us to a new patch of land where we step into the new world and have a full zone of quests that all offer gear equal to the current highest gear which means top level raiders just move along as is to the next raid zone and anyone in lesser gear gets to play catch up to heroic level gear through the questing process, this would be a perfect gear reset through a patch system instead of the one we use now with the box system.

Then we could go through the cycle, that we now know of as an expansion, where they instead release a new zone every month or so with new gear until we get to the next raid tier being ready.  They could "level" us that way or level us through gear.  We would get mini raids within that new leveling process be it at 105 if they continue the leveling model, or at a higher gear level if they completely abandon the leveling system to leave us at an even 100.  There is no need for an expansion, there is only a need for patches.  It can be done and it can be done smoothly.  Instead of them having to work on one huge expansion to sell us in a box, they can release bits and pieces of it over the course of time so we always have a taste of something new, of moving forward, of being invested in the game.

We had a taste of what could be in mists.  Every three months meant something new we could do.  I liked that, I want more of that, and the main reason this long wait seems worse than all the other long waits before it is because we have seen the future of content releases, we have seen how quick and smooth and quality they can be made, and we want more, we expected more.  If anything, we did not expect to wait a year for a new box, which is basically what we are doing.

I am not against warlords and whatever may follow as an expansion, but I am against the idea of new boxes and waiting a year without content so blizzard can make a box sale cash grab.  It is not needed any longer.  They can just keep tacking on content in patches instead of making us wait.   It might need for them to redesign how they do things but it would not be anything that they can not do.

I think the time of box and subscription has passed.  I think the time of subscription is on its way out.  However I do believe in the box or subscription model.  I think blizzard can really start building back players and moving up in subscribers if they ditched the box system and just kept added new content as they made it so it always had something new coming out.  It would give people a reason to stay subscribed longer which in turn means more money for them, no less because they would not longer be selling a box.

If they were releasing new content every three months it would warrant a subscription fee a lot more than releasing no new content for over a year.  The subscription numbers have dropped and will continue to drop because people are leaving while there is nothing to do.  Blizzard is doing, what I believe, a fine job in pulling out all the stops to try and get people to come back, trying to get people to subscribe, for the events, for the bike, for buffs, for anything they can throw out there that might lure people back, but I just have to think wouldn't they have been better off, from a business standpoint, to just make it so these people never unsubscribed to begin with?  Instead of making such huge sweeping efforts to try to get people to come back it might be a better idea to try and get them to stay in the first place.

Moving away from the box system to a straight forward patch system would mean new content more often and one fluid forward moving story where we always have something to do, somewhere to head, and progression to make instead of having to be put in the position we are now where we wait with nothing.

Of course the idea of keeping us getting new content, like if we had gotten some small content patches (at least) every three months for the year we were waiting plus the box would work even better for blizzard but because they seem either unwilling or unable to do so in my opinion means we would be better off as a whole, from a player standpoint, if they just ditched the box system completely.  Also, like I mentioned, continued content releases would also be better for business in my opinion as it would give people a lot less reason to unsubscribe when compared to now.

So do you think it is about time we say goodbye to the box expansions and just get updates every three months instead?  Even if they increased the price by $2 a month to compensate for the loss of the box sales?

I think it is about time, but that is only because I want more content more often even if in small doses instead of a huge influx once every two years.  That is my opinion at least, what is yours?


  1. Replies
    1. Don't know why but when I saw your answer I just laughed. Probably because I think it is the shortest response I ever saw.

  2. Replies
    1. I am sure you kept it to one word on purpose. Thanks for the laugh.

  3. I did, but to add to that, I also enjoyed the way Mist's played out with new content on a regular basis. And would gladly pay more monthly if they went to the model you mentioned.

    1. As would I. At a certain point it actually felt like they were coming out with stuff too fast. I liked that there was always something to look forward too and would gladly pay a tiny bit for a model like that.

  4. I have ambivalent feelings. I don't really mind having a pause. Then maybe I can finish all the stuff that have been on the back burner. Such as getting some arch done, fill up my coffers again (just hate when I get below a mill), do some pet battling, test some new builds, finish up some quests in areas I normally not do when leveling and so on. but having a year pause is too much.

    1. As I mentioned to another reply here, there was a point where I thought things were coming a little too fast, so I can relate. I too like to have some catch up time, but I think a year is just too much. Even six months is stretching it. I think, personally, that every 4 months might be a good design.

  5. I, thought early MoP was too fast (until 5.4, of course). It might work to release content that fast if, and only if, older content remained more relative. I'm definitely not doing "hard-core" raiding these days, but I still feel like at 8 hours a week, I should have been able to finish a lot more heroic content on time. Since the previous tier's gear becomes worthless so quickly, there's no reason to finish the previous tier's content before you move on.

    Also, I really like taking raiding breaks for a few weeks every tier. I think it contributes to a lot of burn-out if content comes out so fast that you're still trying to get down the big last boss right up until the next boss comes out.

    Even for people in the more hardcore 20+ hours a week raiding guilds, they need significant time between content to recuperate so they can push hard when the new content comes out.

    The other issue is, I kind of like the idea of everything resetting every couple of years. Just having new seasons works really well in PvP, because anyone who puts for even the slightest bit of effort can get fully geared in PvP, quite quickly (thanks to there being no RNG input). In PvE, only the most elite raiders get to their BiS each tier, and if you didn't get to that point the tier before, it's going to take you considerably longer (partially because you won't find a group, and just because it's harder to progress in lower gear) to get to the next gear level.

    So if every 2 years they can totally reset everything, it gives the newer folks a chance to get genuinely catch up.

    However, with all of that said, I don't need big new content patches. If they wanted to make a new Kalimdor sized continent, and then just slowly let us progress through new parts every once in a while, as they get it done, I'd be fine with that.

    And I tend to enjoy small changes to playstyle, instead of big huge changes like happen in new xpacs. So that part would be good, for me at least.

    1. I agree that they would need to keep older content relevant but that is more a design flaw on blizzards part, box set or not.

      I blame it all on ghostcrawlers comment some years back when he said "we want upgrade to feel significant", or something to that effect.

      Now with 4 tiers of raiding and the idea that every upgrade needs to be big and we get gear inflation at an insane level.

      Blizzard needs to go back to basics, even more so with four raid tiers. Not need to go from a normal piece to a heroic piece and the heroic piece have 600 more agility on it. If the heroic piece had 2 more agility on it I would still consider it an upgrade because it is.

      But that aside, I agree it seems a little too fast. I think 4 months would have been better, that even 8 months per raid tier and even a casual guild like mine that is not all that great can at least finish normal (soon heroic) in that time. 8 Months would be more than ample for time between tiers for the majority of "raiders".

      I mentioned in the post they can still do the complete reset without making us pay for something we already pay monthly for. That is what I am getting it. They can still do the box concept of a reset without making us wait and without making us pay extra for it. And it would mean more smaller changes that are easier to swallow instead of so many sweeping changes all at once.

  6. The only argument I can think of in favor of releasing this as large expansions every two years is you can make it a more cohesive whole, in how it relates to each other, both story and game flow.

    If they released a new continent and opened up zones as they got them done, I could see them being bite sized pieces of content that don't relate to each other. So every 3 months we'd be doing stuff that doesn't seem to relate to what we were doing three months before.

    We already get into this a little bit with .1 .2 .3 patches. A lot of them are side tracks. I think it may be because you have different teams working on different patches.

    Each expansion kind of sets the tone for the next 2 years. "Allright, here is the field our characters are gonna be working in, new problems will rear their heads, but this is the general framework for the next 2 years"

    If they only did patches, I could see the story getting very disjointed. "This month we are going through a portal to Argus to fight the burning legion. Next month we are exploring Kul Tiras to fight an old god. Oh and the month after that we are going back to Argus to fight the legion some more"

    I think the expansions are also useful for players that come and go from the game.

    Q: I've been gone 2 years, what are we doing?
    A: We beat deathwing, and now we are helping pandas with their chores.

    Instead of

    Q: Ive been gone for 2 years, what are we doing?
    A: Well, you have 8 different zones to lvl though all with their own storyline. 2 of them deal with old gods. 2 deal with the legion. 3 deal with new factions and new problems you havent heard of before, and the 4th is alliance-horde faction war based.

    If Bliz had fudged their 10th anniversary a little bit, and released new MC and TM v. SS as a limited time event for the months of July and August. Nobody would be complaining. Nobody at all. That would have been perfect.

    1. You point is exceptional and something that had appeared in my mind as well.

      As I mentioned in the post it would require a redesign but it could be done and still be a cohesive story line.

      Let me explain how using mists as an example. Making this up on the fly so it will not be perfect but hopefully it conveys the idea.

      Mists patch comes out with jade forest, valley of the four winds and 2 new dungeons and the ability to get to level 86.

      One month later the raids start to come out (with lower item level gear of course to compensate) and a requirement of level 86 to go to. Not sure how to work it because they would be in zones we know that are not opened yet, but if it were designed for this that would not be a problem.

      The following weeks the LFR versions come out, and the other raids come out.

      Three months later we get the wilds open (with the landfall story line) and kun lai. Level cap go to 88 this time. Gear from quests is slightly under raid finder level, as in 6 levels less, no more, some are even equal to current raid finder, however the quest mobs are tuned to be killed as if you were in level 86 gear. This works as a catch up for people playing now, or a smooth transition for people that came through in the later years. You do not have to worry about the levels over powering the raid because you get very small stats increases from leveling that is means nothing to the raid content.

      Four months later townlong gets released as does the island of thunder and the ToT raid, level cap is increased to 89 and the quest gear dropped is equal to the previous raid tiers and the quests are designed to be done with level 87 and 88 quest gear.

      I could keep going but I think you get the idea.

      It would still be a smooth quest flow that leads you in a direct line. Not saying the idea is perfect, but the idea could work having things come in small parts instead of everything at once.

      That would solve the I've been gone 2 years problem and the what are we doing problem. Just follow the quest line.

      I agree, if MC and the BG were released in june or july this would not be as much of an issue. People might joke about the ruby santum in wrath, but it was still new content like it or not and even if it was small. People just wanted something different to do.

  7. I wish they'd never raised the level cap at all. They can give new zones to "level" in without actually leveling like you say. I think the biggest problem with the long wait between expansions is that they got rid of the idea that people can be working on raiding different tiers of content at the same time. This led to many more people experiencing the long wait. I know you joined during BC (can't remember if you raided then), but there were some people that were done Black Temple for months and were itching for anything new, but I'm guessing the majority of raiders were still working on some boss or another. If a tier of raiding was somewhat relavant for two years but there were three tiers of raiding relevant at the same time I think people would get bored less. They could still do the gear reset occasionally like you said to even the playing field back out.

    1. I never had a max level in BC. I had quit before I made it there. My first max level and thus first raiding was in wrath.

      It was easier back then to have that many tiers working at the same time. Now with 3 raid tiers, massive item inflation, and peoples desire to get the best they can there is never any need for older raids. That is the biggest problem with their design. They need to lose the massive gear inflation.

      I remember raiding (for fun) ICC in naxx gear and doing quite well because skill matter more than gear and while gear really helped it was not everything. We could not finish it in naxx gear, but I think we managed 10 bosses in naxx gear. More skilled players could have easily finished it.

      Try getting even the best raiders in the entire world in all MV gear and have them try SoO. I bet they can not even get past the first boss. Gear increases are way to large and the skill factor is way to low. You can let gear carry you now.

      This is why so many people are seeing more of the content, because they get to the point they over gear things and then push through it on the backs of the gear and not the backs of their skill. Make gear less important, skill more important, and ditch the huge increases in the many many raid tiers we have now and you will see a huge difference to the game. Not to mention, if gear inflation was no big deal people would still be raiding MV and other older raids because that gear would still be good instead of being useless.

      /end rant

      I think I went a bit on a tangent there. But I hope I got my idea across even if it went a bit off topic. As always, that is just my opinion however. I think the 4 different raid tiers of gear with huge increases for each one is going to destroy any chance they ever have of returning to an "all raids are worth doing" design.