After Carrie announced that they are working on new content, the WAR community went bonkers with anticipation of further news. Which is supposedly coming at the GamesCon in Cologne. Pretty much everyone is betting on an expansion, which is very likely. Going crazy about the next big bit of news is somewhat justifiable this time. But, as always, there are skeptics. Will this be a full expansions or just another live event? Will it just be a new zone with no new careers? Will it even have anything to do with WAR? For once I’m not siding with them. This time, I hardly care. You’ll say, the old heartless shrew has finally gone back to the theme park that is WoW. He doesn’t love WAR anymore. I have to disappoint you here, because it’s the love for WAR that leads me to feeling indifferent about an expansion. Crazy concept? Not so much.
- New content gives the developers a chance to show their competence and commitment to the game, possibly attracting lost costumers. It also presents a chance to fix parts of the game they are not happy with, or at least the opportunity to shift focus to other areas.
- New content means the game retains current players and greatly increases the amount of returning or new players.
- New marketing opportunities. I bet the marketing department is trembling with anticipation at the prospect of being able to market an expansion.
- If the expansions is a paid one, it brings in additional money to fund further development.
- Community increases which attracts even more players. Word of mouth and viral marketing go a long way these days.
The above can be summarised with: more players -> more money -> better game. But that’s pure theory. There’s another side to the medal.
- New content isn’t just shat out one afternoon. It usually goes through the same development process the original game went through. It’s usually made by the same people. Who’s to say they won’t repeat the mistakes that drove the players away at launch? Couple that with possible new flaws in the development and you’ve got a catastrophe on your hands.
- Don’t believe what anyone tells you, first impression is the one that lasts. The game has acquired a stigma at launch. If the expansion is to be successful, it needs to be as close to perfect as it can be made. And perfect is hardly a word you’d associate with MMOs.
- You need to have a strong foundation to build your expansion on. WAR’s patch 1.3.6 disappointed in the areas that are the game’s bread and butter, namely ORvR and career balance. Anything built on this foundation will only exacerbate the existing problems.
- Hype is a strong tool that can have a negative impact if you overdo it and the product doesn’t stand up to the expectations.
- Community can turn against you with word of mouth working both ways.
The latter arguments are why I can’t bring myself to be hyped up about a possible expansion. Especially the points about a solid base to create new content on and repeating old mistakes (Mythic hasn’t quite convinced me that they know what they’re doing yet).
WAR recently went through what some called maintenance mode, because there was no new content, merely improvements of the existing one. It was something the game needed. It wasn’t in a good place because of mistakes made in the initial development. But during the process the game bled players, as it didn’t hold the attention-span of the gamers. (I have to remark here, that the average PvP MMO player is still a mystery to me. Killing people isn’t enough I guess, you need to have new ways to kill them every few months, or it gets old.) So Mythic jumped the gun and started working on new content that the game needs to retain players. I guess they hoped they’d manage to fix the core before the expansion went live. But since Carrie said they aren’t planning a 1.3.7, I’m afraid the disappointment that is patch 1.3.6 is the last big patch before the expansion. They’ll just gamble and hope the new expansion not only draws in players, but also retains them.
The problem? Who’d want to play new content for a month, just to discover he isn’t happy with the core gameplay and the same issues he left the game for? The holy truth of MMOs: No new content can fix the game if core gameplay sucks.