February 2, 2007 4:00 AM PST

'Warcraft': A world in transition

'Warcraft': A world in transition It might seem odd that World of Warcraft's publisher decided to tinker with the game's core experience in releasing the new expansion World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

The massively multiplayer online role-playing game, after all, has reached more than 8 million players and is among the most popular online games of all time, especially in the United States. Why mess with that kind of success?

Yet tinker Blizzard Entertainment did, and the WoW community has responded with enthusiasm: the company sold more than 2.4 million copies of the $39.99 Burning Crusade expansion in the first 24 hours after its January 16 launch. Among other additions, the expansion includes new levels (61 to 70), a new continent, two new races and a new profession: jewel crafting.

But while players seem largely satisfied with BC, as it's known, some worry that those who have strived to reach the highest levels of the original game may be left with a somewhat barren version of the adventure they're used to. And since many players of WoW find that the most compelling content was only available from levels 50 to 60, the launch of BC may mean that those high-level players without BC are left hanging.

"Blizzard deliberately killed their (level 60) game," said Katrina Glerum, a veteran WoW player who, like thousands of others, stood in line for hours to be among the first to purchase the expansion. The level 60 game "is dead," she said. "Most of the work Blizzard did for the past two years building interesting content to keep (level 60 players) amused is dead."

World of Warcraft launched in 2004. Players in the U.S. pay $15 a month to play, and that has brought hundreds of millions of dollars into Blizzard's coffers.

Glerum said she is, for the most part, enjoying her experiences with BC, but it's clear she and the millions of other players who have upgraded are in transition. That adjustment is fueled mainly by the fact that players of the original WoW topped out at level 60, while BC permits going up to level 70 (higher levels give players access to stronger weapons, tools and so on).

A higher maximum level means several things for players, Glerum said.

First, many guilds (groups of players) that previously spent much of their time on raids in search of loot or in battles with monsters or other enemies, have either disbanded altogether or been forced into a waiting period as players busily try to work their way up the level scale.

WoW Burning Crusade

"(Raiding) guilds' main activities were organizing and holding raids and high-level runs for loot," Glerum said. "They are all completely on hiatus until everyone gets their (characters) up to 70. In fact, many of the super high-end raiding guilds stopped playing and even broke up a couple months ago in preparation for BC."

For its part, Blizzard said it hasn't abandoned the original game, though it does acknowledge wanting to give it a swift kick in the pants.

"I don't feel we deliberately killed the (level 60) game," said Jeff Kaplan, lead designer of WoW. "What we were attempting to do was give people a new ceiling on the game. In a level-capped game (where people can't rise above a certain level), when the level is raised, what people came to know would grow. We would have ended up losing a lot of people for lack of anything new."

Kaplan added that by extending WoW, raising the level cap and adding new races and content, Blizzard was trying to ensure the continued existence of the WoW franchise.

"We have no intention of letting it stagnate," Kaplan said. "What I think we attempted to do with BC is extend the life of World of Warcraft a little longer and give people more of the WoW that they had come to love."  

Clarification: An earlier version of this story inadvertently implied that the entire original World of Warcraft had been left barren by large number of players migrating to the Burning Crusade expansion. What it should have said was that some players worry that high-level players of the original game who have not upgraded to the expansion may find that all the interesting content is now in Burning Crusade, but that those playing in the lower levels will still find the original WoW engaging.

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31 comments

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Crazy price for an expansion...
I may be in the minority, but I just find it crazy that Blizzard would charge $40 for an expansion to a game they are already seeing $15 monthly payments for. If they were trying to maintain their monthly income I would have thought they would release at closer to $20, or roll it out for free to already paying customers.

I will continue leveling my characters up in the original game, but I will not pay $40 in addition to my monthly payments to make the game interesting. If I get bored with WoW before they lower the price of the expansion, I will simply quit. Yes, BC may be great content, but shame on Blizzard for sticking it to their loyal customer base!
Posted by wasabifan (13 comments )
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Nothing new for Blizzard
As a part of Blizzard's "loyal customer base", you no doubt are aware that they routinely release expansion packs that retail at or near full price. This goes all the way back to Warcraft II, and has continued with every game they released (sans Diablo). The catch is that the content delivered in the expansion often times will eclipse in magnitude the content in the game it's expanding, as is the case with Burning Crusade. Outland is a truly colossal update, by any definition of the word.

All that considered, it's a fair price. Your monthly charge isn't increasing. And honestly, if you're griping over $40 while playing a game that you pay $12.99 a month for, you need to find a new hobby.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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Not so CRAZY
i just read the comment about a crazy price for a exp pack with the 15 a mouth. First off this must be your first MMO so i will call u n00b for thinking a exp pack shouldnt cost 40bucks. less see where your 15 bucks goes alrdy.
Severs
sever upkept
sever upgrades
new severs so u have less lag
new patch's so u need a patch team
New zones so u need a team working on that
debug team
GM's (yes some are pay)
Out side CS team
BW so they can offer low lag in major play times (BW isnt cheap)
Now askin for a increase on the mouthly payment is dumb. i know alot of poeple stop playing EQ when it went from 9.95 to 12.95. so your idea wouldnt work. Its only fair to sell the exp pack like they did. If u dont see the Cost of runing a MMO please dont play them b/c u write post about how u have to pay them allrdy and pay more get new zones and itesm and lvl cap u have to pay blahblahblah. Its a MMO its growing WoW NEEDED the EXP to get poeple back into it.
Posted by extoll (1 comment )
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I agree 100%
Buy Guild Wars.

No subscription fee.
Posted by Mergatroid Mania (8395 comments )
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Yes
You are in the minority and you have to think like a buisness. The 15/month pays for server upkeep, Game masters to help players, and some of it goes towards development.

The 40 for the expansion pays for all the development costs that Outlands cost Blizzard. It is normal to charge for an Expansion pack.
Posted by frmorrison (13 comments )
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Killed the Original? Tell that to the Blood Elves
I still run into plenty of people playing in the original 2 continents, plenty of items in the Auction House... Granted, major cities are not as busy, but if you want a LVL 70 Blood Elf or Dranei, you gotta quest in the original game. Does the author of this story even own a copy? What LVL is their character?
Posted by cryhavoc2112 (41 comments )
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New races
The new races have added nothing to the game.

If someone wants to start playing the game today and wants to play a human or undead, guess what? They have to go through the old stuff.

Your point is completely illogical.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
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Marketing...
WoW, GW, or any other level-limited MMORPG adds content, missions, expansions, etc. to keep players interested and ready to 'buy more.'

However it is marketing more than an improvement in the game. Why? Blizzard could have made new continents, new missions, new armor, new weapons, etc. and kept the levels the same. Was there a real need to make the max level 70 (from a current 60)? Does the extra 10 levels make the game or is it the new content, missions, quests, ...

My guess is that the content is much more important than the leveling and that allowing an extra 10 levels is more of a reason for people to actually purchase the new game rather than stay where they are since some don't care about the level but do care about new 'stuff.'
Posted by jCounsel (81 comments )
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Do you play?
The content that's added by Burning Crusade is substantial, with new dungeons, new monsters, new models, races, items, factions, quests, et cetera. This content expansion is contained on four CDs, which is the same amount, data-wise, as the original World of Warcraft.

Regarding the "why ten extra levels?" question, it's a valid one. All of the armor and equipment in World of Warcraft is level-based. So, for example, if you had a character that was maximum level and you wanted to "twink" out a brand new character, you couldn't throw end-game gear on him and call it a day. Likewise, one of the rewards of being maximum level is the ability to ride mounts (and now flying mounts). Considerable time must be put into obtaining these mounts. Increasing the level cap means that characters who were at 60 basically get a new, differently balanced gameplay experience than they're used to. Characters who have yet to hit 60 can look forward to the end-game material being pushed back beyond the previous level, but with the existing content still intact.

However, it's worth pointing out that between the launch of World of Warcraft and the launch of the Burning Crusade, Blizzard was far from dormant. With every major patch, new content was released that supplemented the game. With 1.10, for example, a new high-level dungeon opened up in one of the zones, and the event was also accompanied by a major invasion of all the faction capital cities. Other patches added new PvP opportunities, new features, new graphical goodies, and the like.

It's a growing, evolving game. While there is substantial marketing behind the efforts the Blizzard puts into WoW, ignoring the massive amount of work they've put into building and sustaining the world does not do it justice.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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The original version is hardly dead.
Paying $40 to upgrade two accounts was not something I was willing to do.

So my kids still play the original version, and as none of our characters have reached the necessary level to access much of the new content, I sometimes think I jumped the gun and could have waited.

Nothing that much has changed - the new characters are interesting, but I've invested too much time in the original 4 to be truly motivated to try yet another race at the moment.

I'm not saying the expansion is bad, or not worthwhile. Eventually I will want to access more content - but after playing for around 6 months now, I have not got close to seeing everything there is to see in the original game.

So I don't agree that the original game has been left high and dry. Blizzard continue to patch the original, they tweak the gameplay, modify requirements for certain goals as it becomes clear they've made it too hard or too easy to obtain certain items or reach a certain status. They even add new content (very occasionally).

The majority of the game is completely unchanged by the expansion pack. There are only a few new places to visit unless you've reach close to the previous top level.

There are a couple of new races, interesting but nothing revolutionary. There are new things to do, new professions to learn, and I'm sure a few other things I'm not noticing under the hood.

But with a few exceptions I would say this expansion mostly concentrated on giving high level players something to do besides whack orcs on the head.

Does it really matter that some of those irritating "guilds" have been disbanded so people can play with new content, grow their characters, learn new abilities and upgrade their loot.

Sometimes it seemed to me that those playing high level characters had nothing to do in terms of real game play at all.

They would do ridiculous things like organise horse parades or stand around making disparaging comments to people who haven't exhausted the games content.

Giving them something better to do with their time should be a godsend.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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rpgSE.com
In game Gold prices skyrocketed before it came out and directly afterward but have since cooled off without much in game to spend all the excess gold on.

ref: www.rpgSE.com
Posted by TexasMo (12 comments )
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Daniel, Why Always Look for the Negative?
Daniel,

I've read your stories in the past, and I don't understand why you so often seem to try to draw out some negative aspect about something that a majority of people are very excited about. Is this a personal grudge, or are you just trying to make a name for yourself by being a muckraker?

Have you even played WOW? I and many many other people think Blizzard did a great job with this expansion. For example, they delayed the game past Christmas rather than release it untested. What other company would do that? And instead of writing a legitimate, balanced...and ultimately fair story, you seek out one or two members of the community who can provide some negative evidence for your negative story.

You can always find someone who is unhappy about something no matter how many people are happy about the same thing. Does the fact that you can find a few unhappy people mean it's your duty to give your audience the impression that it's a majority of people who are unhappy?
Posted by mags4moi (13 comments )
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Interesting observation
Notice that a lot of his positive stories, though few and far between, tend to be focused on extolling the greatness of Second Life.

He's a Second Lifer at heart. I've yet to meet anyone who plays Second Life that has any real taste in games.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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$40 for more of the same
There is absolutely nothing new in the expansion, just a longer stick that the carrot is attached to.

The amount of content in this expansion is not only nothing different, but pales in terms of the amount of it compared to the original release.

The quest rewards show that Blizz is trying to force people to upgrades. 5 minute quests in the new expansion give better rewards then can be had in much of the older level 60 raid and PVP content.

People are such sheep, they can do the same things with slightly different graphics and they believe that they are actually doing something new.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
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Utter nonsense
There is plenty in the expansion that is new: A new continent, a new profession, two new races with new starting areas, quest lines and beautiful cities. And then you go an dontradict yourself by talking about the expansion quest rewards... Bah. Go and pester a movie blog about how each James Bond movie is just "more of the same" instead.
Posted by JadedGamer (207 comments )
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I'm glad I went with Guild Wars
I was under the impression that Blizzard's business model called for the subscription fee to pay for the upkeep of the game, and new content to be added every once in a while.

Now, not only do you have to pay the subscription fee, but if you don't buy the expansions you get left behind.

This is exactly why I bought Guild wars instead. They have no subscription fee, and come out with a new expansion every six months.

I get the choice to buy the expansion or not. There have been two expansions so far, but if you go into the original area of Tyria, you'll see that there are still quite a few people there. The expansions do not make the older areas undesirable, and they still get played.

I just don't know how much money these companies think we're made of. I will not pay $50 and up for a game, then have to go home and pay them more so I can play the game I just purchased.

Having said that, Blizzard has always been one of my favorite publishers and I wish them luck, but they won't be getting my money for WOW.
Posted by Mergatroid Mania (8395 comments )
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Ok lets correct this disinformation by fanbots
gw players will argue endlessly with you that the reason there are so many disconnects and poor response times is that online is "free". So are a lot of other games that don't prematurely disconnect you in the middle of the game.

gw developer/publisher ncsoft/arenanet are continually ruining the game with nerfs and gelding because of "farming". Like a communist, socialistic autocrat, they encourage you to 'hunt' or search for treasure in a a game and then modify it to try and dissuade you because items are getting sold. If they did not make the bascially useless items so difficult to obtain there would be less people selling items to subsidize their attmepts to get what they need from these areas. While the trading of items is supposedly encouraged, many proponents of the game take exception to it either due to the difficulties in acquiring items, subconscious envy or a whole host of other reasons that would suit the great number of players with those particular idiosycracies.

The ridiculous character caps (lvl 20) are attainable half way through the very 1st version of the game, Prophecies. The same attributes for armor, weapons and items are also maxed out by then as well.

A same old, same old, tediously tired expansion is not necessarily a good thing. The new expansions offer little than to captialize on what is already there. Nothing really new or innovative at all.

There are not quite a few people 'there' and a visit to all the camps, outposts and cities will clearly demonstrate that people need help completing quests and missions, especially after the relentless nerfing, with very few if any to assist them.

Support at many of the so called fansites are controlled by the publisher and staffed by webhoes, tools used to cultivate, young, fertile and impressionable minds. Arrogance is the hallmark of those individuals that have no other calling in life and they do not even attempt to hide the fact or act the least diplomatic.

In additon the hate mongering and explicit childish sexual chatter is epidemic. All 9 of my licenses now remain idle.

Most fans are of the obsessive compulsive, carrot on a stick types that figures correctly given the number of accounts and the population.

The only reason to visit the 1st interation of this franchise is to try and obtain an impossible to get titles. People's lives are worth more than the endless, mindless hours required to get anywhere.

No gw will not be getting any money from family, friends and associates. And for their attitude I predict a decline.
Posted by Dragon Forge (96 comments )
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Would you just break even
All I hear is people gripping about the cost of WoW's BS exp, Let me ask you this, if you were in charge of the company what would you do? Would you just break even and keep making the same old stuff over and over and over, or would you go for a high profit so you could afford to develop new high end games? Hmm, the answer is not so hard. Yes, Blizzard does charge alot, but im not going to complain, look how far they have come. Every game they put out is game of the year, cant do that unless you got the money to do it. So what im saying is take off your panties and bra, put on some jeans and work boots, put in some overtime, PAY AND PLAY. Or if you don't like it, just quit.
Posted by titan_lmn (1 comment )
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What will 40 dollars buy...
To the people that feel the BC expansion is too expensive. Let's take a look at what you can buy for 40 dollars these days:

You could take a date to see a movie.

You can take a date out to dinner (if you consider "Sizzler" a night out on the town).

You could buy a new pair of Levis.

You could buy two movies on DVD.

Etc, etc, etc.

Let's face it, 40 dollars just doesn't buy that much anymore. So I don't feel Blizzard charging that much for something that is going to give you months of entertainment is expensive at all.
Posted by Razorxx (2 comments )
Link Flag
Gaming: A world in Transition
It is abundantly clear that there are significant complaints about same old, same old, incremental expansion offerings at unreasonable prices, which of course is subjective.

1) I would caution that before making the committment to expend the resources (both time and money) on one of these, a small re-evaluation is performed. - Is your referent peer group also going to be playing the same or more, supposing that it is not as fun and engaging as the last one?? Are YOU prepared to spend the same amount of time playing - knowing that you may be developing as a person (maturing beyond the pandering game play), the game could get boring at some point, you are not being obsessive, and that other better games may be coming out? all the time as well as new technologies in other hobbies???

2) A lot of the arguements contrary to a consumer's demanding "more" (or at least fair value) for their hard earned cash and, investments in time [playing] are aimed at trying to secure the audiences buy-in to the developer/publishers point of view. In other words they are just short of whiney, rants about how the "poor", "poor" businesses are just 'trying to make ends meet' LOL.

Let us decide here and now that unless you are a poser, poodlefaker or company insider (w313H03) there is no need to start taking the company's point of view and start trying to convince everyone that there are " very reasonable explanations" ' LOLol!!! We are all aware enough of our rights and expectations and it is always the consumer that is at a disadvanatge to big business. Let us know that when we hear this, the webhoes (tool used to cultivate young and impressionable minds) have invaded the discussion.

Denigrations and insults are the refuge of the mentally unprepared or those incapable of forming a logical point of view.... so grammar, spelling, typos, novices, whtvr,... do not be dissuaded from adding you thoughts and concerns.

I, and all my friends, have moved on from both games and do not feel we are missing a thing.
Posted by Dragon Forge (96 comments )
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