Blizzard moving WoW towards Diablo/Starcraft Expansion Model?
SHIFTING BUSINESS STRATEGY
Blizzard is definitely bringing less and less fequently new WoW content (considering 1º expansions, 2 º big contnt patches and 3º minor content patches) but maintaining the subscription scheme. This affects the whole MMO system...
Please note that I am comparing Vanilla/Burning/Lich King model with Cata / Pandaria / WoD (just look at the overall expansion lenght or the number of content patches, either big or small). For instance, you can claim small (and often forgotten) small patches in Wrath such Onyxia Lair or Hallion to be irrelevant, but they did help keeping things alive between big raids / expansions. Have you seen much of those in Pandaria? nope, just 'major' 4 patches (and actually 2 of them a bit dodgy...), Cata even worse (3, one dodgy...).
I wonder if it could be possible that currently their efforts mainly just go to selling as many as possible digital copies/initial subscriptions of expansion packs. In contrast, the business of keeping those subscriptions 'alive' throughout the expansion seems to be for them just squeazing (quite) some extra gainings, maximizing earnings with minimal efforts and no serious minor/intermediate patch development (just a new raid, a daily area or so, this is nothing new) what's new it is the substantial decreased pace of release. Blizzard is saying to themselves 'lets find out how much can wait these guys'.
In this sense, we are paying twice for the same content (obscured by the illusion of more things to come). When you buy an expansion you think you are investing on its development, but no, you mainly get what you already bought. That's okey, lets assume we are all rich, still is boring and unnefficient.
And here is the point, as a consequence instead of maintaining an steady community, I believe the most desirable thing to preserve as of an MMO, they are promoting players to consume new large contents, enter into cryostasis for a while and reawake when the time comes. They are not casual, they are metamorphic. In this context, either 'lazy', relatively 'new' or 'fanatic' players won't unsubscribe between such major additions bringing the menctioned extra free money.
As a result, the community is not recicled continually but dying constantly to suddenly revigorated in long elapsed releases. PvE players are then forced ciclicaly to make new aliances with old/new raiders either on new guilds or completely restructured ones between patches, there is no continuity, it can barely be. Parallely, PvP players are also affected, for instance, finding substantial changes in queing times / opponent skills along seasons.
I mean, seriously, so now i have to log in to raid or do some pvp at very specific dates of the year with major patch releases?? Definitely if you wanna play WoW think about doing it on the Fall/New Year, but not so much in summer-spring... (depends on the year, but that's the general trend). But I personally want to play whenever I choose to waste my time here, and with significant additions throughout my given playtime. I can totally bear to wait one/two months for some new additions, but half a year?? or even now, 9-12 months, that's nonsense, and still millions of players still fall to such a evident bait.
We have totally lost the concept of an MMO. Blizzard will eventually abandon the subscription system but I don't see the point of that, the point (for me) of an mmo is enjoying gameplay with moderate content released in a stedy pace when it is ALWAYS A GOOD TIME TO PLAY, thus keeping alive a community naturally evolving throughout smoothly connected expansions.
I've worked at a large corporation. One thing I know for sure is that a lot of executives who don't even play WoW meet in boardrooms and carefully plot out it's future in a way that maximizes revenue and minimizes expenses.
This game generates really massive cash flows and the day is long past when gamers control the future of big ticket games. The public face of WoW at conventions and on the web look a lot like us players. But the people who make the decisions are nothing like us.