Blizzard Entertainment has once again demonstrated why their World of Warcraft (WoW) massive multiplayer online PC game continues to dominate the market following 10 years at the helm. Their latest pre-emptive strike to counter potential threats to their virtual kingdom was a previously unannounced opening of the Public Test Realm to all subscribers to get a glimpse of the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion late Tuesday.
The impromptu move comes about eight weeks in advance of the November 13 release of Warlords, and a week before the much anticipated launch of potential competitor ArcheAge on September 16th. Other games, such as Destiny, which is being described as part Halo and part Warcraft has just been released, but its non-availability on PC buys Blizzard some time should the game be well received.
If anything, Destiny could present competition for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, which Blizzard launched on X-Box 1 or PlayStation 4 this past August, until it is released on PC as early as next year. Blizzard is competing well with other titles such as Hearthstone and Starcraft, and the favorable reviews of the beta testing of Hero’s of the Storm suggest it will unseat Riot’s League of Legends in MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre.
Warcraft, had 6.8 million subscribers according to corporate reports released earlier this summer, which was down over 800,000 in just six months. This is due partly to last major raid patch, the Siege or Orgrimar, which wrapped up the games four expansion, Mists of Pandaria, being released nearly a year which has left many players unhappy with the long stretch of time until the release of Warlords.
Compounding some fans of the game’s frustration is the steady stream of WoW related events and teases but the game itself has not changed since 2013 sans a new Player Verses Player (PVP) season.
Also, there was the eight part, made for YouTube, Azeroth Choppers series in which two motorcycles were built, one for the two in-game factions, that went to a vote of subscribers on which bike to offer free in-game last spring.
Then came the peppering of details and imagery of various zones and the new character models for players. Also the early bird package for the expansion included a free character boost to level 90 hit digital shelves to give current players something new to do, and as an incentive for former and new players to get on board now learn how to play at max level.
Then came the announcement of the release date in August – three months away. A collective /sigh was heard around Azeroth, but there is hope on the horizon as Blizzard plans to address this issue going forward.
“It is kind of going to be a different patch cycle,” said developer Jon LeCraft at DragonCon in Atlanta to players. “We are shooting for a shorter development cycle because we want to get the expansions out there to you guys faster. We want to give you guys more content [and] more stuff to do.”
In the end the long drawn out release may not matter as there are more and more gamers every day to fill any voids. According to a report cited by Gamespot, nearly 40-percent of Americans over eight years old play games on their PC, and this number is only rising. That is certainly good news for Blizzard whose developers have said at various gaming conventions over the past couple of months that they can easily see another ten years of content releases for WOW.