2012 is here and with it a new expansion. Yes, we know how this works and, if previous years are to go by, the beta should hit by July and release around December. Except, I hope itÂs not like other years and this is not the case.
Will WoW Go Free-to-Play?In the last year, loads of popular MMOs have gone free to play and I canÂt help but wonder exactly how long it will be until Blizzard follows suit. DCUO is free, Star Trek Online is free and even Aion has announced itÂs leaving the monthly subscription model behind.
Yes, I do feel that there will come a day that Blizzard will have to re-evaluate its current business model. It wonÂt be in the next year, perhaps, as they just started offering the Annual Pass but I think itÂs inevitable. WeÂre already seeing the push though: the Guardian Cub, the Blizzard Pet Store and the real money-based Auction House in Diablo III. The signs are there, we just have to take off our rose-tinted glasses and pay attention to them.
Micro-transactions and Digital Collector's Editions
I'm pretty certain 2012 will mean a bigger push on micro transactions but, as the last year has shown, players are a fickle bunch but we are prepared to pay real money for digital items. Even then, we want some bang for our buck and, as the drop in subscribers has demonstrated, many felt they just werenÂt getting it. But, you know what? IÂm convinced that, on that inevitable day when Blizzard announce theyÂre making WoW free to play, that it will actually be the best thing theyÂve ever done.
I predict we'll be in Pandaria by December but hope it will be much sooner.
I also think it might alter how and when we get expansions, making the whole process much faster, especially in the wake of the shift from physical media to digital downloads and virtual collectorÂs editions.
As much as I love the feel of the physical collectorÂs edition, so much of it - barring the artbook - could be made available digitally for free or, alternatively, a much cheaper amount. I do think times are changing; WoW has been around for seven years and thatÂs a heck of a long time. It not only shows the durability of the franchise but also the devotion of us, the players.
Peering Through the Mists
I do hope WoW has a better year in 2012; to be honest, I donÂt think it can have a worse one. That said I do have a concern that weÂre going to have nothing major to be excited about until Mists hits beta.
Why do I think this? Well DeathwingÂs now officially dead. I know because his head is hanging by the portals in Stormwind but I canÂt help but wonder how Blizzard is planning to deal with the minimum 12 months before the next expansion. ThatÂs a long time to go without major content patches, especially when Hour of Twilight wasnÂt actually that big. Or, at least, it didnÂt feel like that.
While IÂm sure Blizzard is going to give us some more, smaller patches before we head off to Pandaria but I do wonder what weÂre going to be doing. Will it be enough to sustain us when Deathwing was killed on heroic in less than a month?
I suppose the uptake of Cataclysm, even though itÂll be the expansion everyone wants to forget about in a few years, is that it did teach Blizzard harsh lessons which we can but hope they wonÂt repeat in Mists of Pandaria. 2011 has been a lesson and 2012 should be a fresh start, indeed, it could be BlizzardÂs best year yet if they give us good content regularly and really inspire excitement about the next expansion.