I postulated that a fix for the queue times, which were very long indeed on the Patch 5.1 PTR and promised to be even longer on live servers, could be something along the lines of instancing, using the new scenario technology, phasing, or simply introducing more rings somehow. I did not anticipate that the proposed solution would be to make this fantastic new feature invitation only, and that those invitations would only be sold on the Black Market Auction House.
I didn't anticipate this for several reasons. Firstly, the Brawler's Guild is far too brilliant an idea for Blizzard to want to gate it. It wouldn't make sense to me that, given that most players can access this, they should be prevented from doing so. It's a really brilliant side feature, a game within the game. At the time of writing, it awards no gear, no useable boost or bonus. It's like pet battles, only now it's invitation only.
My conviction was that the Brawler's Guild would be something like pet battles, that would welcome players with open arms, and offer them a pleasant diversion, something fun to do with friends, or a way to make new ones. It was certainly all of those things on my nights in the PTR. I didn't see this coming.
Everything is gated
But almost all content in the game has some kind of gating. Raiding, like dungeons, is gated by item level, level, and other factors. Arena is gated by level. Pet battles are gated by, what, 20 gold now, and the necessity of owning a pet. Gold sinks are gated by gold. Is this another gold sink? Should it be seen as such? It doesn't seem like it to me. Gold sinks are usually desirable, so that's all fine and dandy, but they're not usually content. Imagine if you had to bid for invitations to get into a scenario, or a dungeon? As our friend Perculia of Wowhead fame has mentioned, the addition of a Realm First! feat of strength only makes the pill more bitter.
The part that I find most objectionable about this proposed change is that those who have the invitations can hold other players ransom for access to the Brawler's Guild. So, not only is access limited by having enough gold, the only way that other players who aren't that wealthy will get to see the content is by befriending a gold-maker, buying an invitation from a wealthier player in trade chat, or obtaining the gold themselves. Some have said this will lead to gold-buying, but contravening the Terms of Service is a step too far. Don't do it.
I've heard stories on twitter, where I've been extremely vocal about this change, that players have heard murmurings on their servers of some people planning to form cartels to control the supply of invitations between the BMAH and players. Bashiok's response to this was to say that the structure of the BMAH would make this impossible, because bids would be pushed up too high, but it seems that a cartel of the server's wealthiest players could pull this off, with commitment. And there have been recent rumors about certain well-known guilds abusing the BMAH for their own ends.
Does it fix the problem?
Even with this new gating, though, are the queue times really repaired? It doesn't seem likely. This seems more like a band-aid, a temporary repair. Certainly initial entry will be slowed by this gating, with only 10 invitations available on the Black Market Auction House per day. Those 10 invitations allow their owners to invite 10 players each. So only a maximum of 100 players will have access on the first day invitations are owned, cross-faction. But of those 100 players, each of them can invite 10 players, meaning 1,000 players can have access. Those 1,000 players can each invite 10 players, meaning... well, you can see where I'm going with this.
Before long, the queues will again be out of control. Given that a 15-20 player queue seemed to take 20-25 minutes on the PTR, a 100-player queue would take about 2 hours. Even knowing first-hand how fantastic the Brawler's Guild is, this is too long to wait.
I try my best to see the positive sides, to understand where Blizzard is going with things, but in this instance I'm struggling. Blizzard's representatives are saying this isn't a big feature, but players are excited regardless. This gating only serves to sour excitement.
Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.