Race and Faction Change
This one floored me when it happened. One of the reasons I had so many warriors was that I kept rolling a new one to play with different RL friends on different servers. Nowadays, my original main has changed race and faction more times than I can easily remember, rather than just leveling yet another character. I've found it to be one of my favorite surprise additions to the game.
The Blizzard Store
Specifically, the ability to buy pets and mounts for real world money. It's a limited way to get microtransactions into the game, sure, but I didn't expect it at all. While this hasn't expanded quite as much as I'd expected (the Guardian Cub experiment hasn't spawned a sequel yet) new mounts and pets keep showing up and I end up buying them for my beautiful partner in Azerothian mayhem, and I see them around the world while playing as well. It seems like it's been a success overall.
This one goes hand in glove with the race/faction changes I mentioned before. Being able to move servers for a fee helps keep the server jumping from being a totally casual thing, but it's definitely had an effect on server populations over the years. I've played on Kilrogg, Norgannon, Ner'zhul, Sisters of Elune, Malfurion and Cenarion Circle since this feature went live with the same two or three characters.
Perhaps with social media more popular than ever I should have seen this coming, but I didn't. This change, making it possible to keep tabs on your friends on different servers or in different factions, is a huge boon to people like myself who know a lot of people scattered all around the place. It's led to the rise of cross-realm raiding services, created meta-communities that transcend server identity, and otherwise have broadened the games personal connectivity a great deal. It may also have led to the demise of some servers' sense of community as well.
Four WoW expansions
I admit it, I didn't expect there to still be a WoW to play this far down the road. The longevity of World of Warcraft kind of astonishes me when I really sit down to think about it. If you think about it, the entirety of Outland, Northrend, all of Cataclysm and the current romp through Pandaria is added content on a game that launched November of 2004, after a beta that lasted almost that entire year. It's really kind of amazing that we keep finding new places to go and new things to do.
There you have it, five things I never expected from Blizzard (six if you count transmog) and I know we could list a lot more. I never expected flying mounts, a Real Money Auction House in Diablo III, arenas, or playable Death Knights either. So what didn't you expect?
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.