World of Warcraft's Warlords of Draenor launch has come and gone, driven by the chaos we've come to expect from this year's MMO launches. Was it a bad launch... or the baddest launch ever?! In today's Think Tank, I asked the Massively writers, as players or industry watchers, how the launch and Blizzard's response stacked up next to those of 2014's other offerings.
@nbrianna: The launch was a very loud trainwreck involving a few million people, but unlike some of this year's launches, this one was cleaned up relatively quickly with few ongoing casualties. I realize that DDoS attacks are hard to defend against, but I do wish whatever server-capacity-magic Blizzard performed Saturday had been ready before the launch, not after and only once it became necessary. That said, my server's so small and I waited a few extra days, so I experienced few launch issues personally and will be enjoying what are to me five free days of playtime, but it sucks for those who didn't bail from crowded servers long ago like my guild happened to. I certainly didn't expect the game to ever see 10 million subbers again, either, especially since so much of the gameplay has focused on garrisons -- it's fun and cute, but it doesn't really feel much like WoW to me.
@Eliot_Lefebvre: If anything, I think this particular launch sort of highlights how many server merges and the like have affected the game over the past few years; there were too many people and not enough space, basically. It also sounds from what I've heard as if a lot of the bugfixing and polishing that should have been taking place over the later phases of beta did not quite happen as it should, which we also saw happen with Cataclsym. The expansion gets later and the whole thing manages to feel both delayed and rushed at the same time.
That having been said, by and large it seems like, well, a World of Warcraft expansion launch. I'm surprised by the announced subscriber bump for an expansion that has a really weak feature set, but hey, if people like it that's great. It's not significantly worse than usual, it's not significantly better than usual. The really telling part will be how things look three months from now.
@Sypster: I want to focus on the five days of game time compensation. For some people, this was a pleasant bonus even if they weren't affected, but I think we should be clear that for a lot of people, it was more of a refund than a bonus. They had paid for game time that they did not receive due to all of the launch problems, and they were owed that by the company. It's a good move for Blizzard because it's like a deflector shield against criticisms of this past weekend: "You got five extra days, why are you still complaining?" I think you always hear that sort of response in comments and forums, but it shouldn't deter us from criticially examining the multiple failures of this launch.
Botch a launch and then offer token compensation to calm down the outraged customers. Really, this is standard operating procedure for Blizzard, and that is sad. This sort of launch shouldn't be what we have come to expect and even defend as the status quo for the studio; Blizzard should be learning from its past missteps and overpreparing for every eventuality.
@MikedotFoster: I think the one thing Blizzard mostly gets right is communication. No matter how bad the problem, Blizz always has its community reps in the trenches making blue posts and trying to keep people in the loop. That's not to say that the company is perfect or to excuse problems with launching an expansion for the most popular MMO in the world and somehow underestimating the demand, but I think it counts for those folks waiting in queues and hoping for a resolution. As an observer, I think ArcheAge's launch was way worse, but I could be remembering it wrong.
As an aside, I cannot grasp the immense drama that surrounds unstable video game launches. I'm seeing comments about people's entire weekends being ruined because of server queues; I've just never been that person. If there's a two-hour queue in World of Warcraft, why not play something else? Or watch a movie? I know that we're all excited about new content, but I think we tend to over-hype ourselves and create a situation where temporary problems become a disaster instead of an inconvenience.
What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the most caring of the carebears, so expect more than a little disagreement! Join Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and the team for a new edition right here every Thursday.
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The Think Tank: Assessing Draenor's launch