Blizzard Entertainment recently revealed a trilogy of expansions forWorld of Warcraft. Starting with next year’sThe War Within,the developer hopes to release new big adventures for the popular MMO at a more consistent cadence rather than the alternating year model it’s employed since 2008.
Big MMO games of this type release massive expansions meant to reinvigorate the player community and change the in-game world state on a fairly regular basis. Depending on the game, the “when” of these expansion launches varies:Destiny 2has largely had yearly expansions, whileFinal Fantasy XIVsimilarly alternates years.
Talking to Bloomberg,Warcraftgeneral manager John Hight and EP Holly Longdale explained that Blizzard has built up a foundation that allows for expansions to be built at the same time. Much of this can be owed to the Boston studioProletariat, which Blizzard acquired last year with the specific purpose of helping onWorld of Warcraft.
Assistant game directors have also been granted more staff authority and the ability to make key decisions. With this, Longdale noted that Blizzard “essentially [has] the makings of two expansion teams and a live team.” The latter team handles content patches forWarcraft,in turn letting the expansion teams do as their name implies.
It’s a stark difference to how Blizzard’s previous pipeline for the MMO worked. Hight acknowledged that with earlier expansions, the developer would “hire more people, but we didn’t actually build parallel teams.” And notably, big decision making was handled by “a very small group of folks.”
This new method appears to afford more freedom to the largerWorld of Warcraftteam. Longdale stated they were “doing things right now on [expansion 12, The Last Titan] that under [the] normal timeframe we would not be doing.
“We’re building these foundations, and it’s already working,” addedLongdale. “The team worked incredibly hard, and it’s paying off.”
Expansion releases are all about timing
Definitive plans aren’t in place yet for the World of Warcraftexpansions’ release model. But both Hight and Longdale told Bloomberg the studio would rely on player behavior data to figure out the right timing.
Hight confirmed the studio has no intention of rushing players toward the next expansion all the time, because that would come todevalue their importance. But he also noted that it wouldn’t be desirable to “drag things out longer than necessary,” an issue players ofDestiny 2would be familiar with.
Blizzard has an advantage over other studios in that it has two other ongoing live games in its stable:Overwatch 2changes seasons on a nine-week basis, whileDiablo IV sticks with the standard three-month model of most live games. It’s unknown if the latter’s plans will change with its debut expansion,Vessel of Hatred,in late 2024.