WoW's next expansion, Warlords of Draenor, isn't exciting--but that's OK

As expansions go, World of Warcraft has done a pretty exceptional job of keeping things interesting. Releasing a string of expansions is standard practice for any MMO; players want dumps of new content, and publishers want to keep the profits flowing in. There seems to be an unspoken agreement between WoW's current playerbase and Blizzard: as long as you keep things fresh, we'll continue to fork over a monthly subscription and buy all your expansions. But despite WoW's track record, Warlords of Draenor--formally announced today at Blizzcon 2013's opening ceremony--seems to be the most boring expansion yet. And you know what? That's just fine by us.

Previous expansions have all had core chunks of content to entice players, causing many to relapse into their dormant WoW addiction. New zones, quests, and boss encounters are a given; no self-respecting company would release an MMO add-on without them. But we've been conditioned to expect new and exciting features, particularly when it comes to additional races and classes. Burning Crusade added Blood Elves and Draenei; Wrath of the Lich King introduced Death Knights; Cataclysm threw in Worgen and Goblins; Mists of Pandaria delivered the one-two punch of the Pandaren race and Monk class. Warlords of Draenor offers, uh…no new class or race. Huh. There will be player housing, in the form of Garrisons--a feature that Blizzard has been stringing us along with ever since Vanilla WoW hit it big.

There is an expansive zone being jammed into the WoW landscape: Draenor, the former homeworld of the Orcs and the last bastion for the Draenei. But wait--isn't that where we went in Burning Crusade? Indeed, Draenor the zone is mostly a facelift to the existing Outland, with some pretty familiar areas--Nagrand, Shadowmoon Valley, the Black Temple--still intact. Blizzard states that unlike Cataclysm's world-changing effects, Draenor's landscape will be built from the ground up, rather than a modified Outland. Still, we can't shake the feeling of "been there, done that."

Then again, what should we expect from an expansion? The focal point isn't to bring in droves of new players, as with a sequel--it's to retain the community that's become so heavily invested in the game. Blizzard knows that it shouldn't chase after additional subscribers; if someone's never played WoW before today, it's unlikely they'll ever see a reason to start. Once upon a time--October 2010, to be exact--WoW had accrued a staggering playerbase totaling 12 million. Since then, that number has slowly but steadily declined; the most recent reports put WoW at 7.6 million players. Why not try to make those 7.6 million as happy as they can be?

In that regard, Warlords of Draenor seems like it'll be a hit. The now-ancient-looking character models are getting a facelift, akin to what Riot Games does with visual updates to champions in League of Legends. Bags will now do all the work for you, organizing items automatically. Garrisons seem like they'll be an enticing time sink, letting you rule over your own personal domain and collect NPC followers. People who are utterly sick of leveling up alts can rest easy, since WoD gives you the ability to instantly boost a new character to level 90, gear included. And as always, the level cap will increase once again--this time venturing into triple-digit-city, also known as 100.

WoW never stops updating, even between expansions--and a retired Azeroth veteran probably wouldn't recognize the game in its current state. Quality of life changes have been implemented everywhere, from flight paths to bag space, talent trees to class mechanics. Blizzard is doing everything in its power to make WoW as player-friendly as possible, aiming to please the existing fans while new subscribers slowly trickle in and players with other commitments drop out. When you're already in first place (at the very least revenue-wise), all you can do is try and better yourself. There's no one left to beat in the MMO market.

So even if it seems like Warlords of Draenor pales in comparison to the pivotal features of past expansions, don't feel discouraged. Rather than dilute WoW with redundant classes and unappealing races, Blizzard has opted to polish existing content to a mirror finish and satisfy the hardcore players who ravenously consume new challenges. There's really no decision to make here: if you're still playing WoW, and you continue to enjoy it, you'll buy Warlords of Draenor. If you've quit WoW for good, or you're feeling fatigue, simply skip Warlords of Draenor and move on with your life. Exciting or no, it's probably the best Blizzard can offer.

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  • blazedrizzo - August 19, 2014 7:37 a.m.

    why do they have to focus on orcs? I want to see a new enemy.. But that's just me.
  • Zebuthecow - May 5, 2014 10:20 a.m.

    I just found this article... not excited? You are so out of touch. I have talked over 20 people into either resubbing (and they all have and love it) or start playing the game all together. the more I talked about WoD, the more interested they were. The boost alone was badly needed. Everyone of the old players said they had no desire to spend weeks just get to max.
  • El_Rocky_Raccoon - May 3, 2014 6:05 p.m.

    We don't need more classes or races, we got enough. I mean, Monks already cover all three aspects: tanking, DPSing and healing, pretty much like Paladin. I see no reason to add another class. Maybe new class combos, like Gnome Paladins, Dwarf Druids or something. The most exciting part of WoD is probably the new models: they're finally updating WoW graphically to the more recent MMOs.
  • luke-douglas - April 20, 2014 11:30 a.m.

    I believe the WOW franchise has gotten a bit long in the tooth but they can definitely extend the franchise if they complete rebuild the game with a better AI and graphics engine. It just looks very dated with other games. As far as leveling, if their intention is to get you to dedicate on one toon, that's a bummer to me as I love having the ability to switch characters for a different gaming experience but having to level each one is 'agony'. FYI, when I left the game I had all 11 Alliance and Horde characters with each one maxed as well different professions with all maxed (three accounts) including secondary professions. I'm a bit OCD! :)
  • patrick-johnson - December 2, 2013 1:17 p.m.

    Things like this make me laugh. People complain about class balance and OP abilities and issues such like this. But people are complaining that there isn't a new class or race? How can they balance the game by adding new classes or races? What they need to do is exactly what they are doing by adding in player garrisons, more world pvp, new BGs and arenas, gear changes and the best of all character models. I'm 100% sure they didnt even mention half of what this next xpac will be about.
  • nate-broadus - November 15, 2013 10:17 p.m.

    I only have one question. Is endgame going to be an endless series of dailies again?
  • joshy-phillips - December 17, 2013 5:22 p.m.

    They already said at Blizzcon13 that they are completely taking Dailies.. some during lvling but that wont be what end game is ... like for the First long while until the First big patch flying wont be in WoD to give people in the begining that Vanilla feel and actually explore shit and not just fly over it ... They only announced half the stuff and it seems like they are trying to mix WoW with Warcraft 1/2/3 with the garrison idea... i think this expansion will bring a lot of players back especially with the free lvl 90 ... i think thats pretty cool... i am very excited for
  • bang1221 - November 9, 2013 6:32 p.m.

    I have played WoW on again and off again for the past 7 years. I quit for a long time after Cata was released, mostly due to fatigue of hardcore raiding, and came back when my friends decided to get MoP. I get frustrated every time i come back because i feel like, even though they add in new content and a few new features, its still the same tired formula. Something tells me (maybe its just wishful thinking) that this will be the final nail in the coffin for a game that just feels dated and stale.
  • Earthbound_X - November 9, 2013 5:55 p.m.

    I haven't played since before The Lich King, was planning on going back, just bought Mists, but maybe I;ll wait for this first. Looking forward to seeing all the new Cataclysm redesigns.
  • ObliqueZombie - November 9, 2013 11:36 a.m.

    I'm definitely excited. I can't wait to delve into the lore more, and the updated models look AWESOME. I hope those updates roll across the board, though--mounts, enemies, etc. Also, is officially no new class? I was hoping more announcements would come today. A barbarian class or something would be awesome.
  • larkan - November 9, 2013 9:30 a.m.

    I'm glad I stopped before Pandaria. I tried the 7 day trial, and only played once. I get that some people are destined to do the same things OVER and OVER again, hell where would we be without factory workers? But with this, I can only press the same 6 buttons so many times before I turn into a fetch quest zombie. F2P or Sub doesn't matter, the whole formula is just old.
  • Talvari - November 8, 2013 4:09 p.m.

    The Garrison stuff looks pretty neat, and it's nice to see that level cap finally hit the big 100. Personally i got tired of the game once cataclysm hit but it's nice to see Blizzard are still taking care of the game.
  • Subgenre - November 8, 2013 2:51 p.m.

    I'm so glad that they're updating the character models. The old 2004 models look bizarrely out to place in newer content.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - November 8, 2013 3:28 p.m.

    You and me both. Here's hoping for armor that doesn't always look like a very tight shirt.
  • Doctalen - November 8, 2013 2:30 p.m.

    Doesn't free 90/100 level characters go against the whole MMO business model of grind grind grind grind away. While it sounds like a great quality of life improvement for the casual and hardcore raiders, I think there has to be a fee or something. Even if someone went through the whole grinding process once, it seems like this is an easy road. I don't know much MMOs but from when I play them, the majority of my time is either leveling a new toon or raiding. Raiding only takes the majority of my play time when I stop leveling new toons. When I stop leveling new toons my overall playtime takes a drop too. Seems if there are a lot of people who play them like me, they'll play less and less.
  • GR_LucasSullivan - November 8, 2013 2:38 p.m.

    You can only get a free 90 once per account, I believe. I think people have fatigued of leveling up alts; now the aim is to give your main character the best gear you possibly can, at least in WoW. So many players I know have maxed out every class and race, so that part of the game just no longer interests them.
  • Doctalen - November 8, 2013 2:39 p.m.

    Ahh there's the catch :p but definitely the alt fatigue is real. That's why I've mostly stopped playing MMOs. Even if they are ftp

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