I read an article this morning on Gamespy that previews Wrath of the Lich King. The article got me to thinking how Blizzard got things right with WoW where a lot of other companies failed. Blizzard didn't invent the genre, nor did they necessarily bring anything revolutionary to it. What they did however, was to try to perfect what was already out there. They took the good things and tried to make them better and tried to replace the bad things with better things.
Their customer base of around 8 million customer pre-Burning Crusade testifies to their success. No, it's not the half-naked Night Elf females you can play in the game - let's face it, with WoW's cartoonish characters, there are plenty of other more realistic and racey games to play if that's what the majority of the players were really after. And I'm not saying Blizzard did everything perfectly either. However, they did a lot of things right and that we're all playing this game rather than some other is because of it.
Enter Burning Crusade. Here's were Blizzard could really have dropped the ball. In fact, if all they did was release more of the same, we'd all likely not be playing WoW anymore and I wouldn't be blogging about this game. However, not only did Blizzard release new "stuff" they improved again. Not only were there new races and a new class available to the opposite factions (pally/shammy) but the quests more interesting this time. More importantly, there were more 5 man instances - a lot more. Even better, you can set them on heroic mode and run then again!
When I first read about heroic mode for the instances, I was skeptical. I thought it was a lame way to try to extend the content by just having the exact same instance just with the mobs hitting harder and with more health. However, heroic instances have proven to be as much fun as, if not more fun than, the original 5 mans. The mobs do hit harder and it is the exact same instance but the rewards are better and the bosses have different abilities, which require new tactics. And they certainly have extended the first expansion's "content" in that it's helped keep us L70's occupied rather than getting bored.
And the loot from the heroics helps with gearing for the raid instances, which is a progression itself. I was never into hardcore raiding and trying to get better gear by entering an instance with 39 others repeatedly to get points so I could get better gear so I could do harder raids was just not my cup of tea. So being able to obtain better gear through 5 mans to help make the 10 man raids better was certainly a boon.
When I originally read about Arenas, I was skeptical about that as well. It sounded like boring and annoying deathmatching. I was wrong again. Arenas is some of the most fun PvP I've experienced and I look forward to my matches each week. It's also not full of 'l33t' geared people 'pwning' my face. There are weaker teams and stronger teams and teams of equal strength - there are a lot of different variety of arena players. It seems like everyone is getting involved regardless of gear and skill. Perhaps it's the Arena rewards, which offer an alternative way to get some really good gear. Whatever the reason, Blizzard was successful here and introduced a fun new part of WoW that keeps us playing.
So, when I stop and think about it, I can't help but applaud Blizzard. I had hit L60 with a number of characters pre-Burning Crusade. In fact, as soon as I'd hit 60, I'd lose interest in my toons because at that time, I'd be faced with one of two choices: raid or alt. So I'd alt. And by the time I had 2 L60's and a bunch of alts, I was seriously contemplating quitting WoW. The only reason I actually kept playing was because a friend convinced me to join his guild on a new server. Hitting L60 again with Origami, I was just starting to get to that point again where I was losing interest (I did start alts) when The Burning Crusade was announced. Now I'm glad I stuck with it (it wasn't a hard decision as we were basically all offered new content to adventure in together). And I am more than a little impressed that I've been L70 for so long now and not only am I not bored, I can't stay on an alt for any length of time without wanting to get back to Origami and "progress" some more!
This time, I'm looking forward to the next expansion with less skepticism. It sounds like the expansion is still quite some time off, which is a relief as it allows us more time to get through some more of the "end game" content with TBC. I can't believe I just said that! :)