Thursday, August 4, 2011

WoW - Mists of Pandaria

The blogosphere is alight with the rumor that World of Warcrafts's next expansion will be called "Mists of Pandaria".  The rumor is based on the fact that Blizzard recently trademarked "Mists of Pandaria", a move that has typically heralded their next expansion.

I have two thoughts when it comes to this.  The first is  why assume it's for an expansion?  For all we know this could be a mobile game with a loose WoW affiliation, an iPad app, or their next attempt to make an adventure game in the Warcraft universe.  Blizzard has more than enough resources to work on multiple projects at a time, and just because they haven't really branched out to date doesn't mean they never will.  With WoW subscriptions continuing to decline (down to a "mere" 11 million now) Blizzard really has two options -- give fans something they want to keep them playing WoW, or diversify into other projects and increase the number of revenue streams.  While the former is certainly possible, the latter is too.  Blizzard, for all that I rag on them sometimes, has a history of trying new things.  After all, this is the company that went from making real-time strategy games to the most successful MMORPG in history.  Everyone thought they were crazy when they announced WoW, but (credit where credit is due) they clearly knew what they were doing.

Assuming MMO-Champion is right and this is the next expansion, I can see it working out pretty well for Blizzard.  Adding Pandarens to the game would be massive fan service, and I think WoW probably needs some serious fan service right now.  Plus, an Asian themed continent would give them an entirely fresh setting to create for players that would feel far more like an expansion than a rehashed Azeroth with a handful of new zones.  Add a slew of Asian inspired new equipment from katanas to lacquer armor and watch the drool overflow news sites and forums.

As other bloggers have suggested, have Pandaria be an island continent being invaded by Naga (or something) and the Panadarens have sent envoys to both the Horde and the Alliance for help.  Both sides send armies to try and court this new potential ally, and Pandarens are available as a playable race to either faction.  Heck, make the Pandaren a new race specific Hero class and kill two birds with one stone (new race, new class).  Would it have the "epic conflict" feel of Wrath and Cataclysm?  No, but then maybe the next expansion shouldn't.  If every expansion features a world destroying danger the "danger" will cease to generate any sort of emotion in the player.  This may have already happened, and might be part of why people are leaving WoW much sooner after an expansion than usual.  "Oh, another, bigger bad guy is here to destroy the world unless we raid 672 times and defeat him.  Except if we don't, nothing happens."  *yawn*  By making a more relaxed "interlude" expansion, they have the potential to build up more interest in the next world destroying expansion (Return of the Titans?).

Plus, you know, if they time it right they could do cross promotions with Kung Fu Panda 3.  Free World of Warcraft "Po" non-combat pet with every ticket!  What?  I'm not cynical . . .

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