Obviously, I don’t play World of Warcraft anymore and don’t really intend to get back into it in the future, but I must say their decision to make their mobile offering free is a stroke of genius on their end, and their timing simply couldn’t be better.
The World of Warcraft mobile app is exceptional. It adds the ability to access the auction house, chat with your guild members, check server status, talent calculators, character profiles, etc. Making it free makes it easily the best MMO mobile app on the market, and I’m sure they’ll see plenty of returns on this move. Awesome and well played. (Other developers take notice… having a mobile app for your online game may not be really important now… but that will be changing VERY soon.)
It’s like watching a tennis match. On one side, you have Blizzard with it’s mega-hit veteran World of Warcraft. On the other side, you have ArenaNet with their unproven rookie, albeit with foundation shaking talent, Guild Wars 2. In the past, when other games have released, Blizzard it seems never batted an eye. And why should they? Just look at their still staggering numbers.
But Blizzard is taking a look at Guild Wars 2, and it’s staring it down. Now, I may be a little shaky on exact details, but here are a few events and counterstrokes that I can remember:
1) ArenaNet tells the world that Guild Wars 2 will launch in 2012 – Blizzard counters by offering it’s players a free copy of Diablo 3 if they purchase a year’s subscription.
2) ArenaNet gives a release date for Guild Wars 2 – Blizzard plans to release a huge content update in preparation of Mists of Pandaria on the exact same day, including the anticipated talent tree changes.
3) ArenaNet will open it’s servers tonight around midnight for official opening of headstart access – Blizzard makes a previous unpopular subscription mobile app which includes guild chat, auction house access, and numerous other perks 100% free.
Possibly ArenaNet’s placement of their game’s release just happens to almost coincide with the September 25th planned Mists of Pandaria release, but a month is a LONG time in this genre, and a month is more than enough time to see the inevitable dropoff from Guild Wars 2, so release dates seem to favor both sides (and you can see why Lord of the Rings Online has decided to stay as FAR away as possible, now shooting for their Riders of Rohan release of October 15th).
Is there really a winner and loser in all of this? Financially, yes, both companies and their investors are closely watching. To us gamers… no. We all win. I’m sure Guild Wars 2 will launch and be everything people want it to be and more. Mists of Pandaria will launch and also be a much welcome addition to the Warcraft family.
Seeing these manipulations, though, I can’t help but feel a little like a puppet. What will be the next release that’ll pull our strings across the stage? I guess we have to keep watching the show to find out.