I fully expected to be on the latter end of the beta wave invites. I started playing right at the very tail end of BC, but my account went inactive for almost a year and a half because I was in West Africa. So I imagined that, if we were to make analogy comparing my WoW status to Hollywood, I would be right there on the D-List with Kathy Griffin. So it was no surprise to me that my beta invite had not yet arrived at my door. What WAS a surprise was how soon that it DID.
I rather expected to be waiting another month or so yet.
Honestly, I didn’t actually care, because I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of playing the beta. I wish that there was a way for my beta key to be transferable, so that I could give it to someone who WOULD use it.
Here’s my take on the whole Blizzard-Annual-Pass-”Fiasco”-Thing:
1) I thought the Annual Pass was fiscally a great idea for Blizzard. From my business-administration-degree-position, the money counter in me sees that the idea of a a flat revenue stream as compared to a spiky one makes a lot of sense. If Blizzard can avoid some of the subbing-for-two-months-inactive-for-three types of accounts, their revenue stream looks better, their receivables look better… overall their numbers look better. And as it’s been well-documented that Blizzard is losing subscribers, anything that makes the numbers look better is a plus.
2) I figured at the time that the Annual Pass almost certainly meant that Mists would not be coming out anytime soon(TM). I STILL believe that late-July to early-August is the EARLIEST that we will see it. (There you go, Lae, another one to add to your list.) We all know that Diablo III is due out May 15, it makes sense that Blizzard would want to space out the releases in order to take advantage of player boredom. I think Blizzard will want to give a gap of about three months or so, to allow the player base that will be playing both games a chance to get Diablo out of their systems before releasing MoP. With a May 15th release on Diablo, that means August 15 would be 3 months. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t even see it that soon, although that would be an extremely long beta if we didn’t. If Blizzard is already waiting until August to ship MoP, it makes sense to wait until November, when the other expansions have historically dropped, in order to take advantage of the increased sales for the holidays. I don’t believe they will wait that long, though. They have publicized that they want to speed up the time between expansions, and their player base WILL point that out to them (ad nauseum, most likely) if they do not, so even a couple of months’ lead time will help them out with that.
3) Ultimately, the beta invite was not the reason I signed up for the Annual Pass. Honestly, I don’t know why ANYONE would want to beta test. In my mind, that is just nothing but frustrating. We’ve already seen some of the major issues, like the pet bug (that is just the coolest bug evah, IMO), the incredibly long lines in front of the ultimate in questing holdups, and getting stymied by giant pink blocks. Achloryn, who has been in the beta for awhile now (go check out his monk videos!), tells me that his druid is totally borked in the beta. Like, he can’t do anything. Run, shapeshift, kill things, check his mail, eat tacos, bupkes. I don’t want to deal with that kind of thing. I have a lot of respect for people with the kind of patience to do REAL beta-testing, who actually try things out and report bugs and so forth. I just don’t want to be one of them. I’m not interested in playing a game that isn’t finished yet. I am quite content to wait until it’s done.
4) A million people playing the beta will speed up player boredom with Mists. Especially if it is a long beta, we will see unprecedented numbers knowing a lot more about the new expansion before it comes out. Of course, with Wrath and Cata, it was possible to know everything about the expansion well before the release date, but you had to be working for it. You had to be reading blogs, keeping up with EJ, scouring WoWInsider or what-have-you. This time around, we are going to have a statistically significant portion of the player base having already beaten the first tier of dungeon and raid content before it ever sees the light of release day. The time that Blizzard has been giving guilds to down raids before swinging the nerfbat has been decreasing; therefore, player boredom and burnout with raid content is increasing. My guild has been raiding DS since it dropped four months ago. We killed Madness for the first time in early February. We’ve been at the point of clearing the raid in one night for about two months. Now that the boss health nerf is up to 15%, we’re clearing it in about an hour and a half. Compound this by players being able to see the first raid in the beta for a few months before it’s released, and now you’ve got a massive outcry from raiders that they’re ready to move to the next raid months before the next raid is patched in.
5) The beta invite should not have been the carrot, anyway. Well, to be honest, the beta invite isn’t the carrot – the real carrot is the free copy of Diablo III. However, I am going to take a wild stab here and say that the majority of players who signed up for the Annual Pass didn’t care about being beta testers, anyway – what they really wanted was an advanced look at Mists. So give them what they want! Yes, a million people signed up for the Annual Pass. But my guess is that Blizzard could have easily doubled that number if one of the rewards was, instead of a beta invite, the ability to purchase and play Mists a month before the general population. Blizzard announces a release date of, say, September 1, but Annual Pass holders can buy and start playing Mists on August 1. What does putting a million people in the beta do for Blizzard, anyway? Do they really need the server-stress testing? After seven years, wouldn’t you think they would know that information by now? What Blizzard needs are the true beta testers that will take time to help them figure out what is broken and how to fix it, not the massive influx of people who just want to gawk at the pandas.
6) I would have still signed up for the Annual Pass if the beta wasn’t included. For me, the Annual Pass was an obvious no-brainer. I was always going to be playing for another year. I knew that. When the Annual Pass was announced at Blizzcon, I had just gotten back in the country six or seven weeks before. I knew I was going to be playing for a year, so it made perfect sense for me to commit to pay for something I was going to be paying for anyway and get a free copy of Diablo. And a pony, although I kinda think it’s creepy looking.
7) I don’t consider the Annual Pass a fiasco. Do I think it could have been done better? Oh, absolutely. Was it a smart move? Yeah, it definitely was. Do players have the right to be outraged at having to wait for the beta… maybe. Personally, I’d say, “Hell no,” but then I’m crotchety like that. You did not pay anything extra for the opportunity to be in the beta. All you did was promise to continue doing what you already had been doing, which is paying for your subscription. If you stopped doing that, you lose the beta… but you lose the game, too, and if you don’t want to play the game, why the hell would you care that you’re not in the beta either? However, I understand how Annual Pass holders can say that Blizzard was not delivering on their promises. Blizzard worded things poorly and left things open to interpretation, and that never ends well.
/gets off soapbox
The point to this whole long, rambly post is that I am not going to play the beta. Yes, I’m interested in seeing the panda zones eventually. I hear they’re gorgeous. However, I have yet to even finish the worgen starting zone, so I don’t imagine that I’ll be any quicker off the mark rolling a pandalady. I will wait and see the content when the rest of the world does. In the meantime, there’s still plenty of nerdpoints to get, and Hagara is still holding out on my shoulders, damn her. I have three zones left to finish Loremaster. There are two baby hunters that need leveling. Amber has been bugging me to come try out this whole RP thing. And there are still plenty of coins in the Dalaran fountain. I can wait on Mists.
I might get a bit lonely with most of my guild off on the beta, but I promise you I won’t be bored.