World of Warcraft is one of the largest online MMO communities, with statistics estimating they have a player base of 117 million and a daily player count of 3.3 million at the time of writing (Blizzard won’t share official statistics), which puts them at the top of all MMOs. Not only this, but they are appealing to older player bases with the release of WoW Classic and most recently the release of The Burning Crusade on June 1, allowing players to step into the dark portal once again. However, the stagnant wait for World of Warcraft Patch 9.1, which launched at the end of June, left players migrating to The Burning Crusade. At the time of writing, WoW Classic has a player base of 25 million and a daily player base of 1.72 million. Despite these numbers looking good on paper, some players have said that releasing Classic during Battle for Azeroth was one of the “worst possible thing it could do regarding retail.”
With World of Warcraft Patch 9.1 live for a couple of weeks, has it changed the minds of many players? The answer is complicated.
World of Warcraft Patch 9.1 - Welcome to Korthia
On June 29 and 30, players were set to return to World of Warcraft, entering a city called Korthia. For many, it seems to have not exceeded players expectations, with some even saying they will not be returning, as the content is just too stale. A lot of players were expecting all of 9.1’s content to be provided on the release date, only to find that they only had access to some of the content, whereas during April’s Public Testing Realm release, they gave players much more.
João is an active player on the server Tarren Mill and has been playing since the original release of World of Warcraft Vanilla. He plays in a guild called Tears and Tissues. João expressed that he hated pre-patch 9.1.
“Lots of bugs, no substantial content either,” he said. “Blizzard doesn’t understand its community, or refuses to.”
He is not the first player to complain, with many even expressing their distraught in general chats which appear in-game. For a large group of the players, they were not expecting to be given such minimal content with no substance. The content consisted of three chapters, two levels of renown to access, rares to kill, and a couple of cutscenes to set the scene in the first week. However, that was all it was. After the first week, it continued the same. They’re slowly rolling out more renown quests week by week, so the campaign cannot be sped through by players.
“I firmly believe Blizzard drip feeds content, yes,” João said. “Especially when they have little to show, which is Shadowlands so far.”
Before Shadowlands released, many players and fans expressed their excitement, with videos and comments on forums. The expansion looked promising, with some saying it looked better than Battle for Azeroth. With the servers buzzing to life again with the release of 9.1, it left a lot of players wandering around just looking for something to do.
That something was waiting for the Fallen Charger. The Fallen Charger is a mount that you can gain from killing a mob, named the same thing, in the Maw. However, you could be waiting a while. Players have expressed wait times from one hour to a wild fourteen hours of just standing in the same spot. The worst part? The mount isn’t even guaranteed. It has a 5% drop chance. Rinse and repeat until you might get it. There are many things to consider when waiting for the mount, and João explains that.
“You have to be in the Maw when applying for groups that have it up, spamming refresh in group finder,” he said. “Then you have the issue of it being nuked when you join and it has several spawn points, and you might be too far away to get there in time to tag it. Either that, or you join a group and wait 6-12 hours and you can’t do anything else while waiting, otherwise it gets nuked and dies when you get there.”
Despite the complaints about the Fallen Charger, it doesn’t stop the players from trying their hand. Is it because the content out right now is just too minimal to warrant doing?
The Death of World of Warcraft Classic Vanilla
The Burning Crusade released for the second time on June 1. Players all lined up at the Dark Portal, ready to step through again. Whilst in pictures, it looked like a lot of people, there were some servers who had few players, if not less. Reddit posts are rife with complaints, saying that even the most popular servers have less than 40 people. Vanilla has become a ghost town, left in the dust as the rise of The Burning Crusade takes over. Chris, a blood elf paladin on Kazzak in retail WoW, shares his experiences of attempting to play Classic: “So many dead servers, so many bots, such little content.” Asmongold, a renowned WoW YouTuber and streamer, explored the dead realms in late May and found the same issue.
Not only this, but a common issue across all of Classic is auction house scalping. This is when players from a populated realm go into a low-population realm and buy out the entire auction house, only to sell the items back at a higher price, like the prices would be on their own realm. It makes it impossible for players to buy the items they need, and players often try to keep items within the guild so that they don’t have to face the auction house.
“The AH is so bad, it got to the point where I had to sell legendary gear for 75g, just to get rid of it,” said Chris, the blood elf paladin. “It’s either stupidly overpriced or stupidly cheap, but selling stuff is a nightmare.”
Because of this, it seems that WoW Classic just didn’t take off the way that Blizzard had planned and has left many servers in the dust, with players having to either deal with the fact their realm has died or try and roll for a different realm and hope for better.
Are We Expecting Too Much From Blizzard?
Shadowlands has been released during a very strange and difficult time for many, where the world has experienced loss, grief, and isolation beyond our comprehension. Hoby, a veteran player in World of Warcraft, expresses this point.
“It’s reflected in the release schedule and the manner of release in 9.1,” he said. “Just to cut Blizzard some slack.”
Hoby is one of the few who seems to still be optimistic and excited for what is to come in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. He has kept up to date with the patch notes, joined Discord servers, and ‘theorycrafts’ what is best for his character.
“I like to do challenging content, which is to say the new raid and the new mythic plus system with a brand new affix,” he said. “Not to mention the new power spikes we will experience.”
Hoby went in depth about his experiences and where he sees World of Warcraft going. Despite his positive mentality to the new expansion, he said, “9.1 is decent at minimum and good at best,” which is not very high on the list of standards that most WoW players rightly have.
Perhaps the reason for the drip-fed content is so that players have something to look forward to every week, as the pandemic has given people nothing but time. If it was to be released all at once, people would race through the content and be stuck with nothing to do until another patch. Hoby says he does the same.
“As a hardcore player I just deal with the content, do it as fast as I can, and make the character as strong as can be,” he said. Many players have the same outlook, which in turn leaves them with nothing to do.
So whilst Blizzard continues to drip feed content, it may be a good thing, even if the player base doesn’t see it. It allows them to experience something new each week, to give them something to look forward to. The Sanctum of Domination raid will be released soon, and it will be played and experienced by many, potentially leaving all those huge groups waiting for the Fallen Charger in the dust. Overall, it doesn’t seem like there is much health in Classic that has players jumping ship from retail to Classic either, meaning that it is just a waiting game within retail and exploring the dead Vanilla servers in Classic. Whilst there are many enjoying the raids and content within The Burning Crusade, many have said that they have already done it. So what’s left to do? The biggest question left lingering is: What’s next for WoW? Is this it? Is this the best that they can offer? There are many questions that are left unanswered, and only with the full release of Shadowlands will players be closer to the answer.