It’s time for the Warlords of Draenor beta. But the need for a beta now is deeper than appeasing the community’s need for new purple pixels. Three reasons:
First, and foremost in the mind of a multinational business like Blizzard, the beta itself is needed to show investors and other stakeholders that the company is moving forward with their flagship property and is executing its recovery plan. Let’s not argue about how healthy or not healthy WoW is at the moment — it has had a subscription drop and the market demands that it tries to recover from that. Part of the rejuvenation process is to release an expansion that alters the gameplay in fundamental ways that will draw players back in.
Second, the beta itself is going to compete for attention with Elder Scrolls Online, which releases April 4th. Make no mistake, the MMO market is competitive, and Blizzard knows how to play the game. There’s always been a lot of scuttlebutt about how such and such a game is coming out soon and Blizzard is going to play dirty and release a new game around then. I don’t buy WOW power leveling. But they certainly do recognize that there is a good reason to start to talk about the game now rather than when another AAA title makes it debut. Why force the larger community to pick between two games when a simple calendar move could allow everyone to have both? Blizzard is full of insanely good gamers too, they’re going to be playing ESO, they get it. Co-exist.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is what the lack of beta is doing to the community’s mood. Yes, much of the whining (for lack of a better word) about not having a piece of test software is only out of love for the game. But when you combine that negativity on a large scale, that want of new information, the need to see first hand what the future of the world we all play in will look like, it becomes an issue. Blizzard has dealt with some major community problems in the past, and they’ve responded, it seems, by becoming more and more transparent and accessible.