Too Early for Dragonflight?

Big game releases have always been an exciting venture, the questions of whether or not they’ll live up to expectations, what new features may be available, and whether or not it’ll remain in the spotlight for a long period of time are questions regularly asked. Much like sporting events which draw large attention from these betting sites for the possible outcomes, threads on social media and news articles pick gaming releases up in the same way with hopes of guessing the correct outcome too. 

Things have changed in recent years though, big press releases and press streams show the features of these games, announce release dates, and give an insight into what fans of games can expect. Games also often move through a beta cycle where players get the opportunity to test the game ahead of time – and for World of Warcraft, one of the biggest game franchises in the world, this beta cycle may be one of the most important in the game’s history. 

The upcoming expansion release of Dragonflight has a lot of on its shoulders, the MMORPG as a whole has been in decline for some time and with back-to-back poor releases for World of Warcraft, it has compounded the issues too. Combined with the hype building around a potential upcoming MMORPG release from Riot Games, the studio behind League of Legends and Valorant, this could be the last opportunity for the largest MMORPG still on the market to show why it deserves to hold that top spot. 

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Having an announcement stream back in April, not too much was revealed to players – a cinematic and the reveal of some early features, but nothing in-depth and most importantly, not even a hint of a release date or pre-order date. Much to the surprise of many fans and players, however, this week saw the announcement that the new expansion would be available either on or before December 31st and with pre-orders getting underway too. Most players and content creators for the game imagined there wouldn’t be a release until at least early next year with sometime in the spring being considered as more realistic, and has raised the question – is it too early for Dragonflight’s release? 

As noted above, the past two expansions of Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands have met a rocky start, and even prior to this too, an expansion that ended very well in Legion didn’t have the most secure beginnings, and each expansion has led to a huge number of players cancelling subscriptions and moving on to other games. Some suggestions put nearly 50% of active players being lost at the start of the most recent expansion, which isn’t uncommon to see a drop, but certainly not a sustainable approach for the game.

That isn’t to say there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel, however, in the second half of the current expansion the game has received some very positive feedback for moving in the right direction as is the case with previous expansions too so there are hopes lessons have been learnt there. The buy-out by Microsoft also promises a bright future for Blizzard as a whole too. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that popularity for the MMORPG genre as a whole has been waning over the past decade – WoW’s biggest competition in Final Fantasy XIV whilst having a dedicated and still large fanbase is going through the same player recycling issue that World of Warcraft has. New games that had built hype initially in New World fell flat, and other games like Lost Ark have seen day-one peaks of 1.3 million drop to 24-hour peaks of 304,000. 

It may simply be the natural cycle of these types of games, particularly as first-person shooters and MOBA’s have become the preferred form of large scale gaming and mobile gaming captures a huge casual audience – but growth is still needed in order to thrive, and for World of Warcraft and Dragonflight, this seemingly early release date could be a measure of whether or not it’s headed in the right direction, or if there will be another mass exodus to competition until a more stable alternative comes along – likely the one with Riot’s name behind it.

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