Controversies surrounding World of Warcraft’s newest expansion: Mists of Pandaria

In the wake of Activision-Blizzard’s momentous announcement in late 2011 that the next expansion to their record-breaking online roleplaying game “World of Warcraft” was to feature oriental-styled pandas and martial arts; the gaming community and fanbase has been swept up in a controversy of epic proportions.
With falling player numbers and the departure of key members of the development team in mid-2010, the popular online gaming franchise is facing dire portents in the ever- changing video game industry.
“World of Warcraft,” which launched in 2004, has become more than just a game in its lifetime.With more than 8 million players worldwide, the game is seen as more of a lifestyle than a hobby. Such is its popularity that otherwise docile announcements are often met by wildly polarized groups of gamers, each sworn to their own idea of how the game should be. Such it was with the announcement of “Mists of Pandaria,” the fourth expansion to the already aging “World of Warcraft.” Originally leaked in mid-2011 and thought of as an early April Fool’s joke by the playerbase at large, it was formally announced later as the official sequel to 2010’s “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.”
“Mists,” as it is commonly shortened to, was just the beginning of the outrage from the rapidly hostile playerbase. Nevermind the fact that the martial-artist-Panda-monks of “Mists” uncomfortably resemble a certain Dreamwork’s animated character (here’s a hint: he’s black and white and packs a punch). In fact, nevermind the fact that the expansion recycles content used in previous expansions. While the quality of content is itself degrading in quality according to most of the players and press (probably as a result of the departure of most of the development team for an as yet unannounced next-gen Blizzard MMO codenamed “Titan”), most of the complaints stem from a stagnation of new ideas brought to the aged game. “Mist’s” graphics still look on-par with online roleplayer “Guild Wars” (2009), while subscription numbers continue to fall in time with a decreasing sense of challenge within the game.
President and co-founder Mike Morhaime of Blizzard Entertainment, responsible for other gaming hits such as “StarCraft” and “Diablo”, claimed in late-2011 that “World of Warcraft” has reached the point “where players who have played the game and quit now outnumber those who have never played at all.” Desperate for a stop to rapidly falling quarterly earnings, Blizzard recently began a program where players who return to the game receive rewards greater than those obtainable by current players. The playerbase at large has responded to this program with outrage, and the latest quarterly earnings call show that the numbers continue to fall.
For the most part it seems “World of Warcraft” is on the way out. Many games in the past: “Warhammer Online”, “RIFT”, “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Online”, and “Aion” have tried to usurp the MMO throne, but none have succeeded thus far. Still, with the ailing king of online roleplaying games losing popularity and doing little to cure itself of the cancer that enrages it’s fans, the end of an era of “Warcraft” is certainly foreseeable in the near future.

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