In my post of incorrect summer 2011 convention predictions, I actually got a few points right about EQ2's forthcoming expansion. The game will indeed be getting Beastlords, and there was no increase to the level cap, but the expansion will arrive in November 2011; way earlier than my May 2012 prediction. I correctly assumed that SOE could not possibly finish the promised Velious content updates and also create as much additional content as they have shipped in previous expansions anytime sooner than May. It just never occurred to me that they would go ahead and release a paid expansion anyway, without additional content and a mere nine months after the last time they hit players up for $40.
Producer David Georgeson has a roadmap for the game which actually includes a fair amount of content and features between the February 2011 launch of DOV and the presumptive launch of the expansion after Age of Discovery in November 2012. Georgeson says that he would like to transition the game to quarterly updates with new features and content arriving in smaller chunks as it is ready, rather than saving it up to bundle together in a large box. The material he is proposing is well suited to this model, but his publisher does not appear willing to take the chance that players will decline to pay for stuff they don't want.
I might be okay with the business model decision, except that it creates pressure to pick the flashy sports car that does not have enough seats for your family over the less exciting car that actually gets you where you need to go. Reaction to the new class, which Wilhelm nailed years ago apparently, seems positive, but consider the opportunity cost. Developing an ambitious pet system, with taming, talents, loyalty, and advancement is going to take a large amount of time, as will attempting to find a niche for the new class amongst EQ2's crowded field of 24 existing classes. Meanwhile, the benefits will be confined to a new class that no one currently plays, at the expense of the twenty four classes that represent 100% of existing characters.
I don't think this makes much sense as a development strategy for a seven year old game, but SOE apparantly thinks it's a good strategy for selling expansion boxes. And, if that doesn't work, there's always the increased AA cap to force players to pay for the annual expansion, even if the new AA's are just passive increases to DPS that further inflate the time it takes for new players to prepare for endgame. As someone with no interest in re-rolling as a Beastlord and limited interest in NPC Mercenaries who will probably lack the AI needed to help with the heavily scripted instances of the last three expansions, I'm not feeling especially excited about paying for the features in this "feature" expansion.