Friday, January 30, 2009

Abuse of the expansion

PVD studios is proud to announce the upcoming 200th blog expansion at Player vs Developer, scheduled for release next week! This post will probably add hundreds of words to the verbose archives of PVD, and will, in all liklihood, discuss the incentive structures in one or more online games. Additionally, the blog expansion will kick off our "ongoing blog expansion" event. PVD founder Green Armadillo has declared a goal of producing two hundred blog expansions in 2009. Best of all, this and all of the future planned blog expansions will be available to all current and future PVD readers (and random people who click a link somewhere) at no additional charge!

The Warhammer "Live Expansion"
Warhammer's recently announced "live expansion" is impressive and commendable. In stark contrast to Blizzard's stony wall of silence, Warhammer players now know what they can expect to get in the first half of 2009. It's an impressive slate - four world events, the return of the last two classes cut in the game's beta, and a new RVR dungeon zone based on an old DAOC staple that serious fans have wanted for Warhammer for a while now. It is likely to be more than Blizzard is going to deliver in the one content patch that most players expect them to produce during the same time frame.

However, the "live expansion" is neither "live" nor an "expansion". What we have here is a series of content patches that will be released over a period of months, half of which have nothing to do with each other, which do not collectively contain enough content to fill a paid expansion box. Mythic is applying some serious spin by grouping them together so they will look more impressive to anyone who doesn't notice that this is a half-year plan rather than the patch notes for tomorrow.

(As Common Sense Gamer points out, Mark Jacobs is also claiming that: "No other subscription-based MMORPG that I am aware of has ever added 4 new careers to its game as part of a regular update/addon/free expansion." I'd be curious to hear whether Mark knows any others that had to cut four classes in the final months of beta because they weren't going to be ready by launch day.)

Further abusing the word "expansion"
I was wandering a real live offline bookstore the other day when I saw that the Guinness Book of World Records is now selling a "Gamers' Edition". I was pretty sure that this book could not end well, and I opened it up to a random page in the onling gaming section to confirm my suspicions. The book informed me that City of Heroes holds the official record for most "free expansions", noting that, while the original EQ has released 14 expansions, they were paid expansions.

Let me preface my following comment by saying that I have never played EQ1, and I lasted about one evening in COH, so I might not know what I'm talking about here. That said, I would be shocked if any of COH's "issue" updates had a feature list comparable to a paid expansion to EQ1. Moreover, though Guinness will apparently print anything they can get their hands on if they think it will occupy part of a page in a book they can sell some idiot for cash, I don't recall the COH updates being remarkably more thorough than, say, EQ2's Game Updates. EQ2 has released more than 50 of them, Sony just didn't think of calling them "free expansions".

In short, can anyone tell me who the mythical competitor is that produces the game where they would be charging for the content that "free expansion" providers are graciously giving to their paying subscribers for free (if you ignore the "paying subscriber" part)?

If there's any question of whether you need to tack another word onto it, such as "free", "live", or "blog", what you have is not, in fact, an expansion. So, my parting advice if there are any people in marketing reading this? Please stop acting like the cat who says "I am in thy library, executing a grammatical procedure of great destructive force against thy lexicon".


  1. Some call it content patch..some "live expansion". To me that doesn't matter. Mark Jacobs' talk about "no one ever...etc.." is just for marketing and I couldn't care less.

    What I like (and what is important) is that we are presented with a roadmap for the next half year and this roadmap looks good.

  2. I agree that the amount of communication from the WAR team is good, and has been from day one.

    It just now occurs to me that there is some correlation between WAR having great communication with its players, and Ghostcrawler's appearance and the subsequent increased communication between Blizzard and WoW players.

    Perhaps we are seeing one of those benefits of competition.



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