WoW v4.3: Patch Day and a Look Back

TODAY IS AN UNOFFICIAL HOLIDAY for WoW players: the release of the v4.3 “Deathwing” patch. There’s a fair amount of cool stuff in this patch: the new “Dragon Soul” raid; three new 5-man dungeons, a “Transmogrification” feature that lets you customize the look of your armor; a “Void Storage” system that offers 80 extra bank slots for random junk; a Raid Finder system that will act much like LFD; and a Darkmoon Faire overhaul that should roll out next week. Good stuff, and I’m especially happy for the extra storage space, even if it costs 25g a slot (yes, really).

And yet, even now, as the patched servers have barely come back online, I find myself wondering: what’s next? Blizzard released the v3.3 Icecrown Citadel patch in early December 2009 and didn’t have another major content patch until a year later when Cataclysm launched in December 2010. With v4.3 announced as the last major patch for Cataclysm, can WoW afford to repeat that cycle and take a full year before Mists of Pandaria? Or will Blizzard get the next expansion out much sooner? 

This in turn got me thinking about Cataclysm in particular, which, let’s be fair, has been pretty meager in terms of patches. In comparison, here’s a look at previous releases and content patches:

Vanilla WoW (Nov 2004)
– launch: Molten Core and Onyxia (40m, 11 bosses)
– Jun 05: Blackwing Lair (40m, 8 bosses)
– Sep 05: Zul’Gurub (20m, 8 bosses)
– Jan 06: AQ40 (40m, 9 bosses), AQ20 (20m, 6 bosses)
– Jun 06: Naxx 40 (40m, 15 bosses)

Burning Crusade (Jan 2007)
– launch: Karazhan (10m, 11 bosses), Gruul (25m, 2 bosses), Magtheridon (25m, 1 boss), SSC (25m, 6 bosses), The Eye (25m, 4 bosses)
– May 07: Hyjal (25m, 5 bosses), Black Temple (25m, 9 bosses)
– Mar 08: Sunwell (25m, 6 bosses)

Wrath of the Lich King (Nov 2008)
– launch: Naxxrammas (15 bosses), Malygos, Sartharion
– Apr 09: Ulduar (14 bosses)
– Aug 09: Crusader’s Coliseum (5 bosses)
– Oct 09: Onyxia v2.0 (1 boss)
– Dec 09: Icecrown Citadel (12 bosses)
– Jun 10: Ruby Sanctum (1 boss)

Cataclysm (Dec 2010)
– launch: BWD, BoT, Tot4W (12 bosses)
– Jun 11: Firelands (7 bosses)
– Dec 11: Dragon Soul (8 bosses)

We can quibble about which bosses really “count” (do you count optional bosses, do you count Naxx 40, which few people did, etc?), but here’s a basic range of how many bosses you had in each cycle: 

– Vanilla: at least 42 bosses, as many as 60 if you count 20-mans and world bosses.
– BC: 45 bosses.
– WotLK: 40-50 bosses, depending on whether you count optional stuff.
– Cataclysm: 27 bosses.

So there’s really no comparison — every cycle of WoW to date has had at least 40-50 raid bosses, except for Catalcysm, which won’t even break 30 unless some surprise encounters are released down the line.

And you could argue, hey, patches aren’t just about raid bosses, but it’s not like Cataclysm has been chock full of other content – you had the recycled ZA/ZG dungeons and the Molten Front dailies, neither of which was that much beefier than what we’ve seen in previous expansions. 

To some extent, maybe this explains why we saw the announcements Blizzard made regarding the new expansion at Blizzcon: a pet battling system that resembles Pokemon, timed challenge dungeons, a new “scenarios” feature, etc. It could be a sign that Blizzard is putting its top raid designers on its still-unannounced project and is looking to non-raid content to keep people involved in WoW.

Whatever the future holds, at least we have Diablo 3 coming soon, right?