Is ArenaNet suffering from Blizzard angst?

It’s an old tale that MMO developers will constantly eye their competition with worry where release dates are concerned and that they withhold or adjust new launches depending on who else is in the race the same year. Frequently, it’s been Blizzard that’s been accused of stalling the entire industry; the reason why Age of Conan did so badly, the reason why Rift was delayed, the reason why SWTOR took so long… cetera. You can find a forum discussion for them all. No matter what, somehow there’s a WoW expansion or other Blizzard culprit behind it.

…Or isn’t there?

I generally eye such claims with much skepticism. However, the whole argument was revived for me when reading this insistent comment by Doone the other day:

I’m holding out hope for Arenanet, but they’re even more vulnerable than ever: their lack of reliable release date lies in their fear of Blizzard making plans to absolutely crush them by releasing something from their stock simultaneously. I’ve also written recently on this point too: Blizzard is releasing every game IP they own THIS YEAR. You think that’s coincidence? Arenet is being held by the neck because of this. They want to be sure they can drop their game when it’s not competing with a Blizzard title, and this is even more true because their game doesn’t profit from subscriptions. It only has a chance in hell of making money if players are playing (item shop). The stakes are too high for them”

Now, I don’t doubt that game companies would engage in market analysis and politics when potential multi-million profits are involved; but just how realistic is it to “blame” Diablo III or MoP for ArenaNet’s current release date hesitation? Is it really wise to attribute that much power to a single factor or aren’t we entering the realm of conspiratorial speculation at this point? For what its worth, here’s ArenaNet’s more recent, official statement on the matter:

No, we won’t. It’s not like we have a secret release date and we’re not telling you. We meant what we said: we’ll release the game when it’s ready. And beta testing is where we find out if it’s ready.”

That’s pretty much the reply we’ve heard for a year now. It’s ready when it’s ready – an applaudable approach too. One we can still believe though?

I’m not an MMO developer or publisher, so I cannot make judgements on why/if ArenaNet would be under severe Blizzard angst right now, any more than the other way around. What we probably can say is that GW2 looks very ready and its launch seems imminent. Nobody is under the illusion that the pre-purchase betas are going to serve much testing purposes. It’s safe to say too, that it might prove tricky to find a perfect “launch gap” when trying to dodge major releases this year. But aren’t there many more factors at play and stake when it comes to finalizing MMO release dates? You know, on the development (final polish) or administrative side (servers, retails, community management etc.) of such a great undertaking? And how much power does truly lie in such launch timing, anyway? Maybe ArenaNet are simply looking to push the hype on for a few more weeks? This too would seem plausible to me.

I’d really like to hear more opinions on the matter. When do you think GW2 will be released and is there any close connection to Diablo III (due May 15th) or Mists of Pandaria which coincidentally is still missing a release date too? Personally, I still believe we are looking at late June to July for Guild Wars 2, fingers crossed.


  1. If I was a bettin’ woman, I’d say September for GW2. I have no real reason to think that, though, other than intuition.

    As for Blizzard’s role in all this, I absolutely think that ArenaNet and Blizzard are playing chicken with the GW2 and MoP release dates. I don’t think that is entirely the cause of delays for either property, but I am sure both Blizz and ANet would feel a lot more sure of their plans should the other one finally set an official street date. (I would also bet that SWTOR and RIFT will adjust their patch schedules for this year around those two dates, too.)

    They are the 1000 pound gorillas of the 2012 MMO market, and it would be silly to go directly against each other.

    1. “I’d say September for GW2”

      NOOOOOOOoooooooeeeeeesss!!! amagad, I hope you are wrong – I won’t last that long! 😀

      there are only so many indies I can play! lol -.-

    2. 2nding the NOOOOOOeeeesss!
      Legend of Grimrock and a rerun of the 1990 Wizardry VI will keep me through may, but june.. please let it be june.

  2. Looks like Arenanet already beat the other players in this game: They’ve got millions of pre-purchases already in their order books. The only thing they might miss out on, if Blizzard release on the same date, are from the release date+ buyers. Some more impact could be expected from low first week cash shop sales, if considerably less players are around due to the MoP release.

    1. Hmmm I don’t know. supposedly around 1mio players have pre-purchased/-ordered GW2 so far; one cannot under-estimate WoW’s playerbase though. many will return for MoP, I’m sure.
      in any case, I’m not really interested in who’s winning. I’d just like to get my launch date already, garghl!

  3. MoP won’t have a release date until less than a month before the release itself. I’ve seen the game Blizz plays, and they wait until the last possible moment before dropping a release date. People who announce release dates farther out are basically begging the competition to mess with them.

    1. I wasn’t aware of that, but then I trust Blizzard to know the game best. kinda silly if you think of it – like kids in a sand box looking to crush each other’s sand castles lol….of course it doesn’t help that the MMO market is by design more competitive than for other games.

      I still wonder how important launch timing is compared to let’s say a successful first month in an MMO. depending on what happens there, being the earlier or later release can both potentially be to a dev’s advantage or disadvantage?

    2. I don’t know if that’s and advantage or disadvantage, really. There’s always bugs to fix and fires to put out, so I’d imagine the devs are constantly under pressure. I know from my stint in software development that was the case, and we weren’t even in the game industry (or in the Wintel arena, either).

      The one thing about keeping release times close to the vest means that a company’s internal release clock becomes all the more important.

      I peruse for occasional news and forum fights in the pencil and paper RPG industry, and in one of the forums (about D&D 5e vs. previous iterations) a poster had casually mentioned that he has a relative or friend who works for Blizz. The poster had gone on to say that the attitude of the development staff at Blizz was that they could afford to tinker with D3 or other intellectual properties to their hearts’ content because WoW made so much (expletive deleted) money. If that’s true, then that probably explains the slippage of release dates on D3, but that also casts a highlight on external pressures (Activision, probably) to release D3 before PvP was ready.

  4. I didn’t mean to imply that ArenaNet’s hesitation is expressly in due to Blizzard! 😀

    I had written about it and I didn’t want my comment at Liore’s to get overly long so I kinda half-assed it and left out a little context. I also never link to my blog from someone else’s site (it’s awkward and sometimes rude), but I will do so this time if you allow it in order to avoid this issue.

    I think part of it is they’re genuinely ensuring they put out the best game possible. Beta testing will definitely help with that and no doubt that’s a major concern and factor in release date.

    But surely they are also concerned with timing. No company hoping for the best for their game would ignore timing. All companies generally try to avoid Blizzard release dates. If Guild Wars 2 had released instead of SWTOR in January, we would all be having this conversation in-game taking out some huge creature event, PVPing, raiding …you get the picture. The optimal time this year to drop an MMO so as not to compete with Blizzard was when EAWare did it. Unfortunate that opportunity was wasted on that particular title, but that’s strictly my opinion 🙂

    I think it’s no coincidence that Blizzard held off releasing ANY of their IP follow-ups until 2013. No coincidence at all. From that side of the equation I see that Blizzard marketing is clever enough to see that they have nothing new to offer, no new ideas, and that preserving the value of their IPs by delaying them for a year — a year when several promising MMOs and RPGs were releasing — was the way to cash in on fan loyalty from all these decades.

    And it will be absolutely effective. They’re no dummies. And this is no coincidence. They’re unleashing the full arsenal THIS YEAR. This is the company that can scarcely get out a patch for a single game on time. And they’re releasing 3 IP follow-ups in the same year? Not a coincidence. They’re out for blood.

    I’d like to know if any of you think that a coincidence at all 🙂 I say again, it’s just as likely to be the year of the panda as it is the year of the dragon (

    (Delete link if it is inappropriate and I apologize if it’s offensive.)

    1. Heh Doone, I see nothing rude about bloggers leaving own links if they’re on topic and potentially add to a discussion (or save you from writing many WoTs). I cannot always keep track of all the interesting articles out there – and we are all here for exchange, right? 🙂
      so just as a future note, no hesitation required on my blog. I can tell relevant reading and spam apart.

      I will look into your post, thanks! I didn’t mean to say that the Blizzard factor was your entire view on the launch either, but it seemed a very strong point in your comment there. I remembered an old post by Tobold where he dispels these types of speculations but unfortunately I was unable to find it in his huge archives. it’s an intriguing debate to me; I don’t doubt that there’s some extent of politics involved in ANet’s launch strategy, as you say timing matters – but at this point I’d be very interested to know just “how much” of the cake it makes up – what exactly are they still doing at the moment? maybe I should send them an email and demand a pie chart! 😉

  5. Neither party will hold their games longer than they have to. They will both launch as soon as it’s possible. The sheer cost of keeping their teams paid means they want to be collecting revenue as soon as humanly possible. While both companies would (presumably) love the luxury of being able to target the release of a given product/expansion so that it clobbers (or avoids) the other, the simple fact is it’s just not practical.

    Is Blizzard worried about GW2? I’d say they were a LOT more worried about SWTOR, and weathered that storm just fine. Is Arenanet worried about MoP’s release date… maybe? Anyone who’s going to play MoP will buy it regardless. Anyone intending to GW2 isn’t going to be put off by MoP dropping at the same time.

    I’d say yes, it is indeed coincidence that Blizzard is releasing D3, MoP and the next SC2 title in the same year as GW2 is (hopefully) coming out. There’s really nothing to suggest otherwise.

    1. There *is* something to suggest otherwise and I posed a pointed question about it. I don’t see a response to it. I’ll rephrase:

      If blizzard is notorious for never releasing even a single title each year, even a patch, even an expansion (they’re downright awful about it and have publicly admitted this)–how is this par for the course for them to suddenly decide to release all their inventory in the same year? This is, in fact, unprecedented for Blizzard. Which is to say, *this* is the fact that suggests “otherwise” as you put it.

      Also, Guild Wars 2 is hardly their only target. They need only pepper out their titles to bring fierce competition to any game releasing nearby.

      Also, the information bears out the fact that while players may subscribe to several MMOs, they will spend MOST of their time playing the game in which they have the strongest interest/bonds. WoW is that game for over 10 million MMO gamers. Note the competition has found it prudent to go F2p in most cases, because given a choice, their players would rather pay Blizzard. I don’t see any evidence to the contrary, but do point me to it.

      I don’t think this a coincidence at all. If it’s not clear to anyone, WoW is bringing in enough revenue that they’re giving out D3 for free to subscribers. It’s not that D3 is some low cost/quality/poor performing product–far from it (very far). It’s that no matter how much D3 can rake in, it will not out rake a 1 year subscription to WoW. WoW rakes in so much, in fact, that they found it *profitable* to give D3 away. Think about that. In other words, I point to this as some evidence/indication that they are in a position to delay releasing these titles around the WoW schedule. It’s their golden egg.

      True, this is all speculation, but it’s fascinating. And I absolutely believe game companies think this way. I find to believe otherwise is mildly naive, actually. They are very concerned with the bottom line and their marketing proves this. I don’t think it strange at all to see this as lacking in coincidence. 2013 will be a very uncharacteristic year for Blizz. They never release this much in a single year.

  6. With Diablo in May, MoP in probably November-ish given release dates for previous expansions and absolutely no word of HotS I’d say SC was bumped to next year. There’s so much emphasis on everything else it would be pretty half-assed to suddenly go “Oh, right, and Starcraft is releasing on XXXX.”

    And, I do believe you can preorder GW2 so that has to mean information is on the horizon.

  7. Aye you can put me firmly in “the game’s afoot” camp. But I think Blizzard is showing more Arenanet angst than the other way round, giving out a launch date for Diablo III as a sort of ummm… decoy – see if they could get Arenanet to declare their date. I thought the pre-orders were a genius response by Arenanet, and hope they keep their release date firmly to themselves. Guessing? I’d say….about 2 weeks before the end of the summer break but only because that’s what I would do, and if Blizzard managed an early summer release I’d bin that plan and find some more polishing to do until the minute the Blizzard post-launch hype began to fade. I’m sure other game publishers have plans to remind us they still exist as well, when things really hot up 🙂

    1. I really hope it won’t be any later than that. 🙂
      also considering the GW2 hype out there and how it specifically ‘attacks’ much of the traditional WoW concept, I’d say Blizz has as much reason to worry about it as about SWTOR, maybe even more.

      One thing that wasn’t really mentioned yet though: it’s a new situation since we are not talking about 2 sub-based MMOs going up against each other. while most players are averse to paying for 2 subs at the same time, paying for one while also playing other games is a normal scenario.
      so from that PoV I could imagine many WoW players still also buying GW2. it’s not as mutually exclusive a deal (an advantage which SWTOR didn’t have at launch).

    2. You’re right! They really have been very bright. A summer launch plus happy customers should keep sales rolling right until Christmas, but they don’t have to worry about sub numbers. Against competitors that do, thats a huge advantage. A lot hinges on if they can deliver on the “happy customer” part (should manage). If they then also get their cash shop right they’re laughing 🙂 Ahhh Syl it’s going to be interesting. But most of all, can’t wait to play!

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