How Often Should MMO Content be Released?

By Jeff Francis
How often should mmo content be released?

It's been a long dry spell for me playing Guild Wars 2 lately. There's been no real content updates that I've been interested in for the last few months. Like many mmorpg players in the game, I've been engrossed in the season two updates for GW2's Living World storyline. My desire for regular new content is one that is shared by most online gamers. Most players hate doing the same old things over and over again. Many developers promise us regular updates in our favorite games, but it does seem that the actual release schedule for new content is really far from ideal. The following question gets bandied around on various gaming forums as each player has their own opinion on the matter. How often should mmo content be released?

Guild Wars 2 Scarlet Briar

This question of the release schedule of new mmo content has been one that has been discussed quite a bit recently. Not too long ago, we had DC Universe Online announce that they were no longer going to be doing the large scale updates that they had in the past, but that they would now focus on releasing smaller-scaled DLC on a monthly basis instead. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have World of Warcraft set to release Warlords of Draenor this month, marking two years since Mists of Pandaria. For their Living World season two updates, Guild Wars 2 has said that they would no longer adhere to the two week schedule for new releases that they had promised when the game first launched.

As you can see, the rate of releasing new mmo content can vary considerably depending upon the online rpg in question. One reason for this wide discrepancy is that of scale. The more content that is packed into an mmo update, the longer it takes to develop. The obvious result is that games who release giant content updates that are chock full of new zones, classes, and quests do so at a very slow pace. This is clearly seen in games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic. If the game decides to just create a new adventure or two, such as what Guild Wars 2 originally did, then such content can be released far more quickly.

So how often should new mmo content be released? I will admit that the actual answer will depend upon the player, but I comfortably feel that most players want fresh content on a regular basis. The die-hard player that just lives to do endgame raids really has no desire to partake of a small update that only promises a fun little romp doing a quick adventure or two. Such playing would take away from their raiding time. While my initial thought is that a two week window would be best, my honest opinion is that a monthly release schedule would be best for the players and the developers.

The average gamer would get a kick out of monthly mmo updates. This would mean that they would have something new to do every month, and, thus, have a reason to keep coming back to the game. The only downside is if that the update can be completed within a day or two, which would mean that many players would jump on the update at the beginning of the month and then have little to do until the next month rolls along. That's why having the ability to replay adventures in an mmo is so important. Even if the new content can be finished in four or five days, being able to replay them if the player enjoyed them the first time around keeps the player occupied.

Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion

On the flip side of the equation, a monthly schedule for new mmo content is a good thing for developers. It gives them a timetable to work on new adventures and ideas as there's no ambiguity about "monthly" as opposed to the usual "soon" or "when it's finished" that gamers normally hear. The fact that monthly updates would be far smaller than grand expansions means that if a particular feature hasn't had all the kinks worked out, then the developers can push that feature back to another month and release the rest of the content on schedule. There's a reason why every major expansion to an mmo is followed by a ton of patches. Players expect everything that the developers promised, and they will vent their anger quite vocally if anything has been left out. This usually means that some features are broken when the expansion launches as the development team ran out of time to fix them. A smaller monthly update has no such issues.

Overall, the main consideration of how often new mmo content should be released will be determined in what you want in it. If you want just a new adventure or two, or perhaps a fun mini-game, then a monthly schedule is perfect. However, if you're a player that wants an update that has a new continent to explore or a major campaign to undertake, then you will want one every six months to a year instead. My personal preference is monthly as I'm just looking for something new to do. I admit that I'm like a cat that gets distracted by shiny objects with new mmo updates being the shiny objects that entrance me. I want them on a regular basis lest I get bored and leave the game.

Nov042014

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