Say what you want about how good a game World of Warcraft actually is, or what its impact has been on gaming at large, positive or negative, but its durability and ability to sustain a player base that most of its competitors would kill for is astonishing. Though it has been shaken over recent months, and finally seen it numbers begin to wane, it still has five or six times the player base of most its closest domestic competitors. And, now coming up on it fourth expansion, the scope and breadth of its world is astonishing.
Mists of Pandaria, the latest expansion launching this week, has taken some possibly deserved potshots from all corners, and admittedly it does seem a somewhat less focused expansion than previous ones that had a concrete villain and theme. Pandaria instead wraps in a new race that has always seemed better aligned to April Fools jokes than actual implementation. That said, when you pull back the layers, there is a lot of new content and changes densely packed into this latest package, though honestly it's going to be long-time WoW players who likely will be most impacted.
A new class (Monk), a new race (Pandaran), new zones, new dungeons, new PvP areas, a new skill system, level and profession cap increases, scenarios, updated legacy dungeons, and a pet battle system make out the key features list, and that's a decent enough batch of upgrades to justify an expansion. The question is whether there will be a cohesive thread that ends up pulling it all together in the way that Burning Crusade did with the adventure through the Dark Portal and the fight against Illidan, or the way Wrath of the Lich King did in the long battle to face Arthas and Frostmourne, or the way Cataclysm did with the Sundering and Deathwing. When you just look at MoP, it's easy to just see, well, pandas.
Also this week, FIFA Soccer 13 hits, marking the release of what is becoming one of EA's most powerful franchises, and perhaps second in the sports market only to Madden. Meanwhile, Little Big Planet comes to Vita owners eager for some kind of new game.