If you happen to be in the Hearthstone beta, there is perhaps no better time to purchase packs for real money than right now. See, Blizzard changed the following cards in their most recent patch:
- Unleash the Hounds
- Sylvanas Windrunner
- Blood Imp
- Defender of Argus
- Dark Iron Dwarf
- Abusive Sergeant
- Warsong Commander
- Novice Engineer
While most of the changes were nerfs (aside from Unleash the Hounds), the salient point is that Blizzard compensates those who might have spent Dust crafting these cards by making the disenchant Dust amount the same as the crafting cost. In other words, I could craft Sylvanas for 1600 Dust and disenchant her for 1600 Dust instead of the normal 400 Dust.
“Whatever,” right? Wrong.
What is not immediately obvious is that you have the ability to craft Golden versions of every card in the game, which are the digital equivalent of foil cards in paper CCGs. These Golden version of cards typically cost four times as much Dust to craft than normal. Do you know what this means?
As far as I know, every person who signed up for the Hearthstone beta has gotten a key by this point, so technically anyone who cares about this game has the opportunity right now to take advantage of this scenario. Those two cards above gave me 1200 Dust by themselves, which is 400 Dust away from any Legendary I care to craft. I went ahead and disenchanted both my Pyroblasts as well for 400 Dust apiece, as I never really felt inclined to use them all that much in the first place. Given how this “bonus” Dust window only stays open for about two weeks total, you might want to make your decision sooner rather than later.
This scenario was about the only thing that would have gotten me to pay real money for Hearthstone. And I did. As I have mentioned previously, my prior lack of interest in paying is not an indication of some deficiency in the game, but rather the strength of being able to play for free with few impediments… provided Hearthstone isn’t your sole source of entertainment. If you’re capable of only playing once every 2-3 days to knock out dailies and then go into the Arenas, you can do quite well for yourself over time. But if you want to dip a toe into Constructed, you’ll do much better with the various Legendaries.
Just be warned that sometimes bullshit like this happens when opening packs:
The “OMFG” patch (seriously… Operation: Make Faster Game) was released for PlanetSide 2 last week, and in the interests of giving the F2P game I have sunk $100+ into one final chance at redemption, I decided to give it a go. My initial re-impressions were… lackluster.
While I have not bothered to post my opinions here, I did not have a particularly charitable view of this design pivot. Basically, the dev team stopped all development other than that which increased frame rates. Whether or not it was necessary (it arguably is), the game mechanically needed the biweekly updates I raved about 6 months ago to maintain any interest from me. I can sympathize with someone who wants to play and cannot due to not having a high-end system. However, as someone who was already playing and stopped because, in part, hitting Instant Action loads me into a drop-pod and rockets me into a base that has seen any action since Higby’s mom left last night is incredibly frustrating. Not that it helps much when some action is found when the opposition evaporates like so much morning dew and the devs seriously expect you to babysit an empty base for 6+ minutes.
Way back when this Ps2 adventure began, I compared it favorably to Battlefield 2 & 3. “It plays just like them except you can get a vehicle anytime you want, and look at all those Galaxies flying by!” Now? I’m longingly gazing at the $48 Battlefield 4 deals I passed up because I would like to be able to actually shoot people in the face when I boot up a FPS. Whatever appeal six minutes of standing around once had is gone; what good is an expansive, open-world battlefield filled with ghosts and dust?
Last night as I scanned Indar looking for the hexes with the magical “Enemies: 48+” tag, I realized that all I was really doing was queuing for FPS server. I care nothing for the resources, the bases, or any of the other metagame nonsense. And in that context, the only real benefit of Ps2 is the ability to pull the equivalent of a fighter jet or tank when you want one. The costs though… the costs are steep. Not just in terms of the F2P payslope, but also in the drudgery of finding people to shoot.
So… good job, SOE. I’m not quite sure whether my (very slight) increase in frames is due to the two months of optimization, or simply because so many people left due to two months of no content updates that there is less character models to render.
(Edit: MMO-Champ basically just posted the same goddamn thing. For the record, I wrote the below first, but since I schedule posts to go live at 7am the next day… FML. I want those 28 minutes back.)
So there was a 5.4 Developer Roundtable released on Monday that I am going to sum up for you because, really, nobody should have to sit through those same 28 awkward minutes that I already threw in a hole. I mean, technically, it’s even longer than 28 minutes because I actually paused and rewound the video to take some notes inbetween the cringes. Whenever Ion Hazzikostas talks, I get flashbacks of that one guy in raids – you know the one – where when he speaks, you just want to punch him in the throat and/or yourself in the ears. “Just… fucking say it and stop filling up space with your rhetorical flourishes, Christ!” And he’s a raid leader. Those poor bastards.
Pay it forward, people, pay it forward.
0:00 – 12:25: Time in a hole.
12:26: Lead Encounter designs states that Wrath of the Lich King “arguably” had the best raiding environment at any point in the game. I concur.
15:27: Flex raiding has exceeded Blizzard’s expectations. Out of the Flex raids, over 50% changed in raid size within the duration of the raid itself, e.g. people actually took advantage of the ability to gain/drop people on the fly. More interestingly, the devs stated that in the last week, more people did Flex raiding in NA/EU than did Scenarios. So either Scenarios aren’t as popular as I thought, or Flex raiding is bringing in a lot of new raiding blood.
16:28: “Will there be more zones like the Timeless Isle in the next expansion?” Yes. Timeless Isle will serve as a general template for endgame open-world zones from now on, although there might be a little more structure with goals that evolve over the course of weeks. “We are moving away from the dailies that we done in the past.” Also, more discoverable stuff as people level up.
17:40: “Can we expect any real solutions to (bag/bank) storage problems?” Inventory management is gameplay. But… possibly a toy closet. Also, heirlooms will be like pets/mounts somehow.
19:50: “Do you think you can do better to prevent stacking ranged damage in raiding?” Yes… but not really. The problem is fundamental design: all the fun raid mechanics like movement and target switching are naturally easier done at range. We are looking at ways to make melee more valuable and more fun to play.
21:16: “When will gnomes appear in cinematics?” Funny story: gnomes were not in the original WoW cinematic because they were not even in the game until the cinematic already had a storyboard and was in full production mode. Beyond that, there simply hasn’t been a particularly good time to show them off; all the subsequent cinematics have been to develop bosses of the expansion.
22:20: “5.4.1?” Yes. Major feature of the patch is a rework of the Recruit-A-Friend system. Supposedly more of it will be done in-game instead of game/email/web interface switching. Also, the reward will be a token you can use to choose from a menu of old/brand new mounts/pets.
23:37 – ????: Drink heavily.
Don’t say I never did anything for you.
I first heard about Blizzard’s decision to not release any new 5-man dungeons this expansion from The Grumpy Elf, and confirmed from this post on MMO-Champion. The interview itself is written in Foreigner, so I will just have to take the translation at face value.
On many levels, Blizzard’s decision makes sense. The revamped ZA and ZG heroics in Cataclysm were (true to title) a disaster, reducing entire tiers of content down to all trolls, all the time. New 5-mans were handled a bit better back in Wrath when integrated into the normal rotation, but even then you could experience wild swings in difficulty depending on whether you got Gundrak or Halls of Reflection (shudder).
Had Blizzard released new 5-mans in Mists, it could have shaken out in only two ways. One: the dungeon(s) still dropped 463 gear, at which point it would be largely irrelevant to everyone. Or, two: it released 476 or higher gear, and now nobody wants to run the obsoleted dungeons again (assuming they wanted to in the first place). And besides, in a world with LFR, there is little reason to double-down on raid catch-up mechanisms, right?
On the other hand… does this not strike anyone as profoundly lazy?
Let it sink in. There will be no new dungeons in 5.3, nor 5.4, nor a potential 5.5. There will be hundreds more garbage daily quests in which the writers don’t even bother papering over the naked time-sinking, of course. Will anyone still be doing Shieldwall dailies in 5.3? Or even in this patch, for that matter? Is all that “content” being obsoleted worse than a 5-man? There are a lot of in-game cinematics and lore going on in Krasarang Wilds, after all. It strikes me as odd that your dailies change from patch to patch, but the daily dungeons never will.
Then, I start thinking about the existence of 5-man dungeons to begin with. Why have them at all? Scenarios offer 50 Valor now (compared to 80 from LFG). And, most importantly, offer DPS players an instant queue. If LFR has replaced heroic dungeons as a raid catch-up mechanism, have Scenarios not usurped dungeons by the same token? The only thing holding Scenarios back is the asinine reward mechanism in the form of a random-stat blue item from the box (when it isn’t empty). Seriously, I got a 2H agility axe yesterday. Neither druids nor monks can use axes, so it amounts to wand with strength on it.
Simply migrate all heroic dungeon gear to the random Scenario box, bump the Valor a bit, and now you never have to fashion another 5-man again.
Indeed, from the same interview I referenced before, this paraphrasing emerged:
More scenarios are coming in future patches. We may see very challenging three player scenarios with pretty good rewards.
Speaking of Strength wands, my thoughts then drifted to tank gear. Why should it exist? Blizzard came oh so very close to obsoleting all tanking gear this expansion, probably by accident. Indeed, up until the 5.2 changes, Dodge and Parry were the two worst stats for a Protection paladin. The two worst! For a tank! Since it seems “active mitigation” is here to stay, why not simply go all the way? Critical Strike rating is the only thing that marks something as being “for DPS only,” and it is a simple enough thing to add a passive to tanks where critical hits procs a Dodge buff or something. While there might be an increased competition for gear between tanks and DPS… oh wait, individual loot. Problem solved. And if necessary, Blizzard could keep the gem/enchanting situation the same, so that a tank in full DPS gear could gem for Stamina or whatever to differentiate himself/herself.
I am not trying to craft a reductio ad absurdum here. I am just asking what the actual point of 5-man content is supposed to be under this new “build some once and done” paradigm. Are they necessary for anything anymore? “Practice for raiding?” I don’t know if anyone would agree that they have such an effect, if they ever did. Group content is handled by Scenarios or daily island hellholes stuffed with overlapping elite mobs. Dungeons are almost quaint these days, vestigial relics propped up only by their rewards. If Scenarios offed 80 Valor, would anyone run dungeons? What if the box at the end dropped spec-appropriate gear from the dungeons?
This is how close we are: mere inches. The slightest of nudges, and we could be upon unknown soil. And, perhaps, not even notice a difference.
In perhaps one of the more refreshing moments of sanity in quite some time, Blizzard recently announced that Valor points would not be reset in 5.2. The prior plan was best described as a triple-gate clusterfuck:
- Current players got VP downgraded to JP, which buys heirlooms and little else.
- Players below the ilevel 480 cutoff for the 5.2 LFR would essentially have to either re-grind more Valor to purchase (discounted) rep gear, provided they had the rep, or replace 100% of their items with 483 gear from the last two LFRs.
- New/Returning players would continue needing to grind reputation to grind VP to get gear to enter LFR to get gear that let’s them grind 5.2 LFR bosses to unlock more VP gear locked behind more rep. (Yo dawg, I heard you like grinds, so…)
The level of nonsense was incredible. Downgrading only ever makes sense when the items are downgraded (to JP) too, lest your purchasing power actually be destroyed.
The new rubric makes much better sense. Those 3000 banked VP mean nothing when you can’t purchase 5.2 VP gear without killing raid bosses anyway – a gate mechanism already exists, so double/triple gating is unnecessary.
As always though, having a new patch within sight does engender a bit of progression fatalism. I abandoned all pretense of shooting for the weekly VP cap for several weeks now. Because… why would I? While it is silly to take that argument all the way – “why gear at all when gear resets every expansion” – it simply makes economic sense to me to wait out the 5.1 clock. Instead of 2-3 items after weeks of work, I can get 2-3 items after weeks of non-work.
In the meantime, a more pressing issue presents itself: the race against the upgrade vendor disappearance. Not an upgrading of standard gear, of course, but an upgrading of the Bind of Account staves that my level 85 Scribe can craft… if not for the 5+ Spirits of Harmony required. Of the once-a-day Scrolls of Wisdom, I have 45. Which… is a little disturbing to think about, actually.
In what undoubtedly was an amazing case of pure coincidence, Diablo 3′s groundbreaking 1.0.4 patch is coming out “the fourth week of August.” Hmm. What day do Blizzard patches come out on? Tuesdays, I think? What is the Tuesday in the last week of August? The… 28th. August 28th. Good thing I have nothing else planned to do that day.
Kidding aside, patch 1.0.4 may as well be called Diablo 3.5 for the sheer scope of the sweeping changes to endgame. Let’s look at them a bit closer:
Gold/Magic Find will no longer be averaged between party members. While Blizzard admits that they were originally worried about leechers jumping into multiplayer with pure Magic Find gear and thereby not likely pulling their weight, the complete lack of foresight displayed was astonishing. If I am capable of farming Act 1 Inferno by myself with 228% MF, why in god’s name would I join with a random stranger who not only increases monster HP (getting nerfed this patch too, by the way) but likely reduces my level of MF by his/her mere presence?
The other guy gets my bonus, and I get his… what? Pleasurable company?
Pro Design Tip: don’t build your co-op or multiplayer system around Russian Roulette, e.g. you are no better off when you win, but when you lose, you lose big.
Severe, Sweeping Elite Pack Nerfs
And I mean severe. Any one of these changes would be huge on its own, but Blizzard is throwing the whole goddamn pot of spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Look at it:
- Elite HP reduced by 10-25%.
- Regular mob HP increased by 5-10%, but 4x more likely to drop magic items.
- Specific nerfs to Fire Chains and Shielding affixes; Invulnerable Minions getting removed.
- Removal of Enrage Timers for Elites (!!!).
- Removal of HP regeneration for Elites after player death (!!!).
Those last two items would have been more than enough to fix most of my issues with Inferno by themselves. The current system is binary: you can either kill the pack (or one member thereof) or you cannot. While removing Enrage Timers and HP regeneration can/will lead to Graveyard Rushes, I never understood how exactly that was a bad thing. Just because I can die six times in a row to finally take out an obstinate foe does not mean I don’t care about those six deaths. Dying in a game is penalty enough because I already wanted to survive; extra penalties are generally superfluous unless death serves some other gameplay function.
Sweeping Item Buffs
Although the buffs appear only targeted for weapons right now, this is nevertheless a big deal:
Weapon damage is the most important stat on a weapon. It can be disheartening to get a lot of weapon drops and you know before even looking at them that they have no chance of being good. To help give weapons a fighting chance, the raw damage value on all level 61 and 62 weapons will be able to roll damage that extends all the way to the top end of level 63.
While we will still see awesome +800 Life per Hit-esque stats on ilevel 62 weapons with unusably low DPS, the mere chance that it could be a better drop instead is a great move forward. Of course, it will lead to rampant stat inflation and subsequent hollowing out of the AH economy, but at this point, who cares? Hell, if we can get to a place where I can get a goddamn upgrade off the ground instead of praying for good drops to sell for gold to buy upgrades from other people, I will gladly throw the entire AH under the bus.
Also, I guess Legendaries are getting buffed? Since the average player is only ever going to see the buffed Legendaries in the AH, I never understood why Blizzard talked much about them at all; it is not as though they are farmable items.
Ridiculous (but Needed) Class Changes
I do not really know anything about the class changes yet, but I am going to go ahead and declare them ridiculous. They would have to be, assuming Blizzard follows through on this:
- Does the skill fill a similar role as an extremely popular skill? If so, buff the skill to be competitive with the popular skill. For example, Bola Shot could be a solid skill, but simply doesn’t have the raw damage when compared to Hungering Arrow, so we’re buffing Bola Shot to be competitive.
- Does a skill have a dominant rune? If so, can we buff the underused runes to be more competitive? A good example here is the Wizard Hydra skill. The Venom Hydra is by far the most popular rune, and for good reason, so we are buffing the other runes to make them more competitive with Venom Hydra.
What could possibly compete with the monk’s Fists of Thunder (Thunderclap rune) or Deadly Reach (Keen Eye rune), for example? Or, god help us all, the One With Everything passive?
I cannot say I have any particular faith that Blizzard will fix everything broken with Diablo 3, but even given this very preliminary information I can confidentially state that I will log back on once 1.0.4 goes live. It may only be long enough to finish out Inferno Act 3 & Act 4 before uninstalling for good, but hey. If there is a chance to relieve blue balls, you go for it.
Do you know what I like more than an MMO being treated as a single-player game in nearly 100% of its (blogged) reporting? An MMO with an official State of the Game developer post seven (7) days after launch.
I know that developers of The Secret World are not the first to write the following, but I was especially amused this time around (emphasis added):
We’re going to be releasing fresh and tasty new content FREE to our subscribers on a regular, monthly basis. The first update is due on Tuesday, July 31st, and we will be releasing more details about that particular update later this week — including a couple of fun surprises. (You’re going to love it.)
* Mission packs on a monthly basis! The first few packs will contain new investigations for every adventure zone in the game — but we also have more action and sabotage missions planned for the near future. These missions will feature fully voiced cut-scenes and new media pop-ups, and will match the quality of the missions currently in the game. Oh, and like everything else in our monthly updates, these packs are FREE for our subscribers!
Allow me to summarize my feelings with the following:
I have, of course, been cheerleading the concept of single-player MMOs for quite some time now. But I almost wonder if The Secret World has gone too far, and otherwise fallen into the Uncanny Valley abyss between the two (*ahem*) worlds.
Instead of being interested in an MMO that is going the incredibly novel route of monthly updates, my very first thought was “$15 DLC packs each month.” In the abstract, all subscription MMOs function in this manner, right? And companies like Blizzard certainly are not doing anyone any favors by letting 6+ months lapse between content updates.
But… it’s not just me, is it?
I am not playing the game, but I would rather FunCom put out twice the content every two months even if they end up sitting on the completed work. It feels too fast. And weird, like an MMO with a $13.84/month subscription. Or a doctor who keeps insisting on showing me his medical license. It bespeaks a curious lack of faith in the product itself.
P.S. I smirk every time I see the following patch note in any MMO:
* And speaking of dungeons, we’re also working on a dungeon finder tool, allowing players to more easily put together a team to handle the instanced content
Does that make me a bad person?
If you have not seen it yet, the 4.3 Patch trailer is one of the worst trailers Blizzard has ever made. Why? No voice over. I was originally sympathetic to the argument that “Hey, they’re just patch trailers.” But after watching this week’s episode of Legendary, I was inspired to see if Youtube had a collection of the old ones. As it turns out, they do.
- Patch 1.11 – Shadow of the Necropolis
- Patch 2.1 – The Black Temple
- Patch 2.3 – The Gods of Zul’Aman “We gonna bury you here.”
- Patch 2.4 – Fury of the Sunwell
- Patch 3.1 – Secrets of Ulduar “May this death-god… take you all.”
- Patch 3.2 – Call of the Crusade (phoning it in)
- Patch 3.3 – Fall of the Lich King
- Patch 4.1 – Rise of the Zandalari “Da Horde is my people.”
- Patch 4.2 – Rage of the Firelands
- Patch 4.3 – Hour of Twilight
To be clear, not all of them are good. Most of them seemed way cooler at the time. But out of all of them, the only other patch trailer with no voice over was 3.2, Call of the Crusade. As in the most phoned-in raiding content patch in the history of the game. Is that really the comparison Blizzard should be going for, nearly two million subscribers down, with the LAST patch of an expansion and ultimate show-down with Deathwing, aka “I am the Cataclysm?”
It becomes even worse when you consider this fan-made revision:
This is what the fan says in the Youtube description:
After seeing the slightly disappointing 4.3 trailer from Blizzard I had a thought that it was simply lacking voiceovers, so I downloaded their trailer and voiceovers from the Dragon Soul raid and played around with it in iMovie for about an hour and this is the result.
Do note I have almost no video editing experience.
You know that tingling sensation, accompanied by your nipples getting hard? That’s (probably) due to proper voice work. And the goddamn height of Blizzard’s absurdity in this is that these voice clips already exist in the game files. It is not as though they can even hide behind the “expense” of getting Metzen to read the inactive ingredients label on a bottle of shampoo over Skype, or whatever passes as content creation in Blizzard offices these days. They had all the pieces already, but chose NOT to spend the one extra hour making a presentably badass trailer for the ultimate, world-destroying boss. Instead, they chose to dust off the 3.2 trailer generator, and cut & paste new video while changing the text in the “delayed left-to-right lens flare” field.
If Titan does not end up being the best videogame in the history of the medium, I hope to god that we see a VH1 Behind the Scenes special, five years down the road, detailing the descent into drugs and madness that was the dev team during this time period. I would rather know that they were booting black tar heroin than to accept that a team of gamer designers sat around a table and approved garbage like the original trailer. I would rather them say “let the casuals eat cake” and return to TBC 2.0, than to know they said “good enough” while rubber-stamping an inferior product. Design directions, even if I disagree with them, at least indicate a modicum of seriousness. This shit… if they stop caring, why should I? Or anyone?
The little things matter.
As I did back in June – has it really only been five months? – for posterity’s sake here is a screenshot of WoWProgress’s Firelands numbers as they stood on Tuesday, November 29th, at around 2am:
Since there is no 100% boss (but Shannox gets close), a little reverse-engineering results in a total of 45,839 guilds having killed at least 1 boss this tier. I would do a further breakdown as I did last time, but what’s the point? About 71% of every guild that started Firelands in some fashion finished it. Unlike last time around, Blizzard rolled out the content nerf before the patch hit, which obviously influences the completion rates in this bizarre way.
Speaking of last time, there were 62,405 guilds that downed at least one 1 boss in T11 content. Compared with today, that is a drop in activity of 26.55%, or 16,566 guilds that fell off the grid.
As always, the numbers get a little fuzzy if you want to look at the number of players instead of guilds. If we assume a generous 18 raiders per guild, 825,102 players have killed 1 boss in Firelands, down from 1,123,290 killing 1 boss in T11. Back in June I had what I assumed was a reasonably accurate count of all non-Chinese subs (i.e. all guilds WoWProgress tracks) at 6.5 million, but obviously that has changed in the midterm. Back then, it meant only 17.28% of players raided. Today that would be just 12.69%, but only if the overall population had not decreased as well.
To understand exactly how generous I am being vis-a-vis the 18 people per guild estimate, WoWProgress says that only 4934 guilds killed Shannox on 25m, compared with 39,861 10m kills. In other words, there are over eight (8) times as many 10m kills of Shannox than 25m of the same. That 8x figure is fairly consistent across all bosses until you hit Ragnaros, interestingly enough. In fact:
|Boss||10m guilds||25m guilds||Difference|
If those 25m numbers don’t seem jarring to you, perhaps this will illustrate it better:
|Boss||10m guilds||25m guilds||Difference|
|The Siege of Ulduar||???||31,993||n/a|
|Beasts of Northrend||86,187||58,801||1.46x|
I was not actually aware of the Magmaw discrepancy until just now, but… wow. Assuming that Blizzard making it difficult to differentiate between 10m and 25m kills achievement-wise doesn’t impact the accuracy of WoWProgress, this seems an armor-piercing argument that the merging of lock-outs (and possibly of gear) is not just killing 25m raiding, but driving it before us, while we hear the lamentation of its women.
While I understand the LFR system may address the casual PuG content gap, these numbers cannot bode well for the future of 25m raiding. Less than 5k guilds running normal 25m content means all that content is being made/balanced/tuned for the entertainment of less than
90,000 150,000 people. There will likely be three two times that number of players engaging in Pet Battles at any given time of day, let alone overall.
Hmm, perhaps the decision to include that as a major feature is not so incongruous after all.
I think it is a bit early for a more formal “postmortem” on Cataclysm’s first tier of content, but for posterity here is a screenshot of raiding progression as it stood at nearly 4am Tuesday morning, before the numbers could be “sullied” by the 4.2 nerfs.
Since there is no 100% boss, some reverse engineering of WoWProgress’s numbers shows that there was a total of 62,405 guilds that killed at least 1 boss this tier. A further breakdown estimate goes something like this:
1/12 – 62,405 – 100%
9/12 – 44,107 – 70.68%
12/12 – 23,122 – 37.05%
13/13 – 812 – 1.3%*
Depending on how many raiders you associate with a raiding guild (15-30), this means roughly between 589,245 to 1,178,490 players who started this tier did not finish it on Normal. WoWProgress pulls its data from NA, EU, TW, and KR servers, which comprise roughly ~6.5 million subscriptions per MMOData. This means that at the upper end (30) the raiding pool this tier is about ~28.8% of all accounts. Or, 71.2% of all subscribers did not raid, and of those who did raid, 62.95% did not kill all 12 normal mode bosses.** In this context, seven bosses in Firelands may almost make sense.
The other thing I want to mention briefly is that I expect Blizzard’s Q2 investor call to either look absolutely amazing, or completely terrible depending on timing. As you may or may not have heard, Blizzard sent out emails to existing accounts which essentially contains a free copy of the original WoW game, 30 days of game time included. Secondly, Blizzard is poised to release Cataclysm in China July 12th. Finally, and perhaps more earth-shatteringly from a subscription standpoint, Blizzard increased the Recruit-A-Friend XP bonus from 1-60 to 1-80. If you are an alt person as I am (or was, considering I have a full 10 character slots on Auch), this is about as close as Blizzard seems willing to get to letting you buy a Cataclysm character. Back when RAF originally came out, I had two instances of WoW running and essentially spent $5-10 to get a level 60 rogue, priest, and hunter (with the gifted levels) in about two weeks of leisurely play. And for that month, for all intents and purposes I was two subscriptions to Blizzard. Of course, Blizzard recouped $25 or whatever it was when I decided to transfer the RAF priest to my primary account before shutting the RAF account down.
So, basically, depending on when the Q2 sub numbers are compiled Blizzard will likely be seeing huge growth (due to 4.2 being released, dual-boxing RAF accounts, free copies of games going out, new expansion in China) or further drops depending on when the numbers are locked in for the report.
*Apparently Heroic Ascendant Council is more difficult than Sinestra based on number of guilds having killed it: 812 vs 926 (Sinestra). It might be that people were racing for Sinestra kills before the patch, but it is interesting nonetheless.
**By contrast, only 42.32% of raiders who downed Marrowgar did not also kill the Lich King. It is entirely possible we will see more 12/12 after an equivalent amount of time has passed, of course.