On last Tuesday Blizzard released a patch called Before the Storm which is basically World of Warcraft 2.0 (patch notes). A large patch on Tuesday is not uncommon, they happen at least once a quarter. So while the expansion (The Burning Crusade) got delayed until Jan. 16, they released most of it in the 2.0 patch. It is missing the ability to go to level 70 (a big deal for those of us that have been level 60 for a year and a half), the Outlands (a whole new area with new dungeons that on the surface look like they will be a lot of fun), and Arenas (a new type of PVP – player vs. player – combat area that looks really cool.
They did add entirely revamped talent trees for every class in the game – which allows you to change how you play and to plan for how you spend your points once you finally move past level 70. Another, bigger change is the way the honor system works. This is a big deal.
This is a big deal because the rewards you get from the honor system are equal to at least Tier 2/2.5 epic items (which require 40-man raids of complex dungeons) and just shy of Tier 3 items (Tier 3 items come from Naxxramas which is a very difficult raid that can be completed by only the best geared and most experienced guilds) in some cases. So before this patch epics were kind of rare, the honor system rewards, called Field Marshal (Alliance) or Warlord (Horde) armor and Grand Marshal / High Warlord weapons were very rare. To get them you had to achieve the appropriate PVP ranking which took playing a lot for 6-8 weeks, including a push in the end that required 80+ hours of playing and, often, multiple people playing your account.
Now anyone can get these armor sets and weapons quickly. For a reasonably active, but not super hardcore player, it might be possible to get a single weapon or armor in a week and certainly is achievable in two. (Some of the armor is cheaper.) Already it is common to see people with the GM/HWL weapons and no other epics.
So I guess they are succombing to making stuff accessible to the masses. I think that’s a good idea for the game. Having really powerful stuff to acquire in an understandable, attainable way (that doesn’t depend on either being in a 40-person raid or grinding 100+ hours a week in battlegrounds) is a good thing.
I also think they are doing this to help people gear up for the new grind to level 70 that starts on Jan. 16.