The Feast of Winter Veil starts today and the addition of a seasonal gift, battle pet, and seasonal achievement makes it the most developed holiday this year–the only holiday to get a development besides Day of the Dead. A common thread whenever a holiday rolls around now is that there’s nothing new for players to do. Holidays haven’t always gotten major developments in the past, but changes in Mists of Pandaria let players burn through holiday content faster and discourages repeat play on alts. It’s interesting to note that the Darkmoon Faire has gotten a lot of updates during a period where holidays got nearly none–but holidays occupy a special place in players’ memories and shouldn’t be neglected in favor of the Faire.
To start off, let’s analyze major developments for each holiday over the past few years. A stand-out year for holiday content started with Children’s Week 2011, continuing with major Hallow’s End, Winter Veil, and Lunar Festival additions. In this year-long period, Brewfest, Love is in the Air, and Noblegarden received interesting new vanity items as well.
- For the Lunar Festival, 2011 changed the locations of many Elders in zones that were affected by the Shattering. The holiday also received major update in 2012, when Alliance and Horde lantern pets were added as well as additional Elders.
- Love is in the Air was completely redone in 2010–instead of bringing gifts to guards for love tokens, players complete daily quests to get love tokens as currency for vanity items. The miniboss Apothecary Hummel was added, as well as the Big Love Rocket. In 2012, the Swift Lovebird mount was added, and in 2013, the loot tables were updated for MoP.
- Noblegarden got a big update in 2009 to its current form where eggs serve as currency for seasonal mounts, pets, and themed armor. It was relatively unchanged in 2010 and 2011, with the Swift Springstrider, Black Spring Circlet, and Pink Spring Circlet vanity item additions in 2012.
- Children’s Week received a major update in 2007 when the Shattrath City orphans were added, in 2009 when Dalaran orphans were belatedly added in the fall, and finally in 2011 when new orphan quests for the Alliance and Horde in Azeroth were added. All of these years have introduced more battle pets, the latest being Legs in 2011.
- The Midsummer Festival saw the addition of Ahune, special tabards, and the Frigid Frostling pet back in 2010. Bonfire achievements have been added in subsequent zones, and in 2012, the Helm of the Fire Festival was added, allowing users to use a hat as a cooking fire. In 2013, Ahune’s loot table was updated for MoP.
- Brewfest saw the major addition of Coren Direbrew and mount drops in 2010, the Brewfest Keg Pony in 2011, and 2012 added the Pandaren Brewpack and Brewhelm, although players were disappointed that this holiday didn’t have more creative content for Pandaria, since it was a perfect fit. In 2013, the weapon drops from Coren were updated for MoP and several Pandaren Brewmaster vendors served interesting beverages from the Timeless Isle. Along the way, the annual steins were no longer unique but repeated names and colors.
- Hallow’s End got a major revamp in 2011, where players did not have to trick-or-treat anymore to get all the vanity items, like masks. Vendors now sell all the vanity items for Tricky Treats, and new masks and Wickerman buffs were added, as well as the Creepy Crate, Feline Familiar, and Little Wickerman vanity items. Trick-or-Treat achievements have been added in subsequent zones, and the Horseman’s loot table was last updated in 2012 for MoP.
- Day of the Dead is a short holiday, but it got attention in 2013 when the Macabre Marionette became a permanent battle pet instead of a temporary pet that could only be summoned during the holiday.
- Pilgrim’s Bounty was added in 2009 and has been relatively unchanged since then.
- Winter Veil gets a new seasonal gift each year, but 2011 had many developments. Several questlines were revised and a Winter Veil dagger, toys, many previous pets and other goodies were available from killing the Greench. 2011 also added a battle pet, Lumpy, and gave adorable animations and dialogue to the four existing pets. 2013 has a few more developments over 2012–the seasonal gift this year has a unique achievement tied to it, and there’s a new battle pet, the Rotten Little Helper.
2011 was also notable because the Darkmoon Faire received a massive overview–it moved to Darkmoon Isle, got a completely new currency and prizing system, introduced many new vendors selling vanity items and heirlooms, new mini-games, a PvP arena, and many cute flavor areas like the Darkmoon Boardwalk and Zoo. While updates for other world events have tapered off, Darkmoon Faire developments have stayed relatively strong since its Patch 4.3 revamp. The Darkmoon Faire in late 2012 had many developments, including the addition of the Darkmoon Rabbit boss, several battle pets, new pet tamer Jeremy Feasel, the Darkmoon Carousel and associated experience buff, loaner mounts for low-level players, and the Darkmoon Whistle. And while holiday updates have been very sparse in 2013, the Darkmoon Faire added the new boss Moonfang with several vanity drops, the Darkmoon Top Hat rep buff, the rare Darkmoon Fishing Hat, and Darkmoon Game Prizes awarding vanity loot.
So, since holidays don’t always get major updates, why are players so impatient and disappointed in 2013? The lack of updates is felt more keenly in Mists of Pandaria due to account-wide achievement progress, mounts, pets, and titles. Some mounts and pets can be found on the AH throughout the year, usually at relatively-cheap prices, which further dilutes the exclusivity of the holiday.
Holidays used to be a limited-time event where players felt compelled to grind out all achievements to complete the Violet Proto Drake and 310% flying. Those who already completed the meta moved onto picking up cool vanity items that suited alts, or grinding out the new vanity items introduced in 2011 and 2012. The lack of new vanity items in 2013 coupled with minimal incentive for players to do holidays on alts for mounts, pets, and titles (only a small incentive to sell BoE mounts and pets on the flooded AH) made the lack of holiday updates especially noticeable. Currently, the only items left to acquire on alts are holiday armor and a handful of vanity items, but those will become part of an account-wide collection in Warlords of Draenor.
Holidays frequently were seen as a great time for leveling alts or getting new seasonal epics, but those perks have been diminished too by other developments in Mists of Pandaria and the general process of leveling being streamlined. Headless Horseman loot at ilvl 470 or Ahune capes at ilvl 480 pale in comparison to Bind-on-Account Timeless Isle loot that’s ilvl 496. Experience and reputation bonuses, once very rare, now show up monthly at the Darkmoon Faire on the carousel and top hats. The Darkmoon Faire has also greatly expanded to take on leveling perks in many forms, from monthly profession quests to heirlooms for tickets.
While the Darkmoon Faire has gotten some neat developments in Mists of Pandaria, there’s still something to be said for the traditional holidays that are rooted in real-life events. The Darkmoon Faire really came into its own in late Cataclysm after years of being a minor quirky event, and since it’s around for a week every month, players don’t feel as bad if they miss it once. But elaborate holidays that have been around since 2007 and coincide with widespread vacations have a certain pull–it’s easy to forget when the Darkmoon Faire lands every month, but when a major holiday hits, you know an in-game holiday is soon. So while I really do enjoy the Darkmoon Faire developments and look forward to seeing what’s new on the PTR, the special holidays have unique excitement surrounding them that the Faire doesn’t have, even if they’re all technically Events in the game data.
It’s a powerful thing that players with vastly different playstyles look forward to the holidays year after year, especially with how much of the playerbase has grown up and changed. The holidays may have been an unintended casualty of account-wide changes in 2013, but adding some complexity and polish we’ve seen in the Darkmoon Faire during MoP could bring back that holiday cheer.