To help alleviate the confusion about the absence of gear upgrades come patch 5.2, Lead Systems designed Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street recently tweeted the following:
@panterpe No gear. The NPC is gone.- Greg Street (@Ghostcrawler) January 11, 2013
Naturally, this response prompted a flurry of tweets from players concerned about various aspects of the proposed changes. Ghostcrawler responded to several, with further explanation, and Blizzard Community Manager Bashiok subsequently posted a longer explanation on the US forums.
Players concerns related, understandably, to gear which had already been upgraded. Would it keep its upgrades? The response, reassuringly, from Ghostcrawler, was yes, it would. This fact itself brings other issues with it, particularly for PvP gearing. Upgraded Conquest gear is already so much higher than honor gear, with a maximum item level of 491 compared to honor's maximum of 466. The new honor gear arriving in 5.2 would have brought the two levels closer together, but it was then downgraded from 483 to 476.
There have been several posts from various Blizzard sources saying that PvP gearing would be totally revamped for 5.2, the outcome of which PvP players await with trepidation. And for PvE, the issue is pretty similar -- the pressure is now on to get gear upgraded before patch 5.2 arrives, when, currently, the ability to do so will be removed. From Ghostcrawler's follow-up tweets, it will return in patch 5.3, if it returns at all.