It’s Make Or Break For World Of Warcraft
With the next World of Warcraft expansion set to be announced at Gamescom 2015, Blizzard finds themselves at a cross roads. World of Warcraft isn’t just a game, it’s a culture, in the same way most popular MMOs transcend the realms of being ‘just a game’. Throughout it’s history, World of Warcraft has reached a number of key points that defined it’s future. After years of success, resulting in higher subscriber numbers, World of Warcraft began to slowly decline.
Every MMORPG goes through a decline, it’s just the nature of the market, and World of Warcraft is no different. While the game still boasted millions of active subscribers, the player base began to grow a little jaded, patch by patch. Cataclysm marked the first major turning point for World of Warcraft, both in terms of player feedback and the in-game world itself. The whole experience, from level 1 to level 80, was a whole new world. The general levelling, at least for the lower tiers, was generally welcomed, the end game was a slightly different story. Blizzard had generally pulled off a core story to each expansion, climaxing with a final showdown with the respective antagonist. Going toe to toe with Illidan, blade for blade with Arthas, iconic characters interacting with your character, undeniable satisfying.
Cataclysm featured a number of familiar characters, but the antagonists were mostly sourced from lore found in books and in-game text. Deathwing simply did not have the same pull, or appeal, as Arthas or Illidan. The overall plot of Cataclysm left a lot to be desired, ending in a rather abrupt manner. The final fight with Deathwing still remains as one of the least favoured encounters in WoW endgame history. After months of hunting down the world destroying force, the showdown felt hugely underwhelming. A number of factors played their part in the mixed reaction to Cataclysm, with the so-so new zones and simplified talent system taking much of the flak.
Mists of Panderia represents the general shift in both player attitudes towards World of Warcraft and the decline of subscription numbers. The expansion was met with a cynical reaction from the day it was announced, mostly down to the addition of Pandaren. In truth, the expansion felt a little awkward in the grand scheme of World of Warcraft lore. The environment, themes and story never felt truly organic when placed next to content found in past expansion. Mists of Panderia was the first expansion that left a widespread sour taste in the mouths of many of it’s players. While the levelling process was fairly smooth, the 5-man dungeons and end game was a shallow mix of repetition and lack of creativity.
The ease in which characters geared up, mainly due to Looking For Raid and The Timeless Isle, was also a major factor towards the disdain aimed at Mists. While the end game content did improve, in-experienced players began to flood raids, often leading to a frustrating experience. To make matters worse, Blizzard offered a level 90 character boost to players who pre-ordered Warlord of Draenor, resulting in the final run of Mists of Panderia being a wild west of clueless players reducing Looking For Raid to a utter joke. With subscriber counts declining, Warlord of Draenor was released.
Much like Mists of Panderia, Warlords of Draenor suffered from a lack of endgame content. The new direction Blizzard took with a more story driven levelling process was a utter success. Seeing your character work side by side with familiar names, rising up to become a commander of your respective faction, it was genuinely enjoyable. By the time all was said and done, all the player was left with was daily quests and ‘The Garrison’. From what started off as a interesting concept soon turned out to be a nothing more than a Facebook like management game. Garrisons were a collection of fetch quests, that came with their own perks. The concept was good, the execution left a lot to be desired. Repeating the same processes daily, picking up resources,starting build orders, it was all very limited.
Warlord of Draenor boiled down to sitting in your Garrison queuing up groups, while overseeing the daily running of Garrisons. This was not the World of Warcraft people fell in love with. The biggest issue came with events outside of the game. With a increase in subscription fees, as well as a increase in the RRP for the actual expansion, Warlords of Draenor has the shortest shelf life, while requiring the biggest financial investment. With only two major patches, Worlds of Draenor is already coming to a close, much to the player bases dismay.
There’s been a growing distrust between World of Warcraft’s player base and Blizzard, even more so since the company merged with Activision. This distrust, and discontent, towards Blizzard and their latest effort has led to a number of players quitting the game. Recent figures reflect the player’s feelings with the subscriber base going from 10 million, to 7.1 million in three months.
This drop in subscribers is a major drop for World of Warcraft, and will undoubtedly alarm Blizzard/Activision. The life blood of any MMORPG is the player base, and World of Warcraft’s players are not happy. This is where the latest expansion, Legion, comes into play. This new expansion is the single biggest event since the launch of World of Warcraft. While the game may boast numbers every other MMO could only dream of, the decline is worrying. Legion needs to repair the relationship between the players and Blizzard, it needs to be complete. There’s no room for faulting endgame, no tolerance for another short lived expansion, Blizzard need to produce.
After over 10 years of dominating the market, the cracks are starting to show. Free-to-play games continue to grow in popularity, the rise of the MOBA has also managed to lure players away from Warcraft. Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn is starting to emerge as a viable contender to the MMORPG throne. Quite simply, World of Warcraft: Legion is make or break for the pop culture phenomena.