The State of WoWJuly 17, 2021
Opinion reflects time of publishing.
As someone who has been in the MMORPG genre ever since 2007, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen the rise & dips of the MMO genre, and the many supposed “WoW-killers” that were to take its place. I’ve spent my fair time in all of those games, from 20k+ hours in WoW to 10k+ hours in Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s become quite apparent that the game that will kill the king isn’t another game, but rather itself. Many people have already tried to predict the death of WoW, but if Shadowlands can make Warlords of Draenor look good, then I don’t know what else could.
But the truest victory, my son, is stirring the hearts of your people. I tell you this, for when my days have come to and end, you...shall be king.
I bring this quote from the WotLK cinematic because it is exactly what
Blizzard Activision failed to do. It’s quite ironic that Activision couldn’t even hold up to their own words of keeping their customers happy. The moment shareholders are prioritized over gamers, the moment the game loses its special flame.
WoW killed itself because it lost its ability to innovate and became to comfortable in its monopoly. I refer to both Classic and Retail as a whole when I talk to this, solely because that the company is to blame, not a problem with the game in itself. Activision’s excuse of lack of budget to pay their workers as executives lather themselves in money is just a poor excuse at terrible game development. Not only that, but Activision’s failure to not include microtransactions in a “faithful” rendition breaks the spirit of the game itself. It was fun while it lasted, but rereleasing expansions and providing additional benefits in an attempt for people to pull out their wallets just gets old.
I knew that revival projects such as Classic WoW, TBC, and beyond were going to fail from the very moment it was announced. I awkwardly fall in that range of being in the Gen Z population while also playing some of the great classics. People my age are looking for games that are ever-changing, fast, and dynamic (basically the FPS genre). Sure, the Nostalrius project had an active amount of people, but the awe that made the game what it once was no longer existed. The lack of information, add-ons, and skill gap that vanilla WoW had makes the discoveries of new items no longer interesting. The best way to describe classic WoW is slow and imperfect. What made the game such a critical success among oldies were the bonds and discoveries that people made together after spending countless days straight. Today, people have obligations, additional resources, and technologies that make that nostalgic feeling impossible to achieve.
Asmongold’s transition to FFXIV did not solely cause the game to plummet. It was an effect that content in WoW was getting stale, and that the company behind it no longer respects the gamer’s time. People transitioned to other games because WoW was dying, not the other way around. Asmon had a huge influence in where people went, and the social media drama between Activision’s employees and other large media figures drove the nail further in the coffin. I’m not one to talk about employee business as I don’t know what goes on in Activision, but reports have reported anything but positivity.
Other large variety creators, like shroud and summit1g, have begun to explore other MMORPGs as well, particularly SWTOR. “Forgotten” games have revived in player population, and people are starting to see that these games are active and well maintained. These games had their loyal population and other players in the middle of WoW’s occasional content drought, but the introduction of these classic MMOs to a younger audience will just make the game even better.
These games aren’t perfect as they suffer from age, the somewhat dying MMORPG genre, and the same corporate pressure that killed Blizzard. In specific, SWTOR suffers from drifting the gray line between the Star Wars IPO, lack of budget from BioWare’s focus on other projects, and the game’s base infrastructure built on the 11yr old outdated Hero Engine. This makes it tougher for BioWare Austin to have a harder time creating DLC, as well as perform critical updates on the game for it to run smoother on modern computers. Despite all these hard comings, what matters most is that these game developers still have a sense of what their player base truly wants and are not disconnected from them.
The community and stable release of content is solely the reason why I always return to SWTOR, regardless if there are other alternatives like Rift or GW2 out there. Eric Musco, the community manager of SWTOR, has been in the game’s development since its infancy, and he knows how to work with the players to keep them satisfied, even if it means waiting a bit longer. I’ve personally cancelled my subscription to WoW and transferred it back to SWTOR. The thing that’s so great about SWTOR is that paying just one month of subscription grants you all the content, but I subscribe monthly anyway because I want to support the developers behind the work. It used to be that working at Blizzard was once high prestige, but these days I’d much rather work for BioWare (totally not a desperate attempt to be hired, I’d love to work for you guys!).
However, this also brings up large opportunities, with former Blizzard cofounder/ex-CEO Mike Morhaime’s new company Dreamhaven and other partner studios that have the game developers who made the classics we know them. The freedom of indie dev projects with the experience of a veteran company is what Blizzard was at its peak. Made with love, passion, and a sense of community, these “classical” aspects of games before shareholders were involved are truly what the gaming community will always fall in love with.
Here's to 10 more years of SWTOR!