Ten years ago I was enjoying my wild youth as a university student while Geoff continued to troll IRC chats. World of Warcraft launched and became the defining MMO for a generation. Despite waning numbers over the past few years, it is making a comeback. WoW isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.
Speaking to CNET, lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas explained that the game has changed a lot over the past ten years:
We’ve recognised our player base has changed over the years. The person who picked up the game in 2004 who was a student with tons of free time is now a career person with a family, and they’re trying to fit in 60-90 minutes of game time after the kids go to bed at night. The game that they want is not the same game that they played 10 years ago.
At the same time there’s a new generation coming in. So we’ve had to increasingly expand the ways in which you can interact with the game. We still offer content that is still very much aimed at the hardcore organised player who wants to sit down with guild mates and spend four hours a night banging their heads against an encounter. But then we also give you a way to see some of the same content at a lower difficulty level like through something like our raid finder system for raids where you can jump right in.
All these changes and updates have been incremental. Rather than release a WoW 2, Blizzard has embraced that the MMO is a monolith and can carry on as is, simply with new texture packs, new designs and new gameplay. One new such gameplay element promising to revamp the game with the latest expansion, although we heard that last time with Mists of Pandaria. Hazzikostas claims the new garrison system will keep people busy and offer a ton of new gameplay:
If you build the stables you unlock this whole section of the game where you can go to the different zones and capture and track legendary beasts of Draenor to tame and break them and get them as mounts. If you build the Gladiator Sanctum, you unlock this PvP quest line where you declare a racial nemesis in the opposite faction, you could say you’re going to be the Gnome slayer and you’re going to hunt gnomes and you can collect trophies from all the gnomes you kill and if you get enough you can burn a gnome effigy and you get a title so you can walk around as “Gnome slayer” or “Gnome bane”, which in turn gets you invited to this fight club where you can queue up for a 25 player free for all among people who passed this trial to win some cool loot and another title. And that’s just one building! And there [are] a dozen buildings. I don’t think most people have a clue about how deep the rabbit hole goes there and I look forward to people finding out.
With all these incremental updates and continuing expansions, Hazzikostas is sure that there will be a 20th anniversary for WoW. He doesn’t know what it will be like, but he’s confident that the game will last another ten years.
I’m not so sure – the trajectory for subscriptions hasn’t been looking too great, but Draenor did bring a lot of people back into the game. I think WoW will be top dog among MMOs for a while still, but I also think that with all the new competition, they might struggle to maintain that kind of dominance for another decade. That said, Blizzard has done extraordinarily well with the IP – they might surprise all of us and keep it going for another ten or even twenty years. Imagine if it came to new generation consoles? Now that might change things up.
Last Updated: November 3, 2014