Gamer Louis is a weekly Blast column written by Louis Schuler. It cover all types of video game news and opinions.
“World of Warcraft” (“WoW”), one of the most renowned MMORPGs of its time, has undergone a troubling change in gameplay that seems to neglect its fanbase. For a game that has pioneered changes to the MMO genre, “WoW” has seen a recent decline in its subscriber count. According to a MMO-Champion earlier this year, “WoW” is seeing its lowest subscriber count since late 2014, towards the end of the “Mists of Pandaria” expansion, as well as late 2006, which was during the latter stages of ‘vanilla’ “WoW”.
I have been playing “WoW” since the end of “The Burning Crusade” (TBC), a time when I thought the game was in its prime stages: seemingly perfect PvP (player vs player) play, balanced classes, a fun PvE (player vs environment) system and beautiful scenery. There were many things that Blizzard got right during “TBC”, and these concepts should be used in its otherwise dying formula for the new expansions.
“WoW”’s legacy may still have a chance.
In spite of being the most dominant and successful MMO of all time, “WoW” is in trouble. However, I only want to see it relive its success of the past. Here are some tips that I think can save the fledgling franchise.
As gamers, we like to save money whenever possible – this trait certainly applies to me.
“WoW” has undergone many facelifts since the release of the “Cataclysm” expansion in December, 2010. In a span of just four years, “WoW” has seen three expansions, all which, in my opinion, exhibit little quality or additional changes to the game itself. Some of the changes, if at all relevant, only served to hinder the game, rather than help it.
The worst expansion I ever encountered was “Mists of Pandaria” (“MoP”).”MoP” expansion brought plenty of change to the game, most notably an entirely new talent system that only hindered “WoW”’s PvP aspect. These changes eventually hurt what I thought made the PvP great in the first place: more detail oriented and provided the player with more control. With the new generic system, the game has been made friendlier to casual gamers.
The hardcore PVP gamers left “WoW” en masse as a result.
I was one of these people because I could not stand the unbalanced talent system. This is the problem with releasing many expansions in a short amount of time: introducing new changes that hurt the game rather than benefitting its long-time fans.
The new talent system resulted in the biggest decline of subscribers “WoW” has seen in a long time. In a span of less than a year, the famous MMO has seen a drop of more than 2.5 million subscriptions. This was during the “MoP” expansion, which arguably introduced the most changes to the game. “WoW” may have lost many of its hardcore gamers during this time as a result of these changes.
Bring back the hardcore elements
In order to retain its success dating back to vanilla and “TBC”, Blizzard must strategize ways to garner its loyal hardcore gamers—both PvE and PvP.
I think that one way to do this would be to retract many of the changes that were introduced post-Cataclysm. I always found myself annoyed and amazed at the same time that pandas were running around Azeroth. Is this race really needed in the game? I understand that this allures many casual gamers to “WoW”, but it defeats the purpose of attempting to bring back players from the vanilla and “TBC” expansions.
Another improvement that needs to be made is the balancing of the class systems. Granted, player whining about unfair classes has been going on for a while, but, to me, it looks like this problem has truly reached its height in “Warlords of Draenor”. After I played hundreds of arena matches with my cousin after reaching the level 100 barrier, I found that almost every single team we played was composed of at least one Druid.
There is something to be said about an unbalanced class system when you encounter teams that have the same class in virtually every match. Needless to say, this needs to be altered; otherwise “WoW” may continue to risk losing its PvP community.
Lastly, I found the user interface to be confusing in the most recent expansion. Granted, players can always use different mods and add-ons to rid themselves of these cumbersome problems, but it should, at the very least, be addressed. The new additions to PvP and PvE, most notably with increased dungeon finder options and battlegrounds, have only served to make the game more annoying to navigate.
In the end, Blizzard must recognize that this is a new age. They must bring back their hardcore fan base, improve the user interface, return “WoW” to its vanilla roots by eliminating many of the new additions to the game and allow for a longer time to lapse between expansions.
We are gamers, after all – we don’t have all the money in the world.
Gamer Louis: The Downfall of World of Warcraft – Blast http://t.co/MEP8JNvI35
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What a pile. Seriously, make it more hardcore? It was never hardcore! The game itself was built upon the premise of the casual player. If you want hardcore, go play the game WoW was designed to distance the MMO from: Everquest!
I agree David, this game had never had hardcore. but I think Louis means grindhore. lets get back to the days of resist gear grinding then lets go to 6 dungeons to get a key for a raid that I need the gear from to be able to beat the enrage timer on the next raids bosses. oh and lets get back to days of standing around in cities waiting to be accepted by a group if your character was not TFM or had no CC. all I can say is luck I was a healer. the game has improved by miles since vanilla. I have loved all the expansions. and at the same time I hated various parts of them. The crowd that came in during wotlk was great but that set a bad tone for when things got reset in cata as the people who always plowed thru instances suddenly had to really play like they had never had to play before. My style of play has changed dramatically since January 2007 but that is because I have changed not so much the game changing. I have no idea how people these days in raids can deal with all the stuff happening all the time. I cannot keep up now. so I don other stuff in game that blizzard has been kind enough to add to the game to allow me continue spending time with my characters that I have become quiet found of in the last 8 years. of course wow will die and I am sure I will still play and pay until that day comes because it has and still is one of the best life experience I have had..
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This article sounds like any number of rants from people who look at the old content w/ rose colored glasses. Claiming Mists is the cause of the current down trend is just lack of research. Taking the standard “omg it’s all mists” approach to blaming is so baseless. The numbers dipped there due to an extended time one a single patch, 5.4 lasting over a year till 6.0 hit. The expansions, up till Legion which is likely going to be 2016, have been averaging about 2 years, hence why Warlords of draenor, the 5th expansion hit at the 10yr mark. Warlords and it’s lack of max level content outside a raid and over use of the Garrison which took alot of the questing and farming out of the world and into a 20 minute digestible format are what lead to the large scale exodus. There wasn’t anything to get hooks into you to keep you playing leading to a quicker burn out. Wow grew not due to the hardcore, but because they embraced the casual player looking for something fun to do w/ an hour or 2 everyday. Warlords, doesn’t have that, so people are leaving. Do i think wow is going to continue on a lower trend w/ users? Yes. Pandaria pissed off a lot of people purely by existing w/o them trying it, Warlords on the other hand pissed off more of the actual fans of wow by lack of content and boring non-raid endgame. The game is 10 years old now the fact that it’s at the numbers it’s at still is amazing. Even at it’s declined rate, it is still doing better then most of it’s competitors did at their prime.
Gamer Louis: The Downfall of World of Warcraft
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Sorry, but this is a terrible article, filled with horrible false assumptions.
“Blizzard must strategize ways to garner its loyal hardcore gamers”
You seem to misunderstand the fundamental idea of an mmo – from a corporate perspective. The hardcore fanbase is extremely smalled compared to casual. Hence why Blizzard will consistently target the casual fanbase in hopes of getting all those big numbers you complain they’ve lost. Did you really think 10 mill sub’s were hardcore?
” been playing “WoW” since the end of “The Burning Crusade” (TBC), a time when I thought the game was in its prime stages: seemingly perfect PvP (player vs player) play, balanced classes, a fun PvE (player vs environment) system and beautiful scenery.”
TBC is legendary for it’s absolutely horrible pve grind. If you didn’t experience it at the time, look up a TBC pve progression chart sometime.
“In a span of just four years, “WoW” has seen three expansions,”
You’ve seen so many expansions because of, again, the subscriber numbers you keep complaining about. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. It’s absolutely proven that expansions bring back millions of sub’s. They release content without an expansion, they get a fraction of the return.
Why do I feel the first draft of this was written in crayon? I find it lacking in any original thought and it provides no new information regarding the current state of WOW. It simply jumps on the pile of e-Journalists trashing the game because it has been a slow news month.
Bottom line is… is Louis a subscriber to WoW? If so, Blizzard wins because they have his money. That is all that matters.
Oddly enough, the hardcore aspect (i.e. Mythic raiding) is presently more challenging on the player than it ever has been. Not challenging in terms of “spend 4 hours grinding mats for every 1 hour raiding”, but challenging in terms of individual player performance.
What a joke of an article.
This is a poorly-written article, but I’m not here to quibble about that.
I played WoW from update 1.5 in spring of 2005 for several years, and I’ve subscribed on and off again for a few months at a time ever since, always lured back by memories of how much fun the game had once been. I never end up staying anymore. Part of that is my busier life – I’m no longer a college student; I have a full-time job, a second weekend gig as a karaoke host, and marriage plans that take up most of the rest of my free time. Part of it, though, is the game itself.
I agree it’s not as much fun as it used to be, but I don’t think the author is really hitting the nail on the head. The key to vanilla WoW’s success was its difficulty and inconvenience.
I know that seems counterintuitive, but hear me out. I was never a power player. I only raided for a little while, and then only 10-man raids, after they’d lowered the entry requirements for raids from 40 and 20 to 25 and 10. During vanilla, I was one of the unwashed masses, just another player. I rolled a few characters, finally settled on one, and still hadn’t quite made it to level 60 by the time TBC was released. I’m not here to wax nostalgic about Arcanite Reapers and Tier 2 raid gear.
What I do remember was that the struggle was rewarding. When battlegrounds were first released, the only way to queue up for one was to actually go to the entrance of the battleground – yeah, they have physical entrances in the game world. Once there, it was important to stay nearby so that you could run through the portal and join up once the battlefield was ready. Needless to say, the world PvP, especially after the release of the high-level-only alterac Valley battleground, was completely nuts. Bored groups of level 51-60 Horde and Alliance players raided Southshore and Tarren Mill constantly, harassing each other and testing each others’ strengths and weaknesses. On my PvP server, it was almost impossible to level in the Hillsbrad Foothills – but it was super rewarding to tough it out and make it work, too. If that wasn’t your cup of tea, you went elsewhere for levels 25-30.
Flight paths were often long and ornate, showing off the game world rather than just taking you from point A to point B. In addition, there weren’t as many flight paths to begin with, which meant that once you finally reached a new settlement or quest hub, you often had to plan on staying there for quite a while to make the trip worth it, getting into the local flavor of the quests and sweating it out to earn that extra bit of experience you needed for the next level. Mounts were also much more expensive and much more difficult to obtain back then. It wasn’t unheard of to see characters in their upper level 40s without a mount, still scrounging and saving for one. Traveling somewhere was a serious commitment, and the ability to travel quickly was a mark of prestige, not an expectation.
As for the experience system itself, don’t get me started. I think it was a wise decision to make it easier to level once the level cap grew beyond 80, but I also think Blizzard went a little too far in that direction. In vanilla, there was a palpable sense of achievement for reaching level 60. It’s hard to imagine just how much work it took, for anyone who started later, but it was intense, especially the last few levels. Reaching 60 wasn’t simply a goal, it was a milestone. It meant you’d made it all the way through countless days and weeks of questing, grinding, and surviving.
I think the new expansion has at least one good idea: focus more on dungeons. Obviously not everyone should be able to raid – and let’s get rid of Arena PvP while we’re at it, since that is really just a different game shoe-horned into WoW to appease people without raiding chops who kept complaining about equipment disparity – but everyone can run a dungeon. Dungeons in vanilla could sometimes be short, but they were often hours-long affairs, rife with danger and interesting storylines. Dungeons were where most of us acquired our best gear, a place where player skill mattered more than gear, to a point, and where we could quest and level without fear of being picked off mid-mission by the world PvP that used to be a robust and chaotic element of every PvP server. However, I don’t think there’s any going back – too many people are too used to WoW being everything to everyone. Sadly, as wise of a business decision as that shift might have been, the game got swallowed up by it in the process. The limitations and structural peculiarities that made the game innovative and addictive in the first place are mostly gone now, replaced by a shower of all-you-can-grab gear buffets, race-to-the-top leveling mechanics, and and endless daily grind for incrementally better equipment after that. In much the same way that great art begins with limitations, great games thrive on focus, structure, and the real challenges that arise from the proper implementation of those. In the end, WoW chose profit over good design – though I admit that’s the best choice from a business perspective – and now there’s no getting it back to good. There probably never will be.
Title should be: The downfall of Journalism.
Where’s @Warcraft going? Will it succeed or fail? Find out, here: http://t.co/5WE6243u0T .
I am in total agreement that WoW has its problems, and it’s drop in subscription numbers during Warlords only proves that. But I think that Louis is off track in a lot of places.
First of all, any conversation about pvp balance in the current system needs to mention racial traits. Class balance might need some tweeking – but that has always been true. Remember when Rogues used to stun your character over and over, leaving you no way to defend yourself as you watched your health bar drop? It is incredibly difficult to balance classes to be good in both pvp and pve, and Blizzard probably should have separated them along time ago.
But Warlords PVP was destroyed with racial traits. Humans have a racial trait to break stun without having to invest any talents in it at all – and that is a game breaking change. None of the Horde races have anything that can hope to match it.
And the question, “do we really need Pandas running around the world?” is the exact question we all asked when BC was introduced. “Do we really need those Blood Elves running around? All they do is look pretty and dance. And what the heck is up with those stupid space goats?” Every time there is a new race or class introduced there is a ton of feedback.
WoW’s issues in Draenor are many, and pvp is definitely one. But it applies to only a portion of the player base. But WoW has also screwed over the PVE player base. The leveling experience in Mists was pretty fantastic. Blizzard told a fantastic story – but then at end game locked reputations behind the Golden Lotus. Leveling in Warlords is possibly the best it has ever been. Sure, the timey wimey aspect of the story is stupid, but the moment to moment details of the story as you go from 90 to 100 is pretty amazing. The problem is, you hit 100 and it just stops. We’ve had crap for end game content, and no communication from the dev team about how they plan to fix the problems.
I agree about class imbalance. I was peacefully picking herbs on my paladin one day in Tannan Jungle and got globaled by a feral druid.
I started playing WoW during Vanilla in 2005 so I will list you my reasons as to WoW has diminished and why the game is just simply not fun anymore.
1) Crossrealms – this was a big one that no one ever realized partly killed WoW. Part of the fun was playing with people in your server…there was always a sense of community and a lot of times you saw the same people all the time. In PvP this was big, you saw the big shots (the grand marshalls and high warlords) and you were either glad they were on your team or you feared that they would steamroll you in PvP. You ran into the same enemies and you kind of developed a sense of rivalry especially when it came to premade teams. You’d always know who the best geared people were because they stood out in the major cities, they were almost like rockstars, and there weren’t many of them so it made it even more special that you saw these guys. Again…a sense of community.
2) Teleporting/LFR – another big factor IMO. In vanilla we used to have to run to the instance that we were going to enter, we didn’t just teleport in from wherever we were. It hardly seems fun but there was a sense adventure just going there, having to travel by boat or zeppelin, then running to the dungeon itself…knowing that you might possibly get ganked, was a very fun expeience. It may have took a bit more time to get there but sometimes sometimes the fun is in the adventure itself.
3) Flying mounts – it made the world feel too small, it makes everything on the ground totally irrelevant yet everything on the ground is 98% of the game. Blizz why spend time on the luscious scenery and detailed building only to be able to fly over it? The huge world feel of vanilla, BC, and WoTLK truly made those games shine, you felt like such a small part of a big world. Now your just a small part of a small world.
Just me 2 cents on the major factors that killed the game for me.