Recently, Blizzard Entertainment held its first-ever Blizzcon under Microsoft management. Of course, there were tons of announcements, as one would expect. But the biggest was definitely the things Blizzard has got cooking for their flagship IP, Warcraft. The long-running MMORPG recently got Chris Metzen, its veteran game director to return.
And with that, there have been a number of changes in how the team handles the game’s story and structure. Most notably, the devs took the titanic step of revealing not just one, but three future expansions for World of Warcraft. This came totally out of the blue and surprised most fans. However, many are still unsure if it’s a sign of a better future or just another marketing gimmick.
After multiple expansions with player complaints in regards to the game’s storyline, fans are in the right to be a bit hesitant towards Blizzard. However, some still feel that with the recent acquisition by Microsoft, and Metzen’s return, there’s a possibility for some real change at the company. But just how significant will this really be in the long run? Well, let’s take a look.
A Glimpse At What’s To Come
Like it or not, there’s no denying World of Warcraft is undergoing some renovation. The typical structure of simply releasing an expansion with a raid, a few dungeons, and new zones every 2ish years is going out the window. While sure, fundamentally, that’s still going to be the case. But Blizzard deciding to showcase three new expansions is already a sign that they want to handle their projects differently moving forward.
According to the team, the story they want to tell for the Warcraft universe is simply not something that can be constrained to a single expansion. Previously, the main narrative threads of each expansion were settled within that specific expansion’s patches. What little didn’t get resolved would serve as the backdrop of the next major storyline.
However, this meant that significant storylines couldn’t really play out in a major way. Since they’d always get resolved within the span of a few patches. By taking the approach of telling a 3 expansion-long storyline, Blizzard has opened the doors toward more narrative freedom. So it makes sense why the devs would want to make this change, assuming they actually plan to let it affect how they tell their stories.
In Metzen’s own words, they’re not messing around anymore. And being transparent about the direction of the game was probably the best way to highlight this. Plus, there’s a lot more Blizzard teased. The developers are finally taking steps to make WoW more accessible than ever before. Many of the faction-based restrictions that existed in the game were slowly being faded out.
And now, one of the major features of the upcoming expansion, The War Within, is something called Warbands. These will essentially allow all characters across your account to share Renown, Reputation, and unlocks. Account-wide reputation is something that players have wanted for literal decades. And it’s clear Blizzard is finally deciding to give it the playerbase. So, by most measures, it seems like the game is heading towards a major shift.
But Not Everyone Is Convinced
After how terribly disappointing the past couple of WoW expansions have been, it’s no surprise that fans still don’t fully trust Blizzard just yet. Some fans are calling out the three-expansion reveal to just be another way for Blizzard to get even more money out of the whole deal. You see, part of this big change is that expansions will roll out at a faster rate now.
Blizzard wants to tell its major storylines in a more effective way. And sticking to the 2-year per expansion rule is simply not fast enough for them. After all, the end of the current Worldsoul Saga, which features three expansions, would take roughly 6 to 7 years to fully play out. Instead, the team is opting for a quicker-paced methodology, one that shortens each expansion down to 1 and a half years at most.
While the exact details of this are still unclear, fans are already displeased with the decision. The big issue is that with shorter expansions, it’s likely that the team will reduce the number of patches that come out. This has been a consistent trend with the latest expansion releases. Both Shadowlands, and now, Dragonflight, have only had 2 major patches after its initial release. This is one entire raid tier less than how many fans usually expect to get.
Essentially, it results in players getting less bang for their buck. Shorter expansions also mean players will have to pay the $60 cost for each set a lot quicker than usual. Not to mention, Blizzard has recently locked early access to the game behind their inflated $90 bundle, which has gotten some fans rolling their eyes. All in all, fans are wondering are unsure how they feel about all this.
What WoW’s Future Really Looks Like
I think there’s no denying that the current iteration of WoW is nothing like what the team has been doing for the past few years. The Legion Era of WoW that many fans so understandably grew to hate because of its long-grinds and repetitive content is officially over. And this was something that was quite evident even since the release of Dragonflight.
Now, the team is clearly shifting towards evergreen content. Something that can continue to have value even in the long run. And won’t need to be abandoned as soon as one expansion is over. The introduction of the Dragonflight mechanic is a great example of that. It’s sticking around in The War Within, now renamed to Dynamic Flight.
If the team consistently provides players with further such changes, then it’s possible that a faster content cadence might not exactly be a bad thing. Sure, players might have to pay for that $60 price tag more often than before. But if it’s for an expansion that’s actually worth playing, then I’m sure most players would happily continue to do that.
And if Blizzard’s word is to be believed, faster expansions don’t exactly mean less content. Holly Longdale, another one of WoW’s executive producers, said as much. According to her, they’re determined to release patches at a faster rate. But their goal is to ensure the game continues to over just as much value, if not more, to its players. While that’s a bold claim to make, if it’s one that Blizzard sticks to, then this next era of WoW could be its best.
Things do look bright, as long as the team is able to keep clear of the stubborn decision choices they’ve made in the past. Features like the Covenants, Artifact Power, and Class Pruning have all been negatively received by fans. Despite this, the devs took forever to listen to feedback and continued to believe they were in the right. This back and forth has done much to damage their relationship with their own community.
The Eventual Restart
If you’re still not convinced that WoW’s future heading in a very different direction, then this might be what changes your mind. From Chris Metzen’s time at the Blizzcon stage, one thing became abundantly clear. The game is heading towards a restart or restructuring. It’s clear this isn’t going to happen until the end of the Worldsoul saga. But it’s definitely something on the devs’ bucket lists.
With the way Metzen described this upcoming saga, it seemed that this is supposed to be the culmination of over 20 years of storytelling. It’s going to be their way of ending this expansive chapter of the Warcraft story, paving the way for the next two decades or more. Doing so will require a proper restart, giving the world a proper blank slate on which new stories can be written.
There’s no denying that Azeroth is getting a bit crowded. With each expansion, a brand new land mass is mysteriously discovered. This happens even in places that realistically couldn’t have anything existing there. Even from a mechanical standpoint, fans feel like the current version of WoW simply has too much bloat. Every class has tons of abilities and mechanics.
This makes the game incredibly difficult for newcomers to approach. There’s just too much to learn and keep up with. And any game that can’t get new players to join, is doomed to end in obscurity. It’s possible that the next chapter after the Worldsoul Saga will feature a complete revamp of Azeroth and its characters. This would be a great time to completely overhaul WoW. And start things fresh from both a narrative and gameplay perspective.
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