WoW: Looking (Way) Ahead

Looking (Way) Ahead:

One of my current writing projects is an article about games that were billed as “WoW killers.” The fact that WoW is still the biggest MMO on the market by far should tell you how successful they all were. But it did get me thinking about WoW’s future, something I hadn’t really done much before.

The Wandering Isle in World of Warcraft: Mists of PandariaNo, I’m not talking about Mists of Pandaria. I’m not even talking about the expansion after DrunkenPandaLand. I’m looking way, way ahead. Decades ahead.

WoW cannot continue to be the king MMO forever — at least, I don’t think it can. But it will probably continue to be for quite a long time, and even once it is dethroned, Blizzard will keep it going for as long as there’s any money to be had from it.

Consider that EverQuest, which was toppled from its place atop the MMO world ages ago, is still going. They released their 18th expansion not that long ago. Ultima Online, even older than EverQuest, still has a small but loyal base of players fifteen years after it launched.

Consider also that Blizzard has always been a company that’s in it for the long haul. Unlike some developers that are only interested in putting out the next big thing (I’m looking at you, Bioware), Blizzard continues to patch and actively support many old games (such as Warcraft III, which is about a decade old now) for years and years.

A shot from the Scourge campaign of Warcraft III: Reign of ChaosSo taking all these things into account, it seems entirely possible that people will still be playing WoW twenty or maybe even thirty years from now. They’ll likely be playing Titan, Blizzard’s unannounced next generation MMO, even longer.

That’s a staggering thought. I may still be spamming sinister strike when I’m my father’s age.

Do you think you could keep playing that long? It’s frightening to consider, but I actually think I could. Not because of how much I love WoW (I really consider it very middling in quality as a game), but because I’ve been playing Warcraft games for so long that it’s just become part of my identity. I’m Warcraft Guy — I’m sure that’s how my friends think of me. It’s even tied into my career — a good chunk of my writing work has revolved around WoW or other Blizzard games.

Being who I am, I also think about it from a lore perspective. How will the game’s story evolve over that time? I think Blizzard’s been making it up as they go along for most of WoW’s history, but they’ve said they’re now taking the long view of things. Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and the next expansion after it (and perhaps more expansions after that) are all supposed to comprise a single arc.

Dave Kosak,  lead quest designer and prominent member of the lore team, has also been hinting at there being some greater scheme for Azeroth’s destiny: that Azeroth has some cosmic significance, which is why so much crazy stuff has happened to this one little planet. This is already hinted at in-game by Velen’s belief Azeroth will be key to the final war with the Darkness (which, being he’s a Draenei, probably means the Burning Legion).

The world of Azeroth in the Great Dark BeyondAll this seems to be gradually building to some final, ultimate climax for the Warcraft storyline, but if that is the case, will WoW continue after the final battle is joined? It would be horribly disappointing if the ultimate climax of the WoW universe came and went, and then some new big bad cropped up next expansion, but it’s hard to believe Blizzard would end their cash cow just for the sake of artistic integrity.

How will they reconcile this? Do they really have some vast plan for the future of Azeroth, or are they really just still making it up as they go along?

I suppose only time will tell.

And then there the game mechanics to consider. Will we one day face a point where new players and alts must grind their way to the level cap of 125? Will MMO-Champion be leaking info on the new ilevel 1000 tier 30 sets? Will people be complaining about the OPness of the sea witch (which is the fourth hero class, following the death knight, the titanic herald, and the Chuck Norris)? How will Blizzard solve these problems?

It’s both amazing and a little frightening to contemplate where WoW will go in the years and decades to come.My paladin takes in the sunset in StormwindYet more writing:

Two more of my articles have been put up on WhatMMO: Top Five MMO Developers, and Six Worst Developer Decisions.

6 thoughts on “WoW: Looking (Way) Ahead

  1. With all the old games I play, there is a chance that I would still play the game for years to come. As someone who isn’t driven by raid content, a game where raid content becomes final still appeals to me if they continue to add things that solo players can do. MoP already shows signs of a shift toward solo options, with Pet Battles, PvE Scenarios, etc.

    One thing I think they really could expand on is neutral races that have the option to join either side OR to mix and match. If I wanted to be friendly with both eht NE and the Tauren, it seems that this should be entirely possible.

    • I’m iffy in the idea of any more new races, but if they do add them, I think they should be neutral.

      I really want Vrykul as a playable neutral race. Their history gives them a strong connection to humans and Dwarves, but their culture perfectly meshes with the Horde. Plus, who wouldn’t want giant vikings?

      • Well it wouldn’t even have to be Neutral Races, but neutral characters. So that I could roll a human, but if I wanted to “betray” the Alliance or “sympathize” with the Horde, I should be able to. As they approach dwindling populations in the game in it’s later years, this would help keep raids or groups and guilds functional It also provide for more character development. Why does my human character want to join the Horde?

        On some level, I think even non-roll playing realms or people who aren’t into the role-playing portion still have an idea of personality or story for their toons. There’s a reason we choose how they look etc. It builds into their character…like how you selected the glaring face for your rogue.

      • My toons have always had personalities and rudimentary backstories even before I moved half of them to an RP server, but I think I’m just weird that way.

        As for the prospect of “betrayal,” it’s something that gets talked about a lot. I’m not opposed to the idea in principle, but the problem is it would only make sense lore-wise for certain races. Goblins? Sure, they work for the highest bidder. There are already High Elves in the Alliance in lore. I could see the Tauren getting sick of George W. Hellscream and jumping ship.

        But Orcs? Trolls? Undead? These races hate humanity with a passion. And there aren’t really any Alliance races that seem likely to change sides, even individually. Maybe humans if the story was Horde humans came from Alterac, but who’d want to play as one of those sleazy bastards?

      • Even though Lore may not make sense for the general populae of Orcs, Trolls, Undead, even Humans to swap sides, there would always be traitors.

        Humans betray their own all the time. It’s not such a leap to believe that one might switch sides, for whatever the reason. It may be money, it may be power, it may be pure dislike of the King. Who knows! That’s sort of the beauty of it, it would be up to your own motivations. Though, how you create that in the game, well, that I don’t know.

  2. I hope WoW is around for a while because I get the fun of single player games with the added bonus of playing with real people. It has enough variety and options to keep me playing and frankly, when I bought a copy of Skyrim and played it (until it crashed – PS3) it seemed so…empty.

    What will stop me from playing WoW is not the ramblings of doom and gloom prophets spouting about “casuals”, “easy mode” and “kung-fu pandas.”

    It will be because WoW turned into a F2P model that micro-transacts me to death or requires me to join an external social network. The iPad “free” games with in-game purchases model is a good example, and I absolutely refuse to play them.

    Right now WoW, for me is excellent entertainment value for the monthly fee. If it turns into a game I can’t play without having a credit card handy every time I log on or I can’t play until I get a Facebook account…well, that’s the deal-breaker for me.

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