Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is a game that has been around for nearly two decades. The company has seen its share of ups and downs, but the game’s latest expansion is a major hit. It’s also an example of how Blizzard has changed and adapted with the times.
The WoW Factor is an article that discusses the disjointed state of World of Warcraft. It talks about how the game has changed over time, and how it has become more difficult to find a group if you are not in the top 10% of players.
World of Warcraft seems to be in a state of disarray right now. This isn’t exactly unexpected. It doesn’t help matters that patch 9.1.5 in testing seems to be a bit of a mixed bag in terms of systems. There includes everything that players have requested, as well as deleting or altering a number of items that Blizzard now considers to be culturally inappropriate. On top of that, it isn’t a patch with any new content planned for it, making the amount of additional investment appear a little jumbled.
This is made worse by the fact that there is no clear indicator of where the game is headed in the long run. Patch 9.1 took an eternity to release, which implies there will be a significant lack of material for the game this year, particularly considering that this isn’t an expansion launch year. So, what’s going on here? Why does it seem like the game is so disjointed? What, maybe more crucially, can we anticipate?
I’ve heard conjecture that the reason things seem to be so fragmented is due to WoW’s lack of a strong set of preparations for what to do in the event of a crisis. This doesn’t strike me as completely incorrect (I’ve previously discussed how it’s unclear if there’s a higher-level strategy in place right now), but it does leave out one key element.
See, World of Warcraft isn’t coping with a single problem. It’s a three-person operation.
The first is that dreaded worldwide epidemic that refuses to go away, in no small part because some people continue to behave as if being vaccinated is some kind of personal decision that doesn’t affect everyone and… well, you know what I’m talking about. The point is that it’s obvious that this has wreaked havoc on Blizzard’s and other game studios’ operations, and we all know it. On that issue, there isn’t much to argue about.
Second? That would be the slow-motion collapse of the company’s autonomy and culture at the hands of a garbage fire fueled by garbage individuals and a combination of harassers and harassment supporters. Obviously, there’s a lot we don’t know since we’re not employees, but I’d be ready to wager dollars to donuts that there’s a lot more upheaval going on right now than what we’re seeing on this side of the screen.
And the final point is one I believe we’re all aware of but haven’t considered: It seems to me that there was never a strategy in place for what would happen if Shadowlands was not well accepted. It’s as if Blizzard had collectively agreed that the every-other-expansion rule was a law of nature, and had made no preparations for what could happen if people weren’t pleased with an expansion that simply tripled down on the aspects of Battle for Azeroth that they didn’t like.
Any one of those issues (which aren’t in any particular order) would be a major undertaking. All three are addressed in World of Warcraft.
This is one of the reasons why I believe the next patch will be all over the place. More customization choices are being added, as well as pain spots from the current expansion being removed! Wait, it’s also getting rid of items that, given the company’s present reputation, are a little unsettling! No, that’s not it; it’s also an indication that we’re still working on it! It’s a huge jumble of things that say, “Please keep playing and like us,” and it reeks of a lack of faith in what the game is now and what it has to give.
Mind you, this isn’t an unjustifiable thing to be afraid of. It’s simply that stating “we don’t have a plan and just want our guys back” isn’t a good look even in the best of circumstances, and this isn’t one of them.
So, what’s the game plan? I believe it is now being put together, but that is part of the issue. One of these issues should have been handled months ago, another is something that has to be changed on the go, and the third should never have been a problem in the first place. Trying to put up a strategy while dealing with all of these issues is like to trying to put on cosmetics while driving. It is possible, but you will not be performing your best job on either front.
At this time, I’m fairly sure that a 9.3 patch isn’t going to happen due to delays, evident obstacles, and other factors. Indeed, I continue to believe that the goal, however ambitious, is to have the next expansion ready to roll out in 2022. Whether or not we ever hear that is another story; I believe that is the current plan, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it is pushed out to 2023, making Shadowlands the longest expansion in the game’s history. Unfortunately.
But, just as there’s an attempt to put a plan together in the middle of the game, I believe there’s an effort to keep that plan hidden right now, while the creators work to repair their image on all fronts. And that’s a big issue because the folks who care about the developer’s reputation aren’t going to worry about something as little as deleting a few poor emotes. In my last piece, I mentioned this. Even if I agree with the sentiment, the timing makes the whole thing moot.
So we have a business attempting to persuade those who care that it has changed its ways without, you know, really changing its methods. And it seems like any genuine strategy is being pushed back until people have a more positive opinion of Blizzard, which won’t happen until substantial changes are made, which are clearly being avoided.
Having said that, I believe we are on the verge of seeing some major movement in the not-too-distant future, most likely before the next real convention. This degree of quiet, in my opinion, is more symptomatic of recognizing the present strategy isn’t working and attempting to get rid of a lot of things while a new plan is being developed. The strategy is now in disarray, necessitating the creation of a new one by those in control. It’s another question if they’ll be able to come up with one in a timely manner.
To put it another way, I’m fairly sure everyone knows by now that Shadowlands has been a disaster that isn’t going to be rectified. How much can be done to minimize it is up for debate, and that debate is probably going on right now, which is one of the reasons we don’t have more information. It’s difficult to watch, but we can at least hope that the outcomes will improve the game’s playability… and that the outcomes will include some actual penalties for those who deserve them.
World of Warcraft, with a decade of existence and a massive presence in the MMORPG market, is one of the few games that never changes. Each week, Eliot Lefebvre explores the massive MMO, how it connects with the wider world of online gaming, and what’s new in the realms of Azeroth and Draenor in a new episode of WoW Factor.
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