Staff Editorials

Is Mists of Pandaria The End of The Road for WoW?
Posted: 11.09.2012 15:33 by Marco Fiori Comments: 2
It's hard to look at the latest World of Warcraft expansion and not feel nostalgic. Blizzard’s massively multiplayer online RPG has come a long way since its launch in 2004. Back then, dialup internet was still limiting the possibility of a gigantic MMORPG experience. WoW’s promises were still something of a novelty. Sure, there’d been Ultima Online, Everquest and Anarchy Online, but nothing had offered as much as WoW did.

To think, when World of Warcraft launched its highest level was 60, a mount cost 100 gold and getting to the highest level would take the average player weeks. Nowadays the early game is near-avoidable. It barely even features. Many WoW players have never experienced the wonder of trying to find a party for Scarlet Monastery, gone ganking in STV or watched Stormwind raids. It’s sad, but as WoW has developed, Blizzard chose to focus on its end game.


With each expansion the ceiling was raised. With new gear, raids and more PvP, World of Warcraft expansions have always been fairly formulaic. Chuck a new level cap in the mix, raise the game’s quality and keep players coming back. It’s worked with the last three, so why not Pandaria.

At first glance, Mists of Pandaria seems to be the same. There’s nothing wrong with this, but how long can Blizzard continue before people decide they’ve had enough. Traditionally, the majority of lapsed players choose to return, but the numbers in which they do so has fallen with each expansion.

Pandemonium

Of course, this tail off is to be expected. We are talking about a game that launched almost a decade ago and while MMORPSs have notorious shelf lives, eventually people move to new pastures. In fact, it’s staggering World of Warcraft has managed to hold so many captive this long.

Don’t forget that we’re still talking 9.1 million subscribers – a user base most publishers would dream of. Sure, it’s less than the heady heights of its prime, but it still rivals most small countries in the world.

So will Pandaria wave its magic wand and pull on the reins of past players?

Possibly, but it’s easy to see how many have given up for good. With Diablo III commanding a strong loot-presence and Guild Wars 2 showing just how archaic World of Warcraft’s roleplaying structure is, Pandaria certainly has its work cut out for it. Also, this is an era where gamers are extremely time-conscious.

It’s the reign of Call of Duty and the modern shooter. Obviously gamers aren’t exclusive so many who play titles like Battlefield 3 and CoD still have the time to play MMOs like World of Warcraft.

That’s not the argument here; rather, it’s whether Blizzard have the creative ability to bring back the hordes.

Pandatastic

Blizzard’s crafty way of keeping people hooked will expectedly rear its head – promotions, rewards and other tactics will entice you to play World of Warcraft with your friends again. There’s also the small detail that Mists of Pandaria is looking like an excellent expansion.


An increased level cap rises to 90 while the Monk offers new gameplay to those bored of the existing classes. There’s also the new race, the Pandaren. Of course, you’re looking at a new pet system, PVE scenarios and overhauled talent system. It’ll make WoW unrecognisable to its original release all those years ago.

Another interesting argument does arise with the launch. How long can Blizzard keep WoW going? Is this the final song; a last last hurrah as it bows out triumphant, or will Blizzard eke out as much as it can.

World of Warcraft is undeniably starting to look its age, both in play style and graphically. The ‘go here, kill ten things and return to the explanation mark man’ formula is starting to look rickety, and many will argue, dull. Yes, a good MMO is all about the end game, its instances and raids, but how long will people support Blizzard’s cash cow without significant innovation.

Does it need to innovate – it is, after all, doing just fine without modern day quirks – the sheer volume of content in World of Warcraft is mind-blowing. It’s also extremely self-aware, varied and welcoming to players of all types.

However, does WoW’s audience want something new and improved, or are they happy to maintain their gripes, because of the years they’ve put into their character builds. It’s tough to answer and realistically it’s only the players and Blizzard, who controls the creative, which will make that call.

A Mist Opportunity?

All that’s left to ask is whether Blizzard’s working on World of Warcraft II? It’d be naive to think it isn’t – after all, it’s got enough internal resources and budget to co-develop World of Warcraft expansion packs and a completely fresh version. What could WoW II bring to the table?


Would it be a reskin – a high definition remake with the same MMO mechanics - or would it keep the familiar setting and look to push the genre further like Guild Wars 2 has. It’s a mouth-watering expectation. You can imagine if World of Warcraft II was announced, Blizzard would most likely successfully bring back those who gave up its flagship.

Whether or not it is remains unanswered, but with Starcraft II and Diablo III still fresh, there’s little stopping Blizzard, especially with Valve focussing its efforts on DOTA 2. A Warcraft sequel might be on the cards, but with the RTS genre seeming less relevant than it was a decade ago, it’d be surprising to see Blizzard return to that.

Obviously, only time will tell with future endeavours. Tales of Pandaria’s performance will have a lot of weight to the decision – the game is out on the 25th September so it won’t be long until we get an indication of its success and where the big B will go next.
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Comments

By nocutius (SI Elite) on Sep 11, 2012
nocutius
A new expansion would still make a lot of sense even when they have "only" a millions subscribers left so I doubt this will be the last one.

The continued success of this game is a phenomenon to me, I simply can't understand how someone can play the same game for 5 years or even more.
By unsilviu (SI Core) on Sep 13, 2012
unsilviu
I remember reading sometime towards the end of Wrath that they intended to go up to level 100, which means two more expansions after MoP.