Massively Overthinking: What would you want out of a potential WoW sequel?

Take a walk on the already-done-this side.

It’s a rare MMO player who’s never played World of Warcraft, which makes this particular summer an interesting one for the whole genre. Even if you’ve long since left WoW behind, you’re probably idly wondering whether new updates, Classic, and even the expansion likely to be announced at BlizzCon are worth your while. It’s hard not to be swept up in the frenzy of the moment.

But what about after? Players who find that Classic belonged in the past where they left it or determine that modern WoW has far too much baggage to carry into the future might surely be wondering what comes next. But a modernized sequel, stuffed with everything Blizzard ought to have learned along the way, might perk the IP right back up. The question is… what would you want it to look like? And would anybody out there agree with you?

Such is the question I’ve posed for the MOP writers in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Do you want WoW 2, and what would you say are the three most critical qualities it must have?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I’m with Carlo on this. Cross platform and mobile are becoming increasingly important for games looking to reach the masses. The problem is having accessible and fun gameplay that works on all platforms.

Simplified combat controls and RP opportunities could be a good fix. Auto leveling while offline and/or xp gains through real life walking ala Pokemon Go’s Adventure Sync could help casuals stay on board.

But I’m still not sure how it would do as a persistent world. Would we still be able to have Orgrimmar filled with people? Alterac Valley-scale PvP? And as combat is mostly king, would it be engaging enough for PC and console MMO vets? Fortnite does well as a lobby game, but I’m not sure it can be retrofitted into MMO-hood.

Andy McAdams: Absolutely. While it’s apparent the Ion’s leadership of the current WoW is… questionable at best, it’s also fairly safe to assume that the current codebase has a fair amount of tech-debt that prevents Blizzard from doing somethings — or makes it prohibitively hard to do so. Starting over from a new codebase is a great way to get a clean slate to make all new mistakes.

I think WoW 2 would need a solid lore reason for existing. Either we jump way into the future or way way way into the past. Or a great lore-driven reset button to recon the whole damn thing. I think it needs to be open-world, provide meaningful play at all levels, repeatable content at all levels, maybe finally give up the ghost on traditional levels at all; meaningful and rewarding non-combat play, player housing because it’s bloody ridiculous the current WoW doesn’t have it.

The market is ripe for a legit virtual world with solid lore backing. It’s hat EverQuest Next should have been – the market desire is there, they just need to do it. I mean, they won’t because “LOL RAIDZ ARE ALL TAHT MATTER LOL,” but it’s what they should do.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’d play WoW 2. With caveats! I have good memories of the middle period of World of Warcraft, maybe Burning Crusade to Pandaria, in there, and I’d love to get that feeling back with a new game. I don’t mind the IP, and I liked playing a solid MMO with a solid company behind it – it’s a comfort. But I’m over the baggage, the wasted zones, the level grind, the one-off systems that get abandoned two years later, the long waits for content, the obsession with a raiding endgame, the haphazard development, the obsession with Horde and orcs, the sloppy PvP development, the shockingly arrogant design leads. I suppose this is why I wandered away a few years ago.

If WoW 2 avoided those problems, and left the baggage behind, yeah, I’d play it. So for me, it’s not about what’s in it but about what’s not in it and who’s not running it.

But let’s be honest, I really just want housing, meaningful crafting/economy, and bards.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): Blizzard has always been at its best when it takes what works from various games of a particular genre and refine those systems into the new genre standard. I’m going to be a little more pessimistic, it’s going to have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I would not be surprised if they go with action combat. It would be soooo awesome if it were a sandbox with instancing!

Here’s what WoW needs: It needs to appeal to Gen Z. It needs a new base. We’re getting old. It needs to be playable on phones and PCs, but it has be PC quality on a phone. Not the other way around. Consoles too, we can’t ignore that. In a perfect world, mobile players and console gamers will have the honor and privilege to play with the PC master race. It needs to go big in my opinion, and it would be a mistake to ignore the crowd.

RP is getting big. They need to start including RP tools with the game. And I mean ones that have never been seen before. How cool would it be if Blizzard let players create their own emotes? Heck, the ability to make new emotes from players would be sooo awesome.

Their new engine needs to be on point too. It needs to run well on all systems, even on a potato. Oh, and that system needs to allow for citybuilding. They need to go with some crazy player housing system that can let players create their own cities too!

Oh, and gender-locked class- I’M KIDDING.

If Blizzard wants to succeed, it’s going to need to put a lot more power to the players. Of course, this isn’t the Blizzard I grew up with, so I doubt anything I said will come true.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I’m one of those rare MMO players who hasn’t played World of Warcraft, so in some ways I feel like I don’t really have a stake in this one. At the same time, though, maybe that makes me the ideal target audience for WoW 2: people who love MMOs but aren’t playing WoW.

Honestly, the biggest thing that keeps me out of WoW right now is that there is just so much of it, and so many people who have been there since day one. A fresh start might be the only thing that could get me into WoW at this point. I would also like to see the business model change to something like buy-to-play, with a subscription being optional. I have long questioned how much longer WoW can survive on the subscription-only model when just about everyone else in the industry has abandoned it. But hey, that subscription keeps printing money for them year after year, so I guess that’s just me.

I could rattle off a whole list of game elements that could be changed or added to make the game more to my liking — like housing, better crafting/economy features, more class variety, and combat that isn’t so creaky — but I also think they should be very cautious with adding these kinds of things. When I think of WoW, I think of tab-target combat, dungeons and raids, and fairly rigid, trinitarian class roles. If you change that up too much, you are not only going to turn off existing players who have stuck around this long because they like that type of play, but you’re also going to have an uphill battle convincing people who didn’t like WoW that WoW 2 is totally different. Sequels need to innovate, but they also need to make sure they don’t alienate their audience. It’s a delicate balance, and I’m glad it’s not my decision to make.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I actually subscribed and tried to play WoW for a while at launch, but at some point I realized I was paying for a game I wasn’t playing and that was the end of that. It wasn’t compelling for me. That took about four months. My only regret is that a lot of people I know IRL and from EverQuest played (and some still play) WoW, so I felt left out at times. Not enough to put myself through playing it, though.

I would try out any new MMO made by Blizzard because it would probably be pretty high quality and it might click this time. I am willing to give almost anything a chance. I am not sitting here jonesing for WoW 2, and I feel like it is unlikely to happen anyway, but I would try it out, preferably in some free trial scenario because I hate paying full price for a game I end up abandoning after a few weeks.

Now I have to go to confession to ask for forgiveness for that last sentence.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Um, well I am definitely not the one to ask! I am one of those in the crazy minority that has not even a tiny sliver of interest in ever playing that game. I did try the beta for like 15 min before I was done for good and left, never to look back. I have never touched the game again. Does that count as actually playing? Some say yes, some say no. What that all means is I can’t give any opinion whatsoever on a sequel because I don’t have one, nor would I touch it for any reason if there were! If they ever make a second one, however, I hope it is one fans like and they have a great time in their game.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): You may have all found me out. I would likely give WoW 2 a try, at least for a few months. After that, there is essentially no way it could keep me unless it somehow made it buy to play, which isn’t impossible but probably unlikely. I just can never bring myself to paying a subscription fee for a game. I also think it would need to be action oriented combat to keep my attention. I simply get bored now with almost anything else.

Finally, PvP baby! From what I know WoW has a decent PvP game in the battlegrounds. If it could do that again with some excellent graphics and action combat, then you at least get me for the initial purchase.

Tyler Edwards: There are very few things I’m sure Blizzard will never do, but WoW 2 is one of them. At least not for another 10 or 20 years. While it has fallen from its peak, WoW is still probably the most successful MMO on the market, and they’d be fools to split their audience like that. Beyond that, Blizzard has shown an incredible willingness to change just about every aspect of WoW with new expansions, so there’s not much a sequel could do that an expansion can’t. Honestly I’d argue we already have WoW 2, if not WoW 3 or 4 by now.

As for whether I’d want WoW 2 even if it were a possibility, no, not really. I know I’m a dinosaur clinging to the past at this point, but to me Warcraft will always be an RTS franchise first and foremost. An MMO was never a good fit for the setting, and they had to sacrifice so much about the story and the character of the world to make it work. If new Warcraft games are to be produced, I want them to return to the franchise’s roots. That likely means an RTS, though I think an ambitious single-player RPG a la Dragon Age could also potentially work.

Even then, though, I’m not sure I want more. The fact is I feel Legion wrapped up the franchise pretty well. It’s not perfect, and there are loose ends, but on the whole it was a very good expansion and a good conclusion to the franchise’s story. The Burning Legion was always the main threat of the setting, and even if recent revelations arguably make the Void a bigger threat, I’m not sure a Warcraft without the Legion is something that interests me. I say this not as a gripe; it’s because I’m so happy with how things ended that I’m hesitant to continue on. With Chris Metzen’s departure, it’s easy for me to write off anything after Legion as glorified fan fiction and just be content that my favourite game franchise got a (mostly) satisfying ending.

At this point I’d be more likely to be interested in prequels. Give me a Troll Wars or War of the Ancients game. Those are probably too niche to have mass market appeal, but I’d play them.

It is still possible for Blizzard to entice me back for more post-Legion Warcraft, but they’d have to do something dramatic in terms of story, gameplay, or both to convince me it’s worth it. As far as WoW goes, scrapping Pathfinder and letting us fly is probably top of the list of the things I want, but global level-scaling in the style of Elder Scrolls Online or dropping the sub might also get me to give it another chance.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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