WoW Factor: BlizzCon is BlizzGone, so what’s next for WoW?

    
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It just keeps happening.

If you needed a sign of just how bad things were getting at Blizzard HQ, that sign came with the announcement that BlizzConline was not going to be happening in 2022 after all. This is actually something to be really worried about if you care about the long-term health of World of Warcraft! And it’s a sign of a problem in a lot of different ways, some obvious and some subtle, and all of them painting a picture of what’s going on behind the scenes that is neither flattering nor reassuring.

This is not to say that having the convention, virtual or no, was a good idea. Rather, it’s a simple observation of the way that Blizzard has traditionally operated. Under normal circumstances, a combination of ego and community expectations would have meant that even with nothing to announce beyond a WoW expansion and some smaller content updates, Blizzard would have still held the event and put forth its usual lengthy tribute to its own existence. The fact that this is not happening is a sign of the shift in leadership and priorities, as well as the effects that the ongoing scandals have had on the overall cadence of release and communication.

Let’s be clear: If we’re not having a BlizzCon this coming year, I think the odds are low that the convention is coming back in any format. It seems pretty likely from where I’m sitting that the changes in leadership culture are looking at the convention as an unneeded expenditure that prompts a lot of criticism, especially in light of how the last few BlizzCons have gone and how they’re likely to go in the future. There’s no real motivation to bring it back once the studio has let it go.

But let’s leave that to one side for the moment because whether or not you believe the convention will come back in the future, if you believe that there’s nothing to announce to go along with the event… that alone is pretty damn dire.

We’re not so far removed from the days when a new WoW expansion would indeed be considered sufficient content to anchor an entire BlizzCon, the big marquee announcement to carry things through. It’s a bit weak now with Overwatch in de facto maintenance mode (as development on the sequel seems to be dragging, to compound the problems) and Diablo 4 seeming to make very slow progress, but it’s not unheard of to make that the big announcement.

Drinking would help here.

If you don’t think that announcement was planned for BlizzConline, that’s honestly even worse because it shows that the delays we’re talking about in terms of content for the game are reaching the point of years rather than just months. We’re already looking at the tail end of a year in which the game delivered one actual content patch. One!

Shadowlands has not been a high point for the game, and yes, at least one of the reasons for that has been largely outside of developer control. But it’s been more than a year and a half at this point that Blizzard has been expected to adjust to working through a pandemic, and all of the other studios behind the big five games have managed. WoW’s cadence seems to have just gotten worse, offering far less than its competitors both in terms of frequency and quality of updates.

Cancelling the studio’s big showcase reveal this time around is almost certainly the right choice under the circumstances. But it does raise the question of what in the world the various product teams are going to do in order to build up hype and engagement again, both of which are currently languishing.

My personal concern, needless to say, is WoW. And the situation just keeps getting worse here, not just for me but for the community. Right at a time when players and fans need to feel like there’s something to look forward to and good stuff is right around the corner, cancelling BlizzCon feels like admitting plans are in freefall and there’s nothing to announce. It’s like a tacit admission that Shadowlands is going to be sticking around well into 2023, which – for both fans and the company – is easily the worst-case scenario.

Or to put it more simply, right now things are bad. This means that the studio is essentially telling fans that there is no clear picture about when things will get better, and there’s no reason to look forward to a specific date. The studio says it will have unspecified news on unspecified games at an unspecified date. And that is… not a sentiment that makes people more likely to log in and play.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was even speculating about when we would be getting our next expansion announcement because there was honestly a fair bit of ambiguity around that. There still is a lot of ambiguity about when the announcement will happen, for that matter, and what this realistically does is throw the whole situation into a no-man’s land wherein there is no longer any clear date outside of, well, almost right away.

YAAAAAAGH

Again, the fundamental problem Blizzard is dealing with at the moment is that people are not happy with the current content and have no real reason to assume it’s going to improve any time soon. This is compounded by the fact that aside from the art, it’s a general and all-consuming sense of disapproval, that there are no positive factors in the game’s favor at the moment. We went from one weak expansion to the next without any real reason to get hyped.

Heck, given all of this the whole “Season of Mastery” server for WoW Classic (which I was originally going to write about this week) is starting to look like an uncomfortable stopgap to paper over the clear lack of any new content happening for the franchise. I’m not saying that’s precisely what’s going on, but once the idea wormed its way into my head, it wouldn’t leave despite my best efforts.

So what comes next? Well, at this point it’s anyone’s guess. My personal feeling is that we’re going to see some kind of announcement the week of November 22nd, although whether that’s a preview of patch 9.2 or the next expansion announcement I can no longer be sure. It seems odd to talk about expansion announcements before a patch announcement, but it feels like at this point there’s a definite need to have something to look forward to. Then again, it’s an open question whether or not enough work has been done to even make an announcement in the first place.

Beyond that, though? It’s incredibly hazy and unclear. Blizzard is continuing to lose control of its own narrative with fans, and the lack of clear communication and goodwill is creating a perfect storm in which players aren’t motivated to keep playing by content and aren’t convinced there’s going to be new content on anything like a reliable timetable.

And quite frankly, right now it feels like an open question if Blizzard is even capable of putting things back on track along the way. Some real work needs to be done to re-rail the game, and everything – including the cancellation of BlizzConline – is just pushing things further and further off the tracks. It’s making Blizzard’s existing problems worse.

November 2nd feels like it’s going to be a bad day for fans.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Unnar Thor Thorisson

There was an interview with Ion just recently. He talked a lot, as he is wont to do – and I generally think that’s a good thing, I’d rather have more detail than less – but it all seemed very… rote. Like someone told him “Here are the things people want to hear.” I suppose if I was a lot less jaded I’d have believed it, but some things…

He insisted that a lot of different playstyles exist in WoW, not just the high-end raiders. And we’ve heard that insistence before, many, many times. But while we certainly see some quality-of-life stuff for the more solo questing type of player, it’s always felt like an afterthought. Too little, too late, often at least a year after players started pointing it out.

He’s insisting as well that they’re doing more to listen, that they’re paying attention to the community, but if you go back and read previous interviews, you see he’s said that nearly every time. “We can do better, we are listening to feedback, we recognize our mistakes.” And yet somehow, despite this, they never seem to recognize the mistakes that are being pointed out to them in all that feedback they’re listening to – or at least, they’re certainly not doing it any better.

I don’t care about raiding. I don’t care about PvP. I don’t care about dungeons. All of those things could vanish from the game entirely and I might consider it a net gain. But the game drove me away anyway, because the things I DO care about were handled atrociously, time and again, despite all the feedback and all the promises and all the bullshit they always trot out. Stuff people rage about on the forums every day, but I doubt these guys even know they have a problem there at all.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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how low can you go.jpg
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Cole Gardner

What’s next for WoW? Well they just released a cat cash shop mount. Currently they are deleting one thread after another on the forums of the community in uproar over it. I was personally banned myself on the forums for 48 hours for calling them trash and it was in poor taste.

Trying to hide all the downvotes on youtube for it… I believe the unlisted the video as of right now.

Lmao. What did they expect? Who makes these decisions? And bobby just released a long statement talking about his salary cuts etc… Then they release a cash shop mount -_-

Spaceboy
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Spaceboy

Never fear! There’s a kitty cat store mount here to save the p̶r̶o̶f̶i̶t̶s̶ day!

Seriously, it’s one of the nicest-looking mounts they’ve ever made. I’m absolutely certain my daughter, who still plays, will ask for it.

Turing fail
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Turing fail

Wondering if Blizzard is experiencing a failure cascade, described by an EVE Online leader thusly:

“A failure cascade is a ‘tipping point.’ Once the point has been reached, failures by an organization cause stresses that lead to more failure, at an ever-increasing pace.”

Lighthope
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Lighthope

I still think 10.0 is going to be pushed back to 2023. Why not? People are clearly willing to continue paying for nothing.

And the idea that WoW is going F2P in 10.0 is nonsense. There are more than enough people paying. Why would Blizz give that up?

We’ll see what the actual cash numbers are in a few days. We’ll know then.

But if WoW is still making the same amount of money, forget F2P. Just forget it.

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maydrock .

The head of the snake has not been removed, believe what you want.

Jaymes Buckman
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Jaymes Buckman

Or they might just be leaving the massive effort running this convention takes in favour of placing it where they and others feel it’s more urgently needed. So that’s positive. 💖😸

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Totes McGoats

I just wish they’d focus on new content instead of removing *if you squint just right it might be offensive to someone* old content.

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Greaterdivinity

In think a foundational point beneath all this discussion (and I agree with pretty much everything in this article, it’s good analysis!) is: Trust.

Blizzard has lost that player trust in their community, and amongst gaming media as well (in part due to a bigger focus on community vs. PR but that’s another basket of eggs).

BACK IN THE DAY, Blizzard being a black box of information “until it was ready” was acceptable. Why? Because we trusted that they knew what they were doing. We trusted that they’d have good quality content to announce and release. We trusted that there was a plan. Sure players still grumbled and complained, but at the end of the day we knew that while there may be a long silence on the next title or the next content update or the next expansion, that it was probably going to be pretty good and that folks were still plenty invested in their titles to stick around for it.

That’s gone now. The investment has declined through a series of missteps that trust has been broken, and along the way those missteps also caused a lot of folks to lose the investment in the properties they once had. They still love them, but not so much that they’ll stick with it “through thick and thin”.

They have a long, long, long way to rebuilding that trust with the community writ large, and with the direction the company continues to go and the current turmoil due to the revelations from the lawsuit, it doesn’t seem like they’re even starting to go down that path yet.

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notReginald VelJohnson

I haven’t read a single statement from them re: the scandals that has sounded remotely sincere.

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Dug From The Earth

They have a long, long, long way to rebuilding that trust….
…. it doesn’t seem like they’re even starting to go down that path yet.

And because of this, I honestly believe we will get something better, and newer from someone else, other than Blizzard, a lot sooner than Blizzard will give us something good.

Thats saying a lot considering the state of the mmorpg industry, which has continued to just pump out sub par, lackluster, and disappointing games over the last few years.

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notReginald VelJohnson

The game is so bloated at this point, I wish they’d just let it go. Maybe make a sequel set a few hundred or thousand years from the current point, giving them the chance to start some completely new lore and, oh, I don’t know, have a long-term road map of that lore.

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Dug From The Earth

Players wouldnt trust a sequel, regardless of how much they might want one.

And honestly, I dont think Blizzard COULD pull off a good sequel at this point. The mindset and methods used in current WoW arent suddenly just going to change because “new game!!”.

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Schmidt.Capela

A sequel allows the players to break out of the sunken cost fallacy, meaning they have as much incentive to jump to the sequel as they would have to jump to a competitor. And with trust in Blizzard at an all-time low, this is the worst possible time to gamble on WoW players coming along for WoW2.

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Utakata

I personally like the bloat in my games. The question becomes is that bloat is any good? Which is likely “no” with most of the WoW players currently.

…I say this because the last time I heard “bloat” to which “pruning” was followed. And that didn’t sit well for a lot of players’ opinions, including myself.

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Bruno Brito

It depends on the level of bloat and pruning. Blizzard’s pruning are bad because their lead designers are terrible at their jobs and can’t balance/build systems that works for all types of play.

But if you wanna see how harmful bloat really is? Go play Everquest 2, where you have skill numbers in the billions and the entire item system is messed beyond recognition.

Pruning in itself is a tool. It’s just that Blizzard is bad at it ( and everything else non-raid related ).