World of Warcraft‘s Direction is Very Alarming
It’s painful to have to admit this as a World of Warcraft player since the beginning. I can’t ignore the warning signs that have been felt over multiple expansions now, capped off by a large percentage of players being dissatisfied with World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. World of Warcraft’s direction is very clear, and it’s a very dangerous direction that Blizzard is going down.
Before we move on to the direction it’s going now, let’s take a look back to set the stage. World of Warcraft has always been a game that required a time investment to get the most out of it. There has never been denying that. There were incredibly long attunement questlines just to be able to enter certain raids. Generally, your character grew stronger and the impact was felt as part of the reward of the time investment. Time-gating was something Blizzard used sparingly for several expansions, so besides weekly raid resets, the only thing limiting you was time investment. Besides, a non-raider had tons of content to go through as leveling took much longer back then.
Here we are today now, and World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has been anything but a smooth and well receptive expansion a month after its release. I’m not willing to base an entire game’s worth and credibility upon how Reddit is reacting to a game. However, I do find validity when nearly all the top posts in the last week are complaining about the state of the game. As a World of Warcraft player from the start, these complaints, unfortunately, are valid and the opinion is widely shared outside of Reddit too.
The biggest concern with the direction of World of Warcraft is undoubtedly the layers of RNG they are putting on gear and time-gating pretty much all forms of content, along with tedious daily grinds for Azerite gear and it’s power. There was a multiple week-long wait doing multiple steps for Warfronts, just for it to be over in 30 minutes and lackluster. For multiple expansions now, you can get a higher ilvl piece of gear that is still worse than what you’re already wearing because of RNG. Getting higher ilvl Azerite gear punishes you if you get the wrong traits on it, which makes you feel like you took one step forward and two steps back.
In Legion, we waited over a month to complete the time-gated progress on the Broken Shore while we awaited the opening of Tomb of Sargeras. Multiple weeks it felt like there was near zero content pushing it forward and the content was largely uninteresting.
The reason Blizzard does this? It’s widely speculated and believed that when they hit their all-time low for subscriber count in Warlords of Draenor, they made a decision to find new ways to keep players subscribed. Blizzard actually reached the point where they would no longer report on the number of subscribers that World of Warcraft has for their quarterly reports because it would be used as ammo to suggest World of Warcraft is on a decline.
The new way to do this? Tease players with content through time-gating and add a large amount of grinding to keeping your character relevant for end-game content. No longer are you just hunting a specific piece of gear: You are hunting for specific pieces of gear that randomly generate the traits you need for optimal performance. Legion introduced Artifact Power which meant you needed to do everything that could grant you Artifact Power as it made you stronger the more levels you had acquired. This meant doing trivial content over and over again and grinding Mythic+ dungeons until your eyes stopped working.
Blizzard has created a game where you feel guilty if you aren’t playing World of Warcraft, which is very dangerous and has led to huge complaints. World of Warcraft’s audience is not a young one, it’s people who have grown with the series and become adults and created families. People don’t want to get home from work, and then feel like they need to do their WoW work every day. I myself had that moment when playing recently where I asked myself “Okay, seriously, what are you doing? Why am I playing this when I have to treat it like a second job?”
It’s been painful as a huge Blizzard fan and a World of Warcraft player to see the direction World of Warcraft has chosen to go into. Guilt tripping players into needing to log in and play daily grinding remedial tasks and then rely even more on RNG than ever before for gear upgrades. I can only hope Blizzard understands trying to force players to stay in-game with content that isn’t inspiring that has either pathetic rewards or rewards reliant on RNG is only going to chase players away.