I felt compelled to write a post making some sort of prediction about what the next World of Warcraft expansion might bring us, a bit of comedy more or less, in before we get real information about what is coming. A bit of fluff to be laughed at before it is swept away in the storm that follows.
But to write a post like that you have to start somewhere, and I usually start with what I might want from the game. And I can certainly pull a few out of where ever it is I store these sorts of things on my person. My list might include:
- Real Housing… no, REAL Housing Blizzard!
- Guild Garrisons
- Special Rules Servers
- A New Race
- A New Class
- Dual Classing
- Mounted Combat… no, REAL Mounted Combat Blizzard!
- Alternate Advancement
- New Trainable Skills for Battle Pets
- A Level Cap Squish
- A Viable Crafting System… no, a REAL Viable Crafting System Blizzard!
- More Freakin’ Storage
- More Freakin’ Five Person Dungeons
- Player Made Dungeons
- Player Made Zeppelins
- Rip Off Minecraft Somehow
And I could discuss the merits of each and why Blizzard won’t be giving us any of them, because I can come up with damn good reasons why each of those don’t align with Blizzard’s own goals.
Because that is always what it comes down to with Blizzard. They make slick, best-selling games, and they have succeeded largely by focusing more on works for their goals than for ours. Sometimes that has worked out fabulously, sometimes less so. (Diablo III Auction House, I’m looking at you.) But in the long term it has been a good plan.
So rather than asking myself what *I* want from the game, I decided to ask myself what Blizzard wants from the game?
And for me, the big clue came already this week. The game, having peaked at 12 million subscribers back in the day, has been viewed as “in decline” ever since Cataclysm shipped about five years ago.
What I believe Blizzard thinks it needs is to be freed from that comparison. It is a millstone around their neck, something that the analysts are going to peck at during every single earnings call.
So I am going to go way, way out on a limb here and predict that the big expansion announcement will include a business model transition.
World of Warcraft will be going free to play.
In one fell swoop they can wave bye-bye to subscription numbers and, as we all know, free to play transitions always see big initial success. They remove the stigma of decline and revenue soars.
There will still be subscribers in some form. There always are. They will get some special benefits and some sort of stipend for the new cash shop currency that will be introduced. They already have a cash shop in the game, it just uses your credit card currently. How tough could it be to change that to a new currency they control?
And Blizzard, having seen how all of these other games… and the list is pretty long with Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, The Elder Scrolls Online, and so on and so forth… have done it and fared, might be able to steal this idea and make it their own, imbuing it with that special Anaheim magic (which I am sure they are siphoning off from Disney illicitly) as they have done so often in the past.
Tomorrow we might see the dawn of a shining new free to play utopia, the business model done right, and we will be able to look forward to full servers and special perks and sparkle ponies as far as the eye can see.
Or we’re getting more fucking orcs.
That’s my call, either free to play or more fucking orcs.
We shall see.