Blizzard Announces WoW Classic Hardcore Mode is Coming

Rumors of this have been circulating in the wild since some code showed up in a WoW patch referencing a hardcore server mode, but last week Senior Game Producer Josh Greenfield announced on the Hardcore All-Stars stream that hardcore mode was coming to WoW Classic.

In this case, the central aspect of “hardcore” is perma-death, the idea that if you character dies on its journey through Azeroth, you are done and have to start over again.  There are other rules that some people follow, like no grouping for overland content or no using the auction house, but the death thing is the main feature.

People adopting self-inforced strict rules for their gameplay is hardly new.  If a game doesn’t come with difficulty levels then we’ll makes some up.  So Pokemon has the Nuzlocke Challenge rules and back in original Diablo we used to play a hardcore variant where you couldn’t go back to town once you entered the dungeon, so no vendor gear and no repairs, just what you could find along the way, and lots of other titles have similar ways to challenge yourself on a repeat play through.

It is just average, every day emergent game play, people finding ways to make a title a bit more challenging and, hopefully, fulfilling.  So, with WoW Classic now coming up on four years of service, people have gotten into the routine of looking for ways to keep the magic going in the old content.

One of the key problems is that the old content is entirely a set of solved problems, so the expansions and updates have to come faster to keep people invested.  So these sorts of personal challenges are a thing, because even the increased pace is still too slow for content that most have us have done before.

The question is WHY Blizzard has decided that they need to make an official mode for this.  I’m not knocking the play style, just wondering why it needs an official server to cover what people have managed to do on their own with some addons and like.

Yes, it is cool to have your playstyle validated with an official server setting and having the rules enforced universally by the code and maybe even having a leader board or you own personal history available is an excellent add to the whole thing.  I won’t dispute any of that.

But that isn’t the real “why” of this when I ask why Blizzard is doing this.

Blizzard is a corporation and, while developers are people and will do things just because they’re fun or cool, a corporate entity will, in the long run, only do things that it feels will generate a return on investment.  What do they expect to get out of this… and, honestly, how much are they going to invest in the idea?

The latter is key I suppose.  My first read of some of this was that they were going to roll up a hardcore server.  That is what we see in the code that was sniffed out back in March.

Realm Select Hardcore Warning

But the phrase being used now is “hardcore mode” which could be just a flag you set when you create a character, similar to the way it ended up in the Diablo series.  That would be a pretty cheap addition to make, just have the code prevent resurrection on death and you can wander the world as a ghost when you get in too deep with the Defias in tat cave out in Westfall.

But even with that minimum effort, they clearly expect more engagement in return.  And this is where I wish they would roll up a special server for hardcore because I would like some sense of how big that community really is.  I’ve spent the last 25+ years hearing various people saying “If only you supported my pet feature you would get a bunch more players,” usually from hardcore, full loot PvP proponents who loudly lobby for PvP in all the things.

Is this feature going to make an impact on WoW Classic subscriptions?

Now, if you’re a fan of this mode you’re disqualified from answering because of course you think it is the greatest thing and everybody will want to join in.  Likewise, if you hate the idea you aren’t exactly a neutral observer.  And if you are somewhat neutral… then you probably don’t care enough to have a strong opinion, so I don’t trust any of the reactions I see to be any sort of indicator of success.

Plenty of people loudly declared that WoW Classic would be a flop… and some still claim that despite all evidence… so unsubstantiated opinions of the fan base should be taken with the skepticism they deserve.

Which is why I really hope that Blizzard will put in the effort and roll up a dedicated hardcore server.  A stand-alone server dedicated to the premise that hardcore mode should be a thing seems like an excellent test of the idea.

Now, if this were Daybreak or CCP or some other modest sized studio, I might get huffy about diverting resources from already under served titles to go do an experiment like this.  But we’re talking about Blizzard here, which has the money and the resources… or used to have the resources, though the demand that work from home end and people return to the office daily has reportedly thinned their ranks and caused some concern about delivering Dragonflight content… so I am in favor of them running this as a test.

There are issues that may need to be addressed.  Syp, who has gone all-in on the whole WoW Classic hardcore lifestyle has a post up on MOP that lists out some, though it does pre-suppose a level of popularity that has yet to be demonstrated.

Anyway, like I said, bring it on.  I want to see how this plays out.  Blizzard has promised actual details at some future date, so we’re just waiting for that.

And if Blizzard has some free time, roll up a full loot, nowhere is safe PvP version of WoW Classic as well.  I want to see that theory tested while we’re at it.


7 thoughts on “Blizzard Announces WoW Classic Hardcore Mode is Coming

  1. bhagpuss

    Shintar, who will no doubt pop up here in due course to give the full details, has posted several times on what appears to have been a massive growth in population on my old Classic server, Hydraxian Waterlords. That’s all down to the Hardcore fad. I assume Blizzard know exactly what kind of an uptick there’s been since the Hardcore wagon started rolling and presumably that’s what’s behind the decision to endorse it officially.

    The thing about that is, all of those people already have to be subscribers to be on Classic in the first place. Even if the new Hardcore mode is wildly successful, it won’t make any more money for Blizzard if it just moves people from one server or mode to another. It does seem unlikely that a meaningful number of ex-players will re-sub their lapsed accounts just for this, let alone that it would attract anyone completely new to the game. Still, I guess if it even stops a significant number of people from cancelling their subscription for a month or two, that’s something.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PCRedbeard

    Well… It’s also kind of hard to RP on the Classic Era RP Server, Bloodsail Buccaneers, because of all of the HC people running around. While you’d think that the two groups could coexist, the reality is that the HC population on BB is so large it crowds out everybody else. My questing buddy and I started Era toons on Bloodsail Buccaneers, but the HC community was like locusts swarming over everything. Not intentionally, mind you, just that there were so many of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I will freely admit that I never leave Northrend unless there is something specific I need (being an engineer, I have the AH in Dalaran), and I haven’t spent much time in the lower level zones, so I haven’t noticed anything much different on Bloodsail Buccaneers.


  4. Shintar

    You wouldn’t have noticed any change on the Wrath version of BB, as this is all happening on the Vanilla Classic servers. And yes, over there the percentage of players who play with the hardcore addon has been staggering, to the point that they crowd out the “normal” players in places like Redbeard mentioned above. It’s a huge hit with streamers in specific, so in terms of “what’s in it for Blizzard”, the answer might be more eyeballs on WoW Classic on Twitch and potentially drawing in a whole new audience of players who just want to do whatever their favourite streamer is doing.


  5. Shintar

    To add to my comment above, I opened Twitch just now, and of the 10 biggest WoW streams running right now, 5 are retail, 4 are Classic hardcore, and only 1 is playing Classic Wrath.


  6. Shintar

    @Sycaine Blizzard hasn’t clarified what (if any) additional rules they’ll implement, but the current addon also locks you out of using mail, trading or the AH and doesn’t allow grouping except for exactly one run of each dungeon where all other characters must also be using the addon. Plus there are additional optional challenges such as only equipping looted items etc.


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