First of all, we all know what Blizzard has done in the past. They’ve built a huge emporium with three different game series, StarCraft, Warcraft and Diablo and most important of all, almost everyone has been satisfied with the games at the time of their launch. Here I will speak mostly about Blizzard’s most popular product, World of Warcraft and its future. For a long time there has been things which annoy all but the most casual players—patches and the length of the seasons been major examples. Prime examples of this are patches 3.3 and 4.3, seasons 8 and 11. The patches were so long for a PvPer, you could literally get your full gear at least four times over. More than several times players have complained about these problems, but Blizzard has hardly shown any signs of listening. But really, to whom wouldn’t shorter seasons and a more active ladder appeal to?
Shamefully, even if one could bear the length of theses seasons, there’s still a problem even more awful. The balance issues. Though it is very understandable that a game of this size and with so many different aspects cannot be perfectly balanced, probably ever, the same game changing issues usually last for the whole half-year patch. For instance season 6 Warriors and Protholy Paladins as well as season 11 Rogues, Shamans and Warlocks. This for one cannot be tolerated in MoP. Indeed, how can a company believe they can keep their game so disgustingly broken for so long while meanwhile keeping the same player base? The company has so much potential, as we can see from their games. My own assumption is the lack of drive and motivation. World of Warcraft has been running steady for the past, almost 8 years, without much serious competition. All the so-called “WoW killers” have pretty much failed miserably and gone to free-to-play models. That means Blizzard wont, most likely, start doing things differently, until they have to.
So, let’s compare Blizzard to a fairly new, fast growing game company, Riot. Riot has a few old developers of DOTA, so it essentially didn’t start out of nowhere, but the company still had no public image or previous games. Now approximately 3.5 years after launch, the game (LoL) has more active players than WoW ever had even at its peak during Wrath of the Lich King. You have to also remember that WoW didn’t come out from nowhere, but already had a huge fan base, because of the previous games and the extensive lore behind the Warcraft series. LoL on the other hand is free, but it’s proven most of players do actually buy items and services for real money. Additionally, LoL has a huge competitive scene with record-breaking streamed tournaments.
One can always say they’re running a different kind of game, maybe even made for a different class of gamers, but the games do actually share a large player base. So, what does Riot do so differently in comparison to Blizzard? I think there’s a lot of things. Like I previously complained about, the long-lasting balance issues, Riot handles this trouble differently. They have a patch fixing balance issues every two weeks. The game might not be in perfect balance incessantly, but the same issues won’t be out there for long. Riot also makes the players feel like they’re part of the company, kind of like Blizzard did back in Vanilla and even somewhat in TBC. If servers are down, you get some compensation for it— in Riots case it’s the only thing you pay money for, Riot points.
There are some good signs out there from Blizzard’s side though. The focus of Mists of Pandaria is more on PvP than ever before, introducing one arena(which is basically a copy of Nagrand arena) and two more BG’s at launch. In fact, even the lore is mainly about the war between Horde and Alliance. Blizzard is also finally separating PvP and PvE gear with the amazing stat, PvP power. Even though PvP power seems to be insanely strong right now on beta, I see it only as a good thing. It forces players to use PvP gear and no one gains unfair advantages via dragon slaying. This means a more balanced PvP environment. One thing I do have my hopes up for is an upgrade to the ladder system, which is almost the same as it was in TBC. The ladder system is like an ancient relic from the stone age. You get your rating up and it stays there for eternity. Rating decay is a must to keep the ladders active, especially if the season length stays the same. Also several different goals would be great, so one would have more things to aim for than just 2200 items and Gladiator. Also Blizzard did make a lot of boosters and wintraders panic at the end of the last season with scary letters about disqualifications. Even if most of the teams receiving the letter faced no serious consequences , it still showed that they do care about the fairness of arena. One can only hope they will keep doing the same in MoP, but rather at the start of the season, not in the last week of it.
I myself am going to play and try out MoP for sure, but especially in beta there’s still a few things to fix. Even though Mages have been hit with the nerfhammer more than a couple of times in beta, they’re still extremely broken in both damage and CC departments. Same thing goes for Warriors, BM Hunters and Spriests, but to a lesser extent. BM’s mainly do too much damage and Spriests are unkillable by casters. Warriors have so much utility and high damage, that they really outclass other melee. While Blizzard might be able to fix these problems before launch, I am more or less hoping for Guild Wars 2 to “kill” WoW or at least compete with it to keep the pressure up on Blizzard. Right now it looks promising for GW2. They’ve sold two million copies in a month and that amount keeps rising. Maybe by losing some subscribers, Blizzard will start putting more effort into their own product.
Will Blizzard be able to cut it or will they just let WoW slowly turn into crap and fall into non-existence?