6 Crazy Ideas to Bring Back WoW Subcribers
by Tyler Edwards, May 22, 2013
There's been much recent publicity over World of Warcraft losing 1.3 million subscribers in three months. It's now down to two thirds of its peak population, and there's no end to the losses in sight. A lot more will need to be lost before the game is in serious trouble, but Blizzard will have to do something dramatic if they want to stop the bleeding. Just for fun, we here at WhatMMO have dreamed up some of the most spectacular, intriguing, or outright crazy things they could do to bring players back to the land of Azeroth.
6: A new role for every class:
World of Warcraft has been around for a long time. Long time players have been with their classes for years. No matter how much you love your character, you're bound to get a bit bored after a while. A lot of people are longing for change, but if you just redesign a class, you risk alienating those who still enjoy it.
The solution? Keep all their current abilities and specializations, but add a new role on top of them.
You want to take on your rogue? Go ahead. Love healing, but don't want to quit your mage? The new chronomancer specialization can turn back time to undo wounds. Missing the versatility death knights used to have? Behold the glorious return of a blood damage specialization.
This could provide a solution to the endless pure versus hybrid debate that exists in the WoW community. Once, hybrids were less effective in their roles than those classes devoted purely to a single task, but once this was changed to allow hybrids to compete, pure classes lost any advantage over their more versatile counterparts. They have fewer options and gain nothing in exchange. Adding a new role to every class could fix this problem and end the controversy.
5: Horizontal progression:
WoW is something of a poster child for gear grinds. No one does the gear treadmill better than Blizzard. Raid for sweet epics so you can raid harder bosses for sweeter epics so you can raid harder bosses... It's a formula that's worked well for eight years
But it has flaws. It invariably leads to burnout as people realize they're not actually getting anywhere in the long term. It leaves those without the time or skill to get the best gear feeling left out. It creates tension between the "haves" and the "have nots."
WoW's gear grind is far too integral to the game to ever change much, but perhaps it could be supplemented by other, more horizontal methods of progression. Something like Rift's planar attunement or The Secret World's ability wheel - something that allows absolutely anyone to experience some level of progression regardless of how often they play or what content they prefer.
Designing such a system would be a challenge, for sure. It would need to be big enough to keep players busy for a long, long time. It would need to improve a character enough to feel meaningful, but not enough to make it a requirement for staying competitive. But if they hit the right balance, it would add a whole other kind of appeal to WoW.
4: Aerial combat:
Flying mounts have been a part of WoW since the Burning Crusade expansion, and the average player has racked up a whole stable of drakes, gryphons, flying carpets, and winged sparkle ponies.
But for all the omnipresence of flying mounts, they don't make much of an impact on the game. Aside from some zones designed to only be navigable by air, flying mounts don't really change the game at all. They're just a time saver. It's high time WoW developed another dimension to its gameplay. It's time for aerial combat.
Picture it: mages and hunters dogfighting over the Barrens, flying mobs assaulting players as they soar over hostile territory, mid-air raid bosses and battlegrounds, entire zones devoted to aerial play. Entirely new spells and abilities could be added to all classes for use in aerial combat.
One of the complaints about flying mounts is that they've removed the sense of danger from the world. They make it too easy to skip mob packs and avoid open world PvP. That would cease to be an issue if aerial combat were implemented. World PvP would take to the skies, and dogfights would erupt across PvP servers everywhere. Even those on PvE servers might feel a new sense of danger once mobs are no longer entirely earthbound.
3: No more factions:
WoW's factions are iconic: the noble Alliance in blue and gold, and the savage Horde in red and black. The conflict between the two factions has always been one of the selling features of the game, and the rivalry between Horde and Alliance players is fierce.
But what is the conflict doing for the game, really? Aside from providing a thin excuse for PvP content, it doesn't really add much to the game. Even Mists of Pandaria, an expansion supposedly focused on the Horde/Alliance conflict, has devoted most of its content to date to battling external parties.
What if Blizzard were to relax the barriers between factions, allowing Horde and Alliance players to work together and interact in PvE environments? It would certainly cause a big stir to see the iconic rivalry finally come to an end - maybe big enough to get people excited about WoW again.
It could solve a lot of gameplay issues, too. Suddenly, your server having a factional imbalance isn't a problem anymore. Guilds would have double the recruitment potential, and the potential for social interaction and making new friends becomes much greater.
2: Player generated content:
Even after the recent losses, the WoW community is vast, and there are many, many talented people within it. Why not harness this untapped potential by giving players the ability to design their own content?
Player generated content is a tricky business, and there are many potential pitfalls. It can lead to exploits and balancing concerns, and there's always the issue of most player generated content being of... questionable quality. It can be difficult to find the diamonds in the rough.
But when you think about it, Blizzard already has a lot of the tools and expertise to make player generated content work. The Arcade for StarCraft II, a system for players to distribute their own custom maps and mods, has been highly successful, and Blizzard could apply the lessons from it to a similar system for WoW.
Furthermore, in Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard introduced short, story driven instances called scenarios, which supposedly are much easier to produce than traditional dungeons. One can imagine it wouldn't take too much tweaking to make the scenario tools useable by players.
Finally, Blizzard has developed something of a reputation for dictatorial game design. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people feel their philosophy is, "Play our way or else." Allowing players to design their own content would counter this perception very well.
1: Free to play:
You knew it had to be mentioned.
Whenever an MMO does poorly - or is perceived to be doing poorly - the talk of free to play immediately begins to swirl. WoW is not immune to this. Even though it still has eight million subscribers, even though it's still the top dog of the pay to play world by a mile, even though it's still raking in money hand over fist. People talk it about it anyway.
But is it so crazy? Well, perhaps, but that doesn't change the fact that it would be an excellent way to bring people back. History has shown that a change in business model can make a struggling game successful again. Games like Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic have vastly increased their revenue by becoming free to play.
Despite its recent troubles, WoW isn't struggling. Not yet. But if free to play can be so good to a game in dire straights, what might it do for a game that's already a juggernaut?
Ultimately, only Blizzard and their accountants can determine if free to play is the right choice for WoW from a business perspective, but one thing we can pretty much guarantee is that it would send thousands, perhaps millions, of players swarming back to the game.
Imagine the stir it would create: the most successful MMO in history going free to play. If it's true that any publicity is good publicity, it would be the best advertising the game ever got. It would be a dramatic, eye catching move that would put WoW back in the headlines like nothing else.