This might be a stretch and totally off base, but that’s part of the fun in writing a blog. You throw stuff out there, people to tell you that you are an idiot in your comments, and you enjoy the ride.
The recent (how recent depends on what class you play, but yea) design changes by Blizzard, moving away from PvE balance and making PvP-focused changes, are a bit puzzling at first. Why would you risk your cash cow, the recent centerpiece of a major business deal, and mess with a proven formula? You are taking a game built on a solid PvE model and basically doing a 180, catering to the super-minority of the ultra competitive PvP crowd at the expense of your PvE base. Unless the two are completely separated, they can’t both be balanced. One always suffers at the expense of the other. Since day one, it has always been PvP suffering at the expense of PvE. Now Blizzard is doing the opposite, changing things to balance them in PvP at the expense of breaking them in PvE.
Does Blizzard really think the future of mass market MMOs lies in arena-style PvP combat? Just a guess, but I say no. The future, just like the past, is still firmly rooted in casual, accessible PvE content, and Blizzard knows this. It also knows that WoW is starting to age, both in technical terms and in simple ‘been there done that’ ways. No matter how great a game is, at some point people move on just to move on, to try something else.
Is it such a stretch to say that Blizzard sees this as well, and is preparing for it?
- Step one: maximize profits from your current base of players (RMT e-sports)
- Step two: disrupt your competition as much as possible (Warhammer Online)
- Step three: transition that player base to your next game (Starcraft Worlds)
What I’m suggesting is that WoW will be tuned to cater as much as possible to the PvP crowd, while the casual PvE crowd will be sold on Starcraft Worlds. It makes sense for a number of reasons. First, your biggest future competitor, Warhammer Online, is aiming at the PvP crowd. Why not turn your massive PvE game into a direct competitor with your biggest enemy (EA vs Activision for 3rd party videogame supremacy), while also changing to not compete with yourself for the PvE crowd? Design Starcraft Worlds as a highly refined, very accessible PvE game, morph WoW into a PvP game, and you have the market covered. Market Starcraft Worlds as the next WoW, but with even better questing and everything else people fell in love with their first time in WoW. Those players wishing for old WoW will have a place to go, and those looking for better PvP will also have a place to go. Blizzard collects money regardless of your choice.
This would also explain the massive lack of info about WotLK. It’s entirely possible WotLK was a PvE-heavy expansion originally, but is now being re-tooled to cater to the PvP crowd. The new ‘pvp only’ zone might only be the beginning. Perhaps Icecrown Glacier is not a raid instance, but instead some super exclusive arena? Instead of expending the PvE game, maybe the major selling point of WotLK will instead be spectator mode for PvP, like Blizzard has been hinting at? Maybe seasonal bracket tourneys like Warcraft 3 had are coming to WoW?
Sure this is likely all wrong, but at the very least, a few dots do seem to be lining up. With Starcraft 2 set to release sometime late 08/early09, why not release Starcraft Worlds in time for Christmas 09, building on the rush from SC2 and completing the transition from WoW to Starcraft?