All the recent talk of vanilla WoW is right in my wheelhouse, and not just because its yet another feather in my giant cap of “things SynCaine was right about long before everyone else caught up”, but also because you still have certain people (Az, Tobold, and some commentators) that don’t understand why vanilla worked back then and why it would still work today (perhaps to a lesser degree, but perhaps not).
As I wrote on Az’s blog, Blizzard not running their own vanilla server is just New Blizzard being New Blizzard. They are leaving money on the table, in some part likely due to ego. Imagine if the vanilla servers were more popular than current WoW, and what that would say about what New Blizzard has done vs what Old Blizzard did? And while I don’t think that is a given, is anyone willing to say they are 100% sure vanilla WOULDN’T have more players than the now-we-don’t-report-it under 5m WoW has today? I’m not, especially considering the utter joke that current WoW design and support is.
It’s money on the table because if they charged $15 a month for vanilla (or even $20 since they could say its a ‘premium’ service), anyone who leaves new WoW to play on vanilla isn’t a lost sale, its a transfer, not to mention the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of players who don’t play the current abortion of a game but would play the good version (and likely play it for far longer than the current ‘one month and done’ content WoW produces via expansions).
Sky-is-blue stuff aside, the more interesting item here is the misunderstanding of why vanilla WoW worked and grew while current WoW is bleeding out. Az again is incorrect in thinking that the community aspect of a private server exists because everyone playing is a pirate. They are, technically, but put up a private current-WoW server and you won’t get anything close to a vanilla server community, because it’s not just about the people playing, but under what rules they are playing by.
FFXIV has the community it has because the game does an excellent job of weeding out ‘WoW kiddies’ very early. You must run dungeons, you must group, and you can’t face-roll forward like you can in WoW. That filters certain people out early, and the millions left are people who better understand and value the core principles of an MMO, resulting in far nicer and more successful pug groups, as well as just an overall better community.
Vanilla WoW is the exact same idea; the rules are such that they force people to play differently if they want to succeed, or at least progress at a more optimal rate. In a vacuum, spamming trade chat to find a group for a dungeon is worse than clicking a single button and being instantly ported inside with a group. But outside of that vacuum, having to work a bit more to find a group molds people long-term, where suddenly having a guild is more meaningful, and a successful dungeon run feels more rewarding. Leveling super-fast means in a vacuum players see that ‘ding’ more often, and more ‘ding’ means more fun. Outside the vacuum, levels meaning nothing erodes a core enjoyment of gaming (its why every genre today has levels), and all of the systems that rely upon levels meaning something also suffer. New Blizzard designs everything in a vacuum (or just caves in to player demand, which is almost always vacuum-thinking), while Old Blizzard saw the big picture much clearer.
Dismissing people wanting to play vanilla as nostalgia that wouldn’t work is either dismissing or outright not understanding that vanilla WoW was a better version of WoW. What’s crazy is the clock on the scoreboard of that discussion has long since hit zero, because while vanilla grew by millions, post-WotLK WoW has done nothing but bleed subs.
I do hope that at some point New Blizzard does get desperate enough (perhaps once Overwatch flops like HotS has) that they open legacy servers, if only to hammer the above home for people once again. Now I know certain perennial losers will just move the goal posts, but it would still be worthwhile. Plus, I wouldn’t mind running Strath or MC again in their true forms, just to check in on some old friends.
PS: You know you’re being really dumb when you have to follow SOE in the ‘good idea’ department. Not to mention the fact that legacy EQ2 is bringing back an absolute failure of a game, and even that works enough to justify a server, so imagine what bringing back an actually good game would do?