WoW is dead. Long live WoW!

WoW Retail, born Nov 23rd, 2004, has sadly passed away at the age of (almost) 15 on Aug 26th, 2019. Cause of death: WoW Classic. RIP in peace.

Ever since WoW Retail become a monster hit sometime around 2005, ‘WoW killers’ have been announced, launched, and found lacking. WAR couldn’t do it, Rift wasn’t the title, SW:TOR sold you hotbars, and on it goes. Regardless of what other MMO launched, WoW Retail always remained the top dog, even as it lost its way following WotLK and went charging head first into the dumpster fire that is the current game. The grip of Azeroth, even terribly watered down, was still strong. Not 10m+ subs strong with good content and a growing user-base, but still considerable to take for a 1-3 week spin every 6 months when content was added.

Then on Aug 26th the one true WoW killer arrived. Its name was WoW Classic, and its Old Blizzard design (with New Blizzard expectation management…) reminded the world why, back in 2004, so many fell in love with Azeroth. It wasn’t the welfare epics, the complete silence of LFG, the faceroll of raidfinder, the space goats, the Horde Paladins, the timetravel-inspired lore bastardization, or making every class a hybrid dps/tank/healer reskin.

It’s a reminder that the world in WoW is the star character, not you oh generic hybrid iLvl placeholder. It’s a reminder that even if you think you don’t want ‘collect 15’ quests that require killing 60 mobs because the drop rate is 5% (math checks out), you actually do. That dying because of a careless pull at level 5 is important, regardless of how initially frustrating it may seem. A reminder that a quest with a cloth item reward for your warrior that sends you across 5 zones, and that during that quest you are walking 99% and doing anything BUT walking 1% of the time, is not a ‘design flaw’ to fix and sanitize. A reminder that content which pushes players to play together, by nudging those who insist on going solo into social situations, is healthy game design for an MMO, not a ‘carryover’ of old and outdated thinking. And that those who completely refuse to group can’t see the end of the story and the cool big bads like Rag or Onyxia, because fuck you this is an MMO, join a guild asshat!

I can understand the frustration of the few remaining Retail players as they look at their guild rosters and see ‘last online Aug 26th’. It always stinks when a better game comes along and takes most of your population. Its even worse when that better game is from the same company as your current game, and suddenly you go from the star pupil to the redheaded stepchild of the family. No one wants to be the Heroes of the Storm of a company, yet here we are today, with Retail and HotS sitting at Blizzard’s kids table, muttering under their breath about how unfair it is that the more successful, better looking, much smarter WoW Classic child is the favorite now and gets all the love/attention/budget/respect.

It double stinks that all these years you kept saying how Retail WoW is great, and that those who claim Vanilla design was superior are just wearing rose-tinted glasses, and now Classic is here and you are forced to realize you were wrong, we were right, you stink, we rule. That must sting. Maybe not as bad a sting as your server being turned off to make room for more Classic servers, but still a bad feeling. I’d suggest running a raid with the quarter of your remaining active roster, just to take the old game for one last spin. May I suggest the ‘updated’ post-Cata Deadmines? I hear its a real hoot! And as you mindlessly pull the whole room and AoE it down, know that it’s not your fault that Retail is dead, sometimes mom and dad just drift apart.

Well, I mean, it actually is your fault. You asked for welfare epics because you were jealous as I danced on the mailbox in my raiding gear while you looked up in your poor person blues. You complained that walking to a dungeon entrance was a burden you couldn’t handle. You said that rogues should have a heal because you have no friends and playing a priest is like, really boring. You pointed out the ‘flaw’ in having to commit to a talent build with respec consequences, and had that ‘flaw’ fixed when talent trees were removed to make the game ‘better’. Every quest SHOULD have a reward you yourself can use, damnit, and that quest should show you exactly where to go and require you, at most, to spend 5 minutes in total. Who the hell has more than 5 minutes to play these days when we all have to take care of our 6 kids? This isn’t 1965 is it? Don’t you have a phone?

The glass-half-full view of Classic killing Retail is that perhaps this saves the overall MMO genre. No longer will we get WoW clones based off the inferior and flawed version of WoW that is post-WotLK. Perhaps the next WAR/Rift/SW:TOR will be a Classic clone, and by default already be a better MMO because of it. That’s a win/win for everyone besides the sRPG players that cling to the corpse that is Retail, right? And since we aren’t grouping with those solo heathens anyway, do they actually count? The answer is no. No they do not.

So a big congrats to Blizzard for releasing a WoW Killer! That’s a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by all! It’s always a tall task to take down the market leader, even if in this case the market leader is long past his prime and a shell of what originally made him great. Hey, it still counts!

And my most sincere and heartfelt Thoughts and Prayers to Blizzard that WoW Retail is dead. What a run, this almost 15 years! And to the few remaining Retail players: You think you want to keep playing that version of the game, but you don’t.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in MMO design, Rant, Rift, SW:TOR, Tobold being Wrong, Trion being Trion, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to WoW is dead. Long live WoW!

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Nice rant! Maybe we should wait for some actual numbers though. Oh, wait, we won’t get any.

    As you were.

    • Trego says:

      Official numbers, we won’t get, sure. A massive percentage of my gaming friends are playing classic and almost zero are playing retail, though. YMMV, but…do you really think more people are playing retail than classic, over this last week?

    • SynCaine says:

      As Trego said official numbers won’t come, especially because Retail going into ‘maintenance mode’ won’t be announce, it will just happen quietly. That said if accelerated plans for Classic are announced, and Retail isn’t see its usual attention, that will be a hint, as will whatever Blizzard says about Classic during their earnings call.

      I did see a site that showed, via a 3rd party collection app, the number of characters in Classic who are level 5+. It was 4.5m I believe, which is massive for being 2+ weeks in, but that number is missing who knows how many characters (because again the collection only happens via people running that app)

      • Kring says:

        I hope Retail will not be overshadowed by Classic. Otherwise I fear that new Blizzard will bring the cash shop and token over to Classic.

        Yes, I know that that would kill Classic. Yes, I know that you know that that would kill Classic.

        But does new Blizzard know?

  2. Marathal says:

    Just a thought, but I wonder if design choices since Development of MoP have been an attempt to force the genie back in the bottle. The headed down the path of opening up content to more people, and they flocked to the game. But then started changing course adding more and more layers of difficulty and time investment. Perhaps that’s what is driving some back to Classic. The end game is a small part somewhere a few months out there if you are interested in doing it. If not there is plenty to explore and work on.

  3. I find it interesting that Kotaku had a look at private WoW servers and is saw a lot of migration to WoW Classic, disproving one of the long held tropes of those arguing against the WoW Classic idea, that private server players were simply freeloaders looking to play without paying.

    https://kotaku.com/world-of-warcraft-players-are-migrating-from-fan-server-1838022511

    Otherwise, I am keen to see what happens at BlizzCon. Blizz is not exactly nimble, and I expect announcing the death of retail might be premature. I will be surprised if they do not have an expansion announcement for retail. But they will have to say something about a plan for classic. It has gotten too much attention for Blizz to wave it off for a later date.

  4. NoGuff says:

    I kept looking for the [sarcasm] tag to appear in this post, but it never came…

    I was expecting a reference to Nagrand Cherries, but it never came…

    The cake is not a lie.

    Excellent post! Carry on sir. =)

  5. Polynices says:

    It would be sort of hilarious if in two years they release The Burning Crusade 2: Classic Boogaloo and charge us all over again for basically the same content some of us already bought. I’d like to dream about them doing this but fixing everything wrong with the expansion but of course there would be zero consensus about what, if anything, was wrong with TBC.

    • biggysimms says:

      TBC should have been adding a couple of raid zones through the dark portal, but keeping most of the rest of game play still based in the old world. People would go through the portal to raid and the level 60 cap never should have been raised.

  6. Esteban says:

    Good god, man, it’s been two weeks.

  7. Dennis says:

    Wait… did you write that or did I write that? I’m kidding but basically saying that it could have been written by myself. It’s the exact same type stuff me and my friends talked about on our TeamSpeak channel the last weeks. No, that’s wrong… we actually talked that way long before Classic was released because we fully expected that Classic would be a sure-fire success. But that’s no wonder as you said because retail lost all substance… it was a slow but sure death.

  8. zaphod6502 says:

    Great to see the old Syncaine back with sarcasm dripping from every written word. :)

    The lesson to be learned by Blizzard is that when you gut your company and pander to your corporate overlords (especially assholes like Activision) and stop innovating don’t expect your audience to come along for the ride.

    Also it highlights how important community and friends are for the continued success of an online game. It is a reason my clan still plays Planetside 2 six years after release regardless of how many times Daybreak has tried to f..k it up. It is one of the many reasons I moved to FFXIV as my go to MMO. Strong friendships encourage people to play and stay in an MMO. Plus FFXIV has never deviated from its 2013 story-telling roots and tried to be everything to everyone.

    I still think Blizzard has backed themselves into a corner that will be impossible to get out of.

    Do they continue to develop Classic in such a way it becomes their main WoW title but with the problem that Classic has a finite development path before it turned into modern WoW?

    How will they cater to people like me that played WoW 15 years ago and loved the original classes and skills but want new content and not quests, dungeons, and lands that I completed 50+ times already for the six years I was a hardcore player back when WoW was released?

    Personally I think the only long term solution is to develop a new WoW IP with a Classic level of difficulty but set in a new world and lands. Give me something new but also give me back my old classes and complexity. If Blizzard doesn’t have this on their radar they are idiots and might as well close up shop when Classic stops bringing in the cash to sufficiently satisfy Bobby Kotick.

  9. kiantremayne says:

    I wonder if we’re going to see some of Classic bleed back into Retail as part of the next expansion. For example, talent trees… part of the reasoning (good or bad) for scrapping them was that as WoW added more levels the talent trees got more unwieldy as they added more points and more tiers to the trees. With the expected level squish in the next expansion, we could go back to a level cap of 70 (squish down to half your level, then 10 new expansion levels) and have BC-era talent trees. They could also ramp up the world PvE difficulty, put some complexity and value back into crafting, and in other ways get closer to a Classic level of immersion and difficulty.
    Still wouldn’t be Classic of course – you’d still have draenei monks, LFG and flying mounts, but it would be an interesting course correction.

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