WoW Classic: Nostalgia or Design?

What Blizzard feels is the correct answer to the question “Why are people playing and enjoying Classic” will go a long way in determining the game’s future direction. If the answer is heavily towards ‘nostalgia’, then the key to Classic’s continued success is feeding players more nostalgia. If the answer goes more towards “because the design of Vanilla results in a great MMO”, then you need to feed players more of that design, right?

The nostalgia route means either keeping Classic as-is, or going down the known path towards The Burning Crusade and perhaps beyond. If people are playing because this reminds them of 15 years ago, keep feeding that and people should be happy. Launch fresh servers from time to time so people can repeat the ‘fresh start’ feeling, and you are good to go ala EQ nostalgia servers.

The great design route means creating more of what makes Classic work in order to keep people playing/paying. You can’t just go down the known route of TBC and beyond, because at some point :cough: WotLK :cough: things go too far down the path towards Retail, and we know how that path ends. Instead you need to support Classic as you traditionally support an MMO; more content, and hopefully that new content is what your current players actually want, and again not towards the direction of Retail.

I wonder what, today, Blizzard feels is the bigger driver in the success of Classic? I wonder what most players feel is the reason?

My personal opinion is that nostalgia was the primary reason most people showed up to try Classic, along with the hype of this release being the big to-do in the MMO space for 2019. People like to be part of a big event, even if the core ‘why’ behind the event isn’t something they are overall super interested in.

I think Classic still going strong, and the fact that demand continued to grow after day-one, is because of the design. Gamers like to play good games (crazy huh?) and Classic is a good game. It hits the right notes, its design is deceptively brilliant, and the whole thing has aged far better than I think most expected. The moment to moment feel of the combat is just as smooth and enjoyable as it was in 2004, perhaps in large part because no one has done it better since that time. The downturn of the MMO genre in recent years isn’t because gamer tastes have moved on, its because actual good MMO design has been lacking. Classic is a ‘new’ launch of that good design, and people have shown up.

Assuming I’m right (99.9% of the time, I am), this leaves Blizzard in a difficult position. They need to update Classic like a real MMO, and not a nostalgia experience, because an MMO that isn’t getting updated is an MMO that’s dying, and the suits don’t want to see that 223% revenue increase just drift away. This means new content, but that new content needs to be in the same spirit as current Classic content, and not what they do today for Retail. Can New Blizzard do that? And even if they can, if the new stuff is on-target, how will those who ARE here purely for nostalgia handle that? Will we need a “True-Classic” server?

Blizzcon in Nov will perhaps give us some clues to the answer to the nostalgia-or-design question, and also perhaps more clues into what Blizzard intends to do with the title that is suddenly the biggest game under their umbrella. They simple can’t say/do nothing, can they? (Spoiler: New Blizzard certainly might, because lets be honest, if you can release HotS, you definitely can find a way to spoil Classic)

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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9 Responses to WoW Classic: Nostalgia or Design?

  1. Esteban says:

    That 223% jump in sub revenue for August compared to July is a) an imprecise measure, since it incorporates people who thought they did (and subbed accordingly) but they didn’t, and b) represents something close to the high water mark for Classic. I say ‘something close’, because I expect September to be an even larger jump compared to July (after all, September is the month during which you get to find out you didn’t) and October and beyond to be the genuine test of Classic’s enduring appeal. Interest should taper off noticeably at that point, somewhat cushioned by the phased rollout schedule.

    Twitch viewership of WoW, which is a more flexible (if hazy) indicator of interest is already slackening greatly from the Classic release peak, though that might have something to do with WoW not really being all that watchable when people are not doing anything competitive but only levelling and arsing about. Still, nothing like the initial hype will ever happen again.

    So, I do not believe that Blizzard will be making sweeping changes to the franchise based on that specific sub spike, although I imagine it is a nice morsel to show to shareholders/investors. The main reason why Classic is such a coup for Blizzard is that it costs relatively very little to provide – little development cost to speak of. Making actual new content in the Classic style would cut into profits, and is rather unlikely.

    Of course, as always with Blizzard, it will take us a while to find out anything concrete. I assume that (at least) the next Retail expansion is already done, so it will get released with all the attendant hype management required – and if any lessons are drawn from the qualified success of Classic, they will be incorporated much further down the road.

    • SynCaine says:

      We know the 223% since that clearly came directly from Blizzard. And while Blizzard doesn’t show current players like CCP does, the fact that most servers still sit at high or full during prime time tells you that out of that 223, most are still here (if not higher than 223, since more servers got opened up since then). Lets also not forget that current Classic servers are many times larger than Vanilla servers, so even a medium Classic server has more people playing it than a full server in Vanilla.

      Bottom line is right now Classic is the breadwinner at Blizzard. Regardless of what plans they thought they had prior to launch, if they outright ignore the title making them the most money, they truly are New Blizzard dumb.

      • Kring says:

        Also, everyone who resubbed early for name reservation is not part of the 223% because they had to resub in July

        • Esteban says:

          Eh? Unless I’m missing something, you just had to have an active sub (so an August sub contributing to August revenue) on August 12th.

      • Dobablo says:

        The servers still being high/full just tells you that Blizzard have been reducing the number of layers, which they confirmed yesterday.

        • SynCaine says:

          Do you have a link to where they say they reduced layers because player pop is down? The post I saw talked about players spreading out from the starting areas, hence the reduced need for layers.

  2. Kring says:

    What if the great design of vanilla is that you actually could finish it?

    Most people didn’t raid. Vanilla wasn’t a treadmill, it was a grind to reach an end. Run some dungeons, fish some fish and be done with that character. Then, if you want some more, start a new game plus with an alt.

    Is new content for Classic even possible in the mindset of the great Vanilla design?

    Would you really be interested to take your raid geared rogue back to a new zone to quest for 4 hours for some vendor trash green sword? Updates like Silithus was stuff to keep us busy. We went there for the rewards. But was it actually fun? I don’t think so. The best content was all there from the beginning. Sure, Dire Maul is an awesome dungeon but it wasn’t a BRD or BRS.

    New dungeons? Sure, as long as they don’t go down the mechanic route. I didn’t play WoW for years because I actually wanted to play as a dragon in a dungeon, I played WoW because I actually wanted to play my warlock. But what about rewards? They either obsolete raids or other dungeons.

    New raids? More powerful gear then Naxx? Seriously? That obsoletes everything the world has.

    New raids/dungeons with off-/meme-spec gear? Sounds good, but why would a warrior tank run a raid that only drops ret pala and moonkin gear?

    Do you want your classes reworked every 2 year? Like “hey, btw you forgot how to cash shadow bolt, enjoy your stupid fire thing”. Can you break immersion and attachment to your char even more then they do with their add-ons?

    That only leaves new races and new classes for a different new game plus experience.

    • bhagpuss says:

      That’s only one model of what an expansion can be. One of the most popular and successful expansions for any MMORPG, EverQuest’s “Ruins of Kunark” effectively added a complete new game in the format of the original to what was already there. It didn’t just add a new race and starting city but the entire level range of zones and dungeons to go with it, plus a level cap increase as the cherry on top.

      Scars of Velious, the equally excellent expansion that followed, added a huge amount of content in the mid-levels, starting around the low thirties. The third expansion, Shadows of Luclin, repeated what Kunark had done with a new race and a full, new set of zones going all the way through the level range.

      This was the period in which EQ’s playerbase grew continually. By providing effective new starts with each expansion the game was able to both re-ignite the passion of current players and offer an on-board option for newcomers. It was also the period of new servers popping up regularly to meet demand so the chance for a fresh start on an even playing field was covered two ways.

      Expansions don’t have to keep adding at the top, like the famous treehouse that began with 13 storeys and now has 117. They can fatten the middle and grow to the sides. They also don’t need to have a full gear reset every time. New systems and options that previously didn’t exist in the game can cover that. What expansions need to do is offer current players something interesting and absorbing to do for six to twelve months and provide a way into the game for new players.

      It’s not like it hasn’t been done before and done well.

    • SynCaine says:

      Just to add to what Bhag already said, and I agree with, Classic still has plenty of content gaps that can be filled. Ideally there should be a dungeon or two every 5 levels. Ideally every level range should have 2-3 zones as an option. Raid progression doesn’t have to be single raid; make a second raid that’s at MC difficulty, then a second raid that’s BWL difficulty, etc.

      Just add ‘more’. Blizzard made the mistake starting with WotLK in not just adding ‘new’, but replacing the ‘old’. You don’t need to (and usually shouldn’t) do that in an MMO.

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