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)