Occasionally, this game grants an epiphany, that redefines what you are within it. With 7.2.5 came one of those for me, the like of which has quite significantly redefined how I view not simply Azeroth, but all the games in ActiBlizz’s ever increasing portfolio.
When exactly did Warcraft stop being an MMO and become a ‘Universe’?
That’s an easy question to answer: March 11th, 2014. That’s when Blizzard used the Warcraft ‘name’ and major characters within to launch a second franchise based around it, but quite clearly not the same. There is an argument for stating that the MMO itself was created from the RTS Universe, and if you wanna use that as your start point, you’re going all the way back to 1994. However, that 20 year gap is significant, at least in terms of how the world was willing to embrace the Warcraft ‘concept’. Yes, WoW remains an MMO, but it has the honour of spawning so much else from that start point that really, truthfully, the Warcraft Universe is as acceptable a concept as DC’s and Marvel’s in the current climate. All three have games, movies, print media and (shortly in Warcraft’s case) TV shows as evidence of their domination, quite apart from merchandise and conventions dedicated to them.
Hang on, did you say a Warcraft TV series?
Okay, so I’m talking Overwatch and NOT Warcraft, and many will argue that’s like comparing apples to oranges, but the fact remains that this first person shooter is still part of the Warcraft Universe. It wouldn’t have come into being without Warcraft’s success, was worked on (and still is) by many people who were involved with Azeroth at some stage. There are, undoubtedly, many elements of WoW that influence the UI, as is the case with Diablo and Starcraft, though clearly they are both set in vastly different narrative frameworks. The purists amongst you will already be arguing my theory is on shaky ground here, were it not for one title as yet not mentioned which acts as the crossover threshold between all the disparate strands… a Nexus, if you will, for all the themes and characters coming together in one, cohesive arena.
Heroes of the Storm, released in 2015, was probably the moment when the Universe was properly defined. By acknowledging that these characters can (and do) all exist alongside each other, regardless of their separate narrative affiliations, Warcraft truly became a brand. Suddenly there was a means to play all your favourite characters in one place, but still make money for the company as you did. This was probably also the moment that Activision Blizzard accepted that the future wasn’t just Starcraft in the Far east or Warcraft at Blizzcon. The source material could be anything, not simply Azeroth, and if people were prepared to buy into the concept, anything was possible. From this point we have seen the rapid expansion of merchandise lines, mobile gaming and the remastering of classic titles. This was the moment when that Universe finally became a reality.
Even if I’m not a player of other games, or a believer in the current state of narrative development, I very much remain a part of this Universe. I’m happy to be here too, no issues with the content provided on that front. Understanding their audience is never an issue ActiBlizz has suffered with: all this is very much part of a far larger plan. With esports, Twitch and Facebook deals plus more mobile titles inevitably forthcoming, this is a Universe that will only expand further over time.
The possibilities are indeed endless.