If like some of the people on my Social media timelines, you are dismayed at the return to factional battlelines in the upcoming Expansion, I feel duty bound to point out what I imagine could be a significant reason for this decision, which many long-standing players may completely overlook. Once upon a time, it was Warcraft itself which provided the audience for Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. However, with the runaway success of Overwatch and the effort being put into the esports aspect of that game by ActiBlizz itself, things are changing. Millions of people who have never played Warcraft are now part of the Blizzard ‘family’ for the first time.
For them, being part of a team is a fundamental part of gameplay.
When you consider that this game has more players than Warcraft ever managed at the height of its popularity, it makes a lot of sense that ActiBlizz will want to involve these individuals in other areas of their output. One of the fundamentals which the company sells itself, to the point of using it in Finacial quarter end presentations, is the ability to retain an audience and sell not just one Blizzard game to them, but all of them. So, what’s the most important part of the Overwatch ethos? You pick a character, and then you play against others. There are two factions, and that is the basis on which everything else is based upon.
It is hardly rocket science when all is said and done.
It seems strange that the Battle for Azeroth features ActiBlizz chose to showcase at Blizzcon bear little or no resemblance to the Expansion that preceded it: professions were totally ignored, no mention made of how Followers might evolve or indeed whether any kind of shared communal space would be offered other than faction capitals in the new zones. Instead, the focus was on team games, faction objectives and the complete redefinition of World PvP. Was this because the previous Expansions’ focus failed to attract interest, or simply a concerted effort to attract players to the game already used to playing this kind of content?
Those of us who are long-term subscribers have finally stopped being the primary focus of interest. It is not surprising, on reflection, and the new blood that Azeroth so desperately needs is far more concerned with the business of playing the game purely as is presented. It will be an added bonus should any of us long-term investors decides these new ideas are great… and if we stop playing Warcraft, undoubtedly, we’ll just go to Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm, or even Warcraft Classic (when available.) When you sell your entire modus operandi on retaining customers? Narrative continuity becomes largely irrelevant. What matters more is playability, features and competition.
Perhaps the change in focus in the Battle for Azeroth has nothing to do with upsetting the neutrals. Maybe, just maybe, ActiBlizz wants everybody fighting each other for far more significant reasons…