WoW Design Improvements: Conclusion

This article is part 7 of 8 in the series WoW Design Improvements
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If you’ve followed my series on the design mistakes of World of Warcraft, you’ll likely have noticed that I haven’t spoken a single word of criticism about the game’s mechanics. Truth be told, there are things that could be tweaked here and there, but I get the impression that not only do things work very smoothly in that department, they also are pretty much what Blizzard set out to do.

I’ve criticized the game from a completely different angle, which you might have noticed by the word I repeated over and over again: community.

It’s my opinion – and that’s an point of view that I got convinced of by experience and reading an outstanding book on the topic – that World of Warcraft is not only a game, it’s a virtual world, and hence a place where people meet. The fact that it was designed to be a game is almost circumstantial compared to the fact that this place now houses 7 million1 or more people.

7 million people. That’s the population of a major city, around the size of London and New York, and certainly a group large enough to develop social dynamics quite outside of the scope of a few software engineers, graphics artists, sound engineers and game writers to predict. That’s also a lot of subscription fees you do not want to lose.

With that number of subscribers, it’s no wonder that Blizzard have announced their intent to update the game regularly, adding content and – so the rumour goes – upgrading graphics as well. The last I know, they intended to publish at least one major expansion per year. What I read between the lines is, that the next-gen MMO they’re hiring for is not a sequel to WoW, because unless they messed up their code to the point where a redevelopment is required, they’ll be able to upgrade WoW for a few years to come2, and will want to do so.

So let’s assume that WoW will live for several years still. How do you keep people interested for that long?

  1. That’s the last number I bothered to find on Google, it could well be a lot more by now. []
  2. Of course, Blizzard take infamously long for each of their games, so they might just be planning for a WoW2 in 5+ years time. My main point remains, however. []