Today is September 26, which means WoW Classic has been out for exactly a month. Over the course of the past 30 days, the game has taken both the World of Warcraft and gaming communities as a whole by storm. For the first time in what feels like a decade, World of Warcraft is back on top. But is this rekindled success fleeting?
Since the length of a WoW subscription is one month, it’s fair to say that today, one month into Classic’s lifespan, is when we’ll start to see that first wave of players who resubscribed just for Classic either resubscribe again for the month of October or cancel their subscription altogether.
If we think back to the last week of August, Classic WoW was dominating the internet. WoW was feeling more alive than at any point in the past decade, and players were running wild throughout a world that had been untouched for over 12 years.
At the point of Classic’s launch, Blizzard found themselves in a serious win-win scenario. With the overall amount of buzz surrounding the game through the roof, there was no feasible way to Blizzard to walk out of Classic‘s launch at a loss.
Classic appeals to WoW players of old who had played back in 2004 and wanted to have another Vanilla experience. It appeals to modern WoW players who never got to experience the game back in its earliest form. And, it appeals to gamers who never played World of Warcraft at all and see that now is the best time to get into the game with a sudden spike in popularity.
No matter who you are or how you play, Classic WoW has some sort of appeal, whether it be in the form of nostalgia or pure interest, and those selling points led to one of the most successful WoW launches of all time.
But now, that hype and raw excitement is beginning to take a back seat and the actual logistics of the game’s subscriber base are starting to come into the forefront. As the game faces its first test with this first wave of re-subscribers, the question is posed: How will WoW Classic promote longevity and survive into the fall of 2019 and beyond?
For starters, the development team behind WoW Classic needs to start giving players a detailed roadmap of when and how the content in the game’s later phases will be released. This is by miles the best way to keep players’ eyes glued to a product.
As of now, we only know what’s coming in the future, not when it’s coming. Sure, it’s reasonable to estimate when content like Dire Maul, Blackwing Lair, and Ahn’Qiraj will hit the Classic servers based on the original content schedule of Vanilla WoW, but some sort of detailed explanation in the near future (at the very least for Phase 2) would definitely be welcome.
Additionally, it would behoove Blizzard to show off Classic at Blizzcon this fall and seriously promote the game alongside the probable announcement of a new WoW expansion. As Battle for Azeroth nears the end of its lifespan, (which is especially evident with the recent release of Patch 8.2.5) it’s becoming more and more obvious that a new WoW expansion is on the horizon. If Blizzard is serious about maintaining the Classic playerbase, it needs to realize that there are plenty of players who like to experience both Classic and retail WoW. Keeping those entities separate is in the best interest of not only the company’s bottom line, but the player’s use of time, as well.
The launch of Classic exemplified the fact that Blizzard has some sort of idea that this is the case, as Classic hit the market during an extreme lull in BfA’s content cycle. Retail players had plenty of time on their hands and were able to experience both games as a result, even getting the full Classic experience in the process. Moving forward, one of the biggest challenges for Blizzard and World of Warcraft as a whole is going to be balancing the content schedules of the retail and Classic versions of the game.
Sure, it’s important to keep players invested in both games as much possible, but you don’t want to force players’ hands and make them choose one version of the game over the other. Keeping WoW players entertained with content new and old is going to be a serious challenge for Blizzard, as companies don’t want to be competing with themselves when they could be maximizing their efforts instead.
And now, as we move into the second month of the game’s lifespan, keeping the playerbase engaged and interested should be priority number one for the Classic team. When you look back at the BfA launch, the first month was an incredible experience, but the game quickly lost steam from there. Blizzard can’t let that happen again, as even though content updates to BfA brought back players intermittently, the game could have had a much more populous playerbase had content updates and patches come out more smoothly and initially. When games like this are released, the developers have to be careful in regards to how much content they release as they walk a thin line between burning players out and capitalizing on hype.
It would probably be a stretch to suggest that we would see Phase 2 content before Blizzcon, as much of the playerbase hasn’t even come close to reaching max level yet, but to see something new before year’s end wouldn’t be entirely out of the question. The holiday season is a major boon for games, especially in the ways of DLC and extra content.
Regardless of Blizzard’s long term plan, it’s clear that WoW Classic is in a great place right now as the game is still alive and well and carrying a solid playerbase into the relative future. And while today begins the test of re-subscriptions and the gauging of early success, there’s a long way to go until the longevity of the game is truly tested.
Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft