The other day a few of us on Twitter got into a brief discussion speculating on the future of World of Warcraft. Belghast thought that Shadowlands might be the perfect transit to bridge between the current game and a proposed sequel, where our characters would “wake up” in a new era and new game world.
It’s an interesting thought, but I’m not really seeing a need or a possibility for World of Warcraft 2 to happen. I am usually cagey on MMO sequels to begin with, because they don’t happen quite as often as you might think, but they’re put out there by the community as this sort of magical balm that’ll take out the crud of the current game while carefully preserving every aspect that they love about it, and then package it up in better graphics.
Do you see this happening with Blizzard and World of Warcraft? I seriously can’t. The studio doesn’t work at a fast pace, you might have noticed, and the original WoW took over a half-decade to make. There have been no rumors that the studio is doing another MMO, nevermind a WoW 2, so such a project would be a long, long way off if they decided that it should happen. And that decision would have to come on top of supporting TWO World of Warcrafts, with a third (Burning Crusade Classic) presumably coming next year.
With Titan’s cancellation a while back, I generally think that Blizzard isn’t interested in doing any MMORPGs past World of Warcraft, and only that as long as it’s profitable.
So what might the future of WoW look like, then? Honestly, it’s hard to imagine past a couple of years out. Blizzard’s in uncharted territory for itself with WoW, having never actively developed for a game this long. There aren’t any other titles in its catalog that have as many expansions.
But I think we see signs that there are some long-term plans. For starters, the dev team has mentioned in the past many different ideas for expansion packs, which at least suggests that the well of ideas has not yet run dry.
For another thing, the leveling revamp we’re getting during this month’s pre-patch looks like it’s restructuring the game for the future. Instead of continuing to slide expansion on top of expansion like a jenga tower, players now have the ability to pick just one expansion to play as the meat of leveling, and then go into the most recent expansion after that. A two-expansion MMO, infinitely expandable with that format. And the level squish certainly gives Blizz years of adding “another 10 levels” for subsequent expansions until we’re at 100 and beyond.
The game continues to update its looks and performance options, which keeps it from looking dated. I’m really excited about the new character customization options, for example. Those were sorely needed and a good way to freshen up the looks of our avatars.
Obviously, I have my personal wish list of what I’d like to see with future expansions. And at the top of that list is housing, under which are things like “permanent character growth systems,” “additional talent rows,” and maybe a revamp of Northrend and Outland. Over all that, I just want the game to keep on being actively developed. The day Blizz says that it’s pretty much putting WoW in maintenance mode will be a sad day indeed, because at that point we’ll see the end coming. I’d like to forestall that as long as possible.