So the buzz is comming up on the internet forums, in magazines, podcasts, youtube reports and the likes, and people are awaiting the comming Blizzcon for news or statements.
Apparently, rumours sprang up on the recent E3 convention that Blizzard has made the decision to `stop developing` the world of Azeroth (for now?) and that the creative minds of the company will start focussing on the next `big project`.
Being a more or less dedicated gamer, this was, well, not the happiest of rumours I heard, and let`s compile what I read left or right. Mind you, this is not a 100% official newsitem, these are just rumours and stuff picked up left and right.
Lets start with the facts.
1. Subscriptions are going down for the first time. Even with the release of Cataclysm, they lost over a million subscribers the past year, dropping from 12.5 million to 11.4 million... which is still a humongous lot thank you very much.
2. The technology has passed by. This is something many independant sources like magazines agree on, the game is great, though perhaps it got a little to simplified (or `nerfed` to use community slang), killing of a lot of challenge for the dedicated few in order to cater the big masses. Not a bad thing of course, but it might explain a part of fact 1.
Graphics and performance are getting dated, the cartoony style is still great, but you can reach maximum performance on a regular computer. Again, not something the masses lie awake about, but in the harsh business of PC technology and gamedesign, standing still equals going backwards.
3. Money. Yep, this is a factor for some. Especcially in the european hemisphere, with lot of countries hit big time by recessions (Greece, Portugal, ...) people opt to go for MMO`s `equal` to WoW in style, play and quality (things like for example Runes of Magic) but whom are Free to Play, aka do not need a subscription.
4. The Competition is Going to Hit Hard. This is also something a lot of sources agree about, magazines like PC Gameplay and the likes, the comming half year is going to hurt the subscription numbers of World of Warcraft. Prognoses apparently speak of a drop ranging from `under 10 million` to `about losing 5 million`. Okay, seeing is believing, but still, with 5 million subscribers, you still would be one of the big, if not THE big player on the market.
The competition feared? First, Q4 will see the much anticipated release of The Old Republic, the MMORPG set in the Star Wars universe and developed by BioWare (no slouches there). Their ambitions are sky high though, so it will have to be seen if they can live up to it. Secondly, Q1 2012 will see the one game that has actually realy hurt WoW in the early days, the return of NBCsoft`s Guild Wars in it`s second incarnation. The risk they take though is by using `dynamic encounters`, a thing that flopped big time with Warhammer Online. On the other hand, the graphics look amazing like they where back in the days with the first GW, even though you didn`t need a supercomputer back then neither.
Which brings us to the second part, namely the rumours of what is going to be happening?
1. It seems they are planning on going to release Starcraft Online, apparently the follow up of WoW instead of a pure `wow 2`. With both franchises Blizzard holds pure gold, and by rotating this can only increase their company strength.
2. The creativity is spend. You can only recycle so many quests or instances (Heroic Deadmines?) or bosses, with Ragnaros recently been transferred from lvl 60 to lvl 85 content with the Firelands patch. Reptition, even no matter how pretty it is dressed up, starts to get boring after a while, and we don`t want a pure grind only game like the first Everquest ended with after all. Also, Fire Druids? Come on Blizz...
3. Merging of Servers? A rumour going around is that various servers over the course of the comming years (the end is not THAT near, put that gun back down from your temple) will start merging should populations start to decrease, ending up in a few years perhaps with liek one dedicated server for each `play method` (rpg, pvp, etc etc...). Maybe this will lead to a Free to Play like Lord of the Rings online in the long run?
4. Dates? Apparently, the plan is for Starcraft to hit the market in about 2 years time. We will probably be looking for one last WoW release then, if they stay true to the schedule of one major expansion each two years. Last year it was Cataclysm, this year it`s the Zerg expansion for Starcraft, so probably next year then? Question though is, the lore is as good as exhausted. Of course, being their property they can expand and rebuild what they want (like Cataclysm wiped away 5 years of memories for the veterans), but one must walk a fine line between `keeping touch with history`and `rewriting history`.
I would miss the game though, I have spend many a year and many a euro into it, got to know a lot of nice people and slept way to less to be healthy. However, I`m going to look the cat out of the tree though. I just got my pc back, and I think I`m going to hold on with reinstalling the massive game WoW is `till after Blizzcon and any news of these rumours, wether they be denials or confirmations.
Yes, I pre-ordered The Old Republic. Yes, I pre-ordered Guild Wars 2. yes, I can play various games at a time, i don`t toggle on and off subscriptions, I just want to play what I feel like when I feel like it...
Let`s wait in anticipation now of more news, and keep pouring and scouring the net... and in the meantime, I might even get some miniatures painted teeheehee