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J. Allen Brack on the World of Warcraft Social Experience
06/05/2020 à 01:35
Last week, former Blizzard Entertainment president Mike Morhaime stated that World of Warcraft has become
less social in an effort to become more accessible
over the years, sparking a series of opinions and debates around the subject. Former Systems Lead
Ghostcrawler pointed out
that the landscape has changed considerably over the last 15 years, with WoW being the first and only social gaming experience for many people at the time, though the Q&A portion of the
Activision-Blizzard Q1 2020 Earnings Call
earlier today presented yet another perspective.
While the context of the question was actually in reference to sustaining subscriber trends, the response almost certainly had Morhaime's comment in mind as current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack asserted that World of Warcraft is just as social as the day it launched.
J. Allen Brack
I want take a step back and just say we're really thankful that our games are able to play a part in how they bring people together during what's really an unprecedented and challenging time for us all. World of Warcraft has been fortunate to be engineered as a very social experience, and that's as true today as the day we launched. Over time, we've listened to feedback from the community, and the game has evolved to what we now call the "modern game," which has really expanded the breadth and the depth of gameplay, as well as making it easier to kind of find friends, group up, make progress, or play alone, all within the social environment.
At the same time, we've seen a lot of good work for players returning to the Classic WoW experience. So today we think about World of Warcraft as a single community, under one subscription, where players can enjoy both WoW Classic and modern WoW, and we've released a steady stream of content for both. A variety of different experiences has always always been a strength of the game.
Now everyone will have a different idea of what a "social experience" means, and in many ways, J. Allen Brack is correct - a mythic raider is likely to still engage in a lot of social aspects with their guild, in raids, mythic+, possibly PvP, and more. The game may make it
(aka more accessible) to do those things, but it still absolutely encourages and rewards you for engaging with other players while doing so. What the game doesn't do, and the main difference from Classic, is
you to be social in order to engage in those activities whatsoever, and that's an extremely important distinction because for one not everyone wants to be social 24/7, but it also reduces the barrier for entry, which in turn encourages a larger overall playerbase.
Vanilla/Classic WoW doesn't give you many options - a lot less content is soloable and virtually any group content requires engagement... and that's good in many ways, but it's also more difficult - it can sometimes take hours to form groups, which fall apart as soon as someone decides to leave, there aren't multiple difficulties for more or less hardcore players, and you're really only given one way (for the most part) to do things. So called "modern WoW", or what we typically refer to as retail, presents many more options - less ambitious or time-constrained players can queue into LFR or join matchmade groups, but they typically don't get into the highest form of content doing that either - for the high end player the game still retains those social demands; you might manage to get into a high end raid guild or Mythic+ push group without engaging with those people regularly, but it's pretty rare.
In many ways, you could even argue that WoW has evolved to become even more social, just not all within the game itself. Many Discord servers are gargantuan communities of players brought together by the game, with the largest clocking in at around 100,000 members discussing the game in real-time, a concept completely unheard of in 2004 in which most communication took place on the game forums. There are many more theorycrafting groups, discord channels, news sites, communities, forums, optimization tools, guides, twitch streams, and youtube channels than at any point in the game's history, so there's definitely a social aspect to WoW, it's simply spread out across more mediums than just the game itself. Even Battle.net chat is a vast improvement in communicating with friends and fellow players over having to be in the same region, on the same server, in the same faction, and online at the same time in order to talk to or play with one another.
So again, it depends on your perspective. World of Warcraft isn't the only thing that has evolved in the 15 years since its release - players and the tools they use have as well. While the social aspect might not be as required as it was before and it's completely possible to get through the majority of the game without experiencing it whatsoever, it still very much exists for those who look for it and seek to get the most out of the game.
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