Does lore show WoW’s decline?

Update: I think I did a poor job phrasing myself since people seem to be taking it differently than my intention everywhere I have this post up.

What I’m asking with the post is this: do you think Blizzard’s willingness to stray from the lore is a sign that they’re willing to let things slide to meet player demand and keep/pull back subcribers?

They used to make excused based on things not “fitting with the lore.” Now that WoW is showing it’s age, more and more things are being allowed. I’m not saying it’s good or bad or that lore has anything to do with rises or falls in subscriber numbers. I’m focusing on flexing the lore as a sign and not a cause.

Hope that clears it up.

As Cataclysm approaches, I’ve noticed more forum posts popping up around the internet about possible “lore breaks.” Most of these issues deal with the new playable races, Goblin and Worgen. The general vein of these complaints seems to be that it’s just too far fetched for either of these factions to be joining the Horde and Alliance.

I’m not a big lore buff but it’s not hard to see that, for Goblins especially, their move isn’t fitting with the current world. What we have is an example of fitting the lore around the game instead of the game around the lore. That little idea got me thinking about two states we’re likely to see in MMORPGs and what they might tell about their future. WoW is right there, so tell me what you think.

Game for the Sake of World

In this state, a game exists for fun and to present a coherent, well plotted, story. Changes to the game are put through a “lore filter” to make sure they’re appropriate for the setting and not lore-breaking. Though changes to gameplay occur, there is an increased emphasis on the setting players are adventuring in. Possibly fun changes are set aside to preserve and keep the lore.

During this state, a game is likely to be in the retention and slow-trickle subscriber gain phase. The company is sticking to their guns, first and foremost, and hope to earn the player’s respect.

This would be the state of WoW before any expansion. Coming from a best-selling RTS series, Warcraft was an established IP with set lore. Class/race combinations were limited to fit with that lore, along with NPC actions, alliances, factions, encounters, the whole nine. Blizzard denied several changes based upon lore during this stage and after.

World for the Sake of Game

Here, on the other hand, we see changes made to a game simply because they’re fun. Lore is rewritten or changed to fit changes players want. Story and context take a back seat to player demand. In this state, the game retains a coherent story but isn’t afraid to put it to the side here and there.

This is the phase where the parent company is likely trying to gain new subscribers. It is the “look what we have” phase where “what players want” is provided and advertised.

This would be the state of WoW now, leading up to the Cataclysm. Context matters but not as much as it used to. Blizzard will focus on continuing the story and doing their best to keep the world intact, but if they have to bend a few rules to provide something fun, they’ll do it.

I fall somewhere in between those two ideals but what I’m really looking to question is what phase we feel WoW is in. I would certainly think it’s the latter, as the new race/class allowances are a clear cut example of something they never did for the sake of preserving game lore. Now that WoW’s showing its age and having to compete with an ever increasing tide of new titles? Times change and Goblins turn Horde.

As WoW turns from World to Game, the emphasis must be on gaining new subscribers. Is that because they want to expand past their 11 million or to get back the players who’ve moved on to other games, I wonder. After all, those thousands mean a whole lot more when your game drops from 11 million players down four or five.

More importantly, is this shift an acknowledgment that WoW isn’t the earner it used to be?

After five years, and 6-7 million lost subscribers, I’d probably say yes. But, what do I know.

11 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. /AFK – November 8 « Bio Break

    […] Chris re: WoW – “What we have is an example of fitting the lore around the game instead of the game around the lore.” […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge