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All Things Warcraft: A More Social WoW

Columns By Reza Lackey on February 16, 2015

A More Social WoW

This week we check in on some numbers for World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. We also see what it takes to bring social aspects back to WoW.

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Numbers

Blizzard recently had their Q4 2014 earnings call and released some great numbers. First, World of Warcraft is holding strong with over 10 Million subscribers. While this number is likely to fall as it has done after the release of all past expansions, it’ll be interesting to see how much and how fast the numbers change as Warlords content continues to roll out.

Hearthstone was revealed to have over 24 million registered users and together with Destiny, have earned $450 million in revenue. It’s unclear how that revenue is split between the two games exactly but I am sure that a hefty chunk of it was earned by Hearthstone. I am not surprised by this fact at all.

Mobile Hearthstone

Hearthstone is no doubt bringing in some big bucks as evidenced above and it’s popularity is not slowing down. In fact, it’s going to blow up all over again. We know that Blizzard is hard at work on mobile versions of the game for both iOS and Android devices beyond what is already supported on tablets. When Hearthstone hits our phones a whole new audience is going to emerge. For anyone who’s played it you know how simple and easy to learn the game is. You also know how addictive it is and how bad you want to open that next pack of cards. When this game hits the devices of people who don’t normally game on tablets or desktop machines they’ll finally get a chance to try it. And for those of us who have already been playing it, having the game on our phones will make it even easier to squeeze in more games nearly anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been waiting somewhere wishing I could work on a deck, much less play a game. You could even log in and spectate a friends game if you don’t think you’ll have enough time to finish a game of your own.

So, when exactly will we see Hearthstone on mobile? Hopefully soon! There really is no timeframe in place that we know of. Late last year Blizzard publicly mentioned that this version was being delayed so they could make it the best experience possible on smaller screens. There wasn’t even mention of it at Blizzcon other than them being hard at work on it. But when it does become available, you can bet the world will know.

On Being Social

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how some MMO’s, World of Warcraft included, have lost many aspects of being a social game. In most cases an argument can be made that these games can feel very much like a single player experience where social interaction isn’t abundant. Let’s focus on WoW specifically. With the introduction of Garrisons, many players spend most of their time secluded in their own fortress when not running raids, dungeons, battlegrounds, arenas or questing. These examples of reasons to leave your garrison all have one thing in common: they’re great opportunities to be social!

Let’s look at a time before Garrisons. Professions used to be a large reason to “force” social interaction. Looking for an enchanter or rogue to open a lockbox, for example. Often times this interaction amounted to no more than spamming a chat channel and then thanking the player that helped you out before being on your merry way. Not very exciting.

Forcing player interaction through game systems is a double-edged sword - a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Using the example of an enchanter, Blizzard made it possible for enchanters to make and sell enchants on the auction house eliminating most of the need to find a player to directly enchant an item. Still not exciting, but now more convenient.

In both cases, you’ll find players who complaining about it. Needing to find someone to enchant their new weapon or that they can buy the same enchantment on the auction house without the need to find another player. What it all boils down to is a convenience vs. “forced” social interaction problem.

So what have Garrisons done? They’ve given players a lot more to do on their own outside of the adventuring world. You can see a clear indication of this by visiting a major city. The population of players at any given time is a lot less than it was before Garrisons were introduced. In this case we’re faced with another double-edged sword. Players have been beating Blizzard over the head for years to introduce player housing and now that it’s arrived above and beyond anyone's expectations, players are complaining that we’re spending too much time in them.

The solution to making the game more social is not to remove Garrisons or to re-tool professions so that they require direct communication with other players. The solution is far more simple: be more social. The examples I cited earlier are where players spend a majority of their time when they’re not in their Garrison (Dungeons, Battlegrounds, etc.). So when you’re not tending to the needs of your stronghold, be more social!

I’ve written about this topic several times in this column about how you can have a more rewarding gameplay session when you’re actively more social. When you’re running a dungeon, say hello to your party and ask how they’re doing instead of running the entire thing in silence. You’d be surprised how far a simple “hello” can take you. I implore you to start conversations with other adventurers that cross your path. I’ve met so many great players in the game by using this very simple method. I’ve been playing with some of these people for a very long time and continue to meet new players who find their way onto my friends list.

So the next time you see someone complain that the game isn’t social and more of a single-player experience, ask them how social they are. Odds are they’re doing very little to make the experience what they want.

How do you feel Garrisons have impacted the social aspects of the game? Let us know in the comments below!