As a gamer for many years now it is fun to follow trends in gaming. They are trends that we all fall prey too. As Pokemon Go waves over us like a tsunami it is important to remember how and why good games continue and some games fail even though they have great ideas behind them. I wanted to use Magic The Gathering as a solid example and then draw conclusions from what World of Warcraft is doing with Draenor and now Legion. See MMOs are always fun to play together, but many of them have such huge worlds and such deep learning curves, it is impossible to get started in them once you fall behind. Magic and WoW seem to have found a solid formula to combat the death of MMOs and here is how it works.
If you look at Magic’s tournament format you will see that they host a very different set of rules for each type of Tournament. The Standard Magic rules for any tournament are limited to sets of cards that were released within the last two years or so. This format is the most up to date and allows any player to pick up the most recent sets of Magic to enter a contest and be competitive without having to rely on that one card of doom from the distant past. You have the same play set as everyone else out there. The Modern format of rules goes back a little ways and opens up options for older card sets dating back all the way to 2010. This is a wider net for more advanced players and keeps the doors open to a more hardcore audience. It is when you get into the Legacy and Vintage tournaments that you see the truly hardcore twenty year veterans pull out all the stops. Even power nine cards show up in these tournaments and they are fun to watch for any Magic player but especially that group who had been around since 1993. Yes I am old and one of that group.
Blizzard recently mentioned that Hearthstone would most likely have to follow a similar route. Where older sets of cards would eventually be categorized into a format that allowed for certain limitations on game play. So, follow along for a minute, take that same mentality and apply it to an MMO.
World of Warcraft is allowing a full character boost to 100 with any pre-order of Legion. That was a similar concept in Draenor at 90 so that basically you could actually go back and play with your friends. I know countless people who had played WoW in the past and dropped out at different times. For me it was a simple trend, OG WoW I was hardcore all through raiding. Burning Crusade I fell off for a long time to play other MMOs. With Lich King I was sucked back in and played all my characters back up to 80. Then Cataclysm came out, I leveled, I got to instances and immediately fell off the wagon again because of the changes they made. Panderia was a gorgeous expansion, but just never caught my attention much past the initial few weeks. Once Draenor was shown at Blizzcon, I was sold. Orcs back in the fray and a character boost to 90! My son was now old enough to play and we were in for the expansion all the way to 100.
So here we are with Legion, players most likely had a similar journey as I did. They were in Warcraft and out of Warcraft several times throughout its lifetime. It was always the getting back in that made you shiver at the time and energy it would take to rejoin. However, Blizzard is adopting a concept similar to Wizards of the Coast with their Magic tournament design. Now, you can jump in and play Legion at 100 and start a Demon Hunter at 98. So, buying the expansion gives you two full characters to enjoy! Players can join the game in its current phase and have a good time. Even with their hardcore friends who have stuck with it over the years. Offering rewards or reasons to go back and do other quests in different time lines even expands the content for players similar to an older Magic tournament. The game suddenly becomes inclusive rather than exclusive. It all just depends on the tier you wish to play.
This does support the HUGE argument over why Blizzard needs to desperately create a World of Warcraft legacy server that will bring the old players back to WoW day one. In Magic tournaments Vintage and Legacy games are hugely popular. There is no reason why Blizzard could not fully cash in on the nostalgia factor. If they feel like it would take away from the current game, it shouldn’t at all. If anything it is a reward to older players who enjoyed that time. The formula was a huge success for Runescape. It would be a huge success for WoW. I mean really, the illegal legacy server had 30,000 players… c’mon Blizzard you can do it! Make the announcement at Blizzcon for all of us!
This is a formula that other MMOs need to adopt and quickly. Make your game playable to everyone in its current form rather than forcing players to go back and start at the beginning. As MMOs are seeing a renaissance on consoles it is time to add in these player friendly elements to bring in older fans and new audience members to make things easy. Just like Magic created a tournament format to allow anyone to compete. It is time MMOs created a format to allow anyone to play together. This is why both games continue to excel and remain strong. We’re all looking forward to Legion this summer. Now we just need a legacy server and WoW will be complete.