World of Warcraft's competitive and casual PvP is in the doldrums right now for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the Legion stat templates. Recently, however, Blizzard introduced a new angle on WoW's eSports scene with the Mythic+ Invitational, a PvE based event. Is it possible that this is the future for WoW eSports?
Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? World of Warcraft PvP is in a bad spot right now. It doesn’t take very long watching Twitch streams to notice two things right off the bat: 1) There aren’t that many PvP streams no matter what time of day you log in; and 2) When you do find an active one to watch (like Bahjeera, for instance), you see the same teams facing off against one another repeatedly over hours of arena game play. The match always plays out the same too: Smack each other around with big damage and a lot of pillar humping with no possible way to take out another player until dampening (reduced healing) kicks in. Then it’s ZERGZERGGLOBALGLOBALSTUNSTUNDEAD in about 15 seconds.
Twitch is one indicator of the state of WoW’s PvP, but it’s not the only one. Sites that cater to PvP are languishing. Just a cursory look at ArenaJunkies.com, once one of the the “go to” sites for best practices in instanced competitive PvP, reveals a lack of updates in the guides produced and little or no forum activity. Other similar sites are in the doldrums as well.
The bottom line is that competitive ranked PvP in Legion has suffered. Why it has remains to be seen, though many blame stat templates and the inability to min-max characters for structured, instanced PvP activity.
It doesn’t help either that WoW eSports is being eclipsed by tons of other games including its audience being cannibalized by “its own stable-mates”. Overwatch has doubtless taken some of the thunder away from WoW’s competitive scene. With the focus on the Overwatch League and the “training league” and the ability for “just anyone” to rise to fame, it fills the PvP eSports and casual competitive niches in ways that have never been fully realized in WoW. Then, of course, there is the grandaddy of them all in Starcraft, the game that still fills the strategic eSports and casual competitive niches. The question then becomes, “Where does WoW fit into eSports for Blizzard?”
I believe that developers may be turning their eyes away from competitive arena-based PvP and turning to PvE-based competition instead. Blizzard recently introduced the Mythic+ Invitational tournament that started with so-called “normal” players working to score the best times clearing M+ dungeons in order to qualify for the Invitational. Leaderboards went up that allowed players to measure their team’s progress against others. People genuinely seemed to like the idea since everyone has had to
endure playing through M+ dungeons to progress the story, crafting, gearing, etc. Everyone’s had that “HEY! I could do that!” moment when it comes to competitive PvE.
Let’s face it: MMOs for the most part will never be able to compete in competitive professional PvP eSports against the likes of Overwatch or League of Legends or DOTA 2 or any one of a hundred other eSports juggernauts. But MMOs like WoW could become a force in that arena (see what I did there?) by taking the PvE approach. After all, more players in MMOs take part in PvE game play than in PvP so the potential pool of participants and viewers is exponentially larger.
With WoW’s languishing PvP numbers and the increased number of games that simply do PvP eSports better and on a grander scale, it seems like a prudent move to shift the focus away from PvP to more PvE-based eSports.
What do you think? Could competitive PvE be a way for WoW specifically and MMOs generally to stay relevant on the eSports scene? Let us know what you think!