In an interview at the GamesBeat Summit 2020, former Blizzard President and co-founder Mike Morhaime spoke to New York Times reporter Seth Schiesel about his career, and how shared experiences are key to gaming success. During the chat, Morhaime touched on World of Warcraft and the declining popularity of the MMO genre in general.
In the fireside chat, Scheisel and Morhaime touched on industry trends shaping games today, as well as reminisced on the biggest game of his career - World of Warcraft. Morhaime mentions how he was "amazed" at how popular the game was, attributing its initial successes to the social aspects of the experience.
"I remember when we were working on World of Warcraft. One of the things I was amazed about was the initial popularity of that game. I thought that making a MMORPG, that we were at least in the beginning going to reach a smaller audience and have to grow from there. And right off the bat, the curve was just a lot steeper than I ever imagined. My takeaway from that was that World of Warcraft was the most social of all of our games to that point, because you had groups of people experiencing that together.”
However, as the interview goes on, he touched on a topic that has ruminated throughout MMORPG communities for years now: the decine of the genre. Traditional MMORPGs simply are not as popular as the more streamlined experiences today. Morhaime mentions that he believes they aren't as popular as it once was because other types of games are "able to capture the social experience even more." When asked about why traditional MMOs aren't as popular anymore, Morhaime speculated it has to do with accessibility and time investment.
"I think that's a question of accessibility and time investment. I wouldn't say that MMOs wouldn't have a resurgence in the future, but maybe there are other types of games that are able to capture the social experience even more. I would also just observe that as World of Warcraft evolved over the years, it actually kind of became less social, because in an effort to achieve more accessibility, we removed some o the reasons why you need to play with the same groupof people over and over."
When asked by Sheisel how Morhaime felt about it, the former Blizzard president responded simply:
"I think it takes away some of the reasons for some people why they play, and why they might want to continue to play."
The entire interview is incredibly interesting and worth listening to, especially with these thoughts and notes coming from someone who was so involved in helping create the modern MMO genre during its golden years. You can check out the full 30-minute interview in the YouTube embed below.