[WoW] Recycling old content
I'm having a blast at the TBC private server. Some people attribute our delightful remembrance of the past to nostalgia, and our desire to relive those moments as an ultimately futile one. For most people it might be the case, I won't deny that, but what does it tell you, the fact that I feel completely realized in, literally, the past? I would think that it means that the past was rightfully better than the present in the case of the MMO genre.
The MMO genre has evolved into an "alone together" singleplayer theme park from which there seems to be no turning back. Bethesda's latest endeavour is a horrifying mess that bespeaks of the little idea the developers have of what appeals to MMO player and Bethesda's own fans. They are aiming for a WoW-clone, not even from the time WoW was successful; similarly to SW:TOR, they will draw from the current design of WoW, lacking its polish and long career, adding some uninformed features that innovate very little and in the wrong direction.
In this hopeless climate, what can MMO gamers turn to? Perhaps GW2, although I remain sceptic. On the other hand, we've got projects like Psychochild's, who could have been a great contribution to the genre, but that haven't gotten as much attention as they deserve. All other AAA-MMOs are drone-like following a trend that I will never understand, and that has proved to be a failure.
And yet there seems to be some appeal about the solo part of MMOs, as Azuriel and Bernard argue. Nevertheless, I think that catering to that huge demographic that visits an MMO for its singleplayer content will neither give the company as much money as fostering social ties, nor be healthy for the genre itself, which would turn into a three-monther as SWTOR did. I remember the time where solo play was a choice which did not hurt the multiplayer aspects of the game. Having singleplayer (leveling, farming), multiplayer (dungeons, raids, arenas) and alone-together activities (battlegrounds) meant that people who wanted to play alone could do so, as well as those who are more social but need some time for themselves. What we cannot do is espouse the current design which polarises casuals and hardcores and forces most of the playerbase into alone-together activities (LFD, LFR).
The problem is that, although I can think as alone-together MMOs as a valid choice, especially for that demographic that can't participate in the social part of them, there is no such choice when all are designed this way. I wouldn't count EVE, it makes me very uneasy. There are no multiplayer MMOs anymore (some years ago, the epithet would have been redundant, now it is a necessity).
What about old-content servers? Officially supported vanilla, TBC, even Wrath servers. This has been discussed multiple times, and Blizzard would never agree to it because it would mean implicitly admitting that their game has been led astray. Nevertheless, 2.4.3 is their game too, why not offer it along with Cataclysm and everything else? I am certain that it would attract a lot of veterans back into the game. Some of them might give it a try and discard it altogether, as time passes and nothing leaves untarnished, but many others would, like me, enjoy their second ride (as we're talking about MMOs as theme parks). Most of my guildmates at Feenix agree that they would definitely pay a subscription to Blizzard if they would open "nostalgia servers." After all, nothing beats Blizzard's server stability (at least that's what I thought before error 37) and customer support.
What could they win from this deal? There seems to be a much larger number of people who have played WoW but not any more, than people who are currently playing. Some of them are people who have tried the game/genre and didn't find it appealing enough, but many others are veterans who are dissatisfied with the current course of the game. Most of the newest additions to the MMO market are either PvP-centric (GW2), or repeating the model of 3.0+ WoW. I don't know yet what to think of the oddity of The Secret World, but the emphasis placed on the quests makes me suspect of a one-time ride kind of MMO, much like SW:ToR. Another big win for Blizzard would be that these servers could be self-sustained. They wouldn't need to add any content, and shouldn't force any patches in either, to keep the experience the most genuine. The players would have to admit some inconveniences for the sake of not disrupting the experience. For instance, although the double specialization is much cherished, I would not allow it into TBC, just for the sake of immersion. These servers could provide a huge amount of money too if Blizzard implemented paid migrations from older content into newer. Imagine a player who starts in vanilla and, one year later, has finished all the content. She might want to keep advancing with the same character, and could do so paying for a migration into a TBC server. How can Blizzard not hear the ka-ching! of this idea!?
There has to be something that prevents them from carrying out this project. What could be the potential losses? Well, I am not sure about financial losses, but there would be some major consequences to this undertaking. Blizzard would be admitting that their game was more appealing in its earlier versions, and that could finish off the moral of the company. For WoW to keep going, they have to
maintain the illusion follow the idea that what they are doing is the best course for their game. There would be certain difficulties at the pacing of the patches in the nostalgia servers. Nothing that a good brainstorm couldn't solve, nonetheless. Shall they open the servers with all the content, pace it, keep opening new servers for those who missed the first wave? It might be somewhat costly, but I am fairly certain that they would recover their inversion on the first week.
Would you want to see something like this happening? Or do you think that perhaps there will be a messiah-MMO around the corner soon enough?