Blizzard’s WoW | Hopes and Fears for the Future

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If you enjoyed playing Blizzard’s popular MMORPG ‘World of Warcraft’ and longed for the days when you could take a jaunt into Southshore and kill the Horde or Alliance to your heart’s content, then you would have found a place to call home on the Nostalrius servers. It seems that over 800,000 users registered with the server and 150,000 currently active users agreed that the latest World of Warcraft iteration ‘Warlords of Draenor’ is not a patch on the original experience. An experience that is no longer a playable option through the official Blizzard servers.

In fact, since the ‘Cataclysm’ expansion much of the original Azeroth was changed beyond recognition. In some ways, this was an improvement as it freshened up the levelling experience for those who had been playing for a long time and were levelling up yet another ‘alt’ character through the same old content that they had done a million other times before. However, they didn’t just change the content they started to change the talent tree systems, and also made the levelling experience into a speedy hand-held race to the end level content which was achievable in a matter of a few days in play time. A lot of old school players disliked this and, as the falling subscription numbers confirm, Blizzard started to haemorrhage paying subscribers.

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One alternative for these players was to look to go for a private server which is run independent of Blizzard and is run by a community of volunteers. Now some may argue about piracy and the fact that these users were not actively paying a subscription to Blizzard which is essentially true but they were not paying anything to Nostalrius to play on their server either. It was a community led ‘preservation’ effort to allow people to play a game they loved and keep their interest and community alive. In fact there are servers available that cover each separate expansion so that you can choose which particular version of Blizzard’s worlds you want to play in.

In fact my own experience with World of Warcraft started on one of these private servers as I didn’t know whether I would like the game or not. I played on that server for a few months and decided I liked it so I moved over to the retail servers through Blizzard and purchased a subscription along with my wife and we stayed paying our monthly fees right up until Warlords of Draenor. In total that was around £30 per month for both of us for the duration of approximately 7 years. I can definitely say that I would never have done that if I hadn’t sampled the private server first.

It seems to me a bit suspicious that Blizzard chose this particular time to tackle this group of private servers, as they have essentially turned a blind eye to them for a number of years. Now, with a movie being released soon, a new expansion on the horizon and the creation of ‘Classic Battle.Net’ (The platform to play legacy Blizzard titles such as Diablo II, Warcraft III and Starcraft) could Blizzard be eyeing up the release of legacy servers to entice back some of the subscribers they have lost from the peak of 12 million 5 years ago to the current all-time low of 5.5 million? It would certainly make sense from a business standpoint to entice some of the old nostalgic players back at a time when you are releasing new content to pique curiosity and hope that they jump ship to the current expansion. It does seem however that they also run the risk of alienating a substantial player base that loved and cared about one of their franchises enough to keep the nostalgia alive and to allow others to join in with an experience that would otherwise have been lost forever.

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Am I saying that all of these servers are run in a completely legitimate way with no money changing hands between players and server owners? No, I am not that naive and there will be some shady practices going on out there which Blizzard has the right to chase down to serve notices upon. I can’t help but think that it would have been far more worth their while to work with the community and try to build on what was already established instead of shutting it down. Instead, they are forcing the people who enjoyed the original experience to either play the cut-down and scaled back non-community driven version of WoW that exists in the current expansion, or allow the game they invested so much time and effort into, to turn to a forgotten memory. In any case, the cease and desist notice means that Nostalrius servers will be no more on April 10th of this year. Maybe we will see Blizzard roll-out legacy servers? if they did I would be tempted to check it out for nostalgia sake but would it encourage me to progress through all of the content they have to offer? I doubt it very much as the sense of community just isn’t the same as it used to be.