Could a Dragonflight Expansion Save the World of Warcraft
The World of Warcraft massive multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) first released back in November of 2004. It quickly became the most played, and arguably the most successful, MMORPG of all-time. Featuring the classic Warcraft theme (albeit expanded) of Humans vs. Orcs, millions of players around the world subscribed to fight “For the Alliance” or “For the Horde” for nearly two decades.
The World of Warcraft has seen many expansions over its lifetime. The Burning Crusade (2007), Wrath of the Lich King (2008), Cataclysm (2010), Mists of Panderia (2012), Warlords of Draenor (2014), Legion (2016), Battle for Azeroth (2018), and Shadowlands (2018) have introduced everything from new classes, new races, tons of new mechanics and engines, and of course, new lands to explore with new bosses to defeat.
How Things Got So Bad
But as the game grew bigger and bigger, the numerous classes within the game became harder and harder for developers to balance. Priority in later expansions became about developing a core theme-specific mechanic for the expansion while carrying over “features” from previous expansions to fill the content void (ie: “mission tables” where you send followers to do missions for you, first introduced during Warlords of Draenor, continue to be a staple of each new expansion). Class balancing became a “dirty topic”, as classes were always developed for the end game of each expansion and never to actually grow beyond the hard-cap set at the end of each expansion. The result is some classes being overpowered and others horribly under-powered for a majority of the next expansion.
The pivot of the development team from creating an immersive and fun game to appealing to the most casual of gamers resulted in a large influx of players that played semi-regularly while alienating players who started during the original game. This choice was likely at the behest of parent company Activision, who purchased Blizzard Entertainment (the developer of the Warcraft franchise) in 2013, as with any publicly-traded company the profit and bottom-line ends up being the true priority.
A content drought near the end of the Mists of Panderia expansion caused numerous players to drop off. The idea of individual player-owned cities during Warlords of Draenor seemed fun at the outset but ended up being an uninteresting “farmville” chore. Legion took everything for the game in the right direction but the game seemed to self-implode during Battle for Azeroth. The expansion promised a return to Alliance vs. Horde with new features like Island Expeditions but they were quickly abandoned. The latest expansion – Shadowlands – was the final nail in the coffin for many players as the game mechanics felt copy-pasted from previous expansions (ie: same thing but with a new coat of paint) with unfinished zones, gated content progression, and alt (alternative character) unfriendly progression.
All of that – coupled with the booming popularity of Final Fantasy XIV, a rival MMORPG – really put the World of Warcraft game on its heels. As if things couldn’t be bad enough, multiple reports came out of horrible misconduct at the Activision-Blizzard offices including sexual misconduct, harassment, and even suicide due to sexual harassment. The result was many “on the fence” players (such as myself) had finally reached their limit – and my subscription ended after being a paying customer since 2004.
What is Dragonflight
The term “Dragonflight” refers to a family (by color) of dragons. During the original release of the game in 2004, an extra area on the map was planned and even designed titled “The Dragon Isles”, which would be home to the various Dragonflight of the game. Sadly it was cut and never added as work began on the first expansion shortly thereafter. For years fans have expressed a desire to get to explore the Dragon Isles and the game has spent the better half of the last decade teasing a massive influx or return of the various Dragonflights.
Then, on April 2nd 2022, public source code in the World of Warcraft website revealed tiered purchases for the next expansion simply titled “World of Warcraft: Dragonflight”. The same day, leaked expansion art (likely the “box cover”), reaffirmed the discovered code. Popular World of Warcraft website WoWHead.com also revealed months prior a new mount added to the coding of the game that seemed to follow suit as previous store-mounts locked behind expansion purchases (and it was a green dragon).
It would appear that after battling in another dimension, battling evil space demons, battling each other but not really because surprise we’re fighting the guy who made the Lich King, to fighting the guy who made the Lich King in the after-life, our heroes will return home and finally battle with, for, or against the various Dragonflights of Azeroth.
What and When?
World of Warcraft will officially announce the next expansion on April 19th, 2022. Many believe the game will not release until Q1 2023. A swarm of proposed leaks have been hitting the internet since late 2021 but only one leak got the name correct. Said leak also claimed things as far as no new level increase (so the expansion itself is considered end-game), new “micro classes” which are classes with only one specialization, new class skins, and of course, plenty of dragons. None of that is confirmed but fans are excited nevertheless.
Is it enough to bring players back to World of Warcraft? Possibly. As a World of Warcraft veteran, I’ve already prepared myself. Every expansion has been fun for a month or two – especially at launch – and there will likely be a World of Warcraft: Classic – Wrath of the Lich King to keep us going in the meantime. But that’s a whole other article.
Until then – there’s always Final Fantasy XIV, Lost Ark, and New World to play.