About a week ago, I started pondering the question: is Blizzard working on WoW 2 yet? Sure enough, Tobold the resident Nostradamus of the MMO world just posted a thought provoking article on that very subject. The reason I started thinking about it is the fact that Blizzard made over $520 million in profits from WoW in 2007. It’s pretty obvious that they have not invested that money back into WoW given problems such as a disgruntled playerbase, infrequent content updates, ridiculously long expansion development cycle, long-standing server instability, and an understaffed customer service department.
What then are they doing with those profits if they are not being spent on the game? Of course we know they are siphoning off WoW subscribers dollars to fund Starcraft II, Diablo III and a mysterious unannounced console MMO. We also know that Vivendi is using the profits to subsidize their other enterprises. Still, those things don’t account for all of the money. The answer: I honestly believe that the sequel to WoW, World of Warcarft 2 is currently being designed and scoped out if not in some form of pre-production.
History has a funny way of repeating itself in the video game industry. In 2004 before the infamous EverQuest Guild Summit, I penned an open letter to SOE. Among other things, I charged that SOE had purposely gimped EverQuest by taking away precious development dollars and was secretly funding EverQuest 2. This had disastrous ramifications on the quality of EverQuest as their “A” team moved to EQ2 and the original EQ was left with their “B” team who ended up producing their worst expansions in EQ history such as Gates of Discord and Omens of War. Could the same thing be happening right now with WoW?
Here are a few more reasons why I think Blizzard is working on WoW2:
WoW is Morphing into a PVP E-sports Game
Before our eyes, the very nature of WoW is changing from PVE to PVP e-sport. I’ve written extensively on this unfortunate trend. I have a feeling that this is exactly what Blizzard intends to be the future for WoW1. WoW2 will refocus back on PVE again. In the long run, this is probably for the best as I believe both models are incompatible and lack cohesion as currently implemented in WoW1.
Dated Graphic and Game Engine
People will not accept dated graphics indefinitely. Blizzard knows this full well. WoW graphics are based on computer technology circa 2001-2003. Current video cards have made leaps and bounds over what was available back then. By the time WoW2 is ready, which I’d say will be 2011-2012 video card technology will be even more advanced. Also, let’s not forget CPU speed will be exponentially more powerful by then.
Lack of New Features in WoW
There’s a growing feeling that WoW is stagnating with regarding to innovation. Tobold is 100% right here. I believe the reason that Blizzard has refused to improve the feature set of WoW is because they are saving these innovations for WoW2. Character graphics remain ugly and unimproved. Guild halls have not been implemented. Player housing has not been implemented. Chracter emotes and sound in general remain unimproved. Positional sound for NPC’s is not even implemented. (Check out the Chronicles of Spellborn demos, you can actually hear NPC’s talking or emoting as you approach them.)
WoW is Aging and Blizzard Wants to Secure Their Future
Again echoing Tobold, WoW is starting to show signs of aging. While WoW has been immensely successful Blizzard has made many design mistakes along the way that are almost impossible to fix as the horse has left the barn. Disposable content, fractured community, class imbalance, lack of grouping, dying guilds, worthless tradeskills are among many of the symptoms of a dying MMO. Player discontent has never been higher. You can’t just wipe the servers and start everyone at level one in an ongoing MMO. The only solution is to take the lessons you’ve learned and create a sequel. Blizzard knows that WoW can’t last forever with new MMO’s coming to the market in the near future.
In conclusion, the further we get from the release of WoW, the more likely It becomes that Blizzard is working on WoW2. Back in September of 2001 they officially announced they were working on World of Warcraft. Over 3 years later in November of 2004 they finally released it. I can guarantee you that a project of that magnitude was being designed and scoped out for at least a year before that. That would take us back to 2000 when an EverQuest guild called Legacy of Steel was in their heyday led by Rob Pardo the current VP of Game Design at Blizzard. Transpose those numbers to present day; that’s a total of 4 years which takes us to 2012. You can bet your bottom dollar that WoW2 will be released by then.