How to Get Everyone to Play World of Warcraft Again

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has been declining in subscribers for over a year now, it reached its peak in 2009 and has been declining ever since. Blizzard has scrambled to create new and intriguing content. They created Deathwing, who ravaged Azeroth changing almost every zone in the game. Still, people are abandoning the game for green pastures. The height of World of Warcraft’s growth was from 2004 to mid 2008, during classic World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade when, as Blizzard might describe it, the game was “too challenging.”

Since 2009 the game has become easier and more templated. I’m not complaining because I understand the drive to make development more efficient and game play more predictable. Expansions and large content patches bring back some veteran players. Luring them in for 2-4 months where the gear their character and eventually disappear again. What can Blizzard do to bring every single player back and charge them all $25 and get them to resubscribe? The answer isn’t a new expansion, it’s “progression servers” or “legacy servers”.

I’m told that this isn’t a new idea, although I had it independent of any knowledge of it being done before. Everquest created progression servers where content and expansions were unlocked over time, sometimes even by votes. How would this work in World of Warcraft?

  • Realm release date and rules would be released a month or two ahead of time. A small fee like $25 would be required to play on the realm.
  • The realm would start on the last patch before Burning Crusade’s content patch. Players would start at level 1 and progress to 60 and face Onyxia and Ragnaros with 2005/2006 gear and skills.
  • Once the first players killed Ragnaros a timer would begin which would go off and unlock Blackwing Lair. This timer could last 1-4 weeks, allowing other players to kill Rangaros and earn Feats of Strength. This pattern would repeat for each content patch, next with AQ then with the classic Naxrammas. Finally, 4 weeks after Naxx was cleared the Outlands would be unlocked, patch 2.x would be released and players would level to 70.’
  • This pattern continues for every major content patch made to World of Warcraft from 2004 to present.

The major point of these realms would be to allow players to progress along side their friends and within a specific realm that shared a common goal of unlocking expansions. Eventually the realm would catch up to the current content and everyone would be allowed to transfer off for free, bringing their feats of strength with them.

There could be slight variations in these realms, some could unlock faster and some slower. Some could significantly decrease drop rates of trade goods like herbs, ores and cloths to create a more challenging leveling experience. Some could be “hardcore” where players had to wait a day or receive a manual resurrection after they died. Others could have level per day caps, increased experience requirements or even more challenging bosses. The possibilities would be endless.

This is obviously as far fetched as a Cataclysm expansion would have been if it was mentioned in 2006, but the concept has been proven by Everquest and would bring back a large enough number of players to pay for development costs to support these changes.

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