Officers’ Quarters: Reviving realms during the content lull
Another WoW expansion, another interminable WoW content lull. We’ve been through this boom and bust content cycle so many times in WoW‘s history that it’s become a cliche. Unfortunately, the reality for guilds and their realms is just as true now as it was when we were all waiting for Cataclysm, or Mists, or Warlords: most of us are in very bad shape.
Every content lull feels like the most painful of all when you’re in the thick of it, but this time I think it truly is. Given all the ways that Warlords fell short — lack of 5-player and PvP content, the ability pruning and class homogeneity, the anti-gameplay of garrisons and shipyards, the simultaneous gold inflation and devaluation of gathering that garrisons ushered in, the by-the-numbers design of Tanaan Jungle — it’s hard to imagine that any expansion lull will be more painful than this. I certainly hope Blizzard never tests that theory.
Long lulls destroy guilds and weaken realms
Some guilds won’t survive this lull. Some will see the writing on the wall and make the decision to close up shop. Some will remain hopeful while slowly bleeding to death, as raider after raider cancels their subscription, until their roster is an empty shell of grayed-out names.
Realms are suffering too. Realms that were teetering on the edge of viable raiding communities will collapse into irrelevance. Even some realms that began Warlords with a strong raiding community will see every single raiding guild, desperate to find more raiders, transfer to a healthier server.
Many of these worst-case scenarios have already happened. This lull has already claimed Paragon — one of the most successful WoW raiding guilds of all time — and we’re still potentially six months away from Legion‘s launch. Part of the problem is that moving from 10-player Heroic to 20-player Mythic has been a difficult proposition for so many guilds, and the lull has made it that much harder. The other part is that an expansion needs more than just excellent raiding content to keep raiders subscribed.
I’ll sum up: times are grim right now. But what can we do about it? Today’s question addresses this issue.
It’s difficult, Jpec, but it’s not impossible! Here a steps you can take to jump-start the culture on your realm:
- Communicate and be helpful. Be active on your realm forums and in trade chat. Help people who ask for it. Offer it without being asked when you have time. Build a reputation as the guild that cares about the realm and the people on it.
- Bring back the community feeling. Ever since the Group Finder made running dungeons (and now raids) a virtually effortless process, the realm-centered sense of community has been on the decline. Start a Facebook group for your realm and post great content there so people will actually join and use the group. Create a realm Twitter account. Invite all the officers of all the guilds, Horde and Alliance, to contribute to the conversation. Help people to feel like they are actually part of something as a player on your realm.
- Prioritize your realm’s players. When you’re creating a PUG raid, using the Group Finder is very easy. It’s tempting to let the Finder do the work. Instead, use all of those tools I mentioned above: trade chat, forums, social media. Start recruiting for the raid days in advance. Start hyping it up an hour or so before you start. You may not get enough for a full raid, and you might have to rely on the Finder to fill all the roles, but it will be a beginning. People should be more likely to stick with it, too, when they know it’s a realm-centric raid, not just a random collection of players from all across the WoW community whom they’ll never see again.
- Stay positive. Even if things don’t go well, the important part of these raids is not whether you clear the zone or not — it’s that people on your realm are working together. You’re not trying to win WoW, you’re trying to reenergize a community. With hard work on your part, that energy may coalesce into something more — maybe even a new raiding community.
- Be willing to teach. Some players have a lot of enthusiasm but not much raiding experience. Offer to help them channel that excitement in a productive way. Point them toward resources that can improve their performance.
- Reach out to the guilds who left. Many of those players probably have alts that they didn’t bother to transfer. Tell them what you’re trying to do back on their old realm and maybe they’ll join in. Don’t underestimate a player’s nostalgia for their original realm, especially if they can trace that history back to the classic/Burning Crusade/Wrath days.
- Ask the players who care to do more. While the response to your efforts will often be “meh,” you’ll also come across players who are thrilled that you’re trying to get something going again on their realm. Ask them to help you out. This task is far bigger than one person can manage alone.
That’s what we as players can do. But I’d also like to address what Blizzard can do.
What Blizzard can do
Many MMO developers struggle to deliver content. ArenaNet recently announced they’d be abandoning further work on legendary weapons (a big part of the Heart of Thorns expansion that thousands, if not millions of players have already bought and paid for), because they can’t deliver those experiences and their “Living World” updates at the same time. Awkwardly now some classes/builds will have that legendary content and some won’t. But Guild Wars 2 is a buy-to-play game, not a subscription-driven one, with a far smaller team than that of WoW.
To look for a similar developer in terms of resources, Square Enix, creators of Final Fantasy XIV, is probably the closest. Since the Realm Reborn version of the game launched in 2013, they have added a major patch about every three months. Some patches have more content than others, but they always add something new to do, a reason for the players to get excited. One patch even added an entirely new class. Their first expansion added three more.
Blizzard claims that pushing out new content so fast will cause that content to suffer. Looking back at recent expansions, time does not seem to be the deciding factor. Warlords took Blizzard’s typical eternity to launch and the content suffered tremendously regardless. Conversely, Blizzard shotgunned out patches for Mists and they included some truly wonderful storytelling and top-notch PvE experiences. I refuse to believe that Blizzard can’t accomplish what Square Enix has: delivering quality content on a schedule that doesn’t abandon the game and its subscribers for 12 months+ at a time.
Blizzard needs a new approach. Their feast and famine content philosophy is slowly strangling the game, and it’s killing off guilds in droves. It’s a strategy that no longer works in the hypercompetitive gaming landscape of 2016. There are too many other choices. Players are coming back, but only for a short time. Or they’re leaving and never subscribing again. Either way, it’s brutal for the officers and guilds who are trying to bridge the gap between one expansion and the next.
Please, Blizzard, find a better way.
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