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WoWNov 1, 2021 4:00 pm CT

Could cross-faction raiding and alt-friendly expansions be in the cards for WoW’s future?

In these tumultuous times, what does the future of World of Warcraft look like? In an interview for Venture Beat, WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas might have just provided some clues that could help us puzzle it out.

It’s clear from the tone of the interview that the WoW team is undergoing a moment of introspection and self-reflection — which means it’s a time ripe for changes. Among the many topics that Ion touches on, two immediately spring forward: the fact that cross-faction raiding is “on the radar” and that easy access to alts may be a bigger part of the design philosophy for the game moving forward.

WoW is on the way to really embracing alts (if 9.1.5 is any indication)

When asked about the future of World of Warcraft, Ion was very clear that not every lesson they’ve learned over the past 17 years of developing the game necessarily applies anymore. The playerbase has evolved, and people’s playing patterns have evolved as well. Specifically, when asked about the several quality of life changes arriving in patch 9.1.5 that seem to indicate a bigger focus on alt-friendliness, Ion had this to say:

The reality is, the way people play the game has evolved. What was the right answer for the WoW player base and for the game 15 years ago may not be today.

So 9.1.5 reflects a shift toward more alt accessibility, more catchup, more sensitivity and respect for players’ time, trying to look at what sorts of activities are going to be interesting once or twice, but maybe less interesting when you have to do them more than that. Let’s not make you do them more than that.

The bit about “respecting player’s time,” in particular, is part of a discussion that has been very much in vogue over the recent months — when a lot of players who were growing tired of the Anima grind in Shadowlands decided to try out WoW’s biggest competitor, Final Fantasy 14. There, they found a game that allows players to do pretty much all the content in the game — even as far as playing multiple classes — on a single character, with less of a focus on grinds and repeatable activities.

It’s easy to see how this has probably become a part of the internal discussions of the WoW team, which led to these 9.1.5 changes — and perhaps even to a different design philosophy for future patches and expansions. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds, but Ion’s comments are certainly positive.

Cross-faction raiding may really, finally be on the horizon

Another topic was the possibility cross-faction raiding could be added in the future. While Ion didn’t give us a straight-up yes or no, the words he chose certainly suggest that cross-faction raiding is closer than ever:

That’s one of those areas where, a lot of things to solve, a lot of things to figure out to make it happen, but at the end of the day, if Jaina and Thrall are working alongside each other in the raid, why can’t Alliance and Horde players also work alongside each other in that raid, especially when we know it’s going to solve a lot of the social problems people are grappling with?

It’s certainly a very different tone from the more dismissive answers we’ve heard in the past. The truth is that, after that specific cinematic in the end of Battle for Azeroth, the fact that cross-faction raiding wasn’t available in Shadowlands was an actual surprise for a lot of players. The cinematic had Jaina and Thrall finally making amends, and talking about how the reason why Mount Hyjal never fell was because Horde and Alliance stood together, and how maybe the two factions won’t fall apart again this time because one thing is different: they’ve changed.

And that’s not true only of Thrall and Jaina, or the fictional Horde and Alliance: we, the players, have changed.

Social barriers don’t hold the same weight as they once did. Being able to insult the person with the red nameplate in world PVP is no longer as important — if it ever truly was important at all — as getting home after a long day of work or school and just wanting to relax and play a video game with your friends, regardless of that choice they made 10-15 years ago on the character select screen. If Ion’s tone in the interview does anything, it gives us hope that cross-faction raiding is finally a real, tangible possibility for WoW patch 10.0 or for the next expansion.

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