Update: Since publishing this, Blizzard has announced its HGC plans. The news isn’t great.
If nothing else, the most recent edition of BlizzCon made clear that Blizzard Entertainment intends to go hard on classic Warcraft in 2019. Personally I’m less interested in the World-Of variant in this context. I don’t think that MMOs and their hodgepodge of systems and time-sinks hold much appeal for new generations of gamers, leaving the games to all fish from the same pool of existing players. Returning to their younger days will charm these for a while, but eventually there’s only one outcome for things that do not change.
Warcraft III: Reforged, on the other hand, could be something great. After a rocky start to the sequel, both versions of StarCraft are doing pretty well and there’s little other competition in the RTS space. Contrary to the fan-service that was StarCraft: Remastered, however, Reforged could be different enough to both benefit from the nostalgia fueling the WoW Classic movement, as well as draw in new people who never played the original.
That said, in the end its success will all come down to which Blizzard we’re getting. Don’t get me wrong, the team seems genuinely enthusiastic about what they’re doing and everything we’ve seen of the game thus far appears lovingly crafted. But there’s some cause for worry.
One could write off the original game disappearing from the Blizzard store for a month after Reforged’s announcement, a time during which there was a predictable increase in interest in it, as poor planning. The slew of patches and server upgrades required to deal with the influx of new players after it did reappear? I guess those could be seen as an unfortunate side effect of reinvigorating a 16-year-old game. Its current state of balance? Well you know what balance is like.
But throughout all of this the developer has stayed very quiet, any news having to be wrangled from them by prominent community members, which is not encouraging. It’s not just Warcraft III either, the Heroes of the Storm scene still doesn’t know whether they’ll even have a competition next year.
I understand that Reforged is probably not the largest team at Activision Blizzard and that the working environment there has been.. volatile. Then there’s always that sense of entitlement that seeps through anytime a player asks a developer for anything, which I’d like to avoid.
But the lack of communication creates a, undoubtedly unintentional, feeling of indifference, one of Blizzard not caring. This is the same feeling that almost killed StarCraft II around Heart of the Swarm, a situation which I’m sure we’d all like to avoid this time around. For Warcraft III to have its resurgence, more than throwing money at it, Blizzard needs to learn from the lessons of the past and talk to us much sooner. They have to re-imagine themselves, if you will. The Murlocs can wait.