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Players will kill WoW, and the Plunderstorm backlash proves it

WoW Plunderstorm is one of the coolest modes I’ve ever seen in an MMO, but the backlash to it is the reason the game will never grow.

An undead warrior dresses as a pirate glowing with golden sparkles holding a huge red, feathered staff in one hand, raising their claws

When I think of World of Warcraft right now, the word that comes to mind is ‘stagnant.’ With Dragonflight having run its course, feeling more like filler than an actual full-blown expansion, very little is pulling me back to Blizzard’s mammoth MMO. The War Within still doesn’t have an official launch date, and while Classic’s Season of Discovery was a novelty for a while, it’s not got that shiny new feeling anymore. My days are spent accidentally stealing my ADC’s kills in League of Legends instead of grinding through Amirdrassil – and a part of me really misses Azeroth.

Enter Plunderstorm, World of Warcraft’s new pirate-themed battle royale mode. At first glance, I imagine I looked like a Nintendog that you’ve given a random command to – head tilted, tongue lolling, surrounded by a bunch of question marks. What on earth is this thing?! For the first time in months, I can confirm that I was actually interested in what Blizzard was cooking up over in the Arathi Highlands.

And then, a day later, I woke up to absolute chaos. As players dove in to test out the MMORPG’s newest addition, the forums quickly became a cesspool. “Waste of developer time,” “hot garbage,” “I unsubbed.” It’s an absolute massacre, and yet it’s all completely unfounded.

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Plunderstorm is the first genuinely new thing that retail WoW has done in years. Dragonriding and dynamic flight? Guild Wars 2 beat Blizzard to it. When it comes to fresh, exciting additions, Azeroth’s been devoid of anything novel since Shadowlands. Yet, when the team comes out with something totally different from anything we’ve ever seen in an MMO, the first instinct is to spit the dummy out and claim that WoW is beyond redemption.

The surviving battle royale games tend to look and function similarly – shoot people, grab loot, survive. While Naraka Bladepoint stands out with its stylish melee approach to combat, I’ve never seen a game where killing people and opening loot crates drops different spells. It adds a bit of roguelike flair that means not only is every game different but you have to come up with strategies on the fly. Sure, the balancing is a little scary right now, but that’s part of the fresh mode experience.

The best thing about it, however, is the fact that it’s optional. If you hate PvP, it’s an entirely different mode from WoW – you don’t have to play it. If you’re a loot collector who wants a full catalog of snazzy mounts, then that’s your decision, but at the end of the day it’s a limited-time mode; if you don’t like it, just don’t play it.

Players will kill WoW, and the Plunderstorm backlash proves it: A small creature wearing a rat skull on its head wanders around a stony area with piles of coins and a treasure chest glittering on the ground

And that’s why I find all of this negativity so perplexing – honestly, what’s the big deal? Blizzard has created a new mode that you can take or leave. It’d be different if it was a mandatory story quest ahead of The War Within, but it isn’t.

I’ve seen people arguing that Plunderstorm has been a waste of developer time, and that they should go back to building on the base game, but I have to ask: why can’t we let devs experiment a bit? On a team of talented people who are no doubt already implementing a slew of fixes ahead of TWW, why is it so wrong to do something new? Maybe a little morale boost amid a slow Dragonflight season could have been a good thing for the upcoming launch. Unfortunately, some of the community seems intent on drowning any of that positive sentiment.

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When I saw Caroline ‘Naguura’ Forer’s clip calling WoW players “horrible” and asking them to “just be happy for one fucking second,” I honestly couldn’t help but agree with her. I’m no stranger to games with occasionally toxic communities, yet I’ve never seen such explosive backlash over what is a simple, optional addition.

Ultimately, this makes me feel that the WoW community is what’s going to hold the game back. Blizzard tries new things only to get a reaction like this? For the players loving Plunderstorm – there are a lot of them, I’ve been dropping into lobbies with ease – those who shout the loudest and most negatively will be the ones who get these innovative new modes taken away from us. After all, if I were Blizzard watching this reaction, I’d be disinclined to direct the team’s hard work and passion to anything that may inspire such an unnecessary reaction again.

I’ve been bored of WoW, and if the Worldsoul Saga offers the exact same gameplay for the next ten or so years, I sense things will become stagnant all over again. If every expansion is much the same, how will WoW compete against FF14, which now has its own farming minigame? Short answer: I don’t think it will.

Players will kill WoW, and the Plunderstorm backlash proves it: A World of Warcraft character on a huge parrot soaring over a mountain region

Right now, WoW stands on the precipice of change, and it needs to take a leap of faith. With the FF14 Dawntrail release date set for this year, and a plethora of other MMORPGs in the works, WoW must evolve if it wants to be neck-and-neck with its competition. Backlash like this over a silly little game mode is going to kill the will to innovate – and for me, that’s a one-way ticket to the death of World of Warcraft.

Plunderstom is already pulling players back to WoW. My partner, for instance, who cannot stand it, is downloading the game today for us to play this evening. New blood never hurts, especially right now.

Is Plunderstorm perfect? No. Does it need to be? No. It’s a fun LTM and the breath of fresh air WoW sorely needs ahead of what could be a make-or-break launch. So, for the future of Azeroth, let’s try to be happy.