World of Warcraft might be better known for its hardcore raiding parties and time demands, but Blizzard have claimed that if it were not for the development team introducing casual-focused elements to the game, the MMO giant would be “in bad shape”.
Talking to Polygon at Gamescom, lead designer on World of Warcraft Tom Chilton explained that the Mists of Pandaria expansion was a push towards more casual players, with the results being “very successful” for Blizzard.
“We would have been in bad shape had we not done that,” claimed Chilton. “People who played Vanilla always say ‘if it had stayed the same, I would have the same fun now as I did then.’ But that’s not true. Audiences always evolve.”
Perhaps seeing the success of adopting to serve a casual market has convinced Blizzard to change its stance on free-to-play, too. Discussing the prospect of a Blizzard MMO using a microtransaction-funded system, Chilton said: “For Blizzard it makes sense [to go free-to-play] at some point. But a lot of the risk is in making that transition. You hear stories about developers going free-to-play and getting double the number of players, but you don’t always know it works out that way and how long it stays that way. We really don’t know what the rate is before people drop off and lose interest.”
Regardless of if such musings are based in appealing to the casual crowd or not, Blizzard noted in the interview that it recognised there had been a lack of new experiences for the hardcore audience, and that such a hole would be likely filled in a future expansion.