If you watch the opening cinematic for classic World of Warcraft, you’ll see it starts with “TEN YEARS… OF WARCRAFT” before it really gets going, celebrating that WoW’s release comes ten years after the release of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. And we know that this November will also be the ten-year anniversary for World of Warcraft’s release as well.
To say it’s going to be a momentous occasion is an understatement, but we’ve got zero indication of what Blizzard has in store to celebrate it. (EDIT: Okay, zero indication aside from Hogs.)
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that Blizzard is going to be pretty busy in November. There’s BlizzCon going on, and November would be a ripe time to release Warlords of Draenor. It’s entirely possible that Blizzard doesn’t successfully do anything for the 20th anniversary simply because the resources aren’t there, but let’s set that sad possibility aside for the moment.
What are some things that could potentially happen?
Doing a new Warcraft RTS would likely be an excellent way to celebrate the anniversary. However, many of the points I made in one of my early posts for BlizzPro still hold true today: Warcraft 4 can’t happen until Team 1 is done with Starcraft 2, and Starcraft 2 can’t be completed until after Heroes of the Storm is in the wild, since that’s what Team 1 is doing right now.
I think this is a pretty unlikely eventuality, but there are a few lights in the darkness about it: no one at Blizzard has really said anything about WC4 since I wrote that article in December, and to my knowledge, the promised unit reskins for the SC2 editor have never actually appeared. That says to me that Blizzard might have decided to put those resources into developing a new RTS game and have just been quiet about it so they can catch us by surprise.
Verdict: I don’t think a WC4 is likely at all, much less in time for the 20th. I’d love to be wrong, though.
Warcraft RTS Anniversary Edition(s)
Dovetailing again with the retextured WC3 units and other prior statements to making WC1/2/2x playable on modern machinery is the possibility that Blizzard is planning to re-release the old RTS games with a shiny new coat of paint. The trick to that, of course, is that exactly zero assets from the original games can be re-used, since prior to WC3 it was all pixel art, and even WC3’s models look like LEGO blocks in comparison to what we have in SC2, much less WoW.
Moreoever, the gameplay of the original RTS doesn’t really hold up in comparison to modern RTS games; it’s glacially slow and the factions are mirror images of each other, so there’s not a great deal of depth to capture a modern audience. And yes, before you protest, they did no such thing for Blackthorne or Lost Vikings, but platformers are an inherently throwback-friendly genre. The original Warcraft games have zero freedom to play as they do because RTS has a different connotation now than it did twenty years ago.
There’s also the part where, to bring the game up to Blizzard’s modern standards, you’d need to do new cinematics, record new briefings, and at the very least try to get the stories to jive appropriately with the canon that’s been established in the franchise since then.
To a certain extent, you’re talking about making a new Warcraft game but just re-using the first 2-3 games’ narratives. I’m not against doing that per se, but I’m not sure if it’s worth doing for free and I’m not sure charging people for what’s ultimately a nostalgia project really works as an anniversary present.
Verdict: There’s such a wide range of what they could do with this that there’s no way to really say one way or the other.
World of Warcraft In-game Content
It’s a foregone conclusion that this is going to happen: Blizzard’s made it a habit of giving players an in-game experience boost (with a famously outdated in-game letter) ever since the 6th Anniversary event. Meanwhile, the 4th Anniversary granted a pet, and the 5th Anniversary brought the Onyxia’s Lair Remix along with another pet. However, ever since that 6th Anniversary, people have been hoping for the next Big Number to come around to really drive Blizzard into celebrating big like they did for the 5th.
I think a unique mount is a distinct possibility, though there are arguments against; players will be getting a free mount from Azeroth Choppers around the same time. A unique pet is guaranteed, but with the glut of new pets players will be getting from their gameplay in Warlords it might get lost in the shuffle.
A raid remix, akin to the Onyxia’s Lair remix, feels like it could be a possibility, but there are a couple issues with it: primarily, there’s really no short-format raid that’s as well-beloved as Onyxia. The only other major raid endboss from classic that hasn’t been revisited in some way is C’thun, and he’s not what you’d call a fan-favorite; instead, when people talk about the historical raids they loved the most, Karazhan and Ulduar tend to be the names that come up, and those aren’t raids you could retune as an anniversary event without expending an exorbitant amount of resources.
Another problem is the impact that it has on gameplay. The Onyxia remix was released six weeks after Patch 3.2 came out, meaning players had already gotten comfortable in Trial of the Crusader; drops from a retuned Onyxia were a useful leg-up if your team needed it. Given how Blizzard has gated raid access during Mists of Pandaria, and knowing that WoD will follow a similar pattern, there doesn’t appear to be enough of a window to drop a bonus raid that would be a similar asset to Tier 17 raiding. More specifically, given a reasonable release date (which is to say no earlier than mid-October), the anniversary will fall at a time when players are still getting their bearings on new bosses, and throwing a new raid into that mix would be disruptive more than it would be an assist.
So Yeah It’s A Mystery
When it comes down to it, I don’t think past anniversaries are really a good indicator of what we can expect. We can count on getting Hogs (though beta is beta, so it’s possible that changes between now and release) but I also feel like there needs to be more to it than that, and the fact that nothing else has shown up in the datamines leads me to think it may not be something within WoW itself.
Maybe we hear something about this at the Cinematic Reveal next week, or later during Gamescom. If we don’t hear anything about it then, definitely expect a BIG reveal at BlizzCon.