World of Warcraft (WoW)

The future of SoM

I've seen a lot of debate and predictions over SoM and the future of Classic, and I'm here to tell you the future.

How do I know? Because of the past.

Specifically, I can look to the closest analog to WoW: Everquest.

Opening in March of 1999, Everquest was a huge hit. While Ultima Online was also an MMO, it was Everquest that took it from a top-down isometric game into the 3-D virtual world we are so familiar with. For 5 years, it ruled the roost, fighting off challenges from other games such as Asheron's Call and Dark Age of Camelot. Until 2004, when a combination of factors spelled it's doom. First, they released a terrible, half-done expansion called Gates of Discord, which really was just half an expansion, and even that half was unfinished. Then, with WoW looming on the horizon, Everquest decided to release a sequel, called Everquest 2, and they released it 2 weeks before WoW came out, so desperate they were to beat WoW to the punch. Sadly, EQ2 was nowhere near a finished product. It was rushed out the door strictly to reach market before WoW, which was a mistake. All it ended up doing was cannibalizing their own playerbase, and since WoW had been in open beta for weeks prior, most people already had decided to wait for WoW.

Why is this relevant? Because of what happened to Everquest afterwards. In 2006, EQ released what they called "Progression Servers", a server that started at Vanilla and added expansions every few months. This was a moderate success, but after a few years these servers had caught up to Live, so in 2011 they released another set of Progression Servers. Ever since, they have been adding a progression server (sometimes two) every year. Even though the main game was still releasing content, and they were merging servers due to falling playerbase, the progression servers kept coming out. The common speculation was that each year, a new batch of players would return, sub for a while, and spend money on Pay-To-Win mechanics like XP potions and huge bags. The pattern was predictable: Each time a new server opened, a large number of people would jump from the last progression server onto the new one, the population of the last progression server dropped, and each year they would repeat it. Each new server would also have some tweak to it to keep things fresh: First it was XP rates, then quicker unlock speeds, and the most recent one had random itemization plus everything was tradable.

Does any of this look familiar? First, server merges in WoW have been steadily happening for quite a while. Then, they announced "Classic WoW" to cash in on the nostalgia of old vanilla wow players. And now, they are looking to add Fresh servers to recapture some players that either didn't come back for Classic or left already. I fully expect there to be a new Seasonal Classic server every year or so, based on what happened to Everquest. Heck, they just brought Holly over from Everquest to WoW, for goodness sakes! They will probably tweak them every year, add in some twist to get people coming back, otherwise people won't want to keep playing the same game over and over, but I definitely see this as the future of WoW.

The real question is what happens once it's time for the Next Season. Will SoM be left to whither, like so many of EQ's progression servers? Or will Blizzard pick a better solution? Personally, my belief is that after all of WoW Classic has unlocked, Blizzard will make an announcement regarding SoM that the servers will go to TBC and offer either free transfer to any other WoW Classic server (TBC or Vanilla), or the chance to stay on that server while it does a fresh TBC launch. Then the cycle will continue.

Many people will complain this is simply a cash grab by Blizzard; that's not necessarily a bad thing. Remember, Blizzard is a games company, their purpose is to make money. Everything about WoW is designed to keep players paying their sub. If this cycle keeps that going, then it's worth it to them.

TL,DR: Expect a fresh, new Classic server every year.

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