Let’s get right down to brass tacks: Is “World of Warcraft” really a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game anymore?
TL;DR: No, it isn’t. But let’s get down to particulars…
WoW is a great game. It’s fun, there’s plenty of things for players to do, lots of leveling content, a decent – if weird – storyline… Pretty much anything you would want in an MMORPG, right? Actually, no.
If you get right down to it, WoW is a massive multiplayer game (MMOG), with plenty of Themepark content for players to enjoy, but that’s it. The game is missing one thing, though, which prevents it from being an MMORPG anymore: Roleplaying.
When WoW started, Blizzard provided “RP” servers with specific rulesets that supported the Roleplaying community. We can argue as to whether or not Blizzard actually enforced those rules, but for a while, WoW had a thriving RP community, which helped the game grow into the juggernaut it became up until their peak around 2010-2012.
But over time, Blizzard made it clear that they would not actually support the RP community, and as such, that community has largely left the game. And now, it is effectively a gear-chase, where players race through content to get to level cap, then grind dungeons and raids of progressively more difficult content, chasing after constant improvements to the gear they have, so they can eventually qualify for even more difficult content (with even better rewards).
That isn’t an MMORPG. It might be Massive, it certainly is Multiplayer, and it is an Online Game. But it isn’t an MMORPG, and frankly hasn’t been for quite some time.
Now I hear some people defend WoW as an MMORPG, by saying Blizzard is just doing exactly what other MMORPGs do at endgame. They have a point, actually. Many companies who develop MMORPGs focus their endgame towards grinding for gear through Raiding and PvP, because it is a simple way to provide mostly evergreen content for players to chew on, until the next DLC or expansion is ready.
But where that argument breaks down is that most MMORPGs provide support for the Roleplaying community, be it through housing, or supporting player-run events, in-game music systems, and so on. The closest Blizzard ever came to supporting the RP community was through the Garrison system in the “Warlords of Draenor” expansion, but even that was a failure, and has been abandoned.
Again, WoW might be a fun game, but it isn’t an MMORPG, at least it isn’t anymore. But that really isn’t a bad thing. Blizzard should embrace what WoW is, abandon the MMORPG label just as they abandoned the RP community, and proudly focus on what they are: A Themepark MMOG. Keep the changing storyline, because it adds flavor to the endgame grind, but otherwise, just admit they are all about players grinding for gear and chasing better stats, and that’s it, nothing more.
There is no depth to WoW. There never will be, and that’s okay. Stop pretending you produce an MMORPG anymore, Blizzard. The playerbase has already known you gave up on that years ago, and they still keep giving you their $15/month.
Well, everybody but the old RP community, that is.