Looking to the future of World of Warcraft esports

This is the final instalment of a three-part series that explores the past, the present, and the future of World of Warcraft esports. Read about the past here and the present here.

In part 2 of this series, our focus was all on the current state of WoW esports and the many different modes and disciplines that make up this popular esports title. In this third and final part of the WoW esports series we will take a look at future of WoW esports and how we feel it could be improved as World of Warcraft hits its 15th anniversary.

We will tackle the two major official esports titles in this article and give our ideas on what we’d do to improve them as well as look at some of the steps Blizzard has taken to improve the scene in the past year.

The AWC: Room for improvement

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Image credit – Blizzard

The AWC is Blizzard’s original and mostly ‘traditional’ of the two esports that they officially run for WoW. Blizzard started the year by announcing big changes to the AWC and MDI, with larger prize pools with crowdfunding via in-game toys and a host of cups and LAN events throughout all major regions ending in the yearly BlizzCon final.

Pick and ban phase: This is something that we see in a number of other esport titles, from League of Legends given teams the chance to ban a total of 10 champions over the course of the phase to CS:GO offering map voting.

WoW esports is in a unique position to allow either or both of the above as options. Currently, in the AWC the first map of each series is always the Nagrand Arena. Once this map is finished the losing team then selects the next map from the available map pool of any non-played maps in that series. With the option of allowing teams the chance to ban a map per series, though we admit this might require Blizzard to either widen the current maps used in the AWC by either making additional arenas or by making use of certain old-world arenas like the Gurubashi Arena, which is admittedly just an empty arena with zero line-of-sight points, however, the location itself could be added with ease.

The other option when it comes to picks and bans is spec banning. The idea would give each team one spec ban per series. For example team A could remove Resto Druid whilst team B could ban out Frost Mage. The tactic would effectively allow teams to ban out overpowered picks, mostly due to Blizzard being much slower to issue nerfs/buffs to specs than developers like Riot does with League of Legends. This can be explained by WoW having to adjust spells, classes and the likes to multiple different environments, not just arena. Though, WoW does have a system that can alter a specific specs stats in arena, though Blizzard is yet to really ban certain items or spells.

Lastly, we need to look at items and spells. PvP and PvE live together in WoW, with the exception of 3 extra PvP talents most classes operate in the same way. One of the major issues with WoW PvP has been overpowered PvE items making their way into WoW arena and causing huge issues. An example might be a spec like Monk healer who might enter a WoW raid with a tank loot spec, collect a tank trinket or item with a shield effect then use that item as a healer in Arena to give themselves a massive shield. For a good example of this, Method Cdew made a video in April explaining the issue.

The MDI: Time to embrace the past

The MDI is in a pretty solid place, as the newer WoW esports the scene breaks away from esports norms by offering a more ‘Games Done Quick’ or speed running style. You can find out more in part 2 of this series.

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A look at the new Corrupted Affix in Season 4 – image credit – WoWhead

When it comes to the MDI, one of the major complaints has been composition variety. One of the most common sights is to see a Warrior tank, Druid healer, for DPS you’re always going to see at least 1 rogue due to their ability to shroud past packs of mobs with a monk often seen in one of the slots due to them providing a melee damage buff for the rogues.

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A look at the pre Western Summer Cup #1 meta

Just before the most recent MDI, Blizzard put out a slight nerf to Outlaw rogue, though it did little to change the situation. One plus might come in the form of the 2020 season, as Blizzard is set to release a new affix that will allow groups to skip packs using a new in-dungeon pillar which will spawn a boss and allow people to skip (shown above). However, with this change not due till the 2020 season, it will have no impact on this seasons MDI.

The next idea would be to introduce the same banning system that we mentioned above. Prior to the most recent MDI, Blizzard had only allowed one roster change (spec change) between maps, which whilst allowing teams to change up their team, the reality was it did not allow enough scope. At BlizzCon, this was no longer the case, and Blizzard instead allowed teams to make more composition changes.

One option might be to allow losing sides to target ban one of the opposing teams’ specs. The only issues with allowing spec bans in the MDI would be that due to the MDI being team-trial based rather than straight PvP, teams will have selected specific compositions for each dungeon/affix combination.

An idea that might liven up both the MDI and the Mythic Plus season as a whole would be the re-introduction two old dungeons per season into the map pool. For ease of implementation these could be dungeons from Legion, but going forward future expansions could pull from prior expansions, maybe even a ‘fan vote’ could help make the WoW community feel more listened to.

Embrace the community

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Image credit: Method

The WoW community has often felt disconnected from WoW and its dev team. One of the areas this is most notable when it comes to esports is the lack of a Warcraft Esports Twitter account. Since June 2013 the @WarcraftEsports Twitter handle was found here. Earlier this year, shortly after a Tweet from David Hollings, Associate Product Manager, WoW Esports, AWC and GCDTV founder asking who ran the account changed and the @warcraftesports has laid dormant with just 1 follower ever since.

Assuming Blizzard now has the Twitter account, it would be about time it was fully utilised to help hype up and promote Warcraft esports, because currently, all we get are generic ‘Live right now’ Tweets from the official Warcraft account.

It’s not been a great end to 2019 for Blizzard, though BlizzCon ended on a slightly less sour note. It remains to be seen if the latest expansion announcement will do enough to stem the angry reaction to Blizzard and its handling of both the Hong Kong situation and its lack of community engagement as a whole. As we move into 2020 WoW esports has a lot to do to improve, with Blizzard themselves having a lot to improve.

Earlier on in the series, we spoke about the WoW esports prize pool being partly funded by the community via toys. WIth BlizzCon now over, the reality set in for most that the community was in fact supplying the entire prize pool, with Blizzard putting up nothing. This is something that has gone largely unnoticed by the community at large, with Blizzard trying to focus more on the $660,000 prize pool, rather than its own lack of commitment to the prize pool.

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- Looking to the future of World of Warcraft esports

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