World of Warcraft is one of the most successful games of all time, breaking multiple gaming records throughout its ten years on the market. Blizzard’s iconic MMO has seen several updates since its release, including last year’s Warlords of Draenor, and has had a large impact on gaming and pop culture. Indeed, Blizzard’s influence has been so widespread that the Warcraft universe is even set to have a feature film adaptation with a cast including Dominic Cooper.
Occasionally, however, World of Warcraft feels like it is some distant fossil from the gaming past. With a gameplay style built around sessions that run for hours upon hours, multiplayer raids requiring strategic teamwork, and an extreme level of player dedication, Blizzard’s title seems like the antithesis of modern day gaming. After all, WoW is at the opposite end of the gaming spectrum to pick-up-and-play mobile titles and Modern Warfare-esque shooters.
According to another lead designer in the world of MMO games, current gaming trends are set to continue going against Blizzard’s gaming giant. John Smedley, president of H1Z1 developer Daybreak Game Company, has said that the era of World of Warcraft-style MMOs is now “over.” Smedley, who was speaking to GamesIndustry, instead believes that gamers are set to look towards games with shorter single session times.
The head of Daybreak Game Company, which was previously known as Sony Online Entertainment until the studio was sold off in February of this year, has put the change down to how much time users are willing to give to games. Smedley believes that H1Z1 is a “session-based online game” rather than a MMO, with a 45-minute long average playtime that suits the modern gamer more than the raids of World of Warcraft or Everquest. Smedley stated that developers “need to change with the times,” and that Daybreak is aiming to target a “broader array of games and gaming styles.”
Some MMO fans may raise their eyebrows at the idea that World of Warcraft and its contemporaries are outdated, however. World of Warcraft is still one of the most popular games on the market, with over 10 million users subscribed by the end of 2014. The game has so far resisted breaking from its business model, despite numerous competitor MMOs taking the route to free-to-play. World of Warcraft’s influence is still prevalent, too, with Bungie’s hit shooter Destiny hybridizing MMO and FPS, offering gamers group-based raids.
Nonetheless, there is undoubtedly a move towards shorter, sharper gameplay sessions, and Daybreak’s H1Z1 certainly has some strong figures to back up Smedley’s claims. The game launched into early access in January of this year, and has already sold 1 million copies before full release, in spite of a market already flooded with multiplayer zombie survival titles and criticism over the addition of pay-to-win microtransactions. It remains to be seen just how true Smedley’s predictions are, but for now it looks like both kinds of MMO can share the multiplayer scene.