The Future of the World of Warcraft


World of Warcraft came out nearly twenty years ago, and so talking about its future is unique to say the least.

There are very few other games that are that old and that we still speak about in terms of future content. And for World of Warcraft, there is a lot of upcoming content. The Worldsoul Saga will encompass three expansions, all being developed simultaneously.

This is a far cry from how things have worked before. World of Warcraft came out in 2004, and has since had nine expansions. The first – The Burning Crusade – came out in 2007. Since then, there has been an expansion every two years. But it’s not the only changes that have been made. The biggest differences have also included the addition of a free-to-play mode with restrictions after level 20, and the new Classic mode, which lets people play the game as it was when it was originally released.


And despite being twenty years old, the game has hardly stagnated. In those two decades, graphics have improved, content has been culled or improved and the general user experience has been built upon. Gamers in 2004 had no idea that by 2024 they’d be able to play the full game wherever they choose on a Steam Deck, but here we are. Try that on your Gameboy Advance.

And so changes are nothing new. Blizzard might not be pushing the envelope, but they’re no strangers to putting in the work where it needs to be done. This is the first time that three expansions have been announced and worked upon at once, however. That feels different. Perhaps that means it could well be a kind of epic conclusion to the long-running MMO. That would be bad news for the biggest fans, but there’s no shortage of potential for where the game could head next.


On top of the World Soul Saga, a couple of other things have hinted at the future of Warcraft. Firstly, and most obviously, Microsoft now own Blizzard. That can change things in two big ways: the first is the increased focus on consoles. Microsoft owns Xbox. And while rumours about Warcraft on console are no new thing, exec Holly Longdale made the point at Blizzcon 2024.

“Of course we’re talking about that,” she said in an interview with GamesRadar. “We are Microsoft now.”

As part of that, there is now a drive to get content into Game Pass, Xbox’s subscription service. That’s likely to take the guise of re-releases and remakes for the most part, and  especially for Starcraft. But Warcraft’s reforged releases are likely to receive some love too. Ultimately, they’ll want new games, although what form those take is anybody’s guess. We know Microsoft wants people in their PC ecosystem, and that means utilising their big hitters. They don’t come much bigger than Warcraft.


That doesn’t mean a new game will be popping out of nowhere in 2024 – not unless it was already being worked on. But the priorities of Activision as a publisher were very different from the priorities of Xbox (and Microsoft) as a platform holder, and especially because of their subscription service. Fans of Activision’s PC-heavy franchises can expect something to happen.

It seems unlikely they’ll just chuck the World of Warcraft subscription into Game Pass – that would probably lose them a reliable monthly income – but there will be incentives. Whether that’s as simple as mounts or money off, we won’t know until it’s officially announced. But expect there to be some kind of incentive for World of Warcraft players to get a Game Pass subscription. And we know from experience that a sizable group is likely to at least think of biting.


The second hint at the future of Warcraft is the hiring of Chris Metzen. Chris had a long history with the franchise before retiring, and he’s been brought back as executive creative director to help craft “the next generation of adventures”.

Naturally, that might refer specifically to the Worldsoul Saga. There’s no point making assumptions that this is something big. But the fates do seem to be aligning. We have a new owner with a need for content, a twenty-year-old MMO suddenly getting an epic trilogy of expansions that would be perfect for finishing up and setting up the future and the return of an old hand to guide the future of the franchise. If this isn’t the perfect time for a move forward, when would be?

No matter how well Blizzard maintains their game, it’s still built on a game from 2004. There are limits to the changes that can be made. And while the success of Classic might imply that there’s a sizable group who are happy for things to stay exactly as they are (or to be rolled back, as the case may be) there is a sell-by date on that way of thinking. We can only imagine that with each passing year, the amount of new blood hitting World of Warcraft is going down.


But what shape would a new move forward take? It’s not the early 2000s anymore, and the number of successful MMOs we can name from the last five years are limited to say the least. Look up a best-of for the genre and, even in 2024, most of the content will be at least ten years old. The most successful modern games approaching this genre take a very different shape indeed. A lot has changed in twenty years, but how do you build a sequel to a classic MMO with it feeling familiar but not dated?

But this isn’t just any MMO. This is Warcraft. And by definition a sequel would be big news. The pressure isn’t getting the hype cycle started, it’s delivering a game that somehow matches twenty years of improvements and ideas on day one. Because if it doesn’t you’re going to struggle to convince people to stay with it. Especially if your old MMO is effectively content complete – you want people to return to one game or the other.

And so it’s an interesting challenge – far more than a Warcraft 4 would be. But one way or another, World of Warcraft needs to look to the future, and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing how it will evolve.