What Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard buyout could mean for WoW

world of warcraft wow shadowlands redeemed sylvanas windrunner looks at camera over her shoulderBlizzard Entertainment, Dexerto

The news that Microsoft are buying out Activision Blizzard has shaken the gaming universe to its core, but for WoW fans it raises questions over the game’s PC exclusivity and the future of an iconic franchise. 

So, Microsoft are buying out Activision Blizzard. Yes, I’ve also just picked my jaw up off of the floor (and also the lunch that I just dropped – hope the carpet likes cinnamon!)

This comes in the wake of that infamous lawsuit which has arguably tainted the company’s reputation, made even worse by a wave of failed updates and games that have sparked a mass exodus from some of the publisher’s formerly “must play” titles.

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One of these is World of Warcraft, the classic MMO that has been on a slippery slope ever since the release of the divisive Shadowlands. Currently a PC exclusive, questions swirl about what the future holds for the denizens of Azeroth now that they are under Microsoft’s ever-expanding jurisdiction.

Don’t panic, though, because this could breathe new life into a sleeping giant who, in the right hands, could become the world’s premier MMORPG all over again.

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microsoft buyout activision blizzard world of warcraft wowMicrosoft
World of Warcraft is only one of several classic titles that will be joining the Microsoft family.

Will WoW come to Xbox?

One of the first questions players will be asking is about whether or not we’ll see World of Warcraft make its Xbox debut, now that its fate rests in the hands of Microsoft.

I’d argue that, yes, it probably will appear on Xbox.

Why? As the active population continues to dwindle, an influx of new players is just what the game needs to steer it back into safe waters. Opening the shores of Azeroth to a wider audience that likely have never played the game makes a lot of sense from a business standpoint.

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But just what would that mean for World of Warcraft?

world of warcraft wow alexstrasza offers a cherry blossom in blizzcon 2017 video with Overwatch's hanzoBlizzard Entertainment
From the ashes, a new world is born.

A brave new World of Warcraft

One of the main things about an Xbox port of Blizzard’s iconic MMORPG is the fact that there would simply be more players. Yes, sometimes I am a social gamer, okay?

At the moment, WoW is in an awkward state. Many of its luscious landscapes and sprawling city-states lie empty, as players just haven’t had a reason to come back to the game. The knock-on this has is the whole ‘dead game’ effect; people logging in see that things are pretty quiet, and start wondering whether playing is worth their time. It’s a vicious circle, and WoW is caught right in the center of it.

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New platform, new faces – the breath of fresh air that a dying Azeroth needs. It even opens up opportunities for crossplay and cross-progression for players on PC. The list of positives are endless – but my next point is probably the most positive of all…

world of warcraft wow bwonsamdi reaches to cameraBlizzard Entertainment
Will Microsoft rescue Blizzard from the cool hands of Bwonsamdi himself?

Bye bye subscription fees!

One of the most off-putting things about playing WoW is the monthly subscription fee players have to fork out to jump in. Blizzard’s removal of the 30-day sub has already proven controversial, but it was perhaps a step towards removing the fee entirely.

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If WoW does eventually get ported across to Xbox, it’s likely to end up on Xbox’s own subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. While this does mean you’d need to pay to play each month, it’s added to an extensive catalog, meaning you won’t be forking out $78 every six months to play one game (that adds up to $156, by the way, which is a lot of money for a game of WoW’s graphical caliber.)

WoW could also go the other way and have an upfront cost for the base game, and then additional fees for expansions. Remember the good old days of hoarding (pun intended) all of those old expansion boxes? We may see a return to that era, but with virtual packs instead.

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All of this depends on whether or not Xbox chooses to utilize the Battle.net client or integrate Blizzard’s systems into their own. Either way, seeing the current subscription offering come to a much-needed close would be super.

xbox game pass logo on a black backgroundMicrosoft
The Xbox Game Pass would make a great alternative to WoW’s costly subscription fees.

A graphical overhaul?

If you’re going to pit WoW against some of Xbox’s other exclusive titles, one thing it could really use is a graphical overhaul.

Sure, the naughties graphics have their charm, but imagine Azeroth in a cool 4k channeling the spectacular vistas of Final Fantasy XIV Online or Lost Ark.

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The majestic Stormwind City would look amazing with a lick of fresh paint, the same with the emerald jungles of Zandalar. Not only would it make the game more appealing, but it would give OG fans a reason to play and experience these familiar zones all over again.

Additionally, it would set the bar high for further expansions, something the community clearly wants but have concerns over due to the quality of gameplay currently spiraling into the depths of the Maw.

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Azeroth needs something new, and Microsoft may be the ones to provide it. Sure, the developers will remain the same, but new management means new (hopefully higher) expectations.

world of warcraft wow zandalar t-rex mount in aztec style reigns with a trollBlizzard Entertainment
Imagine the golden cities of Zandalar with a little more sparkle.

Of course, there’s the elephant in the room: outside of the virtual sphere and in our real world, will things get better for the staff working under the Activision Blizzard banner? Xbox’s Vice-President, Phil Spencer, has already spoken out about the ongoing lawsuit, and we can only hope things start to improve under his watch.

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However, in terms of World of Warcraft’s future, the Microsoft buyout represents a light at the end of a seemingly perpetual tunnel. In my opinion, this is what WoW needs – it’s what we, the fanbase needs.

I’m ready to give this brave new World of Warcraft a chance. Are you?