In short: no World of Warcraft is not dead. The WoW playerbase is dwindling fast though and many of WoW's subscribers are unsubscribing and moving over to Final Fantasy XIV and enjoying the greener grass The reason for the mass exodus is due to - what I believe to be - game fatigue, bad design choices, a fed-up community and the recent Blizzard lawsuit. All of which I discuss in this article including additional minor reasons that contribute to the overall choice to abandon World of Warcraft for good.
WHY IS FINAL FANTASY XIV MORE POPULAR THAN WORLD OF WARCRAFT?
IS WORLD OF WARCRAFT Dead? IF SO, WHAT DID BLIZZARD DO WRONG?
Graphs showing the decline in subscriber count for WoW 2016 - 2021 as well as the uptake of players using one Final Fantasy XIV server as an example. NOTE: Companies rarely give away exact numbers and how they count playerbase varies: Active, Inactive and/or Alt Accounts
There are 5 key reasons why I believe WoW has been steadily declining in numbers post Cataclysm and one big reason recently: pertaining to their lawsuit in June 2021. What World of Warcraft loses, it seems Final Fantasy XIV gains, but why when there are plenty of other MMORPG’s out there to enjoy? Come join me heroes, let’s begin the theory-crafting.
1. WORLD OF WARCRAFT’S STORYLINE EXECUTION IS LIFELESS, FINAL FANTASY XIV’S IS ENTICING AND DEEP
I’m going to be bold and say that I think the main themes of the two MMO’s, i.e. how they are presented, not only from a story perspective but also a development perspective, are integral to the differences of each title. These themes are not the main catalyst for why people are leaving WoW but I sincerely believe they are one of the many contributing factors, it was for my friends and me at least.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT NARRATIVE PRESENTATION
I played World of Warcraft back in Blizzard’s BETA release…so 2004 (Gosh I feel old). The gameplay differed vastly from its predecessor Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne where quests, characters and scenarios were completely fleshed out with incredible voice acting and in-depth lore accompanied by inspired script-writing, the whole sha-bang! I understand that for a new MMO, at the time, the budget for fully-fledged voice acting and all the extra fluffy detail would have over-stretched an already tight budget, but the world felt lifeless and quite frankly boring apart from a few characters like Mograine, Inquisitor Fairbanks, Hogger (because of the meme) and Onyxia being a chad in Stormwind - later expansions obviously brought us key characters from the Warcraft 3 series, but I’m talking about NPC’s.
"FF forces you to go through all of their story and yes there might be hard parts to go through, but in the end it's so worth it, this game has such a great story"
19 JAN 2022
"Bahamut boss for me was the best experience in PvE I've ever had, FF14 just sets the stage every time. No MMO got better music than this one".
19 JAN 2022
"WoW probably has more lore, in terms of sheer quantity, but FFXIV's is almost certainly much more coherent, laid out and most importantly in the game"
15 SEP 2021
More to the point I couldn’t even tell you what the main theme of Vanilla was - arguably this changed with the introduction of Naxxramas but the raid was such a high level that only the best guilds were often afforded the privilege of delving into the floating Necropolis as most other guilds were still on Molten Core or Blackwing Lair; even fewer completed the entire raid which was a shame because it had two very important lore rich characters - Sindragosa and Kel’Thuzad - and one very famous weapon: the legendary Corrupted Ashbringer…but to reiterate 90% of players wouldn’t have seen or enjoyed this content and that isn’t being elitist…my Guild back in the day had to put 30+ hours into WoW.
World of Warcraft of course improved upon this within Shadowlands and the story has become more compelling as expansions have been released (with the peak in Wrath of the Lich King in my opinion). The story arcs are fantastic, but the delivery is lackluster: sure we have cinematics, more voice-acting and better interaction with storyline quests that give you an overall feel and ‘vibe’ to what the theme and direction of the expansion is going in. Still, the normal quest givers are something to be desired and whilst there are certainly some stand out characters the lack of others leaves players wanting.
For me Arthas Menethil is the pinnicle of great story-telling and a 101 guide on how to craft a tragic villain. WOTLK was my favorite expansion because I was an Arthas fanboi ever since Warcraft 3.
FINAL FANTASY XIV NARRATIVE PRESENTATION
In stark contrast we have a compelling, narrative driven MMORPG where players can lose themselves in a story that is presented, and I can’t emphasize this enough although italics will have to do, beautifully! I would argue 75+% of the side quests in Final Fantasy XIV add to the main flavor or ‘end-goal’ of the game title and these are packed full of interesting script, memorable characters, sometimes voice-acted and sometimes presented via in-game sequences. If the quests don’t pertain to the main story-arc then I can guarantee that they’ll serve as a vehicle for world building by introducing lore throughout the NPC’s dialogue.
The Final Fantasy XIV story-arcs too are sprinkled with exhilarating Trials, Dungeons, Raids and Alliance Raids. These are 4, 8 and 24 person parties where you face off against Boss’ that the MSQs, sidequests and lore has pertained to throughout your character's questing experience in wonderfully imagined, vast and fleshed out settings and scenarios (a lot of them are cameo appearances too, such as Ifrit, Diamond Weapon, Knights of the Round, Hades etc). Granted, watching the in-game cutscenes for the umpteenth time gets a bit tedious, but the first time around they are mesmerizing and give an incredible sense of grandeur.
Look at how happy everyone is riding their over-sized yellow chickens (Chocobo's) into no-uncertain danger.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT OR FINAL FANTASY XIV, WHO HAS THE BEST NARRATIVE PRESENTATION?
Final Fantasy XIV hands down wins the competition of narrative and whilst WoW’s is compelling if you take the time to read all the quest text; it makes it difficult for the player because it is presented in such a labor intensive way…walls of text aren’t appealing. Both these MMO Titans have decades of history and are renowned for writing compelling stories, it’s simply the fact that Final Fantasy presents it in a graphically, easy and engaging manner.
2. WORLD OF WARCRAFT FOSTERS A TOXIC, SECLUSIVE COMMUNITY, FINAL FANTASY XIV HARBORS A FRIENDLY INCLUSIVE ONE
I’ll start this section by saying that of course each MMO has a friendly community and a toxic one, everyone is human after all. But these games in theme, presentation, player engagement and its reward systems couldn’t be more black and white. World of Warcraft leans towards a sometimes selfish progression system, coupled with old design philosophies that encourages elitism and a sense of FOMO (Fear of missing out), meaning that if a fellow player makes a mistake you risk losing precious rewards and having to wait a week to attempt to acquire it again, or lose hours of game time. Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand has a progressive system whereby players are rewarded for helping each other and item drops and rewards are more than often shared amongst entire parties rather than one singular player.
Image 1: Orc Grunt (Left) vs Human Footman (Right). An image used throughout the Wacraft series to depict the two faction's animosity.
Image 2: Sylvanas vs Anduin face off in Battle for Azeroth.
Image 3: The two symbols that birthed World of Warcraft and one of the most beloved franchises in gaming history.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT - PVP AND RIVALRY THEMES
World of Warcraft in a narrative sense has always been centered around PvP (Player vs Player) which I believe fosters a sense of WoW Faction Tribalism between Horde and Alliance and the races within. Think about how passionate people get regarding their favorite sports and sports team and the ire they feel towards the enemy team when their team loses, going as far to send death threats or credible threats of violence (and in some cases actual physical violence). This is bolstered by World of Warcraft’s PvP system in the form of PvP modes, world PvP, Arena PvP as well as faction reputation and rewards (getting rewarded for killing the other faction); you are constantly pitted against one another. By having two opposing factions that sometimes get on, but most of the time don’t, it creates player animosity, an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ attitude.
FINAL FANTASY XIV - PVE AND COMPANIONSHIP THEMES
Whereas if we look at the factions (Grand Companies) of FFXIV they all work towards the same goal and are considered staunch allies. Not forgetting to mention that PvP focus in FFXIV is an after-thought, I would go as far as to say it is non-existent (although Square-Enix are introducing PvP changes in Endwalker…albeit 12 years on) Throughout the FFXIV story the leaders and their representative factions play an important part in helping the Warrior of Light combat the forces threatening the balance of Eorzea. United we stand, divided we fall. The connotation of FFXIV’s narrative is that working with your fellow player reaps the best rewards.
That's probably the biggest thing I hated about WoW: I wanted to work WITH my fellow players against the game, not work against other players…
21 AUG 2016
"(In FFXIV) the game world and lore is set up in such a way that it does not pit one part of the playerbase against the other. Everything permeates a "we might be different, but we gain more by working together than we would fighting each other" atmosphere, which creates a positive vibe to interact with other people".
15 AUG 2016
WORLD OF WARCRAFT VS FINAL FANTASY XIV - GRIND AND WORK CULTURE
OBVIOUSLY MMO’s to a certain degree have to be grindy, whether that’s mob grinding, quest grinding, material grinding for items / components, reputation grinding etc. The way both games approach this couldn’t be further from each other and whilst each has similar grind aspects, only one makes it a more seamless and an enjoyable experience (hint: it’s not World of Warcraft). The reason why grinding add’s to toxicity levels, is because of the scant nature of the rewards within WoW dungeon system; if a player hinders that experience you’ll either lose out on materials, gear or even the biggest investment of all: time.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT - THE SECOND JOB
World of Warcraft is incredibly grindy and we can’t forgive the excuse that it was one of the first accessible MMO’s to market, it’s been 18 years! A lot of ex-players' complaints are that WoW seems like a chore or job, one that means sacrificing real-life commitments, such as personal hygiene and care. Whilst some aspects have improved a lot hasn’t and speaking to veterans of the game including my own experience there are some fundamental aspects as to why WoW feels like a slog you don’t want to do but have to, rather than a smooth and enjoyable experience:
- Daily Quests
Limited to one per day, these quests serve as a way to gain reputation or items and regents for end-game raiding consumables, flasks or potions or epic reputation items. The problem is that these consumables are a must-have for end game raiding content, meaning you have to log in every day to do your ‘shift’ in order to afford the items to allow you to raid that week with your guild or LFR.
- Reputation Grinding
For the BiS (Best in Slot) Gear you have to grind reputation from factions within the game. In Vanilla this was nothing less than a slog. Blizzard haven't improved much on this reputation grind philosophy in Shadowlands only that Daily quests give you a lump reputation bonus, but so what it's still an archaic system.
- Time Lockout
End-game raiding is the light at the end of the tunnel for WoW players, the final ding as you now unlock a world of possibilities and collectibles, everyone in your guild says ‘Gz’ and you trundle to your race capital ready to browse the Auction House and Epic Mount Trainers with joy and wonderment. But the feeling doesn’t last: you want the item that never drops and when it does someone else rolls higher or down to Blizzards own RNG system (Randomly allocated gear), you’ll have to wait another week. In the meantime you do 5-man dungeons on varying difficulties to get currency for gear but these too are once a week.
4 Months roll on and the items don’t drop, Blizzard have removed Master Looter, meaning your Guild Master can’t promise you the item, nor does the DPK system allow you to stake claims on it as that's been phased out. You’re out of shape, your sweaty, your stomach hurts and as the light fades from your eyes and soul you ask yourself “Was it worth it?”
Literal picture of me playing WoW during my University days.
FINAL FANTASY XIV - THE LEISURELY PART-TIME JOB
But how does FFXIV differ you ask? Well it still has lockouts, just not as punishing:
Normal players can get high end gear by completing daily roulettes, trials, dungeons which reward the player with Allagan Tomestones.These are capped at 2000, but buying a full set and weapon will cost you somewhere between 2500 and you can earn any amount of Tomestones per week, (apart from the absolute end-game content gear, which you can only obtain 450 per week maximum and works out at basically an item and half).
- Allagan Tomestone of Poetics - perfect for the entry level dungeoneer.
- Allagan Tomestone of Aphorism - traded for level cap (90) gear.
Allagan Tomestone of Astronomy - traded for level cap (90) gear, subject to 450 a week
- Players can also craft high end gear.
Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t require you to spend hours gathering pre-raid consumables simply because these don’t offer major stat boosts, ergo they aren’t necessary.
Running Light Parties, Trials and Raids will also drop random high level gear.
- Raid lockouts are generally active until the release of the subsequent raid tier, after which the lockout for the previous raid tier is removed.
Simply put: yes the hardest difficulty, best gear is subject to lockout times but there are so many more avenues to venture into to pass the time, that being locked out doesn’t feel like a hindrance. Mayhaps it also angers people because of the ‘grind’ culture that is cultivated in WoW players which is in stark difference to general FFXIV players. Additionally there’s a ton of extra content to do within FFXIV that can easily fill the gap between weekly lockdown timers…but that will be a different point altogether mentioned in the next section of this article.
My Warrior of Light: Zerathiel, looking like an absolute Chad. This high level armour was obtained by doing about... a weeks worth of Dungeons. Easy.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT VS FINAL FANTASY XIV - COMMUNITY FEATURES AND EVENTS
Both MMO’s hold a significant amount of in-game events including some fringe community events such as Fan Art competitions but the stark contrast lies with how many events are inclusive vs seclusive. What I mean by this is that World of Warcraft’s events are cute, but they don’t promote player to player interaction or community. As WoW is wanton to do: in-game events will be hosted by a certain faction which you need to grind rep for, or you need to collect large amount of regents to get special event holiday specific items or a player will need to complete certain dungeons with special singular bosses to try and get their rare drops, resulting in players repeating dungeons over and over.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT - A WHIMPER IN THE DARK
A recent example of this is the WoW Anniversary 2021 celebration: all the prizes and gifts are bound by event specific currency or by completing a…you guessed it…weekly quest, whereby a world-boss who is subject to being killed by other players and not bound to individual instances, will have a chance of dropping certain items. Meaning you have 1 chance per week to get the item you want whilst having to compete with other players in your party and other players on your server. It’s unfortunately a philosophy that the developers keep pushing ‘everything should be grinded for’ and World of Warcraft can’t seem to break from this yolk or ‘chance’ drops.
(Left) Darkmoon Faire used to be a rather poxy 'event'. (Right) Somewhat improved, gives a better sense of excitment.
FINAL FANTASY XIV - A FIREWORKS DISPLAY AND FANFARE
Final Fantasy XIV in-game and online via the Lodestone has a plethora of different community driven features and events that don’t require you to grind. Some require you just to be in a certain place, talk to a certain NPC whilst some only ask that you play your odds within Golden Saucer in a fun, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable way, backlit by the wonder of up-beat carnival music, fireworks and an all-round feel good vibe. Golden Saucer is hosted to a number of Player vs Player and NPC events, such as Chocobo Racing and Triple Triad but going into these is an essay on it’s own, read here for the full list of Gold Saucer in-game events. FFXIV host a number of seasonal events akin to WoW but it differs regarding the collection of gear; all you have to do is complete a small, easy quest chain you are rewarded with a complete set of gear and this is for every player that completes the quest, not beholden to one piece drop by a boss in a dungeon.
Community lead is exactly how I would describe FFXIV and the out-game events are just as interesting. Whether it’s the competition of designing furniture and housing like a fantasy architect to weapons as well as the obliterary fan-art, Final Fantasy XIV really let’s its player’s imaginations go wild and rewards them in turn by featuring their artwork and submissions, but also by sometimes creating and including them in-game.
The Manderville Gold Saucer is MASSIVE, images online just didn't do it justice so I linked an in-depth guide from 2020.
However the pinnacle of community lead events is the *chefs kiss* Fashion Report: a mini game in Gold Saucer whereby players can earn MGP (Manderville Gold Saucer Currency) to buy other cosmetics and player items by competing in a FASHION SHOW - yes you heard that right. Each week players will be asked to create an ensemble and given hints as to what the theme is. Once the ensemble is complete players are scored on a numerical scale of 0-100, with 100 rewarding the most MGP. But why is this important you ask? Well it’s because it doesn’t require grinding, it involves adventure to go find these outfits and dressing up is generally more fun than having to kill wave after wave of mobs in dungeons just to fight the same end bosses umpteen times.
A small collection of the freshest outfits during the Fashion Report. Although do note that just like IRL fashion, these go out of date pretty seasonally and in FFXIV terms...this means weekly.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT OF FINAL FANTASY XIV - WHO HAS THE BEST COMMUNITY
Hands down FFXIV and I would argue that the above points in favor of FFXIV lead to a general feeling of ease, fun and community. Everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves via the mini-games, plethora of community quests or busy getting rewarded for helping Newbies. You rarely miss out on items like you do in WoW, you don’t have to grind hours and hours on end for rewards or items, items that you need to progress in raids. FFXIV doesn’t even have DPS meters, as bosses are more about skill and positioning (both do have enrage timers but the item level scaling is nowhere near as punishing as World of Warcraft is, you don't need every Best in Slot item). That’s not to say WoW doesn’t have a good community in places, I genuinely loved my Guild Colleagues and I’ve met some wonderful strangers, but the stark contrast for me is in the average random dungeon party. I’ve never had aggro from fellow FFXIV players whereas in WoW if I made a mistake I was sworn at, emote ./spit on, called racial slurs or told to get cancer or your classic ‘NOOB IM LEAVING’ and then your party members quit the dungeon. I also can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been ‘griefed’ or corpse-camped in WoW, in fact I remember being camped for 4 hours in Stranglethorn Vale back in 2006/7 and…actually I don’t want to continue this train of thought!. To me the average WoW player is more toxic than the average FFXIV player.
This infamous World of Warcraft Funeral Raid for example is the epitome of the point I’m trying to make with World of Warcraft - players love going out of their way to troll, upset or grief people. Shown in the intro players are furious, but so many others think it’s hilarious. I just think it’s in poor taste and quite…pathetic and sad really.
In general FFXIV is known for an in depth crafting system, in depth emote system, housing...lots of these things beyond hardcore PvP/Raiding in general creates a more laid back fan oriented setting...you are going to see less people using dps meters and such and that does a lot to mitigate a lot of the rage from raids and dungeons found in WoW...in WoW people care about what tier of mythic raiding you are clearing. In FFXIV people care about how awesome your house is.
Another aspect is that you basically have zero ways to harass other players outside of chat. There is no ganking, you can't camp them after you do that. There is no hyper competitive or super PvP oriented setups. It has PvP but its a sideshow of a larger thing were as a fair amount of other MMO's focus overtly on PvP and naturally have a more aggressive and hostile setting”.
18 OCT 2021
So without a doubt, this is the friendliest community of any MMO I've ever been apart of. But I've been wondering, why do you think that is? I have two theories:
1. One of my favorite things in FF is that every player I see is an ally, never an enemy. Factions introduce competition and an "us vs. them" mentality that is never good for a positive environment. Hell, just look at how nasty sports fans can get in real life…
2. No open-world PvP. Open-world PvP is not even an accurate description because it's always ganking. People in other games only gank in open-world when they have an advantage, whether it's levels, gear...by not having open-world PvP it makes the players more friendly as we all work in cooperation together.
27 MAY 2019
FF14 has easily the nicest playerbase I've ever interacted with, I healed for the first time today in a Level 50 dungeon after not doing it since level 12, and everyone said I was doing well for a newbie healer, commended me and - as people ALWAYS do - said ggs and hello and goodbye…People dance and play music and hug and pat randomly, stop to help with random encounters, bow when I help them with random stuff…I'm just in awe of how kind pretty much everyone is…the playerbase is so incredibly fun and cozy and satisfying…this game is fantastic and so are you all!
23 JUN 2021
3. ACTIVISION BLIZZARD CONTROVERSAY AND LAWSUIT 2021
***TRIGGER WARNING*** WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO READ WILL BE UPSETTING AND FEATURES DESCRIPTIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, SUICIDE AND THEMES OF VIOLENCE.
You’ve heard of this, it was all over the Media and it is the single most deplorable series of events to rock the Gaming industry.
The paper I’m about to link was leaked to the internet and spread like wildfire. In terms of law jargon I won’t be able to explain it technically, but in essence it’s a list of complaints and evidence brought to the Superior Court of California by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing showing all the individual nefarious things Blizzard employee’s committed, witnessed or were accomplices too.
This came to the forefront when the prosecuting company investigating Blizzard started to unearth some deeply troubling, and quite frankly sickening, events. I’ve summarized just some of the points below, but you can read the lawsuit against Blizzard, July 20th 2021:
- Numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
- Women were being paid less than their male counterparts at Blizzard, matched by the same role.
- Women were offered less stock and pay incentives.
- Males staff would talk about sexual exploits and make jokes about rape.
- In a string of incidents, one female employee spoke about how her Male colleagues would comment on her breasts.
- Male supervisors would also ask female employees to ‘Escort them’ to social events and would get angry if rejected.
- Male supervisors would micromanage female employees but not male employees. The same managers would also make derogatory remarks about rape and other demeaning comments.
- Alex Afrasiabi - the former Senior Creative Director - was ‘permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repurcusions…telling them he wanted to marry them…trying to kiss them…this was in plain view of other male employee’s who had to intervene and pull him off his female colleagues’. ‘Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the ‘Crosby Suite’.
- ‘In a tragic example of harassment that Defendants (Blizzard) allowed to fester in their offices, a female employee committed suicide while on a company trip due to a sexual relationship she was having with her male supervisor…who was found by police to have brought a butt plug and lubricant…another employee confirmed that the deceased female may have been suffering from other sexual harassment at work…specifically at a holiday party…male co-workers were alleged to be passing around pictures of her vagina’
The boo's from the male audience and the panel's answers, especially from Alex Afrasiabi, is a massive red flag when we consider what Blizzard are being sued for. If they can confidently be degrading like this in front of a live audience and shown to millions you can imagine what goes on behind closed doors This is cringe to watch and awful beta behavior.
Following this lawsuit 3000+ employees signed an open letter speaking up for the victims, demanding "official statements that recognize the seriousness of the allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault.". Blizzard's response has been moot, with many senior people leaving and Blizzard hiring a ‘Union-busting’ firm to try to stop their employees from unionizing.
Insidious to say the least, so it’s no wonder why World of Warcraft loyalty waned; thousands and thousands in their droves canceled their subscriptions in solidarity with the victims and disgust at the company.
A Blizzard en masse employee protest.
4. THE DESIGN PHILOSOPY AND GAME FATIGUE
Behind narrative and storytelling, design is the building blocks of the game and this encompasses everything players see, hear and do. I won’t go into every detail about design because to be frank insignificant things such as graphical differences don’t really matter, nor does sound - these are nice-to-haves. The game design philosophy I’ll be dissecting is how World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV keep players enthused and engaged and how they fundamentally differ in these aspects. I feel it is vitally important to avoid the dreaded gamer burnout.
‘Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give’.
Whilst this condition was recognised in 2019 due to Global Lockdown in response to the CoronaVirus, it aptly explains the state of mental health many players feel when MMOs begin to become a negative experience, I know Rhys and I certainly did. It isn’t necessarily to do with the whole ethos of ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ but referring to how these two games are designed and how these design choices and features may mitigate feelings of burnout, boredom or motivation to continue.
A Pandarian sleeps, dreaming of his next daily quests.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT - DESIGNS OF THE OLD GODS
Unfortunately the fundamental issue with World of Warcraft and the reason why players get burnt out so quickly is due to the design choices not catching up or changing with modern tastes or expectations, and this is true from Vanilla to Shadowlands (although we can be slightly forgiving about Vanilla and Burning Crusade).
Anyone who has played WoW Vanilla will tell you that it was like having a second job, an absolute grind. Gear, Items, Reputation, Gold and PvP Titles, two of which the Grand Marshal and High Warlord required 2-3 months of 10-12 hour days, with a team of Guild Members or Friends behind you to farm enough honor. This was utterly ridiculous and whilst WoW in the years have made strides to improve and ease the players into the game for a more pleasurable experience, they still haven’t shifted the basic design fundamentals, they’ve only made grinding ‘easier’ and lowered the requirements to get in-game rewards.
A re-telling of how one player achieved Grand Marshal rank. For this guy it took 5 months and towards the last month he had to PvP every day for 16 hours....I can't fathom this sort of grind.
Many of WoW's biggest fans (including me) have over the years became frustrated with design choices that the Dev team seem to make from patch to patch and evidently with little to no explanation. There’s a lot to cover in WoWs bad design choices and I won't be able to cover everything. I’ve touched upon some of these throughout this article but I’ll try and be more specific in the points below - to me these are the biggest detriments to WoWs gameplay:
WoW tokens are in-game currency you can buy with real money, you can then sell these tokens for gold and use that gold to buy high-level items. This immediately makes the playing field unfair when you can buy in-game items that’ll make your character stronger than those who have to get gold naturally.
the wow shop
New to the WoW shop are armor sets that have unique 3D assets and look way better than the normal tier armor that currently drops. You shouldn’t have to pay money for a better ‘reskin’ of already available armor in-game, this is quite a predatory tactic.
gated content - time bound
Time gated content has been a constant complaint amongst players, even back in Vanilla and this hasn’t changed. The idea behind not time gating things is that it doesn’t take months upon months of constant logging in to get that specific item/resource/material. Whether it’s dungeons or dailies, players are punished for not logging in every day.
patches - the death of lore rich characters
Patches within WoW don’t feel to be meaningfully continuing the story in a cohesive way, they seem like stand alone mini expansions at times. These patches tend to take pivotal characters, make them the central theme and kill them all within the same patch - usually within 1 encounter in 1 raid/dungeon - and it feels rushed. Because of this WoW is struggling to find characters to use at the heart of their content as most of their legacy characters from WC3 and early WoW days are gone and dare I say the new ones lack soul.
Lore wise Queen Azshara was always in the background, but her contributions to the storyline of WoW and changing of Azeroth is immense. Unfortunately for Azshara her limelight was over in a patch and this highlights a larger problem with WoW - that each expansion the power level of characters jumps dramatically. Vanilla we were battling God-like elementals...now we may as well be Gods ourselves.
Dungeons, dungeons...and look...more dungeons
Apart from PvP and the odd non-dungeon content there’s not a lot to keep players logging on, nor enthusiastic about doing so. Players feel they have to log in to complete their ‘list’ to be able to get gear or pre-raid items. Apart from grinding there doesn’t seem to be a lot else to do, even the Achievements are lists of objectives to complete by collecting things. WoW needs to do better to include content that isn’t restricted to killing things.
dungeon and raid design
Dungeon and Raid design still fall short of compelling; the same formula of clearing trash mobs to kill a boss, then deal with more trash and rinse and repeat. The saving grace in WoW’s defense is that the boss design and mechanics are amazing (although cinematically I still stand by the fact that FFXIV does this better).
class difference - or lack thereof
Class difference doesn’t make players feel special as there aren’t many differing movesets to give each class a unique edge and within raiding everything is focused on optimal rotations and ‘windows of dmg or healing’. Throughout my WoW career I played as a tank (but had an alt Mage if needed): Warrior up to Wrath of the Lich King and then Death Knight ever since. The bosses mechanically were fun, but tanking is just a matter of rotating the same 3 to 4 move sets with the occasional 1 or 2 if you pull large mobs or need to blast a cooldown to survive an incoming punishing attack.
GHOST DEVELOPERS AND FEATURE REDACTION
Many complaints from WoW subscribers are that the developers are non-existant on the forums and don't provide feedback as to whty certain choics are made, unlike the legendary Naoki Yoshida who is warmly regarded amongst the FFXIV as a friend.
FINAL FANTASY XIV - A REALM REBORN
On the other hand Final Fantasy XIV offers a plethora of rich and deep features that keeps players enthused, happy, social and most importantly: engaged. Not to mention that the aforementioned Naoki Yoshida and his team are in regular contact with the community, via Social and Forums. There's quite frankly too many to talk about, but here are my favourite features and extra's that WoW lacks:
STARTING FROM SCRATCH - THE MOON OF DALAMUD
The original Final Fantasy XIV was a buggy mess until Naoki Yoshida swooped in like an angel and completley remade it from the ground up, thus a Realm was Reborn. A nice ode to the old game also: players during this transition were treated to an epic, cataclysmic quest line in the run up to the revamp.
What is astonishing about FFXIV being remade is that it's unheard of in today's gaming culture; that rather than try and patch the games after release, just wipe the board and start all over. It's incredibly humble.
The last site many players had in 2012 before Final Fantasy XIV was remade forever.
The accompanying cinematic heralding in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Job System and Dynamic Levelling
As mentioned earlier the FFXIV Job system allows one character to play all classes. Additionally, all other jobs below your highest job level gain a 50%+ EXP bonus meaning it's easier to catch up in levels and avoid a pre-longed grind whilst still experience the levelling of each job naturally. This means players dont have to create Alt's or Respec.
REGULAR GIFTED ITEM SETS
From level 50 and every 10 levels thereafter characters will be given chests that include a full-set of level equivalent armor. This armor set is more than enough to see the player to the next 10 levels and complete all dungeons inbetween.
THE NOVICE NETWORK
The Novice Network is another argument in favor for the friendly and wonderful community within Final Fantasy XIV. Very simply it is a chat channel new players can join where 'Sprouts' (Newbies) can make friends, questing partners, dungeon partners or just relax and casually chat about the game or anything they might need help with. It's a brilliant initiative.
And of course everyone is super friendly.
REGULAR DEVELOPER UPDATES
Unlike WoW, the producers and developers of FFXIV keep in contact regularly with the players base, whether on social, website or via media, players are constantly kept in the loop which is reassuring and encouraging.
dungeon and raid design
Final Fantasy Dungeons, Trials, Raid and Deep Dungeons have a different formula than WoW who has a very bland trash-boss-trash-boss pattern with very few variations, in some you get to pilot vehicles or ride atop animals, but it feels very mechanically boring. In FFXIV not only is the player content fast paced, but the bosses have so many interested mechanics - which greatly differ as you progress in difficulty - that it doesn't feel like a slog.
The feature that WoW players have been dreaming of for so long was realised in FFXIV early on. Player Housing is so much more than just asthetics though it's an excellent way to spend down time. Also the music slaps as you can change - via Orchestrion - to whichever soundtrack you'd like. It's the reason why Farmville, the Sims and the Tychoon series are so beloved, they're peaceful, calming...it is Zen.
As you level up through Final Fantasy XIV you will never have issues going through the main storyline dungeons, even those from ARR 10 years ago and this is due to the fact that Dungeons and Trials are level synced. This means that high level players match the level of the 'newbie' when entering a dungeon with them. The newbie gets to complete the dungeon and the high level players gain tokens that can be put towards high level gear. Win Win!
NO JUNK ITEMS!
This is a small quality of life feature but it represents the greater ethos of design with the user experience in mind. FFXIV doesn't drop junk items...enemies will only drop things that are garunteed to be used for quests, professions or for a greater schematic. You don't have to buy bags either everything is given to the player and this takes the stress out of mundane tasks such as item storage.
WORLD OF WACRAFT VS FINAL FANTASY - THE DESIGN BATTLE
WoW at the time was revolutionary and it was on an upward trend of popularity, unchallenged from 2004 to 2011. I genuinely feel that Blizzard got lazy and rode the coattails of that popularity for too long and so they didn't innovate. Instead of progressing and making the MMO more pleasurable for players, Blizzard instead focused on the numbers and pursued a design philosophy around the question "How can we make more money?".
In complete juxtaposition we have FFXIV who - of course want to make the most money possibe, companies do that - put the player, experience, story-telling and community first and because of this has gone from strength to strength.
FINAL THOUGHT - IS WOW DYING?
World of Warcraft will always be a beloved game for me and it has seen me through the best and worst times of my life, from the tender age of 13 to a 21 yound adult. But WoW is far from dying, it is still the second most popular MMO on the market and not to mention that only a few days ago, was bought out by Microsoft. WoW needs a reboot, but to me it isn't dead...its just not alive.
Thanks for an insightful and equitable article. I played WOW from beta until MoP, at which time I was forced to quit due to personal reasons. I was an absolute addict and I loved the game (although even then the community was pretty toxic). I’ve been wondering about returning recently, but your article has given me pause to rethink. FFXIV sound pretty awesome, actually, having never played any of the FF games – I have heard very good things though, especially about FFVI at the time. A factor for me in deciding which game to play would be the monthly subscription cost. I’m not well off, but the subscription seems the same for both these games.You’d think, following dwindling numbers and controversy, that Blizzard would lower their sub cost to attract new players. Ho hum, their loss.