Microsoft is acquiring Activision-Blizzard in a mammoth nearly $70B cash deal, the biggest in the history of game company acquisitions. So, many are wondering if finally we can expect World of Warcraft to come to console, or even mobile, like other major MMORPGs of the day have managed to do such as Runescape or Black Desert Online. Though it's much too early for any official announcement, WoW coming to other platforms is something of an inevitability as a Microsoft subsidiary. In this article, we'll explain why.
World of Warcraft Won't Be PC Exclusive for Long
Microsoft doesn't really do exclusive games anymore. This might sound strange for the creator of the Xbox, but Microsoft has been more and more focused on supporting both Windows and Xbox with games as the years go by. These days, it's very rare games that Microsoft games don't come to both platforms.
This even holds true for games you might not think would even work on a console, like Microsoft Flight Simulator. Microsoft is very gung-ho about keeping gamers in their ecosystem, whether it's on PC or on Xbox. This is so much a company philosophy that even a game that would be historically unthinkable on console, Age of Empires IV, is largely expected to get a console port eventually.
And Microsoft is not like Sony when it comes to PC releases. They aren't holding back the newest and most popular games to encourage people to buy an Xbox: Games like Halo come to Xbox and PC on release. So, if you'd rather play Xbox games on PC, you're free to do that, and Microsoft will support you.
The fact of that the matter, though, to this day is that PC gaming makes orders of magnitude less money than console gaming which makes orders of magnitude less money than mobile gaming. There are simply fewer PC gamers out there than any other kind of gamer, so locking games, especially huge games, to PC doesn't make the best business sense.
World of Warcraft is the biggest game Activision-Blizzard has outside of Call of Duty and Candy Crush, and it's the biggest Blizzard property of all time, outshining even Diablo and Overwatch in terms of longevity and long-term success. It's not a relative niche franchise within the context of a genre not known for working well on console like Age of Empires.
As a big-ticket moneymaker, especially one on the decline with a resentful playerbase unhappy with the modern direction of WoW, World of Warcraft is ripe for a huge change, an overhaul, a massive step into modernity to reinvigorate the playerbase and the franchise.
Activision-Blizzard didn't want to rock the boat. A huge change comes with huge risk, and World of Warcraft has been perfected as a moneymaking machine for Activision-Blizzard. People buy the game; people buy expansions; people pay for subscriptions; people buy and sell gold; and people purchase microtransactions. Even with a declining playerbase, why would Activision-Blizzard want to funnel development time into something that didn't make them money right then?
How Microsoft Will Change Things
The calculus is different with Microsoft at the helm, is the thing. Microsoft has products like WIndows or Xbox or Games Pass that they can funnel users into, so it makes a lot more sense for them not to try and monetize their games to such an extent that their customers don't want to play. Why try to maximize profits from a single game when you can give gamers the product they want and get more money from them in the long term if they stay within your ecosystem?
Microsoft may not be Santa, going around making every gamer's dream come true, but they as a company are a lot bigger than Activision-Blizzard and are much more diversified. They have other products that they can convince people to buy, so the reputation hit you take and the PR nightmare you spawn when you manage games like Activision-Blizzard does come at what will certainly be too great a cost for Microsoft.
Microsoft itself has been on a campaign to ingratiate itself with gamers since the disastrous beginning of the Xbox One era. Microsoft was so out of touch with gamers and had nearly so few meaningful exclusives that they had become a joke in the gaming world after reigning as the king of it in the Xbox 360 era, and since then, they've been trying to convince gamers they've changed.
With tons of consumer-friendly choices and the acquisition of tons of studios, Microsoft has changed a lot, so it doesn't make sense for them to roll that all back by buying one of the most notoriously greedy and anti-consumer gaming publishers out there and continuing business as usual.
How World of Warcraft on Console Could Work
WoW on console would absolutely require some major reworking of the game's systems and interface, and if the idea was to have console players play with PC players on the servers with all the same content, this task will be inevitably even more difficult.
However, World of Warcraft has changed a lot over the years. When the give first launched, and throughout its first few expansions, the game was considerably smaller, less complicated, and less technically demanding. This is all reflected by the current differences between retail World of Warcraft and World of Warcraft Classic.
Bringing World of Warcraft Classic to console first would make a lot of sense. It would be an easier port to develop than the World of Warcraft main game, and for many console gamers, they'll never have played WoW before, so starting with Classic might be a good way to introduce them to the franchise by beginning with the actual beginning.
This would also be a good way to get the team's feet wet with console development and get a feel for how World of Warcraft systems best work on console. All of which would be useful experience to have when converting the full World of Warcraft experience to work on console.