Blizzard says it does pay attention to the 'shoutiest of the shouty' but WoW's Plunderstorm mode 'is not a failure'

(Image credit: Blizzard)

World of Warcraft recently began a series of what it calls experiments in the industry's pre-eminent MMO, aiming to give players a wider range of ways to engage with Azeroth and each other. First was Plunderstorm, a piratical battle royale that encourages bitesize PvP encounters, with a Mists of Pandaria remix also on the horizon.

Plunderstorm has proven both popular and divisive, as one might expect, with many players delighted at the appearance of such a fun one-off (in a game that, let's remember, most have been playing for years) while others groan and grumble about whether the game's losing its identity (alongside the usual threats to cancel subscriptions).

The limited-time mode is due to end on April 30, and until then Blizzard has doubled the XP gains to lessen the grind. That's great news for everyone except PCG's own Fraser Brown, who'd just spent two days grinding for his fancy new mount. World of Warcraft executive producer Holly Longdale has now addressed some of the negative feedback about the event and, in particular, those figures that become focal points for community disquiet. 

"We kind of expected it: it’s PvP," said Longdale to PCGN. "But then we look at the behavior itself and Plunderstorm outperformed all of our expectations, which was great.

"What we’re trying to do is service different communities. The team has learned through experience that the shoutiness of the people that are the shoutiest of the shouty could be a groundswell."

Longdale adds that the negative reaction is "not going to stop us from experimenting with various ways to play" for those who enjoy PvP and "a lot of people gave it a shot." Longdale shies away from putting any specific numbers on how popular the mode was, of course, but emphasises "Plunderstorm is not a failure."

Next up is Pandaria remix, which essentially is going to let players power-level and blast their way through the entire expansion at an accelerated rate and then take almost all of their winnings into the game proper. Longdale says the WoW live team isn't going to "overinvest" in the individual experiments but is "allowing player behavior to lead us into what they actually want to do." So, for example, if a particular mode "is a banger" then we probably would invest in it because the players are telling us that’s what [they] want."

Longdale says it's possible Blizzard will do variants of modes like Plunderstorm in the future, and isn't wedded to the idea of these things remaining limited events; they could end up simply becoming "options and ways to play."

"It’s very open, fertile ground right now," Longdale says.

I'm a WoW dabbler and certainly no expert, but do find it amusing that Blizzard's experienced some pushback from certain players over trying to jazz things up a little. WoW's success and immense popularity over decades has led to it being supported with a mind-boggling range of extra content, whether that's the more traditional expansions or these new experiments, and it seems slightly churlish to complain about it doing something different alongside the grander narrative sweep of the upcoming The War Within. It's not like Plunderstorm replaced anything, and it'll be gone in just over a week. As always with community feedback: be careful what you wish for.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."