Blizzard has begun taking applications for a new World of Warcraft Community Council (opens in new tab), a platform that hopes to give a select group of players a direct line of communication with developers.
Announced this week, the Community Council is described as a tool to help the developer get in touch with folks from all sides of the game—be it hardcore raiding, PVP, achievement hunting, roleplaying or otherwise—with exclusive forums (both publicly visible and private) and live chats between council members and devs.
"Player feedback impacts all aspects of the game, and with such a wide range of opinions, playstyles, and interests out there, gathering and understanding feedback is more important than ever," Blizzard wrote in the announcement. "To help further our efforts in this area, we’re introducing the WoW Community Council. This program will add another venue for communication between players and WoW developers. Our goal is to gather more detailed feedback on all aspects of World of Warcraft from players around the world with a wide range of backgrounds and interests."
Blizzard is currently taking applications via this form (opens in new tab), asking folks to list what areas of the game they engage with and how long they play to bring in a broad range of perspectives. It does seem like you'll need to prove you have credibility, mind, with the form asking you to submit 3 examples of prior contributions to the community. After a year, Council members will be dropped and invites re-opened to bring in fresh voices.
While a new idea for WoW, the idea of a player-led council interfacing with devs is hardly new. EVE Online has long invited player representatives to join the Council of Stellar Management (opens in new tab)—though as a more community-driven game, CSM members get pretty direct input on planned / in-development features, and are invited to a yearly 5-day summit in Iceland. Blizzard pointedly notes that WoW's Community Council won't hear of new developments before anyone else, and rather seems to be a more reactive means of checking community temperature.
The council comes as WoW hits a kind of moment of reckoning. Amidst ongoing harassment lawsuits at Activision Blizzard (opens in new tab) and a mass exodus to Final Fantasy 14 (opens in new tab), the once unstoppable MMO has been busy sanitising itself of problematic developer names (opens in new tab), sexualised paintings (opens in new tab), references to homophobic singers (opens in new tab) and more. There's a sense that World of Warcraft needs to rethink fundamental ideas about what it means to be a decades-old MMO—and that means a closer line of discussion with the game's playerbase.