One of Blizzard’s overarching goals seems to be to get people involved. Lower the entry requirements and really get players to play all aspects of the game. From this philosophy we saw features such as Looking for Group, Looking for Raid, and the battleground queueing system as well as world quests, bonus weekends, and satchels. There are lots of incentives and rewards out there to get players to try new things and, to some extent, it seems to have worked.
On the PvE side for example, raiding is now more accessible than ever. LFR has given countless players the opportunity to experience the raids while the new Group Finder has made it easier than ever to find a run and jump right in. I am obviously a bit biased, being a raider surrounded by raiders, but it seems to me that more people are raiding. What once was a 1% of the population activity now seems to be more like 15 or 20% (I’m totally guessing at numbers here but I do think it is higher than it once was).
But not only is raiding more accessible, raiding also feels more accessible. That is an important distinction because if something feels easier to jump in, people will be more willing to jump in. Case in point, my own father, who has gone on record as saying that raiding is the most stressful thing in the game, regularly runs LFR and has been on a number of normal runs. The stigma that used to be associated with raiding – that it’s difficult and that it’s elitist – seems to be going away.
While I’m not actually within the PvP scene itself, I’m not so sure the same can be said for player vs player. Even with all the incentives, the artifact skins and the mounts and the achievements, PvP still appears to be just as niche as it has been before. Why isn’t PvP popularizing like PvE?
To answer this question, I ran an informal poll on my twitter. Over the course of three days, I collected 127 votes and while the results aren’t surprising, they are rather telling.
(Quick note: this poll was by no means the end all be all on the PvP issue. Rather, it provided a snapshot of what a small portion of the WoW community thinks. I’d like to think that the people it reached were diverse in their WoW backgrounds but since I have no way of verifying that, I’ll say this was as random and as widespread as I could get it)
50%, half of the respondents, cited Toxic Behavior as their number one reason that keeps them from PvPing. Whether this is true or not, it seems a large portion of the sample group believes that the PvP community is negative and nasty. And this idea is not unique to the poll; I’ve seen similar sentiments echoed all across the Warcraft world and community at large. PvP has a really bad rap and it’s actively discouraging people from joining in.
The second most chosen answer was that folks weren’t interested, clocking in at 25% of the votes. Whether this is due to the basic nature of PvP or it’s current iteration, I cannot be sure but it also seems that a good chunk of people just have no interest in that type of gameplay. If I had been able to contact everyone that voted for this option to ask them if anything would be able to interest them in PvP, I absolutely would have but since I cannot, I’m going to assume their disinterest is static and unchanging.
The least chosen option of the three defined choices was that the entry barrier is too high. About 14% of voters chose this option which, to me, points out something very important. PvP isn’t seen as something incredibly hard to jump into. People aren’t terribly concerned about their skills being lacking. Dislike of PvP stems directly from the players in the term players vs players.
The remaining 11% of the votes went to a variety of different issues within the Other category. However, there was one recurrent idea that I think merits discussion: reward. A good number of people felt like the rewards weren’t worth the time put in. Why spend an hour PvPing and getting barely 200 honor when you can go and run multiple different dungeons with dozens of potential drops? Unless you win all the time forever, PvP rewards aren’t all that amazing.
I do realizing that I’m comparing apples and oranges a bit here; PvP and PvE are such completely different beasts that it’s hard to explain why one is becoming more accessible while the other remains niche. However, just like apples and oranges are both round fruits with star shaped seed patterns, PvP and PvE do have similar elements. For one, I think both can be activities that any WoW player feels confident to jump in and try.
So what’s the number one issue keeping PvP niche? I’d say it’s the stigma. But unlike the difficulty and elitism that PvE suffered, this cannot be solved by adding an easier difficulty with queue. PvP already has that to an extent, it’s called unrated battlegrounds. What exactly can Blizzard do?
One solution that I’ve heard and really liked is the idea of an arsehole’s league. The players who are constantly being abusive and rude get sorted into separate games with all the other jerks. Such a system would, quite literally, remove a lot of the negativity from PvP by isolating it all by itself in a sort of corner of shame. The people who are constantly being reported for bad behavior get a punishment that actually could stop the behavior from being a prevalent.
A dynamic system to control toxicity as well as maybe a rebalancing of rewards and I think PvP could become a lot more approachable. And of course, the success of such a system would rely on Blizzard actively advertising the new changes to get the word out there.
So what do you folks, the readers, think? How would you change PvP from a niche activity to a more widely played one?