Blizzard’s titan of an MMORPG World of Warcraft released in 2004 and took the genre by storm. At its peak it hit 12 million subscribers and today it is at a strong 8.3 million, with a new expansion on its way. Blizzard is strongly supporting their title and continuing to update the lore. However, the foundation it was created from started with a popular RTS series dating back to 1994 with Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1996 and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos in 2003. The original trilogy dominated the RTS market as it paved the way for other Blizzard classics i.e. Starcraft. World of Warcraft has surpassed several in its own genre and is remaining popular today but that doesn’t mean Blizzard can’t go back to where it all began.
Why not an RTS for Warcraft IV? It has more focus on a single-player narrative and it would be a new change from, what is now formulaic, expansions. The lore of World of Warcraft has significantly grown over the years. not to divide the player base it would literally have to co-exist with WoW, as a parallel story. One controls the key players and watch the story unfold, the other is an outside party seeing it as a bystander. Both gamers are comfortable with their respective format and it would recapture those that didn’t take the MMORPG leap. A co-existing release wouldn’t be too off and Blizzard hasn’t shied away from orthodox releases such as Starcraft II.
Speaking of Starcraft II…
StarCraft II was an anticipated sequel as was Warcraft at the time, both games had large development lengths between them. The unexpected success of WoW pushed back the release dates of all of their games in development. Rumors flourished and swelled until it was released… in segments. Each campaign was going to be a full $60 game. Releasing a story driven game one piece of a story a time didn’t help, considering if you were looking forward to the story’s of the other campaign. With such a long release window people lost interest or became content with the base game.
Especially with the rise of the MOBA.
During Warcraft III’s popularity a unique custom game was created of 5 vs 5 objective based team games however instead of controlling multiple units each player had one. This mod created an entire genre over a decade and now MOBA games have blown up where the popularity of RTS have fallen hard. A lot of glory StarCraft 2 was capturing for the e-sport soon was taken after 2012 by League of Legends and years later DOTA 2. Fans turned to the multiplayer arena and let the former market dwindle.
Realistically speaking RTS games have lost a lot of popularity. This year alone marked only two noteworthy releases: Dawn of War III and Total War: Warhammer II. RTS is on life-support however Blizzard can resuscitate it with their magic if they wanted to.