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Final Fantasy XIV is about to eat World of Warcraft's lunch

World Of Warcraft Sylvanas
World Of Warcraft Sylvanas (Image credit: Blizzard)

Source: Blizzard (Image credit: Source: Blizzard)

Few characters in World of Warcraft are as iconic as Sylvanas Windrunner, whose saga begun all the way back in Warcraft III. At the hands of Arthas Menethil, otherwise known as The Lich King, Sylvanas is slain and raised into undeath as a banshee, eventually overthrowing Arthas and taking over the kingdom of Lordaeron, self-styling as The Banshee Queen of The Forsaken.

WARNING: There are spoilers for World of Warcraft in this article.

For the past 17 years, Sylvanas has been integral to the World of Warcraft storyline, weaving her dark machinations mysteriously in the background. Sylvanas kept players guessing, "is she evil?" given that she often had a less-than-ethical approach to the Horde's problems.

Players in Warcraft fight it out as part of the two famous factions, the Alliance and the Horde, and Sylvanas forever seemed like a bit of a wildcard. In Cataclysm, Sylvanas sparked outrage by resurrecting fallen Alliance soldiers into undead Forsaken minions. In Legion, Sylvanas was seen cutting back-channel deals with evil entities like Helya. And her hatred reached fever pitch in Battle for Azeroth, as she committed genocide against the night elves, burning their homeland of Teldrassil into ash.

Players have spent literally years wondering whether Sylvanas was just a repeat of the Garrosh Hellscream plot from Mists of Pandaria. Blizzard assured players that it was all part of some "grand scheme" and that Sylvanas had some sort of master plan. Alas, despite everything she's done, Sylvanas does an inexplicable 180 in the latest expansion, unraveling any credibility Blizzard's writing team had left. Ultimately, the writing is just the straw that broke the camel's back for me. World of Warcraft has multiple problems contributing to its slow demise, and it may ultimately be FFXIV's gain.

I just don't care anymore

After years of gradually slipping quality in the house of World of Warcraft, the characters I'd grown to love for the past two decades, all the way back to the Warcraft III days, were one of the few things keeping me interested in the game. It stands apparent from the latest update, Chains of Dominion, that Blizzard is caught between what it should do to maintain a coherent story vs. what may represent "good business." Sylvanas' story has been drawn out for years, and increasingly it feels like they keep her around for the merchandising and branding opportunities above everything else.

Despite killing thousands of innocents to contribute to The Jailer's mysterious (and, as of yet unknown) intentions, at the end of the raid in the latest update, Sylvanas seems to get a change of heart, attacking The Jailer. She seems to realize that The Jailer is just using her as a tool, which was blindingly obvious from the outset in and of itself. Then, despite being supremely evil and often shown to be needlessly vengeful. The dude is literally called The Jailer. Regardless, he gives Sylvanas back her soul as "thanks" for helping him, apparently making her mortal again, while allowing the leaders of the Horde and the Alliance to escape.

Source: Blizzard How I felt watching this cutscene, learning Sylvanas has no conviction, and no plan whatsoever and is just a garden variety psychopath. (Image credit: Source: Blizzard)

Every step of the game's writing feels designed to intentionally avoid resolution, dragging things out instead of developing something new. Keep guessing, keep hanging on, keep subscribing for yet another content update where Blizzard will no doubt promise some form of resolution. Problem is, they've been doing this for years at this point.

More and more of Warcraft's story slips out of the game and into books, requiring further reading in a desperate attempt to make any sense of what has transpired, hunting down a shred of consistency from these characters. Fool me once, shame on you, as the saying goes. I feel like Blizzard has fooled me about twenty times at this point, though, and I'm done.

Warcraft's decline is FFXIV's gain

Final Fantasy XIV's Alexander Raid

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

I've written previously about my fears that Activision's corporate "Kotick needs a new yacht" culture has been eroding Blizzard's quality, and it's easy to blame the evil parent company for everything that has gone wrong at the publisher in recent years. Blizzard used to be my favorite dev by a country mile, emphasis on used to be, because, after repeated controversies around esports, mass layoffs, the terrible remaster of Warcraft III, and the gradual decline of World of Warcraft's quality, the death of Starcraft, I'm not sure I have a lot of love left.

Iconic figures like Jeff Kaplan and Mike Morhaime have departed the company, along with many, many others. Blizzard was an outlier for its special culture, which Activision seems to have chipped away gradually as time went on.

At its height, World of Warcraft enjoyed over 15 million active subscribers, which has since dwindled to around 3 million according to some third-party trackers. The long content drought between the launch of WoW: Shadowlands and this recent update saw a mass exodus of players jumping into Square Enix's Final Fantasy 14: Realm Reborn, too, myself included. Big-name influencers like Asmongold on Twitch also made the leap to FFXIV, causing the game's servers to become overloaded with the influx of new players.

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

FFXIV will grab a major new expansion later this year in the form of Endwalker, and some of its recent expansions have been praised for their great writing and characters — a fact which stands in opposition to World of Warcraft, which has relied on arbitrarily "shocking" moments that struggle to deal with the implications of what they've written, avoiding any form of satisfying conclusion. The YouTube clip showcasing Sylvanas' "change of heart" has a large 11k dislikes, to only 4k likes. Honestly, though, bad writing is only part of the problem. Time gating mechanics, long content droughts, RNG gear roulette, weak progression systems, and lack of activities all contribute to a WoW in decline. Many players seem to agree, given the fact FFXIV's servers have become overloaded with new customers in recent weeks, leading to server congestion.

Warcraft in decline presents an opportunity for FFXIV and other subscription-based MMOs to finally dethrone the old guard. As Sylvanas herself states repeatedly throughout this expansion: nothing lasts, and that could ironically signal WoW's final death knell.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

21 Comments
  • Didn't Blizzard also lose Chris Metzen as creative director and writer? He was instrumental in the writing and design for many of Blizzard's best titles. Now he just does the occasional voice acting for Thrall when they need him.
  • yeah, Metzen retired or so. it sucks but I also don't blame him... problem is it doesn't seem like they've found a way to give the world consistency narratively, while dealing with the idea of Sylvanas, etc. being tied up to the brand itself.
  • I have tried final fantasy and it'd not my cup of tea. One of my kids plays and loves it. I went back to wow because controller support and toyed with that a but. Pretty much I won't be doing anything but quest and casual dungeons with that system. They did not implement any class functions with it. Just bind your own and go. For those that don't like final fantasy Elder Scrolls Online is a pretty decent Mmo with tons of content and No subscription if you don't want. Storage space is at a premium but it's no different than in vanilla wow other than you can buy bag space for ingame currency or for real world cash. The developer implemented alot of cosmetic and mounts into the cash shop but the game is nit pay to win and anything buffwise you can buy from cash shop has a higher quality alternative ingame which isn't unreasonable to aquire. Give eso and final fantasy both a try one of my kids loves ff14 one still plays wow and I like eso and dabble in wow when my backs up too using a mouse and keyboard.
  • Oh no Jez! Whatever will you do during the podcast!?! You better hope that they don't shut down Overwatch or you will be out of games until the next Pokémon comes out... 😜
  • haha ikr. it sucks but it is what it is... Blizz seems to lack direction atm.
  • Not like FF XIV's writing is perfect. Adding a race that's female only and comes about from some alternate dimension is exactly glorious writing. Throw in the fact that racial armor is skimpy as heck and I have no real faith in the game anymore.
  • The skimpy armour increases your dps. Seriously though I haven't experienced enough of ffxiv's writing to cast judgment, but I know that I'm enjoying the job based stories, crafting mechanics, and activities a lot more so far. Triple Triad is awesome. I'll do a definitive write up of ffxiv vs. wow once I get into end game. I got 10k+ hours in WoW and after bfa and sl it feels like blizz has given up.
  • The endgame in FFXIV it's just as toxic as any other MMO and the last expansion story didn't make any sense...I'm not gonna spoil it for you but you gonna agree with me once you get to it.
  • Shadowbringers made a lot of sense. It tied up a ton of loose ends from A Realm Reborn and what it didn't answer is probably what's left for Endwalker. I'd say give the story another shot (read ARRs on wikipedia, relive the rest in New Game +).
  • The difference between Savage/Ultimate raiding and Mythic dungeons is that the former are not the be all end all. The team consistently emphasizes all forms of content. The XIV social teams just ran a Blue mage campaign. And they’re always doing the Feast and Frontlines. Whereas with WoW mythic dungeons are it. The other thing, Shadowbringers made perfect sense. It’s completely consistent with the storyline that starts off at level 1
  • Mythic is an RNG fest too, no point gunning for BiS gear when you're at the mercy of several layers of slot machines. Blizz managed to make me stop caring about lore and gear with its "systems," and made me not want to log on at all doing the same gameplay loop over and over since Legion. WoW suffers from a total lack of vision and investment and creativity rn.
  • Just don't judge the whole game by ARR. It's by far the weakest of the story and really makes you want to pull your hair out at times with how much filler is in it. Heavensward is really where the story starts to move. Better writing, better voice acting, better encounters and dungeons.
  • They actually did reduce the amount of filler.
    The voice acting is unfortunate tho, I think it was due to lack of direction.
    But it definitely did get way better later on.
  • Viera don't come from "some alternate dimension", that's not what the reflections actually are.
    Also, what does skimpy armor have to do with the games writing? You do realize that NPCs don't actually wear that, right? Not to mention that XIV really doesn't have a lot of it compared to the regular sets. I don't know, maybe try and understand the lore properly first before you try to pass judgement over it.
  • Nothing's perfect. There are males of the Viera, they're just super rare (and thus you can't create one). At least I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere. There's also a male-only race, and honestly...the quality of dialogue in FFXIV is just so much higher. Also, you cannot seriously be writing this entire game off because of one skimpy racial armor. The amount of content in the game is staggering and it's not just comprised of two mission types ("collect this" and "kill this"). I have like 200 hours in the game and I guarantee I haven't seen half of it yet. Better music, too. Imo.
  • The Viera are not from another dimension, they're from the southern part of the continent of Othard. We just have not fully explored that area in game yet.
  • The reason why the Viera were female only in Shadowbringers is because they were initially only planing on adding Hrothgar.
    But somewhere during development they decided to add Viera due to overwhelming fan request, they actually thought of doing it during Heavensward but added Au'Ra instead and people have been asking since.
    I fail to see how the devs actually listening to what the fans want is a bad thing, it's the whole reason why we got them to begin with and it should be praised.
    Same with male Viera and Hrothgar coming in Endwalkers, that's also due to fan request. So they went with male Hrothgar which they had come the furthest with and female Viera, and it's very obvious to anyone who has played either that it wasn't planned to be that way because they both severely lack in customization options ( especially hair and helmets not working ).
    Miqo'te ( cat people ) were also female only in the lore previously, but in FFXIV they added male Miqo'te. Also what does their racial outfit have to do with anything?
    It's not armor, it's a racial attire that every race has a unique set of. The Viera's is a reference to Fran from a past FF game.
    The actual armor in the game is overwhelmingly not skimpy, and the very little skimpy gear that there is is skimpy for both genders.... If you don't like it that's fine, but damn relax a little and let other people have fun.
    Not everyone wants to play as a dude or dudette in beefy armor.
    The devs for FFXIV give everyone a lot of options and they don't shy away from giving people options to create hot and skimpy male characters.
    Having fun with sex appeal is not a crime.
  • Turns out the WoW killer mmo is WoW itself. Blizzard is dead. Activision doesn't know who Sylvanas is, much less how to write about her or her story.
    BFA and SL are nothing but terrible systems that do nothing but incentivize players to cancel their subs.
    Anima for transmogs are gated behind 60,000 Anima worth of covenant portal/teleports upgrades.
    watch this video: this is the best way to explain it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqjEY2K8GVk&t=15s
    Tali explains how to fix wow, but activision is too stupid to watch this and fix their game.
    i quit wow and deleted the game off my hard drive after trying FF14 for a week. Already subbed to FF14 for 6 months, already pre purchased the Nov expansion. If wow ever wakes up and makes content instead of systems, I might look at it again.
    However, if Pantheon Rise of the Fallen ever releases, lol, I will play that. but that looks more like a pipe dream than anything else.
  • I am a WoW player, since it started. I tried FF, it is not good,its ok, it's slow. This coming from a 60 year old player. I keep thinking that the FF people must have encouraged this talk about WoW. For one thing, I dont mind this, it keeps WoW execs on their toes and they have to come up with more and better. Which to me as a WOW player is a win win situation.
  • Agreed with all of this. Blizz has become ignorant of how to make a good game.
  • This is a reminder that nothing lasts forever, and no one can stay at the top forever.
    Fortnite is next.