World of Warcraft is set to have a huge year in 2024, with its twentieth anniversary and the launch of The War Within. That’s why we think now is the best time in the game’s history to release the long-talked-about console port .
“Whether you are a current player, or maybe you jumped off the WoW train a few expansions ago, now is the time to come home.” These were the words of World of Warcraft’s creative adviser, Chris Metzen, at last year’s BlizzCon opening ceremony. As they were uttered, it felt like something changed.
Obviously, for a game-turning 20 this year, World of Warcraft is an old title. Ancient, really, in the gaming landscape. It’s a genuine miracle it’s still active and relevant in the year 2024. However, World of Warcraft has begun to finally feel its age in recent years. Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands were narrative farragos that attempted to mess with a lot of important lore involving important characters that ultimately fell flat. Dragonflight has been a decent adventure so far, but it’s not been the shot in the arm the franchise needs. WoW has begun to feel like one of its most seasoned characters, Thrall. A once untouchable titan that has started to feel haggard – perhaps, even mortal in older age.
However, something changed in that room in Anaheim in November. Blizzard announced the Worldsoul Saga, subsequently revealing the next three expansions – The War Within, Midnight, and The Last Titan. It’s clear – this is Blizzard’s grand gambit to completely revitalize the franchise, invigorate the current player base, invite lapsed players back, and even get new players in. The messaging was clear – 2024 was the year to keep, start, or return to playing WoW.
However, if Blizzard really wants that to be the case, it’s time to pull the trigger on one of the specters that have followed the game around for years – it’s time for World of Warcraft to come to console.
Coming into port
A World of Warcraft console version has been speculated for a long, long, (long) time. The game came out when home consoles were the dominant way to play video games, so it’s almost always been a conversation. While nothing concrete has ever manifested, there have always been credible rumors that a console version of the game had been worked on at various points in WoW’s history.
The common retort to this is that the game has too many buttons for a controller. “It’s just too complicated”. However, in time, that’s proven to be more flexible than first appears. There are reasonable addons for controller support available right now, such as the popular ConsolePort. It’s a little janky, but a port from Blizzard could likely perfect this by also creating a bespoke console version of the game.
However, it’s not just third-party creators showing it can be done – Blizzard themselves have commented on the idea of a console version recently, and even more, they’ve talked down the idea that it’s a technical problem. In an interview with GamesRadar at BlizzCon, Holly Longdale, the vice president and executive producer for World of Warcraft, commented directly on the port, saying: “I don’t think it is [a technical issue], frankly. I think we’re pretty well positioned, which is kind of why we talk about it.”
Longdale added: “But, yeah, of course. It would be very insincere to say that we’re not, like – of course, we’re talking about that [a console version]. We are Microsoft now.”
Obviously, this is no confirmation, but having been in many interviews in my decade-long career as a games writer – that’s as close as you can get to confirmation without outright saying it. For me, this highly suggests that something is brewing. However, this long-suggested console port isn’t the key reason that the series should pull the trigger this year specifically. Instead, that lies much more in the construction of what comes next.
There will never be a better time than The Worldsoul Saga
The Worldsoul Saga is one of the smartest plays by Blizzard in a while. With a 20-year-old game, it’s always going to be hard to convince new players to jump on. There’s just so much history there that trying to figure out what you need to know to enjoy the story is overshadowed by the effort of trying to understand it. Many don’t beat that hurdle.
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This new chapter in the WoW story seems to be Blizzard’s way of saying, ‘This is the jumping on point’. There is, of course, a lot of history involved in the story coming in, but the gist, as set up in the reveal trailer for the expansion is this: there’s a big sword embedded in Azeroth that was aimed at something within the world that’s now calling out to its heroes. Ostensibly, that’s all you need to know, and it’s a compelling question at the heart of The War Within – what was Sargaras trying to kill by stabbing his sword into the world before getting banished in the Legion expansion?
If World of Warcraft is ever going to do a console version to revitalize and invite new players in, this year is time to strike.
The big green elephant
There’s one other key reason why WoW feels primed to make its debut on console soon. Alluded to earlier in a quote from Longdale, she said the quiet part out loud – “We are Microsoft now.” Now that Microsoft and the Xbox brand have been allowed to take over Activision Blizzard, it feels certain they will be looking to maximize the impact of these beloved franchises, especially across their existing ecosystems. In gaming, that means Xbox and Game Pass.
WoW’s integration into the subscription service feels inevitable. If a WoW subscription comes with Game Pass, that’s a huge incentive for players,who already pay for the service and who’ve always seen the subscription as a hurdle to jump on and try the game.
However, if that console port does exist – or more importantly, can be prepared and ready for consumers by the end of the year, you have to imagine the Xbox team is very interested in leveraging that. Of course, this entire argument is predicated on a console version of WoW existing, or deep enough into development to be completed soon – but with so much smoke throughout the years – it feels plausible.
There’ve also been rumors of Microsoft looking to allow PlayStation and the Nintendo Switch access to its first-party games. With that, could we see the WoW port come to those consoles? It’s impossible to say, but if WoW really wants to make a splash with the Worldsoul Saga, being available as broadly as possible is a compelling sell.
Now is the time
World of Warcraft, against many odds, feels primed in 2024 to have a renaissance. It’s clear Blizzard is priming this to be the ‘new era’ for the MMO, which is coinciding with the purchase by Xbox, as well as the game’s 20th anniversary. It’s all beginning to feel like a perfect storm, and what better way to greet that than inviting an entirely new audience to experience the game for the first time in two decades?
Metzen’s thunderous voice echoed the halls of BlizzCon last year, saying, “Now is the time to pull on your boots, pick up your broadsword or your favorite glowy staff, and get in this fight.” It’s time for those who prefer a gamepad, to be invited to it.