As with most games, especially giant MMO’s like World of Warcraft, it is hard to please everybody. In WoW, an example of this is the division between “casual” and “hardcore” players. It seems whenever a new patch comes out there is always someone complaining: “Oh Blizzard is just catering to the casuals” or “Man, Blizzard only cares about the hardcore community”. As a player who has spent time both as a casual player, and a more serious player, I have begun thinking about this division between the player base, and if in fact Blizzard is favoring one side of the spectrum.
First of all, how did WoW start off? Well, it is hard to claim that the first few years were casual. The game was not necessarily harder, just more time consuming. This led to many casual players feeling left out, as they were not able to experience a lot of content. Over the years, however, Blizzard has helped these players by making new features to make content easier to see. Players who were never able to raid due to time restraints are still able to at least see an easier version of raid bosses. This helps casual players out, however, many hardcore players feel that in a way it takes the prestige away from raiding Normal and Heroic modes.
Raiding used to be sort of a club. A pretty exclusive one at that. However, now that it is easier to get gear, through LFR and LFD, players are able to become raid ready much easier. This is true, however, players who spend more time playing are still rewarded. One of the biggest complaints about MoP is that Justice and Valor gear is gated behind dailies. This has led to many people, my self included, to just completely stop doing dailies. However, players who do them are able to gear up quicker, thus allowing them to do harder content quicker.
Though raiding may not feel as exclusive anymore, there are still ways to divide the players who spend more time playing then others, something that is very important to an MMO. Players may be worried about the direction the game is going, with casual players having an easier time experience content. Yet, if Blizzard can design it right, this may actually be a good direction. Simply put, players will not play if there is no content to play. This works for both casual and hardcore players. If casuals have nothing to do that is easy enough for them to do in a few hours a week, then they will stop playing. If hardcore players do not have anything that is challenging and time consuming, then they will look for other games to fit there play style. However, if Blizzard is able to design content that is both easy, while having progression paths that are difficult, then both sides of the spectrum can be satisfied and the game will continue to be successful.