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What's in store for the future of World of Warcraft PvP.

Blizzard's next expansion peeking around the corner, perhaps it's also best to see what's in store for the future of World of Warcraft PvP.

If we look at past World of Warcraft expansions, it's interesting to see key focal points of each addition. The Burning Crusade, for example, really focused on emphasizing arena PvP without adding much in terms of battlegrounds. Wrath of the Lich King, on the other hand, was a little bit more balanced in its PvP focus, as it introduced the massive Lake Wintergrasp battleground while also bringing a few new arena maps for competitive fans. Now, with Cataclysm set to come out at some time in the next year, the new PvP buzzword on everyone's mind is Blizzard's promised "rated battlegrounds."

 

Even though the previous expansions focused extensively on Blizzard's arena system, at least two times the number of players participate in Battlegrounds than in arena. It's quite easy to see why Blizzard wants to bring the attention back to their more established battleground system. In this way, it doesn't seem that there will be many new additions to World of Warcraft arena (perhaps an extra map or two), but players are still looking forward to reviving competitive guild rivalries.

One of the neat things about Blizzard's new rated battlegrounds is that it appears to be the golden bridge that will bring arena fans back to the epic battleground scene while also giving battleground fans an access point to snag arena gear that was previously denied to them. While it has not been confirmed how many points a rated battleground will give per play, these rated BG pieces offer a second way for players to get arena points-sounds like a great move by Blizzard.

So what can we expect to come with Blizzard's battleground improvements? It's highly probable that a new 10-15 person map will be introduced with Cataclysm, and it will probably play right along with the theme of post-apocalyptic Azeroth. This time around, Blizzard definitely needs to introduce a new PvP objective, however, as they've already done Capture the Flag (Warsong Gulch), Capturing and Holding Points (Arathi Basin) and the odd combination of both, Eye of the Storm.

Considering the fact that Lake Wintergrasp featured some neat vehicular PvP, it's easy to expect that a new competitive battleground will feature some kind of vehicle addition. Something new, like a limited respawn system with a focus on mashing enemies until they run out of lives also sounds like a great idea, or even an attack / defend map with teams alternating at a midpoint. Blizzard did point out that they would be introducing "special epic ground mounts" for players to ride in battlegrounds, so it seems as though flying mounts are out for now.

In addition to all of this, while most casual players have complained about their inability to access most top-level PvP gear, a lot of arena veterans are also complaining, but they just want more stuff to spend their arena points on, once they get a full arena set. While it's great to be able to purchase gems with arena points, one thing that Blizzard might want to look into is introducing cosmetic purchases for PvP fans. An assortment of battleground-only epic ground mounts is a great addition, and I doubt there would be anybody complaining if Blizzard threw in some more cosmetic tabards, or PvP-themed pets.

But what does this new expansion mean for competitive PvP? While it would be fun to watch an epic 15v15 game of competitive Warsong Gulch at the next Blizzcon tournament, something tells us that battleground PvP just won't catch on as a workable spectator sport. Heck, even 5v5 was considered to be too "confusing" for spectators when tournament organizers first tried it out, so 3v3 seems to point to the largest number of characters we can comfortably watch.

Ultimately, the chance of competitive rated battlegrounds replacing WoW arena as the 'main' competitive feature of World of Warcraft is very small. Blizzard has been working very hard at keeping a stable competitive PvP audience, and arena is really the only venue that can attract other gaming tournament organizers, like the MLG Pro Circuit and the ESL Masters tournaments. If Blizzard does this right, rated battlegrounds should provide a great alternative source of PvP competition for arena-tired players while still helping more casual PvPers get the arena gear they need to properly compete in the arena setting.

If you throw in some cosmetic PvP rewards - something that has been sorely lacking in TBC and WotLK - and Blizzard does a good job of revitalizing its older battleground settings (revamping Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch for a more "Cataclysmic" feel would be great!), then this Cataclysm expansion may just be the first to get the best of both old and new World of Warcraft PvP worlds.