World of Warcraft announced a huge change to their game design philosophy on Monday, allowing for cross-faction gameplay for the first time in the history of the franchise. Under the upcoming system, Alliance and Horde players will be able to form premade parties to take on dungeons, raids, and even rated PvP instances. The new change will be implemented after the 9.2.5 update.
This is a massive game design change to World of Warcraft, which up until now has split its player base in half in all situations. This split has led to faction balance issues at times, where one faction might struggle to get through a queue, while the other is forced to wait extended times to find games.
For those who opt into using this system, there will be unexpected gameplay impacts. Different races in WoW have different racial abilities, so opening up cross-faction queues for premade parties will allow for racial abilities to be combined in previously impossible ways. Given that World PvP isn't of much interest to many people in retail WoW at this point, the new change could lead to a more equal faction spread, with people who felt trapped into playing Horde being able to switch to Alliance if they choose. This would be good for Alliance who are outnumbered in the status quo.
"Alliance players will probably like this, Horde players will probably dislike it," explained a long-time WoW player I talked to about the change. "Basically the current standings in WoW, if you want to do endgame content you kind of have to be Horde, there are just way more people into that content on Horde. So probably a lot of Horde players who want to play Alliance, but chose not to anymore because of the endgame content, could switch to Alliance, which I mean could be good for the horde too, better faction balance means better world PvP."
Before anyone starts panicking, however, this is an opt-in feature.
Players can choose to reach across the divide to join a party with their sworn enemy, but you will not have to if you don't want to. This will only apply to premade parties for dungeons, raids, and rated PvP instances, while in-world PvP will remain unchanged. Guilds will also remain single-faction, and random matchmade activities like Heroic Dungeons or Skirmishes will also remain split by faction.
"There are likely those who have read this far with some unease, worried that this is chipping away at a foundational principle of Warcraft," The developers stated in the announcement post. "At BlizzCon in 2019, when an attendee asked about cross-faction play, we responded at the time that 'Alliance and Horde separation … is a pillar of what makes Warcraft, Warcraft.' But upon reflection, that’s an oversimplification: Alliance and Horde identity is what is fundamental to Warcraft."
They continued: "We’re hopeful that these changes will serve to actually strengthen faction identity by allowing more players to play the faction whose values, aesthetic, and characters they find more compelling, rather than feeling forced to choose between their personal preference and the ability to play with friends."
The new system will arrive on the 9.2.5 PTR, at which point players will be able to judge for themselves.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.