WoW's new pirate battle royale ignites a baffling flame war between PvP and PvE players, meanwhile Blizzard's ramping up the rewards to make the grind a touch kinder

 An image of a Pandaren and a Gnome taunting their enemies in World of Warcraft's new Battle Royale mode, Plunderstorm.
An image of a Pandaren and a Gnome taunting their enemies in World of Warcraft's new Battle Royale mode, Plunderstorm.

World of Warcraft's funky, limited-time event, Plunderstorm, is just fine by my making. I've played a handful of rounds, and experienced a slightly-clunky romp where you kill some enemies and messily try to land some skillshots Guild Wars 2 style in an MMO not really built for it. But hey, you can get some mounts out of the whole deal.

For the completely uninitiated, Plunderstorm is a battle royale mode that's separate from the main game. You dip in with a custom-made pirate avatar, run around collecting plunder, and fight to be the last swab standing. The more plunder you collect, the more renown you earn—the more renown you earn, the more rewards you unlock for your actual WoW characters.

Issue being, that rewards track is somewhat slow—though it should be faster now, as per a hotfix. Here's a full run-down of the exact changes:

  • Plunder dropped by other players significantly increased.*

  • Plunder from non-player enemies increased by 50%.

  • Plunder from golden chests doubled.

  • Top placement in a match now rewards 500 Plunder (was 100).

*Please note: when you die, you do not lose any of your own plunder. With this change, you’re now worth more plunder to others, depending on how much you’ve collected during the match.

So that should be fine, right? Well, ah, some people are still mad. On the WoW forums, there's some tension around the makeup of the PvP-only Plunderstorm. The 'problem' with the mode unfolding, from where I'm sitting, is derived from the strangeness of adding a PvP-focused mode during a lull in PvE content—one which has rewards that PvE players want, as well.

There are plenty of threads, comments, and slap-fights going on right now, so let's focus in on replies to the reward buff announcement itself: "Incentivizing people to hunt down and kill those who were already struggling are just there to grind the renown is NOT the way to go with this, y’all. Absolutely asinine," writes one player to the tune of 70-odd likes. Another adds that the changes make it "extremely clear their only intention for PvE players in Plunderstorm is to provide fodder to the PvP ego."

It's a strange reaction to a mode where the entire point is hunting down other players (or surviving like a stowaway bilge rat), but it's all rather fascinating from a social perspective. PvP and PvE players are two entirely separate beasts, and for a limited-time event they've been made to wear the same get-along t-shirt. Granted, from what I understand WoW has typically 'suffered' from a slow pace of PvP-oriented content—it's just that the losers are the strict PvE players this time around.

And look, I get it: if the grind is slow, and you don't enjoy PvP, but you really want the transmogs, then Plunderstorm is annoying. It might've been nice for Blizzard to, say, allow you to get chunks of rep in the main game doing dungeon finder runs or something.

Alternatively, make it so the rewards system isn't a linear track but a currency you can spend. That way, it'd take the same amount of time to unlock everything, but if you want something specific you can get it faster and bounce. A rare convenience in a post-battle pass world.

But the line drawn between "I do not enjoy this event" and "people PvPing in a Battle Royale mode are griefing" is wild to me. Especially since you still keep all the plunder you snagged before you died.

Regardless, I don't exactly envy the balancing act Blizzard has accidentally saddled itself with. The developers need to keep the reward track moving fast enough so players who aren't having a good time can get what they want, but they also need to keep it slow enough so the active Plunderstorm player base doesn't just vanish overnight. It's an accidental lose-lose situation for a mode that's still a genuinely cool experiment for an MMO coming up on its twentieth birthday.