Among many other things, World of Warcraft’s upcoming Shadowlands expansion introduces official controller support to the game for the first time since the MMO debuted on PC in 2004. In a new interview with GameSpot, game director Ion Hazzikostas spoke about why Blizzard is now adding controller support and–sorry!–why this doesn’t mean a console port of WoW is coming.
Hazzikostas said the controller support for WoW will come in the form of giving users access to the application programming interface (API) to enable a controller setup. You won’t be able to simply plug in an Xbox or PlayStation controller and play WoW, but this API access should allow people using the Xbox Adaptive Controller and others to play the game in a way that suits their needs.
This new controller support is aimed at giving people with physical disabilities or other impairments the ability to enjoy WoW without too much of a headache, Hazzikostas said.
“It’s more about more direct API access that’s aimed primarily at the accessibility community. There are a lot of folks who don’t have the facilities to use a keyboard and mouse or traditional control tools who have been using a lot of complicated workarounds to get devices like Microsoft’s powerful controller to enable them to interact with the game world,” he said. “We wanted to remove the need to jump through all those hoops. And just more directly support the API. We’re excited to see what that community broadly comes up with.”
WoW will not support a plug-and-play setup with existing console controllers anytime soon. Given the complicated nature of WoW’s controls–you can have more than a dozen abilities, after all–traditional controller support is not a simple process.
“The idea of traditional controller support is something that would require a lot more work on our part. We’re not quite there yet,” Hazzikostas said. “There isn’t in the standard interface menu an option to just use a controller right out of the box. There’s a lot of challenges for us to solve there with the dozens of abilities that players have but specifically for those looking for accessibility solutions and alternate control methods, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to use every option available to them.”
When Blizzard initially announced controller support for WoW, people speculated that it might be the developer’s first step toward releasing a console edition of the game. But that’s not the case.
“No. This is not that,” Hazzikostas said. “This is just us recognizing a need from a core and devoted part of our community. We want to make this as easy as possible for them.”
Released in September 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller has been an important step for making games more accessible. The open-source controller is highly adaptable, as one father recently modded it to work with a Nintendo Switch to help his daughter play games.
Shadowlands is the eighth expansion for WoW, and it is scheduled for release later in 2020. As its name suggests, the expansion takes players to the world of the dead. Unlike all the previous expansions, Shadowlands actually reduces the level cap to 60, down from 120, as part of a unique twist. Players can begin trying out Shadowlands for themselves next week when the beta goes live.
GameSpot will have lots more from our interview with Hazzikostas in the days ahead.
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