If World of Warcraft were not an MMO, I might have been excited at this turn of events. This feels like the penultimate chapter, the crest of a wave. Things will be sorted out once and for all. But it won’t.
There will be an expansion after this one, and another after that. There will still be the Horde faction, and Forsaken running around in it, blighting things with Tauren chewing their cuds in the background. …
What I am certain of is that the Alliance will continue to be the bumbling white hats forever extending their hands in love and friendship and peace, only to get shit on by the Horde time and again. That is in spite of the fact that there should be no redemption for the Horde this time.
To be fair, I’m not sure that it will happen. But I find it very likely. The factions are remnants of an older WoW. They are alien from the main gameplay, which is doing quests killing NPCs and doing dungeons and raids to kill stronger NPCs. Even when the hostiles were “horde” in the Garrosh uprising, the alliance and horde players got the same raid and the lorewriters just had to somehow push it in and it wasn’t believable.
The pieces are already on the table, with the on-off PvP setting and the ability of rated BGs to take 2 horde or 2 alliance teams. Arenas are already faction-independent.
I believe the Battle for Azeroth is the swan song of factions. Unless by some miracle great portion of the players turn on the PvP setting and some faction pride rises out of nothing (unlikely, considering how rejected the war is by Horde players), this will be the last expansion with Horde and Alliance.
Story-wise it is straightforward: the Alliance, with the help of a honorable sub-faction of the Horde – which obviously includes all players – will win the war. Sylvanas will be the endboss like Garrosh was for Pandaria. The players – go figure – will win, even if most of them will do so on Looking For Retards. The war will be decisively won and the Horde will be no more.
The “honorable sub-faction” (including all players) will simply be merged into the “United Azeroth”. It’s possible that some races will be converted (there are already too many). The Forsaken can be healed by some magic dug up by Jaina and be humans again, so they can live in Stormwind as capital, now that Lordearon is destroyed. The elves will be one race again, no more Night and Blood version, just elves, living happily ever after in Silvermoon which gets some well-needed rewamp.
Gameplay-wise there won’t be need for separate horde and alliance villages and flightpoints, everyone can go to everywhere (easier map creation). There won’t be need for other faction alt to do all the quests (so more content for people without both faction alts), no more juggling assets between faction alts. Most importantly, much more options for everyone to play together. A player doesn’t have to faction change to play with his “friends” on the other faction. A troll can play with a dwarf in perfect harmony which helps dungeon and raid matchmaking a lot. Battlegrounds will fill instantly with players distributed between the two sides randomly.
Sure, there will be next expansion, either against Old Gods, Demons, Sha or remaining Sylvanas loyalists, but the players will take on it as members of “United Azeroth”.