This is one MMORPG that’s lasting the test of time. So we looked back through 18 years of gaming in appreciation.
World of Warcraft first launched as an MMO on November 23rd, 2004. When it did, it changed lives forever. Until then, we had barely tasted the actual depth of the MMO world. Then, of course, we had RuneScape and forerunners like Neverwinter Nights, but only a few short years before this, we were all still running LAN parties to game with our mates.
Games like Warcraft changed the world of online gaming forever. So we thought it was high time someone looked back over the chronology of this innovative, adaptable, versatile game to see what makes it stick around. After 18 years, why does it still draw so many?
WOW Classic, The Early Days
In 2004, WOW launched off the back of previous offline versions of their game. These early games were a little like the old Settlers game. The good and the wrong sides fought for land in the Alliance and the Horde. Players scored points based on enemies killed and used this experience to build better things or expand their borders. World of Warcraft II, Tides of Darkness, saw release in 1995 for DOS and 1996 for Mac OS. We have come a long, long way since then.
Classic World of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment, the designer behind this innovative MMORPG, first released the Classic WOW game in 2004. They modified their existing model and produced it for the internet. Players filled servers, which often became overcrowded and booted you off. There were issues with logging on, issues with gameplay, and severe issues with the PvP system. Nevertheless, users couldn’t get enough.
By November 2005, Classic Wow hit 5 million global subscribers. This was just the start. The first raid boss – Onyxia – dropped that year. Developers announced they would plow on to develop The Burning Crusade from that moment forward. BlizzCon became a thing.
Those of us that remember those early days still think of them as the heyday of WOW. Character levels stopped at level 60. There were only two landmasses in what has become an expansive map set. Players could choose between the goodies or the baddies, each with several races and each race with several classes. Blizzard added more classes and races in subsequent expansions.
The sad part about all of this is that you cannot get it anymore. WOW Classic now includes The Burning Crusade as standard. Unfortunately, blizzard doesn’t let you download it anymore. Who wants a level 60 limit anyway, though, right? Even if you can’t buy this part of the game on its own anymore, you can still get wow tbc gold that will help you level up faster.
The Burning Crusade
The Burning Crusade was the first real upgrade to WOW Classic, and they released it in 2007. Unfortunately, there were massive server crashes as players fought to get to the Hellfire Peninsula. The release forced the developers to go and take another look at the server capacities they were working with. They made a lot of patches over the years, but this is the fastest we ever saw them scramble to fix a bug.
The Eye of the Storm battlefield upgraded the PvP system. Players could access Heroic mode, and the Draenei and Blood Elf races were available. In addition, Shaman and Paladin factions were available on both sides of the Horde/Alliance divide. In September, a voice chat started with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion announced at BlizzCon in August.
TBC sold 2.4 million copies on release day, which was unheard of in 2007. In the first month, that number rose to 3.53 million. Characters raced each other to level up to level 70 and it was here that Blizzard put their first foot wrong. They started cashing in on the madness by offering paid upgrades to characters. Those that had spent a year leveling to level 60 were shocked to find that you could now buy a level 60 character and level up those last 10 steps. It was a huge betrayal to many people.
The Wrath of the Lich King
The Wrath of the Lich King was the second large expansion that WOW dropped and it landed in November 2008. They introduced new NPCs and new races, new landmasses unlocked, and new PvP content added. Most of the expansion content is on the isle of Northrend and the death knight character was unlocked for both Horde and Alliance players. Again, this caused alarm. The Death Knight character started its journey from level 55, a fact old school players saw as unfair.
The lore for this expansion finally urged both sides to fight together to defeat the Lich King and his undead army. This version of the game sold 2.8 million copies on day one, which made it the fastest-selling computer game of all time, at that time. The game reached an impressive 10 million subscribers that same year.
In the March Patch, the WOTLK added the Isle of Quel’Danas, the Magister’s Terrace, Sunwell Plateau, and the Shattered Sun Offensive. In October, the undead army invaded the cities and NPCs became infected, which was delightful. Blizzard planned this. By November, the Scourge was randomly attacking cities and slowing FPS to nothing for poorer players.
In 2009, the developers announced the Cataclysm Expansion at BlizzCon, and everyone sighed. Expansion sets were worn on players because it meant a fresh purchase once a year for a game that they already paid monthly subscriptions for. It is Blizzard who is responsible for the mass acceptance of pay-as-you-play gaming.
WOW released the Cataclysm expansion set in 2010. It was formed in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, which dramatically changed after the WOTLK. The most significant new feature of this expansion was the introduction of dragons into the mix. An evil dragon was terrorizing the land, and you had to go and fix it. This expansion introduced Mount Hyjal, the Twilight Highlands, and the Goblins of the Bilgewater.
This expansion added 3500 quests and increased the level cap to 85. In addition, it introduced glyphs and item enhancements. This expansion pack broke Blizzard’s records, selling 3.3 million copies on day one.
By 2011, WOW had accumulated an impressive 10.3 million global subscribers. In just 7 years, Blizzard had become one of the biggest game developers in the world. Unfortunately for them, running all those servers and constantly updating the game to keep subscribers interested was a full-time job. As a result, most of their products are WOW focused to this day.
Mists of Pandalaria
Everyone remembers the launch of the Mists of Pandalaria in September of 2012. By this time, experienced players became a little sick of the nonsense and started to drift away from the game. Mists of Pandalaria upped that level cap to 90, introduced yet more land, and featured ninja pandas. It was all getting a little silly. They immediately announced the release of the fifth expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor. The drift showed up in sales, which dropped from 3.3 million to 2.7 million on the first day.
Warlords of Draenor
Warlords of Draenor came about slower than the other expansions. Blizzard released it in 2014 to many encores. Fans were back to full swing, buying up 3.3 million copies in the first 24 hours. Player numbers, which had dipped to 7.4 million, returned to 10.5 million by 2014. This expansion hit the spot, and we were happy to put the ninja pandas behind us.
One thing the pandas left us was pet battles and a monk class. Blizzard updated both in Warlords. Blizzard announced a collector’s edition and retired the Scroll of Resurrection. The level cap raised to 100, finally breaking that threatened threshold. The Tanaan Jungle, Garrison Shipyards, and an upgraded Hellfire Citadel were products of Warlords.
2016 – Legion
During the Legion expansion set, the character level cap went up to 110. The Demon Hunter class became an option, and classes received artifact weapon upgrades. The new lands were called the Broken Isles, and it added 5 more raids. The game had most bugs smoothed by this point, but it was losing traction. Some of the players never returned.
The Battle for Azeroth, 2018
By the Battle for Azeroth, WOW was selling well again. They hit 3.4 million units on day one of release in August 2018. Although the rumor mill said Blizzard was on the road out, this expansion proved there were still diehard fans investing in the game – the same diehards that still play it now. Again, the level cap went up; furthermore, they introduced new mods, and again, players either turned up or turned off.
Blizzard released the Shadowlands expansion in 2020 but by that time numbers dropped to only 4.88 million players worldwide. Though the peak of this game may have passed, there will always be WOW fans out there willing to pick up the keys again every so often. If only it wasn’t 15 Gigs.
What’s Next for Blizzard?
As we move through 2022, Blizzard has announced they will be moving this much loved and perhaps overplayed game to mobile devices. This is a savvy move that will bring younger blood to a game some of us adults have played for decades. We can’t wait. We hope the kids enjoy it as much as we have.