World of Warcraft was the first MMORPG to capture the public’s attention on a massive scale. Sure, MMOs like EverQuest, Ultima Online, and Neverwinter Nights had come before it and were reasonably popular with a small segment of gamers. Still, WoW pushed MMO gaming into the mainstream.
But why has WoW remained popular all these years? At the game’s peak during The Wrath of The Lich King expansion, WoW had an eye-watering 12 million active players. Since then, active player numbers have been declining, and in 2020 that number stood at approximately 4.88 million (Blizzard ceased official reporting, so this number is an educated estimate). Still, close to 5 million active players is nothing to grumble at – by all accounts WoW is still a hugely successful game. In November 2020, World of Warcraft was the 7th most watched game on Twitch, clocking up 54.7 million total hours. Why has WoW succeeded where so many other MMOs have flopped, only achieving temporary blips of success?
Many WoW fans started playing the game during their formative teen years. For many people, playing WoW reminds them of a simpler time when all they had to worry about was getting to school on time. Free of the mounting responsibilities of adult life, people could play with their friends into the night.
Of course, nostalgia isn’t the whole story. Nostalgia can’t explain why WoW became a success in the first place. However, nostalgia likely does play a part for many players. Huge numbers of players came back to WoW to experience WoW Classic. We know this because, in February 2020, Activision Blizzard announced that the WoW subscriber base more than doubled with the release of Classic WoW.
The massive community
As an MMO, a large part of WoW’s success lies in how Blizzard convinced so many people to play. WoW is a game that becomes more fun; the more people you play with. Most WoW gamers can attest that being on a low-population dying server dramatically saps the joy out of the game. Without a healthy raid roster, you can’t complete the game’s core objectives – you become forever stuck. If you want the best gear in the game, you have two options. You can either cooperate with other players, finding a team of skilled raiders who will help you get the items or purchase a kitted-out WoW account at marketplaces like Eldorado.gg which many fellow players use.
World of Warcraft has evolved massively over the years, now appealing to a broad spectrum of players. Here are just some of activities people can do in WoW
- Progression PvE content – Raids, dungeons, quests.
- PvP – Battlegrounds, arenas, rated battlegrounds, open-world PvP.
- Battle pets – Turn-based mini-games within the game.
- Mount collecting – Farming for mounts has become a hugely popular pastime in WoW.
- Achievement farming – There’s a colossal amount of achievements up for grabs in WoW, some of them requiring insane dedication.
- Gold farming – Some people want to be rich and for these people, farming for World of Warcraft gold and playing the Auction House is why they play the game.
- Roleplaying – The ultimate form of escapism for some players. You can play on a dedicated RP server and live the life of a Warrior fighting for your faction at all costs.
Then there’s the scale of the WoW universe. With each new expansion comes new zones, encounters, classes, and races.
One of WoW’s strongest qualities is its rich lore. At the point Blizzard launched vanilla WoW, the story of WoW was already thoroughly fleshed out. Characters have unique and deep backstories, and each zone was steeped in history. This theme continued with successive expansions, and the result is a story that players can really sink their teeth into.
Dailies and Objectives
WoW contains many activities that players must complete at regular intervals in order to progress. If you have to log on every day to complete a series of daily quests, then you’re more likely to stick with the game. You won’t go long periods of time without logging on, and playing WoW becomes a habit. This point is contentious because many players think Activision Blizzard has gone too far down this route. Particularly during the Battle For Azeroth expansion, many players complained that progressing in WoW started to feel like a job rather than a fun downtime activity. Activision Blizzard has rectified this in the latest expansion, Shadowlands, significantly scaling back the required daily activities.