It all started in the late 1990s with the advent of widespread home Internet. Games such as Ultima Online from the classic Ultima Series and EverQuest created massive worlds that players can play and interact with along with other human players.
Gone are the days that gamers are traveling in their own virtual worlds interacting with nothing but scripted NPCs as they now share one great world filled with quests, dungeons, and loot with other people over the Internet.
It is the 23rd of November 2004, the 10th Anniversary of the Warcraft Franchise. Fans are clamoring outside games shops forming long winded lines amidst the cold winter night. All waiting to buy a copy of the MMORPG adaptation of their beloved game developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
What everyone didn't know at that time is that the adaptation they're looking forward to will revolutionize not only the MMORPG genre but also the whole of games media.
What is World of Warcraft?
Tracing its origins from games such as Ultima Online and EverQuest, it is the MMORPG adaption of the Warcraft RTS universe. In there exists the familiar Alliance and Horde fighting and struggling over control of the world of Azeroth. But what it did best is that it streamlined most of the older systems from the previously mentioned games and changed it in such a way that it is accessible for the masses.
Quests are clearly marked and the Areas are seamless to provide a sense of connectedness within the world. It has clear cut classes that goes back to the classic Dungeons and Dragons, wherein a certain class excels at doing certain things and not the other, something that the older MMORPGs didn't do in favor of classless and skill based progression.
Indeed, the demand for such game is astronomical. Within a few months, the game has already reached a million players, a number assumed by World of Warcraft developers to reach within 12 months. This continued on to be the case until the game has reached its peak in its third expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, released in 2010. At this point, the game has reached a staggering 12 million registered players with more than a million players online every single hour.
But with that, the game has declined by the middle of its fourth expansion, Cataclysm. From then on, the game has had massive dips on its subscriber base and at the end of Mists of Pandaria, the reported subscriber base has fallen to 5.5 million subscribers.
Though with the release of its sixth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, the game received a massive boost in subscribers putting it up once again in the 10 million mark. But the lack of continuous content of the said expansion and the abysmal garrison system has left a huge majority of the playerbase leaving, putting the game once again in the sub-6 million mark.
With the unpleasant taste of Warlords of Draenor left in the playerbase, the announcement of the new seventh expansion met stark criticism. Thoughts such as the expansion will only be the same garrison system and there will be nothing but "content drought" during the expansion life cycle lingered in the minds of the players.
Legion, the Seventh Expansion of World of Warcraft, was then released. Set in the elusive Broken Isles, the game takes the players into a gripping adventure that goes into the heart of an imminent invasion of the Burning Legion. Hundreds of hours of story content available for the players on release along with a new raid every two months.
They also introduced a new system of side missions for players to complete to items and crafting materials, along with that Class Halls that are a new and improved version of the previous Garrison system.
The release has had an influx of players putting the game once again on its 10 million mark and has seen to have sustained it in the next months that followed. Indeed, the players' speculations were wrong and gladfully so.
With that in mind, the introduction of World of Warcraft has changed the way gamers play MMORPGs. It became a cultural phenomena, with the game transcending the video game space to a number of other media outlets such as the News and TV Shows such as South Park. Indeed, this success of World of Warcraft has made it the prime standard for any kind of MMORPG that came after it.
Despite that success, World of Warcraft has also had its fair share of ups and downs. From the explosion of subscribers in Wrath of the Lich King to the massive dips in Mists of Pandaria. Players seemed to have lost interest with the game they once loved.
But with the release of its latest expansion Legion, World of Warcraft tries to rekindle that faint light in the hearts of the people who first played the game in 2004. Certainly, World of Warcraft, being in its 12th year, is still pushing the boundaries of the MMORPG genre to new heights.
Featured image courtesy of GameCensor.