World of Warcraft is one of the most important and influential video games of all time.
The game is available in 244 countries, multiple languages, and has more than 6 million words of in-game text, equal to 12 copies of The Lord of the Rings. As of last month, 7 million active accounts subscribe monthly, a number that’s larger than the population of some countries and states.
It’s kind of a big deal.
The World Video Game Hall of Fame will recognize World of Warcraft’s place in gaming history with a first-ballot induction. Detractors and doubters may not believe that such a relatively new game deserves the recognition and praise.
World of Warcraft is an MMORPG in the style of Ultima Online and Everquest, two of the most popular online games of the preceding decade. Before Warcraft, the genre’s calling card was complex role-playing experiences and exploring dungeons for new equipment for your avatar.
Online role-playing games were rough around the edges and not kind to the uninitiated. Quests were unmarked on maps, computer-controlled characters could die and not come back, and other players could kill and steal your hard-earned gear and money.
Released in 2004, World of Warcraft made MMORPGs accessible to every gamer through simplification. Quests became thematic and easier to navigate. Character creation became less about statistics and spells. Players could run from one end of a continent to the other or fly across oceans, all without load times. These changes have all become standard design choices for every game in the MMORPG genre.
A key part of the game being so approachable was low hardware requirements. Warcraft can run on just about any modern computer. This allowed many who had never experienced PC gaming to create a character and jump into the world with ease.
Players could also join massive groups of like-minded players called guilds. These groups are tight-knit communities that play on a nightly basis to tackle the games biggest challenges and dungeons. Bonds between players all over the world formed through a common link that was Warcraft.
The genre transformed from a dank dungeon of intimidation into a place of acceptance. The Warcraft player base exploded, with over 100 million unique accounts and a peak of 12 million concurrent subscribers in 2010.