Sunday marked the beginnging of the two-week celebration to mark World of Warcraft‘s seventh anniversary. Players who log in between November 20th and December 3rd will find their mailboxes graced with a special gift– an item that when used will grant players a 7% bonus to experience and reputation gains for an hour.
It seems an age ago when this game was first released and I was but a fledgling MMO player. My previous MMO experiences centered around some small dabbling in the world of Everquest (mostly because it allowed me an opportunity to prance around as a dark elf necromancer). I remember sitting at my part-time job the weekend after the game was released, answering phones and chatting with friends over MSN Messenger. “Come and play this game with us,” they said, “It’s exactly your sort of thing.” And so, that Saturday afternoon and a trek to Best Buy saw the birth of the Night Elf Hunter Elysianna. It was WoW‘s colorful and cartoony character models that initially drew me to this game and after some prompting from online friends I found myself immersed in the world of Azeroth. Seven years and three expansions later World of Warcraft is still the most-subscribed to MMORPG and has forever changed the world of online gaming.
When I first started my adventures in Azeroth, the world of the MMORPG was one shrouded in mystery. It was a genre touched only by the most dedicated of basement-dwelling nerds. They were games reserved only for those willing to give up life and limb to unravel all the mysteries, to find all the quests, and to spend hour upon hour in groups grinding for experience. They were games that forced players to connect with online groups to complete the simplest of tasks. Blizzard‘s new game transformed the genre, creating a largely more accessible and user-friendly experience, drawing players that had before been intimdated by the massive acronym that is MMORPG. Now World of Warcraft is a household name with TV spots and celebrity sponsors. It is a game that has been embraced by a large variety of individuals, individuals who seven years ago I never would have guessed would game.
Admittedly, recent years have seen WoW transformed into a game that is almost too user-friendly. With the addition of dungeon queues and quests that point players in the right direction with massive arrows and tricks, the game has become perhaps the easiest game I have ever played. A part of me misses the days standing in Ironforge looking for groups to run a 10-man Scholomance or spending entire afternoons farming leather to buy my first epic mount. Some might argue that the game has become almost too accessible, that items one used to have to work and struggle for our now handed out to individuals with no finesse.
Still, are these changes all that bad? In a way, I am glad for them. Blizzard has made it possible for me to participate in the MMO experience without having to spend my weekends glued to my computer screen in order to make any real progress. I can log on for an hour or two, complete a grouping of quests or run a few dungeons, and stop playing feeling as if I had accomplished something. I can still play my game while ‘getting on with my life’ so to speak. I think this may be part of the reason I keep coming back to Azeroth.
Then again, the offer of a shiny mount and a copy of Diablo III really was the selling point for my recent return to Blizzard‘s hugely succesful franchise. Leave it to clever marketting ploys to bring back players who have been on the fence:
“Well, I was thinking I might come back and I am certainly going to buy a copy of Diablo III, so it would make sense to sign up for the year… right? Right?”
Regardless, the last seven years has seen World of Warcraft thrive where other MMOs have floundered. It continues to draw in new players and bring back old players with each upcoming expansion promising new toys, better dungeons, and greater usability. It can be enjoyed both by the casual gamer and the gamer looking for a more fulfilling and in-depth experience. So, three cheers for Blizzard and their world-changing game and here’s to many more years of success.