The Origin of the MMO and Why WoW Will Never Die

The MMORPG game type has been around since we all can remember, but why does World of Warcraft continue to hold the title over every other contender's head?

The MMORPG game type has been around since we all can remember, but why does World of Warcraft continue to hold the title over every other contender's head?
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In the war between MMORPGs, adversaries have come and gone. Despite their success or failure, World of Warcraft has continuously held its rightful crown as the most popular game of its type.

Hitting its peak at over 12 Million subscribers, and dipping down a massive 6 Million at its lowest point, it’s statistically the most prominent MMO of all time. 10 years later, World of Warcraft is still going strong, and there’s a reason it’s still headlining the population’s choices of massively multiplayer online role-playing games. 

The Beginnings of the MMO

Back when the dial-up tone was an actual part of the daily routine, and not just a joke on the internet, the term “MMO” was coined by Richard Garriott, the creator of Ultima Online, in 1997. 

With this new movement of games came titles that would shape the genre into what it is today, such as EverQuest, MapleStory, and (of course) World of Warcraft

Even at the very beginning, what we now refer to as the MMO giant, had an outstanding foothold among the competition. In 2006, only a year after the game’s release, Vanilla World of Warcraft had approximately 6 million players, blowing Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn‘s 250,000 and EverQuest‘s 450,000 subscribers out of the water. 

As one of the first of its type, WoW secured a place on the throne for many reasons including timing, gameplay, and Blizzard’s reputation. 

With High Speed Internet came the World of Warcraft

One of the many impressive steps Blizzard Entertainment can be credited with is the perfectly timed execution and release of the game. 

As soon as High Speed Internet began to creep its way into the majority of homes across the world, World of Warcraft was born and rode its way right into the doors of gamers everywhere. 

Blizzard released the game at a perfect time– when the graphics and game type began to be picking up steam and also right as computers were improving to be able to allow it. 

Unique Gameplay and Less Down Time

Although a few other games made their way on to the scene before WoW‘s release, it stood out among the rest because it promised brand new features other games did not offer.

Released in 2004, World of Warcraft already had a massive following because of unique gameplay facets and the open world aspect of the game. Paired with gamers who were already a fan of the Warcraft games, excitement was growing (and picking up speed). 

Promising to Fix the Problems of other Games

Among some of the features Blizzard was presenting was a higher level of customization, optional quests with a story line, a hybrid platform that allowed Windows and Macintosh users to play together, and so much more. 

Blizzard promised to fix many of the grievances of rival games such as minor and painless death penalties, faster gameplay and experiences, the concept of “rest” (which allowed players to gain xp twice as fast), and no loading screen.

Most importantly, appealed to both hardcore players (who wanted to put a lot of time into the game) and less avid players (who wanted a casual experience). 

Graphics and Aesthetics

Praised by almost every game critic at the time were the incredible graphics and lack of movement collision the game brought to eager players. 

(Image Source)

According to GameSpy’s 2004 5 star review:

A fellow employee here at GameSpy HQ once quipped that he “wanted to marry Blizzard’s art department.” … World of Warcraft‘s art design, architecture, and terrain-building skills are nothing short of astonishing.

Everywhere players travel in the world; they’ll be treated to displays of breathtaking scenery, beautifully designed buildings, and spectacular set-pieces that would make awesome desktop wallpaper. “

Blizzard’s Amazing Track Record

If game developers were high school students, then Blizzard Entertainment was always the massively successful jock who everyone either loved or wanted to be.

Founded in 1991, it took the gaming world by storm after dropping Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Blizzard’s breakthrough PC RTS (real time strategy). 5 new Warcraft games, and a few huge titles (Diablo and StarCraft) later, Blizzard Entertainment had carved a remarkable footprint in the gaming community. 

With all its accomplishments, it’s no wonder that the first World of Warcraft game was an enormous success. 

Listening and Growing with its Community

Continuing the trend of setting itself apart, Blizzard Entertainment became known as a game developer who truly listened to its patrons. 

Blizzard not only adapted the game with boss fights, instances, and more customizable options for its players, but it has always made sure to keep a close eye on player safety and security, which is a significant reason why MMO players feel safe playing World of Warcraft. 

Since all players had to login every time he/she wanted to play, WoW became the target of many hacking scandals and illegal selling of gold and other in-game possessions. Blizzard countered these frustrations by developing the Authenticator, a portable device or application that randomly generates a code of numbers and letters every few seconds, preventing accounts from being susceptible to hackers. 

Every time these cyber bullies threw an attack at WoW, Blizzard responded with its own retaliation which left (and still leaves) a sense of security with Warcraft players. 

To Sum it All Up..

Yes, World of Warcraft may have been on a decline, but even at 6 Million subscribers it still held the number one spot for all MMORPGs. Now with the release of Warlords of Draenor, the most recent expansion of the series, WoW is back at a comfortable 10+ million subs.

Still crushing the competition, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is currently sitting on ~2.5 million subscribers, Guild Wars 2 has only sold around 3 million copies as of January, and Wildstar‘s 128,328, things are still looking good for Blizzard’s MMO.

The only competition seems to be Dofus at 10 million subs, with good old Maplestory sitting on third place at 5 million– less than half of WoW’s player base.

There are many reasons for its previous success, and all of these play a role in its current and continued fame. Now that World of Warcraft is over 10 years old, the game has become a prominent part of many players child and adulthoods. 

It has grown alongside us, always appealing to every type of gamer– young or old, male or female, hardcore or casual, etc., which is why its popularity will always hold steady.

Despite its vast target market, Blizzard has always brought us an amazingly visually appealing experience and captivating storyline in World of Warcraft, providing us all with the highest level of MMORPG satisfaction.


For more World of Warcraft tips, guides, reviews, and culture pieces, check out our dedicated WoW section of GameSkinny.

About the author

Danielle Marie

All I'm saying is, no one's ever seen me and Batman in the same room.