About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Wow, it’s your Birthday!

By Shamus
on Monday Nov 23, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games


Happy birthday to World of Warcraft. Five years old already? *Sniff* They grow up so fast.

I’m having a hard time imagining when WoW might ever end. Even ten-year-old Everquest is still rolling and still receiving fresh content. If EQ is still going strong at ten, then how long can the juggernaut WoW survive? Fifteen? Twenty years? Given the lengths they’re going to in order to keep the game from looking dated or getting stale, it’s hard to imagine a point where it would make economic sense to shut it down.

Someday a game will nudge WoW from its perch. I wonder what game that will be. Many have tried and so far I don’t think anything has really come close in terms of raw user count.

Oops. I sort of spent the WoW birthday post musing about how it might be killed or when it might perish on its own. Really bad form. Note that I was just asking, I’m not actually looking forward to its end.

Anyway, happy birthday WoW.

Comments (36)

  1. 1d30 says:

    When we get a Dwarf Fortress MMO with graphics instead of ASCII.


  2. Dr. Big says:

    I, on the other hand, am awaiting its end with bated breath.

  3. Another Scott says:

    WoW keeps stealing the thunder of my birthday! Grrr. When something does finally bump it off, they better not launch on November 23rd…

  4. Gareth says:

    5 years? And still no World of Starcraft?

    It’s criminal.

  5. krellen says:

    This post is the blogosphere equivalent to playing Dethklok’s “Dethday” at a birthday party.

    Which is to say, I approve.

  6. Groboclown says:


    We are getting closer to a graphical interface for Dwarf Fortress:


  7. Zombie Pete says:

    Another Scott: It also happens to be Doctor Who’s birthday, so double grrr, I’m afraid.

  8. Galenor says:

    And as usual, like every birthday, this year we’re cracking out the baby album to see what widdle WoWkins did all the way back in November 28th, 2002!



    You can see the progression of the site here. I chose that date because it was the earliest one that worked, but you might have a better chance at even older dates: http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

    As far as I recall, if you visit the actual, up-to-date website, you can even get a glimpse of history there – look for the earliest trailers you can in the videos section. Good times.

  9. Nelson says:

    There’s only 4 other games in serious competition with WoW over the 10 year history of the industry. Lineage, Lineage II, Runescape, and Aion. Source: http://www.mmodata.net/

  10. Tim Keating says:

    Ultima Online turned 12 in September, and its graphic design isn’t nearly as future-proof. I definitely think WoW will last at least that long.

  11. Vladius says:

    Happy birthday WoW!

    Thanks for ruining lives and spawning the horrors of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition!

  12. chabuhi says:

    I don’t think another game will bump WoW off the map. I think it’s going to take a fundamental shift in the way we play games to kill it off. So many people are going to have so much time, money, and emotion tied up in their WoW experience that they will feed that habit as long as it’s there to feed. Isn’t UO still hanging in there pretty well? Maybe I’m wrong.

  13. EmmEnnEff says:

    My take on it? Not that long. I mean, sure, the servers will stay up, but I’m seeing the game getting no more then 3 more expansions. Blizzard’s already moved a lot of people off WoW onto Starcraft II, Diablo 3, and their new, unannounced MMO.

    I realise that Everquest is still coming up with new expansions, but my understanding is that making an EQ expansion requires a *lot* less man-hours then a WoW one.

  14. acronix says:

    @9 Nelson:
    Funny thing that 3 out of those 4 are of NCSoft. Looks like someone has a personal grudge against WoW!

    That, or we westerners suck at making succesful mmorpgs (and WoW would be the exception that confirms the rule).

  15. Alkey says:

    I forsee another 5 years at least. Probably 15 before it shuts down completely. Then there will be some sort of fan run WoW preservation community that will never die.

    I agree with Chabuhi, it will take some major advancement, like what MMO’s are to console games. WoW won’t die until something comes along that can trump MMO’s.

  16. H.M says:

    And yet, the only thing of substance WoW has brought me is the massive upswing in Warcraft porn…

    …okay, maybe “substance” is the wrong word

  17. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I remember WoW… *sigh* I played it on the 1st week it went out. Everything was new and unknown. I lost fun playing it when I had explored everything, and it was less about discovery than simply doing the same trail.

    It’s funnier to hang around people who discover an instance (or just done it once or twice) rather than having attacked it for the 104521th time and know exactly where to stand to pull Monsters X Y but not G and E.

    Which is why I liked Dwarf Fortress so much, every game is a new one and… what? Speak louder sir… …. SOMEBODY ALREADY MENTIONNED DWARF FORTRESS BEFORE ME?

    /take glove

    I challenge you to a duel. 7 Dwarves each, Obsidian Weapons, no elves.

    BYOB: Bring Your Own Ballista

  18. Torsten says:

    Seeing how many older MMOs there are that are still going strong I dont see WoW going down in the next decade. Ultima Online, Everquest, Everquest 2, Anarchy Online just to name few are still running and showing that a game does not need subscription base measured in millions to be successful.

  19. Ross says:

    Asheron’s Call turned 10 this year. If that one can keep going, given that AC2 was killed off several years ago and the same company also has LOTRO, then WoW should be able to go at least 15 years. I can’t believe I’m seriously saying that a video game could last that long, but there it is.

  20. People that play WoW now say things like “I’ve been here forever, man – I remember when the level cap was 70!”

    I weep for them.

    I try to convince them that Taurens originally didn’t have mounts, they just ran fast, and people accuse me of lying.


    In other news, I learned earlier today that SomethingAwful.com started in 1999. TEN YEARS AGO. And I suddenly feel ancient. Because I saw someone post a nigeria scam and went “Oh, I should pull up that Something Awful article I read a little while ago IN TWO-THOUSAND-TWO.

    Old I am.

  21. Adeon says:

    I tend to agree with EmmEnnEff (although I think they’ll do at least 4 if not 5 expansions). The problem with a game like WoW is that eventually Blizzard will reach the point where they can’t really add new raid content or increase the level cap. Even then a lot of players will keep playing but without the allure of new raid content they’ll start losing subscribers who are into that sort of thing.

    I think it’s interesting that with Cataclysm (the next expansion for those who don’t follow WoW) they’re only increasing the level cap 5 levels rather than 10 while simultaneously revamping low level content to encourage people to start new characters. To me that suggests they recognize that they’re concerned about pushing the limit of how far they can go with introducing new raid content and want to shift to a more sustainable method of retaining subscriptions.

  22. Nick says:

    I think the only game that will topple WOW, is WOW2.

  23. Miral says:

    I do have to say: Dwarf Fortress is extremely dangerous gamecrack. I foolishly clicked on the link someone posted several posts back (to the newbie tutorial), and now I have no idea where the past two weeks have gone.

    And this is after I had recovered from a similar addition about a year ago, so I should have known better. (It’s even more dangerous now, since the tilesets and tools are better too.)

  24. EmmEnnEff says:

    >I tend to agree with EmmEnnEff (although I think they'll do at least 4 if not 5 expansions).

    4 to 5 sounds bout right, but I have a feeling that they’ll largely exhaust the available plot strings by then – and by that time, Blizzard will probably have a new Warcraft Universe game that they’ll be milking.

    I’ll also say that if they stop providing new raid content, they will have to revamp the game to make old instances/raids meaningful, or their subscription base will drop to below 100,000 people, most of which will be twinking in BGs. Not the way I’d want to see the game end, but without change, it’s inevitable.

  25. Falco Rusticula says:

    My only grudge with the WoW birthday being today is that my current laptop won’t run it, so I can’t get to log in, so I can’t get whatever prize they’ve decided to give out this time around. (Last time it was a cute polar bear cub.)

    OTOH: I’ve now been playing the game for one-fifth of its existance. Cool. And I’m…not *addicted*, I just like playing when I can.

    To me, the wonder in the game is not in the raids -it’s in the lower levels, when you read the quests and stay in one area until you know it like the back of your hand (hi Ashenvale!) and you long for more quests in that one area because it feels like home. (Loch Modan, this is me staring in your direction.) At higher levels you get fewer quests per zone so you have to do a lot more wandering around. (A trend which persists until you reach Outland, at which point you have to spend at least two levels in Hellfire Peninsula. Feels like Purgatory.)

    Hopefully, nothing will topple WoW for a long time. I think one thing that will hold it together is player bonds -all the people they know are playing this game, so they hang around because they know they can meet up and have fun here.

  26. WarlockofOz says:

    > I'll also say that if they stop providing new raid content, they will have to revamp the game to make old instances/raids meaningful, or their subscription base will drop to below 100,000 people

    I think this is unlikely – I remember some stats http://playon.parc.com/playon/archives/2006/03/raid_content_us.html from classic showing less than 5% of characters raided. I imagine that number is higher because raiding is much more accessible now but I’m not sure – I haven’t seen any more recent stats and it’s also no longer the only possible source of character growth at the level cap. Either way, they’re not going to lose 99% of their playerbase over something most of that playerbase doesn’t do. Not that I can see them ending either raid or group content creation – the key to player retention in a MMO is to get players to socialise and hence they need both content tuned for players meeting for the first time and content tuned for players who already know each other and want to keep playing together.

  27. The amount of things they can construct to grind is huge, all in all. Not to mention, the way that they are revamping the old content is interesting, as it encourages people to go back and experience it again (or for the first time if they missed it).

    I’m really curious to see how Cataclysm works out — they are basically making a new game out of the old one. I can see them doing this again. The Old World goes through Cataclysm, then Outland, etc.

    With Phasing technology, a great step, this could repeat a number of times, especially as they add new races and character classes.

  28. Neil Polenske says:

    Five years that I’ve spent warding off my friends trying to get me hooked on that videogame cocaine and five years I’ve remained vigilante. I think I deserve a badge…or money.

    …preferably money.

  29. HeadHunter says:

    @ #20:

    I remember those days as well. Started in the last phase of closed Beta, before item decay. Back when you got XP debt for using a Spirit Healer…

    Things have changed, a LOT, but overall it’s been for the better IMO.

  30. ccesarano says:

    I’ve also refused to play, though it’s more because RPG’s in the MMO genre do not interest me. I have no interest in constant clicking and grinding. I’d be paying monthly to grind. At least when I pay Microsoft for my Gold subscription (which has actually been on a 1 year subscription card from Christmas) I’m paying to play a lot of games and get certain content early/at all.

    Planetside is, thus far, the only MMO I’ve played. It wasn’t a grind-fest, it was a shoot-fest. A two hour battle with hundreds of players is one of the most immersive and atmospheric experiences I’ve ever had in a game. I can’t see anything in WoW matching up, and I’ve watched my college roommate play it constantly. It was a lot of work to max out your level only to get thirty or so people to fail against the same boss over and over again.

    Still, I think WoW will get knocked off the pedestal when a game comes along that does NOT try to beat it at its own game. Most MMORPG’s are trying to compete with WoW directly. I think the best strategy is to just think of what you think would be a great MMO and build it, then see what happens. Sure you’ll grab aspects of MMO’s that you love, but you won’t directly be competing. This is probably what Blizzard did in development instead of “Okay, how can we crush Everquest beneath our iron greaves of +3 ass kicking?”

  31. Neil Polenske says:

    Shamus: Hey thanks! Just give me a sec to set up an account and I’llheeey waitaminute!

    I’m so TOTALLY giving you the Bobby DeNiro squint ‘n point from Analyze This (that’s the good one).

  32. EmmEnnEff says:

    Way, way more then 5% of the population raids. WOTLK isn’t classic.

    Just look around – almost everyone’s in raid gear – and those that aren’t are usually fresh 80s and alts.

    Now, not very many people raid for progression, but a lot of people raid – people that don’t usually have playtimes that can’t put them in front of a computer screen for 2-3 hours in a row. Otherwise, it is very, very accessible.

  33. Falco Rusticula says:


    I don’t raid, just run new characters through the game. For me, the best parts are when you’re in the gameworld between 10 and 60 (after that, I’m so attached to the character that they end up at 70). But several of the people I know also prefer levelling new characters.

    We’re probably in the minority, but not everyone thinks raids are worth it.

  34. WarlockofOz says:

    MNF: I’d agree that most of the ‘experienced, social gamer’ demographic raids. I think that demographic is smaller than you do, though – perhaps a quarter or a third of all subscriptions and much of that comes from casual players that have grown into it. For instance I’ve been playing on and off since release and have raided on eight different characters – but of the half dozen people I’ve introduced to the game only two have a character past level sixty and one of those is my girlfriend who has benefitted from several months of triple experience, advice and assistance from an expert. They don’t play as often or as efficiently as you or I might but I’m sure they make up a bigger portion of the whole subscription base than they do of the number of players currently hanging around Dalaran.

  35. Thanks , I’ve just been searching for info about this subject for
    ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far. But, what in regards to the bottom line?
    Are you sure in regards to the supply?

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>