Is WoW a Dead Game? World of Warcraft’s Current State

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Is WoW a Dead Game? World of Warcraft's Current State

Is WoW alive in 2023? Seems like it most certainly is. Its development is active and consistent. The player count is something many other MMORPGs can only dream of. Yet there is an argument to be made that WoW is closer to being dead than most online games today.

So the question is, is WoW a dead game? Let’s explore further and seek out the answer.

What Is a Dead Game?

The state of being dead means several things for an online game. Usually, the most important indicators of a title’s “death” are:

World of Warcraft Overview

World of Warcraft debuted in 2004, leading forward the story told in the Warcraft game series. It was like a volcano eruption in the world of MMORPGs. This genre was not as diverse as it is today. Aside from games like Ragnarok Online, there were not that many other MMOs to choose from.

WoW’s Golden Age

The project was not only dominating the charts as an MMORPG, but also making a significant impact on the broader gaming industry. It boasted a player base larger than that of the most popular games of that era, surpassing titles such as:

So it was not only the king of MMO games. It was the king of games, period. But where does this popularity come from?

  1. It was a significant push forward for the MMORPG genre. No other project could compete with WoW in the graphics quality, lore depth, gameplay mechanics, combat responsiveness, and so on.
  2. It continued the story of Warcraft. Many people wanted to go exploring Azeroth after playing Warcraft III. Besides, there were many unanswered questions left after going through the campaign. For instance, “What’s going to happen to Illidan Stormrage in the Outland?”and “Will Arthas ever be free of Frostmourne’s whispers?”
  3. The social interaction element was second to none. Some might say that WoW played a pivotal role in popularizing it. .Today we can see the influence of social interaction even in games designed for solo-play, such as Genshin Impact or the Diablo series.

The first several years were a massive success for World of Warcraft. The player base was going up with each passing year. The first expansions, The Burning Crusade and The Wrath of the Lich King, each made the MMO jump a few million subscribers higher. After the release of the Icecrown Citadel raid, the active player base was close to 20 million people.

The Fall of the King

Since we do not see such huge numbers these days, a question comes to mind — when did WoW start declining? The short answer to that would be 2010–2011, the time of the Cataclysm launch. This expansion’s release was, undoubtedly, a huge reason why the game went downhill. Many players either lost interest after their triumph over the Lich King or expressed discontent with what Cataclysm introduced. For instance, things like the Looking For Raid system and new talent trees.

However, the period everything in WoW went downhill was also the time of the ascension of other projects. Industry giants started appearing in the arena, including:

These were practically the first ones to surpass World of Warcraft. WoW’s player count dropped to approximately half of what it was during the peak of WotLK. However, its player base remained massive, and until now, it’s still among the top-played projects. It’s just that the reigning king had lost his crown.

Some of the further expansions boosted WoW’s popularity and attracted many people. However, that boost’s effect was usually only seen at the beginning of the expansions. After Cataclysm, they go as follows:

Unfortunately, a clear tendency can be seen throughout all of these: the player base is going down. Some of the abovementioned expansions were more successful than the others, but they all had one thing in common. People come with the new content release, and then the player count goes to the same spot in a couple of months.

The event that actually positively impacted WoW was the release of World of Warcraft: Classic. Not only did it allow the game to get over 10 million active subscribers once again, but it also increased the average player count by a couple of million for the years to come. The Classic versions of TBC and WotLK expansions were also a huge success. In general, the release of WoW Classic has reignited people’s interest in the MMO.

The most recent event that made WoW boom once more is the Classic Hardcore servers’ launch. Surprisingly, millions of players have found the one-life-only adventure the most wonderful and engaging experience. The game mode has considerably increased both the player base and the streaming platforms’ viewership for WoW.

The Current State of WoW 2023

Do people still play WoW? They do, in fact, which you can prove for yourself in many ways. You may check any gaming charts you can find online and see that millions of people play the game to this day. You may go to Raider.io and see the latest Mythic+ rankings or how many people have completed one or the other raid. At last, check out the Hardcore servers — they are popping off! So why do so many people presume that the game is dying?

Factors That Make WoW Look Dead

Although the player base numbers are great to this day, it’s crucial to understand that half of the people play Classic rather than Retail. Classic is not actually a great indicator of the overall popularity. Nostalgia is a significant motivation and the primary reason for many people to play it.

But what about Retail? Is WoW worth it anymore? That depends on your personal perspective, of course. Still, let’s have a quick overview of what a player might confront when playing the project today:

  1. Long queues. Have you ever been waiting for a PvP opponent for more than an hour? That happens quite often today. Since the introduction of Solo Shuffle, many PvPers have been experiencing various issues in this aspect of the game.
  2. Invitation thresholds. It is crazy how much a player has to have just to get into a M+ or raid party these days. Play a meta spec, bring food, install addons, do damage, and be an expert in 10 different boss mechanics going on simultaneously.
  3. New-player unfriendliness. WoW is getting more and more complex with each expansion. Imagine all the struggle a newbie has to go through to try out everything it has to offer today.

In summary: only a fraction of players are willing to do what it takes to access the endgame content. Old players are gradually leaving, and new ones aren’t coming. Can a project in such a state be considered alive?

Still Breathing: Why WoW Is Actually Alive

Despite everything said, WoW cannot be identified as a dead game due to many reasons:

These points indicate that it’s early to write World of Warcraft off as a dead game.

Conclusion

Our beloved MMORPG is surely not dead, it is just not as popular as before. If we look at the curve starting from the very release 20 years ago, it’s clear that lots of people have stopped playing. Some of the reasons for that are external, like the abundance of other projects to choose from. But many inner problems persist, and they must be fixed for World of Warcraft to return to its former glory.

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Hald Twinpack
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Comments

cemsays:

played this game for 3 years between 2007-2010. It was awsome and lots of fun. In fact leveling and discovering all the zones and doing dungeons along the way was more fun than reaching 70 lvl only to find out I am having some “job interview” and my gear(items) is the resume. I had no idea what to do and game started to feel pointless. I came back for nostalgia because my sister wanted in 2021, and I hardly tolerated 2 months. The new dungeon system queu was so toxic I was kicked out for attacking a mob. Everybody sneakily walked with their mount to final boss… This was not how dungeons were back then. This game has some toxic community and game becomes no fun if you won’t have at least 4 different real life persons to play with.

ImissWoWsays:

The game is in-fact the most dead it has ever been and for all types of content. Because of this, I’ve stopped playing the game for the third time in nineteen years. Every friend on my once very active friend’s list has stopped coming online.
They’ve merged so many servers/time-zones/regions to try and counter the dead world and hour long queues but you won’t be able to tell the difference. You won’t see many players in the world, which makes getting group quests completed impossible. The casual leveling experience is the worst it has ever been and no new players are staying. There is no linear progression. You start off in BFA expansion for whatever reason. If you don’t know the lore or where you left off then you’re lost. They made all levels 10-50 able to do dungeons together. A level 10 can one shot every single mob in the world or dungeon that you’re in on your way to level 60, making you feel useless until Dragon Flight content. Level 10s can do all expansions beside DF. If you’re new to the game and expecting to learn your class rotation/abilities, you won’t. It’s best to stay questing if you want to do that, but try having fun in a completely dead past expansion.
Player versus player is nigh completely dead, with the only exception being Random BGs and the ranked Solo-Shuffle; which is a 45 minute to 1 hour queue depending on rating. They changed the way Match Making Rating works, making it extremely punishable and torturous to play in an attempt to lower queue times. So you will be placed against people of all Current Ratings, meaning you can/will fight the top rated players in the game even if the CR/skill/gear difference in item level is stupidly extensive. For example if you win 3-4 times in a row.. your MMR shoots through the roof; 2200 Nahj is going to be camping your 400 rated team for the next hour, if you’re not playing during peak. 2s and 3s doesn’t exist above a certain rating, you will be seeing the same 2 teams over and over for hours since there’s no participation and everyone is META because of the crazy balancing issues so there are class diversity issues.
Mythic+ has very few Dragon Flight dungeons so they’ve added recycled content, dungeons from past expansions that you’ve probably done over and over for years, most groups won’t accept you if you’re not META class/spec above a certain key level so it’s best to make your own groups. Raiding is still mostly OG but they recycle the same raids every season with “Fated” as the new scaled up difficulty to make it seem like more content.
I’ve never seen the community more toxic than it is now, even with all of this Social Contract stuff they have. You will constantly get kicked out of groups as a new player, with nobody mentioning to you as to why. Most people don’t like that you’re new because they have no patience. A small family-type of Guild is a must, but very rare, 99% of them are SuperInvite guilds and don’t help their members. This is only what I can think of off the top of my head.

The game is a shell of it’s former self and population issues are only the half of it. It doesn’t seem like the current developers or Blizzard brass care about what made WoW great and infinitely replayable. The lack of attention to new player experience, lack of balancing in endgame content, and the repetitive content droughts, despite record profits, make it loud and clear. They are making more on microtransactions than their WoW subscriber base and it’s beginning to seem like their main focus for most of us, some others would say it’s ESG rating as their main focus. All the OG developers left. Too many promises were broken..