World of Warcraft Stories - Intro
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Eom of Silvermoon

The Secret Behind World of Warcraft's Long-Lasting Popularity

Written by Eom

Released 11 years ago, World of Warcraft is still the most popular MMORPG with a huge world and one of the most engaging stories ever written for a game, but I think there is another thing that made WoW so popular.

Hello fellow adventurers,

In a recent thread on the official World of Warcraft forums, someone genuinely asked "why is WoW so popular?" making some points that are open to discussion, and actually I agree with some of them to an extent such as "the questing is lackluster", "the combat is bad", "the game seems really easy", "I didn't die in open world questing even once". These are all valid points, especially since they are coming from a new player who is experiencing the game for the first time. Some veteran players may feel differently, but from a newcomer's perspective, and from an objective perspective I think, the above points more or less hold their validity.

In my 16 years of PC gaming history, I have played many role playing games in which the quests were more fun and immersive (compared to "slay X of this, collect Y of that" type of quests), the combat was more mobile and adrenaline packed (compared to mostly standing still and pressing the same keys during fights), and the solo or group adventures were a lot more dangerous and even the smallest mistake was deadly. But none of those games are still played by over 5 million active and paying gamers, including myself. So, what really makes WoW this popular?

Before answering this question, I will mention an infographic that Blizzard published about two years ago, presenting many statistical numbers related to World of Warcraft player base. You can see the infographic on the following official blog post:

World of Warcraft: Azeroth by the Numbers

In that infographic, it is said that since its beginning, over 100 million unique accounts were created in World of Warcraft. There is no other MMORPG that comes close to this number, so obviously whatever Blizzard is doing with their game, it seems that they are doing a good job in catering to a wide audience with varying tastes and preferences.

I will answer the question that I asked above, but before that, I should mention that I am not a World of Warcraft expert as I am also relatively new to the game and I still did not experience a huge amount of its content. But I believe that I had a good impression of the game so far which allows me to share my experience and what I learned about the game, and what it is -in my opinion- that has made the game so popular over the last 11 years.

***

The secret behind WoW's long-lasting popularity, in my opinion, is that it has maybe not the best (?) but the most expansive Collecting & Completing features, as far as I know.

As gamers, collecting and completing are two major driving factors for us in the games we play. We like collecting and completing, especially when it is meaningful and fun. Maybe not all players are interested in collecting and completing, or maybe some are not interested in what WoW offers to collect and complete, but in average, it seems the system of WoW worked very well so far, and it's still continuing to work. In a sense, it is not a game that you play and finish, rather it is a world that whenever you enter, you have something to collect or to complete, that is unless you already did all or got burnt by excessive playing.

The Secret Behind World of Warcraft's Long-Lasting Popularity - 1

Now, I will make a detailed list of the things in World of Warcraft that I consider to be Collecting & Completing. Surely the game didn't start with this many things, but this many things are more or less ready to be experienced by newcomers as of now:

DISCLAIMER: I don't have access to official numbers, so my following points/numbers (obtained from wowhead.com) may lack accuracy.

***

COLLECTING

Mounts: 500+
Some may be recolors, some may not be currently obtainable, some are grounded or flying, but there are hundreds of different mounts a player can obtain.

Battle Pets: 700+
Some may be using the same models, some may not battle, but there are hundreds of battle pets that players can obtain.

Hunter Pets: ?
I couldn't find a number for how many pets are tameable by hunters, but I guess it is possibly in the range of hundreds. Not everyone plays a hunter, but for those who do, this provides a wide range of pet collecting. You can't keep them all, but collecting is collecting.

Heirlooms: 80
Most people find heirlooms to be useful. Whether you use them or not, that gives a considerable list of items to collect.

Toys: 256
Who doesn't like toys? Some may be "useless" but still, collecting all of them will take a very long time for sure.

Legendary Items: ~15
I don't exactly know how many legendary items are currently obtainable and how many are removed but I guess about 10 are obtainable and about 5 are removed. In any case, keep in mind that anything removed from the game not only provided content when it lasted in its time, but also keeps players busy by discussing about them even though they're no longer obtainable.

Tabards: 100+
Not sure how many of them are obtainable but there are around 100 tabards players can work towards collecting.

Transmog Sets: ?
Some would say hundreds, some would say more than a thousand, what is for sure is that there are lots and lots of item sets you can aim for collecting on your different class characters.

Tier Armor Sets: 17
I am not following the raid tiers closely, but I believe there are about 17 tiers at the moment. 17 mostly super cool armor sets for all classes in the game. No idea how long it will take to collect all pieces for all 11 (soon to be 12) classes, if that's one of your goals. Years? Is there anyone who actually has all tier sets for all classes?

Titles: 283
This number is what Wowhead gives, I have no idea how many titles are obtainable but even if it is in the range of dozens, it still provides a lot to do for those who are interested in obtaining all available titles.

Professions: 15
Each profession offers 700 skill points to level up, lots of recipes and items to collect, (daily) quests to do, lots of achievements to unlock. Some recipes are no longer obtainable but the following numbers are given just to give a basic idea about the size of professions in WoW:

4 secondary professions, every character can master:

- First Aid: 28 recipes
- Fishing: Lots of different fish to catch
- Cooking: 306 recipes
- Archaeology: 218 projects

11 primary professions, one character can master only two, but you can master all of them with different characters in one account:

- Alchemy: 371 recipes
- Blacksmithing: 792 recipes
- Enchanting: 419 recipes
- Engineering: 394 recipes
- Herbalism: Dozens of herbs to collect
- Inscription: 568 recipes
- Jewelcrafting: 901 recipes
- Leatherworking: 929 recipes
- Mining: Dozens of minerals and gems to mine
- Skinning: Dozens of skins to collect
- Tailoring: 629 recipes

The Secret Behind World of Warcraft's Long-Lasting Popularity - 2

***

COMPLETING

Quests: 15000+
Whether they are story quests, side (optional) quests, or daily/repeatable quests, there are about 15000 quests in World of Warcraft. Some of them are no longer available, but a google search on Wowhead also returns thousands of removed quests that are not included in zone quest lists.

NPCs: 50000+
Alliance or Horde, friendly or foe, talking or not, has loot or not, most NPCs provide some sort of content for you to interact with them, listen to their stories, hunt them or do quests for them. Even the most pointless NPCs that you stumble upon in the middle of nowhere may feel like an interesting find.

Continents: 6
6 huge continents to explore (soon to be 7). Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Northrend, Pandaria, Outland and Draenor.

Zones: 95
Not sure if I counted correctly but there are close to 100 zones to explore. All zones have different stories, NPCs, quests, and adventures. Some zones are so big that even if you spend days exploring, you may still not be able to wholly explore them.

Dungeons: 82
Whether you rush through them via random dungeon finder tool, or you take your time to explore them in detail, there are 82 beautifully crafted dungeons.

Raids: 35
From single boss raids to 10+ boss raids, there are many super cool raids that provide epic adventures and rewards.

Rare Mobs: ?
Except some beginning zones, most zones have some rare mobs and with the recent expansions, these rare mobs became more meaningful as they now offer greater challenges and rewards.

World Events: 12+
Scattered throughout the year, there are many world events based on real life holidays/celebrations and they offer a lot of fun things to do and items to collect.

Reputations: ?
I am guessing there are about 100 factions that you can gain reputation for. I can only imagine how much time it will take to complete them all to Exalted.

Achievements: 2508
Some achievements are earned as you play the game naturally such as leveling, exploring and doing quests, but for some achievements you need to try hard to obtain them. In addition to 2500+ achievements, there are also feats of strength and guild achievements (264) that you can aim for completing.

Readables: ?
There are hundreds of readable objects in the game world. From lore books to quest items, statues and objects, you can read and learn some interesting information about the story of Warcraft.

I will quickly skip the next two as I do not PvP much :)

PvP Battlegrounds: 12

PvP Arenas: 7

Garrisons
I haven't done garrisons yet, so I can't comment on what they offer but I hear that even though some players think of it like a chore, it still provides lots to do to many those who enjoy doing it.

The Secret Behind World of Warcraft's Long-Lasting Popularity - 3

***

I'm not saying collecting and completing is the only factor for WoW's long-lasting popularity, but in my opinion it is the most important factor. Things that I would like to list other than collecting and completing are:

Fan Base
The huge fan base started with original Warcrafts, Starcraft and Diablo. I learned about Blizzard by Diablo 2, then played Starcraft, Warcraft 3, Diablo 3 etc. and finally landed on WoW. Blizzard as a game developer company has one of the largest fan bases in the world. Their fans either play most of their games or change between their games easily.

Lore Figures
Highly prominent lore figures such as Arthas, Thrall, Illidan, Sylvanas, Varian, Gul'dan, Jaina, so many of them.

Graphics
WoW has beautiful graphics and art style (please forget the Feralas trees for a moment, will you?). The graphics engine may not be the most up-to-date but from what I've seen, it is continuously getting updated by each expansion, but most importantly, I like the art style a lot. No other game I saw, even the ones that would be considered as most up-to-date in terms of graphics, do not attract me as WoW's art style does. Each zone has its own character, its own unique feeling to it. Also with the updated character/NPC models, I think it got just prettier. From some comments I read on the forums, I know that there are many others who think like I do about the graphics of WoW.

User Interface
Though some players prefer to use a totally different interface for aesthetic or usability purposes, the original user interface elements are beautiful and provide a pleasant experience when opened.

Addons
You can practically change anything you want about the user interface, and I believe having that much customizability, and considering so many addons that make things a lot easier, make the game more enjoyable.

Soundtracks/Music
There are some zones that I visit from time to time just to listen to their soundtracks. I know there are others who do the same thing. The game has some of the most beautiful music/soundtrack compositions I have heard in a game.

Live World, NPCs, Fun Factor
This is not a specific thing but something you feel in everything while you play. Maybe you don't realize until you pay attention to it. A lot of NPCs have their own routines, they say things, talk to each other, even dance. For example, listening to NPCs is a fun thing for me. Hearing "I've the finest wares in the land" from a Dwarf, or "Time is money friend" from a Goblin, or "You are not normal" from a Draenei, or "My, you're a tall one" from a Gnome, always makes me smile.

Freedom of Choice
When you enter the world, you can do anything you want, in your way. Sometimes, I log in just to do some quests, or some exploration, or leveling some professions, or pet battling, or do some raids, or attack an opposing faction town, or just to fish in a peaceful location.

***

With the upcoming expansion, all the numbers listed above will only grow and especially with the introduction of the new transmog system and per-spec artifact weapons, the collecting and completing will be brought to a new level.

In summary, among the other things I mentioned, I think collecting & completing is what really makes WoW popular and long-lasting. So, why do you think WoW is popular and what is your reason for playing?

Eom of Silvermoon
Written by Eom of Silvermoon · 10 Jan, 2016
I thank you fellow adventurer, for stopping by. I hope that you liked what you read and consider it worthy of sharing with your friends.

Comments

Alunaria
15 May, 2017 05:53 UTC

Gosh, reading this, WoW really has become an enormous game over the years. Sometimes I feel as if there is too much to do!

But I have to say that the social aspects are the key for me.

I will forever mourn the day that cross servers were introduced, because a big part of community feeling was lost then.

If I could change one thing, it's that.


Eom
15 May, 2017 06:52 UTC

I was not here when there were no cross servers, so I don't have a personal experience about how things were then. But, I think "starting with isolated servers" was not the best idea from an MMORPG design perspective.

I played Guild Wars 1 actively for about 5 years when it came out. It provided some of the greatest gaming moments for me and when it was alive, the community was also great. It did not have isolated servers, allowing everyone to group up, trade, befriend and play together.

What went wrong with WoW, in my opinion, is that they gave users a unique experience by providing isolated servers, but they then took it away, ruining that experience. If they had started with non-isolated servers, it would have been totally fine I think.


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World of Warcraft Stories - Outro