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World of Warcraft - Blizzard 2004

One final entry, and one that's a bit of a gamble. World of Warcraft can hardly claim to have invented the Massive Multiplayer Online Game - its roots trail through EverQuest and Ultima Online back to the early MUDs - but it has become synonymous with it. With over nine million subscribers it's easily the biggest MMO worldwide, and it has taken up more newspaper column inches and TV references than any other game in years.

How and why? Because it took all that was good and addictive about the MMO, dumped most of the stuff that put the average player off, and wrapped it in a superbly realised world that people just wanted more and more of. MMOs have always been social games, but WoW made the genre more inclusive. It's a game that sixteen year-olds and sixty year olds play together, whether they know it or not.

Of all the games out there at the moment, it is also WoW that could have the most impact on how games are played in the future. It heralds a day in which the biggest games are huge, shared experiences, like a blockbuster movie or a major TV show, in which anyone with an interest in a genre - sci-fi, fantasy, detective mysteries, even soaps - can lose themselves for an hour or two when they wish.

With WoW, Blizzard realised that we didn't all want to spend most of our spare time crafting and grinding and doing our bit for the guild - we wanted a heroic part in a heroic struggle between the forces of light and darkness, and we didn't necessarily want to be told which side to be on. Whether WoW can retain its juggernaut momentum in the face of rivals like Lord of the Rings: Online and Age of Conan remains to be seen, but its place in gaming history already seems assured.

Mention: The Murlocs - an ichthyoid monster so pitiable that it has become a cult obsession with the fans. Remember last year's Blizzard april fool?

Don't mention: The legendary Leeroy Jenkins. At least he has chicken….

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