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2 Decades of World of Warcraft: Comparing the Modern MMORPG Ecosystem



World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft launched in 2024, and the MMORPG arena never remained the same. The widely successful MMORPG has not just survived 20 years of existence but has thrived through those years. It has experienced its ups and downs and remains a favourite for players worldwide, almost like a cult classic amongst MMORPG gamers globally.

It recently released a new patch, the patch 10.2.6, Plunderstorm. This addition brings in a new six-week battle royal-type event and serves as a testament to the ever-evolving World of Warcraft. We’ll be looking at how it stands alongside newer MMORPGs in this piece.

From Humble Beginnings, Seeking Glory

World of Warcraft launched in 2004, a time when Shrek 2 was dominating the box office, and Sony’s PSP was getting its first release in Japan. The game was already about four years in the works before its release. This was not the first game in the World of Warcraft franchise, but it was its first MMORPG and basically became its continuous game. WoW has enjoyed the developers’ attention since its initial release and has had nine expansion releases since its debut. 

While World of Warcraft has gone through different stages, it still enjoys updates and bug fixes from the developers 20 years down the line. At its debut, it was well received as it made some minor changes in its gameplay from typical MMO while maintaining an immersive and deep story experience, making it an attractive game for casual and invested gamers. With time, the fan base only grew, and by 2010, it hit an all-time high of 12 million subscribers. As of 2014, it had garnered over 100 million registered player accounts.

The Evolution of the Style and Graphics of World of Warcraft

Many games, especially more modern games in the MMORPG genre and other genres, strive to give gamers realistic designs, settings, and characters. For World of Warcraft, this has never been the goal. World of Warcraft takes a stylised approach to its game design. Although approaching design from a stylised angle, World of Warcraft still produced an experience graphically superior to its contemporaries. Its stylised design also created a more immersive and captivating gaming experience, similar to the exclusive gaming with the welcome bonus.

With time, game development technology improved, and gamers reaped this reward in newer expansions like “The Burning Crusade” and “Wrath of the Lich King”; these expansions saw improvements like more dynamic shadows, detailed environments, and more. This stylised design hasn’t changed but has improved over time. This has helped World of Warcraft to stay faithful to its original design style while enhancing the gaming experience for its users.

Is World of Warcraft a Free-to-Play Game Now?

From the get-go in 2004, World of Warcraft operated a double pay method where gamers paid to get the game and then paid monthly for continuous access. The game currently runs a free-to-play model until you reach level 20, at which point you have to start paying a monthly subscription fee of $14.99. 

This method was introduced to attract newer gamers, allowing them to enjoy the game a bit before they decided to start monthly payments.

Impact and Influence of World of Warcraft

If there has been any significant impact World of WarCraft has had on the gaming industry, it is heavily featured in the design aspect. Before World of Warcraft, MMOs frequently had complicated interfaces and designs, which resulted in complicated gameplay that only ardent fans could appreciate. Its outstanding gameplay can be compared to the gameplay with a 200% casino bonus.

World of Warcraft simplified the approach to functional designs like the quest bar, PvP activities, Party member roles, and more.

World of Warcraft has also had a level of cultural impact, even featuring in a South Park episode titled ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft.’ This episode went on to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.

While not as famous as before, World of Warcraft has also greatly influenced the meme culture.

Moreover, World of Warcraft has impacted other areas, such as:

  • Gaming expectations from gamers
  • Movie adaptations
  • In-game sales markets
  • In-game community building and social relationships.
  • MMORPG subscription models


World of Warcraft has evolved as a game over the past two decades, introducing new maps and improving graphics and gameplay. Despite the influx of newer games, it has remained a relevant game in the MMORPG scene. It has maintained its spot as one of the most famous and profitable game franchises around. Hopefully, over the next decade, many new gamers will be introduced to the everlasting realm of Azeroth.

That is it. Hope you liked it. Keep gaming 😉

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