We all have a special place in our hearts for some of the most special games we’ve ever played. Many will move on to the next title within a week, but some swear allegiance to their favorite digital worlds. In this serial Marvin takes a look at these fanatic fandoms. Today: World of Warcraft.

You have probably come across a game that you can no longer let go. A game that you want to know everything about, that you cannot keep your lid on and that you keep coming back to. You may sign up for a forum or Discord server specific to that game, participate in fun in-game community events, and before you know it, you’ll be part of a game family. At least, that’s how the most fanatical fan bands seem to come about.

To get an idea of ​​those fandoms, we will discuss a few facets of each game (franchise) in each part of this Serial. Player numbers (and game info), fandom organization, in-game events, out-of-game events, and mainstream media coverage. Today: one of the MMORPGs where players can easily lose 1000+ hours of their lives, World of Warcraft.


An earthquake struck gameland in 2004. A new MMORPG based on Blizzard’s Warcraft universe emerged and within a year already had more than a million players in its grip. In the years that followed, according to many, it would become the best MMORPG of all time and nobody could ignore the success of World of Warcraft. WoW regularly popped up in mainstream news, got a commercial with ___ Mister T and his Night Elf Mohawk, saw its player base grow at a rapid pace until about 2012 and also got more and more content. But what is it exactly?

To discuss all facets of World of Warcraft in 2019, we can fill in an article or three, so we keep it very short. After all, everyone is familiar with the MMORPG concept, one that was popularized by WoW and of course older games like Everquest. Players are located in the world of Azeroth and choose one of two overarching factions: the Horde of Alliance. Under the banner of one of those factions, they create a new character with different races (Gnomes, Humans, Trolls, etc.) and different classes (Warriors, Paladins, Shamans, etc.) and work on bringing their character to the maximum level. to pilot.

They do this by completing all kinds of quests in the game world, but also by going through dungeons (in which 5 players fight together against stronger opponents), raids (20 to 40 men) and battlegrounds (large-scale PVP). Once you have reached the maximum level, it is important to become as strong as possible and to defy the endgame content. These are often more difficult raids, and nowadays also more difficult versions of dungeons (so-called Mythics). Players also get two professions per character (such as blacksmithing, leatherworking or enchanting) with which they can earn gold, and of course make stronger gear for themselves and others.

Where most games stop when you have reached the maximum level, World of Warcraft happily continues with the so-called endgame, in which players do everything they can to become even stronger by achieving gear. In so-called Guilds they come together to help each other and of course to go through Raids, where enough exclusive loot is waiting for them to justify a weekly playthrough.

In addition, in the endgame, players will focus on Achievements and replenish their mount, toy, and transmog collections (simply loot everything that can be looted, including in old content from previous WoW expansions), they are working on reputations with one of the dozens of factions in the game (a mechanic that makes it clear how a certain people views your character), they start new characters (alts), they try to exploit the WoW economy and get as much gold as possible earn, they’ll get to grips with Pet Battles (Pokémon-like battles) or do one of the other thousands of things you can fill your days with in WoW. It’s too much to mention

World of Warcraft is currently working on its seventh expansion titled Battle for Azeroth, specifically the 8.2 patch has just been released adding the two areas Nazjatar and Mechagon. A unique moment in the history of World of Warcraft is planned for August of this year – then World of Warcraft Classic will be released. This is a version of the game as it was playable in 2004/2005 (with some quality of life tweaks), something that fans of the original version of the game have been calling for for years. This version of WoW will have no impact on the current (so-called ‘retail’) version of the game, which is expected to get a new expansion next year and which Blizzard is probably far from finished.

Player info and ‘player count vs money return’ discussion

Since the times of expansion Warlords of Draenor (2015-ish), Blizzard has not been so keen on sharing subscriber numbers with the world. ‘Subscribers’ in this case are people who have an active subscription to World of Warcraft. After all, players of the MMORPG have to pay per month to access the game (in addition to the cost of the base game and the expansions themselves). So we know the official player numbers until 2015, but we can only speculate about the player numbers now. Below you will find an overview of the player base in the period 2005-2015 (according to official information from Blizzard), with a clear peak around 2010/2011 when the total number of subscribers went towards 12.5 million. This was at the time of the third WoW expansion, Cataclysm.

In 2019 there is enough speculation (and here, here) within the World of Warcraft community about how many they are now. One thing is clear: it is a fraction of those 12.5 million that were still playing in 2010. It is expected that there are approximately 2 to 3 million players active at the moment, although this is mainly based on the in-game ability to check how many characters are online (with peaks around 150,000 online characters) and this does not take into account China. China is a special case; they have their own version of the game with adjustments that the Chinese government can agree with (for example, there are few bones to be seen at the Chinese Undead bar). Despite this, the population in China is invariably the same size as the player bases of the European and North American versions of WoW combined.

Where in an ideal world an MMO is judged on the size of its player base and the number of active players, in 2019 it seems mainly about money. At least for Blizzard (and Activision). This divides the player base like never before; many players are fed up with Blizzard’s business approach and desire to generate as much revenue as possible (another topic we can fill in two articles on) and are therefore leaving the game behind. For example, a recent controversial decision by Blizzard was to add a Store Mount: when purchasing a six-month subscription to WoW, players will receive the Sylverian Dreamer mount.

A beautiful bird-like dragon with a beautiful blue color and majestic wings that is completely unique to this MMORPG. Only he costs 25 euros separately, and the tig mounts that you can obtain in-game without depositing money are nine out of ten recognizable models with new colors. Result: 13,000 dislikes versus 3,000 likes. Many players blame Blizzard for hiding such a unique mount behind a pile of money and allowing the players to grind in-game for the same mounts with just a different lick of paint. Others call the company “desperate” after the criticism it received over the Battle For Azeroth expansion. And a few point out that this ‘offer’ is very well timed; Q3 of Blizzard’s fiscal year just happens to end!

While there has been some criticism of Blizzard’s decision, there are also plenty of people who are completely lyrical about the mount, with the result that probably nothing will change and the bank remains well-stocked. And many of the player will stay too, as World of Warcraft is in a unique position. Some people have been playing the game for fifteen years and many players have put more than 2000+ hours into the game, and then just look away from all those hours, friendships and other social connections you’ve made forever. Battle For Azeroth’s patch 8.2 is also heading in the right direction, according to many, and World of Warcraft Classic will bring back plenty of old hands, so while Blizzard and Activision are being plagued with criticism, everything suggests that the number of active subscribers will increase in the coming months.

Organization of the World of Warcraft fandom

World of Warcraft is such a social game that the fandom largely gathers in-game in Guilds and all kinds of groups (nowadays you can create chat groups about anything and everything), but of course there are also the usual (social ) channels. There’s a forum (formerly the Battle.net forum), a subreddit with over 1.1 million members (and a Classic WoW subreddit with 145k members), and also tons of Discord channels where people rave about the game and try each other whether or not while they are playing. Since there are countless ways to meet new players and chat with the people you already know or people interested in the same facets of World of Warcraft as you, there are very few reasons to communicate outside of the game through others. channels.

Yet WoW fans also know where to find each other in other places on the internet, and what is striking here is the growth that the game has experienced in popularity on Twitch in the past year. The streams of Asmongold and Sodapoppin are the most popular today; Asmongold has already passed five million viewer hours with WoW content alone – which is more than all of Elder Scrolls Online has on Twitch – and is number 8 of the most popular Twitch channels in the world. His Classic streams were particularly popular, when the Classic beta just came out, the number of simultaneous viewers hit 120k. 

World of Warcraft itself is number 6 in the list of the most popular games on Twitch with an average viewership of 45,000 at all times and a peak of 201,000. It is the # 12 game in terms of number of streamers (on average there are 900 WoW streamers live) and that at a time when according to many players the game is rather boring. The game has 5 million followers on Twitch at the time of writing. These numbers will only increase when Classic and the next Battle For Azeroth patches come out.

The game is also very popular on Youtube; the official WoW channel (which features cinematics and game trailers) has 1.2 million subscribers and there are too many WoW-related channels to list here. After all, WoW has a tremendous depth of lore that countless YouTubers make videos about, the site is also full of tutorial videos on everything you can do in-game, and popular and less popular players create videos showing their skills and lack of life. For example, recently the Method guild was the talk of the town; how hard they no-lif to be the first in the world to defeat the Mythic version of the raid Battle of Dazar’alor is already legendary. 

In-game events and mods

World of Warcraft is pre-eminently a game in which you can work together to do very nice things, so we are not going to try to list all the ways in which players can find each other here. Guilds are usually the main place for players to gather and host events. But Blizzard also provides a lot of events, from summer fairs to snowball fights. Not to mention the Twitch and YouTube streamers who can keep their servers in their grip with all of their fans.

With services such as Looking For Raid and Looking For Group you can now also find a group for the most diverse things. Want to flood the Horde town of Orgimmar with 40 Alliance players? Which can. Looking for a mount like the Time-Lost Proto Drake, where you will have to stand still for hours in the hope that the dragon spawns in front of you and you can get it? There is a group for that. Participate in a transmog competition to see if your character’s outfit is the coolest? Participate in a mount competition to see if you have the largest collection? Some Twitch streamer must already have a group for that. And so on, because there is plenty of creativity within WoW’s player base, and those who search long enough will find a lot of hilarious scenes. 

In this Serial we often look at the mods that players make, because that shows how fanatic fans can be. But World of Warcraft is unique in this regard; Very few people play the game without so-called addons, and the oh-so-fanatic players who made all these addons over the years and through the many versions of World of Warcraft now operate as a company. They do everything they can to update their addon as soon as possible after the release of a new content expansion. May also be, because hugely popular addons like Deadly Boss Mods (which show tactics for bosses in raids and dungeons) have already been downloaded more than 230 million times (according to Twitch, which also serves as an addon hub) and many players can no longer do without . It also happens regularly that Blizzard decides to take over a popular addon, 

Events outside of the games

The most important event for WoW fans is of course Blizzcon, where Blizzard invariably has a big stage presentation in house, organizes WoW eSports and also starts a cosplay competition every year where fans can show their creations. Outside of Blizzcon, however, there is also plenty to look forward to as a WoW fanatic. Blizzard organizes events around the world at milestones such as its 10th anniversary and fans are even more likely to take matters into their own hands. Sometimes very literally, such as at this annual event in which cosplayers (uhh, LARPers?) Dressed in WoW outfits in the Czech Republic of all places brawl with each other. This Czech event even has an ongoing story, and the battles performed by the fanatical fans there have a lasting impact on it.

Beyond that, there are of course plenty of photo shoots from World of Warcraft cosplayers and meetups for WoW fans, although you will have to do some searching to qualify. Meetups between fans are also regularly announced on the WoW forum, although it does not seem that they also take place in the Beneluxe. You have to change that yourself, if that’s your thing. Be sure to check Alie’s article on why World of Warcraft is more than just a game. 

Media attention

World of Warcraft and mainstream media are inseparable. For years, WoW was the showpiece for angry parents who think their kids are addicted to gaming, and the game has been known for fifteen years as something that will kill your life. This results in a lot of memes, but also a lot of ill-informed news stories. Fortunately, that time is already behind us and the sensation media is already focusing more on things like lootboxes and games like Fortnite. That is why nowadays you will not easily see a channel like SBS6 writing news about World of Warcraft, but when the term ‘game addiction’ pops up again, World of Warcraft is regularly used as an example.

That ‘no-life’ status and the addiction danger lurking at World of Warcraft will probably never go away. And that is not necessary at all. We are talking about one of the greatest and most inexhaustible games of all time; of course WoW remains inherently addictive, this is a fact. However, the positive sides of the MMO may also be given more attention in the media – but yes, that produces too few clicks. Fortunately, those positive reports are indeed there, with as a recent example the news about how a Breda WoW player traveled to Norway together with some in-game friends to attend the funeral of their deceased friend. I don’t cry, you cry!

The Fanatic Fandom serial:

Sunday 05/05  –  Part 1 (Minecraft)

Monday 03/06  –  Part 2 (The Elder Scrolls)

Sunday 30/06  – Part 3 (World of Warcraft)