In 2021, World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic will launch as the next chapter of the hugely popular throwback to the wild times when Blizzard's MMORPG was enjoying some of its best years. From the alien world of Outland, to iconic raid bosses like Kael'Thas and Illidan Stormrage, The Burning Crusade era was, for many fans, the most exciting period for the game.
To their credit, Blizzard has done everything in their power to unbury the time capsule that is the olden World of Warcraft days and has done a great job at it. In fact, it wasn't Battle for Azeroth or Shadowlands — the expansions for the base game — that brought in new player peaks. It was WoW Classic's launch in August 2019 that did it, more than doubling the subscriber count at the time, per Screen Rant. On Twitch, the game's peak viewership jumped 280K (on Battle for Azeroth launch day) to 523K on WoW Classic launch day.
Yet, for how close to pitch-perfect the WoW Classic in-game experience is, it's still missing one crucial component, one that is never coming back. A remnant of an old (and better) era of gaming, which is all the proof anyone would ever need how titles like World of Warcraft create families, friends, and fans for life.
It's almost midnight in Europe and the camera lens struggle to capture the hordes of people camping in front of video game stores as The Burning Crusade is about to launch. Rows of people stretching kilometers in France, Germany, UK. It's middle of January so in places like Stockholm, the temperature is as low as -6 °C (21.2 F), but these fanatics don't care. Many of them are in light cosplay that does nothing to protect them from the cold, but the love they have for this vast virtual world — the only one that would stand the 17-year-long test of time — is keeping them fired up.
"I've been standing here for 11 hours. And he's been standing here for 13... 14 hours," one fan says as the camera makes its rounds and captures all the wonderful variety of fans who flocked to celebrate a historical moment. A mother and her daughter. A role-playing enthusiast. A hardcore raider. Hugely different faces and backgrounds, waiting to once again be reunited in a single community, stepping through the Dark Portal under the thundering sounds of the now iconic orchestral theme.
There never are such sights anymore. The endless queues of people, eager to get their hands on a cardboard box with a DVD in it, are no more. Even before COVID locked us up, we'd sit in our chairs, push a button, and digitally download anything we want. The modern distribution of games gave us a convenience and we took it, because of course we would. We should. Why stand in the cold and camp for 14 hours when you can... not.
For any other game, this makes no difference. But World of Warcraft wasn't just any other game. WoW had the magical power of mobilizing crowds not just in the server, but outside of it too.
I hope that one day, it somehow manages to do that again.
Esports editor and journalist of 10+ years. Lives on black tea and corgi love.