If you’re even remotely interested in videogames, chances are you heard about the next World of Warcraft expansion coming out tonight. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is set to follow in the steps of The Burning Crusade and shatter all-time sales records for an expansion.
Remember those posts I made about finally quitting WoW? Well… yeah. It lasted three months, then I got sucked back in and geared up my Druid. I can’t explain it: I’m glad to do other things when WoW loses my interest, but when it has my attention, boy does it keep it. The game, quite simply, is fun, like no single player game I can think of.
Part of it is the social aspect. Living in Edmonton right now, it means I don’t get to see a few friends of mine outside the game. Chatting with them on Ventrilo, and running raids together, is one of the things I do to keep in touch. Which brings me to an interesting realization about WoW: it’s not just a game, but it’s a social networking platform, too.
And this actually explains a lot of its resiliency. Go to Orgrimmar, and stand in front of the bank: you’ll see dozens of low level players who probably never leave the city anymore. For them, WoW is a social networking platform, where they can create an avatar (most often a female Blood Elf in her underwear), and then take them for a chat with friends and strangers.
When you think of WoW this way, it suddenly explains how competitors like Lord of the Rings Online and Warhammer Online can’t seem to dethrone the 800-pound gorilla that is WoW. It actually works a lot like Facebook or Twitter: compare them to newcomers and they’re underwhelming; but they’re familiar, and don’t miss any critical features, and so switching to a competitor is a LOT more complicated than switching to another game. To really change, you’d need to change your entire online network of friends.
But it’s not to say WoW is all about playing Bejeweled while dancing naked on a mailbox in Orgrimmar… The game underneath is deep, challenging and rewarding. And it provides an amazing sense of community when you gather your friends and beat a particularly demanding part of the game.
And so, when the Tirisfal Glades Zeppelin begins carrying members of the Warsong Offensive to Northrend tomorrow, I’ll be on board one of them. First stop: Vengeance Landing, for a few Profession skill-ups, then I’m off to Utgarde Keep with my guildies.
Hail to the Lich King, baby.