- Author: Taladril
- Date: February 4, 2021
- Expansion: WoW Classic
Classic WoW is fully into endgame with Phase 6 and Naxxramas having been released over two months ago. Guilds are just finally getting their first Atiesh built. There isn’t much news that will be expected to cover with Classic except talking about its future and near inevitable announcement of TBC at Blizzconline.
It’s been quite a ride since August 2019 however the ride really started far before then. The Classic WoW project has been mired in fan controversy since well before its inception, and thrust into the public consciousness with this famous video. The very vocal majority has poo pooed the idea for years while the quieter minority turned to other means to get their Classic fix. This came to a crescendo with Nostalrius which finally prompted Blizzard to take notice and officially devote manpower to the idea.
Even still, buy in on the idea was tepid at best. Early rumors of the release of Classic was for only 8 servers. At the point of name reservation, America, EU, and Oceana had under 30 servers total with Europe not even initially having regional language options. Then name reservations opened up and the reservation server promptly crashed due to demand. It was not long until Blizzard spun up a lot more servers to eventually more than double (currently 80 realms) their initial offering. Even still, the rollout was conservative and slow, causing a lot of issues with migration since so many people were preplanning where to go with larger guild maneuvers causing large realms to remain large and smaller realms to not take off as organically.
Despite that, Classic released and virtually every server was pegged to the max. Most servers had some queues, while the highest population servers had queues at never-before-seen levels of over 20,000 player waits. People on those servers reported that they would routinely start their queue at the start of their workday to finally be able to log in that evening. Blizzard rapidly looked into server transfers for certain realms and it was also clear that for many servers phasing was rampant.
The population didn’t drop down fast enough either for the promised “no phasing post phase 1.” Clearly the nostalgia hype was more than the expected rose tinted goggles pessimists statement that most would stop playing within a week/month. In fact, subscriptions for Classic were so high that Classic was responsible for a doubling of the regular WoW subscribership. At its peak, Classic was as popular as retail.
But Classic is much more of a marathon and now well past the conclusion of new content. Those that wanted their Classic experience have gotten it, right? Sure, some guilds are progressing in Naxxramas but more than half of all raiding guilds have downed KT. TBC is on the horizon but why bother continuing to play when the upgrades you instantly get are so much better than what you can slave away for now?
Well actually Classic is still insanely popular. There are a few census sites you can check out to see the health of your different servers. Ironforge.pro shows nice stats that break down each server. It pulls data from Classic Warcraft Logs. So their population numbers only tracks active raiders who are listed on public logs. Even today, there are over 270,000 raiders still actively playing. If you check out wowclassicpopulation.com which uses census addons you can see that characters seen is up to over 350,000 players. In fact if you look at the yearly numbers at mmo-population, Classic WoW comes in as the 4th most popular MMO of the year with a total 2.5M player base.
Looking to the Future
The really interesting thing is that the drop that was feared by all naysayers didn’t really come. Every MMO after release gets a huge uptick initially and then it dies away as only the dedicated players stick it out and keep going. This is nothing new and is applicable to all games – not just MMOs. But Classic WoW, against all predictions never cratered out. It peaked and then has for the most part leveled off. Once TBC comes out we will expect to see another large surge of interest. The interesting part will be to see where the level off goes to. Much of the Classic hype was actually future TBC hype.
There is a very large percentage of people who played TBC that never actually experienced Vanilla. You can see from subscribers alone that TBC added about 4.5M people. How many people are playing Classic now just to be well prepped for their fun in the sun in TBC? From talking to people online, this number is large. This also means that there are a lot that are just waiting for TBC to be out to finally pull the trigger on playing Classic. Classic WoW and its population are probably at its lowest for the next few months than it will be for years once the more popular expansions roll out.
Clearly Classic WoW has been an unbelievable success. Only die hard Classic WoW lovers would have been caught on record with hypothesizing the numbers we have seen for the popularity of the game as it has been a far larger success than anyone gave it credit for. Any MMO with the numbers Classic has for a player base would be considered an instant and long-term success. With the fact that Classic can seamlessly merge into TBC and then into Wrath, the game is most assuredly here to stay and will remain popular for years.