World of Warcraft is a 15-year old game that has received 15 years worth of updates. While it has outlasted just about all of its MMORPG competition, World of Warcraft‘s retail version is not where the game was 15 years ago in popularity. 15 years ago, World of Warcraft was a revolutionary game experience that captured the imaginations of millions and became culturally infamous for its addictive nature.
Yet, it is the greatest surprise of 2019 that the 2004 version of World of Warcraft may just be the best game of 2019.
I know that sounds absurd. Truth be told, I was never even a World of Warcraft fan over the years (though I can’t say I ever really gave the game a fair shot). Going into this year, I would have told you that I think it’s absurd for us to even entertain the idea that World of Warcraft Classic (a version of the game that restores the MMORPG to its 2004 form) would even be in the conversation as one of the best games of 2019.
I’m honestly not sure if the game should technically qualify for that honor in terms of how awards are assigned by most critics and outlets, but I can say that World of Warcraft Classic is absolutely one of the year’s best gaming experiences.
That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about World of Warcraft Classic: an experience. When the game launched, streams of it attracted nearly a million overall viewers on Twitch with some top streams drawing 300,000 of those viewers. As someone always on the perimeter of the WoW phenomenon, that was my first indication that WoW Classic could very well recreate glory days I never got to properly experience in the first place.
It turns out that’s exactly what the game does. At the moment, WoW Classic is enjoying a huge influx of players that are as passionate as they are numerous. Truth be told, a large number of enthusiastic players has always been key to any MMO’s success, but it’s especially key to the success of WoW. It’s a game that demands to be experienced with others. Well, at least that’s true of the “Classic” experience which was difficult to the point where you often had to work with others to accomplish even seemingly simple tasks.
That’s the other thing about WoW Classic, though. Look beyond the hype of its launch, and you’ve still got a game that not only features beautiful environments, brilliant mechanics, and stunning music but a game that represents ideas that were popular in 2004 that have since fallen out of favor.
Nostalgia can lead to people misremembering things, but the fact of the matter is that even good ideas can fall out of favor over time. In WoW, you’ve got a massive game that inspires not only teamwork, but a sense of genuine community forged by the fires of the game’s challenges and the epic nature of its greatest experiences. It’s the obvious antithesis to free-for-all games like Fortnite, but it’s also an intriguing compliment to modern social media platforms which so often lead you to a bubble of people you already know and experiences your already familiar with.
WoW is different. It often forces you to work with a variety of players and wade into adventures quite unlike any you’ve experienced in the recent history of gaming. I’d call if a wakeup call, but that’s the thing. Developers have had 15 years to replicate the successes of WoW as it was in 2004, and the only game to really do it during that time is…well…2004 WoW in 2019.
Maybe that’s because the design of WoW remains special and, above all, timeless. 2019 hasn’t been the best year for games in recent memory, but even if it were, I’d have no problem telling you that the one game you have to play this year is World of Warcraft Classic.