We are a month into WoW Classic and a few things are shaking out. The biggest IMO being that the population hasn’t gone down since launch, and if anything is still growing, as Blizzard continues to open new servers. Of course some people have quit, but the overall trend is still going up, much like with Vanilla way back in the day. It won’t continue like Vanilla did for years (more on that below), but I don’t expect the growth to stop during month two either.
Why the growth won’t stop yet is a two-part answer. First, the road to 60 and being ‘done’ with even the pre-raid content is longer than a month or two for most people. Of course someone hit 60 in 3 days, and of course any guild that wanted to beat the current raids ASAP are already ‘done’, but those people are just outliers, and not at all representative of the average. No, the average gamer playing Classic still has plenty of content to go, and that goes for just playing one character. If we include alts into this, the road is easily 3-6 months longer.
The second reason I still think the population will grow is because more and more people will be pulled into the social circle of the game. When friends see that those currently playing are still going, and having a good time, they will be more likely to jump in themselves. Games like this can spread like wildfire (see ARK, PUBG, LoL, and basically any other major multi-player hit in the last dozen years), and this is WoW’s second go-around in that regard. Vanilla started with a base of about 300k people, maybe less, and the millions eventually logged in because a friend was playing, and then another friend, and so on until ‘everyone’ was playing WoW. That’s just how multi-player gaming goes, and Classic has the added advantage of not only being a good game, but one that will keep you playing for months and months, extending and expanding the time and reach of the social hooks.
Why Classic is so good is another interesting topic, tackled most recently by TAGN here, with a link to a similar post from Bhagpuss that can be found here. Others have made similar posts with their own flavor as well. Ultimately Classic reminds people that WoW in 04/05 was not just a really good game, but a really, really good MMO. And a good MMO, as most of us know, ends up eating most of your gaming time and attention, along with pulling in everyone else in your orbit. The virus that was WoW is back, and in a big way, for both an older generation and a newer one as well.
I mentioned above that the growth won’t resemble Vanilla, and I say this because Blizzard currently doesn’t plan to support Classic with additional content save for the expected phased rollouts of some raids and battlegrounds. While those are important, they simply aren’t as big or impactful as the more frequent patches Vanilla got back in the day, and an MMO that isn’t being updated and expanded isn’t one that can be expected to grow or even retain the majority of its playerbase.
And even if Blizzard does come out and say they plan to support Classic beyond just adding the remaining content, what would that look like, and how would it be received? I’ve posted before that personally I want a new full-fledged expansion, and not TBC. I want the rest of the missing Azeroth zones added, I want new raids beyond Nax40, and I want the missing content holes like class quests, sub-60 dungeon options, and zones like Deadwind Pass being finished, filled in. But can New Blizzard add content to Classic that won’t reek of Retail design? And even if they can, would that require even more servers so some can stay truly Classic? What would that population split look like?
I’d like to see Blizzard try. Worst-case its Retail-like content, Classic players hate it, and we move on. If they don’t try, Classic players will move on anyway, because without new content you can only play Classic for so long until you ‘beat’ it. Either way, I think they need to say something ‘soon’. Perhaps that will be the big announcement at Blizcon in November?