14 years ago, millions of MMO fans took a zeppelin into the icy continent of Northrend for the first time, experiencing what would become one of the most beloved World of Warcraft expansions to date. This week, both veterans and new players had the opportunity to experience it again with the re-release of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic.
WoW hit #1 streamed gaming category on Twitch with 366,358 peak viewers, and 123,100 average concurrent viewers since September 27.
Wrath Classic’s release absolutely crushed viewership numbers for the end of September, singlehandedly contributing over 10 million hours to the total 42 million viewer hours and counting.
Expansion releases, especially retail expansions, typically hit higher viewership peaks. However, viewer retention tends to be a lot higher for Classic expansions.
This is aided by veterans of the Warcraft streaming scene (and Twitch in general) such as Sodapoppin, EsfandTV and Asmongold, who do not typically play retail, coming back to the category in order to relive the nostalgia and the content that helped propel them to the front of the scene in the first place.
Throwback to the 2000s
World of Warcraft was released in 2004 and almost immediately became the MMO juggernaut that is still around today. This popularity helped make Warcraft, an IP already popular in early computer gaming days, the lasting face of Blizzard Entertainment.
Classic was first released in 2019, allowing players to play the original version of the game that was released in 2004. There were a few quality of life updates, but in general it was a carbon copy of the original release. WoW Classic is Blizzard’s way of allowing fans to revisit older iterations of Azeroth that everyone knows and loves.
Since 2004, World of Warcraft has released 8 total expansions with an announced 9th, expected to release near the end of 2022.
In 2021 Blizzard released Burning Crusade Classic, their first expansion originally released in 2007, which was another fan favorite and highly anticipated release. With how popular Wrath of the Lich King was, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before we would get to experience Northrend again. Oh, the best part? In contrast to paid DLC, Classic expansions are totally free, and only require an active subscription to World of Warcraft!
Is Blizzard... Listening to Us?
Wrath of the Lich King is Blizzard’s largest expansion to date, with the end of the original expansion helping propel them to the record of 12 million active subscribers in a month. Does this mean that we can expect Wrath Classic to help push WoW back over its competitors such as Path of Exile and Final Fantasy XIV? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.
It is unlikely Wrath Classic alone will do this, as the longevity of these Classic re-releases are a lot shorter than when they were first released. This is due to mechanics that were difficult on your 2008 PC being menial on modern machines, and there being less novel story or lore to explore as players have already experienced it once.
Blizzard is also sending polls out to players to see if they would like the next expansion in the Classic lineup, Cataclysm, to be released or skipped. Cataclysm, while still popular, is one of the more divisive expansions in WoW’s history as a lot of people see it as the break between “old” WoW and the way the game is currently developed.
The release of Wrath could not have come at a better time. The new retail expansion Dragonflight is expected to come out Nov. 28. There are extremely high hopes in the community for Dragonflight as it seems like Blizzard developers are the most in tune with the community and its feedback than any other time in recent memory.
While we are sure this date wasn’t chosen by accident, there is a lot of hope amongst fans and content creators that the popularity of Wrath Classic and what we hope to be an amazing retail release soon after will be enough to carry World of Warcraft back into MMO glory. We here at Gamesight are looking forward to following WoW’s numbers these next few months and keeping everyone informed of the giant’s progress.