What Makes WoW Work.

posted: May 31st, 2006 updated their charts a few days ago and there is a Slashdot thread about it. In the thread one of the users made a post the was a bit of flamebait but which also asked a real question, why do people who play WoW like it more than other games? Two of the responses (here and here) that I found interesting.

Just to summarize the two responses it seems to be that what these people like was the following:

  1. The ability to jump on and play. There’s large amounts that can be done without grouping or guilding. When you do need to group it is easy to find one.
  2. Shorter session. Partially related to above but also the ability to knock out a couple of quests in an hour and feel that you’ve accomplished something beyond ‘grinding’. The second poster also mentioned crafting being less complicated.
  3. Everything is very straightforward. I assume this means that quests do not just give you vague hints where to look for things but tell you that to find the missing key you need to kill the orc Throttlegrotz in the tall tower of the Western Wastes. Game mechanics are clear and class roles are well defined without a lot of overlap. You don’t seem to end up with confusion as to whether a Monk is suppose to be DPS or a Tank.
  4. The art style.
  5. More social. Part of this is just the ‘all my friends are playing WoW’ factor but part of it is also the ‘less asshats’ factor that the second poster mentioned. I don’t know if Blizzard actively works to keep people from becoming ‘asshats’ or if it is just the way it is but when you log in the community is less hostile than in other MMO’s it seems. 

Particularly interesting to me was that the first commentator said that there is more depth to WoW but you don’t feel obligated to have to dig into it if you don’t want to.


I believe there is another point to be added that is often overlooked. Blizzard as a company had a large following of PC Gamers who enjoyed their previous titles like Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, etc… Blizzard had a reputation for putting out solid, fun games and people would buy a title just because it came from Blizzard. The same phenomenon can be found with other game producers like Sid Meier.

Many of those players decided to ‘try’ a MMORPG for the first time with World of Warcraft, and found it to be an addictive endeavor. When I talk to some of those players, they view WoW as just another game with some friends online. Often, when they reach max level, they consider the game ‘done’ and move on, or possibly create one more character.

It will be interesting to see in 2-3 more years how many people continue to play WoW versus diversifying into other MMORPG’s either of the same genre or different.

Also, as for point #4, almost everyone I’ve talked to will say that EQ2 looks MUCH better than WoW, but that WoW has a sense of style that is pushed through all aspects of the game, and they find that attractive. Especially all of the subtle (and not so subtle) references to pop culture and geek culture.

Comment by EBailey — June 7, 2006

It’s true that name recognition gets people in the door and can even, to some extent, help retain people if a game is slightly sub-par, but I don’t really think it will keep people playing or really make them enjoy the game. Sure, the name recognition is part of the reason for their success, since it boosted sales, but I’m wondering what factors it is that keeps people playing (and paying).

It is going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few years. EQ II seems to be gaining some ground on WoW as it ages a bit better, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at what it is that hooked people in the first place. Ideally what a you would want to design is something that hooks people like WoW but which then can age nicely like EQ II.

Comment by Evan — June 9, 2006

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