I’ve written a feature for the marvellous Boing Boing, looking ahead to World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion and what it means for MMOs. The first paras are below: head on over there to get the whole piece.
A wave hundreds of feet high is breaking, poised to sweep away the statue whose open arms greet visiting ships. “Booty Bay is going down,” I whisper to my wife. “I’m not sure I’m going to like this,” she replies.
They’re not calling the forthcoming World of Warcraft expansion “Cataclysm” for nothing. My wife and I have been playing the game ever since beta: that is, for over six years. This October, Cataclysm’s full cinematic intro finally went up online ahead of its launch on 7th December, and we sat together in my study watching it. To a booming orchestral score, the earth opened, and a beast not seen since 1995’s Warcraft II crawled out to rain down apocalypse.
The two of us are long-term but fairly casual World of Warcraft players. We raid occasionally. We don’t tend to get sucked into the story, or spend much time reading lore. Still, watching an enraged dragon–Deathwing the Destroyer; Neltharion to his friends–levelling swathes of this virtual world in a frenzy of fire was a surprisingly emotive experience. It also helped confirm at least two expansion purchases plus continued subscriptions, bolstering the more than one billion dollars the game’s parent company Blizzard Activision receives in income each year from over twelve million subscribers. Why do we care so much? And what does it mean that we do?