Perhaps the best expansion since WotLK
Millions of players
Despite the game’s age, it is still played by millions. It had an estimated 5 million to 8 million subscribers worldwide by 2022, with 700,000 to about 1.7 million of them active every day. A few weeks ago, the ninth (!) expansion was released: Dragonflight. As the name suggests, this edition is all about dragons AND flying.
So World of Warcraft has been around since 2004. That is an eternity in gaming land and there are few games that are still really popular after such a long time. Now popular is relative, though, as WoW’s heyday seems to be behind us. Between 2007 and 2011, between 10 million and 13 million players were active. Especially after Warlords of Draenor, starting in 2014, the number of players dropped significantly. At the same time, competing game developers will be jealous of the millions of players who are still active.
So the challenge for Blizzard is to retain the existing core of regular subscribers with continuous improvements and new content, and about once every two years a new major expansion. In it, a new storyline beckons, but most importantly, new lands to explore, including a new race and/or class. And, of course, unique new features or play styles that are interesting to try.
Many old-timers do take a look when a new expansion appears, but a large proportion of them disappear again after the so-called honeymoon phase, when all the new features have been tried. Often something completely new is introduced, which then disappears again in a subsequent expansion. Consider, for example, the garrisons of Warlords of Draenor and, to a lesser extent, upgrading your Heart of Azeroth in Battle for Azeroth. The choice of the four covenants in Shadowlands and their corresponding zones was also original on the one hand, but also restrictive on the other. Although you could get into the other zones, the focus was on only one of them.
New and as of old?
Dragonflight is like old times again: a new island for everyone, and you have an awful lot of freedom where you send your characters. The campaign questline is not extremely long and thus easy to get through. Also, it is now much more attractive to get started with your alts, as they benefit from things you have already unlocked with your main.
New race and a new class have been added with Dragonflight: the dragon-like Dracthyrs of Dragon Island have awakened after thousands of years. They are available to both the Alliance and Horde with the new Evoker class. This is a so-called Hero-class, which means you already start at a higher level: 58. This class offers some unique features and can also fly. On the island, however, you will also encounter several dragons that you can soon summon. So unlike in previous expansions, you can fly almost immediately in the new area. That promises something, but does Dragonflight offer enough for both existing players and veterans nostalgic for the days of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King?