After two years of anticipation, WoW Classic is finally live. Top streamers from every corner of Twitch are streaming it right now, resulting in an audience of over one million concurrent viewers—and some seriously congested starter areas.
As of this writing, the slavering horde of Horde (and Alliance) fans topped out at 1.1 million people. That’s a colossal number for a single game on Twitch. For reference, Fortnite has been recently pulling between 100,000 and 200,000 concurrent viewers at any given moment. It’s rare that even big esports events bring this kind of attention to a single game.
Even more impressively, WoW Classic pulled in the majority of these viewers while streamers were waiting to be able to log in. For example, by the time he was able to join a server, popular WoW streamer Asmongold was already at more than 200,000 viewers. Other popular streamers like Sodapoppin and Shroud, the latter of whom hasn’t traditionally been much of a WoW streamer, have attracted similarly gargantuan gaggles of gawking spectators. So too has top WoW guild Method, which is hosting an event where various personalities and high-level players race to be the world’s first players to complete, er, basically everything.
Even individual streamers are racing to level up, and the reason for that is simple: They want to physically separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Servers, especially ones that popular streamers have joined, are absolutely slammed right now, with tangled body piles of players rolling Katamari-like across the landscape and converging on quest-givers and low-level enemies alike.
It is comical to watch, but also frustrating, since enemies are having a hard time spawning quickly enough to keep up with demand, and the game is hitching and lagging in great, heaving bursts. Meanwhile, players who haven’t made it in yet are reporting hours-long server queue times. Granted, this is not entirely streamers’ fault. A lot of people have been waiting a long, long time to return to vanilla WoW’s boar-filled fields.
Still, despite technological improvements that are no doubt keeping the servers from plummeting off the internet altogether, it’s worth noting that the original World of Warcraft—and by extension, WoW Classic—was not designed with streamers and Discord and strictly regimented mega-guilds in mind. Those things, for the most part, didn’t come until later. It’ll be interesting, then, to see how streamers affect the 2004 revival’s delicate leveling ecosystem—not to mention if a relatively barebones MMO can hold people’s attention in the long run.
When WoW first launched, its quest system was a revolutionary streamlining of the MMO formula, but much of the game’s magic came from spontaneity in the absence of structured activity: hours-long world PVP struggles, awkward encounters in The Barrens, factions trying to storm each others’ home cities, blood plagues accidentally killing everybody, and so on. But times have changed, and you can’t just repeat something and have it feel spontaneous again. WoW Classic, much like vanilla WoW before it, will live or die based on what people make of it.