How is World of Warcraft bouncing back? The secret has been out for almost a year.

In high school, I was mostly a console gamer. My parents weren’t going to buy a new PC with a nice graphics card and high-quality processing speed. PCs are very expensive to build. Plus, don’t you have enough video games on the Nintendo, son? Essentially all my friends in high school started playing World of Warcraft. I desperately wanted to play with them, but I couldn’t afford a decent computer or the monthly subscription fee. And that’s how they all socialized. You want to hang out? I’ll see you in the raid tonight at 9:00! But obviously I couldn’t join in.

In 2010, I finally got enough money together to build a PC that could run the games I wanted. And I played World of Warcraft with my friends (a little too much, honestly). That was when the game saw its peak in subscribers at about 12 million.

Statistic: Number of World of Warcraft subscribers from 1st quarter 2005 to 3rd quarter 2014 (in millions) | Statista

Since then, WoW subscribers have dwindled significantly. Like many of my friends and myself, gamers have unsubscribed their accounts and their characters are dormant. In the chart above, there are a couple of positive spikes in subscribers, particularly near the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. But that other spike in 2014 before Warlords of Draenor was released…what happened there?

hearthstone1

It makes perfect sense! Blizzard combined all of their games (Diablo III, World of Warcraft, Starcraft II) into one launcher with a new free-to-play online card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering, it’s a much simpler version and insanely fun. You could spend hours and hours building decks, battling your friends and strangers alike. But the worst part is…the game makes you thirst for World of Warcraft. I am firmly under the belief that the only reason Hearthstone was created was to get suckers like me to re-subscribe their WoW accounts. And that’s exactly what I did, but only for a couple months.

In a press release from developer Blizzard back in November of last year, they say the game is up to ten million subscribers. That is pretty substantial growth since the game was at about 7.5 million subscribers earlier in 2014. Over three million copies of the expansion were sold upon release, which adds up to about 10 million subscribers overall. But don’t you essentially have to sell 10 million copies of the expansion to hold 10 million subscribers? Hearthstone.

What is most mind-blowing about any of this is how World of Warcraft has performed compared to other MMORPG games. I wanted to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, but after playing a little while, I realized I’d rather just be playing WoW instead. There are many other MMO games that have tried the subscription model that have failed and gone free-to-play because of a lack of subscribers. Games like Star Trek Online and Elder Scrolls Online have gone free-to-play, which when that happens, the developers are basically saying, “we give up.”

WoW is now a 10 year old game. It is The Simpsons of the gaming world. Blizzard has found the formula to game addiction and infused it into an entirely different game that you can play for free. That way, you can get a little taste of what you’ve “kicked” before and decide that you want back on the real stuff. It’s genius, really. I can’t help but admire it. Stay in school, kids.

Skywind looks to bring life back to Morrowind

One of my favorite games of all time, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, was maybe the first immersive open-world game I ever played. It really made me branch out from my “Nintendo kid” games and enjoy other genres. Now I’m a lifelong fan of Bethesda’s games (We won’t talk about Elder Scrolls Online). Sure, Morrowind had its problems. The combat was pretty stagnant, there was a lack of a fast-travel system, and most interaction with NPCs was text based. There was a lot of reading, and 12-year-olds do not like to read.

There is a group of developers that are rebuilding the world of Morrowind, but with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim engine. It’s called the TES Renewal Project, “a community about merging the amazing worlds of The Elder Scrolls video games into more modern game engines.” To Elder Scrolls fans, this sounds incredible! Morrowind is a game that has the story content and huge questlines in place. A graphics update, along with volunteer voice acting for every NPC in the game and the improved play style from Skyrim would make Skywind a remarkable game.

This “the making of” video, gives you a sense of the massive scale of the project. At first I thought they were applying the Skyrim engine to the Morrowind game. They’re composing and recording a soundtrack and creating new 3D models and animations. That is a big, big job. /u/Ravanna7 is on the Skywind staff and talks about what the team is up against:

“[Bethesda] had 80 people working on Skyrim for three years. I’ve been at Skywind for 16 months and there are/were only 3-4 people who could be considered “full time.” We do have a couple of professionals in coders and 3D…it’s a full game. It takes time.”

They’ve had help from volunteers but it seems that most of the useful people don’t stick around long because of the lack of pay. Being a fan-made game from the ground up, there is speculation that the project may get shelved and never released. However, the constant updates from the team show that things are moving. The only thing in question is when? In the YouTube video above, the narrator mentions that they “don’t know when it will ever be released.” That’s a little discouraging, right?

If you personally love Elder Scrolls games and have experience in 3D modeling and animation, they surely wouldn’t turn you away. The more professional help they have, the faster the game will get done. They also have jobs for all of you talentless peons. In order to play Skywind, you will need legitimate copies of both Skyrim and Morrowind on PC. I bought both of them basically just for this.