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Ex-World of WarCraft dev: Blizzard should open servers for Vanilla WoW

Blizzard's got the time and resources to upkeep servers for the version of World of WarCraft that launched over 11 years ago. So, why not? 


Earlier this month, over 800,000 players pulled up stakes when Blizzard took legal action to shut down Nostalrius, a fan-operated server running the original World of WarCraft. No expansions, no cataclysm, no chocolate or strawberry. Vanilla WoW, the way players experienced it from November 2004 through September 2006.

In an interview with PC Invasion, ex-Blizzard developer and World of WarCraft designer Mark Kern shared his opinion on the matter. In short: Blizzard's missing out.

"First, Blizzard has every legal right to shut down these servers, it's true," he said. "They also have an interest in protecting their business, and I can't fault them for that. But what I can say, is that I feel Blizzard could have handled the matter much better. In a time where gamers and developers can be so connected with each other in social media and the net, companies need to form strong communities and fandom. I would ask Blizzard to take a look at Nostalrius's team and what they did out of pure passion, not greed, but passion, and find a way to acknowledge that."

As the interview continued, Kern discussed fascinating tidbits of WoW's development. When asked if it would be worth Blizzard's time to host a server that a max of 800,000 Nostalrius players used (with a peak of 150,000 active users), Kern responded by pointing out that Blizzard had bet the company on selling one million copies and estimated that maybe 500,000 concurrent users would play the game.

Bear in mind, too, that a Blizzard-operated server for old-school World of WarCraft would get a lot more eyes on it than one maintained by a few volunteers toiling away in their small pocket of the Internet. Furthermore, nostalgia is in vogue. You could argue that changes and fixes applied to WoW since Burning Crusade, its first expansion, have made the experience better. But some players simply want to step through their rose-tinted window into the past and relieve fond memories, for better or worse.

"Blizzard is great at ignoring a bad intersection until somebody gets run over, then they are real good at putting up traffic lights," Kern continued to PC Invasion. "I always used to say this at Blizzard. Blizzard has a lot of strong thinking, but they also prize making the right decision for the game in the end. If it can be shown that gamers want this, really, really want this, then I’m sure Blizzard will do what it always has and respond strongly and positively."

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

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