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Blizzard Entertainment is launching World of Warcraft Classic today as an attempt to give players an opportunity to re-live WoW as it was when the game first came out. However, unlike when the game originally released, this time a plethora of livestreaming options for fans on Twitch should serve to expand the game’s audience.
WoW was originally released in late 2004, about 15 years ago and well before Twitch, gaming’s most high-profile endemic livestreaming platform existed. Naturally, when a new game is released, viewership on Twitch is poised to be notable, but WoW Classic’s release is unique for several reasons.
Firstly, the game is not necessarily a “new;” all content in the game was originally released to the masses in 2004-2005 (parts of WoW Classic will come from content added to the game just after its original launch).
Secondly, beta testing for WoW Classic was highly publicized on Twitch by numerous popular streamers including Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris and Zack “Asmongold” [no known last name] earlier this year. So not only is the content the same, but it is also content that has been streamed in the past few months.
Morris, Asmongold, and a number of other streamers managed to generate strong viewership during the first weeks of the WoW Classic beta in May. Following the beta’s release, Morris averaged 38K CCV and Asmongold averaged 49K CCV for the rest of May. Prior to the beta, they were averaging 25K CCV and 19K CCV, respectively.
While these factors could be seen as a reason to expect little from WoW Classic when it releases, there is another side to the story of WoW on Twitch that suggests Classic could have a wide-reaching audience.
For starters, one of the key elements to some influencers’ streams, such as Asmongold, is interaction with his community of viewers. Asmongold is particularly skilled at taking advantage of the fact that WoW massively multiplayer online by incorporating his viewers into the content on his stream.
Since beta testing for WoW Classic had a limited number of participants, Asmongold’s ability to leverage the community-driven nature of his stream and cultivate a larger audience was potentially limited. Meanwhile, similar statements could be said for other streamers who use the MMO classification of WoW to their advantage.
Another major factor to consider regarding the official launch of Classic in comparison to beta testing is the limitation that players had in beta. During testing, players couldn’t level their characters all the way to 60 (the game’s maximum level) and access to some end-game content wasn’t made accessible.
For that reason, there is a strong chance that once streamers and professional WoW players begin to reach endgame content, like raids which can only be done at the game’s max level, WoW Classic could have a huge influx of viewers looking to see players strive to get “world first” at certain end-game boss kills or personal achievements.
While “world first” for any Classic content was already achieved when the game originally came out, the ability of skilled professional players to effectively speedrun Classic content will give the game another type of viewership that could attract viewers.
This element of Classic appeal has even inspired esports organization Method to put on a special event, similar to the ones that they have had for WoW raid releases, in which it will broadcast players looking to run through WoW Classic content in partnership with World Showdown of Esports (WSOE).
During the most recent raid race, competitive raiding streams combined to help WoW produce the highest viewership statistics that the game has had on Twitch all year for a two week period, outside of the WoW Classic beta release that saw Morris and Asmongold generate sizeable viewership totals.
Between the influencer-driven elements of WoW Classic as Twitch’s most-watched MMO and the more competitive aspects of what is effectively a re-launch, Blizzard Entertainment’s flagship title stands to see strong viewership in the coming weeks.
Though there’s some evidence that implies the game could see a limited reach due to publicly viewed beta-testing and a lack of truly new content, the combination of competitive and personality-related streaming content that will come from it will make it extremely popular on Twitch upon release.
It’s difficult to estimate how long WoW Classic will manage to produce strong viewership, because, at its core, the game is a re-release of old content. However, Blizzard’s plan for slowly rolling out Classic content into multiple phases that will include numerous raids and other player-versus-player content could help WoW Classic in attempting to sustain viewership throughout the year, even if the game sees a dip during some downtime in between content releases.