Five years after its initial release, Blizzard's massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft has attracted as many as 11 million monthly subscribers, according to the last public count, all of whom are captivated by the expansive world of Azeroth.
Mario Garcia, Mercury Steam: "Reasons? Effectiveness of his design, huge infrastructure, big money spent, number of players, net hours of play, mixed demographics, social influence. Also, for me raised serious questions about the responsibility of developers in how his games affect people's life and the ethics of using game design technics to keep players spending time in the game. I feel this is going to be a big deal in the coming decades."
Justin Wingard, Timegate Studios: "It proved that the MMO market didn't have to be limited to the hardcore gamers. The game has completely changed the standards and expectations for a MMORPG and has considerably changed our perception of an MMO.
"This, of course, says nothing for the fact that it has made more money than any other game this decade by an enormous margin and continues to be absurdly profitable for Activision / Blizzard."
Christopher Plummer: "This is not even a fair competition. World of Warcraft has been around for 5 of the last 10 years and continues to draw more and more fans to it. It has a wide variety of gameplay within it from traditional RPG elements, to co-op elements, to Competitive deathmatch/sporting elements.
"The design elements have been ripped off by almost every game created in the last couple of years. I can't play this game anymore for a variety of reasons, but in its original two years it was the greatest game ever. The expansions were good too, but they were not the original. I don't think we'll see something that good in a long time."
Joe Woynillowicz: "Blizzard came out with an extremely polished MMO and have brought the genre into the mainstream of gaming. It has led the genre for five years now and does not look like it will be giving up that lead anytime soon, and they are a heavy influence on the current and next generation of MMO games."
Carl Chavez: "It brought a lot of new players into the PC platform, made up a sizable percentage of revenue for the game industry over the past few years, proved subscription-based gaming was profitable, brought forward social gaming to the masses (more than Everquest, DaoC, and other MMOs), permeated pop culture so much that even Mr. T. is co-branding with it, influenced game design (who doesn't play Dragon Age: Origins and think of WoW?) and indirectly caused its players to try out other MMOs on both PCs and consoles, which further affected the industry.
"I don't even like WoW! However, I can see how big its impact has been. People who make a big deal about Modern Warfare 2's first-month sales seem to forget that WoW probably makes the same amount of cash from subscriptions every few months, and with much less development cost."
Matt Allmer: "As developers, we envy those who are a part of it. As gamers, we are fully engaged in its addictive gameplay. As critics, we marvel at its level of polish, game progression and design aesthetics. As industry experts we still monitor its shelf life and ever-growing list of achievements.
"It crosses gender boundaries, age boundaries, geographic boundaries and sets the bar for online social interaction. It is a symbol of popular culture. It is widely popular without selling out to cheap promotional tricks or marketing bulls#@!. It is a clear milestone in the history this young medium and has even claimed hours of playtime from the president of the United States.
"Above all else, it is the only game my dad has enlisted me to return to, and play again. From where I stand, nothing says 'Game of the Decade' more than that."
David Delanty: "It doesn't take a WoW player to understand the sheer scope of the game's influence. It is one of the few games in history to dramatically change the face of society itself, creating a subset of gamers so massive they might as well be considered their own separate nationality.
"The gargantuan user base isn't the only striking feature of WoW, but a comparatively large game world that is as dynamic as it is deep. WoW set the bar for online gaming, and created a series of goals and objectives for the player that many other titles seek to duplicate, and in doing so, have also redefined the way in which game designers tackle their online Multiplayer features.
"No longer is it good enough to get the highest kill count in a shooter, or overwhelm an opposing general in a strategy game. Multiplayer needs to implement systems of leveling, perks, and prestige that were originally reserved strictly for the MMO crowd, but were executed so seamlessly in WoW that its design is now a standard example for contemporary AAA titles.
"World of Warcraft can be attributed to many things, not all of them benevolent. The game is so in-depth, gamers frequently forget to take care of themselves. There isn't a lot of media out there (outside of illegal substance abuse) where a participant can be so into their fix that they starve to death.
"World of Warcraft has been the crutch for many divorces, violent crime, Online scammers, and morbid obesity. I've seen several classmates fail out of college to supplement their WoW addiction, and while one would expect a 'lesson learned' scenario, the truth is, WoW has such a magnetic hook the junkies keep coming back for more. Good, bad, or ugly, World of Warcraft revolutionized the online gaming platform so dramatically it would easily be considered one of the most defining titles of the 2000's."
Eric Hardman: "It is the biggest game changer of the decade. It's not necessarily the best game, nor my personal favorite, but it is certainly the one by which I will remember the aughts. It's cultural, economic, and industry impact are unsurpassed, and it's the only single game to have that kind of clout, across platforms and genres.
"Along those lines, a case could be made for the Wii, but which single game? Wii Sports? Hardly. This isn't an award for controllers. XBLA could be considered a contender, due to the proliferation of indie and downloadable content -- certainly a game changer and decade-long theme. But which single game? A personal note here, is that my favorite games of the decade were from the Total War series, with Guild Wars a close second. But Game of the Decade? It's WoW."
Michael Kelly: "In terms of a game that really was a mark for the 2000s, there's really nothing bigger than World of Warcraft. Massive popularity (to the point of being a wider cultural phenomenon), excellent game design that is still being polished, and really the final culmination of the way that MMOs have been developing since Everquest.
"And the gameplay innovations used in WoW have affected even offline games (eg. Dragon Age) Not to say something new might arise, but WoW really seems like the most fully realized MMO to ever come along."
Kevin Lim: "In terms of significant cultural impact, nothing can beat World of Warcraft. No one can deny that anyone who has a computer(which is by now almost everyone in the States) has at least heard of this game. Possibly amongst the single most-played games (barring games that are bundled with the computer such as solitaire and the such), it has had a serious influence and changed the MMORPG scene for better or worse."
John Hay: "WoW managed to become the identity for an entire genre against which all other MMOs are compared. It also penetrated the main stream lexicon in a way no other game has done perhaps since Quake. As a result, the entire games industry has benefitted from the non-gamers it has attracted."
Pablo Dopico: "I don't think it even needs to be justified. This has revolutionized the way people play videogames. It's the most successful videogame of the decade, and it consolidated subscription-based role playing gaming on persistent universes. You might love it or hate it, but WoW has changed the world of computer entertainment software, it's accessible to everyone, and it offers an engaging, long-lasting, multi-faceted appeal.
"Additionally, it has been key to keeping the PC alive as a commercially viable gaming platform, key to the incorporation of women in PC gaming, and key to consolidate Blizzard (and now Activision / Blizzard) as one of the major actors in the industry. But of course, everyone knows that, because WoW is the most successful game of the decade, without a single trace of a doubt."