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Five Warcraft facts you may not know

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World of Warcraft - Blizzard

You probably already know that Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft boasts more paid subscribers than any other online game out there. Perhaps you also know that
its most recent expansion, Cataclysm, was the fastest-selling PC game ever
released. If you play many computer games, you probably know, too, that its
name and setting comes from a best-selling series of real-time strategy games.
But we're betting at least some of the following trivia will make you raise
your eyebrows.

It's quite big.

OK, you probably knew that. But did you know just how big? Blizzard gave the world a rare
glimpse behind its curtain back in 2009 in a trade-show presentation. It takes
over 13,000 server blades to keep its realms up and running, totalling between
them around 75,000 CPU cores and over a hundred terabytes of memory. Its
customer support team numbers over 2,000. Before Cataclysm launched last year,
it had nearly 8,000 quests; now it has far more, and they've been translated
into ten different languages. And in the first quarter of this year, it helped
propel creator Blizzard to over a third of a billion dollars in revenue.

It didn't get off to a smooth start.

Like many other online role-playing games, World of Warcraft didn't exactly have a quiet and gentle birth. Releasing towards the end of November 2004 amid a storm of hype,
fevered anticipation, and spotless reviews, the game's infrastructure would
quickly be overwhelmed by demand. Long queues, crash-happy servers, and
excessive lag dogged the game for months, causing at least one publication to
take back the Game of the Year nod it lavished on the game a few months
earlier. Blizzard was forced to hand out free days to appease angry consumers,
and even took the unprecedented step of holding back copies of the game from
retailers to stem the flood of new players. Barring the odd misstep, those days
are gone.

You could be playing with a celebrity.

Any time you have 11 million people doing the same thing, the chances get pretty good that one or more of them is someone you might have heard of. Warcraft, despite its geeky
image, is no exception. Mila Kunis famously plays (she's a mage), as does her
former beau, Macaulay Culkin. So does Dave Chappelle, and noted hobbit Elijah
Wood, although we don't know if he plays a gnome, the closest Warcraft gets to
Tolkien's diminutive pipeweed addicts. You know who does play a Warcraft gnome,
though? Verne Troyer, who was Mini-Me in the Austin Powers movies. You can't
make this stuff up.

It won't actually ruin your life.

World of Warcraft gets blamed for a heck of a lot. Broken marriages? Sure. Lost jobs? Thousands of 'em. Wrecked lives? Without a doubt. The stories are everywhere -- and while there are certainly people who get harmfully addicted to the game, they're the
exception and not the rule. The average Warcraft player spends 21 hours a week
glued to their game, and that probably sounds like a lot until you consider
that the average American spends about 30 hours a week glued to their
television. (Warcraft players, in comparison, watch more like 8.) In other
words, we all waste a bunch of time -- some of it playing Warcraft -- and the
vast majority of us can still keep our lives together all the same.

Its days could be numbered.

For nearly seven years, World of Warcraft has had the online role-playing game market sewn up. Not only is it the largest paid online game in the world, it's significantly
bigger than all its main competitors put together, and for years its lead has
looked completely unassailable. But the first quarter of 2011 saw a unexpected
downturn in Warcraft's subscriber numbers, from 12 million to 11.4 million.
Hardly a decisive drop, to be sure, and nowhere near enough to topple it from
its number-one slot -- but it came straight after the December launch of the
game's latest expansion, Cataclysm, which should really have spurred more
interest in the game and not less. Looking to its laurels, Blizzard is hard at
work on its next-generation online RPG, codenamed "Titan," and reportedly
targeted for launch in 2013. Better clear your calendars.

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