World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Released this December is a major expansion to the six-year-old videogame, World of Warcraft. Entitled “Cataclysm,” it promises a substantial remaking of one of the world’s most famous virtual realms: a place that over 12m people visit each year. World of Warcraft is neither the most ambitious nor the most beautiful game of its type. Yet this expansion, which comes heralded by the kind of publicity and trailers usually associated with Hollywood blockbusters, is a huge event in the gaming world and beyond.
Virtual worlds are fundamentally unlike other kinds of games, in that they’re not so much products to be consumed as services: persistent destinations that players visit again and again, over months and years, in order to socialise, explore, achieve, progress or simply to be. World of Warcraft’s reinvention of itself—adding new content and streamlining old, shifting the contours of a landscape with which many players have both a long history and a deep emotional relationship—further advances the notion of virtual destinations as meaningful, persistent spaces within an increasing number of lives.