World of Warcraft is a popular, massively multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG, that takes place in a Lord of the Rings-inspired world of wizards and warriors. Recent advances in video game technology have allowed users to assume a virtual identity and interact with thousands of other gamers in three-dimensional, Internet-based worlds. MMORPGs allow gamers to build up their character’s attributes by completing goals and collecting items, and typically charge a monthly subscription fee for access to the servers that power the vast online realms.
In 2004, the launch of games like Sony Online Entertainment’s Everquest II and Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, along with increased access to broadband Internet, turned a niche market into a global phenomenon. In January, industry Web site MMOGchart.com put the total number of MMORPG subscriptions at over 13 million, and The NPD Group estimates that game developers raked in $292 million in subscription fees in 2005.