Casually Classic: The seven most important things that happened in WoW Classic this year


What did Blizzard assume would happen with WoW Classic when it rolled out this legacy version of the MMO in 2019? I honestly have no idea, but I can bet all the money in my pocket (five bucks) against all the money in the studio’s pockets that the studio did not anticipate it being as successful, long-lived, and popular as it’s become.

In fact, 2023 may have been the most astounding year of WoW Classic to date. Looking back over the past 12 months, there’s an impressive array of developments that helped to propel this MMO into the larger genre conversation again and again. So let’s recap the highlights, shall we?


The introduction of cross-realm play

What a long way we’ve come from the era of #NoChanges. By now, WoW Classic has been nothing but a whole bunch of changes, many of which have positively impacted its landscape.

One of these emerged early in 2023 as Blizzard brought cross-realm play to PvP arenas and battlegrounds, saying, “We feel that this is a sensible change considering that arenas have been cross-server since their inception in 2007, and battlegrounds have been cross-realm since shortly after they were introduced back in original World of Warcraft.”

Wrath Classic progressed through its final phases

For those who enjoyed the progressing version of WoW Classic, getting to advance through the phases of Wrath of the Lich King was the highlight of the year. Ulduar arrived in early January along with Titan rune dungeons, the Argent Tournament in June, and Icecrown Citadel in October.

There were a couple steps back, however, such as the decision to revert Death Knights back to a previous state where players had to have a level 55 on their account before rolling one of the hero class and the move to bring the WoW Token into the game. The Season of Mastery also booted all of its player characters to normal realms.

PvP advancement got improved

As anyone who ever tried to climb the ladder in Classic PvP knows, it was a brutally difficult affair coupled with the continual fear of losing one’s progress. This changed in August as Blizzard modified how decay worked and generally allowed for more positive progress through the PvP ranks.

Official Hardcore realms took their pound of flesh

After seeing the immense popularity of unofficial Hardcore Classic, Blizzard finally unveiled its own official permadeath realms in August. Players now had the option to try to get to level 60 without a single death — and, later on, without using the auction house or vendors. While many thousands died and restarted, some elite souls did finish the journey (and still do to this day!).

The dungeon finder finally returned

After inexplicably drawing the line against adding the dungeon finder in Wrath Classic, Blizzard quietly backtracked on this in October and brought the community-favorite feature into the regular version of the MMO. Did the studio say why it changed its mind? No, although it’s not difficult to speculate why the devs decided to throw a bone to the casual folks.

Cataclysm Classic was officially confirmed for 2024

Yeah, we all knew it was coming, but Blizzard made it official at BlizzCon when it announced that Cataclysm would be rolled into the main Classic branch in mid-2024. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets a second opinion from gamers who’ve largely lambasted this expansion for over a decade now.

Oh look, quick development.

Season of Discovery took us into the era of Classic+

The biggest surprise of the year arrived in November with the launch of Season of Discovery. This experimental server took the vanilla setting and scattered powerful, class-changing runes all over the place for players to discover. With a gradually increasing level cap and old dungeons retuned into raids, it’s certainly the most “Classic+” move that we’ve seen in this MMO to date.

And there you are! In fact, for all that Dragonflight added in 2023, I’d say that Classic was by far the most surprising and exciting side of World of Warcraft this year. What do you hope happens for the game next year? Sound off in the comments!

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.
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