World of Warcraft was released on November 29, 2004. It doesn’t really seem like it was that long ago, but it turns out a lot of things can change in eight years. I scoured the Internet and my own memories to put WoW’s age into context.
I was 16, a sophomore/junior in high school. I spent nearly all my free time in horrible Korean free-to-play MMOs and Pokemon. And I had no idea that World of Warcraft existed. Seriously, you’d think someone who was involved in the MMO scene to any degree would know about it. Maybe it went under my radar because it was pay-to-play and I literally had no money back then. I think I saw a commercial in the movies for it, but that doesn’t make a ton of sense and it might have been an ad for Warcraft 3.
In 2004, the dominant consoles were the GameCube, the Gameboy Advance, the PS2, and the XBox. My favorite game was Pokemon Leafgreen, and everyone else’s favorite game was Halo 2. The best selling game of the year was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (the one with the controversial “Hot Coffee” mod). The most popular PC games (other than World of Warcraft), were City of Heroes, Doom 3, Everquest 2, Half Life 2, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth, and The Sims 2.
The average computer had less than 512 MB of RAM and ran on a single-core, 32-bit processor. Most people operated at a screen resolution of 800×600 or 1024×768. Windows XP held a solid 60% of the market, though Windows 2000 still held a significant portion. A whole 2.2% of computers were Macs. Ubuntu was released in 2004 as well. Almost everyone used Internet Explorer 6. Firefox 1.0 was released 20 days before World of Warcraft, and it would take several years for it to sink in.
MySpace was the most visited social networking site in the world. Granted, it was the only popular social networking site at that time. It was a pretty big deal. (I tried to find my personal Myspace from back then but to no avail.) Thefacebook (the predecessor to the Facebook we all know today) was launched in 2004, as were Flickr and Yelp. Gmail was announced on April 1, 2004. It would take another five years to leave beta.
During Superbowl XXXVIII, Janet Jackson experienced a “wardrobe malfunction” that doomed American TV to even more censorship. Friends, Sex in the City and Fraiser aired their final episodes. I remember being severely disappointed by the Friends finale, even though I hardly watched it back then. Lost, Desperate Housewives, and House premiered on network TV. After 74 consecutive wins, Ken Jennings finally lost at Jeopardy.
The highest grossing movie of the year was Shrek 2, followed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Spider-Man 2, The Incredibles, and The Passion of the Christ. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, as well as nine other awards, in February 2004. Other notable films were Million Dollar Baby, The Aviator, Team America: World Police, and Kill Bill: Volume 2. There was also a movie called Man on Fire, which is of note because I had to write an essay covering a handful of books we read throughout the year and “Man on Fire” was one of my potential titles, until I realized a movie was coming out with the same name. I think I went with “Phoenix Rising” instead. I’m still damn proud of that essay.
In the United States, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, the military transfered sovereignty to the Iraqi interrum government, and George W. Bush ran for his second term against John Kerry. I didn’t really care much for politics back then, but I still remember these things. At the tail end of the year, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed over 230,000 people and was declared one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. My high school raised funds for victims of the tsunami by selling blue rubber bracelets (like the LiveStrong ones).
Of course, those are just a few things that happened in 2004. What do you remember from way back when vanilla WoW was released?