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WoW Archivist: Vanilla WoW's launch event was out of control

A goblin rocket-launching platform
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

This Monday, WoW fans will line up at stores around the world to buy the game's fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria. For Blizzard, the past eight years have been an incredible run, setting records for sales and building one of the largest virtual communities on Earth.

Let's look back at the game's original launch, when Blizzard wasn't quite as prepared as they are today for the game's overwhelming popularity.

A moonlit walk

Blizzard's chief operating officer Paul Sams couldn't wrap his head around what he was seeing. Just after 11 p.m. on November 22, 2004, he was sitting in deadlock traffic on a freeway offramp in Fountain Valley, California. He looked over at the Fry's Electronics outlet not far from the road. The store had been surrounded by some sort of dark, seething mass.

Caught in traffic, Sams was in danger of missing the game's launch event at Fry's. Rather than fight his way through the jumble of cars, he decided to park some distance away. It was still unclear to him what was happening. The electronics store was only minutes from Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. He thought he had left the office with plenty of time to spare. He never imagined that getting to the store would be difficult this late at night.

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