Existen un total de trece razas jugables16​ divididas en dos facciones, la Alianza y la Horda, siendo la decimotercera raza (Pandaren) compartida por ambos bandos. Pertenecen a la Alianza: humanos, gnomos, enanos, elfos de la noche, draenéi, huarguens y pandarens; y pertenecen a la Horda: orcos, no-muertos renegados, troles, taurens, elfos de sangre, goblins y pandarens. En la mayoría de las zonas, la Alianza y la Horda están en guerra una con la otra, aunque existen zonas neutrales como la ciudad flotante de Dalaran o la Ciudadela de Shattrath, estas zonas son conocidas como santuarios.
Much of World of Warcraft play involves the completion of quests. These quests are usually available from NPCs.[19] Quests usually reward the player with some combination of experience points, items, and in-game money. Quests allow characters to gain access to new skills and abilities, as well as the ability to explore new areas.[20] It is through quests that much of the game's story is told, both through the quest's text and through scripted NPC actions.[21] Quests are linked by a common theme, with each consecutive quest triggered by the completion of the previous, forming a quest chain. Quests commonly involve killing a number of creatures, gathering a certain number of resources, finding a difficult to locate object, speaking to various NPCs, visiting specific locations, interacting with objects in the world, or delivering an item from one place to another to acquire experience and treasures.
World of Warcraft fue anunciado por primera vez por Blizzard en el European Computer Trade Show en septiembre de 2001.25​ El desarrollo llevó unos 4 o 5 años e incluyó un extenso periodo de pruebas. Los gráficos 3D usaban elementos del motor de juegos de Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.25​ El juego fue diseñado como un ambiente abierto donde los jugadores pudieran hacer lo que quisieran.26​
Seven expansions have been released: The Burning Crusade, released in January 2007; Wrath of the Lich King, released in November 2008; Cataclysm, released in December 2010; Mists of Pandaria, released in September 2012; Warlords of Draenor, released in November 2014; Legion, released in August 2016; and Battle for Azeroth, released in August 2018. Players are not required to purchase expansions in order to continue playing; however, new content and features such as higher level caps and new areas may not be available until they do so.
World of Warcraft ha inspirado dos juegos de tablero: World of Warcraft: El Juego de Tablero (incluyendo las expansiones Shadow of War y The Burning Crusade)59​ y World of Warcraft: El Juego de Aventuras,60​61​ producidos por Fantasy Flight Games y editados en español por Devir. También existe un juego de cartas coleccionables, World of Warcraft Trading Card Game,62​ y un juego de miniaturas coleccionable63​ ambos producidos por Upper Deck Entertainment, a partir de marzo de 2010, cambió a Cryptozoic Entertainment.

The practice of buying or selling gold in World of Warcraft has generated significant controversy.[143] On February 21, 2008, Blizzard released a statement concerning the consequences of buying gold. Blizzard reported that an "alarmingly high" proportion of all gold bought originates from "hacked" accounts. The article also stated that customers who had paid for character leveling services had found their accounts compromised months later, with all items stripped and sold for virtual gold. The article noted that leveling service companies often used "disruptive hacks ... which can cause realm performance and stability issues".[144] In April 2015, introduced a means to sell in-game gold for real money. A player may spend $20 on a one-month "game time token" that can be sold for in-game gold on the auction house.[36]

In September 2006, reports emerged of spoof World of Warcraft game advice websites that contained malware. Vulnerable computers would be infected through their web browsers, downloading a program that would then relay back account information. Blizzard's account support teams experienced high demand during this episode, stating that many users had been affected. Claims were also made that telephone support was closed for isolated periods due to the volume of calls and resulting queues.[115] In April 2007, attacks evolved to take advantage of further exploits involving animated cursors, with multiple websites being used.[116][117] Security researcher group Symantec released a report stating that a compromised World of Warcraft account was worth US$10 on the black market, compared to US$6 to US$12 for a compromised computer (correct as of March 2007).[118] In February 2008, phishing emails were distributed requesting that users validate their account information using a fake version of the World of Warcraft account management pages.[119] In June 2008, Blizzard announced the Blizzard Authenticator, available as a hardware security token or mobile application[120] that provides two-factor security. The token generates a one-time password based code that the player supplies when logging on. The password, used in addition to the user's own password, is only valid for a couple of minutes, thus providing extra security against keylogging malware.[121]
En World of Warcraft un jugador tiene acceso a doce tipos de clases (según la expansión Legion) restringida según la raza que se seleccione.17​ Además de la diferencia existente entre cada clase, estas pueden elegir una rama de talentos entre un total de tres (o cuatro si se selecciona druida como clase), aumentando la diferencia entre estas.18​19​
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