Blizzard routinely applies older expansions to all accounts as new expansions are released. On June 28, 2011, The Burning Crusade expansion was automatically applied to all previous Warcraft accounts at no cost. On September 19, 2012, the same thing was done with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and on October 15, 2013 the Cataclysm expansion was also applied. On October 15, 2014, Mists of Pandaria was applied to all accounts following the release of Warlords. On May 17, 2016, Warlords of Draenor was applied to all accounts to coincide with the release of the Warcraft movie that gives a 30-day trial of the game. All The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor content is now effectively part of the original game, with all new World of Warcraft accounts automatically including these expansions upon creation. As of the pre-patch release of Battle for Azeroth in July 2018, all expansions up to Legion are included in the base game.
When new content is added to the game, official system requirements may change. In version 1.12.0 the requirements for Windows were increased from requiring 256 MB to 512 MB of RAM. Official Windows 98 technical support was dropped, but the game continued to run there until version 2.2.3. Before Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft will officially drop support for Windows 2000.
To create a new character, in keeping with the storyline of previous Warcraft games, players must choose between the opposing factions of the Alliance or the Horde; Pandaren, which were added in Mists of Pandaria, do not commit to a faction until after the starting zone is completed. Characters from the opposing factions can perform rudimentary communication (most often just "emotes"), but only members of the same faction can speak, mail, group and join guilds. The player selects the new character's race, such as orcs or trolls for the Horde, or humans or dwarves for the Alliance. Players must select the class for the character, with choices such as mages, warriors, and priests available. Most classes are limited to particular races.
While a character can be played on its own, players can group with others to tackle more challenging content. Most end-game challenges are designed in a way that they can only be overcome while in a group. In this way, character classes are used in specific roles within a group. World of Warcraft uses a "rested bonus" system, increasing the rate that a character can gain experience points after the player has spent time away from the game. When a character dies, it becomes a ghost—or wisp for Night Elf characters—at a nearby graveyard. Characters can be resurrected by other characters that have the ability or can self-resurrect by moving from the graveyard to the place where they died. If a character is past level ten and they resurrect at a graveyard, the items equipped by the character degrade, requiring in-game money and a specialist NPC to repair them. Items that have degraded heavily become unusable until they are repaired. If the location of the character's body is unreachable, they can use a special "spirit healer" NPC to resurrect at the graveyard. When the spirit healer revives a character, items equipped by the character at that time are further degraded, and the character is significantly weakened by what is in-game called "resurrection sickness" for up to ten minutes, depending on the character's level. This "resurrection sickness" does not occur and item degradation is less severe if the character revives by locating its body, or is resurrected by another player through spells or special items.
Tras los eventos narrados en Wrath of the Lich King, Arthas ha muerto, y la guerra en Rasganorte parece haber terminado, ya que la Plaga está controlada por Bolvar Fordragon, convertido en el nuevo Rey Exánime, el carcelero de los malditos. Pero entonces, misteriosos terremotos comienzan a sacudir toda la faz de Azeroth, y poco después, comienzan una serie de ataques elementales contra las capitales de la Alianza y la Horda. Estos ataques son el preludio del resurgimiento del Dragón Aspecto corrupto Alamuerte, que las destruirá, extendiendo su dañino poder por los dos continentes. Cinco años después, en los que se suceden los eventos narrados en la novela World of Warcraft: The Shattering, Ventormenta y Orgrimmar están en proceso de reconstrucción, y la faz del mundo en Azeroth ha cambiado por completo tras los ataques de Alamuerte, que han reducido a cenizas algunas zonas y han provocado violentos maremotos y terremotos que han partido literalmente la tierra en trozos, inundando algunas zonas y haciendo resurgir otras. Alamuerte ha vuelto con un solo objetivo, el de destruir Azeroth, y no se detendrá hasta conseguirlo.