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Take a look at our Game of the Year finalists and you'll see a list of not just the year's best games, but also some of the best games ever made. Having to choose just one as our 2004 Game of the Year was gut-wrenching, especially since so many of us feel so strongly about each and every one of the finalists. However, there was a single game that virtually all of us could agree on. This is the game that the most GameSpot editors feel the most passionate about. World of Warcraft may not have the most jaw-dropping graphics or most revolutionary gameplay of our Game of the Year contenders, but it's the game that entertained our staff more than any other game this year.

Some GameSpot editors have been happily playing World of Warcraft for many hundreds of hours since the game's beta period commenced earlier in 2004. Others got into it only after its release in stores. Yet, despite how much time we've spent playing to date, and the fact that some of us naturally lean more toward console games than PC games, or that some of us have less experience playing online role-playing games than others, we're almost unanimous in our appreciation of this game. And that speaks volumes to us. World of Warcraft somehow manages to appeal to us despite our different personal interests and different backgrounds as game players. It's the sort of game that appeals to those of us who love to spend our weekends hunkered down, playing games nonstop for hours on end, as well as to those of us who want to take a break from a busy week with a quick, casual playing session. It appeals to those of us who don't even typically like dragons and elves and all that rot. It appeals to those of us who use our PCs mostly just for work, as well as those of us whose PCs are always equipped to handle the latest and greatest games. And those of us who like playing games with friends enjoy playing it just as much as those who like playing alone, who in turn enjoy playing it just as much as those of us who like intensely competitive games. In short, we were all very surprised to find just how much we enjoyed it.

World of Warcraft is derivative of some previous online role-playing games, especially EverQuest, which earned our PC Game of the Year Award in 1999. Looking back, one of the most obvious differences between the two games is that EverQuest appealed only to our PC-focused editors back in 1999, whereas World of Warcraft is a game that has tons of people at GameSpot--not just editors, but producers, developers, and others--happily and excitedly playing daily or weekly. This can be attributed to the particulars of the game's excellent design, but is essentially due to how good of a job World of Warcraft does at drawing players into its setting and gameplay, and then keeping them there by offering tons of content to explore and hidden depth to discover.

Of course, our Game of the Year deliberations didn't just boil down to a popular vote. But when having to choose the single greatest of all the year's games from among so many strong contenders, we did happen to note that one game, more than any other, had everyone hooked. And not just for a week or two, either. Some of us who've been playing World of Warcraft for months now are enjoying it just as much if not more today than ever.

The thing about World of Warcraft is it offers so much of what we fundamentally love about games, all in a single experience. Just exploring the world of Azeroth can be fun and exciting. The game is conducive to cooperative gameplay, competitive player vs. player action, or solo play. It lets you have a great time regardless of whether you play for one hour or 10 hours at once, and if you can't commit to playing the game every day, that's OK--it gives you a little bonus whenever you check back. As a result, World of Warcraft can be an incredibly addictive experience, or just an incredibly dependable one--it's the sort of game we can always fall back on to keep giving us new high-quality gaming experiences, practically regardless of how much time we're willing to dedicate to it. This is the game we just love talking about among ourselves, and can't resist telling our friends and families about, either. Given all this, it's our honor to name World of Warcraft GameSpot's 2004 Game of the Year.
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