Keeping a game as popular and as large in scale as World of Warcraft operational is no easy task, and Blizzard has revealed the absolutely staggering numbers to prove it.
You want numbers? Blizzard's got numbers. Frank Pearce and J. Allen Brack of the WoW team revealed a whole lot of them at their keynote on the "operational complexities of running a large-scale MMO" at the Austin Game Developers Conference. Next time you want to complain about your server being down for maintenance or a single tooltip being bugged, you might want to consider these figures and just be thankful this game even exists as it does.
There are 5.5 million lines of code in WoW maintained by an extensive team of programmers. Meanwhile, 51 artists handle 1.5 million unique assets in the game, meaning your weapons, armor, environments, animations, dungeons, everything you see and "touch" in WoW, pretty much. And then you've got 37 designers who are working on how the game plays and managing the more than 70,000 spells in the game. And you only use three of them. For shame.
Moving on, there's the QA team which consists of 218 people. These guys have one of the toughest jobs in the office, because WoW keeps getting bigger while their team stays the same size. The game has taken on thousands more quests worth of content since its halcyon days, meaning there's more and more to do all the time.
Now as for simply keeping WoW online, well there are 68 people working in data centers all over the world. They're maintaining 13,250 server blades which require 75,000 CPU cores to keep the game up.
On top of that there are the folks working in Blizzard's international offices, the cinematics teams, the Battle.net staff, marketing, creative development (the loremasters), and your expected IT, legal, HR, etc departments you'd find at any business.
All in all, the game uses 20,000 computer systems, 1.3 petabytes of storage and 4600 people to stay up and running. Really, there's more to keeping WoW alive than nerfs and buffs. "The moral of the story is that operating an online game is about more than just game development.," Pearce said.