|Maybe you're addicted to World of Warcraft and spend every free moment immersed in the most popular massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) of all time, wandering through Azeroth doing whatever it is WoW players do. I wouldn't know, but I assume it's a lot of questing and raids.
As popular as WoW has become, I've never set virtual foot in Azeroth. Not once. That's okay because WoW is doing just fine without my participation. At last count, Activision Blizzard pegged the number of subscribers at 10.2 million, or about half a million more than the combined populations of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and Washington DC.
Of course there are WoW subscribers in all corners of the globe, and it takes a massive amount of gear to host all the different game worlds, or realms, as they're referred to. Each realm is hosted on its own server, and in late 2011, Activision Blizzard began auctioning off retired server blades from the days of yore to benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This was a chance to own a piece of gaming history even if, like myself, you never actually played WoW, and to add a few points to your philanthropy skill set and level up your personal character at the same time.
The pitch went like this:
"Blizzard Entertainment is offering a series of special charity auctions featuring server hardware originally used during World of Warcraft’s early days. We’ve since upgraded the game’s infrastructure with the latest technology to offer an even better player experience, but these 'honorably discharged' server blades are now unique collectors’ pieces. The net proceeds from the auction will go to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital."
Click images for high resolution
This was an awesome thing Activision Blizzard was doing and I knew I had to have one. There may never be another game as popular as WoW, and even if there is, at the very least WoW will always be considered the first mega-successful MMORPG. I wish I would have held onto my Atari 2600 console, or my Commodore 64, or my first graphics card, a 3dfx Voodoo 3 2000 PCI (if memory serves me correct), or my collection of Sierra InterAction and PC Entertainment magazines. I don't have any of those things any more, but I am now the proud and geeky owner of the server that hosted WoW's Minahonda realm in Europe, which from my research was a Spanish-speaking player versus environment (PvE) realm.
|Visual Tour: Exterior|
|Activision Blizzard sold around 2,000 retired Hewlett-Packard p-Class server blades on eBay and donated 100 percent of the proceeds (minus auction expenses) to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which seeks to advance the treatment and prevention of catastrophic diseases in children.
There's nothing really sexy about a server blade, so to make its realms showcase worthy, Activision Blizzard built clear covers with the World of Warcraft logo etched in the middle. Magnets on both sides of the cover hold it in place.
Here's what it looks like without the cover, which pulls away easily. There's really no reason to remove it other than to take pictures or to clean out any dust that might accumulate, though it could be neat to toss a couple of tiny WoW figurines inside.
Seen from another angle. Fun fact: As of 2010, the average number of hours spent playing WoW each week in America is 22.7; work consumes 35 hours, according to OnlineSchools.org.
A closeup of the plexiglass cover and recognizable logo. Another fun fact: Blizzard sold 1,933 copies of WoW per minute for a total of 2.8 million during the first day of its release, according to the same source.
On the left side is a plaque of the realm name along with its exact start and end date. Below that is an inscription that reads:
"Blizzard Entertainment has carefully preserved and archived our retired server blades, releasing only a limited number for a noble cause. To us, this server blade is more than just hardware: within the circuits and hard drive, a world of magic, adventure, and friendship thrived. From fishing in quiet lakes to defeating Arthas in Icecrown Citadel, this blade was home to thousands of immersive experiences across the world of Azeroth and beyond. We thank you for the safekeeping of this important part of history."
Non-original signatures of the WoW team sit at the bottom. Without the plaque and plexiglass cover, this would have made for a rather ugly showpiece, so kudos to Activision Blizzard for spicing things up.
|Visual Tour: Interior|
|Activision Blizzard was upfront about the blades being sold as-is and any attempts to fire one up is at the discretion of the bidder. I didn't test the parts to see if they still work, nor do I care one way or the other.
Over on the top you can make out the HP Smart Array 6i Ultra320 64MB SCSI RAID controller with a 32-bit architecture and universal hot-plug tape drive support. Below that is the integrated Gigabit NIC.
Four DDR DIMM slots flank the dual processors sitting beneath the two heatsinks.
This particular server (or realm, if you prefer), came with four 512MB sticks of Micron DDR-400 ECC memory and two 2GB sticks of Infineon brand memory for a total of 6GB.
This is where the hard drives would go. Activision Blizzard removed all drives prior to auctioning off these servers to prevent anyone from swiping game or user-related data. Drats, foiled again!
With shipping, which was almost as much as the server itself, I paid $243.50 for this showpiece. That's the equivalent of a few tanks of gas (*barf*) and easily one of the coolest tech items I've ever purchased.
We hope you enjoyed this look at one of Activision Blizzard's retired WoW servers; it's definitely one of our favorite pieces of tech memorabilia. If you've got anything in your collections you'd like to brag about, be sure to drop us note in the comments. We'd love to see what you all have on hand!