World of Warcraft, unlike most of the other games out there, but similar to most MMOs, is a living-breathing world, one that revolves around one main goal, a goal that may not strike the fancy of hardcore players: money. Indeed, the main reason for a game like WOW to exist is to generate revenues and as such, the changes that developers often bring to it aren't always in line with keeping players happy. WOW's initial core of players, those who started out back when being elite was rewarding and when the game was unforgiving towards rookies and recreational players, simply got left in the dust by the changes meant to make the game and its world more attractive to just those player categories.
A lengthy blog-post published by an ex WOW guild-leader, who had played the game for some 8 years, sheds light upon this sad state of affairs from a perspective often heard but always ignored. Early hardcore players grew into the slaves of a system which was centered around skill mastery. Back in those days, the condensed message of WOW would've translated into "only the elite deserve medals". That was the mindset which got challenged by the need to draw in more players, and the message soon turned into "everyone deserves a chance to earn a medal". That was still fine with most of these elite players, but then Blizzard took things another step further, morphing that message into "everyone deserves a medal". That move spelled the end of the game for most of these old-school elite players, completely devaluing the old model, and rendering their skills, focus and drive obsolete in a world which had simply whizzed by them. The logic attached to the above reasoning explains the peculiar popularity that servers running the vanilla version of the game had enjoyed too.
Philip Thalberg works on The International 2016 news section of Gosugamers.net, the world's top eSports destination.