I write today, a month after the shutdown of the private server Nostalrius, not to lament the loss of a functioning preservation of the game as it was in 2006, but to address an argument that I've seen parroted unchallenged in many places.
"People who played on Nostalrius weren't there because they preferred vanilla, but because it was free."I don't understand how this claim continues to be repeated, when it doesn't stand up to even the most casual of scrutiny. There are many private servers maintained by fans, and they represent a wide range of preferences. Some focus on specific expansions, while others include the most current content. Some focus on PvP, and have little care for quests. By far, the majority of them feature accelerated leveling, accelerated gold and skill gains, and overpowered gear, and are intended as playgrounds (small wonder, considering faithful recreation of the quests and scripting takes a great deal of effort). A minority strive to be "Blizzlike", with quests, leveling, and content as close to the source as possible.
Nostalrius was a vanilla Blizzlike 1x server with no accelerated leveling and no special bonuses, made to resemble WoW as it was as closely as possible, and it existed in a sea of servers that support Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and yes, even Warlords of Draenor. If people were only playing on a private server because it was free, why did they specifically pick a vanilla server instead of the "latest and greatest" of the expansions?
Obviously, they weren't playing there because it was free. The reasonable conclusion is that they were playing there because they preferred vanilla.