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Europe approves of the Activizzard merger

Regardless of whatever you think of the big Activizzard merger and what it might mean for World of Warcraft (I don't believe it'll hurt a thing, but think what you will), it's going to happen. It's literally official now, as European Union officials have finally approved the merger after several weeks of deliberating on the issue.

Approval by the European Commission was necessary because Vivendi (the owner of Blizzard and now the buyer of Activision, if you haven't been keeping up with all this) is a French media company, and therefore subject to EU business laws and antitrust concerns. Officials were mulling over the merger because of fears that Vivendi's ownership of Universal Music Group would give Activision Blizzard an unfair advantage in licensing music for games like Guitar Hero.

They finally decided that it's not a threat to the health of the market, and approved the merger. So there it is. It's done. The government can't save you now; Activision Blizzard is your new master. I tremble in terror before the fictional (yet somehow inevitable) Bard class and its l33t Guitar Hero skillz!

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

New TCG wallpaper is putrid, but in a sexy way

Blizzard has released a new wallpaper featuring exquisite artwork from the "Mias the Putrid" card from the WoW TCG. The work is just as fantastic as it was with previous TCG-themed work -- maybe even better. Well, nothing is gonna beat the Stefen Colbear thing, but still. It's fabulous.

I say it's "putrid, but in a sexy way" with tongue in cheek, of course. This evil Mias lady is half-naked. She's in chain-slave-bondage. Oh, and ... I'm not one of those guys who has all the cup sizes memorized, but I'm pretty sure that proportionally this is on the higher end. No, I'm not gushing; I actually have a point! WoW Insider has talked about sexism in WoW before, but usually we've focused on the actions and words of some male players, and not so much on things like the art style of the game or the TCG. I'm not making a judgment here; I'm just pondering.

See, when I saw this new image, I thought of a conversation I had with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago. She long since quit WoW, but she said that as a female gamer it's always a little frustrating when many of the female characters are half-naked elf-slaves with huge breasts. What a standard! But then, doesn't WoW's art style exaggerate the male characters' muscles and such, too? Ah, well. It's food for thought. Type up your two cents if you want. Or just download the wallpaper.

Filed under: News items, Fan art, WoW TCG

The life and death of Stefen Colbear

He's a man of myth, legend, and internet memes -- a Paladin crusader for Truthiness, justice, and the Alliance way. His name is Stefen Colbear, and he's putting the Horde on notice. That's how it would have been anyway, but sadly, this hero never came to be. Upper Deck hired artist Todd Lockwood to produce the above image for a special WoW TCG card inspired by The Colbert Report's Stephen Colbert -- a known video-gaming and role-playing enthusiast. Lockwood's finished product depicts a microphone-sword wielding Human Paladin named Stefen Colbear, who exudes the very essence of Truthiness.

Unfortunately, Colbert's agent nipped the idea in the bud. According to Lockwood, he didn't even show the artwork to his client. Blizzard and Upper Deck presumably had hoped Colbert would feature the card on his show, giving them mega-publicity. An unknown individual leaked the image onto the net a few weeks ago, and WoW and Colbert fans excitedly spread it around in both card and wallpaper forms.

Even though Colbear never saw the light of day, his legend nevertheless strikes fear in the hearts of those who would threaten the Colbear Nation. So watch out Kael'Thas, watch out Archimonde! But most of all: watch out, bears.

Filed under: Paladin, News items, Humor, WoW TCG

Blizz opens up brand new realm, more transfer opportunities

Blizzard has launched the first new realm since the release of The Burning Crusade. It's a PvE realm called Ghostlands, and it's part of the latest batch of free realm transfers. You ready for the list of available transfers? Okay, here we go!

If you're from the PvE realms Aerie Peak, Aggramar, Alexstrasza, Alleria, Argent Dawn, Blackhand, Cenarius, Doomhammer, Hellscream, or Whisperwind, you can move to Ghostlands.

The rest are PvP servers. Arthas, Burning Blade, Illidan, Skullcrusher, and Warsong residents may all move to Balnazzar. Folks from Mal'Ganis, Mug'thol, Sargeras, Tichondrius, and Twisting Nether may move to Onyxia. Finally, if you've been playing on Gorefiend, Kel'Thuzad, Mannoroth, Shattered Hand, or Smolderthorn, you can jump on over to Malorne.

Phew. So there it is. Anyway, it's exciting that a new realm is opening up. The community's been twiddling its thumbs for a while now.

Filed under: Realm News, Blizzard, News items

Student newspaper raises concerns about WoW addiction

A boy skipped his senior prom because he was busy playing WoW. A woman divorced her husband because he was more interested in WoW than in her. We've heard these kinds of stories many times before; the media runs them all the time. And while it's frustrating that the games we play are often seen only in that light by the public at large, there's no denying that some people have a problem with unhealthy addiction to WoW and games like it.

The student newspaper of Northeastern University ran yet another piece lamenting the negative effects of World of Warcraft on some people. At this point, all these addiction articles are becoming white noise to me, but this one had a couple notable contributions to the discussion.

An expert was quoted within, saying that video game addiction is mostly a problem for young males of high school or college age. Imagine that! Also, the article featured a not-new quote from Liz Woolley (founder of On-Line Gamers Anonymous and the mother of that boy who committed suicide while playing EverQuest way back when); she said that MMO developers know that players can become addicted, and that those devs are therefore "no better than drug pushers." I think that's a bit harsh, but it's understandable that she'd come to that, given what she's gone through.

You can still achieve many of your in-game goals on limited playtime. Our weekly WoW, Casually column has the hints, tips and tricks for those with 2 hours or less to play.

Filed under: News items

WotLK is one of Yahoo!'s most anticipated games of 2008

Wrath of the Lich King made Yahoo! Games' list of 10 anticipated games in 2008. It's the only expansion on the list, and it stands proudly alongside other legendary intellectual properties like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Halo, Fallout, and Grand Theft Auto.

It's definitely unusual for an expansion pack to make a list like this; that just goes to show you how extraordinary World of Warcraft is as a cultural phenomenon. Now if only I knew when this blasted expansion might be coming out, I could stop sitting around and fantasizing about playing as a Death Knight. No, wait ... I'd still be doing that anyway.

Filed under: News items, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

Damion Schubert (sort of) defends the raid mechanic

Allow me to state the obvious; raiding is an integral part of WoW's design. A lot of people think that's a bad thing. They'll say raiding is only for the elite hardcore, and that it alienates everyone else. Here's a shocker; Damion Schubert -- a renown MMO designer whose games have historically been pretty much the opposite of raider-friendly -- is not one of those naysayers.

He recently updated his blog with a strong defense of Blizzard's decision to emphasize raiding. You should read it for yourself, but the gist of it is that there are more raiders than you think, that players of a PvE game want a PvE endgame (as opposed to a PvP one like the Battlegrounds), and that because raids are re-playable content, Blizzard gets more bang for its development buck.

His ultimate point, though, is that Blizzard focuses on raiding content because that's what players want. But I wonder if a lot of those players, especially the more casual types, would want something different if they were aware of other options. And Schubert suggested that there are alternatives. What are they, and do you want them, or are you perfectly happy with working your way up to Black Temple?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Verne Troyer is a Gnome Mage; no one is surprised

Back when Blizzard released the new World of Warcraft ads featuring Mr. T and William Shatner, it also announced that a Verne Troyer ad was forthcoming. It's finally here, and it turns out that, like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mini-Me is a Mage!

If you liked the first two English-language WoW TV spots, you'll like this one, though I don't think it's quite as exciting because we all knew what was coming; he's a Gnome. What a surprise! It's still awesome and you should all check it out. I don't need to tell you that, though, do I?

I'm still holding out for The Hoff. What class would he be, I wonder? And if they could get Schwarzenegger, they'd have to create a Governator class. Hey, they already made a Mohawk class for Mr. T. Okay, this is getting silly and I'm getting carried away!

[Thanks, Chris!]

Filed under: Gnomes, Mage, Blizzard, News items, Humor

Nonsurprise: WoW was most played PC game of Q3

The Nielson Company -- the uber-powerful organization which tracks the viewership ratings by which TV programs live (like Lost) or die (like Studio 60) -- has determined that World of Warcraft was the #1 most played PC game during the period of April - November 2007.

According to the group, residents of Azeroth and Outland averaged 17 hours of play per week -- 12 hours more than the nearest competition, players of The Sims. So when my family and friends suggest that I'm crazy for playing WoW more than 15 hours a week, I can point to this and say, "Well, if I'm crazy, then so are at least 4.5 million other people!" Yeah, kind of a lame defense, I know.

17 hours seems like a good estimate to me because it falls smack dab in the middle between your casual players (who probably play up to 10 hours a week) and your hardcore types (who probably play 30+ hours per week).

[Via Massively]

Filed under: News items