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EA CEO won't share Old Republic release date because of "principal competitor"

E3 usually isn't a big news get for us here at WoW Insider, as Blizzard does its own thing with its own announcements and showing up to conventions. However, one piece of news really stuck out as interesting in relation to Blizzard. EA's CEO John Riccitiello made some interesting statements regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic's release date. The Old Republic is EA's MMO set during the fan-favorite Old Republic era of the Star Wars franchise. Riccitiello said:
Announcing a release date "would be irresponsible for two really good reasons", Riccitiello said. "One, the competitive marketplace. Putting a window out there creates a window of opportunity for our principal competitor to put out an expansion pack or an ad campaign et cetera around our launch window. Bad move at this point in time."
Now, while Riccitiello does not name Blizzard specifically, there are only a few potential "principal competitors" in the MMO market. Blizzard is definitely the biggest name at the table. What Riccitiello is saying is that announcing a release date for their MMO would give Blizzard the opportunity to move in on EA's hype, move its own release dates around, or prepare a patch or game release for the same time frame that The Old Republic would launch.

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Filed under: News items

Massive at MI6: Blizzard is an "around game" ad success

Not only did Blizzard clean up at the MI6 awards (and yes, that's not to be confused with the British Intelligence Agency that some dude named Bond works for), but their partners at Massive also gave a presentation there. Who's Massive, you ask? You may not know their name, but you've already seen their work: they're the company, related to Microsoft, that Blizzard has hired to run their ingame and in-software ads.

During the presentation, the rep from Massive, JJ Richards, talked about the three types of advertising that they're running: in-game, around game, and for game. In-game is what you usually see in EA's big sports titles: big billboards that sport real-life brands, or even in-game items like cell phones and clothing that advertise real objects. World of Warcraft obviously isn't much of a candidate for that type of advertising, but Massive does cite them as a huge success for the second type, "around game": they take full credit for the ads over on the forums, as well as the ads we'll eventually see in the Starcraft and Diablo interfaces. Strange that they didn't mention the gold ad slipup (/sarcasm). He also suggests putting ads in the WoW launcher, but at least agrees that those will have to be extremely game-related if they're going to get away with it.

And the third type of advertising Massive does is "for game," where they use the various Microsoft properties like Xbox Live and Hotmail to do targeted advertising at gamers -- using Netflix queues on Xbox to shape Hotmail ads, and so on. If that all sounds sneaky, so be it (don't forget that this presentation was made to a bunch of marketers, not necessarily actual gamers). But it sounds like Blizzard has made a nice big deal with Massive (despite the fact that we're still paying a tidy subscription fee every month), so whether we like it or not, we're going to be seeing exactly what they're planning in our games in the future.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Wrath of the Lich King

Wrath or rise of the Which King?

Reader Duck Knight tipped us off to the box-art of the Battle for Middle-Earth II expansion from Electronic Arts. Also known as The Rise of the Witch-King, which sounds confusingly similar to the upcoming expansion Wrath of the Lich King, the 2006 game's cover art looks curiously reminiscent of Blizzard's latest offering. Or vice versa. The game, which was based on the the movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, takes its art cue from the films. On the other hand, Arthas' armor is based on the cinematic from 2003's Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. I don't suppose Tolkien ever actually drew the Nazgûl armor...

Who copied whom? Probably nobody, really. It just so happens that ghastly blue seems to be the favorite color of evil leader-types and their undead minions. Witch Kings and Lich Kings also probably shop from the same armor boutiques, considering the similarity in their helmets -- eyelets, open-mouth design, and crown-like extensions. Fortunately for all of us, the Lord of the Rings video game is already a few years old, so we probably won't make the mistake of picking the wrong game up from the shelves when Wrath finally arrives this November 13.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Death Knight, Wrath of the Lich King

LucasArts: Star Wars MMO will be bigger than WoW

You may have missed this story last week (we wouldn't blame you if you were busy fighting off the living dead), but there was a big announcement in the world of MMO games. BioWare, makers of Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, and last year's terrific Mass Effect, announced in conjunction with EA and LucasArts that they were going to make their first MMO, set in the same universe as their critically acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic game. Massively's got tons of news about it if you're interested (and even though we won't see it for years and years, I definitely am).

But LucasArts didn't stop there -- years before the game is even scheduled to come out, they're ready to say the game will be bigger than WoW. Now, we get it -- WoW's the 800 lb. gorilla of MMOs, and thus they make the biggest target you'll find. But please, can we see some actual gameplay before the hype machine gets rolling?

If they don't actually release the game until WoW's servers are turned off, then sure, they'll be bigger than WoW, and hey, maybe if BioWare is able to make their game casual and accessible enough (we're looking at you, Mass Effect inventory system), they'll be able to come close to WoW's current peak of almost 11 million players. But LucasArts, let's get the game working before we start bragging about how big it's going to be.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Humor

A WoW player's guide to Warhammer Online

Heard about Warhammer Online, but the thought of a whole new virtual world to get lost in frightens and confuses you? Worry not -- our good friends at Massively (like WoW Insider, but for all MMOs) have you covered. Just in time for the impending Warhammer Online release, they've posted a WoW player's guide to Warhammer Online. With their in-depth guide, you can take all that knowledge you've racked up about Azeroth and its inhabitants, and carry it right on over to Altdorf and the rest of the world of Warhammer.

Need a class translation guide, or want the lowdown on what quests and crafting are like? Perhaps the biggest difference between WoW and WAR is a bigger emphasis on PvP of all kinds, and Massively's got the story for you on that as well. If you've been interested in checking out Warhammer at all (or if a few friends have mentioned they're switching), this guide will bring you right up to speed.

Of course, even EA admits that Warhammer won't really be a rival to World of Warcraft, but there's no question that the game has already influenced how even Blizzard makes its games, so no matter how many players choose to cross over, there's no question the new MMO on the block is going to make a splash. The game comes out in just over a week on September 18 -- if this guide has piqued your interest, stay tuned to Massively for more on what's up with the game and its release.

Filed under: Night Elves, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, PvP, Quests, Death Knight

[1. Local]: This week in WoW Insider comments

[1.Local] serves up a smattering of reader comments from the past week, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

We start off this week's look at reader comments with a handful of theories, notions and opinions on a variety of topics: why Warhammer won't rival WoW, what could be behind the upcoming universal spellpower change, and the root of the whole Horde vs. Alliance struggle.

Readers had high praise for the most recent installment of our informative Tank Talk column, before adding their two copper to the last installment of Thrall's story in Know Your Lore. And finally, readers had a lot to say about cross-faction camaraderie among fishers, more kudos for a tote bag that'll leave you in Stitches, and some off-color ideas about the influence of team colors on PvP success.

Be sure to dive into the comments area of each thread (not this one!) and add your own thoughts – unlike your mama, we like us some hot, fresh backtalk.

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Filed under: Fishing, Analysis / Opinion, Features, [1.Local]

EA CEO: Warhammer won't rival WoW

There's been quite a bit of buzz around that whole little Warhammer game that's coming out soon, and while we're not a Warhammer blog or anything, we've at least covered the questions that keep arising over how it stack up to WoW. Will Warhammer Online be the game to beat WoW? Is Blizzard stealing Ideas from them?

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitello put his two cents into the kitty recently at an investor's meeting. Next Generation reports that he said the following:

"Warhammer Online [will be] a strong entry in the MMORPG space," Riccitiello said at the William Blair & Company's investor meeting Tuesday. "No, I don't think it's going to rival WoW, but no one would ever predict that. But it is a strong game that will ... get our returns for us. We're proud of it."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends

Activision stock reaches a new 52-week high

Steven Mallas over at BloggingStocks notes that Activision's stock (AVTI) capped a new 52-week high yesterday at $36.84. By the end of the day, the final price was slightly lower, but overall it grew nearly 5%. Mallas mentions what's on all of our minds -- Guitar Hero for DS, sure, but Activision is about to pick up a 10-million subscriber powerhouse called Blizzard. That's worth a little something to investors.

So while other, similar companies lost share price yesterday (Electronic Arts and Take Two, for example), our Activision overlords (whom I, for one, welcome with open arms) continues to do well. With Wrath of the Lich King pending around the corner, we can hope for the stock to pick up a few additional pennies. I don't know what effect the whole eSport buzz might have, but it could still be too early to tell.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Wrath of the Lich King

Is Blizzard stealing ideas from WAR?

Waaagh! is a blog about Warhammer Online (there are a few of them springing up lately, and our sister site Massively is doing a great job of covering news about the upcoming MMO), and Syp, who writes over there, says his blood pressure rose just a little bit when reading the news that achievements might be coming to the World of Warcraft. When news first broke about WAR, which is made by a company called Mythic (the original creators of Dark Age of Camelot, now working with EA), they got a lot of flak for making a game that looked a lot like WoW. But now that details are coming out about Warhammer, including this really interesting achievements-style feature called the Tome of Knowledge (which basically tracks what your character does around the game and gives you rewards for what you do), the allegations of imitation are going the other way. Is Blizzard ripping off Warhammer now?

In point of fact, yes. Blizzard didn't start from scratch with World of Warcraft (in fact, many of their designers were actually players of other games, including Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot) -- instead, they (as they've always done with their games) took a formula and tweaked it close to perfection. And of course, since Warhammer is (if you listen to the hype) supposed to be WoW's biggest competitor going forward, it's not surprising at all that the ideas coming out of WAR are also making waves around the Blizzard offices.

That said, give WAR a chance.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items, Leveling, Wrath of the Lich King

EA buys WoW social networking site Rupture

Social networking around MMOs just hit the big time. Shawn Fanning, creator of Napster way back when, created a site called Rupture a while back that purported to be a social networking site based around World of Warcraft. Since then, the site seemingly hasn't done anything all that interesting -- they've added a few games and a few new features, but they haven't yet made it out of beta, and it wasn't apparent that anyone was real interested in Rupture.

Until now -- EA (yes, that EA) has ponied up a whopping $30 million to buy Rupture and all of its potential up. A move to put some social networking into play on their upcoming Warhammer Online title? Taking competition away from an upcoming official site covering all their games? Whatever EA is planning to do with Rupture, they're paying through the nose for it -- this makes the $1 million Wowhead buyout look like chump change.

Then again, if Rupture turns out to be the "Facebook for gamer"s that they hope to be, $30 million will look like a bargain. Either way, EA just put their money where their mouth is in the social networking MMO game.

Thanks, Brooke!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items, Making money

Analyst: The9 did very well last quarter

Chinese company The9 (which is the licensee for World of Warcraft in China) saw their stock rise after an analyst posted higher-than-expected estimates of their fourth-quarter profits. In short, more people are playing WoW in China than ever before. Which isn't surprising at all, given that right before the fourth quarter started, The9 released Burning Crusade over there. And we all know what kind of effect that had on the game on this side of the world.

However, there may still be dark clouds on the horizon for The9. As you probably know, Blizzard recently merged (along with its parent company, Vivendi) with Activision. And Activision is a competitor with EA... which owns a 15 percent stake in The9. So while The9 currently licenses WoW from Blizzard to sell and service in China, that relationship may be short-lived. And you can bet that will have an effect on the stock, if and when that deal ends.

But for now, The9 is going gangbusters, and Chinese players are enjoying Outland as much as we did last summer.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade

Mythic founder: WoW "will be in its decline" in a few years

You could probably fill a library with the number of stupid things game developers say about their competitors, but here's one more. In an interview with Shacknews, former Mythic co-founder Matt Firor, charged with putting together a brand-new MMO, says this about World of Warcraft:

... Any MMO starting development today isn't going to have to worry too much about competing with WoW--it'll be in its decline by the time any new game launches.

Think so? From what we've heard from Blizzard, they don't. Even if Blizz only goes two more expansions (and Everquest, the most popular MMO until WoW, went for fourteen), WoW is sticking around for five or six years. And yes, there are those folks who are done now, but Azeroth's population hasn't stopped going up yet-- does Firor really think they won't be a competitor in just a few years?

That doesn't mean Blizzard is unbeatable, but it does mean that they're competition. As Firor's former employer says (EA Mythic is now working on Warhammer Online, which some say is WoW's biggest threat in the MMO market), you have to play a different game.

WoW is The Beatles, who changed music forever. You can't be the Beatles; they already exist. You can't copy them. If you try, you become The Monkees. You've got no chance. We're not The Beatles. We're Led Zeppelin.

Staking your new game on WoW's decline is a bad idea, and predicting that decline to be just a few years off is a worse one. WoW won't last forever, but Blizzard's monster MMO isn't done yet.

[ via WorldofWar ]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

EA buys 15% of The9

You may recall some rumors back in April suggesting that EA was planning on buying a piece of The9 -- a company that handles the management of several MMOs, including our own World of Warcraft, on Chinese shores. While the rumors seemed to come from a credible source -- Chinese newspaper Shanghai Securities News -- EA denied that any such deal had taken place, stating only, "There is no signed agreement with The9." Until, of course, this week, when we find out that there is.

Our friends at Joystiq are reporting that EA is purchasing a 15% stake in The9 and making The9 the sole publisher of EA's FIFA Online in China. What exactly does this mean for Blizzard? Perhaps nothing at all. EA doesn't own near a majority share in The9 -- and with World of Warcraft being a significant part of The9's business, it would seem ludicrous for them to make any major move against it in favor of their new friends at EA. But in EA's quest to grab their own share of the Chinese gaming market, EA now owns a piece of the competition.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

EA buying 19% of The9? They say no.

Several sources, all citing the Shanghai Securities News, were reporting yesterday that EA was planning on purchasing a 19% share of The9, a Chinese MMO company that operates World of Warcraft, Huxley, Guild Wars, and Hellgate London in mainland China. And on GameDaily BIZ, analyst Michael Pachter speculated that ths may have been the first step towards a complete acquisition of The9. However, EA is denying the deal, stating simply, "There is no signed agreement with The9." Of course, EA's denials don't imply that there might not be a deal in the works -- but we'll have to stay tuned to see if there's some truth to this rumor after all.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

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