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How Blizzard's over-caution saved it from a PR nightmare

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Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

The Titanic was the largest cruise ship ever built. It was proclaimed to be unsinkable, defying natural laws to those who did not understand how the behemoth could float. In the end, the Titanic sunk not because she was a weak ship but because the ship tried to turn from an iceberg, causing catastrophic hull damage. If the ship had plowed through the iceberg and not changed course, there is a greater chance it could have avoided catastrophe.

While comparing Blizzard to the Titanic doesn't exactly evoke a positive connotation, it should. The Titanic sunk because of mistakes made. Blizzard's conservative game design attitude and philosophy have served it well -- being open to change and modification while holding on to the core concepts of WoW and trying not to deviate in profound, risky ways. The risk sometimes works -- transmogrification, void storage, Raid Finder, Real ID (and soon Battletags), etc. Sometimes, the risk doesn't exactly lead to the best reward -- the Real ID debacle, the vocal hardcore minority and Cataclysm heroics, and the Dance Studio. Blizzard understands that the juggernaut cannot turn too quickly, or it risks the type of deep, jagged incision that sinks the unsinkable.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

MMO Roundup: Last week on Massively


Sometimes you'd like to know that there are other MMOs out there, right? Our sister site Massively can provide you with everything you need to know about all MMOs, including WoW! Check out this roundup of the latest news from the wider MMO world.
First official confirmation that new Blizzard MMO is original IP
In a post on the official World of Warcraft forums, Blizzard community manager Zarhym came out and said the new MMO was in fact an original IP, saying, "We have nothing to advertise for the new MMO because it's a shell of a game thus far. We've already stated it'll be a brand new franchise, which means the lore, art, and game play are being developed entirely from scratch. It's an overwhelming process, but a process through which we excel. Our track record supports this."
Runes of Magic reaches 1 million registered users
Here we are, not even two full months after the release of Frogster's Runes of Magic, and they're already announcing that they've hit the one million registered user milestone. Not only has this announcement come so soon after launch, but the EU and NA public hasn't even known about the game for a year yet, according to the Berlin-based publisher.
Free Realms destroys the 1 million account speed record
We've known it was going to be a strong contender since the first time we laid eyes on Free Realms. Once we stepped into the world last month and started playing the game, we knew it was going to be even bigger than we'd previously thought. Sure enough, we were right. News has come out this morning, courtesy of John Smedley on Twitter, that Free Realms crossed the 1 million account mark in just eighteen days since launch.
Massively introduces: Betawatch!
Welcome to Betawatch, Massively's newest weekly report on the state of MMO betas. In each installment, we'll report everything from the latest open betas, closed betas and even alphas in one convenient place. Plus, we'll make sure to include as much info on each game's current status, including projected release dates (if known) and links to the sign-up forms to get yourself into that beta you've been seeking.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Features

Funcom: WoW is McDonald's, AoC is steak

It's just in the nature of game developers to talk a little trash -- whenever you work on something for so long, you'll pretty much say whatever you can when someone asks you to compare your game to someone else's. So we'll forgive Funcom's Gaute Godager (game director of Age of Conan) for what he says about World of Warcraft in this Eurogamer interview.

WoW comes up first at the beginning of the interview, and Godager gracefully accepts props for AoC having the biggest launch since World of Warcraft. Which is true -- AoC has shipped over a million copies since launch (though Warcraft has gone on to sell nine million more, and AoC hasn't quite gotten there yet). But at the end of the interview, Godager really brings out the big guns -- he says that playing WoW is fun and all, but "if you've been to McDonald's for four or five years, and had your burger and your coke, sometimes it's great to just have a great steak and a glass of good wine."

Apparently Age of Conan is supposed to be that steak, and our little critically acclaimed and history-making game is supposed to be the culinary equivalent of McDonald's. Which isn't a bad comparison -- we can definitely see Age of Conan being called "steak." Especially since it was served so undercooked.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items, Humor, Wrath of the Lich King

Blizzard on Live Gamer: No way, no how

I've been reporting on our sister site Massively (just like WoW Insider, but for all MMOs) about Live Gamer, a startup that claims to be legitimizing RMT (real-money trading, which is spending real money on virtual items) in MMOs. But while there are a few big names supporting them already (Funcom, which is making Age of Conan, and Sony, which makes lots of different MMOs, including all the Everquests), there is one name that's missing from their supporters: Blizzard.

And now we've heard that that's not going to change anytime soon. A "Blizzard rep" says in no uncertain terms that they're not interesting in RMT at all, in a sanctioned form or otherwise. "Not only do we believe that doing so would be illegal," they say, "but it also has the potential to damage the game economy and overall experience for the many thousands of others who play World of Warcraft for fun." Wow. Tell us how you really feel.

If I can be biased for a moment, that's great to hear. Blizzard has definitely been taking steps to make RMT obsolete rather than legit (by doing things like adding in daily quests and requiring things other than gold-- reputation, turn-ins-- to buy virtual items). There's no question that there's a lot of money to be made in RMT-- every day, virtual items seems to gain more and more real world value. But it's good to hear that Blizzard is invested in making their game fun, not selling the virtual items they create.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy

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