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Posts with tag pc-gaming

The limits of Video Mode Ultra


I think I've found the limits of Video Mode Ultra -- when we first hard in the 3.1 patch notes that Blizzard was adding in a superspecial video mode for high-end computers to use, I was excited. I just recently "updated" my PC (read: "it broke and I had to spend a lot of time and money to fix it"), and it's been running like butter, so I was interested in putting it to the test. The day after the patch dropped, I flipped the switch to Ultra, and had no problems -- until this past Saturday. While wandering around Dalaran, I noticed my framerate had dropped quite a bit. I lowered a couple of the environmental settings just a bit and I was fine again, but apparently even with a 2.5 GHz quad core CPU, 4gb of RAM, and a GeForce 9600GT, Video Mode Ultra is still just a little too hardcore for me.

What's interesting is that I ran Wintergrasp a few times before having those slowdowns in Dalaran, and never had a problem. But then again, Blizzard did say that they had spent a lot of time making sure Wintergrasp was streamlined enough to run huge battles with minimal slowdown, so maybe Dalaran didn't get that same makeover. And I should say as well that I had no issues anywhere else in the world -- even my Naxx run the other evening looked perfect with Ultra flipped on.

Having a "future" graphics mode on PC games is nothing new -- for most games, the highest graphics setting is usually "experimental," so there's a little leeway in terms of release time (the game looks good with current hardware, but even better with next year's gear). And Video Mode Ultra is just that -- Blizzard trying to send a shot across the bow at those who are already saying the graphics look a little dated.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Hardware

Activision passes on PC Gaming Alliance membership

It could be pretty easily argued that Blizzard is one of the biggest PC gaming development houses in the business today -- they consistently own both the sales charts and the playtime stats in terms of PC gaming. But Activision-Blizzard has quietly confirmed that they've passed on a membership to the PC Gaming Alliance, a group that claims to be "the authoritative voice on PC gaming worldwide." Activision, for their part, says that they just couldn't justify the membership fee, and this isn't the first industry group that they've snubbed: they famously left the ESA and their big yearly conference at E3 last year.

The PCGA claims that this isn't a big setback -- despite this and a few other losses, they say their numbers have grown, and they cite a few other big still-members, including Microsoft, Nvidia, and Intel. But given how much of an influence Activsion-Blizzard is in PC gaming, it's hard to say you're the "authoritative voice" of the platform when you don't have any formal connection to the biggest developer/publisher in the industry.

What does this mean to us players? Probably nothing right now -- the PCGA is right: the loss of Activision probably won't affect their work at all. But Blizzard, for better or worse, is being steered by Activision away from the industry at large. Right now, with events like BlizzCon and a huge reputation of their own, they don't need to be tied into these industry groups. But that may not always be the case.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, BlizzCon

Nielsen: WoW is most played core game by 25-54 females


Here's an interesting bit of info from the Nielsen folks: over 400,000 women are playing World of Warcraft in the US, which means it's the most-played "core" game for that gender. And even more interesting, females 25 years or older make up the largest block of PC game players overall, and they account for 54.6% of all gameplay minutes in December of last year. Girls don't just play WoW -- they're quickly becoming one of it's main demographics.

You can read the report in PDF form over here -- the chart above might be the most interesting piece of information, as it shows that though males still make up a huge part of the PC gaming audience, many of them have now moved on to consoles, and women (especially older women, over 25), during the last month of last year, are making up a huge audience for PC games. Later in the report, you can see what kinds of games women are really playing: Solitare, Freecell, Minesweeper, and all of those other little attention grabbers on every PC. But among those widespread casual games is our own World of Warcraft. And while the 25-52 male audience of 675, 713 for that game still remains larger than the female audience in the same demo, the ladies aren't far behind.

Neilsen also calculated some base stats for WoW, including the fact that 1.8 million unique people played the game, and the average time of gameplay per week was 744 minutes, just over 12 hours (slightly up from last year's average). Additionally, of those who play World of Warcraft, their second most-played game was Solitaire, followed by Warcraft III. Fascinating stuff. Remember that these are statistics, so they are more general trends than anything else, but it's definitely true World of Warcraft and PC gaming in general is no longer only the domain of the male demographic.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Blizzard, News items

Blizzard's hate (/love?) relationship with consoles

Rumors are bubbling up from GDC '09 that Blizzard is finally considering consoles again for their future games. Blizzard seems to have a hate/hate relationship with consoles -- despite the fact that they started out with some extremely popular console games (Lost Vikings was one of the best games on the Sega Genesis), they've become very solidly a PC gaming company in the past few years. Sure, they released Starcraft 64 and the Playstation port of Diablo, but since Starcraft: Ghost left a bad taste in their mouths, they've stayed away from the console market (and some might say that's saved the PC market).

The main problem, says Rob Pardo, is one of control: console controllers just don't have the flexibility to do what Blizzard wants to do with their games. "If I were them," he told the press, "I'd be sitting around trying to figure out what's a cool new input device that supports all types of new kinds of games." And he also hinted that he might be trying to do just that -- Blizzard is apparently in talks with Microsoft, not to develop for this generation of consoles, but to help them advance to the next generation. This is a little more than just Diablo III on the Xbox 360 (though that's definitely a possibility) -- it's Blizzard possibly getting the chance to bring what they love about PC gaming to the next console generation.

Heady stuff. Blizzard doesn't need to do anything these days, of course -- if they want to take their next sequel and release it in, say, three separate parts, they can do that and it will likely still be a hit. But if they want to set their sights on innovating in the console space, we'll probably all benefit.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy, Hardware

Wrath of the Lich King falls off the top sales spot (for now)


It only took four months, but a new title has knocked Wrath of the Lich King off the top of the PC sales charts, according to industry trackers NPD. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, the much-awaited RTS title featuring that other fantasy universe with "war" in the title, has taken the top spot, knocking Wrath down to number two (and the original version of WoW and the Battle Chest hold their spots around six and seven).

We suppose it had to happen at some point -- with PTR interest kicking in this past week, and the game having sold so many copies already, there had to be a point where something else jumped up above Wrath. But don't count the award winning expansion out of the number one spot yet. While Dawn of War II is getting reviewed very favorably, this little bump is likely due to an audience of fans who wanted to get the sequel on day one. Once first-week sales for that game level off, it's entirely likely that we'll see WotLK back up on top. Not that Blizzard needs any more money, of course. But it is good to be the (Lich) King.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Expansions, Making money

WotLK nominated for BAFTA, wins one out of three at AIAS


World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King has been nominated for yet another award -- this time, Wrath has received a nod for Best Game of the Year by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Videogame awards. UK residents can vote for the game right now over on their site, and a nice set of prizes, including a big TV, a Playstation 3, and copies of all ten nominated games going to one lucky voter. Voting is closed on March 9th, and the winners should be announced soon after that.

And in case you've been wondering about the AIAS nominations we mentioned a little while ago, Blizzard is going about 33%. While they did win the award for best MMO game of the year (beating out Warhammer Online), Wrath of the Lich King lost its other two categories -- Left 4 Dead was awarded Best Computer Game, and Metal Gear Solid 4 won for Best Music over the Lich King's silky tones.

Guess you can't win them all. But considering that the second expansion of a years-old MMO is still garnering honors, Blizzard has nothing to be ashamed of.

[via WorldofWar]

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

Steelseries partnering with Best Buy, credits WoW for growth

We've heard before about World of Warcraft strutting up the PC gaming market before, but could this game also be holding up the PC game accessories market? Seems that way for Steelseries -- they're the makers of the WoW mouse that we've mentioned (the one that might not be quite kosher with Blizzard's Terms of Service, use with caution). They've just recently inked a deal with Best Buy to carry some of their products (including the WoW mouse), and World of Warcraft played so much of a part in the deal that CEO Bruce Hawver credited Blizzard's MMO with creating his "high-quality gamers": "The way I used to pick up the phone after school, now, kids log into World of Warcraft and chat... Online gaming might cost $14 to $18 a month – less than a single movie visit for two people."

It does follow -- if WoW is one of the only reasons left for people to spend money on PC games, it does seem that it would be one of the only reasons for them to spend money on gaming accessories. High-end mice and keyboards use to be the domain of the FPS player -- guys like Fata1ity pimped their own lines and all the mice bragged about their resolution and ease of use. But the PC market has changed, and MMOs are the game of the day now -- everything is about squeezing function into as many buttons as possible and reaching this 11 million player group roaming around Azeroth. If Steelseries and other accessory manufacturers want to sell their products, they've got to try and sell them to us.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Add-Ons, Hardware

Nielsen says WoW still tops the list

GameCyte has gone over the Nielsen ratings for 2008, and they're basically saying exactly what we've heard with other sites like GamerDNA: that WoW commanded PC playtime this year. On a list with such oldies on it as The Sims, CounterStrike, and even Blizzard's own Diablo II, World of Warcraft sits at the top of the charts with an average of 671 minutes (about 11 hours) played per week. This tells us two things: one, lots of people are playing World of Warcraft a lot. And two, PCs need some better games.

There is an interesting trend in these numbers, especially when you compare them with last year. Last year, Nielsen claimed about 17 hours a week of playtime for WoW players, so playtime this year is actually down overall (and while we don't see month to month numbers, GameCyte says it was before the Wrath release, which makes sense). Sure, you could say that with dailies and the easier instances, players just don't have to play the game as much, but really, this seems to reflect the bigger trend: that WoW is leveling out.

There are probably years left in this game -- as we said on the podcast last week, the only real way people will stop playing WoW is when Blizzard finally turns the servers off. But all the numbers we've seen definitely point to a slowing down point among the game's subscribers. Lots of people (11.5 milion) are still playing World of Warcraft a lot. But not as much as they used to.

[via WorldofWar]

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

Wrath tops the PC sales charts for November

Surprised? You probably shouldn't be -- NPD has released the top sales list for November, and our favorite game is sitting right on top. In fact, the most interesting thing about the list is what's not on it: games. Wrath is at number one, followed up by such great titles like Office 2007 and Trend Micro Anti-virus. The collector's edition of Wrath comes in at number four, and after that it's all utilities except Call of Duty: World at War at number six and Spore at number 10.

That's a sad month for PC gaming, especially during a time when sales are supposed to be at their highest. Blizzard's leading the charge (and they're not leaving PC anytime soon), but they seem to be pretty much the only PC studio able to bring it home this year.

Videogame sales in general are doing just great: even in a bad economy, console companies -- both developers and retailers -- are seeing nice growth. But those saying PC gaming is dead will only have to point to November's sales for proof. Maybe in 2009 we can get a couple more titles quality enough to give World of Warcraft a run for its money.

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

Paul Sams on WoW, PC game sales, and Blizzard's next challenge

Blizzard COO Paul Sams sat down with PC Retail magazine for the first time after Wrath's sales numbers have come out to talk about PC game sales in general and Blizzard's huge effect on them. First question, Sams says that no, PC gaming is not dead, and Blizzard isn't saving it. As long as people have PCs, he says, people will play games on them. If PC gaming was dead, Blizzard wouldn't be releasing Starcraft II and Diablo III -- as long as they make great games on PC, people will shell out the money to play them.

While he never does mention anything about their expectations for sales numbers (we know Wrath broke a number of records), he does reiterate what other Blizzard higherups have said: that they'll be making expansions as long as people are interested in playing them. And he says that the biggest challenge for Blizzard in the next few years will be to balance what they're doing -- they've never had more on their plate before, and they've already gotten a harsh lesson with the splitting of Starcraft II into three games. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep up the quality and popularity even while trying to work on three AAA PC titles (not to mention the unannounced MMO) at the same time.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Making money, Interviews, Wrath of the Lich King

World of Warcraft tops the PC gaming charts in the UK

Calling the World of Warcraft an international phenomenon is probably not too much of an understatement. It's showing up in pop culture more and more, and its active subscriptions blow away the competition. Of course, there's always people who insist that the WoW craze will pass, that there's a WoW killer game just around the corner, and all that.

While this may happen some day, it doesn't look like that day is going to be coming any time soon. For example, the latest numbers on PC Game sales in the UK show World of Warcraft: Battle Chest reaching the top of the sales heap for the week, jumping up from the fourth position last week ahead of titles like Mass Effect and Age of Conan.

The surge in popularity might be attributable in part to the Worldwide Invitational. The hype was pretty hot and heavy both here and around the web, and I'm sure more than a few people might have hopped off the fence and decided to see what the fuss was about. Regardless, it's certainly good to see that WoW is not giving up its crown any time soon.

Filed under: Odds and ends, Blizzard, News items

Sams: Microsoft could do more for PC gaming

Blizzard's COO Paul Sams spoke with Gamasutra the other day, and he called out Microsoft, of all companies, for not supporting innovation in PC gaming. He says that Microsoft's loyalties are split with their console business, and that if they put as much work into developing gaming on the PC as they did on the Xbox 360, everyone would benefit.

An interesting idea, to be sure. It's not like Blizzard necessarily needs help from Microsoft to promote and develop their games -- if anything, it's Microsoft that could probably take a lesson from Blizzard on how to release software. But it's true that console innovations like achievement points and Xbox Live social networking accounts aren't really finding a solid place in the PC gaming world, and it could be that Blizzard wants to see those types of things on the platform.

Blizzard has always had a rocky relationship with consoles anyway, and the recent announcement of a non-console Diablo 3 definitely shows they're interested in the PC (including Mac) platform only. Can't really blame them for wanting a little more love from an OS developer like Microsoft.

[via BigDownload]

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

Newell says Wrath will save PC gamers (as if they needed it)

Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve (bringer of Half-Life 2), says that the PC gaming industry is waiting excitedly for the release of Wrath of the Lich King to rescue its market.

But, even though I breathlessly await Wrath, I beg to differ with Mr. Newell's comments. I don't think PC gaming is anywhere close to leaving the building, as some so-called experts in the field would have us believe. (Call me cynical, but I'm guessing a lot of those experts came from console manufacturers or optimistic mobile gaming companies.) The trouble with making these kinds of predictions is that there are currently no completely accurate ways of tracking the success of a game except to take press releases on faith. And in that case, you might as well believe the fox's promise to guard the hen-house. (Did you hear clucking? I thought I heard clucking.) Another problem with estimating market share for various games is that you're comparing Mana to Rage: each company can define "sales" and "subscribers" any way they please, making it nearly impossible to come up with clean comparisons of market share.

Blizzard makes approximately $120 million dollars a month. Compare that to Iron Man's opening weekend gross of $109 million. Blizzard beats that number every month, not just with one summer blockbuster per year. Also consider that most PC retailers have devoted entire sections of their hardware floors to gaming PCs. This devotion goes all the way up to the hardware manufacturers themselves. When I worked at Toshiba, we had a product manager whose sole job was to create and improve gaming laptops. (Oh, how I envied that guy!) Yes, Blizzard's release of the Wrath expansion will juice the market, but it's more like an injection of steroids, not administration of last rites.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King, Hardware

Turning keyboard turners around

Zg thinks, quite unreasonably, that 99% of players in the game are "keyboard turners"-- people who use the keyboard to turn their characters rather than holding down the right mouse button and moving the camera to turn. It's hardly anywhere near 99%, but given that WoW is a game that attracts casual players (a.k.a. people who aren't experienced videogame players), I wouldn't be surprised if there are more people in Azeroth than in, say, Counter-Strike, who use the keyboard to do most of their navigating.

Personally, I'm one of those that come from a CS background, and so I use the mouse for pretty much all movement whenever possible-- I'll often just hold down both mouse buttons if I need to run for a short distance (and anything longer gets the run lock key from me). I also think that circle strafing is pretty much the best game mechanic ever made, but I know that there are those who disagree with me-- back when I worked at Gamestop, one of our employees there just couldn't seem to wrap his head around the fact that he should turn and move at the same time, and as a result just got dominated in our Halo matches.

But habits are a powerful thing, and so keyboard turning is probably around to stay. I won't go so far as to say that fast-turning with a mouse is required to be a good player, but certainly that kind of reflex is required to be a really great player. So keyboard turners, pick up that mouse and start looking around-- you'll thank me later.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Tips, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Humor

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