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Facebook vs. World of Warcraft

They both have millions of users across the world. They both have made and broken friendships and relationships, and they both have raised millions if not billions of dollars for their respective companies. And chances are that they're both so popular even your grandma knows about them. Gamasutra has written an interesting post comparing both World of Warcraft and Facebook of all things, and they say that the two are more alike than you might think: both enable you to create an identity, and use that identity to interact with others, and both give you a wide variety of options to do so (in WoW, you can slay dragons together, and on Facebook, you can tag pictures or post on walls). Gamasutra wants to get to the center of where exactly the interactivity lies, and in doing so, figure out what makes Warcraft a game, and Facebook a network.

One major difference is in the interface -- obviously, WoW is wrapped in a fantasy world, so that in between all of the socializing, you're also fighting the Scourge or the Burning Crusade. Facebook has games, but it doesn't have that overarching narrative. WoW also rewards group teamwork and coordination, while Facebook leaves collaboration to its own rewards. And of course the cost is another big difference: WoW is still a subscription game, while Facebook pays in other ways. But the amount of similarities between the two are pretty fascinating. And comparing the two, as Gamasutra does, really makes you think about just what interactivity means, and how two apparently very different types of interactive media aren't that far apart after all.

Filed under: WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Forums

World of Warcraft: The Magazine needs a new Editor-in-chief

A few of our readers (thanks, guys!) spotted this posting popping up on the various job boards recently -- Future US, the company publishing the World of Warcraft magazine that's due out any day now, is apparently seeking a new Editor-in-Chief. Say what? They haven't even released the first issue yet, and they're already seeking a new head honcho? We did a little poking around, and it's true -- Dan Amrich, the man who originally held the position, has moved off already to another gig with Activision (though it seems coincidental that he's going to work for Blizzard's parent company), and Future is stuck seeking a new EIC even before issue one releases.

Does this mean the magazine is in trouble? True, it can't be good for the captain of a ship to move on just as it's heading out to port, but we've heard everything is still on course -- the first issue of the subscription (that quite a few people have already bought) is under Blizzard's scrutiny right now, and the second issue is well underway. Everything we hear still says they're aiming to release it sometime this month, but obviously if we hear anything else, we'll let you know. In the meantime, if you're in San Francisco, have a few years' publishing experience, and know a whole lot about World of Warcraft, we have this job you might want...

Filed under: Virtual selves, Blizzard, Economy, Rumors

Breakfast Topic: When will you quit playing WoW?

With all this five year anniversary stuff going on, and the new push by Blizzard for subscribers via the TV commercials and special offers, I've been thinking about what it would take for me to leave WoW. What would my point be where I quit the game, unsubscribe, and not return to playing it?

I think likely it would be a slow death. I'd log in less and less, until I found that I wouldn't log in for months at a time. At that point I'd probably be sensible and cancel my account -- although it took an inordinate amount of time for me to cancel my EQII account where I did more or less the same thing. I'd like to think this is how it'd go at least, I wouldn't want to quit in a huff over some silly bug or class change.

Of course, this is WoW, and I find myself uniquely invested in it. I've got characters with hundreds of days worth of /played on them, and I don't know yet if I could ever stop myself from being able to have immediate access to them. They are a hobby, and investment, just like a detailed model airplane or schooner. Then there's also what I do here, which gives me a little unique reason not to ever unsubscribe.

But alas, it might happen one day. And that's the topic of today's breakfast nook discussion. When will you quit playing WoW? How will you go out? With a bang or a whimper?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

World of Warcraft: The Magazine still coming later this year

A few readers have sent us notes asking what happened to their World of Warcraft: The Magazine subscription, and so here's a quick followup to the magazine you might not have heard about since BlizzCon. As far as we know, it's still on track for release in "late 2009" -- the website went live a while back, and they're updating on Twitter. The first issue should almost be done, and it's supposed to have a feature on the WoW TCG, something about Inscription, and memories of the game for the 5th anniversary, as well as lots of other stuff, we're sure.

Additionally, even if you haven't ordered a subscription yet (I haven't, actually, but I meant to), there will be previews of the issue online at some point. Or, on the other hand, if you're tired of waiting, you can contact them with support help and questions via email as well. But as far as we've heard, it's still coming before the end of the year, so keep an eye on your mailbox. It'll be a little different from some of the news you've seen online (it's completely official, which means everything in there is approved by Blizzard before it goes out, not to mention that they'll have some nice access in terms of news about upcoming content), but it definitely seems like it'll be an interesting read.

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

Chinese WoW wraps up closed beta, to start charging soon


It looks like the long saga of World of Warcraft's transfer of operatorship in China is almost finally over -- NetEase has announced that the closed beta period is done with, and that they're just about ready to open up normal registration and bring the game back to for-pay status. They're still pending government approval there, so they're not quite online and running yet, but they have closed off registration to new players, and will only bring it back online when they're ready to start charging yet again. Of course, their pay scheme there is different from here in the US and EU -- they often charge per hour to play rather than a constant monthly subscription. But however they decide to charge, NetEase seems sure that by the end of the month, things will finally be back to normal in China's version of Azeroth.

Meanwhile, the former operator of the game, The9, has announced that they are extending by a month the option for former players to get refunds for their prepaid game cards. That option was originally planned to end on September 7th, but players of the game who have unused cards will have another 30 days to redeem them back for cash. All of this back-and-forth originally started back in April of this year, but it seems like, five months later, the game might finally be getting back to normal.

Filed under: Patches, Realm Status, Blizzard, Hardware

Wowhead launches Premium service

Surprise! Well, it was to me, anyway. Wowhead announced on Wednesday that they are launching a new Premium subscription service. Subscriptions cost from $2.50 to $3.33 a month, depending on how many months you subscribe for at a time, and confer the following benefits:

  • No ads.
  • No CAPTCHAs when you post comments/forum posts, and an increased character limit on those posts.
  • Custom avatars, with special badges and borders, for the forums and user pages.
  • Prioritized placement in the Armory queue for profiler resyncs.
  • A direct line to Wowhead's developers, in case you want to suggest new features or whatever.
  • Premium access to the other ZAM sites (ZAM.com, Allakhazam, and WoWInterface).

Malgayne stresses that unlike some sites, non-premium users on Wowhead are not penalized. The site will continue to work just as beautifully as it always has for users that don't pay a dime.

There is a slight exception to this in the profile resync queue feature, although at the moment it's not a practical issue - not enough requests are being sent for the queue to be a factor.

So what do you think? Are you going to fork over a few bucks to become one of the Wowhead elite, or maybe just to show your support for a fantastic site?

Filed under: News items

A WoW player's guide to Free Realms


Our good friends at Massively have written up a post just for you WoW players about the new hotness in MMOs lately, a game called Free Realms. I haven't gotten a chance to play it, but it's all the team over there can talk about, and the game itself just hit a whopping three million players. It's a free-to-play game (with more premium memberships getting more features -- the minimum is about $5 a month) put out by Sony Online Entertainment that aims towards a more casual audience, with extra content placed in for more hardcore gamers. The questing and leveling itself is very forgiving -- you have a dotted green line leading you to quest targets, and combat only takes place in instanced areas. But the crafting and other various minigames (in order to do mining, you actually play a Bejewelled-style matching game, and there's even a "Kart Driver" profession) can get pretty hard. Just like WoW, those who want to collect pets or build skills can do that, while those who are more interested in dungeon crawling have that option as well.

I've been meaning to pick up the game and check it out (on the free level, of course -- with my WoW subscription running, I'm not made of MMO money), and Massively's guide is an excellent first overview to how the game relates to our favorite MMO. If you're getting a little bored in Azeroth waiting for the next expansion announcement and are looking for something else to try, Free Realms might just be it.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Instances, Quests, Leveling, Classes

WoW subscriber numbers still increasing, multi-boxers trivial

There has been a long thread about WoW and the philosophical changes and approaches over the past four years, and in particular to some of the larger design decisions made recently (dual specs). In it Ghostcrawler makes an offhand remark about WoW's subscriber numbers:

"Wrath of the Lich King is still selling very well and our subscribers are increasing."

Now I want to be clear that this was made off-hand and is not from an official earnings statement. But that doesn't discount it from being full of truthiness; and nonetheless, this is rather significant in that it's been a while since we last heard any indication of current subscriber numbers. To some this news won't be very surprising, given that Wrath of the Lich King has been a huge hit. But others might raise an eyebrow that after five months of Wrath things are still up-ticking.

He also mentions the ever hot topic of multi-boxers:

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

How to avoid automatic subscription renewal


As most of us know, WoW credit card subscription plans in the US and Europe are auto-renewing. If I sign up for one month at $14.99, as soon as that month is up, Blizzard immediately re-bills my credit card and signs me up for another month. This is problematic for some people, who may want to switch to a game card at the end of the month, or who simply might not want their cards to be automatically billed.

Fortunately, there's an easy solution: cancel your account. Yep, just push that big red button (well, actually, it's a smallish grey button, but you get the idea). You'll still get to play until the time you've paid for runs out. And since Blizzard retains your character and account info indefinitely, you don't have to worry about your characters getting deleted. At the end of the time you've paid for, when you try to log in, you'll get a notice that your pre-paid time has been used up, at which point you can go on the web site and add whatever payment method you like.

I've used this method many times myself. It's only a few extra clicks, and if you want to have more control over how you get billed, it's definitely worth considering, even if it does make the peons cry.

Filed under: Tricks, Blizzard

Will the economic downturn hurt WoW?

GamePolitcs had an interesting news brief about Michael Pachter, a financial analyst with Wedbush-Morgan, who contends that MMOs will not be impacted in the current economic downturn because the majority of people who play them are "addicts."

The full interview with Pachter is available from Reuters.

Besides the negative stereotypes and sweeping generalizations that come with statements like "people who play [MMOs] are addicts," Pachter does make a good point. He notes that "Losing their jobs makes them more likely to play because they have more time to play."

I thought about this for a minute. If I were to lose my job here at WoW Insider, I would no doubt start looking for new employment almost immediately. I would scale back my expenses – probably get rid of cable TV (Hulu is my TV now anyways), I'd eat out less, I'd use the library more and Barnes & Noble less, and I would generally be more frugal with my spending.

But I don't think I would cancel my WoW subscription.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

Blizzard's version of RMT


Real-money trading is one of the most debated aspects of MMO gaming at large -- some games don't actually charge a monthly fee, and instead what they do is sell ingame items for real world money. Want that hot sword for your character? Put in your credit card and pay up. Blizzard, obviously, has never really subscribed to the idea, since a lot of players think it's unfair to make how much money you have in the real world a part of the game you play. Nevertheless, there is a lot of money to be made in selling virtual items for real money, and Blizzard has come up with their own form of RMT in terms of server transfers, name changes, and now gender changes as well.

Blizzard has rules for their RMT, though, and Zarhym lays a few of them out: they won't charge for any item that means anything in game -- cosmetic items and looks are fair game, but actual gear or "integral services" (whatever that means exactly) is a no for them. They won't charge for anything that was free before, so creating up to 10 characters on a realm, for example, will always come with the subscription (though adding more may eventually be possible with an extra charge). And Blizzard's RMT comes as a game mechanic itself -- they choose to charge for things not just because there's a cost for them, but also to "curb their frequency," to keep all players from doing them all the time.

It's an interesting idea, and it's definitely a lot more player-friendly than charging for things like, say, horse armor. You could also argue, of course, that something like the WoW TCG is also a kind of RMT scheme, since you have to pay real money for real cards to get in-game items (even though Blizzard has made sure those items are cosmetic as well). But paying for transfers and changes is a little sneakier -- Blizzard is slowly wading into RMT, so far successfully dodging all the sharks in the water.

Filed under: Patches, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW TCG

Blizzard makes deal with Massive for Battle.net ads

The AP is reporting that Microsoft's game advertising division (called Massive, Inc., not to be confused with Massively), has signed a deal with Blizzard to offer advertising on their upcoming Battle.net revamp, presumably to premiere with Starcraft II. This is apparently out-of-game advertising, i.e. the ads you'll see upon login to the service, not necessarily on in-game billboards or other nonsense like that. Battle.net is Blizzard's online service -- they've used it since way back in the Diablo days, and they've always had ads for their own products in it. But now they've contracted with this company Massive, Inc. to put other ads in there, and since they've been planning for a revamp for a while, you can probably expect to see the ads in right away when the new service launches.

How will this affect us as WoW players? It might not -- Blizzard may leave WoW on its own launcher, rather than having you go through a Battle.net launcher to sign in. On the other hand, WoW is clearly Blizzard's biggest online game, and we already know that Blizzard plans to include some WoW features (achievements, accounts) in the Battle.net revamp, so it could be that they're going to unify everything under one launcher (WoW, Starcraft II, Diablo III), in which case you'd see these ads when you sign in as well.

Which makes us wonder why exactly we'd be paying $15 a month to see more ads on login, but don't panic yet -- we'll cross that bridge when we actually know it exists (for now, Blizzard hasn't announced any official plans to change the way WoW works with Battle.net, other than the fact that one account will work across all games). We'll keep an eye out for any other new Battle.net news -- there's definitely something big in the works.

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

Morhaime: "We'd like to be doing regular expansions"


MTV's Multiplayer blog has an interview with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime (who is apparently sitting pretty with the elven ladies after last week's big expansion launch). He says that he sees no end to the expansions -- Blizzard has told us before that as long as they have ideas (and players), they'll keep making content for this game. He also says that they're happy with the subscription model in the United States -- although we'd imagine that both of those things might get rethought if Blizzard's subscription numbers were going the other way. For now, though, while things are headed up, Morhaime sounds pretty happy with the way things are.

Finally, they ask about an iPhone app, and Morhaime says Blizzard is working on connecting mobile devices up to the game, but he also specifically says they're not looking at a stand-alone app. So maybe a mobile version of the Armory? I'd love to see an iPhone app, as we've said before, with mail or auction house functionality, but maybe Blizzard doesn't see the majority of their audience on the iPhone anyway. Then again, their Mac guys always need something to do...

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

Foxtel to carry BlizzCon PPV in Australia


In Australia, and bummed you can't make it up to the states for BlizzCon? You too can experience it virtually -- while DirecTV has a deal to carry it on pay-per-view in the US, Foxtel has apparently landed the same agreement in Oz. For $14.95 a day (no word of getting it for free by signing up, which is the deal DirecTV is offering), you can experience all the festivities straight through your television. They're even offering that BlizzCon mount if you buy both days. One problem, though: it's all being shown live, apparently, so in order to see it all, you'd have to get up at 4am. But a little lost sleep is a small price to pay for experience all that is BlizzCon, right?

Of course, you could just stick to WoW Insider and we'll show you everything you need to see at the show for free. We don't have a mount to give you (yet), and we won't ask you to wake up at four in the morning, but we will have pretty in-depth coverage from right there on the scene. Or, y'know, you could do both. It's up to you, Aussies.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Fan stuff, WoW Social Conventions, Blizzard

Forum post of the day: Rage against the authenticator

Alright, so the splash screen mystery is dramatic. Whatever the important announcement is, I don't think they could come up with one that makes me happier than the new authenticator. I will be first in line to buy mine once it comes out. It seems that most of us are with me. We've been clamoring for better authentication, and we're going to get it.

A one-time charge of six and a half bucks for an extra layer of security seems like a smoking deal to me. It hasn't occurred to me to be bothered by the price. Tuhrell of Malrone believes that the authenticators should be distributed by Blizzard for free. Vallana of Thaurissan is on a short list of responders in the thread that agreed with the original poster. She believes that her $15/month is enough to spend on WoW and is "not retarded enough to get hacked so I really don't need it."

Read more →

Filed under: Blizzard, Forums, Hardware, Account Security, Forum Post of the Day

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