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WoW in the running for Game of the Decade

2009 is coming to a close, and with it, "the aughts," which means we're about to get flooded with list after list of the best of the decade. It's been a raucous ten years for gaming (some, including me, might call it the best ten years in gaming so far), and Crispy Gamer is the first to step up and try to pick the best games we've seen so far. In their Game of the Decade showdown, World of Warcraft is still in the running, up against Bioware's legendary Knights of the Old Republic RPG, as the latest post has readers trying to pick the final four choices. If you think our game is more deserving than KotOR (note that this isn't the MMO, it's the old RPG with your friendly meatbag hater droid, HK-47), you can vote for WoW over on this page until Tuesday at 6pm.

KotOR is a great game, but as a decade-defining game, I'd have to think WoW will pull that one off. After that, though, there's some tough competition: BioShock and Half-Life 2 are up against each other, Halo and Left 4 Dead are facing off in another bracket, and Super Smash Brothers Melee and Shadow of the Colossus (which I guess I need to go play now) are the challengers in the third. I have to say -- as a "Game of the Decade," BioShock and Half-Life 2 are definitely in competition, but if you want to pick a game which has really defined both the online and casual gaming movements of the last ten years? We'll have to see what the readers choose, but I'd have to think World of Warcraft is your game.

[ via BlizzPlanet and kyleorl ]

Filed under: Polls, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends

Survey says 15% of overall gameplay time is in an MMO

Our friends at Joystiq reported on this fascinating survey by GamesIndustry.com that broke down responses from 13,000 US and EU citizens about how they spend their gaming time. While they don't have specific numbers for World of Warcraft, the survey says [PDF link] that overall, 15% of gaming time is spent playing MMOs. US players spend about 14% of their gaming time on MMOs, while EU players range from 8% to 16% by country. In the EU, 14% of all players have played an MMO, and in the US, 21% of everyone playing games has played a massively multiplayer online game.

Again, these numbers aren't specifically for World of Warcraft (and because the survey went down to age 8 and up, they do include the vast virtual worlds aimed at children, like Club Penguin and Disney's Toontown, which probably throw the numbers off quite a bit), but they do show the effect that WoW has had on the gaming population over the last five years. Five years ago, MMOs were definitely a niche -- some hardcore gamers played them, but most people didn't have the Internet connections to play an online game, much less pay a subscription for one. Nowadays, MMOs represent over one out of every ten minutes of overall playtime, and those numbers are only going to go up.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Quests, Leveling

A new blogger survey, this time for DPS

Last weekend we spotlighted the big healer survey that went around the blogosphere a little while back -- it was chock full of information straight from healers about their classes and abilities and what they thought of them. Now, Death Goddess is aiming to do the same thing for DPS classes. She's only got a few blogs who've answered so far, but they run a good range, from hunter to warlock to mage, and maybe getting the word out like this will encourage a few more DPS-style bloggers to put their answers in the pot.

As long as we're going to keep encouraging this meme (or non-meme, as they may be saying), I'd love to see some of this stuff quantified a little bit more. It'd be interesting to put into numbers which kinds of classes like their roles best, or which situations each role likes to play more (do healers prefer raiding over 5-mans, or do DPS prefer to play solo rather than PvP?). The healer survey was a treasure trove of raw anecdotal information, but it'd be good to see this put into a spreadsheet or graph, and maybe give us a more quantified look at what people think of their class. We'll keep an eye on the DPS data and maybe try hashing it out once the list of those surveyed becomes pretty substantial.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Raiding, Classes

Healer survey contains a wealth of information about healing

If you've ever wanted a close-up look at the game's healing zeitgeist, Miss Medicina has it -- she recently started up a survey/meme of healers around the WoW blogosphere, and the answers are now in and posted on her site. They make for some interesting weekend reading, especially if you're interested in healing and what healers think of it. I'm sure there's lots of conclusions that could be drawn out of this (I'll let you all come up with some in the comments as well), but just reading through them on my own, it seems like there's a few threads between them. The majority of healing seems to be done in 10-mans, which probably isn't too surprising, given that's where most of the endgame players are right now as well. There's no clear winner on class or spec (all four healing classes are represented pretty evenly, though I didn't really crunch the numbers), though there are quite a few priests, and of those, things seem to be split between holy and disc.

In terms of a favorite spell, there's almost no crossover at all -- people are all over the place, from Beacon to Penance to Circle of Healing. To hear these guys tell it, healers have all kinds of fun spells to play with. In terms of a weakness to healing, two main answers appear: mana regeneration (always an issue with mana-heavy classes like healers) and mobility. Shamans and druids have problems with big burst healing, and paladins say they need more group healing strength, but almost everyone mentions either mana or movement. There's a lot more to look through, too, in terms of how healers evaluate their performance and addon recommendations from everyone. As a look inside the healer "scene," there is a ton of information in there about what healers are up to out on the realms.

Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Classes, Buffs

Is WoW's audience still increasing?


I'm not sure how much of this is legit, but stick with us for the information first, and then stay for the debunking. Edward Hunter over at Gamasutra decided to do some poking around in comScore's MediaMetrix application (which can track, based on a survey of a few million users, access to various applications on a computer -- which programs are run when), and he found something that surprised him: despite the economic downturn and the emergence of a few other popular MMOs recently, World of Warcraft's audience is estimated globally at 13.1 million. In other words, it's still growing from the last official numbers (11.5 million players worldwide) we heard.

Now, the first issue we'd have with these numbers is the situation in China -- Hunter doesn't mention it at all, and in fact his graph (from comScore) doesn't have any dips at all in it, even though the game, and presumably its millions of players, went offline over there earlier this year. That right there throws a wrench into all of these estimations -- it's very likely comScore's information is just plain wrong.

Read more →

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

Study: Playing in a guild actually lowers stress


A new study done by researchers at Australia's Queensland University of Technology says that spending time online playing World of Warcraft with others can actually be good for your mental wellbeing -- within moderation of course. Researcher Huon Longman studied WoW players who played alongside guildies in game, and found that players often shared their real-life concerns with their virtual associates, which resulted in lowered levels of "anxiety, depression, and stress." In short, it seems that when you build relationships and share emotions even with people online, it can help you deal with problems in real life as well. That follows what we talked about earlier this week with Dr. Hilarie Cash -- games like WoW can definitely complement real-life relationships and actually help you relax.

But only when used in moderation -- Longman also found that 10% of the sample he studied played considerably more World of Warcraft than normal, and that those players not only didn't experience a bigger benefit to their wellbeing, but actually experienced more "negative psychological symptoms." A good balance of virtual and real life can have a lot of benefits, but falling too much into virtual life can actually cause more problems psychologically, according to this researcher's work. Obviously, this is one study of many about how playing these games can affect how we think, but the results are definitely reflected in experience: in-game relationships, used in moderation, can definitely help you deal with the real world in a healthier way.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Guilds, Blizzard, Raiding

Conclusions from the WoW.com faction transfer survey


Last week I posted a poll to try and figure out some of the numbers behind the newly implemented faction transfers, and now that we've got quite a few votes in there, it's probably a time to look at what we got and see if we can make any sense of it. The most conclusive data there is the answer above: about 18.6% of our reader polled said that yes, they had made a faction transfer already. That sounds high to me -- maybe it's because WoW.com readers know about the faction transfer service that more of them may have taken advantage of it. But if it's true that 19% of players did take advantage of the transfer service, then 570,000 of the around 3 million US players have switched factions, making Blizzard $17.1 million in gross revenue alone, just in the last week since it's opened.

The other questions were a little hairier -- I tried to ask people not to answer if they didn't fit the criteria for each question, and there's no way to tell for sure that's what happened. Also, lots of people wanted to see the answers without voting, and unfortunately, our voting system doesn't allow a clear way to do that (I have since checked with our tech guys, who say that the solution we came up with, voting without choosing an answer, did not affect the poll). But after the break, we can try to suss some conclusions out of the data anyway.

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Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Polls, Realm Status, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Cataclysm

Survey: Figuring out the faction transfer numbers


I've been thinking about this ever since the faction changes went live: obviously, Blizzard will never actually release the numbers on how many server transfers or faction changes they do, just because they are notoriously guarded about the information they release, not least because riots are pretty easy to incite on the forums (imagine the reaction if Blizzard officially said that Alliance was the more popular faction). But I wonder nevertheless: how many players have transferred their characters over from one faction to another already? And lots of people seem to think that the vast majority of transfers are Alliance to Horde (not to mention I've heard many anecdotal stories of people flooding back to the Horde), but is that true?

Obviously, we don't have access to all of Blizzard's audience, and our polls are definitely much less scientific than the data Blizzard gets to look at (you better believe they're tracking transfers and faction and race choices with a close eye, just as they're tracking server populations 24/7), but just for the heck of it, we'll ask. After the break, we've got a few polls designed to give us a very general look at how transfers are playing out so far. There's a lot of anecdotal experiences flying around since transfers went live, but I'd like to know, a little more objectively, just how things are panning out.

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Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Polls, Analysis / Opinion, Realm Status, Blizzard, Factions, Cataclysm

Divining just what that "non-personal system information" might be

As Eliah noted the other day, Blizzard is running another hardware survey -- your WoW client will be sending them information about what kinds of hardware are in your computer. They've done this before, and as you may have realized, this type of information helps them determine system requirements for future games. A few people have already speculated that they're testing the waters for another WoW expansion, but I doubt any expansion is that far along in the process yet: my guess is that this latest round of hardware testing is actually being done for final calibration on Starcraft II, due out this fall. Blizzard doesn't share this hardware information with us, but Valve, another company that has a really wide install base with its Steam service, does release regular information about the kinds of computers its games are running on.

There is, of course, another question here: do we really want Blizzard jumping in and taking this information from us? There aren't any obvious reasons to protect this information (most computers will give it up to any Internet-connected application without issue), but you never know: do you really want Blizzard checking out what's on your hard drive or what accessories you've hooked up to your computer? We'd presume that they don't dive into software information (like checking your computer's HD for signs of competing MMO installs), but certainly they could. The list of what they check includes: "CPU, RAM, operating system, video, audio, HD/CD/DVD, and network connection," but we don't know if that's everything or not (the Terms of Use, under "XVIII Acknowledgements" says something similar). And as Blizzard's alert says, while we do get a momentary notification that this information is being sent, users who have merged their Battle.net accounts will no longer even see that flash of a message, even though their info is still being sent. The ToS says Blizzard doesn't have to notify us of the survey, but they have in the past anyway.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Hardware, Account Security

"Because I don't play" isn't an option on Blizzard's quit page

Jason Burns points out, pretty insightfully, on his blog that of all the various options Blizzard lists for quitting the game, simply not having the time to play it isn't one of them. Whenever you decide to cancel your subscription, you get a little survey to fill out, with two lists of options to explain why you're leaving the game. In the past, we've found some pretty silly options in there (and actually, it looks like they've changed quite a bit since we posted about the Will of the Forsaken nerf on the list), but Jason says that as many varied and different reasons as there are for leaving, Blizzard didn't include his: he likes the game, he just doesn't have the time to play it and justify the subscription.

Which is what he eventually typed in. Like so many things with Blizzard, it would be fascinating to see the stats behind the information they're getting here -- do they see a little bump in quitters every time new patch notes come out? Is customer support really the biggest issue people have, or is harassment a major reason for people leaving as well? Just boredom with the game seems like it would be a huge reason to me, but there's not really a clear option for that either.

Unfortunately, we'll probably never know the real stats behind this -- Blizzard isn't going to be revealing why people are leaving their game anytime soon. But it does seem strange that some of the biggest reasons you'd expect aren't on their list of possibles at all.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Great guild traditions and where they come from


Neth wants to know your guild's traditions over on the forums. We've talked about funny guild moments and traditions before as well, too, but there seems to be a never-ending supply of them. There are as many different memories out there as there are guilds, and each one is a little different: even all of the guilds I've joined up with for any significant amount of time (there have probably been four, I think, in my WoW career? It's not that I'm a guild jumper, just that I've switched servers and factions a few times for various reasons) has had their own moods and well-known members and busy times and special things they do while raiding or leveling together.

While it would be great if Neth was asking this to get some input on guild housing or the upcoming guild battlegrounds features, she's probably just asking to hear it -- it's definitely fun to look inside the other groups in the game and see what they do the same and different. For all of the drama that tends to attract our attention, the truth is that Blizzard's ad hoc ingame guild system has created some pretty strong ties between us. I like reading through that thread and seeing just what people have come up with just as much as Neth probably does.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Forums

The WoW Headhunter helps with guild recruiting

Last week we were kindly invited on the PixelatedGeek podcast (thanks, Erin and Nelson, for having me!) and while there, we heard from Darren of WoW Headhunter, a brand new site that wants to get you or your guild hooked up with some new guildies. The site is pretty barebones: you can look through available guilds or enter your own. But they do add a little something new: whenever you enter a guild into the site, you can create application questions and even run through a survey that charts your guild along four lines: between Reckless and Deliberate, Social and Competitive, Fun and Serious, and Learner and Veteran. So you can choose between the Reckless Competitive Veterans and the Deliberate Social Learners.

Kind of a fun idea. Unfortunately, the site isn't too populated yet (I couldn't find recruiting guilds on either of the servers I frequent), but it did just go live today, so it may take some time for recruiting guilds to find their way over there. And unfortunately, while there is an option to put an Armory link in your profile, the site itself doesn't tie in to the Armory directly, so you still have to go searching for metrics when players apply (would be nice to see a list of what achievements have been done by the player, as well as some common stats to compare).

But it will be nice to have a list of guilds to browse, along with a little more info about them, all in one place. If you've been looking for a guild for a while with no luck, there's one more option.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, Raiding

Survey reveals what twinks are all about

This is interesting -- our friend Drayner over at Twinkinfo.com recently took a survey of his site's readers, and after picking up almost 1,000 replies, he's posted the results. They show a little bit of insight into the kind of person that plays a twink (a character maxed out at a certain level before 80, usually to run around in PvP battlegrounds). Specifically, they're male, under 21, play for 21-30 hours a week, think their gear rates a 5 out of 5, and are probably level 19 and in Warsong Gulch capturing flags. I'm not sure if that's suprising or not, but those are pretty safe majority votes, even given the smaller sample size of the poll.

Twink players are also more likely to not have more than one account, which kind of makes sense -- they only need one account and just have lots of characters on them. 66% of twinks are actually in twink guilds, and most have at least more than one twink to play around with. Hunters and Rogues top the class choices (though not with a clear majority at all). And perhaps most interesting, over 50% of twinks say Blizzard is serving them just fine -- they're not ignoring them, and they're not giving them any more love than other players. Still, as Drayner pointed out to us, about 36% of twinks said they'd leave the game if Blizzard shut them down with an additional 30% saying Maybe, so Blizzard does have a little incentive there to keep twinking happening.

Quite interesting -- twinks might be one of the only groups of players who are completely fine with how they're being handled in game. 2.3 obviously gave them lots of new items to play with, and while there is some frustration from other players, Blizzard has made it so easy to level that if you don't want to play with the twinks at 19, you can move on pretty quickly.

Filed under: Hunter, Rogue, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, PvP, Alts

GamerDNA and Massively explore Death Knight demographics


Our friends at Massively and GamerDNA are at it again -- they're digging into their database of players, this time to determine some Death Knight demographics. They want to know what kinds of players are picking up the new Hero class. Unfortunately, their sample size is super small -- only 500, according to Sanya Weathers, which seems way too tiny to determine anything about the Death Knight class at large. But we'll go with it anyway, and see what we can get.

As you can see above, Blood Elves and Humans dominate the race choice in our little group, which seems about right, considering that those are the two most popular races overall. Death Knight players in this study generally tend to have reported themselves as male in real life. And GamerDNA also lays their Death Knights up against the Bartle test and while WoW players trend pretty well to the norm, Death Knights go way more towards the "Killer" and to a lesser extent the "Explorer" end of the scales.

So according to this little survey (and we'll remind you that this is 500 people, so there are plenty of exceptions out there), the average Death Knight is male, chooses whatever race is most familiar to them, and wants to go kill and do damage rather than worry about socializing or achieving. In other words, lots and lots of former Ret Paladins. It'll be interesting to see how this changes over time -- lots of these players are interested in the newest thing, obviously, since they've switched their mains to a new class at the first chance, but as things settle down and more people head back to get new alts, maybe we'll see a different crowd coming out of Acherus.

Filed under: Human, Polls, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blood Elves, Classes, Death Knight

Bartle, gender, and the demographics of WoW's classes

A little while back the gamerDNA blog did a nice breakdown of how WAR classes correlate with how gamers do on the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, a widely used test that can break down exactly what type of player you are (Achiever, Explorer, Socializer, or Killer). It was such an interesting writeup that I hoped they'd do it with WoW classes, and apparently I wasn't the only one -- they've got a new post up now examining which classes in Azeroth align with which types of players.

They throw gender into the mix as well -- turns out that while the classes have generally the same percentage of players (not surprising, given that gameplay dictates the classes should be fairly balanced), things start to break up when you add gender to the mix. Priests and Warriors seem to have the biggest separation: according to their data (obtained via the profiles on their site), most Priests are played by females, and most Warriors are played by men. Paladins as well tend to be male, though not as much as Warriors, and Druids tend to be female, though not as much as Priests. Women also tend to prefer the elven races (Blood and Night), while guys apparently prefer Orcs and Dwarves (which helps my -- sexist, I admit -- theory from way back on the WoW Insider Show that the Dwarven starting area appeals to guys more than women).

The Bartle breakdown is interesting, too -- Killers prefer Rogues (duh), Warriors tend to be Achievers, and Hunters have the slight Explorer edge, but in general, the classes have a fairly even distribution across the board. All of the different roles can be filled by all the classes, which speaks to the way Blizzard has built the classes -- you can really solo, PvP, or group up with any of them. WAR's differences were distinct, but in WoW, Blizzard has done their best to make it so that whatever Bartle type you are, you can log in with any class and do what you want. gamerDNA promises more research here (including a Horde and Alliance breakdown), and we can't wait to see it.

Filed under: Night Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Hunter, Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blood Elves, Classes

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