(Yes, PC gaming news has been kind of WAR-heavy lately. For those who don't play WAR, and can only wonder what it's good for, skip to the bottom of this article for something fun.)
Warhammer Online may be on a collision course with Blizzard's 18-wheeler, WoW: Wrath of the Lich King, but Mythic doesn't plan to flinch out of this game of information super highway chicken.
"Let’s start with what we know is some truly exciting news. I’m happy to announce that in December, the Black Guard and the Knight of the Blazing Sun will officially be part of WAR," said Mythic CEO Mark Jacobs in his first Warhammer State of The Game.
"When they were cut from the game launch plans earlier this year, I said that the Black Guard and the Knight would be part of WAR only when they were great and deserved their place alongside all of WAR’s other compelling classes."
"I also said that we would not charge any additional fees for this new content or put it in a separate expansion pack; that’s not how we operate. We’ve kept to that plan and with the introduction of these two classes, Mythic shows that once again we are happy to keep giving players more value for their subscription dollars than any other MMORPG developer."
New classes? For free? Sure, the classes were set to be in the original game, but we're pretty ok with this.
As per usual, the NPD Group kept its giant, cyclopian eye glued to videogame sales for the month of September*. However, as per never before, the Group also decided to compile its weekly retail PC game sales into a colossal monthly communion, full of surprises and intrigue.
Hot Wheels: Beat That set the standard for September, issuing forth a challenge to all other games. 17 games did, in fact, beat that, with at least two unquestionably better games also beating it, but in reverse.
Spore and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning took top honors, selling 406,000 and 274,000 units respectively. NPD, sadly, did not divulge digits for any more of the 20 games listed.
It should also be noted that NPD only covers retail sales, so any sales generated by Steam, Direct 2 Drive, or other such outlets do not count.
PC Game Sales (September)
1. Spore / EA Maxis / $50 (Average) 2. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning / EA Mythic / $49 (Average) 3. The Sims 2 Apartment Life Expansion Pack / EA Maxis / $30 (Average) 4. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Collector's Edition / EA Mythic / $80 (Average) 5. Spore Galactic Edition / EA Maxis / $79 (Average) 6. World Of Warcraft: Battle Chest / Blizzard / $37 (Average) 7. Crysis Warhead / Crytek (Publisher: EA) / $29 (Average) 8. The Sims 2 Double Deluxe / EA Maxis / $30 (Average) 9. World Of Warcraft / Blizzard / $20 (Average) 10. Spore Creature Creator / EA Maxis / $10 (Average) 11. World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade / Blizzard / $28 (Average) 12. Civilization IV: Colonization / Firaxis / $29 (Average) 13. Warcraft III Battle Chest / Blizzard / $39 (Average) 14. Civilization IV / Firaxis / $27 (Average) 15. The Sims 2 IKEA Home Stuff Expansion / EA Maxis / $20 (Average) 16. Diablo Battle Chest / Blizzard / $39 (Average) 17. StarCraft Battle Chest / Blizzard / $20 (Average) 18. Hot Wheels: Beat That / Activision / $15 (Average) 19. Crysis / Crytek (Publisher: EA) / $38 (Average) 20. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky / GSC Game World / $39 (Average)
Jump past the break for overall software sales, with games included. (Exciting preview: Apple fails.)
EA has certainly taken a turn for the less-reviled as of late -- a sudden change that can be attributed to risk-taking, trouble-making CEO John Riccitiello. However, even creative greats like Picasso, De Vinci, and Batman were only human, and all humans have breaking points. For Riccitiello, that point was seemingly first-person run 'n' rebel Mirror's Edge.
"I was totally convinced that game needed to be third-person and not first-person, because I wanted to see Faith," Riccitiello said.
“I was really wrong about the third-person thing,” he continued, citing the highly anticipated title's finished form.
But even with titles like Mirror's Edge under his belt, Riccitiello's heart is clad in a business suit, and some "creative risks" -- like Tim Schafer-Jack Black collaboration Brutal Legend -- give him palpitations (the bad kind; not the blood-pumping, required-to-survive kind).
"I have seen it," Riccitiello replied when asked if EA has considered publishing Brutal Legend. "I am well aware of what the game is. It’s a very significant creative risk."
"Sometimes significant creative risks end up being some of the world’s best products. Spore was also a significant creative risk. So was The Sims. Portal, BioShock. But so was [the relatively poor-selling, high quality Tim Schafer title] Grim Fandango."
Well, that was quick. Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Blizzard COO Paul Sams claimed that Warhammer Online was no 18-hour raid boss. The battle's over, and the spoils of waaaagh clutter Blizzard's side of the field.
"The good news is that we've seen a significant number of people, well over half, that cited Warhammer as their reason for leaving - they've already returned," Sams said over the deafening roars of BlizzCon.
But, regardless of whether the game's a direct competitor or merely Led Zep to Blizzard's Beatles, Sams handed out Warhammer Online's participation ribbon with an air of humility -- hedging his bets on the MMO's future success.
"I think Warhammer is best positioned to succeed out of the various products that have come out thus far since World of Warcraft has come out. It seems to be a good game, certainly a great company, Mythic and Mark [Jacobs] over there and his team, they're very, very talented," he explained.
"But I think without EA they would have struggled as well, because EA fortunately for them has a lot of money and so they were able to put forward a lot of marketing dollars and were able to support the huge infrastructure that they require for these kinds of games. It's a tough road and as I said, if we had not had the benefits of the trust of our customers because of the years of delivering for them, I think that we could have been in trouble a few times. There have been big challenges and mistakes that we've made and we've been fortunate enough to get by them."
So MPC readers, who's pocketing your subscription money at the end of each month? WoW or WAR?
You didn't think escaping the three least popular letters in the alphabet would be that easy, did you? Today, Ubisoft Forum Manager "bukowski113" confirmed Spore DRM's "The Empire Strikes Back," placing yet another title under SecuROM's much-maligned rule. According to his forum post, Far Cry 2's DRM will work as follows:
You have 5 activations on 3 separate PCs.
Uninstalling the game “refunds” an activation. This process is called “revoke”, so as long as you complete proper uninstall you will be able to install the game an unlimited number of times on 3 systems.
You can upgrade your computer as many time as you want (using our revoke system)
Ubisoft is committed to the support of our games, and additional activations can be provided.
Ubisoft is committed to the long term support of our games: you’ll always be able to play Far Cry 2
In short, it's more or less unchanged from Spore's variation on the theme. We'll be buying Far Cry 2 anyway, though. After all, we just enticed a bunch of readers into taking up their pitchforks, so we feel we've done our part in the protest. DRM is bad and should be hated!
Think Spore is too short? Think Spore is too long? Think Spore is just right? Well it doesn't matter what you think; EA is putting Spore on a McDonald's diet, and the game won't stop expanding until it is the Space phase. Today's highly expected declaration -- which slaps release dates on a "Cute and Creepy" parts pack and an add-on for the aforementioned Space phase -- is only the beginning.
The Cute and Creepy set, not mincing any words, will include roughly 100 parts of both kitten-copyingly adorable and kitten-crunchingly horrifying varieties. For a mere $19.95, you can help break the record for world's fastest expansion pack when Cute and Creepy launches on November 18. It also works with Spore Creature Creator, making it the first expansion to cost more than the title it's expanding.
On the other hand, the Space pack sounds more akin to a real expansion pack. Slated for release during spring of 2009, it will see "players' space faring creatures... beam down from their spaceships to explore new planets and earn rewards for completing challenging missions" as well as "a new Adventure Creator will allow players to build and share online their own custom missions."
We were hoping EA might expand some of Spore's less-awesome stages, but hey, at least EA's heralds aren't shouting the joys of Spore: H&M. Yet.
No one can deny that StarCraft II's recently announced reverse-Voltron has officially renewed Blizzard's license to print money, but they can deny Blizzard's good intentions. Vehemently. Don't worry, though; the StarCraft crafters went out of their way to provide a few argument-dominating quotes on the off-chance you're still feeling a tad miffed about their decision.
"One of the things that [StarCraft II lead producer] Chris Sigaty was saying in interviews this weekend is that we had always planned to do two expansion packs for StarCraft II. This structure just reshuffles how we were going to do things," StarCraft rep Bob Colayco told Edge in response to the titular moo-juice allusion.
"Just to give you some context, typically with Blizzard RTSes, we release a single-player campaign that gives players just a taste of each race. The original StarCraft had 10 missions each or so for Terrans and Protoss. When we released the Brood Wars expansion pack, there was another eight or so missions for each of the missions."
Each race-focused StarCraft II release, then, includes the same number of missions -- and therefore, roughly the same amount of content -- as their unified predecessor. However, instead of a pithy 10 missions per race, the Terrans stand front and center for 30 missions, as do the Zerg and Protoss.
"Well, if you want to say 'one game' is 90 missions long, then yeah, I guess you’re only getting a third of a game each time," Colayco added. "Show me a game where there are 90 missions. We’re giving players a full-fledged single-player campaign experience included in each of the games."
See? That's no cash-grabbing scheme. That's Blizzard's sacrifice. We'd type more, but we're too busy saluting and choking back a single, glistening tear.
Quality may not always happily skip hand-in-hand with sales (See: Psychonauts, and then go buy it, please), but when it does, we wear unnaturally large smiles, ecstatic that there's justice in this cold, depressing world. You can imagine, then, that our pearly whites are on the verge of breaking free from our unhinged jaws thanks to Mythic's announcement that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has lured 750,000 players into its overtly war-packed world.
"Thanks to our players, the war between the Realms continues to escalate at an incredible pace," said Mythic co-founder and general manager Mark Jacobs.
And he's not just spouting nonsense from his PR-approved book of hyperbole either; Warhammer's 750k sprint has topped those of both World of Warcraft and Age of Conan, who reached similar numbers within three months and two months, respectively.
But don't start ordering Waaaagh Kool-Aid as a refreshment for WoW's funeral just yet. It should be noted that boxed copies of Warhammer Online came with a free one month voucher, cancelling out the game's subscription fee for a limited time. With the game's money vacuum soon to be fully operational, will players stick around for another month?
We sure hope so. Warhammer seems genuinely different from other MMOs, and it'd be a shame to see it sink. Also, gaming just wouldn't be fun anymore if we couldn't constantly tell our friends "It's 'hammer time," before darting off for a play session.
StarCraft 2 will likely be so great, many players will want to buy it twice. Unfortunately, however, after today's BlizzCon announcement, they'll be doing Blizzard (and themselves) a huge disservice by only making two StarCraft treks. Simply put, they'll be missing 1/3 of the spacefaring RTS' universe-spanning plot, because Blizzard has announced that StarCraft 2's campaign will clear the launch pad on three separate occasions.
Predictably, each release will focus on one of StarCraft's trifecta of races. Terrans: Wings of Liberty will be first out the gate, presumably with the national sport that is the game's multiplayer mode. Zerg: Heart of the Swarm and Protoss: Legacy of the Void, then, will be pseudo-expansion packs.
Don't get the wrong idea, though. Blizzard executive VP of game design Rob Pardo explained that the Zerg and Protoss titles will "be like expansion packs," but that they'll bombard players with content. "We want them to feel like standalone products," he said.
In order to accomplish this, each campaign will break off from the rest of the pack with its own feature set. The Zerg's flesh-crawling installment will include RPG elements, while the Protoss are going the diplomatic route. Terrans, on the other hand, seem to be getting the short end of the stick with only a Protoss mini-campaign to their name, but we'll see.
Pardo also noted that Blizzard sliced and diced StarCraft 2's campaign not for fat stacks of cash (WoW would get jealous, after all), but in order to avoid delaying the game or cutting corners on quality.
As for how long in between installments we'll be hanging from cliffs, Blizzard wouldn't say. However, knowing Blizzard, we're guessing the games will be less of a Zerg-rush and more of a Zerg-Half-Life 2 Episode Three.
“Beginning November 18th players across North America and Europe will journey with the dwarves deep into Middle-earth to reclaim the ancient kingdom of Khazad-dûm from the minions of Saruman,” said Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer of The Lord of the Rings Online.
And no, this isn't a loquacious announcement that LOTRO has slipped to November 18th, 2009 -- but that'd make far more sense than what Turbine is actually doing.
For the uninitiated (aka, those who don't read article titles), WoW: Wrath of the Lich King -- possibly the most-anticipated MMO expansion ever and one of the few 2008 PC releases that can challenge Spore to a bout of sales-fisticuffs and match the game blow-for-blow -- is crashing down the gates (and probably its own servers) on November 13th. Add to that the fact that LOTRO is basically WoW plus little big-footed people and minus about 9 million players, and you have a painstakingly composed financial suicide note ready to go.
Find out why Turbine chose to face the Lich King's wrath head-on after the break.