World of Warcraft is pretty popular. So much so, in fact, that Blizzard could probably slap its painfully recognizable logo on an empty box and still have The Sims spewing furious, unintelligible curses over their relinquished seat at the top of the sales charts. But Blizzard would never do that to you. Instead, the mighty blue giant is cramming Warcraft-branded boxes with Wrath -- an ethereal substance that, admittedly, is still a fairly hard sell.
Don't worry, though; for those of you who feel deserving of an actual reward for you unbridled -- and somewhat perplexing -- devotion, Blizzard is also releasing a Wrath of the Lich King Collector's Edition. Within its confines, you'll find the following:
The Art of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, a 208-page book featuring never-before-seen images from the game.
An exclusive in-game pet: Frosty, the baby frost wyrm.
A behind-the-scenes DVD containing over an hour of developer interviews, the Wrath of the Lich King intro cinematic with director’s commentary, and more.
The official soundtrack CD, containing 21 epic tracks from the game, along with exclusive bonus tracks.
A mouse pad featuring a map of the newly opened continent of Northrend.
Two World of Warcraft Trading Card Game March of the Legion™ starter decks, along with two exclusive cards available only in the Collector’s Edition.
This "expansion," as Blizzard is calling it, hits shelves on November 13. Frankly, though, we just can't understand the appeal. Oh well.
It doesn't matter that you rarely, if ever, saw Scrappy-Doo get into a fight, because you always knew that given the chance, he'd be ready to throw down no matter who the opponent was. Apparently that same spunkiness doesn't translate into the tech industry. How many times did we hear about Microsoft promising a hostile takeover of Yahoo its demands weren't met? Skip ahead a few months and Microsoft is still Microsoft, while Yahoo is still Yahoo.
Now it's Electronic Arts who is backing down in its hostile takeover bid, who earlier this year took it unsolicited $2 billion bid public for rival game maker Take-Two Interactive, best known for the Grand Theft Auto series. EA tried unsuccessfully to buy Take-Two back in February for $26 per share, and after the offer was refused, EA tried its hand at strong-arming Take-Two with threats of a hostile bid, only to extend the deadline multiple times.
The hostile bid official ended in August, and now one month later, so too has EA's interest in the company. Perhaps Spore is doing better than the Amazon customer reviews would indicate?
The job of a whistleblower is a dangerous one, and Robert Delaware has paid the price for speaking out against Microsoft. The contracted game tester had worked closely with the Xbox line, and particularly Bungie Studios since early 2005. For those who haven’t been following the story, Delaware’s testimonial was the basis for an article that made headlines last week regarding Xbox 360 hardware failures at launch. In the VentureBeat article, Delaware detailed the known quality issues with the 360 and that management ignored multiple warnings in order to gain an advantage over the not yet released Playstation 3. Legally Microsoft was within its rights to fire Delaware for his unauthorized interview, but he remains defiant. Delaware claims to have been aware of the possible ramifications but was willing to take the risk. Upon termination Delaware was also warned by an HR representative that he faces possible lawsuits from both Microsoft and the company who contracted him out. The Interview conducted by VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi remains unconfirmed by Microsoft and in response had only this to say: "This topic has already been covered extensively in the media. This new story repeats old information, and contains rumors and innuendo from anonymous sources, attempting to create a new sensational angle, and is highly irresponsible.”
Did Robert Delaware do the right thing? Or was he just looking for publicity?
A few days ago, we reported a novel attack on Will Wright's critically acclaimed title, Spore. The game, which comes inextricably chained to a monolithic slab of DRM, provoked a sea of gamers to crash headfirst into Amazon.com's user review section. Soon, the tides receded, taking with them all but a single star from Spore's user rating. Certainly, this demonstration of gamerly ire was more meaningful than a simple Internet petition, but those brave souls have yet to receive custom apology letters from EA with realistic-looking, printed-on signatures and tear blats, so a rousing success their movement was not.
Now, Forbes sends word that indignant gamers have peeled back their kid gloves to reveal cruel hooks. Where protest failed, they hope that theft will succeed.
"By downloading this torrent, you are doing the right thing," wrote one user going by the name of "deathkitten" on the popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay. "You are letting [Electronic Arts] know that people won't stand for their ridiculously draconian 'DRM' viruses."
"You have the power to make this the most pirated game ever, to give corporate bastards a virtual punch in the face," deathkitten added.
In addition, the most-downloaded Spore tracker brings with it "step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble the copy protections, along with a set of numerical keys for breaking the software's encryption."
And it's not just embittered hyperbole. Chief Executive Eric Garland of Big Champagne, a peer-to-peer research firm, notes that deathkitten's tactics may very well be working. "The numbers are extraordinary," Garland said. "This is a very high level of torrent activity even for an immensely popular game title."
But the question remains: Is this the right course of action?
SOE does what Blizzardon't. The online-focused branch of Sony's empire is trying its darndest to wed console and PC MMOs with its upcoming title, The Agency. However, the bride and groom to be aren't exactly hitting it off.
First up, PC games are much more susceptible to hacks and 'sploits than their console brethren, and "Being able to manage that is no simple task," said Executive Producer Matt Wilson.
Second, the mouse-keyboard vs. controller feud continues to rage, and neither side seems interested in saluting the ol' white flag.
"We can do things to equalize them, whether that's aim assist on the console or other things on the PC, but when we've actually done focus group testing and so forth, you're always going to have the console players versus the PC players," Wilson noted.
However, the final hurdle is definitely the tallest. Wilson explained:
"MMOs live and die by their updates, and we need to be able to update our product frequently," says Wilson. "The console requires a certification process, while the PC does not. And so it's going to be really difficult for us to maintain that synchronization across both platforms, and make that work really easily with the value of the MMO."
Assuming that SOE satisfactorily solves all of these issues, would you even want to play a PC-PS3 MMO?
GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo recently voiced his thoughts on digital game distribution's far-flung, jumpsuit-clad future -- even in the face of screaming success stories like Steam. Fortunately, David Perry, Shiny Entertainment founder and current CCO at Acclaim Games, speaking for everyone else currently residing in, on, or around earth, decided to cram some food for thought down DeMatteo's throat.
"I hate to think someone this powerful can put out this kind of nonsense in an interview, and confuse professional investors, that might have been interested in the digitally distributed future of the games business," he wrote. "Some developer (or publisher) pitching a digitally distributed strategy might have just been 'thrown under the bus' today by Mr. DeMatteo."
"This wave will be just like the disruption the camera industry experienced – you can hope 'digital' won't show up and keep selling film cameras, or you can embrace the future. Every major camera company alive today embraced the digital future. It's not like he or GameStop has any part in deciding where or when; the consumers will decide. Let's face it, he's running the shop that sells the film."
"If they want their company to still exist in 12-17 years, I'd go and buy STEAM from Gabe Newell, which technically can't exist yet as Gabe is clearly 12-17 years ahead of the curve," Perry concluded, also noting that 100% of Acclaim's digitally distributed games are profitable.
Did you know that, on average, gamers find themselves embroiled in 43% more shouting-matches than non-gamers?
Neither did I, because it's a statistic I just made up. However, enshrouded by the many licks of flame that are now consuming my pants, there's a spark of truth. When we throw down across the 'net, the Lord Almighty actually plugs his ears -- not even He can damn people that hard.
Really, if I were to base my opinion of the gaming community on my harrowing online excursions, I probably would've slipped a full suit of armor under my Green Linen T-Shirt at QuakeCon.
But I don't, and I didn't.
Because, by and large, even the more obnoxious gamers are typically rational, socially acceptable creatures. However, given a headset and a broadband hook-up, everything changes. Outside, you're a walking, talking, glaring, physically imposing person; but on the Internet, you're a whisper bumbling through the static -- at best, a throaty voice who knows its way around a shotgun. In short, you're nothing. Your lack of presence, then, is a bright red target for someone's insecurities. If they're feeling small, they can make you even smaller with minimal effort.
Now let's turn this thing around. When you hop online, do anonymity's rays transform you into, well, a jerk? Or are you immune to Mr. Hyde's advances?
Well, today's Roundup should at least add some flavor to your jerkery. Inside, you'll find stories about GameStop sealing its own fate, NCSoft deciding that size does matter, and Hideo Kojima rallying against in-game advertising.
We knew Microsoft wouldn’t forget about us gamers. Yesterday, they debuted a new mouse-tracking technology in the Explorer mouse, which is targeted toward “productivity” users. We were a little skeptical of Bluetrack’s application for gaming, since the Explorer only has a 1000Dpi sensor. Well, Microsoft has assuaged all fears with the announcement of the Sidewinder X8, a BlueTrack mouse which has a sweet 4000 dpi sensor. This high-end gaming mouse is a step up from the original Sidewinder (which will remain in production), and retains features we like from the series: a Dpi adjustor with LCD indicator, vertical thumb buttons, and customizable weights (features which were omitted from the lower-end X5 model). We got some hands-on time with the X8, and was able to put it side-by-side with its non-BlueTrack siblings.
Hit the jump to check out the entire Sidewinder family.
If you play vidoegames, there's something wrong with you.
No, no, not in the "And your face is dumb and those pants do, indeed, have people mistaking you for a land-walrus" sense; I mean that you're genuinely dissatisfied with some aspect of your life. At the very basest level, you're bored. Life, at the clock tick during which you choose to plop down with a controller, just isn't giving you the pulse-pounding rush you desire. That's a problem, and gaming is your escape.
Thus, we walk right into the term "escapism." The moment you hit the power button and leave a game world's towering doors swinging wide in your wake, your mid-level job, your annoying roommate, and your walrus-pants are all left pounding their fists on the other side.
But that's where our paths diverge.
For instance, my mind wanders when its juices aren't crashing toward one coherent goal. To properly leave my world behind, I need another established world to focus on. I need a game that'll pour so many thoughts into my mind that all of my real world baggage gets crowded out.
However, you might be different. You might enjoy sitting back, relaxing, and turning off all but your basest inhibitory functions. You might be a Nintendo fan. After all, who really wants to think after a tough day in the office?
So, when you're bitter, sore and nursing a severe case of the Mondays, which games help you escape? Do you kick back with something simple and fluffy, or do you absorb yourself in more complex fare?
Well, either way, today's Roundup is nearly guaranteed to slump your tensely hunched shoulders. Unless you're emotionally invested in the well-being of Ensemble Studios, Fallout 3's global censorship, or your inability to ever play Portal 2 as a result of the world's untimely end, this Roundup is like slipping into a steamy bath.
"With great power, there must also come great responsibility" -- Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
"With great power and great responsibility, there must also come walls of text." -- Far too many videogames
It's atrocious, too. Last night, I was forced to read my way through the opening of a game released only a week ago. The game's gloriously rendered prison cell bars would likely have even the rottenest of holding cells in jealous fits, yet mere moments after I moved beyond those gnarled steel beams, I was assailed by a text tutorial of such ridiculous length that it would've benefitted from a rabbit-ear feature.
"This is next-gen?" I wondered aloud.
We can polish graphics to such a sheen that even the most mundane objects wrap their tendrils securely around our eyes and never let go, yet integrating a tutorial with actual gameplay is an insurmountable task? The very thought is absurd, and doesn't exactly get me pumped to play the rest of the game. After all, if gameplay matters so little that the designers couldn't even be bothered to, you know, teach me through interactivity -- a little quirk that I hear makes games sorta cool -- then why should I expect anything better from the rest of their game? It's like popping a Porsche chassis over a Flintstones car; take the thing for a spin and your next stop will be the used-car dealership.
So, which ripe-smelling, antiquated videogame "features" do you think should be given the boot? Are there any that you'd actually like to see stick around?
Today's Roundup is all about the future -- no artifacts from 1993 here. Inside, you'll find only the latest news concerning Deus Ex 3, F.E.A.R. 2 (Yep, that's the name, now), and two separate plans to "save" PC gaming.