Blizzard has announced the start of World of Warcraft Classic. The wayback mode goes live on August 27th, putting players back to 15 years ago when Leeroy Jenkins had to be explained to moms and the mere mention of Barrens chat could elicit groans from the MMO audience. Beginning tomorrow, some lucky players will be asked to participate in small-scale beta testing, with invitations going to current “dedicated” folks as determined by “select” criteria.
Blizzard will begin accepting character names on August 13th, so if you want that coveted “Elric_of_Meltingbone” or “Drizzt_Doodoo” you’ll have to be ready to jump in the queue then.
WoW Tokens, introduced in April 2015, can now be spent in other Blizzard games besides World of Warcraft. Blizzard announced that going forward, players will be able to convert their WoW Tokens into 30 days of game time for World of Warcraft, or redeem them for $15 each deposited directly into their accounts as Battle.net Balance. These funds can be used for purchasing a variety of items Blizzard offers for sale, such as Overwatch loot crates or Hearthstone card packs. Previously, the WoW Token was only useful as a way for speculators to legitimately exchange real money for in-game gold or game time, and only in the MMO. With the change to WoW Tokens, market fluctuations reflect the enhanced uses.
WoW Tokens cost $20 real money when purchased in the World of Warcraft in-game shop, so savvy traders will need to take advantage of the gold exchange rates to make a profit on the virtual coins. Careful players should note that the already brisk business for stolen Battle.net accounts will likely rise due to the WoW Token’s newly increased value.
Warcraft, the live-action cartoon based on Blizzard’s long-running MMO, begins on June 10th. If you’re one of the dozen or so people on Earth that have never tried World of Warcraft, then you can snag a free copy of the game by consenting to watch approximately two hours of computer graphics over-emote and punch each other. Theaters will give away promotional keys for the game that can be redeemed here starting on the 26th of May when you buy a ticket to see the movie. Duncan Jones, the director, gave us Moon and Source Code so how bad can Warcraft be? It certainly can’t be worse than an Assassin’s Creed movie that mostly takes place in the present-day Abstergo setting.
Two high-profile sets of gaming numbers will no longer be reported. Microsoft will no longer divulge Xbox hardware sales numbers, and Activision Blizzard will no longer give out World of Warcraft subscriber data.
Microsoft announced that they will no longer be sharing Xbox One hardware sales in their investor reports. In their latest earnings release, Microsoft folded Xbox One sales under More Personal Computing and stated only that gaming revenue grew 6%, and that Xbox Live transactions were healthy. When pressed on the change in reporting, Microsoft told GameInformer that they feel Xbox Live engagements are more relevant to the business. No doubt Microsoft would be crowing about hardware sales if the gap between sales of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One weren’t so far apart and getting worse all the time.
Activision Blizzard’s executives told investors listening to the company’s latest quarterly conference call that World of Warcraft current subscribers hit 5.5 million, and that it would be the last time they reported that data. According to them, subscriber numbers do not adequately tell the story. “There are other metrics that are better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance.” Surely, the fact that 5.5 million subscribers represents a 100,000 loss of players since the last quarter, and makes this a nine-year low for the MMO had nothing to do with that decision? To Activision’s credit, the news about their impending acquisition of Candy Crush developers King Digital had more impact.
Blizzard is making another expansion for World of Warcraft. Revealed at Gamescom today, World of Warcraft: Legion will bring Illidan Stormrage back to the game. His reappearance will allow players to become Demon Hunters, a new playable class featured in the expansion. That’s good because Blizzard says the expansion will center around the “largest demonic invasion of Azeroth ever.” Think of it as The Burning Crusade 2: Stormrage Boogaloo. In addition to a new heroic class, Legion will add a new continent called The Broken Isles, an increased level cap to 110, customizable Artifact Weapons, and a revamped honor system for player-versus-player progression. Order Halls, based on the existing follower system, will expand that concept with class-specific headquarters. Blizzard has not released any information on a release date.
According to the most recent financial disclosure from Activision Blizzard, the player population of World of Warcraft is down to 5.6 million subscribers. Last quarter’s population was 7.1 million, down from the Warlords of Draenor’s November launch number of roughly 10 million. At 5.6 million, this is the lowest the subscriber number has dipped since 2005. While subscriber numbers generally experience a bump with the launch of new content, it remains to be seen what long-term effect Legion will have on this trend.
If it’s good enough for folks in San Andreas, it’s good enough for citizens of Azeroth. Patch 6.1 for World of Warcraft includes the S.E.L.F.I.E. Camera reward for completing the new Field Photography quest. Complete a follow-up mission, Lens Some Hands, and players get to upgrade their camera to a version that adds simple Instagram-style filters. The MMO’s upcoming patch also includes integration with Twitter, so your duckfaced character can unleash her inner Kim Kardashian. It’s all about the social!
Patch 6.1 is available for players to check out on the public test realms.
Want to play World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Warlords of Draenor? Get in line. No, really. It launched yesterday and eager virtual denizens of Blizzard’s MMO have reported long queues, disconnects, and a befuddling lack of actual playtime. Blizzard has confirmed that they are working on the issues, but that some of the problems originated from people using a distributed denial of service attack on their servers. For shame hackers! There are more than enough legitimate players clogging up the servers to bring them down. Go bother an MMO that needs the attention.
The worst thing about a new MMO expansion is actually playing through the old stuff from before the expansion. Who really wants to slog through all those quests and monsters to get to the level needed for the new content? Since the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion will raise the overall level cap in World of Warcraft to level 100, players will need to be at least level 90 to appreciate all the shiny new areas. That’s a lot of raiding! Blizzard knows that people can’t wait to experience Warlords of Draenor, so they’re going to help bypass the grind. According to the latest post on the World of Warcraft blog, players that pre-purchase the digital edition will get an immediate boost to level 90 for one character on their account. Boom! Just like that! Draenor ready!
Maybe you have more than one character you’d like to boost? Maybe you just want to get to the “endgame” and do what all your cool guildmates are doing with a new character after the expansion ships? Well, Blizzard has something in the works that may help you get past all the boring stuff so you can actually have fun in their game.
We’ve also heard feedback from players that they’d be interested in boosting multiple characters to 90, including alts they play with friends on other factions and realms. We’ve been evaluating ways to make that possible without having players go through roundabout methods (such as purchasing multiple boxes and performing multiple character transfers), and in the near future we’ll be testing out a feature that gives you the option to purchase a character upgrade directly. We’ll have more information to share later – including details on our character-upgrade plans for Asian regions where players don’t buy expansion boxes – but you’ll start seeing pieces of the process soon on the PTR, so keep an eye out.
Earlier this month, Blizzard had sent a survey to some players asking them if they would purchase a way to advance a character to level 90 and what price they would find acceptable for that offer. What price would put on your time?
Edward Snowden’s classified document leaks continue to show that gaming is a growing target of intelligence surveillance. In the latest batch of documents, it was revealed that the United States National Security Agency and the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters have monitored Xbox Live interactions, sent virtual undercover agents to infiltrate World of Warcraft and Second Life, and made a “vigorous effort” to exploit gaming data.
The NSA document, written in 2008 and titled Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments, stressed the risk of leaving games communities under-monitored, describing them as a “target-rich communications network” where intelligence targets could “hide in plain sight”.
Games, the analyst wrote, “are an opportunity!”. According to the briefing notes, so many different US intelligence agents were conducting operations inside games that a “deconfliction” group was required to ensure they weren’t spying on, or interfering with, each other.
Blizzard denied that they worked with the surveillance agencies in the documents to monitor their games and said that any spying was done without their permission. Both Microsoft and Second Life’s Linden Lab declined to comment.
To the agent that monitored my Live chat on September 12th of last year: I was totally kidding buddy!
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