Half Price Pandas November 27, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria
Now, you cannot take every sale, promotion, or other offer as a sign of something wrong. Coke goes on sale at the supermarket practically every third week where I live, and I don’t start wondering if they, or the store, are in trouble because of it.
Still, when a WoW expansion goes half price just two months after launch, it is something that makes you go “hmmm…”
I recall, back in the day, Burning Crusade going for full price until just before Wrath of the Lich King.
Yes, it is the high holiday shopping season, a time for deals. And this offer appears to be directed to former subscribers. (Offer ends November 29th) And, of course, the market has changed since 2006 and Burning Crusade.
Then again, Amazon.com had the Pandaria Collector’s edition for half price as well, and that is generally a sign of excess stock.
I still have no burning desire to go back to Azeroth. Well, post-Cataclysm Azeroth in any case. But I am sure this will get a few more people back in the game.
Monday Morning Panda Blues October 1, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warplanes.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria, Nostalgia, Trion Worlds
Last week there was the usual rush to declare victory or defeat, at least on the sales front, when it came to Mists of Pandaria.
Retail sales were pegged at 600-700K units, which is down considerably from past expansions. Of course, that is only physical boxes shipped. There are only pulled-from-various-orifices estimates on digital downloads. (Some of which were pretty positive.) Only Blizzard knows the real answer there, though if there is no press release from them you can guess that they did not set any records. We will have to wait for the quarterly report for those numbers if that is the case.
Blizzard was pushing the digital side pretty hard, and the option does come with the advantage of having everything pre-loaded and ready to go come launch.
And Blizzard itself is offering free server transfers due to queues on a few servers. Eight US servers with long queues does not seem like a lot compared to the full list of servers, but how many MMOs get queues after 3 months, much less after nearly eight years?
Another press release I don’t expect to see is one announcing how much money Trion Worlds raised from their own little jab at Mists of Panadaria.
Trion Worlds announced their own “buy our expansion and save a panda” offer, where they declared… well, I’ll used their blurb.
Trion Worlds, Inc. will donate US$1.00 to Pandas International for each copy of Storm Legion that is pre-ordered through StormLegion.com, worldwide (excluding Alabama, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, even though we really wish they’d let us), between 12:00am PDT September 26, 2012 through 11:59pm PDT October 3, 2012, up to a maximum amount of US$10,000.00. Know why we have to do that? Maine. Weird, right? We don’t know what they have against Pandas, or why $10,000 is a magical number, either. This contribution is not tax deductible, but it would be pretty awesome if it were. Pandas International is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization located at P.O. Box 620335, Littleton, Colorado 80162, whose mission is to ensure the preservation and propagation of the endangered Giant Panda.
The reason I suspect that we won’t see a follow up press release on this because even if they make the 10,000 mark, it would still be during the same week when Blizzard sold more than 600K boxes. And if they don’t make that mark… well, really nothing to brag about then. This sort of publicity works better for somebody like The Oatmeal, who just wanted to annoy someone, than as a method to sell game boxes.
Then there is actually playing the game itself. I have a number of friends who pre-ordered the expansion because… well… its WoW and they always get the expansion… who seem reasonably happy. I did hear more than once a little bemusement that after the panda starting zone it was a bit of a bummer to then have to work their way through all of the old content to get to the rest of the expansion with their new character.
One friend failed to outsmart the system by using a refer a friend bonus to grant levels to their new panda monk. Unfortunately, impatient with the starter zone, they apparently applied those levels right away and ended up with a level 30 monk they didn’t know how to play. Let that be a warning to you.
I decided to give the new panda starting area a look. I think one of the smarter things that Blizzard did was opening up the full selection of races to all players, regardless of which expansions they own. Selling boxes is a good boost to income, but keeping people subscribed is the winning strategy.
Anyway, a new panda warrior was born.
The panda starter area is very nice and does not, I gather, degrade Asian culture for western consumption, or play to western stereotypes of Asian culture, since nobody seems to be out there protesting. I guess pandas are too cute… or Victoria’s Secret models are too thin.
My patience for starting a new character in WoW is fairly low at this point, but I made it pretty far into the tutorial. The monkeys who climb on your back and need to be shaken off might be a joke too close to home for some who spend too much time in Azeroth, but the whole thing is good for new players as it introduces new game concepts at a measured pace. It might be too slow for veterans, but you will come out of it knowing the basics of the game.
The only real surprise was that on a Sunday afternoon I only saw a single other person in the starter area. I realize that, being on the conveyor belt of such an area, you won’t run into a clump of people, but just one seemed quite sparse. But my own server, Eldre’Thalas, seems to be somewhat sparse overall these days. I couldn’t even take care of my item level needs at the auction house the previous week. It has fallen quite a ways from the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, when the queue to get on during the first few days was 700+ players deep at times.
But, nice though the starter area is, it did not respark any desire for WoW in me. I did not run out and buy the expansion or decide to stay subscribed.
There is still a great deal of nostalgia for WoW in our regular group. The topic comes up now and again, even when I am not making videos designed to ignite those emotions. But our own time in the game peaked about the time our server’s population did, during Wrath of the Lich King. WoW has moved towards the point EverQuest occupies in my heart. The disappointing part is that, unlike EverQuest, we cannot go back to revisit old WoW as Blizzard washed it all away with Cataclysm.
And the world keeps turning.
Mists of Pandaria Launches Today September 25, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria, Ultima Online
Nearly eight years after launching World of Warcraft, Blizzard today shipped the fourth expansion to its mega money making MMO, Mists of Pandaria. As is the case with any Blizzard product release, there were midnight launch events all over.
I do wonder if, in the age of digital distribution, how long retailers will be willing to expand their hours for something that seems to be moving away from brick and mortar.
Mists of Pandaria continues the pattern set previously of WoW expansions coming out about every two years.
- WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
- The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
- Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
- Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
Making the average time between releases just shy of 716 days.
I strongly suspect that Blizzard’s ability to get away with an expansion every two years with, at times, a seeming modest investment in additional content in between, while continuing to grow until recently, was a big influence on SOE who, up to that point, seemed to feel that cranking out an expansion every six months, finished or not, was necessary to stay afloat. They have flailed about significantly less in the last few years.
Mists of Pandaria will likely stem the tide of subscription losses for now. WoW has gone from over 12 million subscribers just after the launch of Cataclysm to 9.1 million at the last quarterly report. We will know in a year or so if Pandas are a magic elixir or just a plateau on the way down. Mike Morhaime wisely declined to make predictions on that topic.
Unlike past WoW expansions, I will not be picking up Mists of Pandaria today. Our regular group grew bored of Cataclysm and moved on to other games. We are currently playing Rift.
But a lot of people have been waiting for this day. How about you?
Oh, and Ultima Online turned 15 today. Imagine that. [Link fixed]
WoW Drops More Subscribers Than SWTOR Has Left August 3, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria, Subscription Numbers
Welcome to the Wrath of the Burning Panda Cataclysm.
Well, it hasn’t been a good week for news if you are a fan of subscription only MMOs. Star Wars: The Old Republic threw in the towel and declared for free to play while other games that already converted continued to dig themselves further into the cash shop morass, whose depths I am sure we have yet to plumb.
And now it has come out that World of Warcraft has shed another million or so users, bringing the game from 10.2 million subscribers at the end of Q1 2012 to 9.1 million subscribers at the end of Q2 2012. More people picked up a copy of Diablo III in Q2 (10+ million) than remained subscribed to WoW.
Which leads me to some thoughts.
The stability of Q1 must have been partially because of subscription overhang. People cancelled but their subscriptions hadn’t run out. Then again, WoW only shed 100K subscribers in Q4 2011. How much overhang could there be?
Oddly, there was a report towards the end of Q1 that SWTOR was having an impact on WoW. I wonder how that idea works in retrospect? In Q1 WoW was stable and SWTOR shed 400K subscribers.
While WoW hasn’t taken the short term dive in subscribers that SWTOR has, at least as a percentage of total, it is still down from a post-Cataclysm peak of “more than 12 million” at the end of 2010 to 9.1 million midway through 2012. That is a 25% drop in 18 months.
There is still no breakout of the subscription numbers between Western and Asian subscribers, who pay very different rates to play the game. Losing a million Western subscribers would probably be a much bigger hit to the bottom line than a million Asian subscribers.
It is probably no accident that Mists of Pandaria is set to launch about a month before the first of the million players (around 20% of the Western subscriber base) who signed up for the Annual Pass plan, which got you a free copy of Diablo III, wrap up their one year commitment. I am free to cancel come Halloween.
My gut says that we are past the point where a new expansion can boost subscriptions significantly. If nothing else, there is the curse of the level based game with which to contend. 90 levels and four expansions start to look daunting to new players. You cannot just join up and play with your friends who are at level cap. Think EverQuest’s long, graceful decline into old age. (For a game at least.)
Unlike early MMOs, no one game seems to have replaced WoW. EQ siphoned off PvE players from Ultima Online. WoW became the new EQ. But WoW’s decline is not due to one game… there is no “WoW Killer”… but to a profusion of games in the market. And many of those games came about because WoW was so profitable that other players wanted in.
And, of course, all that crowding pushed alternate payment models, and so “free” became the operative word. Not only do you have a lot more choices now, but for a lot of them you no longer need to buy a box and sign up for a monthly subscription. It is hard to compete with free… at least for specific definitions of free.
WoW still remains an outlier in the subscription MMO world, with a huge subscriber base and an insane profit margin, and still seems likely remain so for some time to come.
So what is it going to be? Will Pandas give Azeroth a decent surge in subscriptions? Or will things remain flat tapering into the long, slow decline?
Panda-monium Breaks Loose September 25th July 25, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Guild Wars 2, Rift, Torchlight II, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria, Storm Legion
The date has been set. Blizzard has announced that the Mists of Panderia expansion for World of Warcraft will launch on September 25, 2012.
Digital pre-orders are available now in both standard and deluxe versions.
I am sure there will also be a physical collector’s edition with the usual making of art book, music tracks CD, and other extras.
One of the biggest reactions I have seen to the digital deluxe edition is because it does not include a pet. A special pet… or three special pets… has been one of the traditional bonuses for collector’s editions.
It does however include a special mount. Mounts go for $25 at the Blizzard store, and the deluxe edition is only $20 more than the standard edition, so you could view it as a discounted mount purchase I suppose. The other items, more sigil fluff in Diablo III and some StarCraft II portraits seem, well… pretty meaningless to me.
But that kind of sums up my feelings about Mists of Panderia at the moment. The expansion is adding a new race, a new class, five more levels, pet battles, and some new lands to explore.
But nothing about it has me very excited. For starters, creating a panda character means 10 new levels of content, then 50 level of solo focused Cataclysm, 10 levels of Burning Crusade, 10 levels of Lich King, and 5 levels of Cataclysm until you get back to the new content.
Or you could just take one of your probably already at level cap characters and try out the new high level content.
Pet battles interests me mildly. Not enough to actually download the beta now that they are finally in, but enough that I will certainly poke my nose in to see what it is about at launch. I will still be in the last 30 days of my 1 year subscription commitment when this goes live.
But otherwise I am just not feeling it.
Of course, that might be a good thing.
If you are a long time reader you might have noticed a correlation between games about which I have been excited… Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Replublic (now officially Tortanic), and the Cataclysm expansion… and games which have disappointed me. The higher my spirits, the further they fall.
A sad commentary on life I suppose.
Meanwhile, I have often ended up enjoying things that I was initially unexcited about. Rift, Wrath of the Lich King, EverQuest II Extended… I was skeptical of these, yet ended up enjoying them quite a bit.
It is sort of a variation on the Oscar the Grouch “happy when I am angry, angry when I am happy” thing. Sort of.
Anyway, it is going to be an interesting third quarter this year. Guild Wars 2 goes live on August 28, the LOTRO Expansion Riders of Rohan shows up on September 5 last I checked, and Torchlight II is threatening to ship in September as well, though nothing is official there so it might change.
Meanwhile, I am still playing Rift and EVE Online. The instance group, once the summer hiatus comes to an end, still have a few dungeons to do before hitting level cap in Rift, at which point there might be an official date for the Storm Legion expansion. It was previously slated for “Fall 2012.”
And EVE Online… well, they release all sorts of stuff all the time there.
So there will be pandemonium in just the number of like games launching or launching new content.
What else is going to launch between now and Christmas?
Eligium and Endangered Pandas July 2, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Eligium, Mists of Pandaria, Pandas
Back from vacation. I took a bit of time to not only go through the pile of new mail in my inbox but to clear out some items that I had left sitting in there for possible future comment. Amongst all of that, I found a note from a few weeks back that I saved because it made me laugh.
In the midst of some bogus Mists of Pandaria invites, which I held on to just to measure how often I was getting them (about one every other day when averaged out over a couple of months, though up to 4 in a day at one point) I got an invite to what seemed to be another panda beta.
Eligium: The Chosen One! With a great big war panda as the logo!
My first thought was, “Well, who is trying to ride on Blizzard’s coat tails?” Featuring this picture so long after Mists of Pandaria was announced, and after we all analyzed the panda thing to death, could only be a “me too” ploy, right?
So I went to check.
And failed to find anything.
Well, anything new.
But the actual Eligium web site appears to be gone. Going to the URLs listed on the beta invite, they either go to an error 404 page, or route to a page inviting you to explore other Frogster games.
There was, however, one small link in some tiny print in the middle of that last page that directed one to the forum and an announcement that was posted just today.
ELIGIUM enjoyed an excellent start to the Open Beta in February 2012. Despite our prolonged efforts to support the community, listen and respond to feedback and criticisms, and ultimately do our utmost to offer players the virtual universe of their dreams, we have come to the conclusion that ELIGIUM does not fully meet the high expectations of Frogster as a publisher. Therefore, we have decided to discontinue the operation of the game with a heavy heart.
The beta will continue to run until July 17, 2012, and then the whole thing will be shut down.
And so panda monks seem to be the province of Blizzard and their next expansion.
Are there any other MMOs out there featuring panda monks?
Much Panda Phishing of Late June 22, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria, Phishing, Tokelau
The WoW related phishing scam of the moment… because there always seems to be one going at any given time… is related to the Mists of Pandaria beta. I have been seeing a lot of these in my inbox over the last few weeks. They seem to be coming in at the rate of at least one a day here.
And, as with higher quality phishing attempts, it looks good, isn’t full of typos or malformed English, and all of the visible links are legitimate. But if you click on that PLAY FREE NOW button, you get sent off to worldofwarcraftqrt.tk or some other similarly bogus URL.
Of course, since I already have access to the Mists of Panda beta via the one year commitment deal, there wasn’t a chance that I would fall for this. Plus they keep coming in on an email address not associated with my Blizzard account, always a warning sign.
Oddly, all of the bogus URLs I have seen are for the .tk top level domain, which apparently has a reputation for being scam and spam central. I wonder how the ~1,500 people in Tokelau feel about that?
Getting Optimized and Other Blizzard Tidbits February 17, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Bobby Kotick, Mists of Pandaria, Optimization
This is one of those “putting context in the timeline” sort of posts, so I remember what was going on.
We are still subscribed to World of Warcraft at our house. My daughter and I do some of the special events. But, for me, WoW is clearly the third game in a situation where I really only have time for two most weeks. It is not on the “Games I Play” list in the sidebar.
Anyway, some stuff happened on the WoW front.
WoW only lost 100,000 subscribers in Q4 2011, according to their earnings call. Given that they had previously shed ~2 million subscribers since the end of 2010, the bleeding has certainly slowed down. It is still odd to say “only 100,000 subscribers lost,” as that number would put any of WoW’s erstwhile competitors into near terminal shock if not straight into the morgue.
My first thought was that Star War: The Old Republic sure didn’t have much impact. But I think SWTOR came along too late in the quarter to really count as a factor there. I am sure Blizz counts everybody who is subscribed at the moment, so unless you subscription ran out just as you cancelled to go play SWTOR, you were probably still on the books.
We’ll see what the next quarterly statement says.
On the Full Year Plan
Over one million accounts opted for the full year and get Diablo III, Panda beta access, and a special mount.
I must admit here that my daughter and I are on that list. She wants the Panda beta bad… she likes to run around with pre-made level cap characters… and I was going to buy Diablo III on day one at list price anyway, so there we go.
Green Armadillo had a good post about this, which I won’t repeat in full. I will just say that the fact that Blizz got 20-25% of their Europe/Americas audience to sign on for a year seems like a pretty big coup. And they can already count this as over a million copies of Diablo III sold before the product is done.
I Have Been Optimized
I wasn’t sure what this was really about when I brought up the WoW launcher last week.
But Blizzard assures me it will all be fine. They are undoubtedly just making room for pandas on my hard drive.
Still, I am going to be that somebody running late for a raid was probably spitting bullets when this came up.
Some Dates… or Dates for Dates… Were Offered
We got a nice slide from Blizzard about upcoming items.
Diablo III is now targeted at Q2 2012. We can officially say that it slipped when it doesn’t ship until Q3 2012 at the earliest. I mean, given Blizzard history, we all know that is where we’ll be, right?
We also got a date, a very concrete date, March 19, 2012, to get more information about the next WoW expansions, Adventures in Panda Bay. I will still be very surprised if Pandas ship before Q4 2012.
A New Mount That Made No Splash At All
Blizzard added a new flying mount for WoW to the Blizzard store, bringing the total of store bought mounts to three. Three!
The new mount, Heart of the Aspects… and I think part of the problem with this mount is having a name that sounds like a description… a description of something that conjures forth no mental image whatsoever for me… slipped into the store without much fanfare. Or at least I did not notice any.
I also have to say that, when it comes to mounts for sale for cash, Blizzard is falling behind the curve. I think, looking at the Station Cash Store in EverQuest II, SOE must put out 2 new cash mounts a month. Granted, a lot of them look like ass, but they are clearly shoveling them out at a much faster rate. Of course, SOE makes almost 25% of their revenue on mounts while Blizzard still does it the old fashioned way… subscriptions.
I suppose one of the interesting things is that this mount went back to the “buy once, have it forever on all your characters” model. I am not sure what that says about the Guardian Cub model, but it cannot be a ringing endorsement.
And how much gold is a Guardian Cub going for these days? Has that market totally collapsed yet?
Blizzard is still likely to make all the profits for Activision Blizzard during quarters when no Modern Warfare title ships.
Oh, and Bobby Kotick did not ruin the movie Moneyball. He seemed right at home as the owner of a business totally detached from the essence and passion that drives it for nearly all of its participants and fans. A big stretch for him, I know, but he pulled it off.
Did I miss anything?
Prediction: Rift Will Go Free-to-Play When WoW Goes Free-to-Play February 1, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Cataclysm, Free-To-Play, Mists of Pandaria
It isn’t like Trion has been secretive about the game in whose market space they are playing. World of Warcraft is clearly their target, the source of much of their player base (a million customers at one point, by their accounting), and the model they feel they have to keep abreast of, if not ahead of, if they are going to succeed.
And so it is with their new “play 20 levels for free” announcement.
As Rift Junkies noted in their headline, this is a clear case of matching WoW.
Not that this is a bad thing. But I do wonder how Trion will react when the Age of Pandas arrives in Azeroth. Rift has spent its time so far competing against Cataclysm, but Blizzard won’t stay there forever.
I Thought This Achievement Was Going to be More Difficult… November 1, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Cataclysm, Hallow's End, Mists of Pandaria, Pandaclysm
As I mentioned in the October in Review post, and which you probably missed since it was at the end of a wall of text, my daughter and I are back to playing WoW a bit, thanks in large part to the promise of Pandas. And with Hallows End going on, I decided to try and get that mask achievement finished at last.
And then I got an unexpected achievement.
I barely got myself into Uldum before I got it too. I went through the little intro event.
And shortly ended up at Ramkahen, where I was promptly flamed by a passing epic dragon.
I am guessing they must have upped the Deathwing travel rate, since back when Cataclysm launched, I had my hunter out in Uldum for ages and never once saw him. But Vikund, he was out there for a couple hours and Ramkahen got lit up three times. And those flames last for a while.
And did they nerf flight routes while I was away as well? Vikund seemed to have all the flight points in Cataclysm, even in zones he had never visited before. Odd.
Anyway, I managed to visit all of the pumpkins in the new Cataclysm zones for that achievement, which only left me with the mask achievement… again.
Last year Hallow’s End finished up with me shy two masks. Cataclysm added four more masks, so I had six to get. I proceeded to hit every last pumpkin in Azeroth I could find and ended up with this.
Two damn masks left to go. Again. Ah well, next year in Stormwind, as they say.
At least I got the Creepy Crate pet for a few of my characters. And the critters it eats count towards the Critter Kill Squad guild achievement, which is good, as we seem to need another 30K critters to finish it off. Still, we have been progressing, and the last time I was paying attention to it, we needed 40K critters. Every little bit helps.