Category Archives: Blizzard

The Level 70 Boost Question for Wrath of the Lich King Classic

As we move inexorably towards Wrath of the Lich King Classic next week I have been running down what it is I need to do between now and then.  Really, with the launch at 3pm on Monday local time for me, anything I want to do needs to get done by Sunday night.

Monday afternoon is not far away

I have met my basic goal… the whole group has… of having a level 68 character ready to go into Northrend.  Op success on that front.

In addition, my hunter has also made it to 68, so I have an alt that can run off into the expansion on his own, which is generally how things go for me.

I have also managed to get my druid alt kind of close.  He’ll probably be level 66 or 67 by Sunday night, so not quite there for Northrend, but close.  I will be able to get him there without too much effort, though I am trying to get him as far along as I can with the experience boost still running.  Make hay while the sun shines and all that.

There is also my Death Knight… I am not sure what I’ll do with him, but he and my warrior are level 60, so stuck in Outland and unlikely to get very far before the experience boost falls off.  The downside of no Dungeon Finder is that before character boosts, it was the fast way to level up alts.  I went through Outland with a couple of alts solely by queuing up for dungeons.  Fast and easy.

Which brings us to the level 70 character boost on offer.  If I really, really want another character in Northrend, that is an option.  The thing is, I am not too sure I would play more than my main and my hunter alt in the first place.

I am trying to balance my expectations and abilities when it comes to Wrath Classic.

On the one hand, Wrath is the only WoW expansion that I played from launch to end.  I was clearly into it.  Short of raiding, I did all the things, played through with alts, ran Wintergrasp regularly, and was basically logged in almost every day.  So there is clearly something in there I enjoyed.

On the flip side, and I have brought this up before, am I willing to do it all again?  As I noted with my post on Thursday, I already did a lot of this.  My main character in retail WoW has the titles and achievements and faction rep and artifacts to prove it.  And I do not regret having made the effort to get, for example, that Kalu’ak fishing pole.

But do I really want to do that all again?

Yes?  Maybe?  I don’t know.  We’ll see how it goes.

I mean, I might be really into it.  It is quite possible that I might want to do, for example, the Argent Tournament dailies again until I am exalted with every faction and have all the special mounts and tabards and whatever.  Maybe I will want to run multiple characters through the content.

Which brings us to the level boosts… or the Wrath of the Lich King Classic Upgrades, as they are called over on Blizzard’s site.  If I want a level 70, I can have one.  I just have to be willing to pay the price.

How much is a boost worth?

The base price for that instant level 70 is fifty bucks.

Did I even pay that much for Wrath of the Lich King back in 2008?  I can’t remember.  It was a long time ago.  But $40 seems to ring a bell.  I know I didn’t buy the collector’s edition, because I don’t have the frosty pet.

So I am kind of torn on this.  One part of my brain, bouncing and enthusiastic for Northrend, is all, “Yes, buy it! No, buy the $80 version!  Go all in!  You know you want to!”

But another part of my brain… the part that not only feels that lack of commitment to the retro experience I pondered on Thursday, but also the skepticism that Northrend is going to be nearly as much fun the second time through… that part of my brain says it would be a complete waste of money.  Am I really going to play more than three characters?

Finally, there is the question of which character I would boost in any case.  Three characters are already in or so very close to Northrend as to be not worth the effort.  I have a couple of level 60s, but one is a DK which can’t be boosted, while my warrior… just doesn’t thrill me.

What class would even be worth boosting?  What character do I have that is far enough back to be worth the effort.

Roll on brother Chad

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Achievements, Northrend, and Classic Destinations

I had this list of things I wanted to write about before Wrath of the Lich King Classic went live, and now it is suddenly happening next week and I am scrambling to get in those last few pre-launch posts.

Another Day Closer

Wrath of the Lich King occupies a very special spot in the history of World of Warcraft.  It was the peak of the game’s popularity, it was a point when they seemed to get the flow of content updates just right to keep people engaged, and it was the “before” state of the game to Cataclysm‘s “after” situation, and the slow decline.

The early WoW timeline

And, for purposes of this discussion, it was very much the dividing line between “classic” and “modern” World of Warcraft.

That line, however, isn’t hard and precise, something that changed on December 7th, 2010 when Cataclysm launched.  WotLK arrived as the peak of the classic era and ushered in over the two years of its run things that changed the game nearly as much as the next expansion did.  The Dungeon Finder no doubt leaps to mind, which made the dungeon running experience a very different experience.  Cataclysm shut the door on classic, but Wrath set us on a path towards that.

But there were also achievements, which came in with the pre-patch.  I had to look that up because, in my brain, I had the notion that it came in later.  But all my earliest achievements are dated October 14, 2008, which makes it part of the 3.0 expansion pre-patch.

Achievements were one of the big splashy features, something that maybe didn’t change the game the way the Dungeon Finder did, but changed the way people felt about the game and how some of us approached playing it.

I have said this before, and I will reaffirm it now, that I have always been a pretty big fan of Blizzard’s approach to achievements.  They seemed to me to strike the write tone with few exceptions, made for a nice mix of gimme level items to peak game aspirations with plenty of oddball items in between.

I didn’t spend days fishing for coins in the fountain in Dalaran because it was the best mechanic in the game.  I did it because I wanted the Coin Master achievement.

Dalaran fountain fishing galore

So I was into it, at least to some extent.  I was good for goofy stuff or things like the explorer achievement, but I never quite made it there for the Loremaster.

And I get that achievements were not universally beloved.  Some people saw them as an immersion breaking intrusion in the play time.  I would have been fine if Blizzard had given people the option to hide achievements.  I’m pretty sure I wrote a post about that at some point, but can’t be bothered to dig up everything I am referencing.

But the message here is that I was largely pro-achievements when the showed up in Azeroth and have spent many happy hours doing things to add one more to my list of those earned.

Which leads me to Wrath Classic achievements.  I don’t care for them.

Seriously.  One of the reasons I know when achievements came in to the game is that when the Wrath Classic pre-patch dropped and I got my first achievement, I went looking to figure out how the Dungeon Finder got excluded but these made their way in.  I’d be willing to trade one for the other if they were from the same era.  But no, they were a day one feature so there is no “classic” argument to be made in order to exclude them.

So what is the problem?  Why am I suddenly anti-achievement?

It is actually a pretty simple explanation.  I’ve already done them.

Seriously, that is it.  I have fished in the fountain, danced drunk at Brewfest, run all the dungeons, earned all the mounts, and whatever else I might have been willing to do when I was 14 years younger and seeing all of this for the first time.

I shouldn’t begrudge anybody who wants to go do them, but I’ve been there, done that, and likely won’t put in the effort again.  I can log into retail and see them all if I want to reminisce.  Now I want the hide achievements feature for myself.

Which I suppose brings up one of the flaws in the retro server experience.  I want to go back and rekindle some memories of good time, relive a few good time, and enjoy the game as it was back in the day rather than the state it is in now.

Honestly, I’d like to get on whichever bus to Northrend that plans to stay there.  There is already buzz about Cataclysm Classic, and I have opinions… not all negative… about that for another post.  I am saying now (and we’ll see if I change my mind) that I’d like WoW Classic to culminate in Wrath and just left there for people to work through at their leisure.

Because another problem with retro servers is that they tend to be accelerated experiences.  And maybe in a year I’ll feel that I’ve spent enough time in the cold.  But right now Northrend is a destination, not a stop on the journey for me.  Perhaps if I am allowed to stay I’ll even go fish in the fountain in Dalaran, just for old time’s sake.

And maybe that is my problem… or the problem with retro servers… the lack of commitment by the company to the experience.  If I could just stay on a server that ended at Wrath, would I be happier, more committed myself, and willing to invest in the experience?  I certainly think I would.  But like most players, there is a notable history of discrepancy between what I say I want and what I’ll actually go all-in on.

The Road to Wrath Starts on August 30th

As I mentioned at the tail end of yesterday’s post, we have an official timeline from Blizzard for the roll-out of Wrath of the Lich King Classic.

The classic comes to classic

We knew previously that September 26th was the go live date and that Blizzard had a series of tasks to accomplish before we got there.  Now we have a more detailed timeline.

  • August 30
    • Pre-patch Begins: Wrath of the Lich King Pre-patch Launches and Fresh Start Realms go live during regional maintenance. [note: This includes death knights!]
  • September 6–13
    • Zombie Plague Event: A mysterious affliction begins to make its way through the capital cities. Players must be vigilant to avoid falling victim to its deadly effects.
  • September 13 – Launch
    • Scourge Invasion Event: In several locations throughout Azeroth, players must coordinate a defensive stand against the attacking Necropolis and defeat Scourge forces to gain powerful rewards.
  • September 20–October 6
    • Brewfest Begins: Do you love eating delicious fair food, drinking bountiful beverages, and riding rams around barrels of apples? Partake in activities and timed events to earn Brewfest souvenirs and achievements during this brewtiful holiday event.
  • September 26
    • Wrath of the Lich King Classic Launches: At 3:00 p.m. PDT, Wrath of the Lich King Classic will launch, and players are welcome to log in.
  • October 4 and 5
    • Arena Season 5 Begins: Season 5 will begin with the weekly reset.
  • October 6
    • Naxxramas, The Eye of Eternity, and The Obsidian Sanctum are Available at 3:00 p.m. PDT
      • Naxxramas, the giant Necropolis and the seat of the dreaded lich Kel’Thuzad, floats over Wintergarde Keep in Dragonblight, eager to aid the Lich King and his deadly machinations.
      • Located in the center of Coldarra, the Eye of Eternity will challenge players to defeat the blue dragon aspect, Malygos.
      • Dragonblight is home to the Obsidian Sanctum where players must venture below Wyrmrest Temple to bring an end to Sartharion and his lieutenants, Shadron, Tenebron, and Vesperon.

So come August 30th it will be time to start figuring out how to play with the WotLK class changes and specs.  And dual spec as an option.

That will also see death knights become available.   Not that I need another alt to play.  As noted yesterday, we’re going to have to focus a bit in order to make it to 70 in time for launch.

And there is enough between here and there to get in our way.  The plague event… at least as a paladin I can cure zombies… and the invasion event and Brewfest.  It seems like a lot going on between now and then.

The fresh start servers will also be showing up with the patch on August 30th.  I am very curious to see how many of those get launched.  I don’t doubt there is some demand for a fresh start, but I doubt it is anywhere close to the pent up demand there was when WoW Classic first launched.

Blizzard is also surprisingly holding the line on Dungeon Finder.  I thought they would surely change their minds or make some sort of option to have it on certain servers or something like that.  Then again, people have been mad at Blizzard for so many things over the last few years it is no doubt becoming much easier to tune out the noise of yet another angry group of players.

It won’t matter either way for our group.

So we have to get ourselves to level 70.  I guess we don’t have to worry about saving up for flying or flying mounts right away.  They would only be taken from us the moment we landed in Northrend.  But eventually we’ll have to collect our coins because the back third of WotLK requires a flying mount.

I also want to work on my trade skills.  Engineering became pretty useful in WotLK.  I’d kind of like to make that chopper again too.  But it is still something of a grind to get to 375 in Outland.

Work to be done, I just need to find the time to do it.  Not that it would be the worst thing in the world to not be ready on launch day, but I do want to see it all the same.  And, if I recall right, you can get away with being only 68, and all the more so if we go in to do quests as a group.


Blizzard Gets a Boost in Q2 2022 from Diablo Immortal

It is time once again for the Activision Blizzard quarterly financials and once again they are playing the “we’re being acquired so we don’t have to answer questions” card, just dropping the numbers on the investor relations site and calling it a day.

Activision Blizzard

Whatever.  Bobby Kotick is going to get even richer out of this.  There is no justice, but we were already pretty sure of that.

The overall company reported revenue of $1.64 billion, down from the $1.77 billion earned in Q1 2022, and even further down from the $2.3 billion a year ago in Q2 2021, but this time around it wasn’t Blizzard dragging down the team… not as much as last quarter at least.

Blizzard revenue in Q2 2022 was $401 million.

For once of late that was an uptick, as Blizz brought in just $274 million in Q1 2022.

Still, that was down from $419 million in Q4 2021, the $493 million posted in Q3 2021, the $433 posted in Q2 2021, and the $483 million posted in Q1 2021.

As for news about Blizzard, which is the only part of the company that I can be bothered to care about, the report had this to say:

The June launch of Diablo Immortal™, a deep and authentic Diablo experience designed for the mobile platform, marked the start of a rollout of substantial content across Blizzard’s key franchises. Diablo Immortal received high player ratings on mobile app stores around the world, and reached the top of the game download charts in more than 100 countries and regions following its launch. Over half of the game’s player accounts to date are new to Blizzard. The game ranked in the top-10 grossing games in U.S. app stores for the month of June.

Diablo IV, the next-generation installment in the genre-defining series, is planned for launch on PC and console in 2023. The title will support cross-play and cross-progression across platforms, and is designed to be the foundation for an engaging live service, providing ongoing storytelling and new content for many years to come.

In the Warcraft franchise, Blizzard plans to deliver an unprecedented level of WoW content in the coming months, with Wrath of the Lich King Classic launching on September 26 and World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the innovative next expansion for the modern game, slated for release later in the year. Blizzard is committed to growing its development resources to meet and exceed its community’s expectations, and at the end of the second quarter significantly bolstered its World of Warcraft team through the acquisition of Boston-based studio Proletariat.

During the second quarter, Blizzard unveiled Warcraft: Arclight Rumble™, an action-packed mobile strategy game that gives both new and existing fans an entirely different way to experience the Warcraft universe. Public testing of the game is underway in select regions.

Overwatch 2 is planned to launch in early access on PC and console on October 4. With a free-to-play live service model designed to provide frequent and substantial seasonal updates, this launch kicks off the next chapter for the acclaimed team-based action game.

Blizzard’s second quarter segment revenue and operating income were lower year-over-year but higher versus the first quarter. World of Warcraft net bookings declined versus a year-ago quarter that included the launch of Burning Crusade™ Classic, offsetting year-over-year growth for Hearthstone® and the contribution from the June launch of Diablo Immortal.

The one other thing that Diablo Immortal did was revive the long sinking Monthly Active Users number, the BS metric that Blizzard pulled out when reporting WoW subscribers became a litany of woe.  But they couldn’t even keep that metric up, and it has been in a steady decline since 2018, as noted over at Massively OP.   But Q2 2022 saw the MAU finally rise to 27 million, up from the 22 million in Q1, the nadir of the MAU reporting.

So Blizz has had some luck with Diablo Immortal, but they really need a strong Q3 with Overwatch 2 and Wrath of the Lich King Classic as well as a big Q4 with the WoW Dragonflight expansion to get back on track.


A Return to Azeroth

As I noted in the July month in review, I did it.  I pulled the trigger.  I resubscribed to World of Warcraft.

But I did not do so on what I would call a swell of enthusiasm.   I mean, yes, I am warming up to the return of the Lich King in September.

Mark that down, 3pm

It was more of a sense of inevitability, the knowledge that yes, our group was almost certainly going to reform for Wrath of the Lich King Classic, an expansion that looms large for so many.

Maybe I am overstating the tepidness of my commitment.  I am keen to see the place live and active and full of people running through the content together… at least until they do something that makes them phase out of site due to a story update.  There are some good things and some bad things.

But I compare this to how I felt just three years ago, when we had played in some of the WoW Classic beta and I wrote a post about how all I wanted to do was just play WoW Classic.  It was going to be less than a two week wait and yet seemed like forever at the time… though that was admittedly before April 2020 taught us all what forever really felt like.

And the payoff was there once it arrived.  I look back at my ManicTime play numbers and I spent a lot of time in WoW Classic.  One third of my recorded play time in 2020 was in old Azeroth.

As I have mentioned before, one of my worries though is that WotLK, having been demonstrably my favorite WoW expansion through several metrics, is that the classic variation will have to live up to those memories… and that is even tougher than living up to reality, because those memories are more than a decade old and my brain has smoothed over or forgotten most of the annoying things I am sure.

Of course, we’re also almost two months away from arriving in Northrend.  Still a lot of time to adapt… and come up with a plan.  We do need a plan.

Finally, one of my motivations for resubscribing now is that I am really not all that enthused about anything else I am playing, so I am hanging some hope on the idea that easing back into Azeroth will give me some focus.

Fortunately, I was not alone in resubscribing.  Technically all my talk of the upcoming Wrath Classic got Potshot to re-up first.  But I followed shortly thereafter, and by the weekend the whole group was back in the game.

Of course, the first problem was simply still being in Outland.

Oh yeah, this place

If there is once thing I have gotten out of Burning Crusade Classic it has been that my long lingering feeling that Outland wasn’t all that fun has been confirmed.  It is not all bad, but the philosophy for overland questing seems to have been, “If killing ten rats was good, then killing 15 must be better.”

Also, they made sure to cram in a lot of mobs to make sure you could get those 15 when the zone was full of other players, but when it is empty… and rare was the other player when we were out there… getting through the mob packs can be a slog.

Not that it is all bad.  It was still the era of group quests that actually required a group and gave decent, blue gear rewards.  That gave us something to work on.  And, when you’re with a group, cutting through the mobs littering the ground is a bit easier.

Wilhelm and Fergorin on their Pally chargers

We are, of course, still trying to formulate a plan.  The tentative placeholder is to just drive to level 70 as a group as best we can and then wait for Wrath Classic to land.  But even that has a lot of variable.  We all managed to get a couple of characters at least to 60 in WoW Classic, so there is a question of group composition.

And I suppose even getting to 70 is a bit of an open question.  The Joyous Journey 50% experience buff will speed things along.

Can be turned off by your local inn keeper

The boost is noticeable and we were making progress.

But then we decided to jump past Hellfire Peninsula and Zangarmarsh and head into Terokkar Forest as a group, hoping to reap a bit more experience from higher level quests only to run headlong into the first quest in the zone, the moth killing quest, which requires 10 drops across four people and the drops are infrequent so it started to feel like a slog almost right away.

That started fraying a nerve or two right off the bat.

Die moth, die!  Also, nice fiery enchant on my blade…

Fortunately that was a bit of an outlier at the start of the zone.  Once we got past that… and it took way to long to do so… things did pick up a bit for us.  Further quests that required drops were not so stingy, and other quests required less annoying objectives.

This, this is a quest objective

So our first weekend out we made it along a ways.  A couple of us hit 64.  Decent progress was made.

But probably more importantly, after a bit of a struggle to relearn the controls… Valheim and Minecraft just do things differently… we were able to get back into the groove of things pretty well.  One of the things that almost always feels good about returning to WoW is that the controls feel normal and comfortable.

Off we go again.  I am not sure any dungeon runs are in the cards, unless we do a couple over level.  As a group of four we were struggling in Outland and on our server things are pretty quiet.  We shall see.

Yes, Wrath of the Lich King Classic will Launch on September 26th

The rumor from last week… more than a rumor really… turned out to be true and Wrath of the Lich King Classic will launch on September 26th as the gypsy woman foretold.

I am starting to suspect that Blizzard is engineering these “leaks” just to stir up more attention for the actual announcement.  They certainly got an extra blog post about it out of me, and I am sure that made all the difference in the world.

He’s back… again… because he was in Warcraft III as well…

There is, of course, a full page announcement about the upcoming launch, including a retrospective section about what the expansion brought to Azeroth in its turn.

  • The Grim Frozen North – Heroes will begin their journey in one of two zones in Northrend—Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord—and adventure through some of the most epic vistas and beloved storylines in all of Warcraft before breaching the seat of the Lich King’s power in Icecrown.
  • The Rise of Death Knights – Available to both factions and starting at level 55, Death Knights—World of Warcraft’s first hero class—harness the powers of darkness to help combat the evil that threatens Azeroth. While Death Knights are limited to one per server and require a level 55 character on that server to create, in Wrath Classic, we will be bypassing that requirement for a player’s first Death Knight.
  • New Profession—Inscription – This new profession allows players to scribe mystical glyphs that modify the properties of spells and abilities (cooldowns, damage, etc.), and craft powerful trinkets and off-hand items.
  • Achievements Unlocked – Achievements are coming to WoW Classic, giving players new rewards for their exploits and accomplishments.
  • Dungeons & Raids – Relive seminal 5-player dungeons like Azjol-Nerub and the Culling of Stratholme, and lay siege to Naxxramas as a 25- or 10-player raid—an update of its original iteration as a 40-player raid in pre-expansion World of Warcraft.
  • Included With Existing World of Warcraft Subscriptions – As with previous WoW Classic releases, anyone who subscribes to World of Warcraft can also play Wrath of the Lich King Classic at no additional cost.

There is also a brief trailer in case you forgot what the Lich King looked like.

I am sure we will get a more comprehensive trailer when we get closer to the launch date.

This goes along with the main WoW Classic page, which is all about the upcoming expansion and a nice long article about Wintergrasp.

As I said last week, it might be time to start making a plan for Northrend.  Added into the mix, Blizzard has implemented a 50% XP boost so that those who ended up adrift in Outland can power through and be ready for the Lich King.

More XP for you and me

There will also be fresh start realms, for those who want to go all the way from 1 to 80 with the WotLK rules and talents, and there will be the usual boost to level 70 option for those who want to skip by the previous content and go straight into Northrend.  There will also be more open transfer options for classic servers.

The next question is likely when we will see the first fresh start realm.  According to past communications there was a list of things Blizzard had to do:

  • PvE to PvP transfer restrictions removed
  • Wrath Classic closed beta test
  • Classic Era clone service retired
  • Existing realms consolidated
  • New Fresh Start Realms with Wrath Classic pre-patch
  • Wrath of the Lich King launch

Beta testing seems to be under way, but I am not sure where we stand with the rest of the list.

Rumors of Wrath of the Lich King Classic coming on September 26th

Blizzard apparently updated the WoW Classic web site to include an image that had the launch date for Wrath of the Lich King Classic on it.

Now you see it, now you don’t

The image was quickly removed, but such retractions are never quick enough to hide what happened and if you know how to sort through your browser cache, you can retrieve such images even if you have refreshed or navigated away.  WoW Head was on it right away, and the word has since echoed across the land.

September 26th is a little later than I had pegged the start, thinking late August to early September might be the zone where it landed, putting it in before we changed from summer to fall.  But it is still in September, which puts it in Q3 2022, which I was pretty sure was a hard barrier for launch.  They need to get subscribers back in and paying before the the end of the quarter.

Now, of course, I am starting to realize that time is growing short.  I mentioned planning for the launch previously, but I haven’t actually done anything of the sort.

I am, however, warming to the idea… no current weather pun intended.  I might be getting past my initial “It will never be as fun as the first time” reaction to Wrath Classic.

Also, I kind of want a WoW-like MMO to play.  That is missing from my lineup.

We have kind of played through Valheim already and Minecraft hasn’t really been a big hit after the first week or two.  It isn’t a bad map and our base is nice, but I haven’t really been driven towards a project that would keep me invested and logging in.

And, while Potshot and I have been playing Solasta, and will likely continue, that is a different bird altogether and doesn’t scratch the same itch.

And WoW does scratch a particular itch, the one about being able to log in and spend 30 to 90 minutes playing, making some progress, and then logging out.  It has structure, progress, and it does lend itself to play sessions from bite sized to all day and into the night.

Friday Bullet Points about Blizzard and BlizzCon and Overwatch and Other Items

Activision Blizzard remains in the limbo between its scandals and its future as a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft.  In this interim period, Bobby Kotick remains firmly at the helm and the company has to keep making money or they might pooch the deal.  And, while we get abbreviated quarterly financials from the company, they still have to keep enticing us so we have gotten some news from Blizzard.

  • BlizzCon in 2023

There was an interview in the LA Times with Mike Ybarra, head of Blizzard that contained some interesting tidbits.  It is behind a paywall, but other sites have picked up the stories, so they get links instead.  One of the things that came up was the return of BlizzCon.

BlizzCon in Blue

Blizzard would like to go back to having a live BlizzCon event, starting back up in 2023 when, presumably, the Microsoft acquisition is over and some bad actors in the executive suite at Activision have been paid off and sent on their way.

  • Immortal Defense

In the same LA Times article Ybarra went to bat to defend the predatory monetization practices in Diablo Immortal, telling the press that 99.5% of the game is free to play and that the paid part is in the end game.

My most charitable thought on that was maybe he hasn’t played like… a minute into the game? Because that is about how long it takes before it starts hitting you up to buy things.

It will just take a minute of play to show you

Anyway, this did not cement much credibility for the head of Blizzard with those who know the truth… but it is always spin and disinformation that wins with those unfamiliar with the situation.

  • Blizz Buys Out the Proletariat

The proles will now be a wholly owned subsidiary of Blizzard, which is an oddly appropriate frame for the company’s labor relations.  Proletariat is/was an independent game studio that produced the title Spellbreak.  Blizzard has bought them to boost the workforce focused on developing content for World of Warcraft.

Blizz needs WoW to perform, because even Diablo Immortal bringing in a million dollars a day doesn’t match Azeroth’s ability to bring in a billion dollars annually as recently as 2020.  Even Ybarra said in that LA Times interview that Blizzard needs to increase their content output, and Blizzard has had success with groups outside of Irvine reviving their products.  Diablo II Resurrected is a prime example of that.

In a no-doubt related story, Spellbreak will be shutting down.

  • Blizz Spending Money on Making More Developers

Also announced was Blizzard’s plan to spend some of its $250 million diversity fund to start a 12-week program called Level Up U with a goal of creating more full-time game developers.

As with the above item, this is no doubt related to Blizzard’s desire to increase content output in order to sustain its bottom line.  I have opinions about “more” being “better” and “n+1” being able to increase output in any sort of predictable, linear fashion, but if you have the budget and some patience, you can make something happen.

  • WoW Freebies on Prime Gaming

Speaking of needing WoW to perform, Blizz is pushing promotions for the game as well.  I brought this up somewhere else, but I figured it deserved a mention on

its own.  So now, if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber and you go to Prime Gaming, you can get some free transmog items over the next few weeks.

Just link your account to claim

They aren’t great transmog items.  At least I don’t think they are.  And they certainly are not new ones.  They are three of the head transmog items that have been in the Blizz store for ages now.

The trio of head gear

Two out of three of those are literally vying for the ugliest head transmog items ever in my book, and the third only excels in comparison to the other two.  I remember these landing in the shop and thinking they were garbage and I would never buy them.  But now I can own all three for free I guess.

I found this worth noting because, first, it is not something Blizz has done before with WoW.  And, second, the Prime Gaming give-aways tend to be the domain of free to play titles, with League of Legends and World of Tanks/Warships often in the lineup, along with online games without a subscription fee, like Grand Theft Auto V Online.

  • Warcraft III Reforged Might Be Finally Ready

Maybe?  The early 2020 launch of Warcraft III Reforged was a master class in how to piss off the core audience for your nostalgia focused project.  At launch it lacked critical feature parity, contained onerous new agreement to make sure nobody would create another DOTA mod that Blizzard didn’t fully own, and forced all owners of the original title to upgrade to the new version, basically stealing functionality from their installed base.

Blizzard acknowledged their complete screw up by offering a no questions asked refund policy for those of us who pre-ordered a copy before it was clear what a fiasco the whole thing was.

But Blizz didn’t kill the project.  They kept working on it.  And now, two and a half years after it launched, the game finally has ranked play and leader boards.  They are finally achieving parity with a 2003 title!

  • Overwatch Surges on XBox

NPD put out their June sales numbers and Overwatch jumped up to fifth place in sales according to their numbers.

June 2022 – NPD’s Top 20 US Video Games by Revenue

I tend to be dubious of NPD.  As I often noted back in the SuperData Research era, their numbers are US only, heavily influenced by physical retail sales, with only some digital sales being counted, and very console platform focused, as well as focusing only on “Premium” games, whatever that means.  I used to compare/contrast NPD and SuperData to demonstrate how their collection methods yielded very different results.

So the June overall number reflects strong sales on XBox and PlayStation, where the title hit 3rd and 7th position respectively.

As for why Overwatch jumped in June, the following was noted:

Overwatch returned to the top 20 best-selling titles chart for the first time since October 2019, ranking 5th overall. This jump was driven by the release of the Overwatch 2 Beta on June 28th.

So, within the scope of what NPD tracks, Overwatch has a very good June… or last three days of June, if sales jumped on the 28th.

  • Heroes of the Storm Officially Done

Finally, this is the end of the tale for the long troubled title Heroes of the Storm.  July 8th was the seven year anniversary of the title’s launch and Blizzard marked the moment with an update about its future status.

Heroes of the Storm from early 2015

It isn’t getting shut down.  Blizzard does try to keep its products alive and available in some form long past the time when most other companies would bother.  But eventually the new content and regular updates tap gets turned off.

And so it goes for HotS, which will join Star Craft and Star Craft II in the Blizzard maintenance mode club.  The lights will stay on and the store will remain there to take your money, but there are no new features or heroes planned going forward.

So it goes.  Another bullet point post is done.

World of Warcraft Dragonflight up for Pre-Order and Promising a Q4 2022 Release

Blizzard would like you to please give them some money now for their upcoming “all the dragon things we could come up with” World of Warcraft expansion Dragonflight.

Dragons are a thing

Announced back in April (on 4/20 no less) you can roll up the dragon race to play the dragon class on the dragon island where you will fly around on a dragon and do all the dragon things with your dragon pals while seeing all the dragons and dragons and dragons dragons dragons.

I swear, if Hemet Nesingwary isn’t out there asking you to collect dragon poop it will be a travesty, because Blizzard is going so deep on dragons that I’m starting to wonder if they’ll have a dragon colonoscopy quest for us.  We’re going all in, so why not go ALL the way in?

After the descent from “good” to “bleh” that was the Legion, Battle for Azeroth, Shadowlands expansion progression, I still need to be sold on this being more than a few gimmicks to get me to buy a box.

A more expensive box.

When I was looking at expansions and pricing and pre-orders back in late 2019, Blizzard was charging $40 for the base Shadowlands box, $60 for the Heroic option, and $80 for the Epic expansion ride.

But inflation is hitting in places beyond the gas pump, and Blizzard wants ten bucks more for each level now.

Dragonflight pre-order pricing

And then there is the physical collector’s edition box, which will set you back $130.

Once again, you don’t get a character boost with the base box, something we got the last time an expansion was $50.  You need to pony up another $20 for the boost… though given the price of one ala carte is $60, that might be a deal if you feel you need one.

There are also some in-game pre-order bonuses, but you will need to have the Shadowlands expansion it seems.  It is there in the fine print.  A chance to sell even more boxes, though at least they’re selling some of those at half price right now. (Though if you shell out the $90 for the Dragonflight Epic edition you get a $20 copy of Shadowlands if you didn’t own it already.  So I guess if you didn’t own Shadowlands and wanted a character boost it would be cheaper to buy the $90 virtual box.  But I don’t need either.)

I guess if you’re really into dragons, you’re probably all in.  But some of the things they’re bragging about are not all that impressive in the context of the game’s history.

Level 70? What, again you mean?

Meanwhile, the most interesting part of the announcement is in the fine print, as it

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight will be available on or before December 31, 2022.

I had written off a 2022 expansion launch for Dragonflight previously, just based on Blizzard history.  Announce an expansion and ship it in the SAME CALENDAR YEAR?  Unpossible!

But there it is, on the page, as immutable as any web content… which means they’ll change it the second they need to and maybe comp you a mount for your faith in pre-ordering if they do.  I wouldn’t bet money against that happening.

I guess the plan for 2022 is Diablo Immoral for Q2, Wrath of the Lich King Classic for Q3, and Dragonflight for Q4, with whatever Overwatch 2 really is somewhere in the middle, and however many Hearthstone expansions they can fit into a calendar year.  Oh, and Warcraft Arclight Rumble.  How could I forget that?

They have to keep up the product roll outs to make whatever metrics they promised Microsoft when they signed the deal to be acquired.  Remember that from back in January? It slips my mind some days, but all of this may soon be Microsoft’s problem.

I think I might wait until WoW is on the XBox Game Pass PC to come back to retail.  We shall see.

Related coverage:

Josh Strife Hayes and The Immoral Design of Diablo Immortal

Diablo Immortal has been out and about for more than two weeks now and has gotten a lot of flak for its monetization.

The push starts small, but it starts right away

I made my own post about the game after playing it for a little over two hours and pretty much walked away from it.  It is uninstalled and I have no plans to go back to it.  I certainly didn’t have any plans to post about it again.

And then I watched the Josh Strife Hayes video about the game and thought I ought to post that as well.

First, this video has a pretty good and detailed look into the monetization scheme for Diablo Immortal.  I didn’t have the patience to go this deep, so it is nice to have a video example that does go far and explains clearly what is going on.

Second, it is actually a reasonable look at the game play of the game, which has its good points.  JSH does see some good in the game and he is always willing to acknowledge when something is done right.  That is part of why I enjoy his videos.

Third, while he likes the basic game, he also manages to pick out almost every issue with the port to windows, beyond just the mobile terminology that is still in the game, that bugged me, and even clarifies one or two problems I saw but couldn’t quite nail down.  But it solidifies what I wrote myself, that Diablo Immortal on Windows is not the solid, polished Blizzard title we have come to expect over the years.

Overall, worth a view if you want a dive into the game and a reminder of what happens to your reputation if you place it in the hands of somebody who doesn’t share your values. (Cue jokes about Blizzard values.)

Blizzard has had to go out of its way to state that Diablo IV will NOT be monetized the way Diablo Immortal has been.  It doesn’t matter that the scheme was the model NetEase uses.  It was launched under the Blizzard banner.  The Blizzard logo is all over it, so Blizzard owns it.  They don’t get to say, “It wasn’t us.”