Category Archives: Diablo III

Diablo III on the PlayStation

I mentioned a while back that my daughter bought a couple of PlayStation 3 games with a GameStop gift card she received for her birthday.

One of them was Dragon Age: Inquisition, which turned out to be not so hot on the PS3.

The other was the Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, which combined the original game with the expansion in an easy to swallow, new in box, $20 package.  I sort of pressured her on that one because I wanted to try the game out on the PS3 and because it appeared to be a hell of a deal for the whole thing at that price.

Bad parent buys 17+ game for a 13 year old...

Bad parent buys 17+ game for a 13 year old…

And while Dragon Age: Inquisition went back to GameStop, Diablo III actually plays pretty well on the PS3.  It comes across as something of a quality title right out of the box because you can actually play it right out of the box.

I asked my daughter to put the disk in and start it up expecting that we would be 45 minutes to an hour patching things up before we could actually play, which is part of the standard PlayStation experience as far as I can tell. Certainly DA:I was a long time patching.  But she put the disk in, launched the game, and then shouted across the house to me… seriously, what is it with teens, my wife will ask my daughter to tell me dinner is ready an she will simply turn and shout the news, something my wife could have done if that was what she wanted… that the game was ready to go.

No patching?  Runs right off the disk?  Will wonders never cease?

It is like we were playing some console game of yore!

Anyway, by the time I wandered out to the television, she had already created a character, having claimed the new crusader class, so I decided to go with a demon hunter.  I would let her go in and take the hits while I stood back and played the ranged DPS role.

The character I created was associated with my PlayStation account, however it looks like you could move characters over from other accounts.  And, of course, you could play with other people on the PlayStation network.  However, since it was just the two of us in the same room with one account, we chose the path we did.

Jumping right in, the game played very well.  It looks good on the big screen, the controls were relatively intuitive once I got used to them… and I say this as somebody who always feels awkward trying to use a gamepad to control a game.  This is helped by the fact that Diablo III limits skills and abilities, so there are not a whole bunch of options.

Each player gets their own health, action pool, and ability display in one corner of the screen.  I always have to sit on the same side, relative to the other player, as my health bar and such or I get confused.  Fortunately we were aligned correctly to start.

Combat is the same mayhem as on the PC with a few minor changes.  Lacking mouse controls to specify targets, each character gets a color coded caret over their current target so they can see what they are aiming at.  I am not sure that is totally necessary with the close-in melee classes like the Crusader, but playing the ranged Demon Hunter it was very useful.  The only problem is that fine control of targeting is a bit finicky.  I could often see who I was hitting but couldn’t really control my choice of targets.  But they all must die in any case, right?  Lacking screen shot capability, here is a multiplayer example I pulled from the internet.

Four players running in Diablo III

Four players running in Diablo III

And, when your characters start getting separated or when somebody falls behind, the game will put them back up with the party to keep things together.  Given our tug-of-war escapades with LEGO Star Wars back in the days, that worked out well enough.

Basically, fast and furious action just like on the computer… until you want to deal with equipment.

Here is where the whole console controller gets in the way.  You have to open up your character window… one character at a time, please… and navigate inventory, slot by slot, with the analog stick and various buttons.  Again, since I don’t know squat about getting screen shots from the PS3, I am going to borrow an image from the internet.

Diablo III inventory screen

Diablo III inventory screen

You can see in that screen shot all of the equipment slots arrayed about the character in a circle.  You navigate that with the analog stick, moving the focus around the clock face with a circular motion.  When you stop on a slot, it shows you what you have in your inventory for that slot. (Vendors work the same way.)  You can then compare or swap out equipment.  If you have picked up something since you last hit that window, the slot where it landed has a star over it so you know where to look.

All in all, it isn’t a bad system given the tools you have at your disposal.  And if you were playing solo I don’t suppose it would be much of a drawback.  However, if you and three of your friends are sitting in the same room playing and everybody wants to check their inventory after a big fight or some such, I could see that getting old very fast.  My daughter and I had to set some basic rules about when it was okay to check inventory.  The same interface also goes for skills, though at least you don’t pick up a dozen skills while crossing the average zone.

The only other thing I noticed during our initial games was that it seemed to access the optical drive a lot more than I was used to with other games.  Of course, this was natural as it was literally running from the optical disk.  Later on I found the option to install the game on the system’s hard drive, at which point things sped up.  We ended up playing most of the way through the first act and had a good time.

All in all, I am pretty happy with how the game turned out when translated to console.  And for $20 for both the base game and the expansion, I can highly recommend it if you have any inclination to play Diablo III from your couch as opposed to at your desk.  The main problem I have is finding a time when my daughter and I both want to play.  We’re well past the days of her waking me up on Saturday morning to play video games with her.

Small Items for a Friday in February

Well, small in terms my point of view.  More like things I wanted to mention, but which didn’t quite justify a full blog post.

Five Years of Star Trek Online

I got an email from… whoever it is that runs STO these days… that the five year anniversary was upon us.

That five year graphic

That five year graphic

I like that they zero-padded the number.  It shows a determination to get to ten years.

Five years is bitter sweet, as this was perhaps the second-to-last MMO I was very excited about before launch, but which I ended up putting down very quickly.  I have been reading about Werit’s return to the game, and have been tempted myself.  But I always want to play every game that launches or that announces an expansion or that says “pink fuzzy bunny” five times fast.

That I have a lifetime subscription also weighs a bit on me, though I am not sure how I would go about even finding my account again, much less getting it all squared away with whatever operational entity now runs the game. (Werit’s troubles in that regard serve as a warning.)

So rather than get into that tangle and stretch myself even more thinly… I have five freakin’ garrisons to maintain dammit… I will just note the anniversary and wish the game well.  Five years is not nothing in this field.

Heroes of the Storm Closed Beta

One of the comments I heard a number of times after Blizzard announced the Heroes of the Storm Founder’s Pack was that nobody was ever going to be invited to the closed beta again.  If you wanted in, you were going to have to pay the $40 toll.

And, while I am mildly interested in seeing what Blizzard has done with the MOBA thing for mopes like me (and even more so after Ben Kuchera’ article at Polygon), there was no way I was going to pay to get in.

So color me surprised to find myself invited to the closed beta.

Heroes of the Storm calling...

Heroes of the Storm calling…

And, while people get grumpy about the whole Blizzard launcher thing, and I personally got a bit shirty on that past push by Blizzard to combine all of our accounts into a single Battle.net account, the combination of the two meant that actually getting the game on my machine was a snap.  I went to the “already there” button for Heroes of the Storm on the Battle.net launcher where I found the “Buy the damn Founder’s Pack!” button had been replaced with an “Install” button.  4GB later, I was all set.

I have yet to launch the game, but it is there to try out… once I finish working on my garrisons.

Owning Dragon Age: Inquisition for about a Day

Last weekend my daughter and I were out shopping for a birthday present for my wife.  Once we had completed that, we headed straight to GameStop to look at all the things they had for sale… mostly because my daughter had received a $50 gift card for the store at Christmas.

The GameStop experience… it is a thing.  We wandered around a somewhat cramped little store while a very enthusiastic employee shadowed us, asking if we were looking for anything in particular and handing us print outs of games on sale.  We were happy when somebody else walked in and such attention was halved.

Platform wise, we were only really interested in PlayStation 3 or Nintendos 3DS games, though we did take a moment to look at the sad little display of used Wii games in the corner.

Eventually my daughter’s eyes landed on a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition for the PlayStation 3.

You don't see a left handed hero every day

You don’t see a left handed hero every day

She showed it to me and I said, “Well, I don’t like BioWare games (or at least any BioWare game since Baldur’s Gate), but this is YOUR money, so it is up to you.”  And then we had a long discussion about the merits of BioWare, which at least established our nerd cred in the room, during which she said she had read some good things about it on the WoW forums and wanted to give it a try.  Again, her money.

So she ended up getting a used copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a new copy of Diablo III – Ultimate Evil Edition  (which includes the base game plus the expansion, all for only $20, so hurrah for arriving late to the party) both for the PS3.  The checkout process was the usual amount of “Our club, corporate policy requires I spend five minutes telling you about it no matter how often you ask me to stop, so let’s just get through this together, just say “no” whenever I make eye contact, because this is my job and I’d like to keep it for now” before I was allowed to pay and walk out of the store.

Once home, my daughter spent about two hours playing DA:I and then asked if we could return it.  She didn’t like it.  The text was really tough to read on screen, even for her young eyes, and it really felt like a game that needed to be played on the PC to her.

Fortunately, GameStop’s policy is that you can return used games for a full refund, no questions asked, so long as you keep your receipt and do it within three days.  Or five days.  I forget.  But we did it the next day.

And, to GameStop’s credit, they took the game back and even credited my AMEX rather than giving me store credit or another gift card.  I did have to quickly affirm that I had heard the full club spiel in the last 48 hours before the clerk felt safe in skipping the hard sell on that front.

He did ask, after we had the refund, why we brought it back, and we related the whole text and complexity thing.  He said that there had been a number of complaints about text legibility on the PS3 and figured that BioWare had botched something when porting the game back from the PlayStation 4.

And so we owned Dragon Age: Inquisition for less than 24 hours and now she has a credit at the Bank of Dad.  We are going to give Diablo III on the PS3 a shot this weekend.

I did have a fourth item for this post, but it actually grew into a full blog post as I wrote it… so I guess I was wrong up at the top.  That will show up at a future date.

Too Late for Torchlight II?

Back to the wars of 2012, when Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile were vying for the mantle of heir to the mighty Diablo II.

Each game, in my opinion, managed to score well on very specific fronts.  What individuals found most important about the Diablo II legacy dictated which game they preferred.  If you wanted a dark, gritty atmosphere, Path of Exile was the winner.  If you wanted the continuation of the Diablo story line along with the Blizzard logo and all of its attendant polish, you had Diablo III.  And if you wanted something lighter on its feet that supported offline play and modding, there was Torchlight II.

Each did the “click things to death” thing well enough, you just needed to choose what toppings you wanted on your Action RPG sundae.  None were, however, quite as good as Diablo II was back in the day, though that is more likely a context of the times than any fault of the newer games.

That is, was, and probably will remain my synopsis of the way things played out.  You can argue about the details, but we ended up with three good but different attempts to remake what was great about Diablo II.  In the end however, as interested as I was in all three games, I have other things I would rather play these days.  It just isn’t 1999 anymore.

PoElogoThe games have not stood still though.  Or, at least two of them have not.  Path of Exile has continued to refine its game and has released new content.  There have been some rough spots for the game, with the always online aspect making for some annoying latency issues, but the developers carry on.

DiabloIIIBlizzard, slow but persistent, finally cleaned up their auction house and itemization issues in Diablo III, launched console versions of the game, and then came out with an expansion, all of which seem to have gone over quite well.  I enjoyed the revamped version of the original game, and friends I know who went with the expansion really liked it as well.

Torchlight2LogoAnd then there is Torchlight II.

In the last year before it went live, there was all sorts of wild talk about what Runic games would do after they launched Torchlight II.  There had been talk of the game being a stepping stone to a Torchlight MMO.  Also possible seemed to be official mods, user mods being picked up and sold as DLC with some sort of profit sharing, expansions to the game itself, and all of the usual sorts of rumors and nonsense that seem to catch fire from the spark of optimistic interpretations and wishful thinking when parsing every word the company and its devs utter in public or private.

And there was going to be a Macintosh OS version of the game available shortly after launch.  Based on that alone I bought a copy of Torchlight II for my daughter, who has to play her games on an iMac.

After the initial flurry of the Torchlight II launch though, the tone from Runic games changed.  The tone from the company seemed to indicate that they were burnt out after the big push to get the game out the door.  I’ve been there, once having gone through a five month crunch time stretch of 12 to 16 hour days seven days a week, when only our copy of NBA Jam kept us sane at times, after which the team was pretty much dead for months.

Runic was tired of the whole Torchlight thing.  There would be no MMO.  There would be no further Torchlight games.  There would be no expansions.  And due to some problems, it seemed unlikely that there would be any Macintosh OS version of the game.

I don’t miss the $20 so much as the opportunity to play the game with my daughter.

Some founders left the company after about a year to work on a new game (the premise of which sounds vaguely familiar), while Runic Games itself fell into an SOE-like silent mode, coming up for air only to note when the game was on sale at Steam for the most part.  And with Runic’s corporate masters complaining about US operations being a drag on earnings, the future for a studio with apparently nothing in play seems a bit grim.

And so it goes.

Of the three games, Torchlight II ended up being the one I played the least.  Play time is the only real measure of my preferences.  I often SAY I intend to play this or that, but what I actually play is the reflection of the deep truth.  You can my choice that how you like, but I guess in the end I wanted polish and story most, atmosphere second, and offline play and mods third.  Though, as noted above, none of the games became long term staples and I haven’t bothered to reinstall any of them since the great Thanksgiving computer blow out.

So the news that showed up last night indicating that Runic games would at last be releasing the Macintosh OS version of Torchlight II on February 2nd got something of a bemused look from me.

Steam only I guess?

Steam only I guess?

It is too late for me to care much.  My daughter is a couple years older, is interested in different things now, and doesn’t even have Steam installed on her system anymore.  The time has passed at our house.  Runic has a cute little video up making fun of the delay, but they have otherwise been so quiet that I wonder who will notice.  I am sure it will sell a few more copies of the game, and the Macintosh world is used to there being a delay on some game launches, but I wonder if this was more of a contractually obligated action as opposed to a push to sell more units.

Is this the last hurrah for Runic Games, or do they really something else for us?

A Vaguely Dissatisfying BlizzCon… For Me

If I were to take at random a set of video game genres and stack rank them from those that interest me most to those that interest me least, it might look a little something like this:

  • MMORPG
  • Action RPG
  • RTS
  • Online CCG
  • MOBA
  • FPS

That sort of defines what I am looking for from one particular company.  I realize that is just me, but that is the perspective I have.

So when one particular company runs their big convention and their priority list is pretty much that list turned upside down, well… what are you going to do?

And such was BlizzCon.

Before it hit, I wrote up my dreams and desires about what might be said.  This was the way it played out viewed through the lens of my own expectations and perceptions.

World of Warcraft

They keynote opened up talking about WoW.  Here we were, 10 years down the road from the launch of Blizzard’s biggest game, and 20 years gone from the launch of the Warcraft franchise with the first of the RTS titles, Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans.

A decade of this

10 Years of Azeroth as MMO

There was lots of cheering and some nostalgia and then they packed that all away in a box and ignored Azeroth for the rest of BlizzCon.

Yes, there were two WoW panels.  One was pretty much an “in case you missed it” refresher course in things already widely discussed about the upcoming expansion and 6.0 patch.  I mean, we’d been playing with 6.0 for a couple weeks at this point, so this was more by way of “yes, you discovered what we changed, and this is why we did it” sort of thing.  And then there was the Q&A panel, which I haven’t watched yet, and I am not sure that I will.  I tend to find audience Q&A painful to watch, though I have to admit that WoW nerds have been some of the more polite, literate, and to the point in their questioners in past years, so I should probably give it a shot, or at least read the transcription.

There was also a panel about the Warcraft movie, which I enjoyed.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for how the story was being presented, 50% human and 50% orc perspective.  In fact, there was a lot of enthusiasm about most things, including the fact that key members of the production team are World of Warcraft fans.  But, being something of a plug for the movie, nobody had any business being anything but enthusiastic on that stage.  And, like so many things Blizzard does, they were talking at BlizzCon about something more than a year out.  Coming to theaters in March of 2016.

There was also the premiere of the Looking for Group documentary about WoW, which I haven’t gotten to yet, but it is up on YouTube when I have the time.

So I guess I got the answer to the big question, which was, “What will Blizzard talk about when it comes to WoW, what with the next expansion less than a week off?”  The answer was that Blizzard decided to talk about WoW as little as possible.  Which, I have to say, if you’re all about WoW relative to their other titles, was a bit of a pill.  There was nothing forward looking about WoW.  There was no vague plan to reassure player that they wouldn’t be treated to another 13 month content drought, nothing to indicate that expansions wouldn’t continue to drop at the current rate of one every couple of years, and certainly no mention whatsoever of what the next expansion might be.  Nothing was said that might distract from this week’s Warlords of Draenor launch, which mostly meant saying nothing at all. I think I WoW got more screen time outside of BlizzCon than in it, as commercials were running on TV and at the movies.  My wife and I saw Interstellar on Saturday and there was a Warlords of Draenor ad in with the trailers.

But fuck it, we get the expansion in a couple days, that ought to be enough, right?  I’ll be happy.  Hell, I was happy still pottering around and cleaning stuff up in preparation for the expansion.

I did get one reminder of the state of things during the keynote.  During the talk about the origins of Warcraft and how it got to where it is today, there was a clear statement about how World of Warcraft was the evolution of the franchise.  Bascially, WoW is Warcraft IV, and we are unlikely to ever see Azeroth done as an RTS again.

Diablo III

On the Diablo franchise front, things were about the same as World of Warcraft, only without a movie or a significant anniversary to talk about, and there had already been an expansion this year.  So basically some “Hey, isn’t Diablo III doing well!” and then off to other topics.  There was nothing new.  So I guess it is a good thing I am more of a WoW fan or I might be feeling really left out.

StarCraft

The one and only remaining RTS franchise at Blizzard finally got some news about the Legacy of the Void expansion.  The whole thing has been held up in an effort to really try to capture the Protoss point of view or some such.  And, honestly, they didn’t give a release date or anything, so we are probably looking at November/December of 2015 at the earliest.

But they said “My life for Aiur!” a lot on stage.

And they mentioned that StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void would be a stand-alone expansion, so you wouldn’t have to purchase StarCraft II and the Heart of the Swarm expansion in order to play it.  They also announced a new cooperative play mode, where two players control the same base.  A friend of mine was excited about this feature, as he and his wife like to play StarCraft II.  However, I do wonder if attempting to control the same set of units and resources will bring them closer or become one of those things, like trying to assemble Ikea furniture together, than can really test a relationship.  We shall see, whenever it ships.

Hearthstone

Blizzard’s collectible card game got plenty of attention.  It will be coming to the Android platform in early 2015 and its first expansion, Gnomes vs. Goblins is also headed our way in December, dropping 120 new cards into the mix and no doubt really kicking off a Magic: The Gathering-like arms race when it comes to cards.  Only buying in will keep you competitive.  Since I have played exactly enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed in WoW, this all sort of washed over me.

Heroes of the Storm

I have to admit that Heroes of the Storm looked good.  My first thought, as they were showing demos, was that you could make a really good Warcraft IV on that engine, forgetting already what I mentioned above on that topic.  Since we’re getting down to the lowest rungs of my hierarchy, it is pretty safe to say that MOBAs are not my thing, for the same reason that battlegrounds aren’t my thing in WoW.  I do not particularly enjoy fighting the same battle over and over again.  I had a League of Legends account, but I found the game tedious after a couple of matches and my user name has long since been recycled and returned to the pool, though I am sure they are still counting me on the roll of total registered users.

Heroes of the Storm, in addition to looking good, has the advantage of pulling heroes I know from Blizzard lore.  But is that enough to make me play it?  Anyway, there is a semi-solid date for closed beta (December) and some hand waving about dates beyond that.  Stay tuned I guess.

Overwatch

This was the new hotness for Blizzard, their first new IP since… StarCraft?  It is a first person shooter.  Everybody stared in amazement for a moment at Overwatch

Look, a new thing!

Look, a new thing!

…and then collectively said, “Team Fortress 2.”

Well, everybody but me.  I was stuck thinking, “Wait, wasn’t “Overwatch” from Half-Life 2?

They run Earth, right?

They run Earth, right?

Still, reductio ad valvium or some such.

And, yes, I think the art style and the fact that Blizzard was piling into the FPS arena in a big way made most people jump straight to the idea that Blizzard is ripping off Valve to flesh out its game lineup.  It was certainly an easy jump to make on the surface.

However, I think Blizzard is going for something a bit different here, at least as far as I could read.  Granted, I am long beyond my FPS days and if you check my Steam profile you will see that I have downloaded Team Fortress 2 but have played less than an hour of it.  Shooters and the quick reactions required to be anything more than a target are in my past.  But TF2 feels like a classic FPS game with its modes and classes.  The whole thing is streamlined, but we’ve seen the types before.

With Overwatch, Blizzard seems to be going less for the classic FPS and more for something like a First Person Shooter MOBA.  FPSMOBA?  With what I heard… six players per team, specific scenarios, more potential heroes to play than slots on a team… it sounds more like a mix-and-match special teams game.  And, as such, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up financing itself in the MOBA style by being free to play but then selling the latest overpowered heroes, so that anybody wishing to stay competitive feels they have to buy in.

Or maybe I mis-read the whole thing.  I have to admit that between the big new game being a shooter and everybody and their brother saying, “TF2 clone!” my eyes began to glaze over and I went back to actually playing video games rather than watching people talk about them.

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

That is a saying from the old days of NASCAR, back when they drove cars that at least started their lives on the same factory floor as the ones sold at the dealer showroom.  Back then, a marquee that won races could look forward to a boost in sales and the various car companies would produce special models just to help them dominate on the track. (See: Galaxie 500, Torino Talladega, or Superbird)

I bring this up because I was a bit taken aback at how much of the BlizzCon coverage was devoted esports.  Three of the BlizzCon video streams were pretty much devoted to nothing else,  and the other two spent some time there as well, to the point that panels felt few and far between relative to watching other people play video games.  That is not my thing at all.  Like real world sports, I can watch for a while, but I tend to want to go and do something else… like actually play video games.  But there are plenty of people who seem to enjoy it and who are selling… or in many cases overselling… how popular it is.

So I started to ask myself if games like League of Legends are popular and thus become esports, or if games become popular because they get pushed as esports.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think at this point we can divine what Blizzard thinks.  Just about every game they have now has some esports aspect, from the WoW arena to Heroes of the Storm, with Overwatch looking to be focused on the esports thing as well.  Diablo III, with only a seasonal ladder, seems to be the odd man out, so I suppose an early prediction for next BlizzCon is a change to that.  Blizzard seems to be convinced that being an esport, or at least a popular esport, drives sales.  Sell on Monday.

Which I suppose is fine, so long as they don’t leave their WoW players high and dry for another long stretch.  We shall see.

Anyway, BlizzCon has passed, leaving not much of a ripple for me.  I will have to console myself with a brand new expansion come Thursday, and all the last minute tasks I am suddenly feeling compelled to finish before then.  I played little else aside from WoW all weekend, a situation unlikely to change during the near future.

WoW Subscriptions Drop by 800K, But the Money Keeps Rolling In

Activision-Blizzard got out in front of the press today to talk about quarterly results.

ActiBlizz450

In an unsurprising turn of events, World of Warcraft subscriptions dropped from 7.6 million in Q1 to 6.8 million in Q2 of 2014 as the long wait for Warlords of Draenor continued.  The last patch, Siege of Orgrimmar, is going to be celebrating its anniversary soon.

The availability of the WoD pre-purchase and the immediately available insta-90 boost for a single character did not hold the line on subscription front as much as I thought it would.  My working theory was, “Who pre-purchases and expansion then unsubscribes from a game?”

Or maybe the pre-purchase and insta-boost did help.  The company said that most of their subscription losses were in Asia.  Specifically:

As of June 30, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 6.8 million subscribers. There was a decline in subscribers quarter over quarter, which was disproportionately concentrated in the East and was similar to the seasonal decline experienced during the second quarter of 2012, prior to the launch of the most recent expansion later that year.

But then they always seem to point to Asia when there are losses, to the point that I wonder if there are any customers left there.  But there was no pre-purchase over there.  And Activision-Blizzard did bring in $658 million for the quarter, up $50 million from the same period last year, with a record 73% of those dollars coming in via digital sources.  That is a lot of people buying the Diablo III expansion, digital versions of the latest Call of Duty, and the Warlords of Draenor pre-purchase, which topped the 1.5 million mark.  That is about $75 million in the bank for Blizzard and so far they can only give us a date for when they will tell us the date the expansion will likely release.

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Now the question will be how will the subscriber base fare with Warlords of Draenor still clearly in the fourth quarter of this year.  It has been a long summer and while the beta will no doubt spark some interest, it will likely take something more to hold the line, much less boost numbers.

WoW Subscriptions Dip to 7.6 Million Under the Weight of Wait

Yesterday Activision-Blizzard did their quarterly earnings call.  The recording for it, plus the slide deck, are available here.

ActiBlizz450

The overall message was that revenue was less than last year, but better than projected.  Three of the five “Strong Product Performance” bullet points in the opening were for World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Hearthstone, followed by Skylanders and Call of Duty.  The main future outlook for the Activision side of the house is on Bungie’s Destiny, about which huge dollar numbers are being thrown about, both in terms of sales projections and development costs.  Activision is betting heavily on a Halo-like success here.  It is slated for launch on the 15th anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast launch, so it has that mojo going for it.

The Blizzard slide ran down four of the key products in their portfolio.

Blizzard Q1 2014 Slide

Blizzard Q1 2014 Slide

On the WoW front, subscriptions dipped from 7.8 million to 7.6 million, which is a fairly modest change given some of the past “would kill any other MMO franchise” sized drops.  I was wondering back in February, when the numbers were last announced as going up from 7.6 million to 7.8 million, if Blizzard getting a Warlords of Draenor pre-order out in March might help support subscription numbers.  I guess, maybe, that it might have.  But now a million people have bought the pre-order, have their insta-90s, and… now what?  I expect that we will see a more significant dip for Q2 and Q3 unless Blizzard has a surprise to spark interest in the game.

The forward looking statement about the Warlords of Draenor launch being in the second half of 2014 seems a bit disingenuous after Blizzard has already put the date in the fall, heavily emphasizing that Fall lasts until December 20th.  Still, I am sure somebody out there will read this and think it might mean an earlier launch.  Given that we’re still in the “soon” phase for alpha, I find no reason to think the WoD is being pulled in.

Blizzard itself has been busy telling people about the changes coming for the 6.0 pre-WoD patch… a gating item for the expansion… and how to get tickets for BlizzCon, which will no doubt sell out in the first few minutes of availability.

Otherwise, Diablo III was praised for launching a successful expansion.  Hearthstone was noted as a new launch, but is too new to have had any real financial impact as yet.  And then Heroes of the Storm was pointed out as an upcoming title, currently in limited alpha.  No mention of StarCraft II and the Legacy of the Void expansion, which has no target date right now.  Of course, we just got Heart of the Swarm last year, putting the SC2 expansion cycle on something close to a 3 year clock.  So, it could be worse for WoW players.

And so the world turns.

Friday Morning Blizzard Roundup

It is Friday and Blizzard has announced a bunch of things this week, wisely waiting until after April Fools day. (Unlike CCP, which did a Dev Post on drones and Summer expansion forum posts on mining ships and Nosferatu upgrades on April 1st just to torment us. I am still not convinced they are real.)

Several of the Blizz are worth noting, but I am not sure there is a full blog post in any single one yet, so I figured I would just lump them all together.

Reaper of Souls Sales

Blizz reported that Reaper of Souls, the Diablo III expansion, shipped/sold over 2.7 million copies in the first 24 hours after going on sale.  They sold a bunch as pre-orders, but were only able to ship… well, unlock… and recognize revenue on last week.

I am not sure how to parse that number.

It is surely a big number, and probably makes Reaper of Souls one of the top sellers for March, even adding in all comparable platforms.  Go PC gaming.  That number beats The Burning Crusade, which managed 2.4 million copies on the first day.

But with an installed base of at least 12 million players on the PC for a game that has been out for nearly two years, that sounds a little shy of a “hopes and dreams” number for Blizz.  They will still be pushing a wheelbarrow of money to the bank, but they were probably planning to make a few trips.

Did the rough start or always online kill off interest in the game?  Or are a lot of us still playing fresh characters through the original game to soak in the full “Loot 2.0″ experience?

The press release says that the expansion “breathes new life into Sancturary,” I am just wondering how much life.

Warlords of Draenor Alpha

Nobody out there is still holding out hope for a late spring/early summer release for this expansion, right?  We’ve all moved this to our “things to do over Christmas” list, haven’t we?

Anyway, Blizz said that the expansion is now in Alpha, which is no doubt a poke in the eye for those who were all ready for the beta announcement.  For those hoping for an early Fall release, Eldacar tweeted a graph showing the time from “Friends & Family Alpha” (are we even there yet?) to release for past WoW expansions.

F&F Alpha to Release

F&F Alpha to Release

The average is 6.6 months, which puts us nearly into November… if WoD is average and if we are at the friends & family start point.  So it is possible we’ll being playing on Thanksgiving… maybe even Canadian Thanksgiving… but Halloween will likely be free of such distractions.

And, as always…

Warlords of Draenor Patch Note Fun

Lest you think we’ll be bored waiting for Warlords of Draenor, Blizz has also published the first Alpha Patch Notes for the release, so that the hardcore fans can start panicking and complaining right now.

There is a lot to take in.  Even the TL:DR summary is 17 bullets long.  I have to spend some time digesting that.  But I can already see items in the summary that will make people run around screaming as though their hair is on fire.  This should be fun. (Is it really a return to Vanilla 1.0?)

The random perks thing sounds interesting.

And one key take away appears to be that the promised/threatened stat squish probably isn’t coming until the big pre-expansion patch.

Chat in the Battle.net Launcher

Blizzard also updated the Battle.net launcher this week.  I am not sure how widespread it is yet.  I got it when I downloaded Hearthstone, but not sure if it has been pushed to everybody.

But now, in addition to being able to see all of your online Battle Tag and RealID friends in the launcher, you can now chat with them as well.

So I’ll just add that to Steam, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, Jabber, Microsoft Lync, Raptr, TeamSpeak, Mumble, and RaidCall as another possible way people can try and chat with me while I am AFK.

I think I finally stopped logging into AOL Messenger.  You can no longer chat with me there.  And ICQ.  I think I gave up on that at last.

Did I ever tell you I had a five digit ICQ number?  True story.

April Fools Forever

Blizzard put up a page that lists out all of their major web site April Fools jokes since 1999.  Call The April Fools Archive, you can go back and find some of their best stuff.  I love when a company takes the time to preserve and present things like this.  I wish SOE would take note here, as they seem to toss things down the memory hole on a regular basis.

Still, not everything is on Blizzard’s list.  I though the funniest thing this year was the fake WoW 6.0 Patch Notes.  It is one of those things that is for the community as it pokes straight at contentious items with a laugh.