Tag Archives: WoW Insider

Two Paths Forward – Blizzard Watch and Massively Overpowered

Just a week ago we were being hit with the official news that AOL was shutting down its “enthusiast sites” on the Joystiq domain, including Massively and WoW Insider.

But within hours of the farewell posts for both sites, plans were already in action by the form staff members of both sites to bring new versions of them to life.

The WoW Insider crew struck a lightning blow and had Blizzard Watch up and going almost right away, starting up the site with a subset of the original team while they firmed up recurring monthly financing via a Patreon campaign.  So far that campaign has passed the $13K mark and the site is coming together, though they have more work on that front.

The Massively side of the house has been more conservative.

MassivelyOverpoweredThey had a Twitter account and a podcast feed and a Google+ page and a Facebook page and a channel on Twitch up pretty quickly, but an actual web presence took a while longer.  And once they were up on the web, the presence was a placeholder for the future, not an immediate launch into coverage the way the Blizzard Watch crew went.

I am not the one doing the work or putting my neck out, but the web site and written coverage of the MMO genre is what Massively was about for me.  But I gather that they know their own demographic mix better than I, so perhaps a Twitch channel and a podcast were vital first steps.

Meanwhile, on the financing front, Massively Overpowered has decided to go with a Kickstarter campaign in order to build up a war chest to get the web site going.  They are going with a 28 day campaign that is looking to raise $50,000.  As it is explained as part of the Kickstarter pitch, they want to do this right.

To make Massively Overpowered both profitable and sustainable and replace the corporate infrastructure we’ve left behind, we need to do it the right way, all the way. We’ll be a company with legal and bookkeeping support. We’ll have a professional web designer and tech engineer. We’ll have scalable, high-traffic hosting that can handle the hit spikes you send our way. We’ll have an ad sales person who is actually a person and not an algorithm. We’ll have a website that doesn’t burn your eyes and widgets that actually work. And we’ll have writers who are actually paid what they deserve for their considerable efforts.

And there is certainly a logic to that and more of what is up on the Kickstarter page.  They want a sustainable funding plan, something that Patreaon might not deliver.  More than 2,500 people appear to be happy to kick in every month for Blizzard Watch today, but will they all be as enthusiastic six months or a year down the road.

Anyway, by the usual Wilhelm Kickstarter Tracking Metric(tm), the Massively Overpowered Kickstarter campaign looks like it will meet its goal handily having already come close to the halfway mark within the first few hours. (Watch on Kicktraq as things progress.)

So I guess I will have to keep reading MMORPG.com for a month or more while Massively Overpowered gets their foundations set.  And, while I am not pitting one against the other, I will be interested to see how each site moves forward as things settle down and the day to day need to make money and pay bills becomes reality.

WoW Insider Reborn as Blizzard Watch

Well, Massively and WoW Insider (and Joystiq itself) put up their farewell posts just hours ago at this point, but already plans are in motion for replacement sites featuring some of the same cast of characters.

Out of the gate first are some of the former WoW Insider team that has setup a new site called Blizzard Watch. (RSS Feed for the site.)

Blizzard Watch open for business

Blizzard Watch open for business

There is a big welcome post that sketches out plans for the site.

With a new site they have some new options.  They have laid out how things will be different given their new independence:

The key point is we’ll have more freedom. Freedom to change our structure when the situation necessitates it, the ability to fix our own technical problems without jumping through support hoops, and the freedom to have other types of content if we think they’ll be fun. We can choose which technologies we use in our content production rather than the media avenues provided by a parent company. We can generally be more agile. Free of our corporate shackles, we’ll be able to dive back into creating awesome content with renewed passion for what we do. Most importantly, we can cover all aspects of WoW and Blizzard games that you know and love without limitations.

Of course, there is the funding question as all of these writers will want to get paid.  They will be running ads as well as looking for funding through a Patreon campaign, which is currently doing very well.  So things look good for the sort of ongoing coverage of World of Warcraft and other Blizzard topics which we have become used to over the years.

Meanwhile, the crew formerly associated with Massively has not been sitting still.  They have not got a web site up, but a whole Massively Overpowered initiative is rolling out.  I’ll make a note when they get their site running, their RSS feed up, and their own funding under way.

On Departures from Our Corner of the Web

MMOs are a strange sub-genre of video games.  As noted this month… and just about every month… it is tough to even define what an MMO is.  People claim some things are MMOs that meet almost none of what I would consider the baseline requirements, while Smed was trying to tell us that H1Z1 wasn’t an MMO despite the fact that it seems to meet nearly all the criteria I would use to make that determination.

And how many video game sub-genres get this much focus?

If you want to find video game news sites, they are plentiful, as are sites that narrow that down to games on a specific platform.

Or, if you want to find a site that focuses on a specific title or series of games, that seems pretty doable.

But when you start talking about video-game subgenres… action RPGs or text adventures or turn-based strategy or simulations… the sites start to get a little niche.

MMOs though… MMOs are a little different.  We have had sites and magazines and columns in major publications dedicated to just our own favorite genre.

Michael Zenke's old column at 1Up.com

Michael Zenke’s old column at 1Up.com

I started this site at the height of what I would call the golden age of MMO blogging.  It was the VirginWorlds podcast era, a show that brought a lot of people together and was, in a way, emblematic of the time.  Brent could climb into the converted sauna that served as his recording studio and bang out about an hour of content once a week that would really cover all the important news we wanted to hear.

MMOs were all about success back then, they made lots of money, and the few oddball titles that got closed were clearly going down because of bad design or bad execution.  World of Warcraft, while already wildly distorting the measure of success in the genre, seemed to herald continued growth and endless possibilities.  People wanted to talk about them, argue over them, and most of all, hear about the next great thing that was sure to come.

And I think that all of this came about because MMOs are such a social video game genre.

A lot more people played FarmVille than any MMO, and a lot more probably play Candy Crush Saga.  But if you meet somebody else who plays one of those games, there generally isn’t a ton of excitement over it.

But if I meet somebody who plays an MMO that I play, it has to become “what server, what class, what level, do you know so-and-so, how about the next update/expansion they are talking about” and so on.  (And if I meet somebody who plays EVE Online, just go away for an hour or two, because we have to figure out how we are linked… and we always are in some odd way… in New Eden.)

And the social nature of our hobby has led us to have almost an over abundance of site covering MMOs.  We have MMORPG.com, Ten Ton Hammer, MMO Champion and Massively all trying to cover all aspects of the genre as well as a host of sites that drill down and concentrate of smaller aspects.  There is such an array of choices that I cut back the MMO news site feeds to what I considered the bare essentials.  The MMO news sites in my reader today are:

  • Massively – Nearly all things MMO
  • MMO Fallout – Filled in the corners for NCsoft and Jagex and a few other topics
  • WoW Insider – Everything I needed to know about WoW
  • EQ2 Wire – Everything anybody sane needs to know about EverQuest II
  • The Mittani and EVE News 24 – All EVE Online, with comedic juxtaposition

However, as we learned today, that list is getting the chopped by two very soon.

Rumors had already been floating around about how AOL was going to shut down Joystiq and all sites under the Joystiq domain, a domain that includes both Massively and WoW Insider.  (WoW Insider was WoW.com for a brief moment in time before AOL thought the domain was better off hosting a half-assed Groupon clone… which they later closed.)

MassivelyWoWInsiderLogosAnd so it goes.  Massively came on the scene towards the end of 2007 and was staffed by a lot of names familiar to me, like Michael Zenke and Mike Schramm… and other people not named “Mike.”

If you go back to the first snapshot of the site over at the Internet Archieve, it is fun to see what they opened up with; Tabula Rasa, Echoes of Faydwer for EQ2, EVE Online, whether or not there was going to be a Knights of the Old Republic based MMO, and, of course, Second Life!  I remember people complaining about there being too damn much Second Life coverage on Massively for the first year or so.  And, of course, the Welcome to Massively post, which laid out the intentions for the site.  The first paragraph:

This is it. The design is in place, our bloggers are trained and at the ready, and the password has been lifted from the site. Our brand new blog, Massively, is now live and ready for your perusal, your comments, your tips, and your eyeballs. Here, you’ll find breaking news about MMO games both upcoming and established, insightful and wisecracking commentary about your favorite worlds, tips on how to get all your characters in all those universes the best they can be, and the high level of quality you’ve come to expect from WoW Insider, Second Life Insider, Joystiq and the Fanboy network. This is Massively, and welcome to it.

That was still in the heyday of MMO blogs and for a couple of GDCs up in San Francisco, meeting up with Brent and a couple people from Massively and other members of our blogging circle would be something of a tradition. (pictures from 2008, 2009, 2010)

So it is a sad moment as we bid farewell to both Massively and WoW Insider.  But that is the nature of life and the web and blogging.  People show up for a season, we interact, and maybe they stay longer or maybe they move on… but we all move on eventually.  And so we remember two sites about to depart.  They will both go away on February 3rd… Tuesday… Patch day.

  • WoW Insider – November 2005 to February 2015
  • Massively – November 2007 to February 2015

Others in our little corner… and outside of it as well… are also writing about Massively and WoW Insider.

Now who is going to fix all my links to both sites so they hit the Internet Archive instead of whatever doubtless horrible site will end up in their place?

And who should be in my feed now?

And, finally, the only thing I am sure AOL will be remembered for.

Addendum: The farewell posts for Massively and WoW Insider are up.

Quote of the Day – MMO Content Delivery Pacing

Every patch has tons of content for nearly every aspect of the game. It’s exciting — there’s almost too much to do. When a new patch releases, we’re in WoW heaven.

Then months go by and that content grows stale. Blizzard doesn’t give us new content at that point, but peeks at future content. We’re starving for a delicious content meal, but we can only look at pictures of the food.

-Scott Andrew, article Blizzard should rethink their content release model

I know that being in WoW right now, this is something that a lot of people are probably mulling over.  The Siege of Orgrimmar update came out way back in September and players are not set to get anything new until the patch that will precede the Warlords of Draenor expansion sometime this fall.

See you guys in the fall?

Lazy Warlords!

Blizzard gets its share of flak for its long expansion cycle.  Ironing things out to smooth averages, we’ll see the 5th WoW expansion around the 10th anniversary of the game, so we get one about every other year.  This is actually kind of amazing when you consider how much Blizzard studied EverQuest during WoW’s development, because SOE appeared to be convinced that they needed to ship two expansions a year to keep subscribers happy and paying the bills.

Even after watching WoW in return for a few years, SOE felt that they could only relax their pace to an expansion a year.  So we are at 20 EverQuest expansions in just over 15 years, but I may not live long enough to see 20 WoW expansions at their current pace.

The flip side of this has been GuildWars 2, which went through a long stretch of dropping new content every two weeks.  I have no first hand experience as to how that felt as a player, but a number of bloggers writing about it managed to transmit a sense of frenzied exhaustion that I am not sure that ANet’s solution was the best of all possible worlds.  If fans seemed a bit frazzled, I can only imagine how the devs felt working at that pace.  And, in the end, a select group of players experienced a lot of one-time content that is likely never to be seen again.

They could run something like Super Adventure Box again I suppose, but storyline stuff that comes to a resolution would be jarring under all but the most specific circumstances, so becomes throw away content.  And you won’t find many devs who like to write throw away code, so I am going to guess the attitude about throw away content would run about as strong amongst game designers.

And then there is what is going on with EVE Online and expansions.

With all the talk about players being content, you might not think that expansions are all that important.  But, if you go look at the population graphs, subscriptions always surge after an expansion.  It turns out we like new stuff and the promise of such will get us to spend money.

CCP is going from their “every six month” content vehicles to what I have always called the “train” method.  Basically, you lay out a series of delivery vehicles… trains if you will… and as teams finish up features, they just assign them to whatever train is leaving the station next.

The CCP Train Schedule

The CCP Train Schedule

I have work with this system before.  We failed badly at it, but that was primarily because the product group that was told they needed to adopt this method was responsible for software that was wholly unsuited to it.  Enterprise software costing hundreds of thousands of dollars does not need six distinct releases a year.  No IT department I have ever encountered wants to roll an update to anything more than once a year.

Were that not enough, we also managed to shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly.  We would have a big feature that would span many departing trains in progress, and some small features going out, but the big feature would depend on aspects of the product that the smaller features would end up changing every freaking time, thus making it nearly impossible to ship a feature that couldn’t be done in under six weeks.  You need strong leadership, discipline, and good communication for that. (As opposed to my project, which was an acquisition into our group and then had most of the team laid off. We were a mess.)

And then there is still the content question.  The train schedule sounds great in theory, but what happens if you end up with a delivery vehicle where no features are ready?  I am going to predict that there are going to be some uneven releases here, with some seeming amazing and some having us asking why they bothered to have a release at all.  As any child who has gotten a filler gift like pencils for one of the days of Hanukkah can tell you, sometimes it seems like a good idea to save everything up for one big surprise.

Add in how CCP generally handles content releases… which from the outside looks like three months of development followed by three months of fixing what they just shipped… and it will be interesting to see how their new plan plays out.

In the end, I am not sure which one of these methods is the “best,” or even if any of them are optimum in any way for the company using them.  All I can guarantee is that we’ll complain about them all no matter what.

Back to looking at pictures of food.

AOL Shuts Down Wow.com

Okay, now it might seem that I am completely using that headline as a troll for this post.

And it might even be true.

But this is also a little bit of MMO blogesphere history, so I claim legitimacy!

A couple of years back, WoW Insider, which is basically the “All World of Warcraft All The Time” sister publication of Massively, managed to get a hold of the domain wow.com.  Up to that point, if memory serves, they used the domain wowinsider.com.

Overjoyed at scoring such a good domain name, they changed the name of the whole site to WoW.com.

That lasted for a while… what, a year maybe?

This is a blog campfire tale, in the great oral tradition, so there are no exact dates in my head.  They aren’t important.

What is important is the story.

Anyway, after some time passed, their parent company, whatever passes for America Online these days, decided that such a cool domain name was wasted on them.

So they took the domain away from them, changed their name back WoW Insider, and stuck them under the Joystiq banner just for good measure.  Those WoW pukes know who is boss now that they have to live with the domain wow.joystiq.com, which honestly could work for either a game site or a porn site. (Massively got shifted over from massively.com to massively.joystiq.com as well, which holds about the same porn site connotations.)

And what did AOL do with this hot property, this asset too valuable for a mere gaming site?

Why, this great URL was seen as the cornerstone of their plan to create yet another Groupon clone for the web, which they planned to call Wow.

Because that is what, more sites attempting to clone the success of others.

And how did that work out?

Due to an outdated bookmark deep in Firefox, I stumbled upon the site this morning.  AOL is shutting it down.

All Wow.com vouchers must be printed off by 12/31/2011

So much for that idea!  But yet another AOL acquisition will be providing local coupons.  I wonder how the people at Patch.com feel about picking up that task?

And what will become of the wow.com domain?  It is way too valuable to let it lapse.

Maybe AOL could sell it to Blizzard?  They certainly seem to have money.

What would you do with the domain wow.com?

Guardian Cub Price Check – First Weekend Price Drop

Time for a first weekend look at Guardian Cub prices.

As was probably to be expected, there were a lot more Guardian Cubs on the market Sunday morning than there were when I did my first check.  The 24 hour delay and the impact of people who only play on the weekend guaranteed that.

And what did more cubs do to the price?  Here is what things looked like at 17:00 UTC.

Eldre’Thalas (PvE Alliance) – 10 Cubs Listed

Bid/Buyout

  • 6,925/7,999
  • 7,000/8,000
  • 7,000/8,500
  • 7,350/8,500
  • 7,800/7,875
  • 7,900/7,900
  • 8,500/8,500
  • 8,500/8,500
  • 8,000/10,000
  • 12,250/15,000

Eldre’Thalas (PvE Horde) – 8 Cubs Listed

Bid/Buyout

  • 5,250/6,850
  • 7,000/7,000
  • 7,000/7,000
  • 7,500/8,900
  • 7,500/9,250
  • 7,672/9,262
  • 8,700/8,700
  • 9,000/9,100

Hyjal (PvE Alliance) – 11 Cubs Listed

Bid/Buyout

  • 7,400/7,999
  • 7.975/7,975
  • 8,000/9,000
  • 8,546/8,996
  • 8,960/8,997
  • 9,000/10,236
  • 9,450/10,236
  • 9,500/10,000
  • 9,974/10,499
  • 9,974/10,499
  • 9,974/10,499

Lightninghoof (PvP Horde) – 15 Cubs Listed

Bid/Buyout

  • 8,296/9,217
  • 8,379/9,310
  • 8,464/9,405
  • 8,500/9,500
  • 8,644/9,099
  • 8,644/9,099
  • 8,731/9,702
  • 8,820/9,800
  • 9,000/9,150
  • 9,099/9,099
  • 9,349/9,899
  • 9,450/9,999
  • 13,100/13,200
  • 13,100/13,200

Thrall (PvE Alliance) – 8 Cubs Listed

Bid/Buyout

  • 7,122/9,472
  • 7,124/9,475
  • 8,000/9,500
  • 8,939/10,000
  • 9,168/9,651
  • 9,471/9,471
  • 15,080/15,080
  • 17,500/20,000

More cubs pushed the price down significantly.  At my first check, you had to shell out about 20,000 gold if you wanted a cub.  Now the price is well below 10,000 gold in most markets.  And in very small markets, like the Horde side of Eldre’Thalas, the low end of the price spectrum is coming close to what I believe will be the effective floor price for sellers, 5,000 gold.

Over at WoW Insider they have started to look at the price of Guardian Cubs.  They have pointed to Auction House Spy, which has set up a special page dedicated to tracking Guardian Cub pricing.  Hey, there was a cub for 3,000 gold on the Thaurissan server.  So I might be wrong on my estimated floor price, though at 3,000 gold that makes legitimate Cub gold twice as expensive as illicit gold seller gold.

They also mention The Undermine Journal, another price tracking site, for people who want data on Guardian Cub prices.  I think the front page of that site is worth a look just because it visually demonstrates the number of different economies that exist in the WoW universe.  And those are just the North American servers.

Since those tools are available, I won’t be tracking Guardian Cub prices on any sort of regular basis, though I am sure I will come back every so often to see just were prices have gone.