Recently, a U.S. Senator called out the University of California, Irvine on their shameless waste of tax payer's money "studying" World of Warcraft.
Walt Scacchi, a research director at UCI in response stated that "They absolutely don't get what we're doing". This study can only benefit mankind right? I mean.. playing World of Warcraft SAVES LIVES man. They're heroes!
What I didn't understand, though, was that they called World of Warcraft the "World's Most Popular MMORPG". I suppose everyone interprets the definition of a "MMORPG" differently.. and even the whole definition of "subscribers" is pretty flexible.
WoW is certainly very popular in Irvine CA and the rest of the Americas.. but the entire world? I suppose it is popular in some areas of the world due to the massive amount of money Blizzard invests in promotion.. so, it's "very well known". But most popular? Does popular mean most amount of players? I'm assuming so.
So, let's see how WoW holds up against other MMORPG subscriber counts worldwide. Here are some of the largest MMORPG's by population or "popularity" that have listed their subscription figures:
Dungeons and Dragons Online - 2 Million
Knight Online - 4.25 Million
Flyff - 5 Million
Guild Wars - 6 Million
Metin2 - 7 Million
Gaia Online - 8 Million
Lineage 1 - 10 Million
Free Realms - 12 Million
World of Warcraft - 12 Million
Wizard 101 - 15 Million
Silkroad Online - 18 Million
Lineage 2 - 20 Million
Second Life - 20 Million
Dofus - 30 Million
MU Online - 40 Million
DarkOrbit - 50 Million
Perfect World - 50 Million
Scions of Fate - 50 Million
Ragnarok Online - 60 Million
Farmville - 80 Million
Westward Journey Online II - 86 Million
Maple Story - 100 Million
RuneScape - 130 Million
Dungeon Fighter Online - 200 Million
All of these numbers are certainly debatable, but these are the official subscribers counts.. apparently.
So in the end, I wouldn't necessarily call WoW the "World's Most Popular MMORPG". When I heard "World's Most Popular MMORPG" I immediately thought of Maple Story and RuneScape actually. Therefore, it would be much more appropriate and accurate to call it "The Most Well Known Non-Free Non-Browser Client-Based 3D Fantasy MMORPG In Some Parts of the World."
Maybe "World's Most Popular MMORPG" is a trademark or a registered company name that Blizzard owns. You know, like McDonald's "100% Pure Beef" marketing strategy. It's written on their packaging, but "100% Pure Beef" is really just the name of the company that manufactures the processed meat. It doesn't actually MEAN the meat is 100% pure beef though. =]
Check out this video interview between Destructoid and Blizzard.
He confirmed that they are indeed calling the game Titan (their internal codename), that people weren't supposed to know about it ("the media's not supposed to know anything about that, it's our Next-Gen MMO"), and that it has been used quietly ("limited") within the organization.
In the beginning of the video, Destructoid was obviously referring to the recent leaked release schedule, and Frank Pearce cracked a big smile. =]
So - I think that's pretty much a confirmation that the release schedule was indeed legitimate. The release dates are all estimates of course (ie, setting a general roadmap for the company) and the actual release dates will fall short of their original goals based on trends, but at least they give us a really good idea of when they want to release the games even though our own estimates were pretty close. Unfortunately, this also means that all of that other critical financial and subscriber information is out there in the wild too!
Blizzard recently stated that they intended to develop smaller expansion packs so that they could release them much sooner - giving that release schedule more legitimacy (ie, one year apart versus every two years.)
Blizzard announced their Sales Figures today, and all of the major media organizations (IGN, Joystiq, Gamepro, etc. etc.) are reporting that Cataclysm sold 3.3 million copies within the first 24 hours.
In actual fact, all of that information is completely false. It's like they just read the Subject Header without actually reading any of the factual information.
Blizzard sold a "record 3.3 million copies sold through as of its first 24 hours of release*". There was even a asterisk pointing to a small little caption at the bottom of their announcement, but no one seems to be paying attention. =]
Normally, Pre-Sales are included in industry announcements - but the new Digital Download process makes this a very different case. It's like heavily hyping a game, pushing it's "first" release date, allowing players to buy the game and install it on their PC, then have a "second" release date but say all of the sales were actually made on the "second release date". Most if not all other developers can't do this, making this a special case.
That 3.3 million sales figure was based on ALL sales over the past several months and included Pre-Order Sales and Digital Downloads (which went live Nov. 3, 2010). Blizzard is a master in the communication arena and it's like what I've always been saying - it's all about wording. Sales during the first 24 hours were probably significantly less than 2.5 million, but there's no way to tell since Blizzard opened up Digital Downloads during the same quarter as the release. Very sneaky.
Jay Allen Brack originally stated, "We expect the Cataclysm sales to exceed the levels of the previous versions, but we do not have an exact target." So that new announcement needed to be worded in such a way that it didn't make him look bad. I'm really disappointed with the lack of transparency.
But it gets even more sneaky..
1. Let's ignore all of Digital Downloads (over one month prior to retail launch day) for a moment.
Blizzard didn't actually count sales during the first 24 hours of Dec. 7th. In fact, they included sales from Dec. 7th, Dec. 8th, and Dec. 9th. Dec. 10th was the actual "ending date" of the 24 hours sales period. =]
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was simultaneously released in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand on December 7, and became available in Korea and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on December 9.Cataclysm became available in Korea and parts of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau on December 9th. So, they counted the 24 hour sales period from geographies that contained the smallest number of sales but added in 3 WHOLE DAYS OF SALES from their largest subscriber based geographies. Nice.
That's a HUGE amount considering the daily trends of average game sales. For example: 5M sales opening day, 3M sales next day, 1.5M next day, 750k next day, etc. If Cataclysm sales were based on previous Expansion Pack sales (and there was never a Digital Download), that 3.3 million number was actually calculated over a 3 day period, and it would have ACTUALLY been closer to 2 million on the first day, 1 million the second day, 300-500k on the third day, and so on.
2. Blizzard stated that Cataclysm sales made "it the fastest-selling PC game of all time.*". However, that statement also had a little caption attached. It was, in fact, the "fastest-selling PC game" based on Blizzard's internal lineup of games and the use of special calculations from their own "internal company records". Meaning that they included 2 months of sales, but are classifying it as "sales in 24 hours".
3. They also called it a "PC game", but Cataclysm is not a stand-alone video game. It's an expansion pack (it could even be classified as a large patch or DLC) with a much cheaper pricing model than a real PC game purchase. I don't know if you could even classify the retail DVD as a large patch.. it's just the 4.0 update which players can (and already have) download for free. Really, if you get technical, you're just paying for a code to "unlock" new stuff for your account.
Sales did not actually "shatter" anything and if you've been reading earlier posts you'll know that 3.3 million sales over a 2 month period are not good at all. It also looks like this little prediction came true. =]
This time it's leaked video footage of the work-in-progress Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm ending CGI.
Here's a link to see the video yourself. Keep in mind, it contains big spoilers. =]
(NEW LINK HERE - they're being pulled down all over the place.)
It might have been an alternative ending to Wings of Liberty, but based on Activision Blizzard's flurry of recent take down notices - it probably is indeed the ending to Heart of the Swarm.
(Update: Confirmed to be a legitimate leak.)
What's on the video (SPOILERS):
Kerrigan either turns back into the Zerg hybrid, or she's a clone created by Mengsk so that he could take control of the Zerg armies for himself.
It appears that up until now, the Zerg have always been controlled by some nefarious overmind. In this case, Arcturus Mengsk has been working with Kerrigan (or a clone) for some time and possibly controlling her. So the Zerg's actions (in WoL or HotS) were all the result of Mengsk's decisions. He has a lab full of Kerrigan (human) clones with PSI abilities that can reach out to Zerg/Kerrigan to hurt and possibly control her.
Mengsk calls her his greatest failure, and then she and Raynor kill Mengsk. The Zerg/Kerrigan also appears to be super-PSI powered as well. =]
Basically, the Zerg are finally free from all control and can now decide their own destiny. In the end, Raynor asks "What now?" Kerrigan responds with, "I keep my end of the bargain, and leave humanity to it's fate. The Zerg are free now.. slaves to no one, not even me. So whether they be the bringers of light or destroyers of worlds, I'll help them find the answer out there amongst the stars."
So yeah.. Cataclysm is out tonight.
For the past couple weeks, there's been a lot of hype about the game and all the "amazing new changes" to starter leveling zones.
It's funny listening to all of the forum comments. For example, "Wow! There are so many AWESOME changes in the Undead starter area.. this is my first time starting an Undead character, but I can tell that they made a lot of changes! This is great!"
I even noticed that some people were complimenting the massive changes made to the Blood Elf & Draenei zones. /sigh
Based on the amount of time spent working on Cataclysm and all of the features removed, I think people should stop sucking Blizzard's dick for a moment and be a little more critical. Now that I've personally had a chance to see all of the changes done to Azeroth, I have to say that I'm a little disappointed.
Sure, there are some cool areas and some fun new quests but for the most part nothing has changed at all. All of the zones are the exact same, but with new NPCs, grass, trees and textures sprinkled in. I still remember the excitement built up when Cataclysm was first announced. Blizzard promised that the "world would be devoured by rage", "Azeroth would be shook to it's foundations", "the lands torn asunder", "Azeroth re-forged", "classic zones forever changed by the cataclysm", and that the "face of Azeroth will be changed forever by the awakening of Deathwing."
What happened, Blizzard?
I was expecting some pretty exciting and massive changes, but it looks like all of the best parts (ie, the biggest visual changes) were already displayed in the Cataclysm teaser video. It still funny to watch though.. I think everyone was more excited about flying mounts in the Old World then anything else.
Cataclysm File Size
The Cataclysm game isn't as big as some people are expecting. For the most part, you already had Cataclysm installed with those 4.0.1-4.0.3a patches. =]
The Cataclysm retail DVD mostly contains old files and patch data to make sure your version is most up-to-date... to 4.0.0 that is. If you install Cataclysm from the Retail DVD, it will in fact downgrade your entire install to 4.0.0 and you'll have to go through all of the updates from scratch again. There's going to be a lot of pissed off players when they realize this.
Here's a faster way if you purchased the retail copy. You can actually do this too without purchasing Cataclysm, but you'll still need the upgraded key to play Cataclysm.
With your existing 4.0.3a patch, it's also possible to upgrade your game client to the Cataclysm retail with about 327MB of data and even then, some of that data is just replacement information too. The new Cataclysm Digital Download [expansion3.MPQ (632.3MB), expansion3-speech-enUS.MPQ (55.5MB), expansion3-locale-enUS.MPQ (1.0MB)] is a little less than 700MB size, but it contains a lot of replacement information that's about as superfluous as a third nipple.
All of the Cataclysm data files amount to about 1/4 the size of WOTLK, but it should increase as Blizzard Blizzard applies for fixes, patches, and content updates to Cataclysm over the next several months.
Cataclysm Sales Predictions
Surprisingly, there really haven't been a lot of predictions made for Cataclysm.. possibly because they learned their lesson from the last expansion pack (overestimates.) Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia predicts that Cataclysm will sell between 3.5 and 4 million copies in their first month of sales. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter predicted instead that Cataclysm will sell over 6 million copies in December (and 6 million for SC2).
For the sake of comparison, WOTLK sold 2.8 million copies in it's first 24 hours and TBC sold 2.4 million copies.
Even Blizzard themselves made a prediction, which I haven't seen in a really long time! Jay Allen Brack said, "We expect the Cataclysm sales to exceed the levels of the previous versions, but we do not have an exact target."
Very interesting indeed, but it shouldn't surprise me since Blizzard really went ALL OUT for this expansion pack and are trying to push as much revenue as possible this time around.
So, what exactly has Blizzard done?
This year, Blizzard has done quite a number of things to push sales of their new expansion pack while also driving revenue for the quarter across the board. It's quite a big deal too.. maybe they're trying to prove something to their investors. =]
- Cataclysm was designed from the ground up for intro-level players, and is a way for new players to join without fear of too many high-leveled or experienced players. It's sort of a "reset" to bring everyone back to the same level ground. It also encourages veteran players to invite more friends since they will be creating new characters (possibly on new servers too.)
- Cataclysm was also designed to bring back old players who miss the "good ol' days" and want Classic realms to make a return.
- Introduced the new Digital Download system for Cataclysm.
- Paid Faction and Race Changes available on the FIRST DAY for the new race/class combinations.
- New [Moonkin Hatchling] and [Lil Ragnaros] pet sales "for charity".
- Special Christmas (limited time) offers: Blizzard lowered the cost of WoW to $5, TBC to $5 and WOTLK to $10.
- Heavy media and email campaigns to bring back players, friends, and family members.
- Offering 7 days of free game time to all non-active players (right up to the day before Cata - Note: the expiration date was actually extended). These game offers actually concern me sometimes.. whenever Age of Conan, SWG or another failed MMORPG tried to get players to "Come Back!" it just came off as a sign of desperation.
- New forum system - completely cleaned house and made it easier to remove negative comments and old critical posts, while also further crippling search capabilities.
- The new Blizzard Digital Sales system will now obscure true sales numbers (since retails sales are tracked by NPD) and Blizzard is under no requirement to release sales figures to the public. They can pretty much announce anything they want - e.g. "biggest sales yet!" without actual figures or breakdown of Cataclysm vs previous expansions.
- And of course, the game was released right before Christmas during the largest sales period of the year.
All of these activities were planned for years in advance and deployed simultaneously to drive revenue as high as possible for the quarter. It will be very interesting the see the results. Their MMO revenue for this quarter should be at minimum in the $600 million mark based on analyst's predictions. (WoW currently makes about $270-300 million per quarter on average by the way.)
I've been sitting on this story since the end of November, still deciding whether to write about it. I was waiting for another confirmation before posting anything. But, it looks like some new information has hit the news outlets confirming what mmogamesite.com has been writing about.
Here are some links to bring you up to date:
Blizzard Product Slate Leaked
China Management Reshuffle
China GM Fired for Leak
Blizzard Release Schedule Leak?
Blizzard Angry, a Lot of Other Information Leaked
Competitors Trying To Buy Confidential Information
The information was leaked from a 178.com forum user, which mmogamesite.com, a very new website, picked up.
One item that concerned me was that new MMO was called "Project Titan". However, "Project Titan" is the exact same name as Ensemble Studio/Bungie's secret "Halo" MMOFPS project that was cancelled. It would be easy to get that information confused with Blizzard's MMO from all of the random internet sources out there. The "Codename Titan" has been around for a while too (I've even used it too), and there have been obscure forum posts calling Blizzard's new MMO "Titan" as well for several months now. The Portuguese translation ("WOW BRAZIL") has also been known internally for some time for example.
Keep in mind that "Project Titan" is just a code name too and it wouldn't be the actual name of the new MMO (which hasn't been decided yet).
Diablo 3 was called "Project Hydra".
Starcraft 2 was called "Project Alpha" then changed to "Project Medusa".
Cataclysm was called "Project South Seas" then changed to "Worldbreaker". (Another reason for the name change was because they significantly reduced the scope of the game so that they could reserve parts/zones/content for later expansions.)
(Note: For the past few years, Blizzard has been using names from Greek mythology to label their secret projects. Hydra, Medusa, Titan, and Phoenix are all from Greek mythology so if you wanted to create a new fake roadmap - just pick a name from mythology that can be interpreted a hundred different ways to keep people guessing.)
Here were the more interested tidbits of information I pulled out from these leaks and related news stories:
- It appears that we're getting a Warcraft movie (didn't need a leaked doc to tell us that), there's a Starcraft 2 Phoenix project that looks related to the Map Marketplace (probably map and game designs using the SC2 engine), and there's going to be an online multiplayer Warcraft trading card game. Sounds like a lot of fun! =]
- It also appears that the information might have been given to a Blizzard competitor already (sold?), and that someone there was the one who leaked it that Chinese forum. If this production release schedule is proved true, this is very bad for Blizzard's security.
- Other competitors are showing interest in purchasing this information (due to the sales information, full income/revenue breakdowns, advertising budgets, media plans, and subscriber details.)
- Global subscriber information (yes - you) is all out there in the open market now. It wouldn't contain credit card details though, this was a breach from a different database so to speak.
- Although it was believed that NetEase fully operated WoW in China with impunity (and Blizzard only provided Technical Support), apparently Blizzard has a deep penetration and large say in the complete operation and maintenance of WoW China. This means that Blizzard HQ is "okay" with the massive account selling/gold buying/selling in one country, but not okay with it in others. Talk about double standards. This is very interesting to know.
I've been talking about this for a little while now. For years, Blizzard has been stating that there have never been any breaches, there never will be any breaches, all echoed by Blizzard CS and Forum reps and fanboys. Well, it just happened like what I've been writing about all along.. simply put, it's all about the internal personnel breaches and leaks of information. "External hacking" attempts are much more rare and significantly more difficult by comparison.
But these internal breaches by employees are more frequent, this one just happened to make it public before Blizzard could seal the leak.
This is a pretty massive breach too - all global subscriber database information in fact. Paul Sams (remember him?) in fact had to take a trip to Shanghai to fix things there, and what was interesting is that they had a very quick (external) replacement after the "unexpected resignation" of their GM. Strange how they had someone so readily available..
Meanwhile, Blizzard maintains that this Release Schedule is just rumor and speculation, and that the resignations, management shuffle, and executive management travelling overseas are all just coincidence. =]
Oh! By the way.. here's what Blizzard has officially stated on the matter of security breaches:
There are substantial and multi-layered safeguards in place, after all. An inside job is IMPOSSIBLE!
The list just goes on and on..
Here are some other interesting reads from Forum Reps and Blizzard fanboys on the matter. Many players actually believe (falsely) that Blizzard is required by federal and/or state law to notify of data breaches, so logically there have been no breaches at all.
And finally.. here are some examples of security breaches that did actually occur before said official statements. These are just the ones that made it public too, there are tons of cases and even blogs/websites have received take-down notices from Blizzard.
Blizzard GMS, CS/Forum reps, and Community MVPs are all trained to say "There have been no security breaches." Don't believe everything you read though, that's just what they're trained to say - whether it's fact or not. But that's the beauty of plausible deniability.. plus, they may actually believe what they are conveying is the truth.
If you followed my cross-faction gold-making strategy, chances are that you still have a guild bank full of recipes like I do.
Well, stop posting [Recipe: Fillet of Frenzy] and [Recipe: Tasty Lion Steak] immediately!
Some of your recipes might have become Bind on Pickup, but HOLD ONTO THOSE AS WELL if you have them stored in your (personal) guild bank! The two recipes I just mentioned are no longer available - meaning that prices for these two cooking recipes will sky-rocket once people figure this out.
For the new soulbound recipes [Recipe: Westfall Stew] and [Recipe: Cooked Crab Claw], hopefully you still have those in your Guild Bank. If you do, they're not soulbound and can still be sold! First, just wait to see if they become rare or not. If they're introduced again after Cataclysm, just vendor them. If not, you can sell the recipes (after a long wait period) in Trade Chat. What you do is move a single recipe to a Guild Bank tab, and invite players to the guild who want to buy the recipe from you. You give them access to the single Guild Bank tab only (or only allow 1 withdraw for their rank), and then kick them after. =]
For Frenzy and Tasty Lion - as of right now, no one has been able to find any vendors that offer these recipes. The Tasty Lion/Menace quest has been removed from Southshore, and Laird (the NPC who sold Fillet of Frenzy) was killed during the Shattering.
No word on whether these will be available after Catacylsm, so I would recommend you hold onto these for dear life!
Right now, they don't seem to be available but they might be back in Cataclysm.
If you like taking risks, you should start hunting down these recipes and buying them out on the Auction House before others realize how valuable they've become (spend up to 500G per recipe for example). The other option is to advertise that the recipes have been removed, and try to sell them for 5,000 gold each or more - in case it does make a return in Cataclysm.
Otherwise, if you don't want to take any risks - just wait to see if they're available again from NPCs after Cataclysm, or watch as they become extremely more rare and valuable. (The longer you wait, the more valuable they will become.)
Remember the [Ruby Shades]? They were widely available for 5 copper, Blizzard removed them, and now they sell on the Auction House for over 100,000 gold.
(Note: I'll update if I find any other missing recipes - I heard that there are 6 recipes missing from Tanaris, but I haven't investigated yet.)
The other missing Tanaris recipes are sold by Gikkix (first 4) and Jabbey who are both MIA.
Recipe: Grilled Squid
Recipe: Nightfin Soup
Recipe: Poached Sunscale Salmon
Recipe: Spotted Yellowtail
Recipe: Undermine Clam Chowder
According to Blizzard, however, the recipes will be making a return sometime after the Cataclysm release but they weren't sure on an exact date.
If you have these recipes, you should buy them out on the AH and start selling for very high prices (tell everyone that they were taken out of the game.. you know, a half truth.) =]
No word on Tasty Lion and Fillet of Frenzy however.
* Update (12/03/10):
I've received confirmation from a GM that [Recipe: Fillet of Frenzy] and [Recipe: Tasty Lion Steak] will NOT be making a return. The NPCs were killed during the Shattering and therefore the recipes died with them. So, hold onto these recipes - they can only go UP in value. In 6-12 months, they'll be worth 60-75k at least. Maybe they'll even reach the heights of those Ruby Shades one day (eg 150,000-250,000 in a couple years)..
[Recipe: Keldorei Spider Kabob] has also been removed - another extremely valuable recipe if you still have it sitting in your bank space.