Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unlimited Free Trials: Is WoW Next?


Recently Warhammer Online and Age of Conan, two high profile games, have started offering unlimited free trials of their starter content. So, with more and more games going free to play or offering more content for no money down, is a change of this variety in the works for World of Warcraft?

The idea of giving the Old World content to players for free has been around for a while now. However, there are two obvious problems with freeing that content up in the long run:

1. Wow is way more successful than Warhammer and AoC combined and has no pressing financial reason to all of sudden give away a large part of their game.

2. The next expansion, Cataclysm, is going to radically change the Old World in an attempt to refocus the population of the game.

So, no, in the long term I cannot see Blizzard giving away any part of their golden hen. The short term, however, is a different story. Lately, the marketing push for the game has seemed to of ramped up. Just the other day my mom and I were watching TV when one of those Mr. T Mohawk Grenade ads came on. She thought it was hilarious. It got me thinking.

With the release of patch 3.3 last week the current expansion is done, paving the way for Cataclysm sometime (I hope) in the first half of next year. And this marketing campaign with well known faces suggests that they will push the next expansion more heavily than any previous as it is probably the largest change to the game to date. So, what will bring the most new players into the game in the lull between January and when the expansion hits?

Starting early next year, offer the Old World content for free until the release of Cataclysm.

Age of Conan is doing basically the same thing until, I think, the end of this year. And yes, I know, in the case of Warcraft it might be seen as the old bait-and-switch: get new players in with this old stuff, then when the expansion hits and they subscribe everything they have come to know is different.

That last part though, is solved by just being honest and up front. If I were to advertise that I had a dinosaur living in my backyard, but that it was going to die in a week, people would still flock to see it. That it was going to die soon would only give them a bigger sense of urgency.

Okay, bad example, but you get the idea. Anyway, your thoughts?


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Unfortunate Part Two: Oh, Blizzard!

Well, my glorious return to WoW was not so glorious. Remember how I said my laptop can no longer run it so I had to pull out our old desktop to run it? Well, turns out the desktop won't run it either... Without fail, (or with a lot of fail) somewhere between five and ten minutes into playing, the computer blue screens and I have to restart it. There have been some other very strange glitches too:

One time I lost all landscape features

One time I tried to tab out and the game got stuck in a frantic, glitchy transition between my desktop and the game.

And one time I was in the middle of a quest that involved setting down a torch to summon some bat demon, but as soon as I set down the torch my perspective flipped upside down. It was like gravity had flip flopped me and I was standing on the underside of the world. Hard to explain. Anyway, at first I thought this was part of the quest...until I couldn't select anything and the bat demon killed me.

You know, for a game like WoW, which is supposed to run on nearly everything, it's pretty ironic (and sucky) that it won't run on any of our computers, despite them being more than powerful enough.

I'll probably give it one more shot today, although my expectations are not high. From what I have seen so far of the changes they've made since I last played, everything is working better than ever. I especially like a lot of the quest log and map changes. It's just a shame I can't get far enough into the game to be able to appreciate it more.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh, Blizzard!

A couple weeks ago I was one of the lucky current unsubscribers to get a free seven days of playtime in World of Warcraft. Given my previous record of subscriptions they probably thought that a few free days would lure me right back in...and they would be right.


My main computer at the moment refuses to run the game. So, in order to use this time I had to pull out our eight year old desktop and patch the game up. With finals coming to an end this week I finally got around to logging back in yesterday. However, wouldn't you know it, yesterday (Tuesday) they decided to release patch 3.3. So, it wasn't until fairly late last night that I actually managed to log in.

This is the part though that I'm sure Blizzard were hoping for: I wasn't in Stormwind ten seconds before someone sent me a tell asking for a port! I love all that community stuff! Community and Exploration are two of the main things I look for in a game. Not coincidentally, WoW being my home game, has both these things. Say what you will about the WoW community, but in this instance they really came through for their game. So, yes, Blizzard, I would love to resubscribe to your game after these seven days run out...

...just as soon as you release Cataclysm and I find a better computer to play it on.

*Hint to Blizzard: if you want me to resub, how about a new laptop for Christmas?*

In all seriousness I'll gladly be back soon, but this break will probably be consumed by Xbox.


Now I just need to find out what happened to that guild I was in.....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birthdays = Relevancy!

Just the other day, yesterday in fact, I had a birthday. I'm now twenty; yay, go me, etc etc. And because I'm on the long Thanksgiving weekend from school my parents were nice enough to give me my presents early. I'm tempted to give a run down of my console gaming history, but perhaps that is best left for another time. Anyway, long story short, I received an XBox 360 and several games!

My mother, being the incredibly smart and frugal woman that she is, bought a Pro way back when they went on sale before being discontinued, so it was fairly cheap! The games I got were: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Borderlands, and The Orange Box.

So, now I feel much more relevant and capable of talking about current games! In particular, I have had my eye on Oblivion for a while. I absolutely loved Morrowind for what it did the with completely open-world concept and so far Oblivion feels like a much more polished Morrowind. I get the feeling this is the game they wanted to make, originally. It is such a beautiful game. I've probably spent the most time in there so far. I've never thought about roleplaying a game before, but Oblivion has actually sparked ideas in me. I'm considering doing some blog posts in character about some of my characters quests in game; I'll have to see.

Next, there's Borderlands. I'm not a huge fan of shooters on the consoles (unless, ironically, they are on the Wii) but so far I've played through the tutorial and it seems like a really fun FPS-RPG hybrid with the emphasis on shoot, kill, loot; rather than stat managing. I'm also a sucker for the slick art style. I should get more time with it over my month long Holiday Break.

The Orange Box I haven't played at all yet, but will probably get to eventually. According to just about everyone, you're life isn't complete until you've played Portal. So, I'll see if the outrageous accounts of gaming godliness are justified. I did play part of Half-Life 2 on the original XBox a long time ago, and to be completely honest it is probably some of the most fun I've ever had in a video game. So, I can't wait to start playing that again and *fingers crossed* finish a BIG IMPORTANT GAME.

I tend to never finish games unless they are pitifully easy.

So, while I own a Wii, I'm not sure I would consider it current gen. It's sort of in a league of its own. I've loved Nintendo consoles for most of my gaming youth, however I think it may be time to begin to move on. While the Wii has some great games, it lacks the support of some of the major titles I'd like to be playing.

After the next two weeks are over I should start blogging more frequently, probably mostly about the new 360. My year-end wrap up is still coming too!

One last thing as well. I know I shouldn't take the bait, but my account was selected by Blizzard as one to which they gave a week of free play time in honor of WoW dinging five years old. They expect me to jump in there and get hooked again. And they are probably right. However, I know something they don't know! My main computer can't run WoW anymore! So HA! Blizzard, joke is on you! Though if a Blizzard rep is listening I'll tell you what you can do: buy me a new laptop that can run your game and I will never let my sub slide again.

Talk about securing customer loyalty... Anyway, if I do end up using my seven days it will probably be on our old clunky computer which is a mess to get running, but still runs the game competently. It's like a snowball in one of those old cartoons: once you give it a good shove it starts rolling down the mountain, after a while picking up speed, growing larger.


Still listening to Girl Talk. Illegal Art just re-released another of his older albums and I think they are set to put the first one back out sometime in December. It's interesting to see how he developed as an artist up until Feed the Animals, which is a good jumping off point for a new listener. His work can be found HERE.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

For those Americans reading this blog: Happy Thanksgiving!

And if you plan on going shopping tomorrow for all the Black Friday deals: good luck! I just looked through all the newspaper ads and it seems that this year the deals are better than ever; probably due to our middling economy. For example: WoW is going for just $5 this weekend! Crazy. Massively put up a buyers guide too; it's not much, but that Guild Wars deal is just ridiculous.

I'll be spending the day eating turkey, watching the Dallas Cowboys, and playing Oblivion (my birthday is Saturday, so I got a 360 a little early and am finally caught up with the current gen systems!!!).

Have a happy turkey day!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Concerning Modern Warfare 2...

I'm officially tired of hearing about it; on to more interesting games!

I'm listening to the latest MMO Voices podcast and it was all good until they had to throw their two cents in about this game. Okay. Great. Here are mine. Let's move on now. I refuse to read or listen to anything else concerning this game.


My year end round up will be coming soon!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Nature of Micro Transactions: Setting an Example

This post will take the form of a letter.

Dear Blizzard Entertainment,

You guys have a lot of money, everyone and their virtual dog knows this. I can say that there are three absolutes to everyday life in America today: people will be born, people will die, and you will make a ridiculous amount of money. Even through this so-called economic downturn you have continued to turn a profit. The entertainment industry has shown itself to once again be bullet proof. You good folks have so much money, in fact, that you have the ability to develop not one, not two, not three, but four projects at once (that we know of). You have essentially blazed the way for the mmo genre in the last five years. You make a move and most other developers in the industry take notice and generally follow suit in a similar fashion. So that is why I'm writing this, to ask you to take a stand on a certain issue: micro transactions.

Recently you threw down all guises and introduced full-on RMT into World of Warcraft in the form of vanity pets. You priced these two pets at $10 a piece. Charitable benefits not withstanding, I believe this is entirely too much to charge for a permanent in game item. That is not to say that you were not well within your rights to charge that amount; by all means, charge $100 if you think people will pay (god knows, someone is buying those beer steins). All I'm saying is that it is not ethical to charge so much for an in game item. And this is where setting an industry example comes in to play.

We are a capitalist country and by no means do I begrudge you your fair profit. I'll be the first person to pay that monthly fee to keep you folks in business, so that you can continue to turn out amazingly fun content. However, there is a certain line of what it is okay to charge and what it is not okay to charge that has been crossed and so we come to the $10 Horse Problem.

First lets break down the phrase at the heart of the issue.

Micro - something "very small"

Transaction - "An exchange or trade, as of ideas, money, goods, etc."

In our instance we get a very small trade of goods and money; perhaps even of ideas because the point of RMT is to increase the amount of fun one has.

However, ten dollars can do a number of things that are in no way "very small". It can fill my stomach for an evening. It can fill half my gas tank for a week long commute, and it can pay two thirds of a month's subscription to your online game. You would certainly agree that, at the very least, the last example is no small thing.

But that's really the heart of the problem here, you have let those dollar signs get in the way of better judgment and would probably care more about me keeping up my subscription than getting to school for the week. It's the ever-popular 'principle of the thing': don't gouge your customers and they will like you more. When they like you more, they will spend more. More people benefit from a $1 horse than benefit from a $10 horse. And the all important 'me' (in this case Blizzard) loses nothing because we are not dealing with physical products; sell five or five billion, it does not matter because every cent is pure profit. Yes, I very much believe in micro transactions because by their very nature they are inexpensive to the consumer, while also being profitable when introduced to a large enough group of people, in this case eleven million.

So, we come to this 'example' that I've been yapping about. And by example, I mean if you embrace the 'micro' in micro transaction then you will have the distinct possibility of maintaining your choke hold as industry leader. By lowering the barrier to entry you open up not just your own game, but the entire genre to a wider group of people. As I said, when you do something, others follow suit. When you lower prices, other RMT utilizing games must do the same or face the prospect of charging more that WoW. So, let's think long-term here:

Less expensive = more consumers, more consumers + time = more money

Micro transactions are indeed the future and the first game to fully realize that will be one to claim those tens of millions of waiting American gamers and the spot as the month after month best seller. Whether it is you, Blizzard, is entirely up to you at this moment. I just hope that all the current money and popularity has not made you so lazy and resistant to change that it ends you.

Thank you for your time,