“World of Warcraft” breaks 11 million player mark.

The 800 pound gorilla of MMORPGs continues its phenomenal growth with Blizzard announcing today that they’ve broken the 11 million player mark:

IRVINE, Calif. – October 28, 2008 – Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that the subscribership for World of Warcraft®, its award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), now exceeds 11 million players worldwide. This milestone was reached as the beta test for Wrath of the Lich King®, World of Warcraft’s second expansion, nears completion. Wrath of the Lich King will launch in several regions around the world starting on November 13.

“It’s been very rewarding to see gamers around the world continue to show such strong support for World of Warcraft,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment®. “We remain fully committed to responding to that enthusiasm with a high-quality, constantly evolving game experience.

That’s active subscribers, by the way, which Blizzard goes out of their way to mention:

World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

If WoW were a county it would rank in the list of countries by population at 75 out of 221 right between Greece (11,215,000) and Chad (10,781,000). Growth has slowed quite a bit since the first couple of years, but they still anticipate adding another million to the list within a year’s time now that they’ve launched in Russia and Latin America. Gotta admit, that’s mighty impressive.

We’ve broken the 6,000 entry mark and a few other random notes.

So I see that SEB broke the 6,000 entry mark today with my posting on the Access Hollywood interview with the Obamas. It’s only taken me almost a full seven years to do it, but I got there eventually. Considering that folks such as ***Dave broke that milestone years ago probably says a lot about how lazy a blogger I really am, but we can’t all be superstars like ***Dave. I’ll just have to be content with the simply staggering comment count SEB has racked up over the years. Almost 71.5K as of this very moment. Our daily traffic fluctuates between 1,200 and 2,100 people and that’s nothing to sneeze at either. Nor is the amount of bandwidth the site makes use of at roughly 1.12GB a day. That doesn’t take into account the amount of email we sent out on notifications as that’s handled by a different server.

In other news, I got my midterm grade in my Networking class and I’m sitting pretty with an A for the moment. Out of the six or so tests we’ve had so far I’ve been wrong on a grand total of three questions and one of those questions was one I didn’t see at all because it was on the back page of the test. Sometimes I feel it’s not really fair as I already know 90% of the material being covered. The OSI model is one of the few things (so far) I didn’t already know, but the class promises to be digging into more arcane knowledge as the weeks progress so I’m hoping that feeling that I’ve got an unfair advantage will pass soon. The instructor thinks I’m great, though, because I’m able to answer even his tricky questions during the lectures. When he was discussing standards the other night he made a point of how the standards groups don’t always agree on a standard for quite awhile and he asked what current standard we could cite as an example. I spoke up with the 802.11 N wireless standard—we’ve not gotten into wireless networking in the class yet—which was exactly what he was thinking of. Of course Blu-ray and HD-DVD would also fit the bill.

Lastly, the folks at Blizzard have started the World Event that heralds the pending arrival of the WotLK expansion. Mysterious crates have shown up around Azeroth that, when opened, infect players with a plague. If not cured within 10 minutes you turn into a zombie and can run around using special zombie powers killing and infecting other players and NPCs. This has been great fun and I unleashed my zombified self on the middle square of Stormwind last night taking out some 20 people before dieing from the resulting melee. So far the outbreaks have been relatively easy to contain. Players of the Priest and Paladin classes can cure disease and there’s a number of Argent Dawn healers spread around various cities that will also heal you of the disease, but Blizzard warns that this is only the beginning and that things will get much worse before the expansion hits. Player controlled zombies run amok in Azeroth? How cool is that?

“World Of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King” opening cinematic.

Yes I realize I’ve been posting a lot of videos on video games lately, but the news coming out of Leipzig has been so much better than what came out of E3 so bear with me.

Next up: is the official opening cinematic for the next World of Warcraft expansion:

At some point I plan to sit down and write up some of my impressions on the beta so far. Let’s just say that the fears of Azeroth being overrun by Death Knights are probably well founded as they are fun to play.

Blizzard announces “Diablo 3” wil be their next game after “Star Craft II.”

I loved both the original Diablo and its sequel so I’m quite pleased to hear that Diablo 3 is in the works. Here’s a teaser trailer:

And, after the jump, a couple of videos of actual game play…

Yeah, I think it may be time to pull out D2 and play it through once again.

“Activision Blizzard” is the new 900 lb gaming gorila.

Electronic Arts is no longer the biggest video game company as a new merger between Activision and Vivendi, parent company to Blizzard Entertainment, was announced yesterday in a press release on Business Wire:

Vivendi and Activision to Create Activision Blizzard – World’s Largest, Most Profitable Pure-Play Video Game Publisher

Combination Brings Activision’s Best-Selling Video Games, Including Guitar Hero®, Call of Duty®, and Tony Hawk, Together With Vivendi Games’ Portfolio of Leading Franchises, Including Crash BandicootTM and SpyroTM, and Blizzard Entertainment’s® StarCraft®, Diablo® and Global #1 Subscription-Based World Of Warcraft®

Vivendi to Contribute Vivendi Games Valued at $8.1 Billion, Plus $1.7 Billion in Cash in Exchange for Approximately 52% Stake in Activision Blizzard at Closing; Total Transaction Valued at $18.9 Billion

Activision Blizzard Will Commence Post-Closing Cash Tender Offer for Up to 146.5 Million of its Shares at $27.50 per Share, Representing 31% Premium for Activision Stockholders Based on 20-Trading Day Average

Transaction Will Unlock Value of Blizzard Entertainment’s Massively Multiplayer Online Games Business and Will Be Accretive to Stockholders of Activision and Vivendi

SANTA MONICA, Calif. & PARIS—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Activision, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) and Vivendi (Euronext Paris: VIV) today announced that they have signed a definitive agreement to combine Vivendi Games, Vivendi’s interactive entertainment business—which includes Blizzard Entertainment’s® World of Warcraft®, the world’s #1 multi-player online role-playing game franchise—with Activision, creating the world’s largest pure-play online and console game publisher. The new company, Activision Blizzard, is expected to have approximately $3.8 billion in pro forma combined calendar 2007 revenues and the highest operating margins of any major third-party video game publisher. On closing of the transaction, Activision will be renamed Activision Blizzard and will continue to operate as a public company traded on NASDAQ under the ticker ATVI.

The deal still has to be approved by Activision’s stock holders, but if it goes through it’ll create a new giant publishing house. Benefits above and beyond simply being the biggest will include the developers of Guitar Hero gaining access to the huge library of Universal Music Group. Fans of Blizzard’s games were posting to the forums yesterday asking what kind of an impact this would have on Blizzard’s games and were reassured it wouldn’t change things at all. At least for the moment. The above is only a small part of the full press release so if you want to read the whole thing just click the link above.

Dell and Blizzard form an Alliance.

Looks like the folks at Dell have partnered with the wizards at Blizzard to come up with the ultimate World of Warcraft branded gaming laptop to be announced soon. In addition to being able to choose between an Alliance or Horde themed XPS Gaming laptop word has it that it’ll come with a membership to the WoW Beta Club and something else so super-secret that my sources inside Blizzard couldn’t tell me what it was, but it’s so cool that my source says they’re thinking of buying one of the laptops themselves and they don’t get a discount on them!

If you want in on the official announcement on December 4th you can sign up here to be emailed once it’s unveiled. I have to admit that I’m sorely tempted to check in on financing one of these puppies once they become available. The standard Dell XPS Gaming laptops start around $1,999 so it wouldn’t be cheap, but the WoW addiction is strong.

Blizzard’s 800 pound gorilla is now 900 pounds.

Or, in other words, Blizzard’s uber-popular World of Warcraft has hit the 9 million subscriber mark with no signs of slowing down:

“We’re thrilled that gamers around the world have continued to embrace World of Warcraft so enthusiastically,” said Mike Morhaime, president and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment�. “We’ve worked hard to provide a compelling experience for our players, and we plan to continue updating the game with exciting new content for them to enjoy for many years to come.”

Since debuting in North America on November 23, 2004, World of Warcraft has become the most popular MMORPG around the world. It was the bestselling PC game of 2005 and 2006 and has remained at or near the top of the weekly PC-game sales charts for much of 2007 as well. Blizzard’s Burning Crusade expansion released to critical acclaim in several regions earlier this year and shattered PC-game sales records in North America and Europe, with nearly 2.4 million copies sold in its first 24 hours of release and approximately 3.5 million in its first month. World of Warcraft is available in seven different languages and, in addition to North America and Europe, is played in mainland China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

And there’s supposed to be a major announcement or two at the upcoming BlizzCon that will probably only stoke the fires some more.

Blizzard Entertainment’s next big game will be “Starcraft 2.”

The folks over at Blizzard Entertainment, producers of the ridiculously popular World of Warcraft, have been teasing fans all week long with a new splash page on their official home page about an announcement to be made today in Korea about what their next major game release will be. Today they finally made the announcement after generating just tons of speculation on the Internet and the next game to be released will be:

Starcraft 2 was a safe bet considering where they were making the announcement because Korea is just crazy about the original Starcraft which was release in 1998 and is still updated and maintained with patches as recently as two days ago. The original game isn’t just popular in Korea, it’s a national obsession with professional gaming competitions that are carried live on national television in that country with the same level of fandom that football and baseball attracts in this country.  Blizzard was there hosting a Starcraft World Wide Invitational so it figured it would see if it could cause an entire nation to explode from the sheer joy of a new version of their national treasure being announced.

Blizzard promises that the sequel will live up to the expectations of the original and, as is the trend with real-time strategy games these days, the game engine will be all new and in 3D. Charles Onyett from IGN.com was there live blogging the announcement with a few more details on the game. Looks like they’re staying true to the original game as much as possible while still offering up some new stuff. No release date has been announced yet. Shakey Cam footage of both the cinematic trailer and gameplay trailer are embedded after the jump, but you can get much better looks at the Official Starcraft 2 Website so it’s best just to go there and check it out.

I’m very excited about this announcement in part because I was a big fan of the original Starcraft so much so that I pulled it back out not too long ago to get used to playing again because my good friend Bob is planning on hosting some Starcraft LAN parties in the not too distant future. The almost ten-year old game stands up very well to any recent release considering the amount of time that’s passed since it first hit shelves. Blizzard has never released a bad game and I doubt this’ll be the first. It’s good to see that they’re not going to sit back and just rake in the cash on World of Warcraft for the rest of time. Of course rumor has it they’re already deep in development on World of Starcraft

The “World of Warcraft” Visa Card—REVISITED.

Back on March 29 of last year I wrote an entry about an article by Phillip Torrone of MAKE: Blog that discussed the possibility of seeing credit cards in the very near future that would give you virtual rewards in your favorite online game. One possibility mentioned was a World of Warcraft Visa card that would give you 1% cash back in the form of gold in WoW and might also allow you to put an image of your favorite WoW character on the card. I included a mock up of what such a card might look like created by the MAKE: Blog folks as well.

Then I get an email out of the blue on March 16 of this year from a Sandy Lee Belshe who’s signature identified her as working for Visa U.S.A. Inc. Brand Management. The email itself was short and to the point:

Hey Les,

I need to you to remove that Visa card image that you posted on your blog.  Can you please do this and let me know when it’s done?  Here’s the link.

https://stupidevilbastard.com/index/seb/comments/the_world_of_warcraft_visa_card_its_virtually_everywhere_you_want_to_be/

Thanks!

Sandy Lee Belshe

I sent back a reply asking why and if there were any modifications I could make that would make it OK to keep the image and the fact that many, many other blogs outside of mine were still displaying the image in question and it wasn’t long before I got the following back:

Hey Les,  Thanks for your quick response.

In short, it’s a trademark issue.  You don’t have permission to use our mark and a card that doesn’t exist shouldn’t be shown graphically in a way that implies it does.  Not to mention there are a number of elements on the card that are incorrect.  I’m not sure that Blizzard would be happy with this card graphic either.

I wish we could say that with a few adjustments that you can keep this card art up, but unfortunately, it’s not possible.  As you said, the entry is a year old so I’m sure hardly anyone would miss it if it was removed.

I’ll follow up with the folks who manage the link you forwarded below as well.

Thanks,

Sandy Lee Belshe

Now I’m no lawyer, but it seemed to me that if I removed the Visa logo from the card it should be OK as the only other images on it were a screenshot from World of Warcraft, which I know for a fact Blizzard doesn’t have a problem with people using, and the Blizzard logo which could also be easily removed if necessary. Not being a lawyer, however, and not wishing to have SEB get hit with a DMCA take down notice or something equally stupid over an entry I wrote over a year ago, I went ahead and removed the image from the entry. Looking back at the MAKE: Blog article today I notice that they also heard from Sandy as while the image is still there the Visa logo has been changed to a fictional ASIV logo which pretty much confirms my thoughts about the issue. I didn’t bother to mention all this silliness at the time it happened, but it did leave me wondering if this was preparation for something about to occur as I couldn’t see any reason why Visa would suddenly be worried about a mock up of a WoW Visa card after it’d been all over the net for about a year.

And it turns out my hunch was right as Blizzard has just announced today a World of Warcraft Visa Card. Which looks like the image you see over on the right. Seeing as this is a real card and I’m writing about it I think I’m in the clear for using that image this time around.

Alas this card doesn’t come with the option of earning you in-game gold as a reward for your purchases but rather it earns you game time at the rate of 1% of every dollar in qualifying purchases. It also doesn’t allow you to put an image of your own character on it, but there are 13 different images to choose from for your card. You also get a free month of WoW after your first purchase on the card, an introductory 0% APR for the first 12 “billing cycles”, and there’s no annual fee.

That sounds cool and all, but it occurs to me that at 1% of every dollar spent with the standard monthly fee being $14.99 that means you’d have to spend $1,499.00 to earn a free month of WoW. And that’s only on qualifying purchases, whatever the hell that means, so there could be things you’d buy that wouldn’t count towards free game time. I suppose if you’re the sort that uses a credit card almost all the time and manage to keep it paid off every month then it might be worth it to you, but I think I’ll pass on it myself.