UPDATE – Mike Morhaine, President of Blizzard, has posted a full apology for the incident on the official WoW forums
A few days ago, as part of one of our latter Blizzcon roundups , we linked to an excellent article from Piercing Howl decrying a particularly unpleasant screw-up from Blizzard at Blizzcon.
As part of the Level 90 Elite Tauren Shaman concert, they played a clip from an interview with George Fisher, aka “Corpsegrinder”, from the band Cannibal Corpse, in which he enthuses about his love of World of Warcraft and the Horde – and in doing so, lets rip with an astonishing series of homophobic insults and comments. The video was played bleeped (according to most commentors – although it may have been bleeped on the Live Stream only – see below) on the main stage at Blizzcon.
The results have, so far, been explosive. I’ve heard that the Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have contacted Blizzard about the video. There’s a Change.org petition up with over 500 signatures so far – and I heartily encourage you to sign too if you’re reading this.
And bloggers have been writing some brilliant pieces about the whole affair. If you want to know more, you want suggestions on how to talk about this issue to your guildmates, and particularly if you’re sitting there wondering why I’m making a big deal out of this, I recommend reading:
- Paw Prints At The Portal is pretty damn pissed off. His angry post makes some excellent points, particularly about the WoW Terms of Service and the airing of the video – “What we have is a company which, in it’s ToU, demands a certain level of behaviour from its customers, which is fair enough. Then it goes and smashes their own Terms to pieces and implicitly endorses the levels of mindless thuggery and abusive crap seen day in, day out in the /trade and /general in-game chat channels.”
- Mysterious Buttons analyses how Blizzard could have handled the entire affair, but didn’t – _“They could have edited those clips together, slapped the “…but I’m not Alliance” one at the end (if they still wanted to do the rawr, horde thing) and everything would have been ok … But they didn’t — they chose to include the segment they used.”
- Grimmtooth tears the Blizzard “apology” to well-deserved pieces – “In the name of a joke, a bunch of inconsiderate louts made the environment around Blizzard HQ – and all it stands for – hostile to people that don’t fit a narrowly defined template of ‘normal’. “
- And Pewter of ‘Mental Shaman airs something even more concerning – she says that the clip was aired unbleeped during the Closing Ceremony – “The video above is an old clip, but it was aired un-edited during the Closing Ceremonies of Blizzcon 2011. There was no censoring/bleepouts as they aired it. I was there, I watched this clip. “
Please share these posts with people who aren’t aware of what happened.
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And now, it’s time for the big one. Buckle your seatbelts, folks, as we dive into the…
General Blizzcon reactions.
There’s some seriously awesome writing in here – I recommend having a browse if you can.
Short and sweet
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The first two Blizzard hot topics – the new talent trees and the Annual Pass offer – I predicted. But the third hot topic has taken me by surprise.
I was expecting, maybe, a bunch of posts on pet battles, or on the Monk class. But the thing that seems to have everyone talking – or the other thing – is one word:
And a quick reminder – there were more quick-fire reactions to the Pandas in our Saturday roundup
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It’s time for our second round-up! This time, I’m rounding up the mass of reactions to the WoW Annual Pass Offer – there’s some really interesting commentary in here.
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Yeah, as you may have heard, this Panda thing was announced yesterday. Monks , pandas , no big deal, right? Anyway, off to read through the blogosphere…
ALL OF TEH POSTS!
OK, so, after digging myself out from the mass of posts in the last 12 hours (seriously, guys, I’m very impressed), here’s a quick roundup of the blogosphere beat so far:
Mists of Pandaria Talent System
Didn’t love it
WoW vs SWTOR
See you later today for Day 2 of Blizzcon!
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Wow. OK, I said in my last post that the opening ceremony had been a bit quiet. That’s because they were saving it all up for the expansion announcement.
The amount of Stuff that Blizzard announced in the last hour or so is incredible – more than they’ve ever managed to pack into an expansion before, to the best of my knowledge. It’s seeming pretty clear that we know where the development budget from Cataclysm went – toward beefing up Mists of Pandaria to compete with SW:TOR and Guild Wars 2 looming next year.
I mean, just look at the feature list: new race AND new class (previous expansion packs have had one or the other). New land, 5 new zones, minipet battle game, new Skirmish mode, new Dungeon Challenge mode, new PvP mode, more end-game content (allegedly), 9 dungeons and 3 raids, outdoor raid bosses, totally new talent system –
This one’s a monster. And no surprise. It’s got monsters to fight. Personally I’m wondering how good an idea it was to starve WoW through Cataclysm to put so many resources toward the next expansion, but nonetheless, the buzz on the blogosphere before Blizzcon was that Blizzard had to pull something out of the hat, and I think they may have just done that.
The most controversial announcement of the con so far, at least if Twitter’s any judging point, is that of the new Pet Combat System. Yes, now your minipets can level up, train, and fight in an entirely new game – turn-based, and heavily Pokemon-inspired.
That’d be interesting on its own, but let’s look at the other announcements. New Challenge Mode with evened-out gear (so that you can’t overgear a dungeon) and time-based challenges. New Skirmish Mode with small 2-3man instances replacing group quests. It’s a minigameapalooza!
(Please, use that as a Twitter hashtag. I beg of you.)
What’s going on here? It’s pretty obvious that Blizzard’s team have been doing a lot of analysis of their community. Minipets are surprisingly popular – I know at least one regular raider who will be delighted to hear her pets are getting a upgrade. There’s always been a small but vocal community of people wanting smaller group content, too – a lot of couples who game together, or friends who like WoW but number less than 5, 10 or 25. And there’s yet another group of people who miss brutally hard Heroics, and haven’t stopped complaining about the lack therof since TBC.
My guess is that Blizzard’s team have gotten a lot better at datamining over the last year, and they’ve been finding out that a lot of people don’t play WOW as they are “meant” to. They’re tapping into some of the playstyles that until now they’ve ignored – and whilst I’m no stranger to being cynical about WoW’s chances of success, this new approach seems inspired. By catering to groups on the margins of the community (one could argue that Transmogging does the same, aiming at the cosmetic and RP communities), they’re suddenly offering new vistas of gameplay to a lot of people who are accustomed to receiving very little. I’m already seeing people on Twitter saying that the Pet Battle system has renewed their interest in WoW, for instance.
On a side note, I wonder if this is the same team responsible for Cata, or another team again? The style and tone seems to have changed – could we be seeing another change in WoW management?
The Expansion Looms
And in other news, it appears Blizzard have finally gotten something else right, too. The expansion, according to everyone on the show floor, is looking very, very complete. Entire zones are being shown off. The Pandaren area is already playable, as are Monks and Pandaren.
We already knew that Mists of Pandaria was aimed for a Q2 2012 release, from the leaked Blizzard product slate. But there was always a question mark over whether they could deliver. With Diablo III being put back, speculation became even more rife – and it was pretty obvious that Blizzard were headed for a disaster if they didn’t deliver.
It now appears that the “thin” feeling of Cataclysm may have been a direct consequence of Blizzard pushing to do something they’ve never managed before – release an expansion pack in less than two years. And, by the looks of it, they’ve succeeded even more than we hoped they would.
Could we be looking at a Q1 release, even? It’s looking possible, if unlikely…
Talents and Dungeons next. I’ll be on Twitter
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So, the Blizzard opening ceremony’s been and gone.
Immediate conclusions – there was a surprising lack of surprising announcements. The single biggest one was, to my mind, the WoW annual subscription promising both Mists of Pandaria beta access and a free copy of Diablo III. Next to that – well, we already knew about Mists of Pandaria, and that was basically the only other major announcement. Diablo III’s coming – we knew that already. DOTA we already knew about.
Is it me, or are things seeming a bit thin on the ground so far?
I tend to think that the lack of other news may also be driving what news there is – but more on that below…
WoW annual accounts offering Diablo 3 free, Tyrael’s Charger mount, and beta access
It’s pretty clear that Blizzard are worried about the competition coming out in the next 12 months. The amount of swag they’re offering WoW players to sign up to a yearly contract – and guarantee Blizzard’s revenue stream for a year – is absolutely unprecedented.
Looking at the math here, the bundle totals at $50 value for free Diablo III (the average value of a new PC game), plus Tyrael’s Charger (click for full info), which as the new sparklepony would normally sell for $25, plus the Mists of Pandaria beta access. That’s $75 worth of goodies to generate a guaranteed $156 revenue for Blizzard – much of which will be from hardcore WoW players, and hence they’d have been expecting it anyway. Are they desperate?
Well, the question is why they’re offering this. A lot of people are assuming that the main reason is Blizzard’s lack of confidence in WoW’s long-term future – however, I’m not certain that’s the only reason.
The inclusion of Diablo III is an interesting one. This offer will have a second side-effect – it’ll mean that on day 1 of Diablo III’s launch, there are a huge number of guaranteed players. Subsequently, it’s going to significantly boost D3’s base market – no matter how big the game will be, this offer’s going to significantly swell the first-day purchases.
That’s interesting particularly if Blizz’s main intended revenue stream from Diablo isn’t actually box sales, but the real-money AH. In order to get the AH working, they need as many people in the game on day 1, and subsequently, as possible. It’s the Free-to-play model – but Blizzard can’t release Diablo III free to play.
There are also press angles. This is going to be top of every gaming news site for the next 24 hours. As the SWTOR beta news comes out, they needed something to eclipse that – and with no game announcement coming, and their expansion already leaked, what could they do? Answer – offer an amazing deal that’ll get everyone talking. Talking, that is, about WoW.
No single one of these reasons will have swayed the Blizzard executives’ decision to go ahead with this deal – but combined, they make sense. It’s a darn canny move. Ensure a significant revenue stream from your aging MMO, give your new real-money-trade based game a huge boost, and steal the news cycle, all in a single announcement?
Update – It also occurs to me there’s another reason to push for a bunch of annual subs – if the next expansion is considerably further away than expected. In that case, pushing hard to get people locked in and unable to leave until the new expansion pack would be sensible, if mean. We’ll see.
Next up, we’ve got overlapping Blizzard announcements – the new WoW talent system, and the new dungeons and raids. I’ll cover the announcements as soon as they happen – stay tuned.
(I’m also on Twitter all through Blizzcon’s panels.)
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