25 Things You Didn\'t Know About WoWBy: just1minute posted at Jun 06, 2007 7:49 pm
The WanderingGoblin.com staff recently came back from Blizzard’s World Wide Invitational (WWI) tournament in Seoul, South Korea. While there, we spent a rather large amount of time with various Blizzard executives, developers, employees, PR people, and various other personnel. This occurred in Q&As, during various public announcements, informal gatherings, and personal conversations.
The WWI, like BlizzCon, is basically a long weekend in which Blizzard games are talked about at length. The kind of information that comes out during these times is actually very interesting. Although these little tidbits, factoids, and pieces of trivia aren’t Super-Highly-Classified Blizzard secrets per se, they are definitely the kind of thing that you’ll never see in an official announcement or a formal press release. And yet....a whole lot of this stuff turned out to be pretty darned interesting. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some of the things we heard said, implied, whispered about, or mentioned off-hand.
1. Mike Morhaime, Blizzard President, co-founder, and overall grand high warlord, said something very interesting about WoW. When speaking about the limited projects that Blizzard was capable of working on at the same time, he indicated that there were definitely two that Blizz teams are devoting their time to: Starcraft II and the next WoW expansion. To be honest, I at first thought Mike had made a mistake, and had inadvertently let slip a secret. You see, Blizzard has never officially announced that they’re working on another WoW expansion.
Mike Morhaime at the announcement of Starcraft II.
2. I explored this a bit with a Blizzard representative. He advised me that yes, Blizz is definitely working on a new WoW expansion. A few insights on that topic:One, Blizz never made a big announcement about it. They are not, however, treating this with the characteristic Blizzard secrecy. In short, everyone knows it’s being made, and they are willing to talk about the fact that it’s being made, even though it’s unannounced.Two, they don’t expect the expansion to take 18 months to 2 years in the way that The Burning Crusade did. Instead, they are hoping for a much shorter development cycle.Three, the delays in bringing TBC to market were a result of two problems. The first was that WoW grew into massive proportions so quickly it overwhelmed the company. Plans for TBC had to be shelved for months while the entire company worked on dealing with how quickly WoW itself was expanding. The second is that, when WoW shipped, it wasn’t “done” in the mind of many of the company’s developers. It was polished, sure, and it was a complete and workable game. However, while developing WoW they had wanted to include features and zones in the game that didn’t ship when the game was released. The devs spent months (and longer) working on putting that stuff into the game even after WoW was released. After that was done, working on the expansion proceeded full bore.
3. More specifically, nobody really devoted any time to The Burning Crusade for about six months after WoW went live. Quite simply, every available Blizzard employee was working on WoW.
4. After about six months had passed, WoW had achieved a kind of stability. This allowed some personnel to begin working, full-time, on TBC.
5. Blizz expects that WoW is going to have a nice, long life cycle. By long, we mean 10 years or more. At first, this struck us as a bit odd, but remember: Starcraft I is 10 years old and is selling well. And UO is now 10 years old, and that MMO is going strong.Sure, the kid may look like a quest giver. But he\'s really just an extremely polite direction giving dude at the WWI.
6. A Blizzard source advised me that while Blizzard is, in fact, large amounts of money on WoW, it’s not as much as has been reported. For example, I brought up the whole “billions of dollars a year in revenue” thing from WoW sales and subscriptions, and he indicated that this isn’t accurate. This is due to the operational costs involved in keeping WoW going.
7. The same Blizz source also stated that, in some parts of the world (namely China) WoW doesn’t sell for $40 a box, and there are no subscription fees at all. Chinese players buy time-cards, and play WoW by paying an hourly fee. This is done for several reasons. First, asking a Chinese guy to pay $40 for a computer game is preposterous; many people make one dollar an hour in pay, and they’re not going to blow a week’s pay on a game. Also, Chinese players are used to playing MMOs – ones we’ve never heard of -- for free. The client is free, and the subscription costs nothing. Other financial models keep these games afloat. If Blizzard brought the western model – buy the box, pay a monthly fee – to China, this would have failed miserably.You\'ll never meet nicer booth babes than the ones we met at the WWI. Sure, they didn\'t speak a word of English, but they were exceptionally polite!
8. These financial realities jack up any estimates about how much money WoW is actually generating. Blizzard is a global company, he stated, and has marketed WoW to China in a way that appeals to Chinese gamers.
9. On that note, it should be mentioned that China is World of Warcraft’s biggest market.
10. This same business model wasn’t applied anywhere else. WoW is sold almost everywhere else in the same way that we are all familiar with. That model: buy the box, pay the subscription fee.
Even if Blizz isn\'t making gazillions of dollars a year from WoW, they are still the only game company we\'ve ever known that can afford their own hot air balloon.
11. A good number of the English-speaking EU servers have evolved in unpredictable ways. These have become unofficial “Czech servers” or “Polish servers.” What started as a small phenomenon – some Russian players, say, congregating on an English-speaking EU server – rapidly expanded, actually marginalizing some of the Brits playing on those servers.
12. Blizzard Europe responded with significant insight to this trend. Instead of getting all strange or heavy-handed about the entire thing, the company simply offered free server migrations. In many cases, the English speakers simply left the servers to their non-English speaking friends and migrated to servers where English was really being spoken. J
13. Despite the fact that WoW may not be making the gigantic profits that some have estimated, it is probable that it’s still the most profitable game in history. Although this kind of thing is hard to pin down definitively, I broached this topic with a Blizz rep, and he agreed that this was "probably true."
14. On the very last day of the WWI we had a chance to interview Chris Sigaty, who\'s done some very substantial work on both WoW and is now heading up the team for Starcraft II. Prior to Starcraft II being announced, he was very aware of the buzz, speculation, and rumor surrounding what the new game might be. We asked him if he\'d read the recent and quite definitive report, on a prominent gaming site no less, that Blizzard would be announcing a Starcraft MMO. Chris indicated that he did read that report. And when he did, he laughed out loud.Question: In the pure oxygen atmosphere of a Terran battlesuit, wouldn\'t a lit cigar cause your face to catch fire?
15. Mike Morhaime stated that Blizz is completely focused on the PC as the only vehicle for its games. He indicated that making console games is simply not on the agenda. Later, a second Blizz developer echoed this sentiment. While not ruling it out forever, it seems that console games are not in the company’s immediate plans.
16. Obviously, the above has a rather profound bearing on the rumors that a WoW port for the Xbox 360 or PS3 is in the works. It seems that’s just not going to happen.
17. There is no specific budget, according to Mike Morhaime, when producing a new game. He went on to say that Blizz doesn’t set out a budget – say $10 million dollars – and then expect a title to be completed. He implied that Blizzard’s system is one in which ongoing evaluations are conducted as a game is in production, and that a budget isn’t allowed to hamstring a game into mediocrity.
18. The idea of producing excellent games – and nothing less – was repeated a number of times during the WWI tournament and conference. Until a game is perfect, Blizz won’t release it.
19. A Blizz employee told me that the real problem with Starcraft: Ghost was actually twofold. First of all, it was good, but it wasn’t excellent. This meant that the game would require additional time to hone it to exceptional quality. The second problem was that the Xbox 360 was soon to be released (and the original XBox discontinued). This meant that Starcraft: Ghost would have to either be released before it was truly exceptional (something Blizz simply won’t do) or be perfected over time, only to be released for a dead console. It was a lose-lose proposition, so Blizzard cancelled the game completely. In a nutshell, it was timing that killed this game.Don\'t lust too much after this hottie. She\'s gone, and she\'s ain\'t coming back.
20. Mike Morhaime stated, clearly, that Blizzard is not an MMO only company. Obviously, in producing Starcraft II, they’re serious about this. Another dev stated that RTS and action RPG games are the bread-and-butter of Blizzard’s success, and those will very likely be revisited in the future.
21. Although Blizzard likes its three main IPs – Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo – it has explored the possibility of introducing new IPs in future games. The problem is that Blizzard is only able to work on a limited number of projects at a time. Since there is much more in terms of the three main IPs yet to be explored without the games getting old, and it takes years for a title to be released according to Blizzard’s high standards, those new IP ideas just haven’t made it beyond the planning stages.
22. During conversation, several Blizz people indicated that they still go home from work and play WoW every day. This was the same kind of thing we were hearing from developers during E3 2006, and from other Blizz employees since that time.
23. Blizzard, apparently, just loves the people who play its games. Practically every Blizz person we talked to oozed this feeling. They want their customers to be happy.
Yes, Blizzard loves its customers. Apparently, there are a few customers that love Blizzard right back.
24. At least one senior developer indicated that WoW is one of only a handful of company\'s he\'d want to work for in the world. The working conditions are excellent, and highly conducive to making games.
25. Blizzard is still committed to providing lots of free content to WoW-heads. The big patches, new zones, new dungeons, etc are Blizzard’s way of giving free mini-expansions to its customers.
And that, my friends, is it. We did a bit of brainstorming when writing this one, in an attempt to recall every little WoW or Blizzard-related tidbit we could think of that was said during the exhaustathon that is the WWI. While I\'m sure there was lots more that, quite simply, we forgot, we hope you found this interesting. Above all, we hope you enjoyed reading it.
Be sure to visit the rest of WanderingGoblin.com to see all the twisted screenshots and for our wry look at all your favorite virtual worlds. Enjoy!
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