The Blog Is Back (And A Story of Stats)

The Warcraft game have come a long way in the past few years. And oddly enough, this blog’s internet traffic tells a story of that popularity. We are (the blog I mean) read even in Russia, blocked in China (not even one traffic out of millions), have reached Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and more countries I never knew existed. (But still blocked in China! C’mmon!)

During our absence we have doubled our traffic all because we ‘sell’ (kinda) a trusted brand! PEOPLE LOVE THE GAME! And Warcraft is still the ideal example of how to retain a user base, even in the era of F2P competition)

When Cataclysm sold-through a record 4.7 million! copies during its first month alone, we knew Warcraft will only get bigger and bigger.  As a brand, we predicted declared in ’10, that World of Warcraft have proven itself as competitive and irresistible.

And that’s probably why we at Agency News loves reporting every bit about Warcraft. (Oh and it’s so nice to see all these traffics to the blog — except China!)


2011 Here Goes…

We knew this was coming…

When Cataclysm sold-through a record 4.7 million copies during its first month alone, we knew Warcraft will only get bigger and bigger.  As a brand, we predicted declared early last year, World of Warcraft have proven itself as competitive and irresistible.

Cataclysm is now “the fastest-selling PC game of all time.” (Contrast that with Warcraft’s second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, which sold a then-record 2.8 million copies during its initial 24 hours.) But, of course, for the zealous gamer– it’s still the game.

And that’s probably the reason why we at Agency News loves reporting every bit about Warcraft.

Last year, these posts were Agency News ‘attraction’ of 2010

(Or at least what an automated mail told me about the site…)

The posts and pages that got the most views last year were…

Although if I have to list our own top 5 reports, for our first 12 months of blog-ging, the list might include these 3 gems:

China’s approval of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King– Weren’t we glad when the Chinese decided these two expansions could come to their shores after all 🙂 The news read interesting but who would have thought that an MMO could generate such a tantalizing story over there.

Mr T Parade, Draenor– NAH!, it’s not the Sydney G&L Mardi Gras folks but the Mr T Parade on our server. Revelers were yelling WTH! when hundreds of dancing Mr Ts stunned unwitting players in Stormwind Trade District.

And then there was Icecrown Trailer by Vodka– who can ever forget that trailer that was decisively more memorable, more unforgettable than Blizzard’s own. Simply shows ‘love’ by fans of the game.

Here goes 2011 and we promise to keep providing the best Warcraft, MMORPG, net technology news on-line  :)

To all readers of Agency News… Many thanks for supporting us!

Cutting Down On Queue Time

With World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion coming soon, Blizzard is aiming to cut down on battleground and dungeon finder queues with region-wide queues. Eventually, battleground queues will no longer be based on your battlegroup, but instead region wide. All North American players as one region, will be able to duke it out against each other on the battlefield. Dungeon finders won’t exactly be region wide but instead made up of “four larger groups.” I’m not sure if that means four battlegroups or that there will be four different dungeon finder groups within a region. Despite these changes, arena queues will still remain battlegroup only.

There is no exact timetable currently set up for when this will all be implemented, but Blizzard has already begun merging a few battlegroups together. But hey if this just means a day or two of server lag when it is first implemented it won’t be too bad as long as it reduces overall queue timers.


Warcraft, The Chinese Metaphor?

(For the original article, please check the China Law Blog. The link is here.)

When I served on a China panel at Berkeley last month, I met Dan Maas, who asked me for my thoughts on what had been happening to the World of Warcraft online game in China. It took me about fifteen seconds to figure out Dan knew far more about what was happening on that front than I did. I was fascinated by what he was telling me and I asked him to write a post on it. What so interested me was that what was happening to World of Warcraft was what so often happens to smaller foreign companies in China that operate in industries in which the Chinese government would prefer not to see foreign companies. It also nicely encapsulates how China’s government (or at least some of its agencies) will employ the law to provide cover/favor to foreign companies. Lastly, it illustrates something we are always saying here and that is that securing approval of one governmental entity in China to do something does not necessarily mean you are free and clear. For more on that, check out “Floating Houses, Conflicting Laws, And Really Nice Governmental Officials. China Law Practice Writ Large.”

China generally considers online gaming to constitute publishing and foreign companies are not allowed to go into China publishing solo. This means foreign companies wanting to engage in publishing in China must partner with a Chinese entity, which as the following so nicely points out, can itself create issues.

First, a bit about Dan Maas: Dan founded an Emmy Award-winning special effects company, Maas Digital, whose projects have included creating photorealistic 3D animation for the Disney IMAX documentary “Roving Mars,” and developing production technology for the upcoming 3D adventure film “Quantum Quest,” starring Samuel Jackson and William Shatner. Dan speaks and writes fluent Mandarin and spent two years consulting for an animation studio in Taipei, Taiwan. He is currently pursuing an MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and he seeks “to continue pushing the envelope of film and interactive gaming technology, particularly in Asia, after graduation”

Second, here’s Dan’s Post:

China has become a major battleground in the online gaming market. Chinese players make up over half the customer base of the world’s most successful subscription-based online game, World of Warcraft (WoW) by US developer Blizzard Entertainment, which alone pulls in over $1 billion in annual revenue. WoW faces fierce competition in China from locally-developed games such as Kingsoft’s JX Online series and other imported titles like Aion Online from Korean developer NCSoft.

China is a uniquely challenging market for foreign online game companies because government regulations require foreign games to be licensed through local Chinese operators, rather than offered directly by the developer. Friction between government regulators, overseas developers, and Chinese licensees can have a huge impact on the competitive landscape. For example, Blizzard suffered a harsh setback last year when WoW was knocked off-line for several months amidst a license dispute and unexpected regulatory shifts.

Blizzard had successfully brought WoW into the Chinese market in 2005 through a license agreement with local game developer The9. The relationship turned sour last summer when negotiations to renew the license bogged down in a dispute over division of profits. Blizzard ultimately decided to terminate The9’s license and shift WoW’s China operations to another local company, NetEase. (The9 responded acrimoniously, filing suit against Blizzard and announcing development of its own sword-and-sorcery game called “World of Fight”). WoW was knocked off-line for over three months during the transition, leaving a gigantic vacuum in the market which competitors rushed to fill. Kingsoft, Shanda, and other gaming companies stepped up promotional efforts to lure former WoW players to their own games. Blizzard previously had the upper hand in China thanks to its comparatively ample resources and high production values — but for the moment, it was knocked out of contention.

Related: WoTLK Receives China Approval, China Tightens Rule On Net Gaming, BC Comes To China

Kotick Confident of Activision Online Strategy

The Warcraft Business Model: With 11.5 million active subscribers, Warcraft is an online breadwinner

In the face of lagging disc-based video game sales across the industry, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is confident that his company’s online strategy will compensate for the industry’s shifting models.

Asked by the Wall Street Journal if he was concerned about weak disc-based sales in the industry, he replied, “I care a lot less. It used to be, I would religiously look at weekly retail sell-through data, but it’s a very small part of our business now.”

He added, “Today, probably 70 percent of our operating profit comes from non-console-based video games. So, while you might see a month-to-month change or volatility against expectations, that doesn’t really get us too concerned.” Operating income for Activision’s January-March 2010 quarter alone was $511 million.

While such a large percentage of operating profit could indicate that Kotick was also referring to non-retail DLC for consoles, such as the multi-million-selling Stimulus Package for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, that is not the case, a company spokesperson said.

Maryanne Lataif, VP of corporate communications for Activision Blizzard, said in a phone call with Gamasutra that “non-console-based video games” means just that.

That shows the power of World of Warcraft, which is easily Activision Blizzard’s primary online breadwinner, with 11.5 million active subscribers. At E3 2009, Activision said that operating margins for World of Warcraft were 55 percent. That’s compared to a 39 percent overall operating margin from all of Activision during the March 2010 quarter.

Via Gamasutra

Where’s Everybody?

World of Warcraft “Has Not” Peaked

Oh really?

In December 2008, massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft hit 11.5 million subscribers. However, the number of active players has not crossed that magic number since. Meaning? Well, meaning WoW, which launched in 2004, has peaked.

And with the release of StarCraft II around the corner, the number of active players could dwindle as some could leave Blizzard’s WoW to invest their time in SCII.

“I don’t think 11.5 million is a peak, necessarily,” says Blizzard exec Frank Pearce, “but there are certain things that we need to do and need to do well in order to see it go further.”

Well, here’s predicting some interesting times for Warcraft and all WoW fans!

Security Update

Symantec researchers have discovered a server hosting details on 44 million stolen gaming accounts.

“[One] of the most surprising aspects of it is that the accounts were being validated by a Trojan distributed to compromised computers,” writes Network World’s Ellen Messmer.

“The purpose of this Trojan-based validation is apparently to figure which credentials are valid and can be sold,” Messmer writes. “Symantec is calling this the Trojan.Loginck, and as described in a blog post by Symantec researcher Eoin Ward, the database of stolen information includes about 210,000 stolen accounts for World of Warcraft, 60,000 for Aion, 2 million for PlayNC and 16 million for Wayi Entertainment, all of which were being sold online.”

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