Saturday, November 9, 2013

Weekly Roundup - November 3-9, 2013

This week's news was topped by Blizzcon and the announcement of the next expansion for World of Warcraft. Only time will tell if it is enough to lure back subscribers. Also this week, Call of Duty moves the goalposts on reporting sales, Square projects a profit, Xbox One's are already in some homes, and the latest Humble Bundle is pretty awesome.


Blizzard Announces Next Expansion for World of Warcraft - Warlords of Draenor
Amid news that WoW has bled 100,000 subscribers in the past three months and is now sitting at a total base of 7.6 million, Blizzard announced at their annual convention (Blizzcon) a new expansion entitled Warlords of Draenor. Details on the expansion are sparse but include updated player models, a level cap bump to 100, and the ability to construct and maintain a keep. These features will go alongside the usual expansion updates of new dungeons/raids, shinier gear, and talent restructuring. While the announcement of a new expansion was unsurprising, some aspects of it were. The level cap bump by 10 instead of 5 contradicts a report leaked last year that outlined Blizzard's expansion plans and seems to indicate that things have been accelerated. On this, I think it signifies that development on Blizzard's next MMO, code-named Titan, is moving along well enough that WoW might be retired sooner than expected to make room. Also, it probably signifies an expectation that WoW will continue to lose subscribers which may not justify development dollars for additional expansions. The other surprising aspect of the announcement was just how tame it was. No new class or race announcements is a bit disappointing and the new keep construction seems underwhelming. All in all, I doubt this expansion will bring WoW back to the 10+ million subscriber mark again but should keep things fresh for those who are still playing.

Call of Duty Reaches 1 Billion Sold-In
Activision was pretty overt leading to the launch of the latest iteration of the Call of Duty franchise, Ghosts, claiming that they were gunning to retake some of the sales records lost to Grand Theft Auto 5. 24 hours after launch, it was announced that Ghosts had reached a billion USD worth of units sold-in. Keen observers immediately noted that sold-in stats (ie. how many copies were delivered to stores to be put on shelves) are not equatable to actual units sold (ie. how many copies were actually bought off the shelf). Indeed, sold-in stats are pretty meaningless as the publisher usually has an agreement in place to buy back unsold copies and are their accuracy is questionable for making sales predictions. In short, Activision probably fell short of their goal to sell 1 billion worth of units to consumers in the first 24 hours and instead tried to pull a fast one and report a useless stat. That said, Ghosts is still sure to make a ton of money and keep Activision's wallet nice and fat.

Square Adjusts Projections to Indicate Profit
Square has had some issues making money the past few years. Despite owning one of the most marketable licenses in gaming, Final Fantasy, they simply haven't been making good games as of late. The initial launch of Final Fantasy XIV: Online was horrendous, and reactions to the multi-game approach to Final Fantasy XIII and the flagship character Lightning have been tepid. It really isn't surprising why Square as been seeing red. However, this changed with the re-release of Final Fantasy XIV which garnered fairly positive reviews and far exceeded sales projections. Indeed, Square has shifted from a projected loss to a projected profit! I think there is a pretty good lesson to be learned here; no matter what license you are using game quality trumps everything when it comes to making money in the gaming industry.

Xbox One Hitting Streets
Reports that some Xbox One's have already been delivered were official confirmed with it suspected that the units were erroneously shipped early by some Target stores to customers. However, with no games available, those lucky enough to get an Xbone a bit early really only have a glorified paper weight. It's not too big of a deal that hardware is reaching consumers; it's been known that the first units left the production line some months ago and whether they are gathering dust in a warehouse waiting for an arbitrary release date or are sitting in someones living room really makes little difference in the long-term. Sure, it's a bit embarrassing that supply chain is so slipshod, but no one will be talking about this in two weeks time.

Humble Bundle is Awesome
Not much to say on this one that isn't said in the headline. The latest Humble Bundle is offering up a collection of WB games including Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, if you don't own these get over to www.humblebundle.com and pick them up now! In doing so you can support charity and pick up a few extra titles to boot (including Scribblenauts and Fear 2). Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go now!