Friends of mine must have found it odd that despite my passion with the online game World of Warcraft (WoW), I seldom write anything about it. Not even a review on its long awaiting expansion after its January launch. I was asked a number of times if I was one of those who queued up at SunTech on the launch day itself and to tell you the truth, I was not even keen to get the expansion. WoW and I have gone a long way – good and bad.
During the time when Cynthia was studying for her Financial Risk Manager (FRM) exam, she said she would try out WoW after the exam when she did not need to spend hours studying risk management books every evening. FRM must have driven her crazy. Imagine someone who does not play any video games at all and even when she did play Football Manager because she is crazy over football, she never gets hooked onto it wanting to play time after time. For the longest history of time I have tried various different ways to tempt her with my wide spectrum of computer games with no success. Over time I am more and more determined to find out if there is at least one video game somewhere for each of us. I am a computer engineer and scientist by training. Friends of mine know that I don’t buy a game to finish it. I admire how the images are being modelled; I am intrigued by how the artificial intelligence is being implemented; I observe how the user interface is designed; and I study the “fun” factors that the designers are putting into the games.
One evening Cynthia came up to me and said that she wanted to start a character in WoW. Very well, I said and walked her through the initial stage of character creation. Of all the classes that WoW offers, she chose to be a warlock – one of the most complex classes around. I tried suggesting some other easier classes but she wished to stick with warlock. Cynthia took no time in familiarising herself with the user interface and half an hour later, she was on her own exploring the World of Warcraft in her own way. Looking at Cynthia playing an online computer game baffled me. WoW is not exactly a simple game to pick up and definitely not one that I would recommend for first-timer. But the magic of WoW charmed her and till today, she plays the game occasionally when she has the time. Cynthia definitely plays more than I do after the launch of the expansion.
World of Warcraft is one of the modern commercial miracles that I admire. Created by Blizzard based on their award winning Real Time Strategy game Warcraft series, WoW is a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game where tens and hundreds of players interact with one another within the same “realm”). A genre that is not new but Blizzard managed to turn it into a commercial miracle when the gaming industry was plagued with piracy (still do in a certain extend). For online games, players are required to buy the original game and pay a subscription fees. With the arrival of WoW, the MMORPG community has exploded and passed a recent 7 million mark. What does 7 million subscribers mean commercially? Imagine nearly all subscribers will buy the US$40 expansion pack in the first couple of months and that is a US$280 million sure-win business. For a US$15 monthly subscription fees, that is US$315 million per quarter. If that is not enough, Blizzard offers a paid service to transfer players’ characters from one realm to another realm (mainly to join their real life friends or their realms get too crowded) for US$25 each. Believe me, there are many characters get moved around for various different reasons.
There are many success factors to write about Blizzard. They have an active forum where players exchange and voice out ideas and Blizzard listens making improvements to the game gradually. New contents are being created and pushed out into the game in a regular basis. There are lots of fun things to do within this virtual fantasy world. Blizzard has made a game that pleases both casual as well as hardcore players for all age groups (the youngest I have met is 12 and 60-ish the oldest), different nationalities, and from all walks of life.
That is how some others appreciate the game. As for Cynthia, she loves the look of her character, the beautiful scenery, the vast area for exploration, and new abilities as her character progresses. And for me, well, I have been there done that and am glad that I have gotten detached from this time sink. WoW is a fun game but please exercise self-restrain when you play it. Try not to play more than 2 hours a day and have at least 2 days per week free from WoW. A friendly reminder from someone who has already clocked 3,000 hours in the game.
Related Link: World of Warcraft Official Site.