According to Kotaku, late last week ten men in China were sentenced to two years in prison (each) and fined for their part in hacking World of Warcraft accounts. The sentencing took place in Zhejiang province's Songyang county court (China).
Last night on Comedy Central's the Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert spent a bit of time picking on the idea of the National Security Agency snooping around Second Life. Recently reports revealed that new documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the NSA was lurking in World of Warcraft, on Xbox Live, and in Second Life (of all places) to keep tabs on terrorists who they believed might be organizing attacks in these virtual worlds. Stephen Colbert poked fun at the recent revelation, showing clips from the game while cracking jokes like this one:
Last week we asked our readers, "Do Publishers Know the NSA Is Conducting Surveillance Operations In Their Games?" An overwhelming majority of voters believe that publishers are lying about their knowledge of the NSA's activities in games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, or they are blissfully unaware of what's going on.
According to a lengthy report co-published by Pro Publica and the New York Times, American and British spy agencies have infiltrated World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and collecting data in the games played by millions of people around the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents. Agents supposedly created characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, and collected data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden.
Blizzard Entertainment is teaming up with Make-A-Wish Foundation to help the charity make the dreams of sick children in the United States fulfill a wish. World of Warcraft players can purchase the Alterac Brew Pup pet ($10) today, with $5 going to Make-A-Wish.
Australian nurse Katrina Fincham had struck it big by playing World of Warcraft. After earning around $75,000 by farming and selling gold in the popular MMORPG from Blizzard, she decided to convert that cold hard cash into cold hard gold bullion. After doing that she put it in her wall safe at her Adelaide home. All was right with the world, but then something horrible happened: her house was robbed and her wall safe was emptied!
As part of its announcement this morning that it would break the iron grip of Vivendi's controlling interest, Activision Blizzard revealed that World of Warcraft subscriber numbers have fallen to 2007 levels. The number of paying World of Warcraft monthly subscribers has dropped to 7.7 million, according to Activision Blizzard. That's close to what the game had in 2007 before The Burning Crusade helped it break into the 8 million subscriber mark.
The World of Warcraft version 5.4 update is alive and kicking on the Public Test Realm today, according to Blizzard. According to the patch notes, the update adds a new siege, flexible raid difficulty, a redesigned arena system, and a few other odds and ends. More importantly, the update adds an in-game store where players can buy a variety of buffs and other items. No doubt the selection of offerings will be limited for the purposes of the test phase.
After an in-game store was discovered on a World of Warcraft test server, Blizzard publicly acknowledged that it is looking into adding microtransactions to its long-running MMORPG. In response to questions about this from members of the community, Blizzard community representative Jonathan Brown made the following post on the Battle.net forums:
Blizzard seems to be having a hell of a time with its online auction houses lately.
Last month, a Diablo III patch introduced a gold-duplicating bug that forced the developer to take the game's auction house offline until it could fix the bug and audit players' accounts.
An interesting story via the Huffington Post (based on this CBC report) details sexual predators in the United States using online games and consoles to talk to children in Canada. This particular report focuses on Winnipeg, but it's not far-fetched to imagine that if it's happening in one province, it's happening to some degree in other provinces as well.
Video game developer and Chair of the International Game Developers Association’s Anti-Censorship and Social Issues Committee Daniel Greenberg offers a scathing rebuke to Republicans in Congress for criticizing World of Warcraft and tax payer dollars given to use the virtual world for research over at Salon today.
Director Sam Raimi claims that nine months worth of work on a World of Warcraft film was wasted because Blizzard Entertainment "mismanaged" production. Speaking to Vulture, he made his case for why the movie he was directing never happened:
As Republicans and Democrats publically spar over sequestration, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has decided to throw "wasteful spending" into the mix by mentioning research on smoking machines, a free cell phone program, and even the use of video games for research on the elderly into the national conversation (here is a great explanation of what 'sequester' means, if you are interested).
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund points out a new two-part report produced by the Hartford Courant and PBS that reveals how video games continue to be part of the ongoing narrative of the police investigation into the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that occurred in Newtown Connecticut in December of last year.
Blizzard Entertainment announced via its official blog that it managed to raise $2.3 million for the American Red Cross’s ongoing Superstorm Sandy relief efforts in the month of December. World of Warcraft players were given the opportunity to purchase a new in-game pet during the month, and stepped up in droves to help raise the money.
This is sure to put analyst Michael Pachter on someone's naughty list: Recently he said that Activision needs to start charging a fee for the multiplayer portion of its Call of Duty games. Wedbush Securities industry analyst Michael Pachter made his comments during the Digital Game Monetization Summit in San Francisco, California (as reported by GamesIndustry International). During his presentation he said that Activision made a serious mistake when it didn't implement a subscription-based model for Call of Duty multiplayer.
Blizzard will give 100 percent of sales of Cinder Kittens from the World of Warcraft Pet Store to the Red Cross and disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The previously announced pet the Cinder Kitten can be yours for $10 USD. This fiery little feline is warm, adorable and will light the steps of any adventurer kind enough to adopt it. The Cinder Kitten has Rare-quality stats and is a part of the Elemental family.
Two gamers have filed a class action against Blizzard Entertainment last week on behalf of Battle.net account holders, accusing the company of failing to properly secure players' personal information and requiring them to purchase a Battle.net Authenticator "in order to have even minimal protection for their sensitive personal, private, and financial data."
Blizzard's World of Warcraft web site introduces a new in-game pet called the Cinder Kitten that will give 100 percent of the proceeds to the Red Cross’s Superstorm Sandy Response relief efforts. Coming "later this year" the new pet will cost $10 and all of the proceeds will go to the Red Cross's effort in the North East in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Despite being an avid World of Warcraft player and someone who likes to use slightly colorful language to talk about it on her blog, Colleen Lachowicz (D-ME) still handily trounced Republican Sen. Thomas Martin, earning her a shiny new Senate seat.
Last month, the Maine GOP ran a pretty silly smear campaign to an attempt to convince voters that Lachowicz's gaming habits and blog comments rendered her unfit for office.
Following up on yesterday's story about the Maine GOP attacking Maine state Senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz over leading a "double life" in World of Warcraft, Politico has another story featuring Lachowicz's response. Colleen Lachowicz told the publican Thursday night that that the attack shows that the Maine GOP is out-of-touch if they think being a gamer is shameful.
In one of the more unusual attacks on an opponent in this election cycle, the Republican party of Maine has decided that it would be a good idea to take Maine state Senate Democratic candidate Colleen Lachowicz to task for playing World of Warcraft. Apparently they don't know that over 10 million people around the world are playing the game daily, with millions playing here in the United States. The law of averages would also suggest that a fair amount of Maine's population also plays the game, but let's put that aside for now..
While many have been keen to point out the continued decline of Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft subscriber numbers, there's some good news for the company today: the latest expansion has given the game a boost past the 10 million subscriber mark. Back in August Blizzard revealed that its paid subscriber numbers had fallen to 9.1 million.
"It’s been gratifying to see the results of all of the work we put into this expansion and to hear all of the positive feedback from players so far," Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said.
An analyst at Lazard Capital is telling VentureBeat that early sales indicators on the newest World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria, are below expectations. The firm estimates 600-700k copies of the expansion sold at retail since its launch on Tuesday, down a whopping 60 percent from the previous expansion. VentureBeat notes that this estimate probably doesn't take into account digital downloads of the expansion.
This story on Slashdot Games reveals that screenshots taken in World of Warcraft have secret watermarks that can be used by Blizzard to track users - particularly when they are engaged in behavior considered to be illegal or that violates World of Warcraft's terms of service.
The story began a few days ago when a World of Warcraft players noticed that there was an odd mark on a screenshot he had taken in-game:
Blizzard Entertainment has been forced to cut off access to its popular MMO World of Warcraft to subscribers in Iran, due to ongoing (in an earlier version of the story we used the term "new" to describe the trade sanctions, which was not accurate.) U.S. trade sanctions against the country. The company issued the following statement to a thread complaining about World of Warcraft not being available in the region: