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What you sow: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls sells 2.7 million copies in first week

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What you sow: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls sells 2.7 million copies in first week

Blizzard took a risk with Diablo III’s first ever expansion: they separated Loot 2.0 out into a free update, and let Reaper of Souls stand by itself. And it worked: a new campaign, Crusader class and adventure mode proved enough meat to pull in current and relapsed players alike, to the tune of 1.5 million thwarted Malthaels - and 2.7 million copies in the first week.

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Don’t call it a decline: World of Warcraft subscriptions are back up a bit

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Don’t call it a decline: World of Warcraft subscriptions are back up a bit

MMO doomsayers like to characterise World of Warcraft’s twilight years the way Telltale describe The Walking Dead - like a man slipping inexorably down a hill, desperately grasping for things to hold onto.

In actuality, Blizzard are playing ongoing WoW development more like Tiny Wings - keeping their heads down to ensure the highest possible peak after each trough. Mists of Pandaria came out at the tail end of 2012, and first annual expansion Warlords of Draenor isn’t due till later this year - but the books have already turned up again.

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Blizzard want World of Warcraft expansions to become an annual occurrence

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Blizzard want World of Warcraft expansions to become an annual occurrence

As Blizzard are likely reminded whenever they forget not to read news stories like this one, World of Warcraft’s subscriber base is falling. Not like a stone, but a spinning jenny. Gracefully, but steadily.

Even so, more of their staff are being sent to Azeroth’s coalface than ever before, and fewer returning to work on other projects. So what fearsome workflow paradox is gobbling up some of PC gaming’s most talented developers?

The nebulous, ever-changing Next Expansion, it turns out.

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Blizzard already working on next expansion after Warlords of Draenor

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Blizzard already working on next expansion after Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard are changing their game plan when it comes to future expansions to the world of Azeroth. For the first time, Blizzard are already hard at work at their next expansion for World of Warcraft, the one after the recently announced Warlords of Draenor. Understanding that they need to keep the playbase engaged and subscribed, Blizzard will be releasing these expansions on “a faster cadence".

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It was Diablo III's console version who stuck the last nail in the auction house's coffin

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It was Diablo III's console version who stuck the last nail in the auction house's coffin

Imagine if all Diablo III trading business was conducted inside an actual coffin. Madness! All cramped gold transactions over peoples’ shoulders and swords passed gingerly between peoples’ hips. But it’s not - that was actually a metaphor, and in any case the auction house is due to close in March.

As it turns out, Diablo III’s rather successful console port has had something to do with that.

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Blizzard have “more resources focused on building content for World of Warcraft than ever before”

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Blizzard have “more resources focused on building content for World of Warcraft than ever before”

The headline news for the Blizzard bit of Activision’s earnings call last night was that World of Warcraft subscriber numbers are still declining, and appear to be picking up speed. That’s a disconcerting thought for Azeroth’s inhabitants, who can see Blizzard pumping cash into what they hope will be new floats for the company to bob along on once WoW is fully deflated - Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.

But Blizzard haven’t begun the long, finickety process of pulling out of WoW just yet. Indeed, they’ve upped its budget to ensure that “it can continue having a long and happy life".

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eSports exploding, say eSports executives at MIT-Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

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eSports exploding, say eSports executives at MIT-Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Last Friday, while rumors swirled that IPL 6 was definitely cancelled and the LCS “super week" continued its marathon, a small audience gathered on the second floor of the Boston Convention and Exposition Center to hear the heads of Blizzard, MLG, Twitch, and the Houston Rockets basketball team talk about how eSports have grown in the last two years.

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StarCraft 2 2.0.4 patch adds new replay features and revamps menus

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StarCraft 2 2.0.4 patch adds new replay features and revamps menusA substantial Wings of Liberty patch for Starcraft 2, which will bring the game up to version 2.0.4, is “on the horizon" according to a post on the game’s official forum. The patch will revamp the menu screens, as well as Clans and Groups, and add new replay features.

Blizzard have warned their community that it’s not a small patch, either, and took the opportunity to remind players that it’s worth leaving the the StarCraft 2 launcher running in the background to pre-load the patch, since the launcher has background downloading enabled.

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StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm intro video released sans game

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StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm intro video released sans gameAnd so this curious and probably irreversible trend for throwing the opening cinematics of games out of the nest without a game to back them up continues. Sometime in March, we’ll boot up Heart of the Swarm for the first time and go, “Oh yeah. I remember this one."

Silliness aside, Blizzard have a track record when it comes to shellshocked, foreground-heavy animation, and I think they’ve succeeded in capturing at least a smidgen of HotS’s Zerg-infused essence. Check out their efforts below.

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Heart of the Swarm beta expanded with pre-order access

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Heart of the Swarm beta expanded with pre-order accessWhile the release of Starcraft 2’s second episode is currently slated for 2013 and consequently ages off, in a couple of weeks it’ll be due out ‘this year’, which means ‘imminently’. To prepare for that binary switch, Blizzard are making room for more players in their ongoing beta test. Any players who pre-purchased the game before December 18th are now flagged for beta access, and any who digitally pre-order from now on will be added to the beta “in waves" every week or so.

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on the future of StarCraft 2 eSports, Heart of the Swarm, and community concerns

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on the future of StarCraft 2 eSports, Heart of the Swarm, and community concernsAs president and CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime underlines Blizzard’s commitment to StarCraft and its thriving pro community every time he appears at a tournament. It’s an increasingly important message to send: during the autumn, the StarCraft community seemed to be getting morose about its own future, and Blizzard’s ability to help it grow. Since then, Blizzard have been pushing back and trying to reassure the community that not only will Heart of the Swarm be a strong expansion, but that Blizzard hear and understand the the community’s concerns. With Morhaime in the audience, they can hardly miss it.

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Blizzard CEO refutes Starcraft II free-to-play speculation: “The math just isn’t there”

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Blizzard CEO refutes Starcraft II free-to-play speculation: “The math just isn’t there” One of the current questions and arguments that surrounds eSports is the role of free-to-play in growing the eSports community. On the one hand, there’s the belief that free-to-play games, with low barriers to entry, are better placed to grow and accelerate community growth.

On the other hand, there are the games that aren’t free-to-play that are doing just fine, thank you. Like Starcraft II.

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Blizzard head encourages eSports events to offer a free stream; also wants to push games in developing economies

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Blizzard head encourages eSports events to offer a free stream; also wants to push games in developing economiesMost StarCraft leagues are still Pay Per View, but this weekend’s StarCraft 2 World Championship Finals in Shanghai were streamed for free so that any bugger might see them. The move represents the beginning of a conscious effort on Blizzard’s part to “lower the barrier for people who are interested and curious", says Mike Morhaime, who also talked about the company’s progress in breaking into developing economies.

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Battle.net World Championship taking place this weekend; SSL Brood War tournament allowed to proceed

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Battle.net World Championship taking place this weekend; SSL Brood War tournament allowed to proceedThis weekend sees 32 Starcraft 2 players and 10 World of Warcraft players finally come to terms with their place in the world leadership ladders. They've battled with uncertainty, they've trekked through ennui, and now they stand poised at the mountaint of definition, over the course of Saturday and Sunday thay will climb that mountain and they will know who is the best Starcraft 2 player of them all and who is better than all other World of Warcraft players at the Arena minigame.

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Mists of Pandaria global launch events detailed

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Mists of Pandaria global launch events detailedWe love Blizzard, but why they got to be so secretive sometimes? It’s a question that’s bothered us for years, often explained away with glum talk of corporate culture, now finally answered: All along, they’ve been busy organising a party and didn’t want to spoil the surprise, silly!

On September 24th, eve of Mists of Pandaria’s launch, several official events are planned at retailers in the US, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and the UK.

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