MMO News Wrap-Up

So there’s been no major releases this week, no shockers, but as usual with MMOs, there’s plenty to keep fans interested and wanting more. A number of games have had some bad news, others are looking up, and some are looking pretty darned awesome, so read on to find out about the headlines this week featuring Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Aion, Global Agenda, Guild Wars 2, Age of Conan and The Secret World.

Things are moving on nicely with Star Trek Online, which recently entered its closed beta. Cryptic finally announced the launch date for the game, which will be 2 February for players in the US, and 5 February here in Europe, and followed up this info later with the long-awaited system requirements. These show that you’re not going to need a super-computer to run the game, something the fans are pleased about.

If you’re still in the dark about Star Trek Online or have any burning questions about it, don’t forget to check out our interview with Cryptic’s Al Rivera which went up last week, where he talks about the Klingon gameplay, their ships, crafting in the game and much more.

While one game just gets on its feet, another stumbles. Mythic’s Warhammer Online hit the headlines this week, when it emerged that EA has slashed 1,500 jobs, cutting Mythic’s workforce by around 80 people, that’s about a third of its staff. Things haven’t been looking good for Mythic and WAR for a while; The departure of long-time CEO, Mark Jacobs, which was announced in June shortly after Mythic’s merge with Bioware, indicated trouble ahead. Jacobs’ blog that month revealed that he had been away from Mythic since EA shared its plans for Mythic with him in early May. He never said what those plans were, or gave any real reason why he left Mythic, but maybe these job cuts have something to do with it.

When word on the cuts hit the news this week, Warhammer’s executive producer Jeff Hickman released a letter to the community, reassuring players that they should notice no change in service or performance as a result. This isn’t the first batch of job cuts that have hit Mythic, the company has been under fire since the game’s launch last year, following disappointing subscription figures.

Another game that has shed a bucket-load of subscribers is, surprisingly, World of Warcraft. Following a lengthy downtime, WoW finally went back online in China in September. At the time, a representative from the General Administration of Press and Publication apparently claimed that the new operators, NetEase, hadn’t actually been given the go-ahead to start charging players for the game again. Despite this, WoW has been running without any issues since then, however, the repercussions of the premature kick-off have finally caught up with NetEase. Late last week, the government informed NetEase that it should stop charging players to play WoW and not allow any new accounts to be made, as it did not have the proper authorisation to do so. A penalty may also be payable for breaking the rules, and the application to go live again, which has been with GAPP for several months, has been returned. Ouch.

NetEase claims it doesn’t know what the problem is, and that it complied with all the rules. The saga continues.

In other WoW news, Blizzard finally revealed the graphics of the new tier of unique armour for all ten classes. This was welcomed by players, who disliked the format of the previous tier, which saw classes of the same faction with the same armour type looking almost identical. It’s also good to see Blizzard is sharing these before the content is released in-game – developers can’t enjoy seeing data mining sites reveal this type of thing before they do.

Finally, it seems that details of the next BlizzCon event have appeared on the net. It seems Blizzard has changed the tactic this year and moved the location to Las Vegas from the usual Anaheim Convention Centre, and there’s an earlier date too. If the listing at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority website is correct, the event will take place in July – a very hot time of year in Vegas. Sadly for fans, at just 8 months away, the chance of another Worldwide Invitational between now and then seems out of the question.

{PAGE TITLE=MMO News Wrap-Up Page 2}The NCsoft post-earnings conference call revealed some interesting things earlier this week, including hints about Guild Wars 2’s beta and release schedule. Plans are to have some sort of public event for the game next year, probably a closed beta, then the game itself will launch in 2011. This is the first time we’ve heard dates in regards to betas and release, so it’s exciting stuff for fans of this highly anticipated game.

The conference call also revealed that NCsoft’s other high flyer, Aion, has sold almost one million copies worldwide since launch. Half a million units were sold in the US and 470,000 have been snapped up by gamers here in Europe. The game currently accounts for half of NCsoft’s earnings, which have doubled since last year, proving that the port from Asia to the west was a wise move. How will the game hold up after the free trial period ends? Only time will tell, but Aion still seems to have a very strong and loyal following. The fact that it’s still going strong in Korea a year after it launched is a positive sign.

Making the most of the approaching holiday period, NCsoft unveiled a Holiday Ascension Pack for Aion players this week, which can be purchased from a number of retailers. The pack contains several potions and scrolls for the game, along with a dye which varies in colour, depending on where the pack was bought.

Hi-Rez Studios proudly announced this week that its upcoming MMO, Global Agenda, will feature voice chat powered by Vivox. Not only will players be able to coordinate their efforts as they play, but in-game news broadcasts will alert them to vital events and victories. Subscribers will also get access to the voice servers while not even playing the game, allowing them to chat to other players while playing other games or just browsing the net. Global Agenda, a spy-fi MMO, is due to be released early next year.

Turbine developers have been talking about the new Skirmish feature which will arrive in Lord of the Rings Online in the upcoming expansion, Siege of Mirkwood. This week, they tackled accessibility to the new feature, how players sign up to it and what happens when the event begins. It’s a massive addition to the game, and there’s lots to take in, so head over to our earlier article to get an idea of what you can expect to see.

Funcom is still slogging away at Age of Conan, despite recent bad news about the company’s financial situation. Although it was confirmed that its upcoming MMO, The Secret World would be delayed as a result of the cut-backs, Funcom is keen to show its still being worked on so this week, fans were offered the chance to take part in the beta. Players that sign up to the re-evaluation period for Age of Conan, then sign up for a further three months subscription, will get a spot in the later stages of the closed beta for The Secret World. If they sign up to AoC for longer, there are some other goodies up for grabs too. If you haven’t checked out the game for a while, now is the time to do so.

And lastly, in addition to our exclusive screenshots of the recently-unveiled Imperial Agent class from BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, a new webcomic was released, updating fans further on the universe they will be plunged into once the game is launched. This latest comic is the start of Act III, and follows the Jedi-killing Bounty Hunter back to Nar-Shaddaa where he receives new orders. Bioware usually release something new each week, so stay tuned for the latest update, which should be released sometime today.

That’s all for now, but be sure to swing by today’s IncGamers Podcast for our personal thoughts on all the gaming news from this week.

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