Republished: Virtual Worlds in the News

Posted on 6 February, 2008

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This post originally appeared on Dan’s Glass Houses blog on December 4th, 2007.

It was August when I last made this “broad brush” news posting.  Once again there’s an enormous amount going on out there, a few of the stories that caughy me eye follow.

Video Game Giants Merge 

Activision and Blizzard are merging to form the “world’s most profitable games business”, reports the BBC.  Further coverage includes Raph Koster posting his impressions on the merger,  and this factsheet on the Activision Blizzard website I found particularly informative.  Blizzard Entertainment are stated to have the “Highest margins in the game industry (>40%)”.  Sheesh that’s a company doing something right.

Shatner and Mr T in World of Warcraft Ads

The only logical way to follow such big business news is with something more light-hearted, namely the appearance of William Shatner espousing the virtues of his lightning throwing Shaman, and Mr T’s particularly watchable claims that he’s a computer genius who hacked WoW to create his unique Night Elf Mohawk character.  Amusing and carefree,  I doubt however that Blizzard are particularly in need of advertising to keep the World of Warcraft coffers stocked.

Disney Begin Localization of Club Penguin

My last virtual world news roundup reported the acquisition of Club Penguin by Disney.  It appears they are now working on their first localized version, aimed at the UK.  The release is targeted at the middle of 2008.  It also seems that Disney will extend the stretch of their ‘Cars’ IP to a virtual world presence.

Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures Television to Exhibit in Gaia Online 

Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures Television have signed separate deals to screen movies in teen virtual world Gaia Online.  When the new service begins Gattaca and The Matrix will be the first films available for viewing in the online communal environment.  Watching virtually with your friends makes this a distinctly more social experience than staring at a video streaming just to your computer, or at least that seems to be the hope here.  For more on Gaia Online visit here.

Tabula Rasa Launches

I’ll slip this in as I was on the beta test and definitely feel it’s worth a mention.  Tabula Rasa is an MMORPG with a science-fiction theme.  The storyline isn’t going to blow you away with it’s originality (aliens – Bane in TR – invade earth, humans take the fight from earth to the Bane) but it does freshen up a few of the duller elements of the genre.  A cloning system means you don’t have to play every character you create from level 1, you actually have to aim at something if you want to target it (unlike many other games in this genre) and the world comes across as being far more dynamic than many similar games, with the alien menace being delivered direct to the battlefront by dropship.

Alongside other elements Tabula Rasa might not sound overwhelmingly fresh, but it was only after reflecting back on a few hours (or days) of play that I realised I had been playing the game tangibly different to the likes of World of Warcraft.  For instance in WoW you might stand on a road scouting the wilds for a wolf you think you can just about tackle, en route to collecting one more wolf claw to complete a quest.  By contrast in Tabula Rasa it’s not uncommon to find yourself plunging headline into a whole platoon of Bane with little to no concern for how survivable the encounter might actually be.  Imperfections asides, a game that makes you play a familiar genre differently definitely deserves a pat on the back.especially when you team up to play the various quest instances.

If you’re playing and on the European server feel free to say “Hi” to (Woop, Red or Flute) Kamachi.

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