Activision Blizzard buy independence from Vivendi for quite a lot of money

Tom Senior at

$8.2 billion. That's the price of freedom for Activision Blizzard, who have truck a deal to buy 601 million shares from Vivendi and trade on as an independent public company. 172 million of those shares were purchased by a group set up by Acti CEO Bobby Kotick and co-chair Brian Kelly, who lined the pot with $100 million in personal pocket change.

Reuters report that Vivendi's share in Actiblizz will dwindle from a 61% to 12% as a result of the deal, freeing up some swift cash for Vivendi to spend on branded lollipops and looming debt and handing BlizzVision a 13.8% share hike. What time is it? It's BUSINESS TIME.

Destiny: Bungie's next (probably multiplatform) game "still quite like Halo"

Marsh Davies at

While PC gamers may have been able to ignore all the Halo 4 hubbub this week (and, judging from what I played of its campaign last night, not missing all that much either), it's highly unlikely you'll be able to avoid Destiny. Bungie's next MMO-ish-sounding game, which a recent leak describes as "still quite like Halo", is to be published by Activision after the developer's split with Microsoft, and it's a fair bet that it'll be a multi-platform mega-blockbuster. With a release date of next winter, it's also very likely that every news-bearing surface will soon be slick with the oily word-slurry of triple-A marketing.

Internet sleuth Superannuation is ahead of the curve, however: he's unearthed new tantalising details of Destiny, which were reportedly found on a blog post by a senior employee of Demonware, a networking middleware company owned by Activision-Blizzard. This publicly-accessible copy of Demonware's internal blog has since been removed, and the names have been redacted in the version published by Superannuation, but it details a trip to Bungie's headquarters and hands-on time with Destiny.

Blizzard prototyped Diablo-clone set in space

Marsh Davies at

Starblo. That was the actual codename Blizzard gave to a prototype sci-fi-themed Diablo-clone - as revealed by Shacknews in an interview snippet with David Craddock about his upcoming book on Blizzard Entertainment, Stay Awhile and Listen. Apparently, a team at Blizzard North were toying with the idea of propelling Diablo's slot-machine formula into space shortly after Diablo 2's launch.

Starcraft 2 in every school: Blizzard's eSports director interviewed

Duncan Geere at

Blizzard's Starcraft 2 world championship series is one of the biggest eSports tournaments around, offering up prize money of $250,000 in a grand final due to take place in Shanghai in November 2012. The man behind it is Ilja Rotelli, Blizzard's Director of Global Community & eSports.

We sat down with Rotelli at the European finals of the World Championship Series in Stockholm to find out his plans for making eSports more accessible, balancing pro and amateur play, what the community might not be expecting once Heart of the Swarm hits, and why he wants to put Starcraft in every school.

World of Warcraft may secretly include your account name and server IP in screenshots

Marsh Davies at

Repeating patterns embedded in screenshots taken with WoW's game client application can be decrypted to identify you, a report on Slashdot suggests. Posters on the OwnedCore forum claim that the watermark can be decoded to reveal user IDs, the time the screenshot was captured and the IP address of the server.

Diablo 3 Error 37 no cause for concern, say Blizzard in launch day preparation guide

Owen Hill at

Error 37 eh? We're already troubleshooting Diablo 3 and it's not even out yet. Blizzard have released a launch day preparation guide that covers everything from early installs, to the exact time of release in your region, to the mysterious Error 37 message that might rear it's ugly head come May 15th. It's an error message you might get when logging in early on. The solution? Just try again.

Global play will kick in once Diablo 3 is released in all regions. There's also the chance of a 40 second delay when logging in on release night. Still, after four years of waiting, 40 seconds isn't that big a deal.

And lets not dwell on hypothetical hiccups: Diablo 3 is within sniffing distance. And man, it smells good. One week to go! YEAH!

Wizard Diablo 3 trailer details wizard class

Henry Winchester at

The PC Gamer office has been quivering with excitement at the prospect of Diablo 3 since the release of the TV spot last week. Thanks to the latest wizard-based trailer that quiver has turned into a mild tremble. Who knows what will happen when the next trailer's released. Maybe the mild tremble will turn into a moderate tremble.

Diablo 3 is two weeks away! Blizzard TV spot emphasises the evil

Owen Hill at

Diablo 3 is almost here! And if the above trailer's words and sounds are anything to go by, it's going to be super evil! Hooray for everyone!

Click here to pre-order Diablo 3. If you're still on the fence, our Diablo 3 news might help you decide.

Diablo 3 beta gets a final push. Release day is less than a month away

Owen Hill at

That calendar might look like it was edited within paint by a man with barely any artistic skills whatsoever, but it's still one hell-mode of a happy sight. Diablo 3 is close. And not just in a Blizzard "we're almost ready" kind of close. Even in the grand scheme of world events, Diablo 3 is within clicking distance. May 15 is around 27 days away.

To celebrate, Blizzard have just sent out 275,000 beta keys and announced a closing date for the beta. It's going to run until May 1st. From that point onwards, you'll need to purchase the full game to comment on the forums or news posts. Check your account to see if you've received an invite, or click here to pre-purchase.

Exactly how excited are you for Diablo 3? Have you already pre-purchased?

Diablo 3 release date set for May 15

Tom Senior at

Blizzard have finally announced a release date for Diablo 3! It'll be released digitally and in shops internationally on May 15 and is available to pre-order now on Battle.Net. It'll arrive a bit later on June 7 in Latin America and Russia.

Alongside the release date announcement, Blizzard have revealed the Collector's Edition. That comes with a skull of Diablo with a crystalline USB stick that looks as though it'll plug into the demon's forehead. There's a copy of Diablo 2 and its expansion, Lord of Destruction on the stick.

Planetside 2 creative director predicts an MMOFPS renaissance: "they’re really difficult to make, so good luck”

Owen Hill at

Planetside 2 excitement is hitting an all time high. There’s 30 minutes of footage and a bunch of new screens here, which you should almost definitely watch. It’s like a beautiful dream coming true. A massively multiplayer FPS dream with magnificent scale, day/night cycles, vehicles and jetpacks.

Creative director, Matt Higby is just as excited as the rest of us. "It always blows my mind that there aren't more MMO FPSs" he says, after showing a live demo at GDC.

Blizzard lays off 600 employees, development teams "largely unaffected"

Josh Augustine at

The juggernaut developer behind the StarCraft, Warcraft, and Diablo franchises just announced that they're laying off 600 employees this morning. Mike Morhaime, Blizzard's president and co-founder, released a public statement on the World of Warcraft forums to clarify the need to let these employees go and which sections of the company would be affected.

Call of Duty: Devil's Brigade was in development by a secret team. Got secretly cancelled

Owen Hill at

The Verge have reported on a top secret Call of Duty game that was in development five months before the release of the first Modern Warfare. Call of Duty: Devil’s Brigade was cancelled nine months in to development, was a third-person affair, and focused on the “superheroes” of WWII who later inspired the formation of the Green Berets and the Canadian Special Operations forces Command.

Activision cancelled the project in 2007. The dev team included Jason VandenBerghe, current creative director on Far Cry 3, along with Scott Bandy and Trevor Jalowitz, who now work for Activision. They called themselves Underground Development.

VandenBerghe quotes Infinity Ward’s dominance as one of the reasons for the cancellation: "If the IW guys say they want to control the Call of Duty IP, they don't even have to say our name. We just got sideswiped. And that happens. I don't begrudge them for that."

For players or profit? Activision-Blizzard at odds over Diablo 3's cash auction house

Owen Hill at

Diablo 3's auction house is a contentious subject. It'll let players trade in-game loot for real-life cash. Blizzard will take a set fee for each transaction. It's being described in very different ways to players and to investors. To players and the specialist press, Blizzard have repeatedly emphasised that the real-money auction house is meant to protect gamers from shady gold sellers. To investors, Activision-Blizzard are talking up the profit potential.

We spoke to Diablo 3's Jay Wilson about Blizzard's motivation for the feature in August. At the time, it seemed that making a profit from the auction house wasn't high on the game designer's priority list: “We expect it’ll break even. We talked about this as a service we wanted to provide players and not primarily as a financial model. We don’t know if it will make us money," he said.

"It would be nice if it did, but as long as we don’t lose money; that’s really what we care about: that we provide the players with a great experience that doesn’t put us out of business," he continued.

That was three months ago. The auction house came up at Activision Blizzard's recent Q3 2011 Earnings Call multiple times, mostly when people were talking about profit margins and business models. It seems that the auction house could end up turning a profit, accidentally or not. And in corporate land, Activision Blizzard's CFO Thomas Tippl, is enthusiastic about the item-trading system's potential for generating cash.

Modern Warfare 3 is scared of disturbing you

Owen Hill at

Who'd have thought it? Just like Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 3 wants to know how easily offended you are. Very considerate.

This message pops up as you begin the single player campaign. We assume it refers to the controversial scene that we mentioned last week but, seeing as Graham has only just begun the single player campaign, there's potential for all kinds of upsetting things to be hidden within. Very exciting and, potentially, very disturbing.

Our review of Modern Warfare 3 has been delayed but will be published asap. Until then, why not read Graham's first impressions of Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer?

Are you easily disturbed? What was the game to disturb you? Let us know in the comments.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria video shows pandas pandering in Pandaria

Henry Winchester at

A bamboo curry’s worth of information on World of Warcraft’s panda-based race has hit the internet. In addition to Blizzard confirming details of the new animation system, an official website has launched and a video of the bears in action has leaked.

The video, sneakily shot by MMO-Champion, shows Pandaria’s starting area, as well as the impressive animations that bring the cuddly warriors to life. According to Blizzard art director, Chris Robinson, the Pandaren have ten times the facial bones as other races, making them more mobile and expressive. That's good news even if you're not planning to play as a panda. Blizzard say they'll be retro-fitting the tech to the old races, eventually.

Robinson said that “I want to stress as well that it's a massive undertaking to go back and do this. And to a lot of people it's something that won't be considered shiny new content.” Blizzard are also concerned about maintaining the "look and feel of the original models," and want to find a way of revamping the old races that won't put off players who have spent years with their characters.

Blizzard three year schedule reveals plans for two World of Warcraft expansions

Tom Hatfield at

Gamespot bring us some news from the Citi Technology conference, where Activision Blizzard COO Thomas Tippl has said that Blizzard will be producing six "proven property" games/expansions over the next three years.

The announcement reveals plans for two more World of Warcraft expansions over the three years. Could one of these be the Mists of Pandaren expansion we've previously heard rumours of? In addition, the first expansion to Diablo 3 will be expected by the end of 2014. The two planned Starcaft 2 expansions, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, are expected in the same period.

By choosing to refer only to 'proven properties' Blizzard have left the door open for a new 'unproven property' to be released in that same period, such as the long rumoured Project Titan.

World of Warcraft subscriptions decline slightly to 11.4 million; new premium mount soon

Tim Edwards at

Speaking at the Activision Blizzard investor call, Blizzard CEO Mike Morheime revealed the current subscriber numbers for World of Warcraft. Currently, the game has 11.4 million subscribers worldwide, down on the 12 million figure quoted in October 2010. Mike, in answering investor's questions put the decline down to the player's voracious consumption of the Cataclysm content, and promised to get expansions out faster. "The more experienced [our players] are, they've become much faster at consuming content. We need to be faster in delivering expansions to players. We're looking at ways to speed up the development process." Mike also noted that player numbers have "declined at a faster rate" than during the previous expansion.

However, Blizzard and their partners, Netease, were looking to launch the new expansion pack in China this year.

Mike also highlighted the recent addition of premium mobile services for World of Warcraft, in the mobile auction house and mobile guild chat, whilst also letting slip that a new premium mount would be added to the game soon.

I bet it's a flaming flying horse. With laser eyes.

Black Ops: First Strike review

Tom Francis at

Deus Ex. Half-Life 2. Episodes One and Two. Hm? Oh hi, didn’t see you there. I was just thinking of things that are cheaper than a Call of Duty: Black Ops map pack to pass the time while I camp.

New to e-sports? The 10 best Starcraft 2 matches to watch now

Rich Stanton at

At GDC last week Dustin Browder, Starcraft II's lead designer, talked about how Blizzard's development was intensely focused on making the game an e-sport. One of the most interesting points he made is that an e-sport can't just work for its players: it also has to be interesting for spectators.

“We did anything we could to make this a more watchable viewing experience,” says Browder. Anyone obsessed by the intricacies of Starcraft II, and PC Gamer is guilty as charged, would say mission accomplished. But what if you're curious rather than obsessed? Don't know a drone from a battlecruiser? Where to start?

Over the following pages we'll take you through ten awesome games of Starcraft II, old and new, where you'll never see the same strategy twice. They showcase some of the world's top players, commentators, every race combination, and the majority of each race's units. Some of our favourite matches are on, but they require a paid-subscription to watch. Our picks are free for everyone.

We've taken the liberty of preparing a basic glossary, but we'll leave the rest in the capable hands of the casters. No excuses: stick the kettle on, sit back, and let's get ready to rumble.