Activision Blizzard’s quarterly earnings report predicted to shine come Wednesday

Activision Blizzard will report its first-fiscal-quarter earnings on Wednesday, May 9, after the market close. This will come two days after its arch-rival Electronic Arts reports its earnings, and the two together will paint a better picture of the grudge match between EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic and Activision Blizzard’s flagship online game World of Warcraft.

GamesBeat Weekly Roundup

If you follow VentureBeat but don’t regularly check our GamesBeat site, here’s a list of the best games stories we ran over the last seven days that you may have missed.

Retro revival: PC games raise $6.7M and counting in Kickstarter campaigns

Kickstarter’s gone vogue. With a single, bold move by Double Fine’s Tim Schafer in early February, the crowdfunding web site propelled itself into the heart of the gaming community. Now, with the signing of the JOBS Act adding additional legitimacy, crowdfunding is poised to become an even bigger force in video games.

Can we panic now? — Core gaming has a problem

THQ layoffs, Sega cancellations, and Sony studio closures caused last week to be one of the worst in memory for the gaming industry. Compare that to mobile darling OMGPOP which was sold for $210 million based on the strength of one game. It seems like one side of the market is on its way down, while the other side has nothing but growth ahead of it, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Guild Wars 2 challenges MMO establishment with hybrid business model (preview)

The massively multiplayer online (MMO) games business is about to get even more competitive. Market leader World of Warcraft (WoW) dodged a bullet when the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) put only a minor dent into its customer base, which still sits at an imposing 10.2M. But the next challenger is already on its way in the shape of NCsoft’s Guild Wars 2, due for release later this year.

Free-to-play games catching MMO subscribers’ attention (and wallets)

The successful launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic notwithstanding, the business model of mandatory subscriptions for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games seems to be on its way out. A new user survey by online core gamer network Curse indicates that free-to-play games and microtransaction purchases are gaining ground even among subscribers of MMO market leader World of Warcraft.

Star Wars: The Old Republic goes free-to-play this weekend only

BioWare has announced Star Wars: The Old Republic will be free-to-play from March 15 to March 19. The popular massively multiplayer game’s “Weekend Pass Free Trial” allows anyone to sample the opening adventures of the eight different character classes in the game, as well as some player-versus-player Warzones, and early faction-specific Flashpoints (four-man instances).

A roundup of stories from the Game Developers Conference

Our GamesBeat team is exhausted after five days of covering the biggest show for game developers in San Francisco. Here’s a day-by-day roundup of the major stories that we wrote from the Game Developers Conference this week. We’ve also thrown in stories from Microsoft’s pre-GDC press event. As you can see, it was a busy week for game news.

Electronic Arts reveals new Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars online numbers

Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello is feeling “awfully good” about the Mass Effect 3 launch.” Speaking at today’s Wedbush Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference in New York City, Riccitiello estimated that the game sold 890,000 units during the first 24 hours in North-America alone, meeting the company’s expectations: “We anticipated it doing well, so we’re happy.”

Activision Blizzard earnings: World of Warcraft resists the assault from EA’s Star Wars

Activision Blizzard has beaten earnings expectations for its third fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 31, and its major cash cow is still holding up. World of Warcraft didn’t suffer after Electronic Arts launched its massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic. World of Warcraft ended the year with 10.2 million paying subscribers, down only slightly from 10.3 million in the previous quarter.

Move over MotionScan; new lip synch tech aims to revolutionize motion capture (updated with video)

Last year, Australian company Depth Analysis took performance-driven animation to the next level with MotionScan—a technology that utilizes 32 high-definition cameras to capture an actor’s performance without the need for a special ping-pong-ball suit—in Rockstar Games’ L.A. Noire. Now, U.K.-based startup Speech Graphics wants to revolutionize audio-driven animation through new software that uniquely predicts how the muscles of the human face move to produce sounds.

GamesBeat Reviews

Below are all the reviews from GamesBeat in 2011. They are listed in reverse-chronological order by the date the review was posted, NOT the release date for the game.

BioWare explains recent Star Wars: The Old Republic bans

Star Wars: The Old Republic developer BioWare is defending its recent decision to ban players for what is commonly known in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game community as “gold farming” — the practice of harvesting large amounts of in-game currency in order to sell the gold (or, in this case, credits) to other players for real cash.

Star Wars: The Old Republic drops 30 spots on the UK sales charts

Electronic Arts and BioWare’s long-awaited, big budget Star Wars: The Old Republic has seen an unprecedented drop down the UK sales charts. According to Chart-Track, the licensed massively multiplayer online game plummeted from 10th position all the way to 38th during the week ending on December 31.

Star Wars: The Old Republic attracts crowds, server queues require Jedi patience

Players seem to enjoy Star Wars: The Old Republic – once they can get on a server, that is. Yesterday the new massively multiplayer online game by Electronic Arts finally launched after a one-week early access period for pre-order customers. The influx of new Jedis, Bounty Hunters and Sith Lords resulted in waiting times between a few minutes and more than an hour on about half of the 130 North American game servers. Players enter a queue if their server is at capacity.

Review: Should you buy Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft could soon be feeling a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of subscribers suddenly cried out and started heading for a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: The Old Republic is an impressive and easy to play new competitor from Electronic Arts that makes great use of the Star Wars license. It is the most promising new massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) since World of Warcraft claimed the genre’s throne seven years ago.

Star Wars: The Old Republic debuts on Tuesday as one of the most ambitious games ever

BioWare’s epic new online game Star Wars: The Old Republic debuts on Tuesday. A persistent world known as a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), the title is one of the most ambitious video games in history. One of its many lofty goals is to challenge World of Warcraft, the seven-year-old fantasy role-playing world that is the world’s biggest money-making online game with more than 10.3 million paying subscribers and around a billion dollars a year in revenue. Another is to take the Star Wars fan base and bring it into the modern age of the MMO, ensuring that George Lucas’s franchise lives on in the age of massive blockbuster games. And it is also aimed at bringing in a steady stream of revenue for Electronic Arts, elevating it and its developer BioWare into the stratosphere of the game industry, where respect and revenues go hand in hand.

Report: Sci-fi MMOs dominated by free-to-play players

As Electronic Arts prepares to release its heavily publicized, subscription-based online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, market analysis firm Newzoo has released new data showing science fiction and space-themed MMOs are dominated by free-to-play games.

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World of Warcraft patched as Blizzard Entertainment tries to reverse declining subscriptions

Blizzard Entertainment  released a huge patch on Tuesday for its hit game World of Warcraft, as part of an effort to turn around a significant drop in subscribers. As we reported earlier this month, player numbers dropped from 11.1 million to 10.3 million in the third quarter of 2011, and parent company Activision Blizzard must surely now be looking over its shoulder at the upcoming big budget rival Star Wars: The Old Republic.