World of Warcraft: Cataclysm launches – world doesn’t end

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Blizzard’s much-anticipated World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has launched, promising the most substantial revision to the MMORPG’s virtual world since the game launched in the distance mists of history. The premise of Cataclysm is that a giant skeletal dragon (Deathwing) lays waste to most of the world, reforming once-familiar locales. Although Blizzard set Deathwing loose just before Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), it wasn’t until the stroke of midnight on December 7 that enthusiastic WOW players were able to get at all the new pieces Blizzard is providing with Cataclysm, including two new playable races (the Goblins and the Worgen), the ability to push levels up to 85, and things like flying mounts. And while eager WOW players charged at Blizzard’s servers as a single-minded horde (or would that be alliance?), Blizzard’s systems actually seem to have held up.

“Cataclysm adds an incredible amount of new content for players to explore, revitalizing the game world and building on everything we’ve learned since World of Warcraft launched over six years ago,” said Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime, in a statement. “We thank all of our beta testers for helping make this our best expansion yet, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone in the new Azeroth.”

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Blizzard’s launch of Cataclysm is a truly worldwide event, with the game now on sale in North America, Europe, Argentina, Chile, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and southeast Asia. Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau will get the game December 9.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is available on DVD for WIndows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X at a suggested price of $39.99, with a special collector’s edition going for $79.99 with a bunch of bonus items. However, many WOW players are opting for the downloadable version available via Blizzard’s for $39.99. Of course, playing World of Warcraft does require a monthly subscription fee.

Blizzard promises players can achieve an ultimate showdown with Deathwing the dragon in Cataclysm, but don’t expect that to happen right away: Blizzard rolls out new content in gentle waves to enable players to keep up—and to keep those subscription fees coming in. When Blizzard rolled out Wrath of the Lich King, it took about a year before its final battle became accessible to players.

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