"World of Warcraft" has rivals racing for new worlds

Thu Nov 20, 2008 12:14pm EST
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By John Gaudiosi

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - "World of Warcraft" has become a phenomenon among role-playing interactive online games with its unrivaled success leaving competitors racing to draw gamers into new virtual worlds.

Fans of the massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game by Blizzard Entertainment, a unit of Vivendi Games, lined up outside stores around the world this month to get the game's second expansion pack "World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King."

"World of Warcraft," which creates a vast interactive world, has about 11 million people worldwide registered as players, paying around $15 a month to explore the fantasy role-playing universe of Azeroth.

The second expansion pack gives players access to the forbidding continent of Northrend where the malevolent Lich King Arthas seeks to end life on Azeroth.

Michael Pachter, videogame analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, forecast the new pack would sell about five million copies, cementing "World of Warcraft" as the dominant MMO game over about 150 rival games on sale or in development.

"'World of Warcraft' is probably 60 percent to 65 percent of the market in the U.S. and Europe, and a smaller percentage in Asia," said Pachter.

The game has become an obsession for some players.

Dr Richard Graham, a child psychiatrist at the UK's Tavistock Center, was reported as warning last week that some young people were damaging their social and mental development by playing the game for up to 16 hours at a time.   Continued...

<p>A screengrab from the role-playing game "World of Warcraft". REUTERS/Blizzard Entertainment/Handout</p>