MMOG gamers take notice: The 800-pound gorilla is rumbling forth from its corner. In a year full of legitimate challengers, Blizzard Entertainment this week returns with World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion to its 11-million-player-strong massively multiplayer online game.
Wrath of the Lich King has big shoes to fill, considering its predecessor, The Burning Crusade, set PC sales records with its 2.4-million-units-in-24-hours debut in January 2007. However, it isn't likely to be hampered much by those aforementioned challengers: Funcom's Age of Conan and Mythic's Warhammer Online. In publisher Activision Blizzard's post-earnings conference call last week, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime said that 68 percent of WOW's defectors to the former, as well as 48 percent of the latter, had already renewed their subscriptions to Azeroth.
Blizzard may be tying up the PC charts, but console gamers will be forced to make some serious and difficult decisions to avoid extravagant credit card bills. Topping the list for many will be Activision's Call of Duty: World at War on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS, and PC. Activision employs a dual-studio setup on the Call of Duty franchise, so while COD4 creators Infinity Ward plug away at the 2009 installment in the franchise, Spider-Man handlers Treyarch have been given command of World at War. Rather than maintaining the modern-day setting seen in COD4, Treyarch has returned to the Axis and Allies conflict of the 1940s.
EA's march toward all-new properties continues this week with Mirror's Edge on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Undoubtedly hoping to continue building on the tone of quality set by Dead Space and Spore before it, Mirror's Edge is a first-person action adventure in which players assume the role of renegade courier Faith as she scales the city in an effort to evade law-enforcement personnel.
THQ may be going through a time of substantial transition, but that isn't likely to impact the annual release schedule of its bread-and-butter wrestling franchise. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 enters its yearly title bout this week on the Xbox 360 PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, and DS, bringing with it a number of incremental enhancements such as the return of tag-team play, locally or online, as well as streamlined load times. As for real sporting entertainment, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 also takes to the pitch this week, arriving for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, and PSP.
Microsoft's gaming console sees a pair of titles coming only to its platform, one being exclusive in perpetuity and the other partial to this week alone. Breaking its prolonged absence, Rare's Banjo-Kazooie duo kicks the tires on Nuts & Bolts, a vehicle-based open-world platformer. With EALA arming Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3's war dolphins on the PC earlier this month, the Xbox 360 real-time strategy title wages its hallucinogenic take on the Cold War this week.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed put up big numbers for LucasArts in September, and the publisher is undoubtedly hoping the Force will be equally as strong with Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels and Jedi Alliance for the Wii and DS, respectively. The Wii also sees EA's FaceBreaker K.O. Party and Namco Bandai's Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World added to its library this week, while the DS takes on Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff.
Nintendo's online storefront will also see a pair of downloadable games. Gameloft will be stimulating Wii gamers' gray matter with Brain Challenge (1,000 Wii points, $10), and Virtual Toys serves up its cooking game Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam (1,000 Wii points, $10). Microsoft had not yet revealed its weekly Wednesday release as of press time. However, Capcom did say last week that one new addition to XBLA this week would be a Street Fighter-themed table for Pinball FX.
Though the XBLA edition of Capcom's Age of Booty was all sails ahead last month, the PlayStation Network version hit an unexpected sandbar as it was leaving port. Today, Capcom revealed that it has once again hoisted the anchor on the strategy game, saying the PSN edition will arrive this Thursday.
This week's new releases are listed below (list taken from retailer information--actual dates may vary).
NOVEMBER 9, 2008
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 (X360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS)
NOVEMBER 10, 2008
Avatar - The Last Airbender: Into the Inferno (DS)
Brain Challenge (WiiWare)
Call of Duty: World at War Final Fronts (PS2)
MLB Superstars (Wii)
Pony Friends: Mini Breeds Edition (DS)
Populous DS (DS)
Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam (WiiWare)
NOVEMBER 11, 2008
Amazing Adventures The Forgotten Ruins (DS)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360)
Big League Sports (Wii)
Block Party (Wii)
Call of Duty: World at War (X360, PS3, Wii, DS, PC)
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 (X360)
Eternal Poison (PS2)
FaceBreaker K.O. Party (Wii)
Fantasy Aquarium (Wii)
Guinness World Records: The Videogame (Wii, DS)
Hasbro Family Game Night (Wii, PS2)
History Civil War: Secret Missions (PC)
Imagine Party Babyz (Wii)
Luxor 3 (Wii)
Luxor: Quest for the Afterlife (PC)
Mirror's Edge (X360, PS3, PC)
Monkey Mischief: Party Time (Wii)
Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor (Wii)
My Stop Smoking Coach with Allen Carr (DS)
National Geographic Panda (DS)
Pet Pals: Animal Doctor (Wii)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 (X360, PS3, PS2, PSP)
Rock Revolution (Wii)
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (PC)
Sally's Salon (DS)
Secret Service (PC)
Six Flags Fun Park (DS)
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance (DS)
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels (Wii)
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (Wii)
Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff (DS)
Testament of Sin (PC)
NOVEMBER 12, 2008
Super Street Fighter II Turbo Pinball FX (XBLA)
NOVEMBER 13, 2008
Candace Kane's Candy Factory (Wii)
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC, Mac)