Taking Back Control of the Merchandise That Orbits WoW

Updated Tue, Jul 19, 2011 by Saia

All good franchises - and, let’s be honest, that’s what World of Warcraft is - have one thing in common. They have one core product - the game - and a host of complimentary products which orbit it like the moon does the Earth, or, indeed, as the White Lady and Blue Child do Azeroth.

WoW is not just a game, it’s a universe and as a result players are always going to want to interact with Azeroth in ways which don’t always mean being chained to their PCs for hours on end. From a lore perspective, this means novels and manga as well as the official magazine. For the tabletop gaming fans, this means an RPG, a board game, the Trading Card Game and the short-lived miniatures game as well.

This week the latest novel by Christie Golden - Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects - comes out and I’ve been reading a sample on my iPad over the weekend. The novels - and, to a smaller extent, the manga - are where the lore is formulated before it hits the game, primarily written by Richard Knaak and Christie Golden. So, if we want to see where Cataclysm is going, we need to read the novels and the lore it reveals is sometimes shocking.

Digital publishing is keeping the manga dream alive.

Spoilers for the book are already on the internet and they’re not hard to find either. The book continues to delve into the complex inner workings of the various Dragonflights as well as the tumultuous life of Go’el, son of Durotan (aka the Poster-Orc and Ex-Warchief of the Horde Formally Known as Thrall). The road it goes down is not pretty but then neither is the current expansion. These are dark days for Azeroth and they’re going to get darker.

The manga set this trend of introducing new characters and lore during the Sunwell Trilogy, a storyline which concluded, at least partially, during Fury of the Sunwell. Kalecgos now finds himself with a much larger role in Azeroth’s destiny as the successor to Malygos as leader of the Blue Dragonflight. The same can be said for other characters like Rhonin (yes him) and Trag Highmountain. The comics also did this with Med’an and the long-debated lore behind the disappearance of Varian Wrynn.

To go off on a tangent for a moment, in 2008 I attended San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest convention for lovers of movies, games and comics on the west coast. This particular year was huge for Blizzard: Upper Deck was showing the TCG and their short-lived miniatures game and, in one of the halls, Blizzard were talking about their lines of manga with TOKYOPOP. The Blizzard panel was packed with fanboys and girls keen to share oxygen with lore legend Chris Metzen. In fact, Blizzard's primary appearance at SDCC this year will be a panel - again hosted by Metzen - wholly focused on licensed merchandise as well.

I like to think of the World of Warcraft magazine as a decadent indulgence, much like that chocolate cake that you order for dessert. You know it won't be as good as you hope for, but you order it anyway, Mmmm and ahhh over it, all the while telling yourself that you really didn't need it and it wasn't worth the money.

News from around the 'Net