I bet you didn't, since they don't market it very much. I happened to stumble upon this as I was exploring one of the darkest corners of Blizzard's official European website, the part which they have dedicated to community related information. Upon further investigation I found a similar page on the US equivalence, where they also linked to a list of the participating guilds. (I dcouldn't find any list for EU, so I guess we're just not good enough.)
Currently there are four guilds in the world who are subjects for this special treatment, if I should believe in the list. And why shouldn't I? Admittedly there isn't any "latest update" information, which I really think this kind of website should have, but you would expect a company as Blizzard to keep their information correct and relevant, right?
So what privileges do those four guilds enjoy? Well, among other things they get:
- "Eligibility to participate in upcoming beta tests" and
- "Invitations to live online chat sessions with Blizzard game designers".
Wow. Who wouldn't want that for your guild? Especially since they also add the exciting sentence: "Additional features and benefits to come!". I wonder what that would be. Let me guess... an exclusive vanity pet? Guided private tours in the Blizzard HQs? An authentic GC pony? The sky is the limit.
And how do you become a member of this illustrious club?
It seems as if you qualify by doing good deeds for the community. If you read the list of examples they provide, it's apparently a merit to participate in constructive discussions at the official WoW discussion forums. The guild relations section is especially mentioned as a place where you should be active. You can also write fan fiction, create gaming guides that you make available for the community or do WoW-related movies.
They don't mention running a WoW blog, but I suppose that the work that some of the more prominent and informative kind of bloggers do would count as a merit. "Anything else that demonstrates a genuine willingness to help other members of the World of Warcraft community is welcome", as Blizzard states.
How to apply
I know there's more than one guild out there hosting a bunch of bloggers, making movies, guides, even podcasts, guilds that would be more than willing to become beta testers and have exclusive chats with the designers. And of course you're wondering: how do we apply?
I'm sorry to tell you: you don't. They seem to have a "don't call us, we'll call you" approach to the recruitment to the program. On the EU info page, they put it like this:
"Once enough members of a particular guild begin to stand out in this fashion, the leader of the guild will receive an invite via the email address registered to his/her World of Warcraft account, along with further details".
Kind of exciting thought, isn't it? Which guild leader wouldn't become extremely flattered to get such a recognition from Blizzard themselves? And to such an exclusive club! Only four guilds in the entire world are included in this!
To be realistic though, would you really trust such an e-mail if you got it? I probably wouldn't. It's a never-heard of program with benefits that sound very much like the ones that are offered in the scam letters filling our spam boxes. Probably I'd rather tear it into pieces, trying to erase every trace of it from my computer to prevent those bastards from stealing my account. Sad, isn't it?
Does it exist?
Honestly, I'm not certain that this guild program still exists. My website browsing instinct tells me that this looks more like the leftovers from an idea they had once upon a time. It never took off, it was replaced by something else, faded away and they've just forgotten to remove the information. Why else would they be so silent about it? There are also more evident signs that the information is old. The European article mentions the "now Guild Relations forum", and as far as I know this has been around for years. On the other hand the four guilds that actually are on the list seem to be active and running, which speaks for that they at least pay some attention to it, otherwise there would probably have been some dead links around.
Alive or not, I think it's a bit of a shame that the program is dwelling in the shadows. There's nothing wrong about the idea as such. It wouldn't cost Blizzard that much effort to handle out some beta keys and possibly chat a couple of times with the players who build and maintain the community. Day after day those players enhance the gaming experience without getting as much as a "thank you" in return.
The question is: why not pick it up again? I reckon there's a beta for Cataclysm incoming in a not too far distant future. They say that they plan to encourage guilds, for instance by the idea of guild levelling. Wouldn't a selected guild program fit pretty well into this? All it takes is a brush-up of the webpage and a little bit of marketing.
By the way Blizzard gods, in case you're stumbling upon on this post as by a miracle: I wouldn't mind if you sent an invitation letter to my guild master. It's perfectly OK with me. I won't sue you. No kidding.