This Steam sale…

December 28, 2012

Is it just me, or is this Steam sale a bit weak? A lot of titles are still at their original prices, and at 50% off they still come out to $20+. Plus other than FTL (awesome), I’m not seeing anything that I really want.

What 2012 was, and what 2013 will be

December 26, 2012

The good for me in 2012 was more of the same (EVE, LoL), while the bad was highlighted by disappointment (GW2) and delay (DF:UW). The MMO genre as a whole continued to struggle with its identity, from massive failures like SW:TOR to mis-marketed ones like The Secret World. WoW’s bleeding continued, although with fuzzy math thanks to Diablo 3, and MoP has fully transitioned the game from vanilla to… whatever it is now. F2P continued its comedy laugh track, be it from the reigning champ, wings factory SOE, to uppity newcomers such as Hotbar EAWare and pony-fun-time Turbine. So what will 2013 bring?

Well, more wings from SOE of course, thought how that will work in Planetside I’m curious to see.

Snark temporarily aside, I do believe 2013 will be the year the MMO genre figures itself out, and a clear distinction is made between games that are ‘real’ MMOs, and titles with MMO-lite qualities that we consume.

It’s funny that in 1997, when UO was releases, it was understood that this was a title you experienced, and the locations and creatures were tools to further whatever you happen to be doing. The ‘end’ was what you made it, and the only sure sign of a ‘game over’ screen was when you moved on. Then came EQ1 and AC1, and while both titles had a beginning and end, the content was such that few if any ever reached it, and again the ‘game over’ screen only came when you decided it was time.

In 2004, WoW was a refined EQ1, and while the path to the ‘end’ was shorter and yes, more accessible, it was still long enough that most did not see it, and the formula still worked. You certainly could see the ‘end’, but it was always just beyond your reach, and the journey was of such quality that even at a very slow pace, you were happy to keep playing/paying.

Fast forward to more recent times and titles like SW:TOR, where not only do you know the ‘end’ from day one, the game is designed such that you see it shortly. Distractions may exists after you consume the main course, but they have little if anything to do with the reason you showed up in the first place, and those distractions are poor-at-best in quality. SW:TOR biggest crime was not its massive budget blown on voice dialog, or its second-rate engine, or even the fact that it’s from EA; it was the expectation that millions would still be around and paying for months AFTER having completed the game.

At least Anet realized this with GW2, and planned around selling just the box to most, and some gems to the diehards. The game still falls into the “play and finish” trap of too many recent so-called MMOs, but at least the here the problem is mainly in how the PR department marketed the game rather than what the devs and bean-counters expected.

Which brings me back to the main topic. I believe in 2013 we will see MMOs that succeed because they are MMOs, and they do contain the months and years of content that an MMO needs. These titles will be ‘niche’ when compared to WoW, but such a distinction is already outdated as everyone finally comes to grips with the fact that WoW has always been an outlier, rather than the standard. With proper expectations and execution, these titles should prosper, especially as general MMO tastes swing back towards something more meaty rather than flashy.

At the same time, along with ‘real’ MMOs, we will see more games with MMO-lite features like GW2, and hopefully like GW2, they will ship with payment models that fit that style of game. These play-to-consume titles will refine their own space, and will provide nice breaks when needed for both MMO players and gamers in general. Their success will be measured not in retention, but in reacquisition; did they leave a positive-enough taste in your mouth to come back when more consumable content is out for sale?

More direct predictions:

EVE will reach and retain 500k subs in 2013.

SW:TOR will shut down or go skeleton crew by 2014.

LotRO will directly sell you The One Ring and a chance to play Sauron.

DF:UW will actually release and exceed the first year of DF1.

GW2 will have 9 tiers of gear by the end of 2013.

A bunch of MMOs will have kickstarter campaigns. Few will actually make it, almost all will be meh.


Still here

December 24, 2012

Fear not, I’m still here. The DF NDA is killing me, lot of items to blog about, both good and bad.

Steam sale is going on, but so far nothing amazing has come up.

LoL: Nitpicking Riot

December 20, 2012

I like Riot a lot. I think they are basically the only show in town that does F2P right, and LoL has been the best game out for the last few years. I’ve spent more money on LoL in the last two years than any other game (by a solid margin), and I consider every single dollar spent well worth it.

So with that said, I’m a bit disappointed by this post. I get the need to increase the IP cost for a new champ. No big deal. Reducing the price on older champs is a nice change too. I even understand the need to slow the release rate for new champs, and agree that spending more time on them is ultimately the right decision.

Here is the offensive part:

as well as increasing the time you have to earn IP between champion releases.

Don’t treat your players like children (even if many of them are or act like it). The reason you won’t be releasing new champs as quickly has nothing to do with being nice and giving your players more time to earn IP, so why frame it that way?

You have a solid product, a fair business model, and exemplary communication, so with the bar that high, these (notably minor and infrequent) instances stick out and tarnish that stellar reputation.

Darkfall: Unholy Wars – Voicing the Manifested Vision in White Shades

December 20, 2012

Darkfall is under NDA right now, so while I’m writing about it, I can’t post details until the NDA is down. Whenever that happens (current date I have is Dec 27th) expect either a long post, or a bunch all in rapid fashion.

Without breaking NDA, I will say that DF:UW is indeed a sequel to DF1, rather than the suspected ‘large patch’. It’s also already provided a single high point above anything in my one month trip to 80-ending in GW2, and done more to encourage grouping than any ‘fix’ to the formula that Anet aimed at. Wish I could say more, but ‘soon’.

I’ll be deleting any comments that break NDA here, so save me the clicks and don’t if you are in the beta.

Darkfall Hobbit

December 17, 2012

Waiting for the Darkfall beta to start is like watching The Hobbit; way too long, way too much focus put on the stupid filler you forget the moment it’s over, and everyone already knows the ending so just get to it already.

Darkfall: Unholy War pre-order is here

December 14, 2012

Pre-order Darkfall: Unholy Wars here.

Sadly no referral program yet. Not sure how I’m going to fuel up the Ferrari without one, so hopefully AV gets on that ‘soon’. The bank account that DF1 funded is running dangerously close to falling out of the seven digit range, and I’d hate to drop my standard of living back to something like you people endure. :shudder:

Edit: Just your average MMO combat.

Elementalist vs Skirmisher

Elementalist vs Skirmisher (click for full size)

EVE is a vampire

December 13, 2012

So is EVE growing to 450k+ subs, or slowly bleeding?

I believe it’s both.

Unless you want to outright claim CCP is lying about having 450k+ subs, then they do. Which is a lot of subs for anything not called WoW. And this for a ten year old game. Not bad, and likely very profitable. The king of the niche really, if we define the niche as any MMO not called WoW (which is how we should define it).

I also think Jester’s numbers are correct, in that I don’t believe he made a mistake in collecting them and that what they show is in fact true; the average number of players logged in today is similar to the amount back around May 2009.

So again, is EVE growing, stagnant, or bleeding? How can subs be up but player activity be down?

Because EVE today is a more casual game than it was back in 03 (launch), or 06 (start of Jester’s graph), or 09 (Apocrypha). From the game itself getting friendlier (the UI improvements, the new players experience), to what I believe is a (slowly building) trend amongst MMO gamers looking for something closer to a virtual world than a themepark, EVE today is made up of a far more casual crowd than before. Now don’t get confused, the average EVE player is still a few steps more serious than the average MMO player, but the gap is closer today than it was in the past, and EVE itself is no longer filled with the purest of diehards.

Casual players don’t log in as often or for as long, which drops your concurrency numbers. Luckily for CCP, they still pay the same $15 a month (and use less bandwidth, yo).

To use an extreme example, what would Jester’s graph look like if only bots played EVE, with their 23/7 schedule? Average logins would look massive, very close to that 450k number. Now what would the numbers look like if all 450k subs only played once a week? The number would be pitifully low. In both cases however, CCP is collecting $15x450k.

The real danger here would be if player activity on the server dropped below the critical mass needed to make an MMO something other than a solo game you have to log into. EVE has a massive edge here over every other MMO (including WoW) because everything takes place on two (China and everyone else) servers, rather than dozens or hundreds. That said, New Eden is a big place, and places like Jita are what they are because thousands of pilots visit daily, so in-game activity does matter.

Not that CCP should get comfortable now. Just because they have the best MMO out (for what that’s worth, given the current state of the genre) does not mean the game is finished, or that more can’t be done to further extend the appeal of the game. And as that appeal gets broader, the amount of time spent playing per account will continue to trend towards a more casual number, whatever that might be.

On second thought, the hobby horse seems very reasonable

December 13, 2012

Pay to Travel, Turbine style.

It’s going to be a really sad day when LotRO shuts down, because this kind of entertainment is almost priceless, and I’d hate to rely solely on SOE to provide it.

(This is the part of the post where I mockingly predict the next ridiculous item Turbine will sell, but I just can’t do it. After a $50 hazing implement and P2Travel, what’s left? BiS gear sets for $7000? $5 Hotbars? $6 for a token that promises not to sell your credit card info to shady Russians?)

Time to shut it down, EVE is dying

December 12, 2012

In other niche game news, Tobold was right, CCP has declared bankruptcy in 2012.

If your definition of bankruptcy is hitting 450k+ subs with a 10 year old MMO. But yea, totally bankrupt, yo.

(Cue China does not count, WoW really had 12m subs, and still has 10m subs.)

(Double cue EVE is played by one guy with 450k accounts, who pays nothing because he uses PLEX.)


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