Troll day continues, hotbar salesman is back!

March 4, 2015

So so good!

Embracing the Paradigm Shift: Converting a Premium Team to an (Enthusiastic!) Freemium Team

First of all, how great is that title for that talk? Reminds me of “Up in the Air” (awesome movie btw) when they talk about how best to phrase “you’re fired” to people. That’s the hotbar salesman here, expect rather than everyone being directly fired, some of them get the ‘opportunity’ to work on a Freemium Team.

Schubert advocates for a terminology shift from the word “whale” to the word “patron.”

“These people are very important, and we can start by treating them with some fucking respect,” Schubert told his audience.

The fun one could have in suggesting terminology shifts around the F2P model in the MMO space…

Talking about respect to customers when it comes to F2P is hilarious though. Is the hotbar salesman aware that the model he is talking about only works when you trick enough dummies to overpay for crap? This is the same guy not only selling you hotbars, but multiple forms of lottery lockboxes, right? The guy who’s former game is getting ready to bombard the cash shop with cheap movie tie-in crap? This is like a black hole calling the pot a little dark.

But really this is what F2P does to people. You can’t be a normal, decent human being and make F2P work in the MMO space. You have to become the hotbar salesmen, always attempting to dupe the next dummy for a buck. And when that dummy figures it out, you move on to the next, or dig even deeper into the slime bucket to again attempt to get a little money off someone. And most of all, when you do hook a whale, you do everything in your power to fully gut them. You don’t care if some weak-willed fool can or can’t afford the thousands he is spending; all you care about is that once he is hooked, you continue to provide bigger and bigger ‘deals’ or ‘opportunities’ to them to keep that money rolling.

That’s the ‘game’ you are designing when working on a F2P MMO. It’s just a vehicle for what in most industries would be called a scam, and the scam artist behind it talking about ‘respect’ is amazingly crazy.

How many lies are Smed and company going to tell before they all finally cash out?

February 21, 2015

The slow and public execution of EQN continues.

But don’t worry, dumping the software to help you make “strong AI” doesn’t mean you aren’t committed to “strong AI” huh?

What’s next, firing the art team but reassuring all the fans that EQN is still going to be gorgeous? Maybe taking the entire sound department out to the parking lot and returning to confirm that EQN is going to sound amazing?

Keep doing you Smed, keep doing you.

Great interview about indie gaming

February 18, 2015

VentureBeat has an excellent interview with Jeff Vogel, the creator of Avernum and other indie RPG games. Very much worth your time.

H/t to Armagon for the link

The little tent-pole that could, and the little blogger that couldn’t

February 10, 2015

Because some people are getting a little too excited over next-to-nothing, lets actually look at everything said recently from everyone’s favorite video-game producer.

“Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was the #1 release of the year and the franchise’s cumulative revenue is now over $11 billion. Destiny was the #3 new release of the year and attracted over 16 million registered users. Skylanders, with over 240 million toys sold life to date was, again, the #1 kids console game. World of Warcraft reached over 10 million subscribers and remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world. Diablo III is the #1 PC role-playing game of the year; and Hearthstone, which is named Game of the Year, has already attracted more than 25 million registered players.”

Quick, which one of the above numbers isn’t directly linked to generating money?

“Destiny and Blizzard’s Hearthstone. Combined, they attracted over 40 million registered players worldwide and generated more than $850 million in non-GAAP revenue”

Why are we grouping the 3rd biggest release of the year with a title that struggles to stay in the top 200 of app downloads? Why o why… (Don’t worry, we’ll get back to that 850m number later, but spoiler alert: nope)

“Blizzard generated record avenues and near-record operating income. The year was driven by Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, both of which generated significant revenues and income that will not have comparable releases this year. In addition, we expect WoW subs to decline as we have seen historically in the year following the release of a large-scale expansion.”

So wait, a title sometimes in the top 40 in app revenue wasn’t a driver of record revenue? What, we couldn’t lump it in here somehow? Why do we exclude Hearthstone when we start talking about significant revenues? (Props to Blizzard for realizing WoW subs will drop (have already?). Maybe release content that holds up to avoid that? I heard Old Blizzard was able to do that, maybe ask them how they did it during vanilla/TBC times?)

“Turning to our quarterly outlook. In 2015, we expect a lighter first half of the year as compared to last year as we don’t have a comparable launch to the high-margin Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and we only expect modest contributions from Call of Duty Online and Heroes of the Storm, as I mentioned earlier.”

Wait a minute, but what about your new tent-pole Hearthstone? It’s still ‘growing’! And it wasn’t as big a factor in Q1 2014, so Q1 2015 should be awesome right? Right…? Hello?

Actual numbers talk below:

“(CoD)Advanced Warfare the #1 console game globally, which has delivered well over $1 billion in sell-through, and far and away the #1 title worldwide on next-gen platforms.”

“Destiny now has over 16 million registered users with a massive audience of active players still averaging over 3 hours of game play per day, a figure that has stayed remarkably stable since launch. Destiny also performed the rarely seen console gaming feat of growing active players from November to December, driven by the release of the new expansion pack, the Dark Below. And it was the #1 played game in North America on a PS4 in December.“

“On to our third tent-pole franchise, Skylanders. As of today, life-to-date retail sales for Skylanders has exceeded $3 billion. And in 2014, Skylanders outsold all action figure lines and was the #1 kid console game globally for the fourth year in a row, and as a franchise, outperformed its nearest competitor by 30%.“

One of these tent-poles is not like the other

Strange isn’t it, that they give us numbers like player activity for Destiny, or actual sales numbers for Skylanders, or game sales rankings for CoD. Wonder why they didn’t just group them all together, or only provide how many free accounts were created. What, was the number of ‘likes’ on Facebook for each title not a number worth mentioning? Are dollar figures really that important on an earnings call?

“Hearthstone was released first on Windows and Mac and later on iPad and Android tablets, bringing Blizzard into the mobile space for the first time.”

And not just bringing Blizzard into the mobile space, but damn near cracking the top 200 downloads chart at that. Take that “Random shitting slot machine app” at number 201, Blizzard is here to ‘dominate’ the mobile space with its very own graphic dice simulator!

“All this activity helped drive Hearthstone’s highest monthly active players ever in December as well as our highest revenue quarter-to-date for Hearthstone”

Ah final, here come the real numbers…

“Registered players for the game have now reached over 25 million, capping off a spectacular start for Hearthstone. It’s gratifying for us to see how the global Blizzard community has responded to our first foray into a new genre as well as the free-to-play market and gaming on tablets. We’ll keep working hard to build on last year’s momentum with more content in 2015 as well as the upcoming Android phone and iPhone versions of the game.”

And…. that’s it?

Just “keep working hard”?

The big take away number is that a free process that takes maybe a couple of minutes was completed 25m times to date. That’s the only concrete number in this entire report about Hearthstone; the number of free accounts created. What, was Turbine unavailable to provide number of cards draw or something equally meaningless?

Why can’t I get Destiny-like activity numbers, or Skylander-like sales numbers? Why isn’t Blizzard telling us that Hearthstone is the #1 mobile app? The #10 mobile app? What, is stating you are maybe sometimes a top 50 revenue app not a good look for a Warcraft IP, Blizzard-backed, WoW-boosted new app? Do investors not want to hear that?

The only somewhat concrete and significant line about Hearthstone is here:

“We created 2 new tent-pole franchises with Destiny and Hearthstone that are profitable right out of the gate. Destiny and Hearthstone also have great comp and pipelines that we expect to contribute to our results every year in a significant way.”

Destiny coattails aside, Hearthstone is profitable, so it has that going for it. Who would have imagined using existing WoW art to lower the development costs of your dice simulator and cashing in on your very popular IP would result in quick, not-going-to-give-a-number profits. Really shocking. It’s almost like any low-cost turd (the game runs like a dog on the ipad, which is impressive considering there is almost nothing going on graphically OR in terms of data being sent compared to most other multiplayer apps) put out by Blizzard that had WoW behind it and cost a few bucks to make would have been a quick small success, huh?

I wonder if the tent-pole line was a little dig from Activision to Blizzard. Like one side launched Destiny, while the other launched Hearthstone, which is sorta like coming up to a new Ferrari owner and telling him how awesome your new Kia is. I can just imagine someone from Activision patted the intern doing the copy/paste work for Hearthstone on the head and handing him a celebratory lollipop. “Great work nerfing gravedigger kid, can’t wait to see what huge update you deliver next month!”

Good try, good effort?

PS: How about Brian J. Pitz just bringing the heat during the Q&A?

“Brian J. Pitz – Jefferies LLC, Research Division

Our question on Hearthstone monetization. The game is already a big hit. We continue to be impressed with the size of Twitch audiences, suggesting basically off-the-charts engagement.”

Think Brian realizes its one fame-whore on Twitch who streams 24/7 that makes up 80% of those Hearthstone views? (Which I just checked, are now 1/3rd of LoL, and yes, the one-fame whore is streaming.) Better keep that guy on the payroll Blizzard or that “off-the-charts” engagement might go down, and we just can’t have that now can we?

PPS: Dear Az, you might want to rethink that indicative reasoning math there bud. I mean sure, maybe every single dollar collected by Destiny was on the first day, and it was just zeroes after that right, but somehow I just kinda doubt it.

I believe we call that kind of next-level analysis”when Hearthstone players do math”, and it’s about as entertaining as rolling graphical dice to determine a world champion. To the unstable portal everyone!

Before I give you money Massively…

February 6, 2015

First, Syp needs to check his damn spam filter and get my account out of it over at Biobreak!

As for the site, three simple request:

1: The majority of the main content should never require me to click once I’m at the main page of the site.

2: The main content should take up 50% or more of the screen at all times.

3: Nothing should ever auto-play, ever.

Someone from the new Massively confirm the above three will happen and you get my money.

Edit: Think if I drop 250, I can do an editorial mocking the Massively comments section? I might be worth paying for…


February 2, 2015

What a freaking day! First the Pats win and become the greatest ever, and now every single defender of SOE and Smed look like complete and utter fools for arguing with me about the company, now dumped by Sony. Love it. Absolutely love it. FREE TO PLAY, ALL THE WAY!!! Wheee!

I’d say I can’t wait until the investment firm breaks them apart to sell off the valuable IPs, but hahaha SOE’s single valuable IP was a game released in 99, and even that is so tainted right now I wouldn’t pay five bucks to take it off their hands.

Great work Smed. You are handed a gold mine that is printing money, and in short order turn it into not only the laughing stock of gaming, but an awesome collection of trash-heap titles basically no one cares a lick about. That is next-level incompetence. What a day man, what a day. Not even getting another foot of snow is taking the smile off my face today.

PS: The only negative with this story is I will need to retire “SOE being SOE”, although I’m sure “Daybreak breaking Daybreak” will go into rotation shortly (assuming the whole thing isn’t shuttered in a few months). Luckily “Smed being Smed” will continue to be the gift that keeps on giving so long as people are dumb enough to employ him, so +1 for that.

Dear Massively, die and get better

February 2, 2015

Massively is closing. I know, this is likely the first time a blog post is being written about it, but that’s just what I do, break news and set trends. You’re welcome.

I bashed Massively often. Usually it was their comments section, but at times it was also the content/site itself. To say the site wasn’t perfect is a bit of an understatement. But to call it terrible is also incorrect IMO. Simply put, Massively was the only ‘major’ gaming news site I visited, so clearly they were doing something right. The biggest insult you can give anyone is not caring enough about them to have an opinion, and I often had an opinion about Massively.

Keen mentioned them stealing content back in the day. I experienced that as well, and while it somewhat bothered me, I wasn’t as bothered as Keen. Stealing content is what the internet is about really, and at least Massively eventually stopped (mostly). Still, a very valid reason to dislike them.

I also agree that they were far too tied into corporate PR puppet strings. Finding a real opinion from Massively was difficult, because it felt like 95% of the content was indeed “Hey Massively, say this about our game now!” style posts. Another very valid reason to dislike them.

If you play EVE you likely dislike Massively for a long list of reasons, pretty much all valid.

I could go on, but the point is that Massively was far, far from perfect.

Yet far from perfect was still better than a lot of other sites (for example, the utterly unreadable format that uses), and that’s why Massively was a site I visited at least once per day. I rarely clicked on an article (other than to see the comments section for a good laugh), but I did enjoy scrolling through everything and being able to keep up with the basic happenings of the genre. That, above all, was Massively’s greatest strength.

I don’t know how many of Massively’s problems came from being owned by AOL, but I suspect that was a major factor. One only has to look at Bleacher Report (to use a sport ‘blog’ site as an example) prior to being purchased by CNN and after to see just how quickly your site can fall once suits get involved (not that BR was great before, but it wasn’t the absolute joke it is today).

I also think the general concept for such a site is solid from a reader/content perspective, and should the good of Massively be brought over to an independently owned site, I would give it a look at least. I also think from a business perspective that can work. Whatever group tries to make it happen, I strongly suggest looking at a site like Barstool Sports (hide the kids before you do, site is often NSFW, and if you posses a thin skin, prepare to be offended). That site has gone from being a tiny local player in sports media/blogging to one of the most influential voices in the city of champions and beyond, to say nothing about the amount of revenue they generate via ads, the shop, and sponsorship, all without truly ‘selling out’ (a running joke is that they do sell out, but sell-outs don’t continue to post stuff that would cost you sponsorships left and right).

So yes, ultimately I’m a bit sad that Massively is closing, unless that closing leads to a better, non-puppet version of Massively. The good writers should make that happen, and do so quickly. Best of luck to everyone in their future endeavors.


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