New Blizzard investor call ‘highlights’

August 5, 2015

Items that jumped out at me from the Activision Blizzard investor call:

“Destiny now has over 20 million registered players, with an average of about 100 hours of game play each”

First, the statement that the average gameplay length from 20 million people is 100 hours is pretty incredible. It would be interesting to see the number of people who didn’t like the game (under 5 hours let’s say) and the number who fiend on it (1000+ hours or so), but either way that 100 hour average is impressive.

Also it caught my eye that they call users ‘registered players’, because that can be dismissed as ‘registered account’ in the F2P world, but you can’t register in Destiny without buying the game, so those ‘registered players’ are in fact paying customers. First FFXIV, and now Destiny, is ‘registered players’ some legal-driven term or what?

On to Blizzard.

“In Q2, the average MAU across Blizzard games was up more than 50% year over year, achieving its highest level ever.”

It’s almost as if allowing people to create free accounts, and allowing the same person to create multiple free accounts on different devices, results in more accounts than ever. Go figure, and a really strong number to LEAD OFF with.

Bet he gets into the real numbers shortly…

“Engagement for Hearthstone, which was already very strong, nearly doubled year over year in terms of active players and time spent.”

Is this a “how many free accounts do you have now?” or an earnings call?

“This year alone, the community has already held more than 1,300 Fireside Gatherings globally.”

Oh. Well ok then. Nothing of real substance was provided about HS, and (I haven’t seen it myself yet) I guess they lump HS with Destiny in the actual numbers again?

The HoTS part had as much depth as the game itself. My guess is every analyst on the call at this point was making a wanking motion and praying for something of substance to be said.

Then D3 was talked about and, because that game is doing well in China, financial numbers were given. Funny how that works.

On to the Q&A.

First question was about Hearthstone revenue. The answer given?

“We saw almost double the amount of active players and times spent year over year, and an increase in more than 50% quarter over quarter. Revenue on the new platforms appear to be incremental to PC.”

So when asked about revenue, the first answer is to talk about free accounts still being played, and then tossing out that maybe, perhaps, it could be possible that mobile is helping revenue along with PC sales. Solid answer Mike, really solid. Quick follow-up question though, how much of a factor is a title barely in the top 20 for revenue in the app store on iPhone (can’t find it on the iPad, fingers got too tired)? Is that a rounding error or a blip? Just wondering…

Skipping down to the HotS question:

“I was hoping you could discuss where you are with the players, and more specifically, the paying players for Heroes of the Storm”

Part of the answer, the rest was wank-motion nothingness:

“I think if you look at other games in the genre, they all had more gradual growth of their player base, so that is what we would expect to see with Heroes of the Storm.”

Translation: HotS numbers are in the toilet, but hopefully they turn around, because hey MOBAs need time to grow? I mean sure, LoL didn’t start with tens of millions, nor did DOTA2, but neither of those games are kiddie-pool shallow, nor did either of those games come with other major product tie-ins or as massive a marketing push as HotS. You weren’t watching LoL or DOTA2 commercials on TV when those games launched, were you now? Did you get a free mount or whatever in WoW when you signed up for LoL/DoTA2? But yea no, HotS is totally going to be saved by its eSport performance. That’s totally going to work out, hopefully as well as it did for Hearthstone last year, right?

New Blizzard just doing its thing yet again, good job all around everyone. Is there another China you could launch D3 in next quarter?

Finally MMO genre is free of Smed, at least for now

July 27, 2015

Back from vacation, and this reentry Monday is ROUGH. After every vacation I question whether actually going on vacation is ‘worth it’, because coming back to 500+ emails to dig through isn’t a lot of fun, especially then all 500+ can be summed up as “we held off doing anything until you got back, but now every deliverable is overdue, enjoy!”

While I was away we had a little bit of SOE being SOE, or more specifically, Smed being Smed. Only here it’s Smed (likely temporarily) going away, in about the timeframe that someone predicted. Being constantly right is the cross I bear, and yes, its heavy.

Now before I get into the meat of the post today, let me get this here first. I don’t have a personal issue with Smed. I’ve only talked to him once or twice in person, and interacted with him a few more times on the web, all of which was cordial. I also don’t support or feel good about the harassment stuff he has dealt with; there is a certain price for fame, but having your plane delayed and some of the other stuff is way over the top. Now, with that out of the way…

Smed ‘moving on’ is a good thing for the MMO genre, and as an MMO dev, I think Smed is about as overrated as you can get. I also hate seeing this ‘Smed was a gamer dev’ notion, because while true (Smed does play games), it didn’t help other MMO gamers one bit.

Smed was and will forever be tied to SOE, so how much of this is Smed’s fault vs just general SOE is up for debate, but when you are the figurehead, you eat the blame.

SOE sucks. Did when they were officially SOE, still do as Daybreak. If you take away EQ1 (and if EQ1 never happens, maybe we don’t spend a decade mired in clone-world themeparks, eh?), SOE has nothing. Planetside, perhaps the only other somewhat successful product they made, was meh at best, and PS2 is a joke. EQ2 was a disaster. Their entire “F2P, ALL THE WAY” push was a disaster that didn’t work out, but sure helped mire the genre once again. They have shut down numerous terrible games, if it wasn’t for EQ1 being such a major cash cow, they perhaps don’t survive past the EQ2 launch.

If Smed is such a gamer, why allow so much of the above to happen? After SOE ruined SWG, why dump a truckload of salt by calling H1Z1 ‘home’ for SWG players prior to it’s release? Hell, why as an MMO gamer are you releasing a DayZ clone years after the DayZ fad has passed, and then releasing something as putrid as H1Z1, and having the gall to call it an MMO? And if the response is “it wasn’t Smed’s call”, then what kind of CEO are you, and what exactly were you doing besides collecting a paycheck, posting on reddit, and tweeting?

What are you doing with Landmark? Again, why are you jumping on the Minecraft bandwagon so late, and bringing nothing to the table? When Trion’s Minecraft clone is ‘better’ (Trove), you know you have hit absolute rock bottom (get it?). And what kind of ‘gamer’ dupes your core audience into forking over $150 for access to Landmark when you know its not going to amount to anything? Just how long as Smed been cashing out at the expense of core SOE/EQ fans?

I could go on, but really just look at the Daybreak wiki page and the list of games and the story writes itself. SOE dying was a good thing. Smed leaving is also a good thing. The MMO genre is better off with both gone, just like it would have been much better off without them originally.

SW:TOR – Good enough to be a sub MMO again?

June 17, 2015

Two observations about the ‘big’ SW:TOR expansion announcement (based only on reading Rohan mostly, since lulz actually playing SW:TOR):

Bit early to call SW:TOR trying to save itself here as it going the FFXIV route. FFXIV isn’t special in so much that SquareEnix made major changes, but that it’s by far the most successful MMO released in recent years, and that it may already be the largest MMO out in terms of total subscribers. Lots of MMOs have released large updates or overhauls; but few saw significant improvement/gains. Given the overall history of SW:TOR (hotbars! Get your hotbars!), let’s see what this really brings. Emphasis is still being placed on the 4th pillar from what I can tell, and we all know how well that worked out the first time.

The more significant bit IMO is the heavy leaning back towards the subscription model. SW:TOR launched as a sub game, it wasn’t very good, and as all not-very-good MMOs, it went F2P. The other side of that coin, the one rarely seen, is that when an MMO gets ‘good enough’, it has the option to come back to the major leagues and return to the sub model (Allods). Let’s assume this update is a major positive step for SW:TOR, can it get ‘good enough’ to be a sub MMO again? That would be something.

HS: Speaking of why F2P is the minor leagues…

June 4, 2015

$10 for a skin to a throwaway afterthought game huh? Haha, silly Blizzard, you aren’t Riot and you don’t have anything remotely close to LoL with HS, get this sad money grab out of here.

But then again, when you are clinging to a top 20 grossing spot on the iPhone list with your freshly released mobile game (anyone have the finger stamina to find HS on the iPad chart?), you do need to get desperate, and this is desperation 101 right out of the SOE/Turbine playbook. Oh how far once-mighty Blizzard has fallen.

Free-to-Play, ALL THE WAY!

2015 midyear check-in: Still not a single great F2P MMO

June 4, 2015

Wildstar announcing it is moving to the minor leagues of the MMO world (F2P) is… something? Personally I have zero investment/interest in Wildstar, as I never saw the point of creating a ‘hardcore’ raiding MMO and then picking a hyper-cartoon artstyle and thinking more than a tiny population would remain interested. Those seem a bit contradictory, and anything bigger than “tiny niche product” for Wildstar was never going to happen anyway.

The only real surprise I guess is that Wildstar is going F2P later than ESO did, though I highly suspect the delay for Wildstar had more to do with resource limits, and console-release deadlines for ESO pushing it towards F2P faster-than-needed (and I’m not sure ESO wouldn’t have stayed sub if it was a PC-only title anyway).

But all of this does further reinforce my point about business models in the MMO genre; if you have a good game, it can be great if its sub, and no F2P MMO can be great. That Wildstar wasn’t great and is now moving down to F2P doesn’t change that. Nor does ESO, as ESO wasn’t great.

What was of interest when both games were announced with the sub model is that it gave both games a chance, at least in terms of the business model, to be great. No MMO that is under the F2P weight can ever be great. If an MMO tomorrow is announced, and part of that announcement is that it’s F2P, we know that, at best, it will be mediocre, with very good odds that it will be hotbar-selling garbage.

That’s just the upper limit of F2P. Always has been, and midway through 2015, nothing has changed. In 2015 the best and most successful MMOs are still sub MMOs (FFXIV, WoW, EVE). Saying the sub model is dead or outdated makes you sound like an ignorant fool at best, if not an outright idiot. What is almost-dead is the MMO genre itself, at least compared to days of old, with only a few studios still making MMOs that are anything above mediocre. But make no mistake; if you are one of those studios, the sub model is the one model that will allow you to truly create something great. That hasn’t changed in 2015. As always, lets revisit (repeat) in 2016, shall we?

Beep beep beep

April 23, 2015

Just because you SOE yourself initially, doesn’t mean you have to stick with that mistake forever (unless you’re Trion, then you just take being SOE to 11). So um… grats to ESO for undoing one stupid F2P step, and already doing something that SOE never could. That said lets be honest, they are going to do something dumb down the road, because “do something dumb” is what F2P is all about. Can’t wait!

ESO: Well that was quick

April 18, 2015

The former SOE “F2P ALL THE WAY” train has rolled into the Zenimax station, and all ESO players ‘benefit’.

#prayforESO #ESOlivesmatter


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