Further Mutterings about MMO Revenue Models May 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Free-To-Play, MMO Subscriptions, No Real Point
A few years back, at the height of the housing boom, we decided to move. We listed our house at the market price for our neighborhood, and the first day on the market we got an offer for roughly 60% of what we were asking. Somebody sensed, as we all were beginning to at that point, that the bubble was going to burst soon, and wanted to know if we were desperate.
We were not, and actually sold the house for what we were asking a couple weeks later. But there was no possibility that we were going to come to an arrangement with the person who made that first offer. Their offer was so insultingly low that it made it completely unlikely to be able to negotiate any deal at all.
We have a garage sale at least once a year. Often we have two, one in the spring and one in the fall. Just the process of finding stuff to sell helps us keep the house clear of clutter, so that our home, with the exception of my office and my daughter’s room, feels clean, open, and spacious.
We tend to put out all manner of things on the driveway for sale. I often have a pile of books that have made it into the category of “won’t read again” out on a table. At one garage sale I had done a big purge and had 40+ paperbacks lined up, with the asking price was 25 cents each. Cheap enough that anybody with an interest would pick them up, and it wouldn’t kill me if I decided to give a couple away to any kid who looked like they wanted to read one. And, as always, quantity discounts are available.
A woman, who rolled up in an expensive car, offered me a dollar for all of the books, and then started gathering them up like it was a done deal. A dollar turned out to be exactly the right price to start a fight.
In the cold logic of hindsight, it was just an offer I could freely reject.
In the reality and emotion of the moment, it was insulting. I started with “no” and worked my way up to using them for kindling before I would sell her one at full cover price. Her offer stayed at a dollar throughout, leavened with sneers and insults. But we could have stopped after our first pass through offer and rejection, as no deal was possible after that point. I cannot imagine she thought her negotiation technique was going to be effective. It is always interesting to meet people who are worse at interpersonal relationships than I am.
What did those two little stories have to do with anything? We’ll get to that. First, a foundation of words needs to be built.
With the announcement that Rift is moving from the once traditional monthly subscription model to a cash shop driven free to play model, there have been the usual range of reactions, from feelings that no good will come of this to expressions of joy at the demise of yet another monthly subscription barrier to entry. Some people really hate the subscription idea.
My own response is somewhere in between.
Good things will come of this change. I know that.
More people will play Rift. It won’t make it suddenly popular with people who wouldn’t play a fantasy MMORPG in the first place. But people who wouldn’t otherwise commit to $15 a month will want to play.
An annoying amount of words, and some irrelevant pictures, after the cut:
Quote of the Day – Innovation? December 15, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2.
Tags: Business Model, Free-To-Play, Gaming Journalism, General Confusion, No Real Point, Quote of the Day, There is a point in here somewhere
With Planetside 2, the innovation is in how you buy it. For a massively multiplayer online game like this, you’d expect to pay a monthly fee like millions of people do to play World of Warcraft. Instead, Planetside 2 is free to play. Sony makes money when you purchase new weapons, add-ons for tanks, and other items, though you can also earn these upgrades by successfully completing objectives as you level up. Plenty of smaller games found on Facebook or on smartphones use this freemium model; now the model has entered the MMO world.Popular Mechanics, The 10 Most Innovative Video Games of 2012
We do piss and moan about the poor state of the video game press.
Often it is our closeness to the subject and our own motivation and bias (journalists are not allowed to have that unless, of course, we agree with it, in which case it is just telling the gospel truth) that leads us to jump on comment threads (here is the cesspit that fertilizes the whole thing) or blogs (:blush:) to decry an article as totally biased or invalid because the writer in question was paid off, did not spend enough time with the game, included something that was clearly a matter of taste or option, or used “your” when they meant “you’re” in paragraph twenty-seven.
It is really our own little culture war, where if you do not agree with me about game X, then you must be the enemy.
Part of me is annoyed by this. When I foolishly look at comment threads on gaming sites, I become depressed at the state of humanity.
And part of me sees video games as an entertainment medium and, thus, deserving of the same sort of coverage as any similar medium. How does the journalistic integrity meter rate TMZ or Entertainment Tonight or any of that ilk? Do we get out the torches and pitchforks when somebody gives a bad review to a movie we love? (If you don’t think we do, then you aren’t reading the right comment threads.)
But in the midst of that, nothing can rally gamers together like a non-gamer journalist covering games.
And so we have that quote at the top, retweeted by SOE in what I have to imagine was a moment of mixed emotion, where PlanetSide 2 is lauded as innovative because… if I read that right… they ripped off the business plan being used so successfully by Facebook and iPhone developers. As they said, “…the model has entered the MMO world!”
Zynga should sue!
PlanetSide 2 does merit some praise. How about getting a shooter to work in a huge sprawling environment where thousands of players face off? That seems to be a pretty decent accomplishment.
But to call it out because of its business model… which is pretty much the same as all of SOE’s other games at this point… plus all of the other free to play MMO titles out there… seems like calling out Heath Ledger‘s performance in The Dark Knight because of the cool clown makeup.
Not to mention that in the current online market, a subscription model MMO is about as common as a silent movie in the age of talkies. But here is somebody for which MMOs are World of Warcraft.
And so we must put the hapless noob in the pillory for his transgression. Point and laugh, people, point and laugh.
And rightly so, I would say.
But is this banding together against the ignorant outsider, the gamer Gaijin, a tribal thing? Is so-called professional video game journalism the worst… except when compared with the alternatives?
Or is this just the hubris of journalists… or the hubris of people in general… that we feel we can rush into anything, clearly ill informed on the subject at hand, and add something of value?
Oh, and that Popular Mechanic’s article was probably right on target with Journey…. and perhaps the rest of its list.
I don’t know. I didn’t actually play any of them besides PlanetSide 2. I am only indignant about the part of which I have first hand knowledge.
Which sort of describes my relationship with the daily newspaper. I believe whatever they write, except when it comes to articles about which I have first hand knowledge. Those are always riddled with errors and are as often as no flat-out wrong.
There is probably a lesson in that.
Rambling About Motivation and What Makes a Good Story November 2, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Guild Wars 2, MUDs, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: No Real Point, Rambling Friday
Anybody can use public transport, darling!
-Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous
Warning: this post does not actually lead anywhere and may not actually make sense.
Freedom seems to be a theme since the launch of Guild Wars 2.
Freedom from ever having to find a group.
Freedom from ever having to find a mailbox.
Freedom from ever having to stand still while casting a spell.
Freedom from much of the baggage of past MMOs, like subscriptions and the holy trinity and levels that get more difficult as you progress.
Not that this freedom drive is anything new.
At one point World of Warcraft, which now represents the status quo from which we are being freed, was once the harbinger of freedom.
It offered freedom from corpse runs and experience loss, freedom from having to find a group to advance your character at all past level 10 or so, freedom from fighting over who gets to run dungeon or raid content on a busy Saturday night, and freedom from simply grinding mobs for most of your leveling experience.
Not to mention freedom from relatively onerous system requirements.
Cutting this wall of text. You’ll see it all in RSS anyway.
Something About People Who Buy Ink by the Barrel September 24, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: Dave Emory, Glenn Beck, No Real Point, Something Awful, The Goons
One of the fundamental aspects that I do not think people fully appreciate about the Goons in EVE Online is their origin in the Something Awful forums.
To join Goonswarm in EVE, you need to be an active and contributing member of the SA community, which pretty much means being active on the forums. The Mittani wrote a column describing the difference between groups like the Goons, who come to the game already part of a community, and those he refers to as the “EVE born,” a group that includes me, which comes to EVE and then begins forming communities… or not forming them and finding EVE to be a dark and lonely place.
But my point, or something like a point, is that Goons are drawn from a base of people who are, for lack of a better term, forum warriors. They stem from a community that has its base in forums. So it is always mildly amusing to me to see somebody exasperated by the fact that, when they post something clearly counter to Goon interest, like Trebor’s anti-bloc (or anti-Goon) voting proposal, they get blobbed by Goons posting challenges to it in the forums.
I think we need a new saying, something equivalent to the Mark Twain quote about never getting in an argument with somebody who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton, to cover the modern world. In Twain’s day, the editor of a newspaper wielded a lot of power by his ability to get his words printed and out to people in a way that no other method could match. In EVE, taking on an articulate, motivated, and forum focused community has similar issues.
All of which is probably not exactly news or even of interest to most people. But I started thinking about this in the aftermath of the Glenn Beck “Goonswarm = CIA” story last week.
Predictably, the Goons were annoyed at their own being included in Beck’s fantasies and, among other things, mobbed the comments section related to the story on Glenn Beck’s site. A very forum warrior style of response.
But I wonder if that was the best riposte to Beck’s attack?
As far as I can tell, Glenn Beck is all about getting attention for Glenn Beck. He is trying for the status of living brand, making him a political Martha Stewart. So I have to wonder if this was a win in his eyes, what with all the page views and nearly 300 comments on the story, which looks to be about 10-20x what other items on his site get.
I suppose we’ll know if he brings up the vast Goonswarm conspiracy again.
I also wonder what Dave Emory made of the same situation? While being diametrically opposed politically to Glenn Beck, he also sees the hand of the CIA in just about everything. I might have to go find out. It would be, if nothing else, amusing to have two polar opposite sources claiming the Goons were in bed with the CIA.
Addendum: Of course, then there is the New York Times putting the CIA in the picture as well. So it’s got to be true, right?
38 Studios – The Legend, The Myth, The End May 25, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Gaming Industry Trends, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: 38 Studios, Azeroth Advisor, No Real Point, Rambling Friday
Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse
John Derek in Knock on Any Door (1949)
Well, I cannot speak to whether or not 38 Studios lived fast, and six years can be a long time in technology, so you can argue that the company did not die young.
Legends have been created out of less.
And now nobody will ever say that Copernicus, their as yet unnamed flagship game, to which the main effort of the company had been devoted for almost six year, sucks.
Nobody will complain about unbalanced classes or broken game mechanics or servers being down or sever queues being too long or any of the thousand other things that we find to pick on when it comes to MMOs.
Copernicus is pristine, a blurry mirage doomed to ever been in the distance, on which some will overlay their hopes and dreams for the future of MMO gaming. I’ve seen it already, with some bloggers mourning not just the fact that we will now never see this game come into full bloom, but that it somehow represented our last, best hope to return greatness to the genre. Some future games will find themselves compared to Copernicus that might have been. It was to be the holy grail game that brought joy back to fantasy MMOs.
Which is a tune I have heard before.
It was the sort of thing some of our guild members were saying about Vanguard in 2005 when we were playing EverQuest II and it had fully sunk in that the game really wasn’t a sequel to the EverQuest experience. And so Vanguard became the dream, the game destined to be the true successor to EverQuest.
And, well… we know how that turned out. Sigil Games, facing their own financial woes, opted to go to market early with a game clearly not ready for prime time.
In one of those twists of timing, it was just five years ago this month that Sigil folded up shop with the now infamous parking lot layoff, sans Brad McQuaid. But we got the word from Smed that SOE was swooping in to save the day. SOE was a hero for the moment, but I wondered how long they would remain a hero. Not very long, it seemed, as soon all the problems with Vanguard became SOE’s problems, and SOE’s fault for not fixing them fast enough.
It makes me wonder what image Vanguard would have ended up with had Brad opted to run out of money before launching the game.
And, alas, there will be no SOE white knight to rescue Copernicus. Those days are clearly done. Back when SOE was under Sony Pictures, which I am convinced really didn’t know, and didn’t care, what was going on in San Diego so long as the money was coming in, was able to collect orphaned MMOs like Vanguard and The Matrix Online. Now though, under the PlayStation people, who clearly want to hear about things that sell PlayStation hardware when they aren’t being evil, things have been trimmed back substantially.
There was an estimate that the assets of 38 Studios might be worth up to $20 million, though that sort of talk denies the reality of software development. If you buy a software company with no people, you have pretty much bought nothing. The people who write the software, they are the assets. Without them you have some source code, which can be interesting, but is tough to make your own. You can bring in your own people to try. I’ve been down that path. If you just want to be able to build the software and maybe make some small fixes, it can even be viable. But if you want to own the software and be able to use it to its full, you have to know it well, which is hard work. And the first thing that will happen is the devs will start saying that it is easier to rewrite some section of code from scratch than figure out what is really going on, and that way lies madness and repetition of the same mistakes to gain the same knowledge as the original authors of the code.
And then there is the outside influence of Star Wars: The Old Republic which, according to analyst Michael Pachter, has killed off interest in investing in MMO projects. To quote the money line:
Nobody is buying MMOs after Star Wars fizzled
So yeah, we can blame SWTOR! Because if EA can’t get MMOs right, then it is clearly some sort of once-in-a-lifetime black art not worth exploring.
Life in the big money lane.
I feel a bit sorry for Curt Schilling for not getting to live out his dream of creating a great MMO. But only a bit. I mean the guy had fame, fortune, and three world series wins coming into this deal, all while deliberately and maliciously being younger than me. He can go back to that. Maybe he can be a champion for small studios that reflect some of the things he was trying to bring to MMOs.
But I identify more with the team at 38 Studios, the worker bees who have to scramble to find another gig to pay the mortgage. I’ve been down that path a few times. The joy of Silicon Valley start ups, here today, gone tomorrow. I worked for eight different companies in the 90s, and only one still exists. I was there twice for the “everybody go home” company meeting. It doesn’t get easier with repetition.
I do want to throw out a minor “screw you” to 38 Studios for buying and shutting down the Azeroth Advisor. Grudge holding… we have that here at TAGN.
But other than that, I am sorry to see things turn out as they did. We won’t ever see Copernicus now, and so I will be denied the privilege of playing it while complaining about insignificant details that annoy me.
Addendum: And then there is the industry insider view of this debacle from the newly returned to blogging Lum and how it is killing the very concept of massively multiplayer online gaming.
Further Addendum: And there are always methods to make a bad situation worse.
R. A. Salvatore says Copernicus was awesome, but can’t actually back that up. He was right on one thing in that comment, he shouldn’t be commenting. More for the myth and legend department.
Steve Danuser puts the blame on the governor of Rhode Island.
It looks like 38 Studios may have screwed some employees worse than others. Was that the governor of Rhode Island’s fault as well?
Everybody wants to know where the money went.
Of course, there is Curt.
And then Derek Smart chimes in with a dump truck load of reality. Refreshing to see him poking at a subject that needs it.