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Quote of the Day – In Which 25 Million Equals Nothing September 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo.
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25 million people play Call of Duty monthly, but that pales in comparison to 2.5 billion people on the Internet. That’s 1 percent of the Internet, that’s nothing.

Michael Pachter, at Cloud Gaming USA

That is one of those quotes that boggles the mind as it lets so much slip by, to the point of being meaningless.  What percentage of that 2.5 billion plays video games, has hardware capable of playing something like Call of Duty, has an internet connection capable of playing the game, can afford the game, and can actually buy the game in their local market?  What should Activision have done differently?  What should their target audience have been?

And the irony here is that just a few paragraphs down the line he takes gaming companies to task for embracing the free to play model, which is all about increasing market penetration. Free-to-play should go away he says (and I have some bad news for him about his ad revenue idea) and the game companies are stupid for taking less than they should get.  And then further along he projecting 4 billion people playing games in the very near future.  Will they be on the internet?  How does it relate to that 2.5 billion number?  It is a mishmash, though that could be as much the reporting as the presentation itself.

Of course, Michael Pachter is an analyst, and the analyst’s bread and butter is in making outlandish, unsupported, attention getting statements like that.  All the better to get you to pay them for their deep insight.  You don’t get speaking gigs by being dull.  As Apple’s iPhone announcement today was nothing but an ad for Apple, this presentation was mostly an ad for Michael Pachter, and nobody should have expected otherwise.

Not that he is completely off base on things.  He frets about the future of consoles in the face of dropping physical game sales and the expanding smart phone market as well as where Nintendo will end up.

He really focuses on Nintendo.

But even I can see that Nintendo is especially vulnerable as its corporate culture is still tied up with the idea of them being a hardware company, while their real assets are in their software.  I like my Nintendo 3DS XL very much.  It is a fine piece of hardware.  But I bought it solely to play Pokemon.

Without Pokemon the 3DS XL is just like the Wii U, an interesting piece of hardware I don’t really need in a world where the iPhone and other such devices loom.  Nintendo’s goals may be in line with Corless, the Team Plasma Boss from Pokemon Black 2 & White 2.

Can't stay proprietary with that goal...

Can’t stay proprietary with that goal…

But they are not going to get there with the mindset of the 90s, where the software was there to sell hardware.

Anyway, the article that the quote came from at the top of the post has enough fodder for a dozen blog posts.  I can’t even get started on how much it irks when somebody stands up and speaks of “the cloud” that will solve all problems.  Put something in the mythical “cloud” and be prepared to do without it unless you control it.  Or, put another way:

But like Oscar the Grouch, I am often happiest railing against something like this.  Pachter is many things, but he isn’t boring.  I look forward to many more pronouncements.

Quote of the Day – The Machines are Winning August 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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Really more of a Tweet of the day I suppose, but here was CCP Fozzie on the first day of the Hyperion release:

It sounds like the “Burner Missions“introduced with Hyperion are indeed hot stuff, with the NPCs blowing up 1,563 player ships for 207 losses, a 7.55 win ratio for the pirates.  Now that is a green kill board.

Tengus blowing stuff up

Meanwhile, in the CFC we even blob NPCs

Okay, that is a day one stat, when everybody was figuring out the mechanics of the new missions.  But at least it sounds like being forced to stick to frigate hulls in order to hunt down these faction flying NPCs aren’t a complete push over.  At some point somebody will write a guide complete with suggested skill set and a winning fit to tackle these missions, but for now they look to require some effort.

This got Tubrug1 over at The EVE Onion to declare that CCP Fozzie is an agent of the New Order and an ally of James 315, confirming that the slaughter of high sec mission runners has only just begun.  While the EVE Onion is nominally a satire site, as with The Onion on which it is modeled, I sometimes wonder if the whole thing isn’t a more accurate editorial page than what some legitimate news sites offer.

 

Quote of the Day – Prescience at GDC 2007 August 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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1 comment so far

…because of wow, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail.

-Rob Pardo,  MMOs Past, Present, and Future Panel at GDC 2007

Back in early March of 2007 I wandered up to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  I grabbed an expo pass to go up and meet up with Brent from VirginWorlds and a couple of other people, as well as scouting around to see what I could see on the expo floor.

GDC2007Logo

It wasn’t a great expedition on my part.  I was coming down with a cold or something.  I spoke to a few people, but did not hang around very long.  It wasn’t a GDC where I hung around to have dinner with anybody.

But on the way out I happened by the booth where they were selling what was essentially a pre-purchase of the audio from various panels.  There were a couple of different career tracks that you could order, and one looked particularly interesting, so I put down my credit card and ordered it.

Some time later I received it, ripped it to iTunes, and listed to the whole thing.   And then I forgot about it.  My iTunes library has more than 7,000 various items in it, so things can get lost.

Last weekend I was running through a list of tracks, looking for something interesting when I came across the audio I ordered for 17 panels on the whatever track it was and started listening to bits of it.  There was a panel on Korean MMOs and how they succeed and rant session that really laid open some astounding day one problems with Windows Vista.

And then there was the panel titled MMOs Past, Present, and Future.

Just looking at the list of names on the panel… Raph Koster, Gordon Walton, Mark Jacobs, Rob Pardo, Mark Kern, and Daniel James… and you have to marvel at the breadth of  experience and influence thay have had on the MMO world.  All that was missing is somebody from SOE to represent EverQuest.  And they were there to talk about lessons learned and the future of MMOs at what was something of a transition point in the genre.

Right then, in March 2007, Blizzard had recently launched their first expansion for World of Warcraft and sales were booming.  Star Wars Galaxies had launched a few years back and had done well, but had not eclipsed EverQuest, a crime for which it was then was put through the NGE. Vanguard was faltering, but still wasn’t part of SOE yet.  The Wii was still a big deal.  Lord of the Rings Online had yet to launch and was just in open beta.   It was that age of expectation I wrote about the other day in reference to Vanguard, where we were getting a new top dog every few years.

And this group of heavy hitters who all influenced the genre in their own ways, chose to wade in on the subject, leading to some great quotes.  The Rob Pardo quote at the top seemed the most prescient, though Daniel James seemed to have a good sense of things as well.  There was also a lot of focus on polish, echoing what Rob Pardo said six months before at the Austin Game Conference. (I remembered off the cuff that Brent had transcribed that 8 years back.)  And lest you think Rob Pardo was the only one hitting that note, there is this:

I don’t think big media companies will be able to execute their way out of a paper bag. A lot of people will lose their shirt in this space.

-Daniel James

and:

Here come the mass media, and they’re shouting, omg we wanna be just like World of Warcraft. Here’s a lot of money, make a great game, but there’s only a handful of people who know how to make it really well. I’m predicting disaster.

-Mark Jacobs

Though that one might be a bit mitigated by his statements that there will be another WoW, that an MMO will come along and beat WoW.  And that could still happen, but I get the sense that Mark had a shorter time frame in mind.  At least he said that he didn’t think Warhamer Online would be the game that beat WoW.  And there was Gordon Walton on the panel, listening to all of this, who then went off to Star Wars: The Old Republic which at one point EA said was going to hit 11 million subscriptions. a clear “beat WoW” number financed by a dump truck of money.  SWTOR has been a success in the long term, just not by any metric EA chose in advance.

All and all it was a good panel to listen to, both back then and seven years down the road.  But how to share it with people?

If you are a GDC member, which costs a hefty $500 a year, you can find it in the GDC Vault.  There are some free sessions available, but this one is a members only selection.

So I dug around for transcripts, and found a pretty good one over at Wonderland Blog, which covers most of the key quotes.  It is missing some of the intro and clips Raph’s quote about how people keep just remaking Diku MUD and Lambda MOO, but most of the meat is there.

 

 

Quote of the Day – In Space it is Still Location, Location, Location July 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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To put it bluntly, if you want to catch instawarping interceptors, the most important part is living in London.

-Namamai, Understanding the EVE Online Server Tick

There is an interesting/informative article up over at TMC about how the processing loop of EVE Online dictates if you’ll be able to lock up and point that decloaking interceptor on a gate.

I actually had some experience with a similar scenario just recently.  In our expedition to Brave Newbies’ space our fleet, made up primarily of Harpies and interceptors and other small stuff, engaged quite a few bombers and destroyers and other easily destroyed ships.

Hanging on the station in V-3YG7

Hanging on the station in V-3YG7

It doesn’t take a ton of shots to kill a bomber, the glass cannon of New Eden, and destroyers are fragile compared to tech II frigates.  So when targets presented themselves it was a race to lock things up and get a shot off before they exploded.  Any number of times I would get something locked and have the guns going in the first firing cycle only to be informed that the target had already exploded.

I was not alone in experiencing this.  People were starting to get angry on coms at one point, raging against the interceptors in the fleet… because interceptors…  and wondering who amongst them were running extra sensor boosters to hog all the kills.

Of course, interceptor pilots were quick to point out that they too were getting aced out of kills in exactly the same way.  Somebody on coms started in trying to explain the whole tick thing, but it was neither the time nor the place for such a lesson.  We had a fleet op to fly and a jump bridge on which to get pipe bombed still.

So it was nice to have the article linked at the top show up to get back to the explanation of ticks and why you might be able to target someone and activate your guns and still get shut out of the kill mail.  As I said, interesting stuff, but the informative bit was the punchline, the fact that you can be the fastest guy in the fleet to hit the right button, but if your packets don’t arrive in London, where the main server cluster is housed, in time to be part of the current cycle, you’re not getting on that kill mail.

Latency is still a thing.

Quote of the Day – What Baltec Fleet Really Does July 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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7 comments

Dreadnoughts were literally a punchline of nullsec jokes until the five-minute siege timer, and now unless in blap mode they scuttle for cover like oversized space-cockroaches​, cap boosters firing wildly, when confronted with bright lights​.

-The Mittani, Traffic Control: Apex Force

The Mittani is continuing his pot stirring over at TMC with his Traffic Control series of columns.  This time around he is on about the current chestnut of favor, power projection, and how it has ruined null sec.  I was particularly amused by the dismissal of dreadnoughts, quoted in part above, as a good percentage of Baltec fleets I’ve stood up for over the last year… from midway through Fountain forward… have been called to cover dreadnought fleets.

Reinforcing the first tower

Baltecs babysitting dreads

Of those call ups, a good half of the time we end up just sitting on a titan, a fleet in being, as much there to dissuade any hostile move as to actually shoot something.  We only get to go out and shoot if the target system is beyond the range of a titan bridge.  And even then, as with recent run down to Delve, we have to move out, cover the system, wait for the dreads to arrive, let them shoot stuff up, then hang out while they head home before we can start for home ourselves.

I actually have all the skills required for a Naglfar dreadnought at this point.  It might be time to buy one so Baltec fleet can sit on a titan or scurry across space to protect me.

Quote of the Day – DC Universe Online Owns on PlayStation June 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
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Smedley said DC Universe Online is the largest revenue generator across PS3 and PS4 combined, even though the game is free to play.

Fortune, Interview with John Smedley about SOE

That is a pretty amazing, given how DC Universe Online stumbled almost immediately after a hot launch.

Men in Tights

Then again, the article says that the PlayStation people are just starting to embrace free to play, so there isn’t much competition. (Warframe is the top on PS4 alone, and I wonder where PlanetSide 2 stands?)  And the game itself was designed around playing with a controller, one of my primary complaints about the game when I tried it on the PC.  It is very much a console title.

I suppose there is some irony in that DC Universe Online was something of the last stand for subscriptions at SOE back in early 2011, with Smed making a pretty strong statement about what customers of a subscription game should expect.  By the end of 2011, the move to free to play was in full swing at SOE.  Now, in this article, it is all about free and harnessing the user base for content and not depending on subscriptions.  The article closes with:

SOE continues to evolve as a company. The days of charging a subscription for online games are part of its history.

Well, except for that one subscription they still have.

Once known as Station Access...

Once known as Station Access…

SOE All Access is still a thing, and as good of a deal as it seems these days compared to the past, you still pretty much have to subscribe to get the fullest out of games like EverQuest or EverQuest II.  So call it mostly part of SOE’s history.

Quote of the Day – World of Darkness, World of Chaos June 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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12 comments

Sources report that, over the nine-year period, the game effectively reached alpha – the stage at which all the major features have been implemented – three times, only for each version to be scrapped.

-The Guardian, World of Darkness – the inside story on the death of a game

We all know that the World of Darkness MMO, which CCP had been working on since it acquired White Wold back in 2006, was cancelled earlier this year.

World of Darkness

World of Darkness

But what actually happened, how things reached that state of affairs… all of that has been somewhat murky.  There are rumors and lots of speculation about what happened, but few details.

Well, that just changed.  Over at The Guardian, there is an article up attempting to detail exactly what happens.  The piece depends heavily on the word of Nick Blood, a former CCP staffer who is unhappy about how things played out.  But even if you allow for a certain level of disgruntled spin… and Blood is clearly angry… it does lay out a tale of woe, of lack of direction, of poaching WoD resources to support EVE, of being disconnected from the reality of the situation.  There are lots of EVE Online tidbits in the article… since WoD staff apparently spent a good deal of time working on EVE… including a bit more dirt about the Incarna expansion.

There is one quote from Nick Blood that certainly rings true for the bitter vets,

CCP has an extensive track record of promising to return to features and never doing so.

I would have agreed with that quite readily before Incarna.  Afterwards though, CCP seemed to have changed.  They have returned to old features and have spent a lot of time of things that had otherwise been left alone for years.  Maybe Incarna was the shock to the system that CCP needed.

And maybe letting go of World of Darkness was the better course.  It is certainly disappointing to those who wanted to see that IP come alive as an MMO, but it doesn’t sound like CCP was doing well at juggling two very disparate game worlds.  Sticking to EVE and its derivatives is probably for the best.

Anyway, there are certainly a few insights to be gleaned from the article.

Meanwhile, CCP has announced even more layoffs, this time in Iceland.

Not a good day for CCP, with dirty laundry out for all to see and more people losing their jobs.

Hat Tip: Neville Smit

Quote of the Day – Getting the Dev’s Attention May 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
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6 comments

I may just end up kicking Titan rank to 600 simply because Shoogie suggested it and his reasoning looks sane.

-CCP_Greyscale, post in the EVE Online Forums

That isn’t really the quote I wanted to use, but everything I did want to use was so long and interconnected that I would have to reprint the whole post to get what I wanted.  So I’ll do that too, but further along.

This was the end result, on page 49 of a thread, when Patri Andari up and asked three questions:

1. No one has ever proclaimed the criteria a post requires to get a response, yet this “good post” rises to the top and is responded to fortwith. I would love to see an enumerated guide on how to get a response from the devs.

2. Why have so many other posts which bring up even more important circumstance gone ignored?

3. Is it required that one post in a way that rubs a dev the right way to be considered a ‘good post’? If so, how do you like to be rubbed?

I am sure we have all asked ourselves how we can post something on the forums that will get the attention of development.  And, judging by what I have seen in the past, at least a few people have decided that being as angry and as insulting as possible (I always love when somebody calls developers lazy, as an example.  No better way to get somebody on your case than calling them lazy!) must be the key.

Maybe this will get those people to reconsider.

I am putting CCP Greyscale’s response after the cut.  It is long, but I think it is worth a read (and preserving somewhere I can find it easily) even if only to see how one developer views player input in the forums.

Hat Tip to CSM9 member Sion Kumitomo for highlighting this post on Twitter.

Lots of text after the cut.

(more…)

Quote of the Day – MMO Content Delivery Pacing May 2, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft.
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Every patch has tons of content for nearly every aspect of the game. It’s exciting — there’s almost too much to do. When a new patch releases, we’re in WoW heaven.

Then months go by and that content grows stale. Blizzard doesn’t give us new content at that point, but peeks at future content. We’re starving for a delicious content meal, but we can only look at pictures of the food.

-Scott Andrew, article Blizzard should rethink their content release model

I know that being in WoW right now, this is something that a lot of people are probably mulling over.  The Siege of Orgrimmar update came out way back in September and players are not set to get anything new until the patch that will precede the Warlords of Draenor expansion sometime this fall.

See you guys in the fall?

Lazy Warlords!

Blizzard gets its share of flak for its long expansion cycle.  Ironing things out to smooth averages, we’ll see the 5th WoW expansion around the 10th anniversary of the game, so we get one about every other year.  This is actually kind of amazing when you consider how much Blizzard studied EverQuest during WoW’s development, because SOE appeared to be convinced that they needed to ship two expansions a year to keep subscribers happy and paying the bills.

Even after watching WoW in return for a few years, SOE felt that they could only relax their pace to an expansion a year.  So we are at 20 EverQuest expansions in just over 15 years, but I may not live long enough to see 20 WoW expansions at their current pace.

The flip side of this has been GuildWars 2, which went through a long stretch of dropping new content every two weeks.  I have no first hand experience as to how that felt as a player, but a number of bloggers writing about it managed to transmit a sense of frenzied exhaustion that I am not sure that ANet’s solution was the best of all possible worlds.  If fans seemed a bit frazzled, I can only imagine how the devs felt working at that pace.  And, in the end, a select group of players experienced a lot of one-time content that is likely never to be seen again.

They could run something like Super Adventure Box again I suppose, but storyline stuff that comes to a resolution would be jarring under all but the most specific circumstances, so becomes throw away content.  And you won’t find many devs who like to write throw away code, so I am going to guess the attitude about throw away content would run about as strong amongst game designers.

And then there is what is going on with EVE Online and expansions.

With all the talk about players being content, you might not think that expansions are all that important.  But, if you go look at the population graphs, subscriptions always surge after an expansion.  It turns out we like new stuff and the promise of such will get us to spend money.

CCP is going from their “every six month” content vehicles to what I have always called the “train” method.  Basically, you lay out a series of delivery vehicles… trains if you will… and as teams finish up features, they just assign them to whatever train is leaving the station next.

The CCP Train Schedule

The CCP Train Schedule

I have work with this system before.  We failed badly at it, but that was primarily because the product group that was told they needed to adopt this method was responsible for software that was wholly unsuited to it.  Enterprise software costing hundreds of thousands of dollars does not need six distinct releases a year.  No IT department I have ever encountered wants to roll an update to anything more than once a year.

Were that not enough, we also managed to shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly.  We would have a big feature that would span many departing trains in progress, and some small features going out, but the big feature would depend on aspects of the product that the smaller features would end up changing every freaking time, thus making it nearly impossible to ship a feature that couldn’t be done in under six weeks.  You need strong leadership, discipline, and good communication for that. (As opposed to my project, which was an acquisition into our group and then had most of the team laid off. We were a mess.)

And then there is still the content question.  The train schedule sounds great in theory, but what happens if you end up with a delivery vehicle where no features are ready?  I am going to predict that there are going to be some uneven releases here, with some seeming amazing and some having us asking why they bothered to have a release at all.  As any child who has gotten a filler gift like pencils for one of the days of Hanukkah can tell you, sometimes it seems like a good idea to save everything up for one big surprise.

Add in how CCP generally handles content releases… which from the outside looks like three months of development followed by three months of fixing what they just shipped… and it will be interesting to see how their new plan plays out.

In the end, I am not sure which one of these methods is the “best,” or even if any of them are optimum in any way for the company using them.  All I can guarantee is that we’ll complain about them all no matter what.

Back to looking at pictures of food.

Quote of the Day – When You Have a F2P Hammer, Every Nail is a Microtransaction April 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
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10 comments

The micro-transaction is so strong and it’s definitely a much better model. I think all companies have to transition over to that.

Tommy Palm of King.com, interview at IGN

IGN is becoming the place to talk about free to play and micro transactions.  And King.com, the new Zynga, certainly has reason to support that point of view.  They are making a lot of money and, true to Tommy’s word, you can “win” Candy Crush Saga without paying.  But they are also monetizing frustration, as has been pointed out by Laralyn McWilliams, which I am not sure gets them a lot of love.

Buy now or start over

Buy now or start over

People defend King.com by pointing out that a lot of people play through the whole game without paying or by noting how much money they make.  But I do not see many F2P advocates examining their monetization scheme (Laralyn McWilliams aside) and asking if that is the best approach.  The monetizing of frustration aside… which alone has kept me from giving a damn about any other game King.com has made… there is the question of buying progress.

Buying my way out of a level with their boosts… and as far as I can tell, there are no levels you cannot win on the first try if you have spent enough money… feels a bit like cheating.  It is like dealing out a hand of solitaire and then giving somebody $1.99 to tell you it is okay to re-arrange the cards so you win any given hand.  I would say that is, in essence, pay to win, except you are not actually playing against anybody but yourself, so I am sure somebody would take me to task.

So maybe it is more like pay to skip playing, in which case why bother playing?  That might explain why only 30% of players who beat Candy Crush Saga paid any money.  Where is the feeling of victory or the bragging rights if you paid your way through the tough bits?

Or to flip that around, I wonder how many of that 30% would admit to paying?  Sure, King.com knows they did, but would they tell their friends?

Anyway, you might excuse Tommy’s exuberance because of the corner of the market he is in and how much money his company is raking in.  They have likely spent more on TV ads for Candy Crush Saga than they did on actually developing the game initially.

But we also had David Georgeson talking about all games being free to play as well, and he definitely lives in a world where there is a lot of development expenses before you can start ringing up microtransaction dollars.

We’re effectively street performers: we go out there and sing and dance and if we do a good job, people throw coins into the hat. And I think that’s the way games should be, because paying $60 up front to take a gamble on whether the game is good or not? You don’t get that money back.

-David Georgeson, busking out in front of IGN

This is, of course, the utopian ideal, the big upside to the whole free to play thing, the idea that you only shell out money for what you like.

And I can certainly find examples to support this idea.

I spent a lot of money… bought the collector’s edition and a lifetime sub… on Star Trek Online, which ended up being a game I really didn’t enjoy playing.  A big fail on my part.

In comparison I spent no money at all on Neverwinter, which also ended up being a game I really didn’t enjoy playing.  But at least it was only time invested.

Those, however, are both negative examples.  Games where I was better, or would have been better off, with free to play.

But when it comes to the whole persistent world MMO genre, of which I am a big fan, I do not have any real positive examples where a free to play game really sold me.  Sure, I have played a lot of Lord of the Rings Online, even after they went F2P, and I was enthusiastic about EverQuest II Extended when it first showed up.  But those were converts from the old subscription model into which I had invested and I have had my ups and downs with both.  I think I am done with EQII, and if I return to LOTRO again, it will be because of Middle-earth and despite the microtransaction in every window nature of their business model.

So, while I am okay with microtransactions in many forms… I have enjoyed games like World of Tanks and War Thunder, and I think the iOS version of LEGO Star Wars has a great model where you get the base game and a few levels for free, then can buy additional content if you like the game… it doesn’t seem to work for me in certain areas.  The money-where-my-mouth is proof is the persistent world MMOs I am currently playing, World of Warcraft and EVE Online.

Fortunately, as small as the world of game development may seem, it still encompasses a broad spectrum of opinions on many subjects.  So while some are gung-ho on F2P, others are sticking with older models.  The Elder Scrolls Online just launched as a subscription model MMO, and WildStar plans to later this year.  Maybe EverQuest Next or Landmark or something else will change my mind, but for now I seem happiest with the alleged outdated model.

There is no one true path, and I always wonder and people who make declarations in defiance of that.  The industry cannot even decide on DRM.  We have had industry voices wondering while companies bother, yet just this week Square Enix was saying that DRM is here to stay.

Meanwhile, I hope we’re all spending our dollars on things we actually enjoy playing.