Daily Archives: November 3, 2015

Quote of the Day – The First Rule of Subscription Club…

Note that this is the last quarter that we plan to provide subscriber numbers. There are other metrics that are better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance.

-From the Q3, 2015 investor call, quoted by GameSpot

Well, that is it.  In the end, even World of Warcraft in reality cannot compete with World of Warcraft of legend.

Past its peak of 12 million subscribers, having to report numbers less than half that amount is a burden, a sign of failure, even when nobody else is anywhere close to having those numbers and the revenue is still very strong.  I will be surprised if institutional investors don’t raise a stink over this.  Deciding to cease reporting on an easily understood metric seems against their interest.

And so Blizzard will join the bullshit metrics club and will talk about MAUs (monthly average users), or some other value that sounds good but bears not real relationship to the financial performance of a game.  Registered users!  Applications for beta!  Total downloads!  Combined revenue for three completely different games!

What else will they come up with?

5.5 million subscribers.  That is the last solid number we’re likely to see for Blizzard’s cash cow, their billion dollar (annual revenue) baby.  On to BlizzCon!

Hat Tip to Shintar of Going Commando who mentioned this in the comments of the previous post.

 

WoW Subscriptions Stable at 5.5 Million, Activision Buys Candy Crush Saga

The big news today was supposed to be the Activision Blizzard investor call for the third quarter of 2015 at 1:30pm Pacific time.  There we would get the usual earnings information, some insight into the combined companies goals, and the World of Warcraft subscription numbers.

ActiBlizz450

And then yesterday after hours Activision announced that they had purchased Candy Crush Saga maker King for 5.9 billion dollars which, as Keen points out, essentially makes it more valuable than the Star Wars franchise or, if you prefer, more than twice as valuable as Minecraft, which Notch sold to Microsoft a year back for $2.5 billion.

They also published the basic quarterly financial report for the company.  In the latter was the World of Warcraft subscription number.

World of Warcraft® subscriptions remained relatively stable, ending the quarter at 5.5 million subscribersC. Players are excited about the upcoming expansion, Legion, which will feature a new class, customizable Artifact weapons, class order halls, and much more. World of Warcraft remains the No. 1 subscription‐based MMORPG in the world.

So there we go, the WoW subscriber base is holding for now on Taanan Jungle, time walking, and the promise of WoW Legion at some point, down just 100,000 subscribers from the 5.6 million number reported three months back.

There wasn’t much else of real interest about Blizzard in the report, so I still wonder what the big keynote announcement at BlizzCon will be.  Getting to see the Warcraft movie trailer is nice and all, but with the movie seven months away, that really isn’t a sustainable interest right now.

I guess we will find out on Friday.  At least the opening ceremony will be streamed for free, as I am not buying the $40 virtual ticket this year.  There isn’t enough “there” there, so far as I can tell.

So the big new remains the King buyout, which Activision bills as:

The Most Profitable, Successful Standalone Interactive Entertainment Company in the World. During the last twelve months Activision Blizzard had non-GAAP revenues of $4.7 billion and King had adjusted revenues of $2.1 billion, and for the same period, adjusted EBITDA of $1.6 billion and $0.9 billion, respectively. The combined company will have further diversified and recurring revenues, cash flow generation, and long-term growth opportunities to propel future value creation for shareholders. Activision Blizzard believes the Acquisition will be accretive to 2016 estimated non-GAAP revenues and earnings per share by approximately 30% and significantly accretive to 2016 estimated free cash flow per share. Activision Blizzard expects the combined company to maintain a disciplined capital allocation policy and strong balance sheet.

Part of me sees this as the big King cash out, as SynCaine put it.  King, having peaked on pretty much one game, which they stole from somebody else (a key part of the King business model), decided to sell out while they still have value in the market.

Basically, the Zynga story done right… for specific definitions of “right” I suppose.  Zynga thought FarmVille (another stolen idea) meant they were smart rather than lucky.  King appears to have figured out that they were lucky rather than smart and decided to get out while still on top.  That is the cynical, cold world, core gamer gut response view.  It is certainly where my brain went immediately.

On the other side, King did bring in over $2 billion in revenues over the last twelve months, which basically means it earned about twice as much as World of Warcraft made over the same period of time… all with crappy, over-monetized, rip-offs of other games.

Well, not “crappy” actually.

Hate the business model and the complete lack or originality as much as you like, but King does put a pretty coat of polish on its games.  They are shiny and bright and happy and, at least in the case of Candy Crush Saga, work well and are updated regularly.  They add new levels all the time, the game having gone from 480 (if I recall right) to 1,250 in a recent update, along with other additions to the game.  And it still runs very well on my aging iPad 2.

Yes, I still play, though I have never spent a cent...

Yes, I still play, though I have never spent a cent…

Polished up versions of other people’s ideas that have low system requirements?  Where have I heard that idea before?

Could the King business unit, within Activision Blizzard, and thus having access to a range of IPs and other assets, end up being the engine to for Activision to get a serious presence in mobile?

Over at Ars Technica they have an article up about how each company’s market presence looked individually and then together as a single unit.  And King is still bringing money in despite not having been able to repeat their Candy Crush Saga success with another game.

I don’t know where this merger will end up.  Activision isn’t quite as good at buying and the destroying companies as EA, but they have still screwed a number of people over as the years have passed.  I suppose we will see.

So what is left for the investor call?  Some PowerPoint slides?  I’ll put the Blizzard one up once I find it, if only because that has been a regular part of these posts in the past.

Addendum:

Here is the Blizzard slide from the call, and some weak tea at that, as the big news was something else altogether.

Blizzard Q3 2015 results slide

Blizzard Q3 2015 results slide

The Parallax View in New Eden

æi þarna effectinn sem kemur þegar þú færir sjónlínu á hlut í gegnum linsu og staðsetning hlutsins virðist breytast við það

CCP PrismX rendering Parallax into Icelandic

Another small expansion day for EVE Online.  While the idea of big expansions has returned to CCP, the smaller versions continue on as before.

This month brings us the Parallax expansion, and the graphic associated with it hints at its main focus, which is null sec and sovereignty.

These are the things we Entosis...

These are the things we Entosis…

Top of the list for me, being a null sec resident, are:

  • Jump Fatigue is now capped at a maximum of 5 days, while reactivation is capped at 12 hours.

While Jump Fatigue mostly works as before, you can now no longer get yourself stuck with 30 days of fatigue.  The idea is that no matter what you do over one weekend, you will be able to play the following weekend.

  • Outposts, Infrastructure Hubs, Territorial Claim Units, Station Services (if not disabled), and Command Nodes now have a new behavior related to the Entosis mechanic: Defensive Regeneration. These items will now slowly automatically capture themselves in the defender’s favor if there are no active Entosis links targeted on them. The rate of regeneration is unaffected by the Activity Defense Modifier or any other variable, and is fixed for each different type of structure. The regeneration time for each type of structure is shown in the type’s window.

This is actually pretty big.  If somebody comes and trolls your sovereignty but doesn’t come back to take it when the timer runs down, you no longer have to deploy your own Entosis Link modules to repair them.

You might ask how often that happens.  It happens all the time.  I was on a fleet last night that formed for a timer because NCdot had reinforced an infrastructure hub.  They came out to fight when the timer ran down, but we drove them off, after which we had to go find somebody with an Entosis Link module to repair the i-hub.  Only the person who showed up wasn’t in the right alliance, so started capturing the i-hub instead.  So somebody else had to go and we ended up with two people running their Fozzie lasers over the structure.

If we were in the same position today, we could have just held the grid around the structure and it would have done its own repair work.

  • TCUs and IHubs can now be self destructed by directors in the owner corporation. The self destruct countdown will take 20 minutes to complete. Directors and CEOs in the owner corporation are able to cancel the countdown.

This now allows groups to transfer or surrender sovereignty.  If you don’t own sov, transfer doesn’t mean much, but if you do it does give you some leverage.  I also expect to see some espionage operations around this sort of thing, with a director/spy burning themselves to destroy a structure.

Those and more sovereignty related items are covered in a Dev Blog.

Then there is Brain in a Box, which was described to me in Vegas as redoing the way the game handles player stats and attributes.

CCP maps out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain

A brain… in a rectangle I guess…

Previously, at every transition (e.g. undocking, taking a jump gate, entering a wormhole) the game needed to reload all of your data.  This meant that 100 people undocking or taking a gate would spike tidi in a system.  It is also supposed to handle your skills and attributes more efficiently.  This is huge, as it should give everybody a performance boost.  This will help people in Jita and beyond and will hopefully, some day, let CCP eliminate off-grid boosting, if I understand things correctly.

Also on the list for Parallax:

  • Added a a jukebox feature (a checkbox) in the audio menu to allow players to opt out of the dynamic music system and just play the old jukebox playlist that came out with the game in 2003. (I can play Below the Asteroids in space again… if I turn on sound.)
  • The graphics settings menu now offers a ‘Camera Bobbing’ option, this will toggle whether or not the camera will perform a gentle animation when left idle.
  • The server is now counting PVP kills for each ship item, in preparation for the forthcoming ‘Kill marks’ feature. (See the sovereignty dev blog for details.)
  • Fleet bonuses from the skills Leadership, Skirmish Warfare, and Information Warfare are now stacking penalized together with bonuses from other sources like modules.
  • The wing commander of a fleet receives now fleet bonuses from the fleet booster. (This was so dumb. I have WC5 trained, so I sometimes end up in that role. No I get some boosts.)
  • Any item that is scoopable can now also be scooped to a ships fleet hangar using the right click menu.
  • A character with a criminal flag in a high-sec system is no longer able to board/switch ships whilst in space. (Suicide ganking just got a tad more difficult. No more solo character using a dozen ships to kill a single freighter.)
  • New Probe and Directional Scanning Interfaces. Added as Beta feature default ON. (The d-scan interface looks like a huge quality of life improvement. Dev blog here)
  • Added new Raata Sunset SKINs for most T1 and T2 Amarr ships. Tech 1 SKINs will available immediately, while Tech 2 SKINs will be available the following week. (Red skins for everybody I guess.  I like it.  Though on Amarr they are mostly white with red highlights.)
Res SKINS for all the things...

I prefer a blood red ship… even for logi

Those are the highlights for me.  There is more listed out in the Patch Notes and the Updates Page for the release.  The expansion has been reported as live, so that is now our version of New Eden.

And, of course, no EVE Online expansion is complete without its own theme songe.