Category Archives: Blizzard

SuperData and the Curious Case of the Missing WoW Money

SuperData Research released its 2017 report looking at how much money was spent on video games, sliced up into different segments.  You can download the report from them, it is free, unlike some of their other reports.

Yes, I know, SuperData’s numbers are flawed, though probably not in the way you think.  As a market analysis firm, they have relationships with the companies on which they report.  They are not some group of rando outsiders om Spokane making wild guesses by looking at Steam charts and trying to get data out of the App Store.  They get financial information directly from most of the companies they track.

The companies cooperate because there is a quid pro quo in play.  SuperData only covers a limited number of companies generally, but those companies tend to be publicly traded… or have aspiration to go public some day… or are in bed through licensing with another company that is public… and they want analysts to say nice things about them because that may boost their valuation and, thus, their stock price.

The flaw in the data often comes from what the companies choose to give analysts and how they package it.  I speak from experience on this.  I recall one year the marketing director at a company coming to me to ask me about what new features we were working on for our main product.  He was working on our annual puff piece for Gartner to tell them how great we were.  So I listed out the key items from the road map and he gave me a sour look and said that we told Gartner we did all of that last year or the year before, he wanted something new!

So yeah, the analyst is only as good as the data they get, and companies will lie… though when it comes to financials, they can’t make stuff up if they’re a public company.  They can, however, withhold data or refuse to break things out in a way that the analyst would want.

All of which brings us back to SuperData and their 2017 report.  They have several nice charts which, unlike their monthly reports, have dollar amounts attached.

SuperData 2017 Mobile Market Chart

There is a lot of money in mobile games.

Then there is the free to play PC games chart.

SuperData 2017 F2P PC Games Market Chart

League of Legends dominates that with over $2 billion in revenue in 2017, something I am sure Tencent wants its institutional investors to know.  But the low end of that chart is a lot lower than the low end of the mobile chart.

Then there is the Premium PC chart, the traditional “buy the box” model, though the top end of the chart has DLC and other additional revenue streams.

SuperData 2017 Premium PC Games Market Chart

Hey, look, Guild Wars 2!  Shipping a new box in 2017 no doubt helped them to get there.  Also, you can probably go back and look at the first three quarters of earnings reports for NCsoft in 2017, add up the GW2 revenues on those, subtract that from the number on the chart, and have a good guess at what the Q4 number will be. (Should be about 46,560 on the GW2 section of their usual chart, which is measured in millions of South Korean Won, if I calculated that correctly. That would be a big boost from Q3.)  If that is on the money, then there is only one possible source.  And if it is different… well, then we’ll have some evidence of something else.

I am dubious about Minecraft. That seems like a lot for just the PC market, though that may be because I focus on the Java Edition, which is its own beast.  The other, unified cross platform edition has all sorts of DLC, even on Windows 10.  And, again, who knows how Microsoft packaged up the data.  They might have said, “This is the Minecraft number,” declining to break it out.

And, finally, there is the consoles chart.

SuperData 2017 Console Games Market Chart

Consoles seem to be about shooting people and playing soccer.

There are no billion dollar earners on either of those last two charts.  GTA V on console is worth a quarter of League of Legends when it comes to annual revenue in 2017.  Then again, half a billion dollars is still nothing to sneeze at, and it is a hell of a lot of money for a game that shipped on consoles back in 2013.  But, then again, League of Legends showed up in 2009, so being new doesn’t have much to do with revenue I guess.

Anyway, interesting charts to look at and compare.  Each of the numbers are probably true in the right context, but the chances of us knowing that context is pretty slim.

But in looking at all of that, there was a glaring omission in my book.  World of Warcraft is nowhere to be seen.  After all, it has appeared on every monthly SuperData chart in 2017.  Why would it not appear in the final report?

My first thought was that it just didn’t fit nicely into any of the categories.  And I suppose that might be the case, but I doubt it.

My gut says that Blizzard wants it this way.  As noted above, analysts are at the mercy of those providing the data, and I think the only way that SuperData would have skipped WoW is because Blizzard held back that data or told them they couldn’t use it in a publicly available report.  I back this up with how Blizzard has tried to obscure information about WoW in their financial reports.

At first that was because of the subscription drop panic.  But later, when it became more thorough, I began to suspect another reason.

I think that this is all because Blizzard is trying to remove the idea that the company is dependent on WoW for the bulk of their revenues.

There was a time when that was the case, when it was WoW paying the bills and a few people buying Diablo II or Warcraft III battle chests bringing in what amounted to some spare change.  But Blizzard has moved on from then.  As noted in the past, BlizzCon is now about more than just WoW.

When WoW went through its post-Warlords of Draenor subscriber dump, I think Blizz realized that they needed to shed the image that Blizzard = WoW and nothing else.  They don’t want people to think that if WoW dies, Blizzard dies.

As part of that Blizzard began to pay a lot more attention publicly to the other titles in its catalog, which has expanded quite a bit since 2008 or so, when WoW was pretty much it.  So in the charts above you see Hearthstone in free to play and Overwatch in premium PC games.

But you don’t see WoW, not because it didn’t make enough money to place, but because Blizz doesn’t want that to distract from its other titles.

I also think this is the reason that WoW got split into East and West earlier in the year, so that other Blizzard titles would be seen to have passed WoW.  That wasn’t some rando analyst choice.  Analysts don’t do that, they like their data to be consistent over time.  That gives it a greater sense of validity.

And I know WoW would make the charts.  We can derive that from past data.  Throughout 2017, World of Warcraft was on every SuperData monthly chart, and for 10 out of 12 months it was ahead of World of Tanks, which did make the chart.  WoW was also ranked ahead of World of Tanks at the first six months of 2017 summary from SuperData.

So I think we can safely say that WoW made more than World of Tanks, which itself brought in $471 million according to the charts above.  And WoW making even a dollar more than that amount would put it well ahead of Overwatch ($382 million) and Hearthstone ($217 million), the next two highest earners in the Blizzard stable.

We don’t know how much World of Warcraft actually made in 2017, but it was likely in excess of half a billion dollars, and could be a decent chunk more than that.  I could probably find out if I wanted to spend two grand on SuperData’s MMO and MOBA report, but I am not so inclined. Still, even my guess is not bad for a game from 2004.

And it seems likely that WoW will pop up a bit in SuperData’s monthly charts for January and February with the Battle for Azeroth pre-orders having hit on Tuesday.  The payment system was bogged down from the effect of people trying to throw money at Blizzard.

So World of Warcraft isn’t dead.  It isn’t even resting really.  It seems to me to be more a matter of Blizzard having the problem in not being able to create something to surpass WoW.   So rather than submitting their other titles to that measure, they’re trying to hide it.

Anyway, that is my working theory.

Meanwhile, a bonus chart from the report, and one I am sure Blizzard really likes, the esports viewership.

SuperData 2017 esports Viewership Chart

The measure on that chart is “average monthly unique viewers” for 2017.

(Also, as a side note, they chopped the market up into Twitch 54%, YouTube 22%, and everybody else making up 24%)

Blizzard likes that chart because Heroes of the Storm gets a mention, and it is the only place it is likely to get one.  StarCraft II is also there.  But Heroes of the Storm gets barely a tenth of LoL’s viewership, and less than a quarter of DOTA 2’s.  More interesting is that it also only gets a quarter of Overwatch’s viewership and less than 20% of Heros of the Storm’s viewers.

StarCraft II, son of the original esports champion StarCraft, seems a bit sad down at the bottom of the list.  But Blizzard does have four games on the list (and WoW isn’t one of them) which added together, had more average viewers than League of Legends.  Not bad.

Also, Hearthstone is Blizzard’s most popular esports game.  Imagine that!  We’ll see if the whole Overwatch league changes that in 2018, but for now that is how it stands.

2018 – Predictions for a New Year

Welcome to the new year… not the same as the old year we hope, but how often do we get that wish granted in a way we don’t later regret?

As has become the tradition here over the years, I have laid out a list of predictions for the upcoming year. 11th time’s a charm or something.  A few have some grounding in reality, more are speculation, and the rest are just wild theories I thought sounded plausible when spoken in a calm, neutral tone.

Past runs at this whole prediction thing:

Despite having done my worst job at foreseeing the future last year, I continue on unabated.

The scoring is the same as every year, with each question worth 10 points total unless otherwise noted, with partial credit being possible since my predictions tend to meander and cover multiple points.

1 – Blizzard will ship the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft on August 28th of this year.  10 points if I am right, minus 2 points for each week I am off for a partial credit calculation.

2 – WoW Classic – We will have a lot of details by the end of the year and you’ll be able to sign up for closed beta, but there won’t be a lot of emphasis on it to the disappointment of many.  But Blizzard is canny and won’t want to distract from the Battle for Azeroth launch.  Expect a major WoW Classic panel at BlizzCon with lots of details of things we can expect to try in 2019.

3 – With plans for a real WoW Classic unambiguously in motion, expect Blizzard to serve notice on any emulator hosting enough players to run the Deadmines that legal action will commence if they do not shut down and promise to stay that way.  That was cute and all when Blizz said it couldn’t be done, but with actual money on the line Blizz will be more like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

4 – Heroes of the Storm will continue to follow the Diablo III toward the dormant part of the Blizzard franchise locker room. More changes won’t revitalize it, but it will make enough money for Blizz to keep making new heroes through 2018.

5 – Shut down list – The following titles will close their doors, at least in North America,  2 Points each:

  • Runes of Magic (Best case, merge with the European server)
  • WildStar (Going to be right one of these years)
  • GuildWars (NCsoft will be all about mobile and clearing out old stuff)
  • Defiance (The companion TV show has been cancelled already…)
  • Granado Espada (Was kind of surprised to hear it was still a thing)

6 – Won’t ship list – The following titles won’t ship, go live, leave early access, progress beyond alpha, or otherwise leave the criticism deflection zone and actually face the live market, 2 points each:

  • Star Citizen
  • Crowfall
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Pantheon
  • CCP Project Nova

7 – Shroud of the Avatar will make the leap to live status, will leave early access and such, and be fully available for sale without caveat or restriction… and sales won’t take off because most everybody who was interested has already bought in.  Instead it will need an active, constantly updated, and heavily promoted cash shop to keep going.  Govern yourself accordingly.

8 – No legal changes to lootboxes, pay to win, or pseudo gambling.  This is a Gevlon inspired prediction, where he said:

Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.

I’m taking the opposite position.  I’ll leave out the matchmaker part, mostly because that seems nonsensical to predict… not to mention he was wrong about it with League of Legends… and stick with just the “random or powerful” part of that.  If I can buy a random lootbox come December 1st of 2018 with the promise of a useful, non-cosmetic item, that will be 10 points for me.

9 – Nintendo and GameFreak will announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for the 3DS.  Come on, you know how badly we want this!  Dooooo eeeeet!

10 – In a retro focused year, Nintendo will also announce Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the 3DS Virtual Console.

11 – The Nintendo Switch will get its own Virtual Console store in 2018, and one of the early test items will be versions of the above mentioned Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire in order to test the waters. We will get that announcement before we hear anything about a new, current generation core Pokemon RPG on the Switch.

12 – Pokemon Go will finally get a head to head battle mode along with a friends list, though it will be segregated by platform, so iOS and Android shall not mix.  No trading of Pokemon however and the incentives to battle, aside from pride of winning, will be kept minuscule out of fears of abuse.

13 – Microsoft/Mojang will announce end of updates/new features for Minecraft –  Java Edition in favor of ongoing support for the unified edition that works across mobile, console, and Windows 10 which, coincidentally, is also the edition where they make money selling skins and such.  Basically, maintenance mode and a push to get people to go where the money is.

14 – Daybreak will finally announce a new product, a small-ish group/co-op RPG thing that will feel like something of a new coat of paint on Just Survive, but will be fantasy and based in Norrath because that is the only IP they have that has some draw and lacks a licensing fee.

15 – PlanetSide 2 and Just Survive will clearly be in maintenance mode by the end of the year, with staff being pulled off to work on the above new title.  The problem will be distinguishing maintenance mode from whatever mode they are in now.  Daybreak will just have to tell us.

16 – EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual autumnal expansions.  The EverQuest team will follow the lead of their younger sibling and return to a Planes of Power theme.

17 – On the EverQuest II side of the house the focus will be a surprising return to a desert theme along the lines of Desert of Flames, flying freaking carpets and all.

18 – The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China will fall apart when PlayerUnknown’s Battleground makes it there first and sews up the battle royale market.  Best case, H1Z1 will launch and fold in a few months, worst case it won’t even get the chance.

19 – EVE Fanfest 2018 in Iceland will be a smash, celebrating as it will the 15th birthday of the launch of EVE Online.  However, one of the announcements will be that there will be no EVE Vegas going forward and that their plans for Four Fan Fests around the world in 2019 will be scrapped as will Fan Fest 2019, though the latter will be because they’re remodeling the Harpa.  I am not adopting the Massively OP outlook that EVE Online itself is mordibund because most of the community team got the axe, but without them who else is going to do these events?

20 – EVE Online itself will continue to move forward more slowly than planned.  The end of player owned starbases and null sec stations won’t come to pass until after the traditional CCP July/August vacation season.  Focus before then will be tuning Alphas some more, The Agency, and special events.

21 – After going up in 2017, the PCU will begin to trend down again, with the average over the next 12 months dipping down to 30K.  Not drastic, but it will keep the “EVE is dying” fan club active and have CCP looking around for short term changes to boost the player base.

22 – EVE Fanfest 2018 will see a revised vision statement about future plans for EVE Online.  Gone will be talk of player built gates and new space.  There is already too much space in New Eden for the current player base.  Instead the new vision will seek to revitalize NPC null sec regions like Venal and the Great Wildlands with a much more aggressive NPC population defending those systems rather than just letting players pass.  Details will be high level, but CCP will hint that this is a test run for plans they are considering for Jove space as some sort of high end, raid-like experiment.

23 – In EVE Online the CSM 13 elections will see a bump in non-null sec representation, with four seats going to such candidates.  The return of Mike Azariah will help get out the non-null vote.  The six null-sec seats will be two Imperium (Aryth & Innominate), one Brave, one TEST, one PL/PH/NCDot, and one GotG.

24 – Project Aurora, CCPs mobile game made in cooperation with… um… whoever that was at EVE Vegas… will ship in the second half of the year and… will do better than Dust 514.  It will do okay, people will download it and play it, it will get a core following and make some money, but it won’t be covering the bills or paying for an expanded community team.

25 – We won’t hear much about the alleged new project that CCP recently posted job listings about, aside from the fact that they have partnered with somebody else to do the heavy lifting. A year from now EVE Online will still be all CCP really has, but people will still be yelling at CCP for a) spending money on anything besides EVE Online and b) gambling the whole company’s future on just EVE Online.

26 – No 64-bit client for EVE Online in 2018.  The captain’s quarters wasn’t all that was holding them back, it was just the easiest to dispose of.

27 – Standing Stone is running out of content for Lord of the Rings Online.  Between Mordor and the Grey Havens there is really only a couple of weddings, the walk home, the scourging of the Shire, and trying to clean up the mess.  No expansions, no be changes to the landscape, just a few updates with some of the more militant mopping up tasks in areas of Middle-earth they have already mapped out.  We won’t be walking Frodo to the Grey Havens in 2018, but it will be on the horizon.

Double Extra Credit Bonus Prediction: CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

So that is 27 entries for a total possible of 270 points, plus the bonus prediction, a throw away I am going to demand 20 points for should it come to pass.  Now to wait and see what happens between now and December of 2018.

Others doing some New Year’s predicting or wishing:

Looking Back at 2017 – Highs and Lows

We are here again at the point of the year where I take a moment to look back at the state of things and wonder how we managed to get things as messed up as they appear to be.

This post follows the usual random stream of consciousness, “oh yeah, that happened” level of effort with no attempt to link out to anything.  I just spew out bullet points.  Past efforts, for comparison or whatever, are available:

So what happened in 2017 that stuck with me:

Blizzard

Highs

  • World of Warcraft team managed to keep delivering new content with the Legion expansion, which seems like it will stem the usual max exodus that comes with the regular second summer content drought.
  • Money money money money… WoW still brings in so much money it has avoided any real F2P lootbox taint so far.
  • New expansion, Battle for Azeroth, announced at BlizzCon.
  • Holy fuck, WoW Classic announced at BlizzCon!!1! one one !
  • Diablo III got the necromancer and that odd Diablo special event.
  • Overwatch is still go-go-go.
  • More Hearthstone card packs to sell.
  • StarCraft Remaster!
  • StarCraft II base game now free.
  • Heroes of the Storm got some sort of revamp… and then another one.

Lows

  • WoW subscription numbers are still top secret and their other metrics are BS; SuperData Research can seem more informative than Activision Blizzard quarterly reports.
  • We haven’t actually hit the second summer of Legion yet; things could still go badly.
  • The renewed Horde vs. Alliance aspect of Battle for Azeroth isn’t a universally inspiring as, say, the Lich King.
  • Blizzard is just now staffing up the WoW Classic team, so the ship date is probably still far away, like 2020.
  • League of Legends still makes more money than WoW and Riot doesn’t have to design huge zones or raids, they just have to sell some skins, boosts, and the occasional OP champion.
  • Diablo III is very much on the back burner now.
  • Still no Diablo II or Warcraft III remasters.
  • StarCraft II feels like it is also falling by the wayside; making it free and putting the remastered StarCraft on the Battle.net launcher feels like the successor never topped the original.
  • How long until Hearthstone card packs hit the level of absurdity?  I suppose if Magic: The Gathering is any indication, the answer is “never.”  But for me that point has already come and gone.
  • Did the Heroes of the Storm updates make any difference?  Is Heroes of the Storm even going to be a thing come BlizzCon 2018?
  • I hate to get all “what have you done for us lately,” but you got anything new planned Blizz?

Daybreak

Highs

  • Still holds a high enough spot in my heart to get its own category in this post despite my not playing any of their games right now.
  • Continued the Norrath development cycle another year, with EverQuest and EverQuest II each getting a new expansion.
  • Planes of Prophecy in EQII got some good reviews by the locals and continues the successful nostalgia plan at Daybreak, it being a call back to the monumental 2002 Planes of Power expansion in EQ.
  • Somebody must be buying the $140 versions of those expansions if they keep offering them.
  • Ongoing Norrathian nostalgia train as post EQ and EQII got new expansion locked progression servers.
  • DC Universe Online remains strong on consoles.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill was the king of battle royale games on Steam for a while.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill is going to China via Tencent, Riot’s parent company.
  • Just Survive is supposed to get some attention and updates.
  • Still a rumor of a new game coming from Daybreak, maybe even a Norrath game.

Lows

  • The EQII fan base remains restive, especially in the forums.  Daybreak inherited a lot of anger debt from SOE.
  • How many special servers can Daybreak roll out before they hit diminishing returns?
  • How many time can EQ go back to Kunark before that well dries up?
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground pretty much dwarfed H1Z1 – King of the Kill on Steam… and then so did Fortnite.
  • H1Z1 – King of the Kill renamed back to just H1Z1 because the word “kill” kills sales, or so they say.
  • In China H1Z1 will apparently be King of Survival. Bite the wax tadpole!
  • Just Survive seemed aptly named given how long it was neglected.  But at least it did survive.
  • Landmark, gone in a blink, a lesson in early access.  There is nothing special about “going live” when you’ve been charging people to play all along.
  • Rumors don’t pay the bills and any new game will likely go straight on to Steam as unfinished “early access” and suffer the same fate.

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Free from WB and their bottom line expectations, they are focused on their two titles.
  • Continuing to develop and improve both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Launched the Mordor expansion so, after a decade, the end of the War of the Rings is in sight.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online got some updates as well.

Lows

  • Company is clearly tied to milking the final acts of both DDO and LOTRO; they will never create a new title.
  • Since they didn’t get Asheron’s Call, that went away.
  • Still not really sure who owns them; WB doesn’t just give assets away.
  • Still not clear on relationship with Daybreak and who is benefiting from it.
  • Not sure the avatar graphical update was worth the investment; every gripe I had about the old avatars still exist.
  • From Frodo leaving Bag End to the destruction of the ring took about six months in the books (September 23, 3018 TA to March 25, 3019 TA).
  • The end of the War of the Rings means the end of the game, unless we’re going to get a quest to go with Sam to the Grey Havens and then help him run for mayor.
  • The Mordor expansion… just not that appealing… and the expensive versions of the expansion seemed even more over-priced for what one got than even Daybreak’s offerings.

CCP

Highs

  • Consistent updates and big feature expansions are still a thing for EVE Online.
  • A renewed focus on EVE Online late in the year.
  • Promise of a 64-bit client, which should reduce client crashes in big fleet fights… at least crashes from exceeding the 32-bit limit on memory allocation.
  • Can still get headlines out of player conflicts in null sec.
  • Andrew Groen has a podcast going into more detail about null sec history.
  • A lot of community outreach by CCP, with players streaming on their Twitch channel and such.
  • An expansion of Alpha Clone abilities.
  • The company seemed to be a leader in VR titles with Valkyrie, Gunjack, and the new Sparc.
  • Valkyrie now available for non-VR players with the Warzone expansion
  • Project Nova and Project Aurora are going forward with partnered studios doing much of the heavy lifting.
  • /r/eve on Reddit… not as toxic as it once was.

Lows

  • Literally dammed if they focus on EVE Online and dammed if they do not.
  • The cost of focus on EVE Online was layoffs.
  • Somehow, laying off most of the EVE Online community team was “focusing” on EVE Online.
  • This year saw the least number of Dev Blogs published in the history of the game, and at this point they get a dozen gimmes in the form of the Monthly Economic Report.
  • EVE Online remains the only viable post-Hættuspil game for the company.
  • EVE Online also remains firmly in the post “Jesus Feature” era; not much being added to the game that would bring back old players.  Updates in 2018 were mostly iterative.
  • The captain’s quarters are gone.  Some part of me did want that to work out, but CCP just doesn’t have the breadth to do that and keep internet spaceships viable at the same time.
  • Music with updates seems to be a thing of the past, which is sad because EVE Online music is something I actually listen to regularly.
  • Null sec headlines this summer quickly turned to bad player behavior thanks to GigX making real world threats, thus reaffirming that New Eden is a horrible place for horrible people.
  • Apparently nothing outside of null sec and the occasional scam makes for a headline or a story worth telling.
  • Andrew Groen gave up focusing on EVE Online after only a few episodes.
  • The whole Alpha Clone thing opened the door for creeping microtransactions and the eventual shit-death of the universe.
  • Some of our community remains shit.
  • While VR is growing as a segment, it is still very small.
  • Making Valkyrie available without VR doesn’t inspire confidence in the VR market
  • Valkyrie with VR was visually interesting, taking that away makes it feel flat.
  • Need to been an octopus to play Valkyrie well with keyboard an mouse; really requires a game pad… by which I mean an XBox 360 controller specifically, unless you want to configure everything by trial and error.
  • And speaking of things that do not inspire confidence in VR, I hope you really like Gunjack, Sparc, and EVE: Valkyrie exactly the way they are now, because development for the products has been shelved and most of the staff laid off.
  • What are the odds that an EVE Online based shooter or mobile app will be a success no matter who is doing the coding?
  • Ha, ha, ha… I just remembered when they were talking about an EVE Online TV show.
  • /r/eve on Reddit being better than before is a very low bar and hardly worth bragging about.

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch is selling well.  It will pass total Wii U sales numbers soon.
  • Video games on the Switch sell well even with reduced visual fidelity
  • Seemed to figure out its NES Classic issue so SNES Classics are much easier to come by
  • Might actually re-release the NES Classic next year.
  • New Pokemon games in the form of Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.
  • Old Pokemon games in the form of Pokemon Gold & Silver… and Pokemon Crystal soon.
  • Yet more Metroid of some sort.
  • More mobile apps.  Lots of people downloaded Super Mario Jump!

Lows

  • For all its success, I cannot see a reason to buy a Switch.  And it isn’t anything like Wii level popularity.
  • End of the Wii Store is coming… well, in 2019, but still… alright, I was surprised it was still even open.
  • Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon were not a big change over Pokemon Sun & Moon.
  • No Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remake… yet.
  • After Pokemon Go other Nintendo mobile apps have failed to see anything close to that level of popularity or financial success.

Other Games

Highs

  • Unified Minecraft clients so you can share servers with your friend on different platforms
  • Fortnite shows up as an sharp looking co-op survival game.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground takes the Battle Royale idea and runs with it to massive success, leaving H1Z1: King of the Kill in the dust.
  • Star Citizen hasn’t imploded yet and even seems to have made some progress.
  • Word of an Age of Empires remaster to go with my Age of Kings remaster.
  • Steam, still a purveyor of the occasional rare gems, always a sale of some sort just around the corner.
  • Rimworld ate up a lot of my gaming hours over the summer
  • I played a lot of MMOs over the course of 2017.
  • Lots of MMOs still out there surviving many years in.
  • Toril MUD is coming up on 25 years of operation in one form or another!
  • EA going too far with Star Wars Battlefront II microtransactions brought a lot of attention to what is going on with that sort of thing.

Lows

  • Original Minecraft, now called the “Java edition,” was not part of the unification plan.
  • PUBG devs got really pissy when Fortnite decided that it too would become a battle royale game.
  • Have you tried to decipher Fortnite’s purchasing options?  I went to their site and gave up after looking at that.  Also, if you bought in for co-op survival, sorry, battle royale is now the thing.
  • Star Citizen is still a lot a vision and very little reality as fan boys celebrate getting access to an Alpha version only a few months late while a real viable game isn’t even a speck on the horizon yet.
  • Speaking of Star Citizen, giving everybody access to the public test server doesn’t count towards “shippping” the long promised Alpha 3.0 release.  That just says it isn’t ready yet.
  • Eventually we will hit remaster saturation… or start having to remaster the remasters as tech progresses.
  • Steam is still clogged with a huge mass of absolute shit that makes finding gems a near impossible chore.
  • I’m glad I bought No Man’s Sky on sale, as it really didn’t grab me at all. Slowest load times ever.
  • I played several MMOs for less than a month each this year before landing back in WoW, so same as it ever was.
  • I went on a zone (raid) with a group in TorilMUD and my ability to parse scrolling text is not what it used to be.  I was totally lost.
  • Server merges for games like Runes of Magic and SWTOR show the decline.
  • Club Penguin thrown over by Disney for a mobile app.  After “land war in Asia” one of the classic blunders is to force your installed base to change platforms and re-start from scratch.
  • Marvel Heroes suffered a sudden, if not totally unexpected demise, leading to questions about refunds for people who recently made in-game purchases.
  • Are there any Funcom MMOs that are not in maintenance mode?
  • Civilization VI just didn’t inspire me, but at least I bought it on sale.
  • EA managed to go so far on the microtransaction greed front as to attract the attention of various governmental organizations.  That could end very badly for all of us.  Way to shit the bed for everybody there EA!
  • Trion, apparently missing the whole EA fiasco, decided to sell a $100 lockbox in Rift with a random “premium” mount, some of which are available in-game for much much less.  Then attempted to deflect criticism via derision and sarcasm.  At least they saw the light after a few hours of being pounded.
  • Games I backed on Kickstarter continue to fail to ship, with Mineserver leading the way in the ratio of promise to actual delivery date failure metric.
  • Early access, Kickstarter campaigns, and beta have all become pretty much synonymous with getting the money up front and delivering shit as the industry does its usual gyration where somebody succeeds on good faith and then others take the most superficial lessons from that and pile on simply looking to make money before delivering.
  • Fewer high quality video games showing up as the expense to make them continues to rise while older games hang on through DLC and other monetization plans.  How long ago did GTA V ship?
  • As I write this I cannot think of a new video game title to which I am looking forward to seeing launch.

Media

Highs

  • Blade Runner 2049 really looked, sounded, and “felt” excellent.
  • Dunkirk was beautiful and engaging to watch.
  • Lots of blockbuster superhero movies, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi for pete’s sake!
  • Fantasy Movie League has been fun.
  • Finally watched Breaking Bad.
  • Stranger Things 2 gave fans of the first series something new to binge on and was strong enough that a third season has been green lit.
  • Comcast put Netflix and YouTube apps in their cable box so I can now easily switch to either service and watch them on the TV.
  • Amazon Prime video remains worthwhile.
  • The beloved celebrity death train that was 2016 seemed to have subsided somewhat.

Lows

  • Box office confirmation that Blade Runner was a cult classic and not a mainstream success in any way.
  • I saw Dunkirk in IMax and it was so loud I think it damaged my hearing.  Also, I refuse to believe in Spitfires that can glide forever.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me feeling dissatisfied.  We’ve also hit a point in the franchise where you can neither like or dislike a film, or any aspect of the film, without somebody declaring your opinion flat out wrong because you’re either too big of a nerd or not big enough or a nerd.  That’s not how this works.
  • I am not very much into the superhero things really.  Can we get some better science fictions movies… that aren’t necessarily Star Wars of Star Trek?
  • Fantasy Movie League can seem really random in results unless you are REALLY into keeping up on details and projections.  I fail at that more often that I succeed.  My ability to care is limited and sometimes I just want to roll the dice.
  • Cannot get my wife to buy into watching The Walking Dead.
  • Stranger Things 2 lacked the punch, got off track, and was a lot more interested in itself than the first series.
  • If I couldn’t figure out where Stranger Things 2 was going to go, where in the hell will Stranger Things 3 end up?  How much can Hawkins take?
  • You don’t want to see my Comcast bill.  And I have to have them because there are literally no other choices in my area.
  • And in this era where I am paying so much to Comcast, HBO, Netflix, and Amazon for streaming, the best and most cost effective way to see a new release at home is still getting disks in the mail via the old Netflix delivery service.  All hail the postal service I guess.
  • It is a good thing the video has value because Amazon Prime shipping… let’s just say I wouldn’t order anything breakable from Amazon these days.
  • I watched YouTube’s 2017 Rewind video and… boy do I feel old.  I got fidget spinners, the eclipse, and maybe that planking is dead?
  • I might be willing to sacrifice a few more celebrities if it would keep the president from provoking North Korea on Twitter.  Maybe we can get some deal on all the ones suddenly accused of sexual misconduct?

The Blog, internet, and other things

Highs

  • The blog, it still lives!
  • I managed to just about keep up the pace, posting more than 300 times.
  • People still show up here, read posts, and occasionally leave comments.
  • I still actually enjoy writing.
  • There is still a pretty active MMO blogging community out there.
  • There is even something of an MMO press still.
  • Net neutrality was good while it lasted.

Lows

  • More blogs I have known have fallen by the wayside or disappeared.
  • Reddit, Twitter, and Twitch are a far more common outlet for gamers than blogs and podcasts these days.
  • The alleged MMO press can’t really stick to MMOs most days without stretching the definition to mean simply “online multiplayer.”
  • Massively OP continues to demonstrate that they have some sort of institutional axe to grind when it comes to EVE Online and Daybreak.
  • My rate of posting, while still beyond my “every weekday” goal, continues to slacken.
  • People showing up and leaving comments is, likewise, falling off.
  • Do I really play anything besides EVE Online and WoW?  So what will I write about?
  • My typos are starting to become more common and more egregious… it now compares with Apple’s auto-correct in absurdity some days… to the point that I am starting to wonder if I have some sort of neurological disease.   Stapling machine.
  • I am starting to enjoy what I have written more than what I am writing, so that the looking back section of the month in review posts have started to expand considerably.  Blog founded largely on nostalgia likes nostalgia!
  • WordPress.com is getting more aggressive in monetizing free blogs, injecting more ads and pushing their subscription plans constantly.
  • For all of WP.com’s ballyhoo’d features I still have to keep a Rube Goldberg-esque series of technologies in harmony to have a dynamic blog roll in my side bar.
  • Patreon managed to screw a lot of small content creators by announcing (then withdrawing) a horrible cash grab that was badly disguised as an improvement.

Well, that is all I had from 2017 stuck in my brain.  The time left in the year is easily measured in hours at this point.  On to a new year.

Was anybody else looking back at the old year?

Reviewing My 2017 Predictions

As the end of the year looms, the arbitrary line in time where we declare things to renew, it is time once again for one of the default end of year posts in which I seem to enjoy indulging.  So here is the 2017 version of prediction reviews.

For past versions of this, both predictions and results, you can consult these links:

Way back during the waning hours of 2016 I scrambled to put together what seemed at the time to be sage and well considered thoughts as to what 2017 might bring.  I let those ideas loose and have now returned to the scene of the crime to see how they did out there in the harsh light of reality.

So what the hell did I think was going to happen in 2017?  And what was I on when I was thinking these things?

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

Well, no.  At BlizzCon they announced the Battle for Azeroth expansion with a cinematic and everything.  So there we are, the continue to conform to the “about every other year” pattern they had previously established.  0 points.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

Well, no.  No sequel has been announced in any form, China-only or otherwise.  Duncan Jones has been talking to people who ask and telling them what he would LIKE to do, but that is just so much chin music.  CCP has been talking about an EVE Online TV show as well and that doesn’t seem likely at this point either.  0 points.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

Well, sort of.  Blizzard came out of the gate in 2017 with that as a stated intent.  Then they made some small changes in the very conservative way Blizz can be at times, and more changes were mentioned at BlizzCon for 2018, which went live already, but there hasn’t been anything I would call radical and the game remains the also-ran in the MOBA category.  Still, better an also-ran than being shut down altogether.  4 points because some changes were made!  Twice!

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

Well, no.  I mean, I guess there might have been.  But hell, Wikipedia still says that Russell Shanks is CEO, and we’re pretty sure he was replaced by Ji Ham in October of 2016, so it doesn’t seem like anybody is paying that close attention to the whole thing.  Anyway, as far as I can tell there has been no change.  0 points.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

Well, no.  Daybreak still has a lot of positions open and there have been a few rumors very much on the down low, but publicly we’ve heard diddly divided by squat.  0 points.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

Half right.  Landmark went down like an overused sexual metaphor back in February.  But the game now known as Just Survive has lived up to its name, surviving another year.  There is even talk of work done on it.  We shall see.  5 points.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuestEverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

Well, no.  No more new currencies and things have been awfully quiet on the current Daybreak Cash front.  0 points.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

Well, no.  No new currencies and no new cards.  I was really kind of fixated on this a year back, wasn’t I?  0 points.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

Well, no.  Fixated is the word.  0 points.

10 – And Access for All – LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

Well, no.  I also wanted to make something out of this SSG/Daybreak partnership, probably so it would make sense.  Daybreak is there in the LOTRO EULA and all.  0 points.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

Well, no.  What happened to you NCsoft?   You used to be so reliably hard hearted.  The way you’re acting now its like your distracted by something else… like mobile games maybe?  Anyway, 0 points.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

Well, no.  Cloud Imperium doesn’t have anything far enough along to sell to the general public, so it continues on with its “milk the invested” strategy, now featuring claims for virtual real estate.  It’s almost enough for some sort of P.T. Barnum award at this point.  0 points.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

Sort of.  Hello Games has been quietly grinding out updates and there are new play modes and some work done towards what they call ” synchronous co-op” and what you and I would actually call “playing with other people,” but it is still a lonely universe.  Nobody of note has bothered to re-review it, but it does get a bit of nice press now and again.  5 points.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

Well, no.  We got moon busting instead.  Maybe, some day.  0 points.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

Maybe.  Note to self: When you make predictions like this you need to specify in the post exactly how the measurement will be done.  Maybe I had a plan a year back, but I forget.

Anyway, going to EVE Offline and looking at the twelve months before the Ascension expansion, the PCU average was ~32K.  The average PCU for 2017, the time span for the prediction, looks to be 35K.  That seems to just fit into the 3-5K range I predicted.  I’m going to give myself 10 points and move on quickly before anybody has time to contradict me.  Sorry, too late, I can’t hear you, la la la la la la la…

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

Well, no.  It hit the shelves in March and despite rumors there has been been no official sign that the core Pokemon RPG franchise will ever appear on anything but the dedicated handheld Nintendo hardware, currently represented by the Nintendo 3DS and its offspring.  0 points.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

Yes… mostly.  We got Pokemon Gold & Silver… and Pokemon Crystal was finally announced, but we won’t get it until next month.  I’m giving myself 9 points.

18 – Forsaken Avatar – Shroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

Well, no.  Not really.  I mean, they are pushing the game hard in every weekly update, but they haven’t convinced me it is ready for prime time.  0 points.

19 – Not Shipping – Camelot UnchainedCrowfallPantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

Okay, I had to get something right, even if it was something of a gimme.  I need more predictions like this.  10 points.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Mostly right.  The core was a new expansion, which was announced and shipped.  Heart of Thorns did not go free. though there was a slight discount to buy both expansions at one point.  Still, I think the expansion was the thing.  7 points.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

Hahaha… no.  That I had an expectation of action from Daybreak on that one that was clearly unrealistic.  Nothing new under the sun at Daybreak.

So now it is time to add up the score and… holy crap, I believe I have hit an all time low score for predictions.  That is 50 points out of a possible 200, or a 25% success rate.  I clearly need to invest in a new crystal ball!

Either than, or just admit that my predictions are mostly speculations just to give me something to write about in a market where I don’t really care very much for anything new.  Sometimes crazy predictions are enough to make things interesting.

Anyway, with that new low I have to start thinking about 2018.  What will the new year bring?

Note to self: Remember to put in more easy ones next year.

Blizzard Announces Battle for Azeroth and WoW Classic

The expected event from the opening ceremony of BlizzCon came to pass when Blizzard announced the next expansion for World of Warcraft.

Battle for Azeroth

The setting is a renewed struggle between the Alliance and the Horde.  Initial details and the cinematic can be found on the Battle For Azeroth site now up.

In what I can only call a surprise turn of events, given the company’s outlook up to this point, Blizzard also announced that they were working on a restoration of vanilla WoW.

Classic Vanilla Flavor

Called World of Warcraft Classic, there were no details presented as to when or how this might come to pass, just that it is now officially a work in progress. We shall see what comes of with this.  But they have a video at least.

 

Will BlizzCon 2017 Announce a New WoW Expansion?

It is that time of the year again and BlizzCon looms, just a few days off.  I am now in the midst of my internal monologue BlizzCon Virtual Ticket debate.

Virtual Ticket Decision Time

The Blizzard watching portion of online gaming journalists seem to think it is pretty much a lock that the next World of Warcraft expansion will be announced on Friday.  If that is the case, then I definitely want the Virtual Ticket.  As I have said before, there is often as much in the way people say things as the text they are speaking.

I have found, in years past, the quick transcriptions and summaries of video game journalists to not only fail to deliver the “feel” of a presentation but to occasionally boarder on near deceitfulness, albeit unintentional, when passing on information.

A problem of journalism in all areas of the press.  I used to swear at the local paper because every story I had first hand knowledge of would invariably contain errors in material fact.

Anyway, if there is to be an announcement about the next WoW expansion, I want to get the Virtual Ticket so I can watch and re-watch key presentations.

And certainly such an announcement seems likely, if only because of historical precedent.  Every other BlizzCon tends to be an expansion announcement, with the off year being the year the expansion ships.  The only exception this decade has been WoW Legion, and they had to announce that before BlizzCon in 2015 because Blizzard so badly fumbled content pacing for Warlords of Draenor that they needed some good news to off-set the record loss of subscribers they had to announce just two days before. (They subsequently stopped talking about subscription numbers, except for that Tom Chilton slip.)   They didn’t even have the cinematic set to go, a standard part of past announcements, which I found indicative of their haste to find good news to spread.

So aside from that exception, BlizzCon on odd numbered years seems to be a pretty likely time to hear about the next bi-annual-ish expansion.

The problem is that there hasn’t been the usual smoking gun.  Nobody who has been dumpster diving in the game assets has found a map of a new area or splash screen with a new name, just some sporadic items that could be part of a new expansion, but might not be.  And it is awfully early for Blizzard to be putting assets into the live game files for something that is likely to be at least a year off.  That makes me think all of that speculation is just finding the black cat in the dark room that isn’t there.

Meanwhile, Blizzard itself hasn’t screwed up and accidentally posted the new expansion page on their site early again or had somebody on the team leaking information, the usual harbingers of an expansion announcement.  Of course, the week is still young.  There is time yet.

And the BlizzCon schedule itself doesn’t exactly scream “expansion coming!” with extra WoW sessions with vague titles.

The kick-off of the BlizzCon 2017 schedule

Yes, after the opening keynote the next thing on the big stage is an hour of WoW, but aside from pride of place, that isn’t much different than the Overwatch or Hearthstone panels on the main stage.  (Well, Hearthstone doesn’t get a full hour because even *I* can tell you “what’s next” there, more card packs to buy lest you fall behind the meta.)

So while logic and my gut both agree that an expansion announcement is highly likely, but I haven’t seen anything yet that guarantees it.

And, without that announcement and the subsequent discussions wallowing in what details Blizz cares to share, is there anything else I want out of BlizzCon?

Overwatch – I don’t play it, so any announcement there has naught to do with me.

Hearthstone – Play it occasionally, very casually, with the free cards, so the inevitable new card pack announcement isn’t going to mean anything beyond being beaten by newer and more powerful decks.

Heroes of the Storm – Hahahaha!

StarCraft – I don’t care so much about StarCraft II and we already got the remastered version of the original StarCraft earlier this year, so not much for me there.

Diablo – Blizzard has said there won’t be anything for the Diablo franchise.  The schedule only shows two presentations, one about visual effects and one about community.  There is no “what’s next” panel.  Last year was the 20th anniversary, which got us a special event, and we got the necromancer mini-pack earlier this year, so unless they have news about that Diablo II remaster that came up back in 2015 (along with the StarCraft remaster which, as noted, we got!) it would be hard to come up with something that would interest me much.

Which leaves me with World of Warcraft and maybe a Warcraft III remaster, the third leg of that remastering thing from 2015.

So what do you think?  Expansion announcement or not?  Sounds like an excuse for a poll.

There is a poll above this line, which might get eaten by AdBlock.  I pay not to have ads here, so blocking them is mildly futile I suppose.

As I said above, I am inclined to believe there will be an expansion announcement, not only because of past history, but also because I am not sure how WoW goes forward for another year without one.  How could they NOT have an expansion announcement?  But one might also ask how they could let some past expansions molder for as long as a year with no updates.

I will probably get the Virtual Ticket.

But if there isn’t an announcement, will there be anything else worthwhile?

StarCraft Resurgent

The remastered version of the original StarCraft/StarCraft: Brood Wars went live last week.  For $14.95 you can have an updated version of the original 1998 title.

Splash Screen Remastered as Well

I picked up a copy just to see what a Blizzard remaster felt like.

This is a true remaster, in the same sense that something like Dark Side of the Moon was remastered.  There is nothing new to be found in the game, everything that ever was there is still there, from the slow AI to menus that you have to click and hold on in order to select from.  It plays exactly the same and you have as much of a view of the world on your screen, even if it now displays in 1600×1200 detail [for me, your resolution may vary] versus the 640×480 limit of the original.  Everything just looks and sounds much better.  We went from this:

Build order? What is build order?

To something more like this:

Still screwing up my build order at the opposite end of the same map

Graphics were updated, some colors changed, but Blizzard did not mess with game play.  It is, so far as I can tell after a couple of quick run, completely true to the individual and all of your favorite maps still work, even the one where you have all those minerals so you can turtle up and never bother expanding.  So the remaster is just that, in probably the purest sense of the word.

What is perhaps more interesting to me is that StarCraft also suddenly has a spot on the Blizzard launcher.  Older Blizzard games that they still sell… Warcraft III, Diablo II, and, until last week, StarCraft… have been stand-alone affairs, as they were before Blizzard had a unified launcher/sales platform.

Now however, there is StarCraft on the launcher, right down the list from its successor StarCraft II.  What does this mean?

Also here, Activision

It could be simple enough.  It might be that Blizzard now considers StarCraft, in its remastered format, to be worth promoting again.  They have invested in it, so they no doubt want to sell some copies since it now looks more like a title from this century.

But it is hard not to at least consider this a bit of a rebuke to StarCraft II.

StarCraft II occupies an uneasy position.  Nobody wants to be the sequel to one of the best selling games ever.  But even though StarCraft II has sold well enough to be considered a success on its own, moving 6 million copies, that still puts it just over half way to the 11 million copies the original sold.

StarCraft II suffered a bit from Blizzard’s conservatism in that they wanted to make a sequel to StarCraft that was different enough to sell, but not so different that it wasn’t StarCraft.  So it changes things up a bit, has a few new features, and looks better than the original, but when you play it you still know it is StarCraft.  But original StarCraft wasn’t that bad, so why make the move unless you really want another online-only title from Blizzard.

And, of course, StarCraft II never became the cultural phenomenon in South Korea that the original did.  Instead, when it comes to esports StarCraft II has to live in the shadows of both the fame of its predecessor and the new wave of MOBAs, such as League of Legends, which are the darlings of esports now.

So part of me wonders if this is a half-hearted attempt by Blizzard to turn the clock back and get the original StarCraft back in front of people so as to reclaim some of its past glory and a bit more of the esports spotlight.

Anyway, I do hope we will see the remastered versions of Diablo II and Warcraft III that Blizzard brought up back in 2015 along with StarCraft.