Category Archives: Blizzard

April Fools at Blizzard 2020 is Centered on Overwatch

This year it seems it was the Overwatch teams turn to embrace the day, or at least be the theme of the day.

Googly eyes at the hero select screen

It has become something of an annual tradition here to cover what Blizzard has been up to every April Fools.  There have been years where the company has put a lot of effort into various items for the day and there have been years where April Fools has barely been a thing at Blizzard.

This year seems like an outlier, with a different feel altogether.  In the past the level of effort has often correlated to highs and lows with the company itself.  Last year, for example, was not a great year for the company, so it wasn’t surprising that people had little time for this sort of thing.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging around the world, I was curious to see if there would be any mirth on the first at all.  Blizzard has been giving players benefits in light of the crisis, like an xp boost in WoW and unlocking all the heroes in Heroes of the Storm and co-op commanders in Star Craft II.  It would be completely understandable to give the whole April fools thing a pass.  But a little bit of humor in the right dose wouldn’t go amiss either.

And some of these ideas take a while to put together.  I am going to guess that the giant cat that Bhagpuss wrote about over in Guild Wars II wasn’t rolled up over the weekend but planned well in advance.

Which brings us to Overwatch and its googly eyes on heroes at the select screen, and in the play of the game clip at match end, which I mentioned above. (This came as a tip from Blueline Basher.  The screen shot is one from many in the forum.)

Following on that, over in the Heroes of the Storm forums there were April 1st PTR patch notes posted that included the addition of a new hero, Mercy.  I got that Mercy was an Overwatch hero, but I know so little about HotS that I couldn’t really tell if the patch notes were a joke or if somebody on the team unironically posted an update on April 1st.  And then I watched the video linked in the patch notes, which doesn’t really reveal itself until the very end.

 

The other Blizzard games, Diablo III, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, and World of Warcraft have all been quiet so far as April Fools is concerned.  No news items or fresh blue posts with an April 1 date.  It is still early in the day on the west coast, so maybe something else will pop up, in which case I will add it here, but for now that is all I have seen.

Update: We now have the annual WoW April Fools patch notes, in draft form, for patch 8.8.8.  Icluded in the notes:

  • High Dwarves
  • Kul-Tiran Worgen
  • Highmountain Goblins
  • New Essences
  • Class Updates
  • New WoW Classic Flavors

If you are jonsing for a Blizzard April Fools joke beyond those your best bet is to look at past efforts.  You can look at the posts I have done over the last decade:

If you want to go back further than that, there is the official Blizzard April Fool’s archive, though that stops at 2015, which is probably meaningful in some way.

In a way I am kind of happy they did something this year, if only to keep the long tradition alive.  They haven’t missed a year since 1999, even if some years have been rather sparse.

For other games you can check out the post over at Massively OP where they are trying to round up the MMO front.

Other April Fools items:

Blizzard in the Badlands

I saw this ogre shout while out in the Badlands and had to laugh.

Tell us how you really feel…

At this moment there is almost an aura of nostalgia about this being the top gaming news item a few months back now that we have Covid-19 and uncertain future ahead of us.

(I named my hunter pet “Blitzchung” back then and saw no need to change it.)

Honest Game Trailers Hits Warcraft III Reforged Hard

I mentioned at the end of January that Warcraft III Reforged had finally been released by Blizzard, linking out to some of the early problems with the work that people were complaining about.  I had pre-ordered it back after BlizzCon 2018 and was going to wait a while before tackling it because I figured Blizzard might have a plan to fix things.

Meanwhile, the heat on the game just kept getting hotter, and now it is the turn of Honest Game Trailers.

Honest Game Trailers has a tradition at hitting at the weak spots of titles in a way that is often light and doesn’t make you feel bad if you’re a fan.  For example, every video about a Pokemon game reminds us how close to the path GameFreak stays.  But we like it that way and can laugh at ourselves for our devotion.

And then there is their new video about Warcraft III Reforged… but I suspect that it might be tough to find fans of the remake give the tally of issues that have been discovered since it launched.  Have you seen its score on Metacritic?

I was surprised the user score dropped below 1

Ouch.  So instead of a self-deprecating chuckle that fans can have at their own expense, this episode runs more like an indictment.

Compare to that, the look back to the Warcraft RTS franchise they did about four years back is practically a love letter.

I don’t want to say that Warcraft III Reforged necessarily should have been a slam dunk for Blizz… though they still had a lot of goodwill and nostalgia going for them… but they set expectations back at BlizzCon 2018 that they not only didn’t meet, but features that were kind of expected were removed.  Oh, and to keep everything in sync, they were also removed from that copy of Warcraft III you own if you updated it to play online.  Not a good look for what SynCaine is calling the “New Blizzard.”

As for a plan, as reported elsewhere, Blizzard is offering “no questions asked refunds.”

That is less of a plan and more or a mea culpa I suppose, but it is something I guess.  And since this apparently being my month for disillusionment and refunds, I applied for the latter (having experience the former) and it was approved within a few minutes.  There are a series of options to choose from when you request a refund, but for this one “Regret” seemed to be pretty much on the nose.  I am sure that applies to Blizzard’s feelings as well at this point.

My credit card hasn’t been reimbursed yet.  The messaging is a bit muddled, with various responses telling me I’ll have my refund in 3, 7, or possibly 15 days.  But I expect it will come through eventually. (Edit: Just checked and I have been refunded within the 3 day estimate, so high marks for Blizz on that I guess.)

Maybe I should stop pining for a Diablo II remaster and just keep hoping they don’t mess up WoW Classic.  I am still enjoying that.

A Good Fourth Quarter for Blizzard… When Compared to the Rest of 2019

Activision Blizzard had their Q4 2019, and 2019 overall, financial results announcement and conference call yesterday.  You can find all the numbers, the slide deck, and the conference call recording over at the investor relations site.

The basic financials for the three groups were presented in the slide deck as usual.

Activision Blizzard Q4 2019 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

Revenue was down from last year’s Q4 results, when Blizzard pulled in $686 million, but operating income was up from $241 million.  They made more money from less income, so margins were also up from last year’s 35%.

Compared to the rest of the year, Blizzard’s revenue and income was heavily tilted towards the end of the year, giving it a distribution akin to its Activision stablemate, which tend to make most of its money when the latest Call of Duty launches every year in Q4.

  • Revenue / Income / Margin
  • Q1 $344M / $55M / 16%
  • Q2 $384M / $75M / 20%
  • Q3 $394M / $74M / 19%
  • Q4 $595M / $260M / 44%

For Blizzard the highlights were a bit of hand waving and repeated mentions and nods towards WoW Classic.

Activision Blizzard Q4 2019 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

A few things happened between the end of Q2 in June 2019 and the end of the year, but WoW Classic was the big one.  Bobby Kotick specifically said on the call that adding WoW Classic to the WoW subscription doubled subscribers over that period.  Yay WoW Classic.  But they didn’t mention a lot else, including what a rebuke to the current game the popularity of WoW Classic is, and were clearly avoiding bringing up some things.

I am reminded of the CEO of EA on the first earnings call after the launch of SWTOR where they declined to break it out or even mention it specifically.  He said that SWTOR was not their most interesting title or some such.  Battle for Azeroth is clearly not on the “interesting” list over at Blizz right now.

Nor is Warcraft III Reforged.

Over at Massively OP they reported on the question and answer segment of the call where Activision Blizzard was clearly ducking questions related to a few things they didn’t want to talk about.

The company also declined to break out total revenue and income numbers for the three divisions, something they have done in the past on their charts.  But we have the quarterly numbers.  I typed them in above.  I can also add them up to get totals.

In 2019 Blizzard made $1,717M in revenue for $464M in operating income, which gives a simple margin number of 27%.

In 2018 Blizzard made $2,291M in revenue for $685M in operating income, which put the simple margin number at 30%.

Basically, Blizz was down 25% in revenue and about 33% in income in 2019.  Not a good year for them in that regard, though all numbers are relative.  I am certain some smaller studios would think their dreams had come true if they pulled in a quarter of what Blizz did in 2019.

And will things get better?  The slide deck promises “follow-on” content for WoW Classic, but so far as I have seen that just means the remaining unlock phases.  Giving us Darkmoon Faire and the final raids will make people happy, but it isn’t going to grow the subscription numbers.  For what is in the plan, those numbers have peaked, dropped off some, then hit something of a steady state.  And we know that a steady state for an MMORPG is really a slow decline.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot on the horizon.  Yes, there is the Shadowlands expansion, but that won’t be until Q3 and, while it will likely cause a spike in revenues, it needs something special to hold people.

There will be more Hearthstone decks, because there are always more Hearthstone decks.  And Diablo: Immortal will go into regional testing at some point.  Didn’t NetEase claim that was done almost a year ago?  And Blizzard’s recent efforts like the 8.3 patch and Warcraft III Reforged have not been burnishing the company’s reputation for quality and polish.

Will 2020 revive Blizzard’s fortunes or just see them sink further?

Related:

Warcraft III Reforged

Earlier this week we got Warcraft III Reforged, the remaster of Blizzard’s 2002 RTS Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its follow-expansion Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.  The remaster was announced at BlizzCon 2018 and was in beta late last year.

The return of RTS again

I pre-ordered this back during BlizzCon 2018… we were only mad at them about Diablo Immortal that year… and have been looking forward to giving it a try.  Warcraft III was the last step before World of Warcraft for Blizzard.  WoW was very much a mash up of EverQuest ideas (the whole MMORPG thing), some Diablo II mechanics (itemization, skill trees, health pots, and so on), and the Warcraft III lore.

I went back to play Warcraft III a ways back to experience a bit of the pre-history of WoW and it was, with the hindsight perspective, a prototype of what WoW would become.  It is a key part of the Warcraft franchise, which according to SuperData Research, has earned $19.2 billion in digital revenues over the last 25 years.

Includes Hearthstone as part of the franchise. Does not include physical retail sales

Given all that I am keen to carve out some time to see what Blizzard has done with the remaster.  That will probably happen next month at the earliest, given that we’re at the end of the current month.  That will also give Blizz a chance to fix some of the bugs that have been reported already.

Of course, being the immediate predecessor of WoW is not the only the only thing Warcraft III is famous for.  It is responsible for kicking of another genre whose revenue no doubt eclipses that of the Warcraft franchise.

With the the Defense of the Ancients mod, the whole MOBA genre that would lead to League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm was created.

Who made $1.5 billion in 2019 alone?

Blurb also from SuperData Research.

Given that Heroes of the Storm is the distant third place runner in that race… and that Valve managed to grab control of the DOTA trademark which meant changing the games name from Blizzard DOTA to Blizzard All-Stars and later to Heroes of the Storm… Blizzard is no doubt still smarting at some level about all of that.  I mean, having to have this up on the Blizzard main site has to irk them.

DOTA USAGE
DOTA is a trademark of Valve Corporation and used under license. By making use of the term “DOTA” in any content posted on any Blizzard website or battle.net, you agree that use of this trademark is subject to Valve’s trademark guidelines found at https://store.steampowered.com/legal.

Not that I think having the DOTA name would have made Blizzard the MOBA winner.  They were almost six years late to the party, only launching Heroes of the Storm in 2015, by which time LoL was already king.  DOTA 2 rolled in two years ahead of HotS and was able to grab the “lesser alternative to LoL” spot in the genre.

But all the same Blizzard isn’t going to let that happen again.  So in there as part of their “Custom Game Acceptable Use Policy,” basically their mod rules, they make it clear up front in the first bullet that they own every aspect of any mod you make for the game:

Ownership: Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games. If for any reason you are prevented or restricted from assigning any rights in the Custom Games to Blizzard, you grant to Blizzard an exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, unconditional, royalty free, irrevocable license enabling Blizzard to fully exploit the Custom Games (or any component thereof) for any purpose and in any manner whatsoever. You further agree that should Blizzard decide that it is necessary, you will execute any future assignments and/or related documents promptly upon receiving such a request from Blizzard in order to effectuate the intent of this paragraph. To the extent you are prohibited from transferring or assigning your moral rights to Blizzard by applicable laws, to the utmost extent legally permitted, you waive any moral rights or similar rights you may have in all such Custom Games, without any remuneration. Without limiting Blizzard’s rights or ownership in the Custom Games, Blizzard reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to remove Custom Games from its systems and/or require that a Custom Game developer cease any and/or all development and distribution of a Custom Game. Please note that your Blizzard account can be subject to disciplinary action in event that you do not comply with Blizzard’s request or this Policy.

Nobody is going to create a whole new genre with their product and then walk off to another company like Valve to get it developed again.  Of course, this policy isn’t a huge incentive to spend time developing something new in the Warcraft III editor, but there it is.  The company has protected itself. (The statement applies to all mods for all Blizzard games, but was updated just before this week’s launch, so people are taking it specifically as a Warcraft III thing since the old version wasn’t so draconian.)

And so it goes.  I’ll still play it.  The MOBA thing doesn’t interest me in any case.  But I’ve already seen people grumbling about this pre-emptive land grab on Discord and Reddit.

Now we just need that Diablo II remaster, the third of the three promised remasters, though some of the original teams says that Blizz cannot make a remaster due to said team’s near disastrous mistake back in the day.  But this could also just be sour grapes as the Blizzard North team seems to be bitter about how things turned out for them nearly 20 years down the road.

Related:

2020 and Predictions for a New Year

I have to say that the brightest point about the new year is that we have now moved into a decade that should be easily referred to.  Gone are the “teens” or whatever we called the last ten years, so bring on “the twenties!”  Whether they are “roaring,” “soaring,” or simply “boring” remains to be seen.  (And yes, it is a new decade. It has been proven beyond doubt.)

And, as happens every year, it is now time for me to expose my ignorance and nonsensical notions by attempting some predictions about what may come to pass in this fresh new year.

The history of this ritual is documented.  You can go back and see just how often I am wrong, which ranges between “almost always” and “damn near always.”

As always, each prediction is worth ten points, with partial credit available.  And, just because it comes up now and then, I will remind people that predictions are not wishes.  What I think will happen and what I want to happen are generally pretty different.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

Scoring

That gives me 230 possible points from the core questions, plus the extra credit bonus questions.  Now I just have to sit tight and wait for eleven and a half months to see what comes to pass.

Reviewing my 2019 Predictions

The wheel keeps turning and we have arrived back in December again, which means getting back to stuff I said in January.  I predicted some crazy stuff then, much of which is just embarrassing in hindsight.  But hindsight is an exact science, while the future can be an impenetrable fog on a cold January morning.

While there are still a couple weeks left in the year my general rule is that if it hasn’t happened by December 15th it isn’t going to happen.  So barring a 4pm press release from Daybreak later on today I think I am safe calling it now.

This is a regular feature and, as such, you can go back and review how it has gone before… if you have that much free time.

But if you do not want to dwell on the past… then why are you here, that is my favorite thing… we can get right down to this year’s prediction scoring.  As usual, unless otherwise noted, predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit available.  So off we go!

1 – Early Classic Date

WoW Classic will launch on May 28, 2019.  As is the standard for this sort of guess at a date, I knock off 2 points for every week I am off.  That is about as concrete and clearly defined as a prediction can possibly be.  The early date will be to coincide with the end of the six month subscriptions that Blizz sold back in the fall as Battle for Azeroth isn’t holding people otherwise.

I was way off on this.  Blizz being Blizz shipped WoW Classic later than I expected.  And Blizz just went with another six month subscription offer to get people to stick around in BfA0 points.

2 – Classic Rush

The WoW Classic launch will be 2004 all over again.  There confluence of nostalgia and the end of the Battle for Azeroth expansion will conspire to cause WoW Classic to overflow quickly.  There won’t be enough servers leading to long queues to get on to the servers available.  This will lead to new servers being spun up and the classic server split routine from back in the day.  Blizzard will publicly compare the day one WoW Classic crowds to how things went at the WoW launch in 2004.

I hit some points on this one.  Maybe not exactly like WoW in 2004, but queues and not enough servers and all that were clearly present.  I’m taking 5 points for this one.

3 – Classic Plans

By the time BlizzCon roles around… we’ll get to BlizzCon itself in a bit… there will be a panel, or at least a mention in the keynote, about WoW Classic and moving on from vanilla into some of the early expansions.  How to do an expansion like The Burning Crusade without necessarily progressing the vanilla servers will be a key point of contention, with transfers and boosts straight to level 60 being discussed.

Eh, not so much.  WoW Classic got a mention in the keynote for sure… I mean, duh… but otherwise all WoW focus was on ShadowlandsWoW Classic plans will be next BlizzCon for sure, but this year it is 0 points.

4 – Classic Acceleration

By September 1, 2019 the WoW Classic rush will be over.  As we have seen time and again, the initial pile-on to play on a nostalgia server peaks pretty quickly as players, familiar with the old game and reliving their experience, move much more quickly through the game than back in the day.  This will lead to complaints about dead servers and calls for server merges or free transfers.  This will be even worse if Blizz goes full purist mode and doesn’t use the sharding tech that allows more people to use a single zone/server.

This one is tough.  Certainly progress for a lot of people has been much faster than back in 2004.  I think the percent of the population at the level cap is probably much higher than it was at a similar point in WoW history.  And populations have tapered off some, as one would expect.  My indicator is how many auctions are up in the AH on Saturday.  Early it was in the 500s, now it is below 400.  But a lot of people are still playing and I haven’t seen a dead server complaint yet.  I still run into people in low level zones doing the same quests.  It feels kind of like 2006 WoW… which I guess is what it is.  The Blizz sharding stuff worked I guess.  But 0 points for me.

5 – Next WoW Live Expansion

The early launch of WoW Classic to cover the Battle for Azeroth collapse will mess with the Blizzard’s timing the way that Warlords of Draenor did.  Look for Blizz to cover their sagging Q2 2019 earnings by announcing the next expansion in August, just after Activision releases their quarterly earnings report.

Nope, they waited until BlizzCon to announce.  0 points.

6 – The Long BlizzCon

There will be a BlizzCon 2019 on November 8 and 9.  The main stage will be taken over by new titles as Blizzard announces no fewer that five projects.  Three of them will be mobile titles and an actual PC Diablo franchise game will be another.  However, a Diablo II remaster will go missing yet again.

Well, it was November 1 and 2, so I was off by a week.  And, counting Shadowlands and Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, there were… uh… one, two… two and a half new projects?  There was nothing about mobile mentioned.  But the Diablo II remaster went missing again.  I’m going to give myself 3 points.

7 – Full Steam Ahead

Expect Steam to stay strong despite Epic, Discord, and Amazon trying to undermine it with better deals for developers.  Steam can and will play that game while carrying on as the one stop shop for all games PC.  Devs won’t get as big of a cut on Steam, but the installed base and success stories will keep any but the biggest studios from cutting ties.

Pretty much.  Epic made waves by luring away titles that were offered for pre-order on Steam to become Epic Store exclusives, but that didn’t go 100% in their favor either.  There was some backlash.  Microsoft gave up and starting putting titles on Steam.  Even EA made a half-hearted compromise with Steam.  They will sell their titles there again, but you still need Origin installed to launch them.  10 points.

8 – All Things PlanetSlide

PlanetSide Arena will launch… or go into early access or whatever… as planned at the end of January.  It will sell some boxes and make Daybreak some quick money.  But it isn’t going to steal back the Battle Royale market for the company.  Before spring turns to summer it will be showing peak numbers on Steam down near the H1Z1 end of the spectrum, lagging far behind PUBG and nowhere close to whatever Fortnite will report on its own.

Well, I got the ship date wrong.  It was September, not February.  I should never believe Daybreak.  But as for the rest?  It didn’t grab any market and became something of a divisive point in the PlanetSide community who didn’t want a re-hash of Battle Royale.  It isn’t dead yet, but rumor has it that Daybreak laid off most of the staff working on it.  7 points.

9 – Sayonara Norrath

I am going to go with the Prophecy of May and say that this will be a fateful anniversary year for EverQuest titles.  The 15th anniversary for EverQuest II and the 20th anniversary for EverQuest will see both titles celebrated, given special new content, and then put in what will be effectively maintenance mode.

Pessimism about Daybreak often ends up correct, but I think I am wrong on this.  We heard a lot around the EverQuest 20th anniversary about how the franchise has more players than it did back in 2015.  These two games will keep going, bascially because they have a core customer base and make money.  Expansions for the foreseeable future, but 0 points for me.

10 – NantGo Away, I’m No Good For You

The NantG Mobile joint venture between Daybreak and NantWorks will deliver on none of its promises.  They’ll keep H1Z1 alive, but there won’t be any new Z1 Battle Royale (unless they just straight up rename H1Z1), there won’t be any new esports league, there won’t be an esports venue next to the LA Times, and there won’t be any mobile version of Z1 Battle Royale, and there won’t be any hint, word, or anything about any EverQuest game, mobile or otherwise.

All that and they gave all the code back to Daybreak.  A complete flop.  10 points.

11 – Something Has Gotta Daybreak

All of this is going to add up to hard times at Daybreak.  By December 1, 2019 it won’t be the company it was on January 1, if it exists at all.  It will either be acquired wholesale by another company or be parted out, with somebody like Gamigo taking the the three traditional MMORPGs (EverQuest, EverQuest II, and DC Universe Online) while the rest either tried to stand alone with the what I will call “the children of PlanetSide” or being folded into the NantWorks joint venture.  I’ll be writing a farewell history of the studio before the year is out.

Well, things didn’t get that bad.  There were more layoffs, but the company is still afloat.  But the fact that they were creating alternate company names and social media accounts indicate that this wasn’t exactly miles from the truth either.  0 points, but I still feel like it could have gone this way and may still next year.

12 – Standing Alone Games

Standing Stone Games will feel the impact of Daybreak’s misfortune as well as the sting of losing a key LOTRO developer.  They will carry through the first half of 2019 on momentum, but the latter half will leave people wondering what is up as they scramble to fill the void that Daybreak’s collapse will leave on their marketing/publishing front.  The company will soldier on, but you won’t be getting anything like a 64-bit client from them.

With no Daybreak misfortune there were no repercussions.  I’ll have to remind myself next time to stop making predictions that assume previous predictions come to pass.  And just to rub my nose in it, not only did SSG launch a new expansion for LOTRO, they also delivered a 64-bit client.  Imagine that!  0 points.

13 – Non-Shippers

The following titles won’t ship in 2019, defining “ship” as being available for sale with having to hide their unfinished state behind terms like “early access,” “beta,” “alpha,” or anything that falls into that realm.  2 Points per title on this one.

  • Squadron 42
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Atlas
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Crowfall

10 points.  Not a one of them on the list made the criteria.  We didn’t even get Camelot Unchained into beta.  It is starting to make Star Citizen look positively progressive in getting test content to users.

14 – CCP Anomalous

The ISK problem in New Eden will be one of CCPs targets for 2019, so expect null sec anomalies and the rats that infest them to change to try and slow down the titan and super gravy train while not stomping too hard on the line members in the VNIs.  Mining, however, will remain unchanged.  Ore doesn’t bring ISK into the economy and should be self regulating based on price.  It isn’t, but it should be.

Spot on here.  CCP went straight at super and titan ratting for a few months, changing fighter damage application, anom respawn times, HAW weapons on titans, and so on.  And then came the Blackout and the VNI nerf and it was the line members who paid the price.  Ah well, they started on the rich, but eventually slaughtered the poor.  5 points for things before the Chaos Era.

15 – High Sec Changes

The War Dec changes will lead CCP to change up how suicide ganking works as well.  Right now it is too by the numbers, a solved problem for most cases.  CCP doesn’t want high sec to be safe, but right now the gankers kill with impunity and need a shake up.

Maybe, a little bit.  They finally implemented that “warp in 3 minutes or your money back” scheme and made auto pilot warp to 10km rather than 15km.  That annoyed gankers a bit.  2 points.

16 – Low Sec Attention Span

CCP has to do something radical for low sec in general and faction warfare specifically.  My guess is that low sec will continued to be screwed in general, but that CCP will decide they need to greatly restrict, if not outright ban, the deployment of Upwell structures in FW space.

I figured this one was going to be a complete miss, but the last game update in December changed a bit of how Upwell structure tethering will work in FW.  Give me 2 points for that at least.

17 – CSM XIV

CCP will change up the election process yet again, trying to get the candidate list out further before the actual elections, but it will be for naught.  Eight of ten seats will still go to null sec alliances.

Nah.  Same old election scheme.  But if you count Olmeca Gold as a null sec candidate… it is where he lives and hunts, so I do… 8 out of 10 seats went to null sec.  5 points.

18 – POS Bash

Player Owned Starbases, already left with little relevance in the game, will see their end come June, when CCP finally pulls them from the game, symbolically burning the source code on the summer solstice.  And so will go the POS, long a staple of the game.

Nope.  All the blueprints are gone so you cannot make any new ones, but if you have one still deployed you can still hide within POS shields even today.  0 points.

19 – Key FOB

The POS announcement will come earlier as part of CCP introducing a new Upwell structure, the player forward operating base.  The FOB will be something akin to a corp/alliance sized mobile depot that will allow players to repair, refit, and resupply.  It will lack tethering or defenses and, give how cheap a Raitaru is, will barely get used.

Again, no sale.  0 points.

20 – 3DS Exit

Nintendo, after paring down the platform releases to almost nothing, will announce the end of their long running handheld line.  They will cease manufacture, blow out the last units, and throw themselves fully onto the Switch.  It will be the end of the Pokemon era.  Pokemon will just be another game, not something that made a platform worthwhile.

I am annoyed to say that Nintedo is still pushing the 3DS/2DS line on their website a year after it was effectively dead.  The only reason I can see for buying one is as a replacement for a failed unit for somebody who has an investment in older games.  There are a lot of older games out there.  But the online support for most of them is long gone.  0 points.

21 – MADE Pirates

Pirates of the Burning Seas will end up being the first MMORPG to make it into The Museum of Digital Art and Entertainment.  The unique state of its current ownership will create a situation where the game will actually be preserved, mostly because it won’t survive on its own.  And that will be it.  The games people ache to see enshrined, SWG or CoH, will never get there.  The only possible entrants will be games so small and unknown that few will notice.  So The Saga of Ryzom will be a possibility.  The MADE should work on preserving MUDs.  That is something they could make happen.

Pirates of the Burning Sea found a player  group to support it.  MADE remains without an MMO to call its own.  0 Points.

22 – Shlock Boxes

No wide spread change to the legal status of lockboxes or the selling of power or pay to win.  Some small jurisdictions might try to put something in place, as happened in 2018, but nothing will go in that will change the bottom line.  There simply isn’t a political power block against this sort of thing that could make any difference for politicians.  At best it will be used as a political football to try and divert attention away from other things.  For example, the NRA doesn’t care about video games… until there is yet another mass shooting, at which point they need something to blame.  More of that.

At the end of the day, with all the talk that spun around gambling, nothing really changed when compared to 2018.  10 points.

23 – A Prime New World

Amazon’s survival sandbox whatever MMORPG New World won’t be ready in 2019, but the company will announce special benefits for Prime members when the game does launch.  I hope it will be something more than expedited delivery from the in-game version of Whole Foods.

Nope. New World has disappeared into a black hole for months after testing.  Apparently it might end up being a thing next year, but I’ll believe it when it actually launches.  0 points.

24 – Behindcraft

While Microsoft and Mojang haven’t given up on Minecraft – Java Edition, which is the Mac, PC, and Linux version of Minecraft that lacks a cash shop, it has clearly slowed down development.  The rest of Minecraft has pandas and new cats and stuff while Java is getting development snapshots still.  This trend will continue as the Java code base won’t release the panda update until March and that will be the only update to be released for Java in 2019.

I mean… sorta.  Java got the update in April, so close on that I guess.  But the updates have gone to something of an annual cycle, so getting another update… as opposed to bug fixes… was never in the cards to begin with.  2 points for being close on that date.

25 – Avatar’s Shroud

Shroud of the Avatar will see further constrictions, if not an outright closure, in 2019.  Like most early access games, it used up the goodwill of all but the most dedicated fans as it was being built out and now nobody is left interested in buying a copy.

Lord British has grown bored and his remote mechanical telepresense has rolled off into the sunset in Austin.  Potalarium is… no more I think.  Some other company owns the game, being setup as a last ditch effort to keep it alive.  Predicting the online aspects of the game going dark in 2020 wouldn’t be an outrageous stretch.  10 points.

26 – Guild Wars 2 Continues

The pattern seems to be an expansion every could of years.  That is about as deep as my insight into the game really goes at this point.  But given that, I expect they will announce an expansion this year set for launch in 2020.

Nope.  Not really.  They’re just re-arranging the deck chairs over there at ANet these days.  0 points.

27 – Cattle Royale

As we saw the final rounds of the MOBA shake out with Blizz cutting back on Heroes of the Storm, the culling of the Battle Royale pretenders will commence in earnest.  Anybody for whom Battle Royale is just a mode tacked on to an already solid franchise, as with CS:GO, won’t have much to worry about, but anybody all-in on that alone… that isn’t Fortnite or PUBG… will be dead or dying by the end of the year.  This will be most unfortunate for the late comers that show up this year.  Also, how they hell am I even going to score this one.  See what I mean?

I’m giving myself 1 point for H1Z1, Z1 Battle Royale, and PlanetSide Arena.  They all stunk on ice and remain alive only because somebody has an unrealistic hope still.

Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction

Sony buys back some, if not all, of Daybreak from Jason Epstein at the bankruptcy sale at discount prices.  If Daybreak is headed for a fall, who has the most to lose?  At this point, aside from Daybreak itself, Sony makes a tidy sum on the PlayStation 4 from DC Universe Online and, for the moment, H1Z1.  Maybe they also make a bit from PlanetSide 2, but I’d be surprised at that.  20 bonus points if it comes to pass.

No bonus points here.

Double Bonus Wild-Ass Prediction

Daybreak announces a new EverQuest title, sells pre-orders, never makes it to early access, and shuts everything down without any refunds.  I want 40 bonus points if that happens.

And none here either.

Score

Out of 270 possible points this year I managed to only earn a meager 82 points, giving me a 30% success rate, such that it was.  Still, not my lowest percentage ever!  I was at 25% in 2017, and have done worse than that.

As with Jeane Dixon, I am sure people will forget all the failed predictions and just remember the time I called the next expansion for EverQuest II and being based in Kunark or last year when my wild-ass prediction was that CCP would be acquired.  After all, that is all I am ever going to mention, right?

So another year has passed and now I have to think about what the next year will look like.  Will I go with New Year’s predictions again?  Or should I try something else to see in the launch of a new decade?  Is it time for another turn at something like goals, questions, or aspirations?  Tune in on January 1st to find out.

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