Category Archives: Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day – So Much Synergy

The expansion of MGI’s stake in gamigo is a positive step, as non-strategic shareholders will exit and gamigo can benefit from synergy potential with the other MGI companies. In particular, we see substantial synergy potential in customer acquisition for the gamigo games, in strengthening gamigo’s position in the mobile games sector and in the cooperation between the gamigo media companies and MGI’s media companies.

-Remco Westermann, CEO of Media and Games Invest plc in a press release

You know somebody is serious when they use the word “synergy” twice in a statement!

As reported over at Massively OP earlier this week, the primary shareholder in Gamigo, which operates a host of maintenance mode MMORPGs, including the Trion Worlds collection, which they acquired about a year and a half back.

Some of their pre-Trion collection

Back when they purchased the assets of Trion Worlds… the legal entity that was Trion itself imploded shortly thereafter… was the first time I took anything beyond a quick glace Gamigo, and it was difficult to figure out just what was going on.  They ran a lot of games… and quite a few MMOs, though who knows what people mean when they use that acronym these days… with a relatively small staff.

I think Blizzard has that many people working just on WoW

As for who owned the place, digging around Bloomberg and other sites was perhaps less than fruitful.  It was somewhere in a stack of companies, many of which were related to real estate investment.

Somewhere at the top of the tree

I suppose there isn’t much synergy between video games and real estate.

However, with the press release linked at the top, we now find that Media and Games Invest, plc (MGI), owned 53% of Gamigo and was moving in to acquire an additional 45% of the company, giving it a 98% lock on the whole thing.  I suppose we can just forget about Suryoyo Holding GmbH at this point.  Unless they are tied in to MGI somehow, they look to have cashed out.

MGI describes itself as an investment group and its other holdings include AppLift, which does mobile platform advertising, PubNative, which describes its business as “Advanced Mobile Monetization,” and ReachHero, which is into “Influencer Marketing.”

MGI itself is registered as a corporation in Malta according to Bloomberg, at an address that resolves to Papilio Services Limited, a company that specializes in getting companies Malta residency for tax purposes.  There is probably nothing shady in that, save for a desire to pay less in taxes.  If it had been Cyprus that would have been more of a red flag.

And MGI itself is 68% owned by Bodhivas GmbH.  Bloomberg doesn’t have anything on that, but it appears to be owned by Remco Westermann of the quote at the top of this post, so he owns the company that owns most of the company which he runs and which just bought out most of Gamigo, a company that was mostly owned by that company already.

There is enough synergy in that to make your head swim.

All of which doesn’t go very far in answering the question of what happens to the MMOs of Gamigo? That is, after all, the general topic of this blog.

Given the focus on mobile, ads, and monetization as well as the use of the words “synergy” and “efficiencies” I would have to say nothing good.  Then again, CEO Remco Westermann has been running Gamigo for a long stretch now (video of him at Gamescom 2013), so it isn’t like there is a new broom coming in to sweep away things.  Maybe nothing will change on the MMO front.

As always, we shall see.

Quote of the Day – The Hubris of a New Eden FPS

An Eve Online first-person shooter is CCP’s greatest folly

-Jeremy Peel, VG24/7

The money quote was actually the headline, but it will do.

Last month CCP announced changes to their first person shoot plans.  The work around what had been called Project Nova was going to move to a new team and be given a new name.

A number of news sites jumped on the news and declared that Project Nova had been cancelled.  Massively OP doubled down on that line and even brought up in their podcast.

In the end the problem is not that some web sites don’t understand what the word “cancelled” means or cannot resist a good headline.  The problem is that CCP did not simply cancel Project Nova, but kept the whole FPS idea alive with another team and under another (secret now) name.

The problem is that the only lesson learned after more than a decade (the initial DUST 514 announcement is coming up on eleven years) of thrashing and failure on the FPS front is apparently that they shouldn’t announce projects prematurely.  And they did this in the midst of telling us that the FPS project would keep going.  If you take the view that Project Nova was cancelled, then they effectively announced the new project right then and there.  They just were not going to tell us what it was called.  So we’ll make up something to call it I guess.  I’m going to keep tagging it as Project Nova just to maintain a thread of continuity.

And maybe things have changed.  Maybe being owned by Pearl Abyss and having its resources at the disposal of the project will lead to a different outcome.  Maybe better talent or a different vision will make it happen.  Maybe they will be less focused on tying whatever it is they end up developing into EVE Online and more focused on making a good game with its own virtues, a game that people would play even despite its connection to EVE Online.

But we won’t know until we see it, and the track record so far does not lend one hope.

Hat Tip to Wolf Brothers Inc for spotting this.

Quote of the Day for WoW Classic Fans

World of Warcraft® Classic drove the biggest quarterly increase to subscription plans in franchise history, in both the West and East.

-Activision-Blizzard Q3 2019 earnings report

WoW Classic brings another ray of sunshine.

Given what SuperData told us about WoW Classic previously, this was not unexpected.

This ray of sunshine however comes amidst some cloudy skies at A-B.

The company took a lot of heat at the start of the year when it announced layoffs in practically the same breath in which it announced record financial performances.  While people were outraged, the 2019 financial reports have supported the company’s pessimism.  Blizzard was especially hard hit with its margins dropping from 30% to 16% in Q1 2019 as Battle for Azeroth shed players while the company had nothing else new to attract people.  And things have remained down.  The charts show that Blizz has recovered a bit on margins, but now Activision is was down.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2019 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

And the talk at the presentation was largely about the long term tent pole products, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.  Even as they try to diversify their stable of titles, the old champions have to carry water for everybody.  Even the up part of company, King and its mobile games, the emphasis was on the Candy Crush franchise.

This is a very common problem, creating a popular and very profitable product then never being able to create something that could match, much less surpass, that product.

There was even mention of possibly beefing up the WoW team.  And, it was recognized that WoW Classic gave the company a boost during an “off” year when WoW did not have an expansion set to go.  There was some uncertainty about how sustainable WoW Classic would be over the long term.  And certainly, if they don’t do anything else with it, it will dwindle off to a much smaller population.

Finally, Q3 ended on September 30, 2019.  The Hong Kong debacle did not come to pass until mid-October, so that may put something of a damper on Blizzard numbers for Q4.  Opening up pre-orders for Shadowlands during BlizzCon may offset that somewhat, but that is a short term solution for a long term problem.

You can find all of the quarterly result information at the Activision Blizzard investor relations site.

Quote of the Day – How to get Your Industry Regulated

A Kinder Surprise Egg does not collect your data. The Kinder Egg does not learn more about the person buying and opening the Egg, such as his or her preferences for its contents. The Kinder Egg does not adjust its contents according to an algorithm based on population data. People do not link their credit cards to Kinder Egg vendors. Kinder Eggs are physical and can be given away or traded, unlike virtual items.

-Dr Daniel King, quoted at GameIndustry.biz

I like this quote because it gets to something I think people miss when it comes to the lockbox debate.  I often see people go straight for the idea that randomness equals gambling and therefore lockboxes should be banned.

Not gambling

And, while randomness is an element of gambling, it is not the sole defining factor.  That something like Kinder Surprise Eggs exist and are sold legally in many countries tends to indicate that randomness is not the only thing we should be considering.

Randomness is not necessarily bad.  And while I tend to discount when devs tell us people enjoy opening up lockboxes… I am sure the payday loan industry would tells us that people like getting money from them as well… you can find players who enjoy the randomness of loot drops and such.  Bhagpuss, one of the sources that pointed this quote towards me, is on that team.

This makes the gambling argument feels like a dead end to me.  You either have to change the laws to widen the definition of gambling (wait for the push back on that) or go the Belgium route and make a special exception for a specific set of circumstances, which leaves people with the question about why this one outlier is special.

Fortunately, the quote nicely brings up how randomness isn’t the sole factor that makes lockboxes odious to so many people.  There is the virtual nature of any prizes, the persistent reminders and offers from the cash shop, the fact that you have to pay to for a random chance to get things otherwise not obtainable in game, the manipulative practices, and the suspicion that the whole thing is rigged just to get you to spend more money.  Another quote:

“The ‘not forcing anyone’ argument is undermined by the fact that many of these games appear to employ systems that are designed to present constant in-game purchasing opportunities,” says Dr King. “The promotions and solicitations are unavoidable in some cases, and the game may have design elements that make it very frustrating to players unless they spend money.

“Our review suggests that there are some emerging designs that aim to capitalise on player data to present individualised offers that the system ‘knows’ the player is more likely to accept. So it’s not about being ‘forced’ — it’s about the game anticipating or making the best judgement about what the player is likely to accept.”

And while some people would be on board with the suspicion that things are rigged no matter what, the game companies have helped feed that paranoia themselves.  Further down in the article there are some patents game companies have filed for mechanics designed to get people to spend more.

Activision had an especially good filing back in 2017 for a system that would deliberately match players with people have superior gear from lockboxes to make you feel you need the same gear in order to compete.

Randomness is not bad in and of itself and we appear, as a society, to be okay with gambling, but when you start targeting people based on their behavior and rigging the system against them on the fly, all algorithmically and invisibly behind the scenes, we have strayed into what some might label as predatory practices that strikes against a basic sense of fairness.

Going down that path in pursuit of the most effective lockbox scheme is how you end up with legislators and regulators taking a close and person interest in your industry.  It has all been rather haphazard up to now, but momentum is building.

So it was probably no coincidence that there was a press release from the ESA about how various companies are now committed to displaying the odds of obtaining items from lockboxes on the very day that the US Federal Trade Commission was holding a workshop about industry practices around lockboxes.

The ESA isn’t dumb.  They know they need to do something as any regulation is going to hurt them.  They know they need to get in front of this issue and make some concessions before laws or regulations force them to back off their lucrative lockbox schemes.   And so they have a grand announcement.

And posting the odds somewhere would be a big step forward.

Of course, the ESA isn’t saying where the odds have to be posted, if they have to be in-game, or even linked to in game.  Posting them on some dead end path on their web site might be what they have in mind.  And how often do the odds have to be brought up to date?

This is the problem with something as empty as a “commitment” to something like the ESA has announced.  They want to sound like they are doing something good for the consumer without actually being bound to follow through in any reasonable fashion.  With no laws or regulations in place, what are you going to do if half of those committed platforms fail to follow through while the other half does so in the least helpful way possible?

Companies don’t go out of their way unless it is in their best interest.  Right now I am sure the ESA sees their problem as a few loudmouths that need to be appeased so they can go back to business as usual.  There will need to be a lot more government scrutiny before the ESA follows through.  But follow through they will, if the pressure gets high enough.  I remain convinced that the ESA will do the minimum amount needed… pinkie swear promises and strategic campaign contributions… to stave off regulation at least in the US.

And, in a final twist to the comparison in the initial quote, Kinder Surprise Eggs are not allowed in the US.  It has nothing to do with gambling or manipulation and everything to do with the FDA not allowing you to sell candy with toys embedded inside.  So we only get the Kinder Joy eggs, sans surprise… and given how rare they are here, few seem to buy them just to eat.

Quote of the Day – Being Risk Averse in Null Sec

The problem here is that being risk averse is the intelligent move. As stated above, null groups always have to be thinking about not just this fight, but the next one, the next ten, the next war. It’s coming. Whether you win or lose this one,  it’s coming. It’s coming whether you still have your space, your stuff, or even your pilots. If you’re in sov null, War Is Coming. And if you’re not getting ready for it, GET OUT. You have no business being there. Go to NPC null. Go to lowsec. Just get out of the way now, before the avalanche starts.

-Bill McDonough (Arrendis), Why the Null Sec Blackout Won’t Fix EVE

The blackout of local in null sec was met with much acclaim, followed by a variety of disappointments.  There is always something else needed to be done in order to “fix” null sec.

Arrendis has a piece up over at INN about why the blackout isn’t the fix for null sec or EVE Online.  In an epic length article he explores why null sec isn’t the blood bath of constant conflict that many feel it ought to be.  Leaving aside how much work a war can be for null sec leadership… the position of Sky Marshall has often been a one war job because it tends to burn people out quickly… Arrendis pins the blame for the risk averse behavior of null sec alliances and coalitions on one thing.  Can you guess what it is?  I’ll give you a hint.

Goonie Goons and their filthy titan blob

Titans.  Titans are the apex weapon in null sec.  To take and hold space over time, to be secure in your conquered domain, to be able to survive against hostile powers, you need titans.

But there is a catch.  A Catch-22, if you will.

In order to show up in null sec, take some space, and hold it over time, you need titans.  But you cannot get titans unless you hold null sec space.  You can build carriers and dreadnoughts in NPC stations in low sec, but for a titan or a super carrier you need to be able to deploy an ihub, install upgrades, drop a Sotiyo, and configure it correctly before you can start your first titan build.

So no null sec power will risk their titans, because to lose them is to cease to be a null sec power.  And once you’ve lost them and been evicted you’re out.  The best case scenario going forward is to have to depend on the titans of another power to cover you.

So how can CCP break this cycle?  Arrendis has some suggestions, which you should go and read.  I’ve stolen enough of his thunder here.  The article is long, but worth the effort.  Even the comments on the article are worth reading, save for the one that starts off with “Eh. Kinda too long to read.”

Anyway, you can find the article over at INN.

Quote of the Day – CSM Candidate Red Flag Issue

I don’t care if CCP sells bullets that do a little more damage frankly.

-Matterall, CSM14 interview with Jin’taan (at ~17:40)

The CSM14 elections kick off on Monday, so the time for candidate research is coming to an end.  You’ll soon be able to to cast your vote… at least if you are part of the minority of players that bother.

Elections start on Monday

Of note, Jin’taan did a series of interviews with some of the candidates.  He served on the previous three CSMs and used his insight there to ask some pointed questions of the people he interviewed, keeping to the same questions for each interview and not releasing any of the interviews until he was done.  This added an element of surprise and some discomfort to those being interviewed and give some unfiltered insight into the candidates themselves.  We got to see past the bland electioneering statements and get into the candidates.

Overall, Jin’taan interviewed just six candidates that he found interesting.  They were:

I like the format and I wish Jin’taan had been able to interview more candidates, however we get what we get.

Each of the candidates stumbled now and again but mostly adapt to the situation in which they found themselves… except for Matterall.

Matterall seemed to push back on the questions.  That is okay, I suppose.  However, some of the questions from Jin’taan started with straight up statements that CSM members would be asked for direct feedback or to bring up specific issues and Matterall, unlike every other interviewee, didn’t want to go there.  (He didn’t even want to endorse any other candidate in the final question.  Mike Azariah, for example, took that moment to endorse Matterall, but Matterall had no kind words for anybody else.)

In the end I came away with the impression that what Matterall doesn’t want to be on the CSM, that what he really wants is to consult with CCP on marketing and avoid in-game issues altogether except in the most general, high level sense.

And I guess that is a platform of sorts, even if he seems to be stating up front he won’t be doing the job that will be expected of him.

But then there was the monetization question.  All of the candidates interviewed by Jin’taan went pretty quickly against CCP selling any sort of pay to win.  That seemed like the obvious response, as a couple even said.  As has been pointed out many times, any scent of pay to win in a PvP game can bring ruin to a game.  Games that have run with that at times, such as World of Tanks and their gold ammo, have found themselves better off discarding that sort of thing.

Well, all of the candidates except Matterall.

Matterall, as the quote at the top of this post indicates, was quite indifferent to the idea of pay to win.  I will expand his quote just to put in more context: [stumbles and things like “uh” not transcribed]

I know that monetization is a big deal to people. It’s not a big deal to me. If the game can make money by selling objects like Fortnite can and make however much gazillions of dollars they are making, I am all for it. I don’t see any problem with it. I think what they [CCP] have done generally in the past has been good, as far as a guideline, but this is not something I am passionate about. I don’t care if CCP sells bullets that do a little more damage frankly. I don’t see that as completely destabilizing the game. Because the game is not all about PvP. The game is about other things too.

He goes on to speak about things he would like to see… more books and such, and says he has every copy of EON Magazine… then starts to sound somewhat dismissive of cosmetic offerings.  I came away feeling like he didn’t care for ship SKINs or clothing items.

This segment of the interview had me muttering aloud as I listened to it because there was so much wrong there.

First, I dislike the comparison to Fortnite.  That seemed to be a lazy grab at the most popular title out there that is a genre apart from EVE Online.  But more so, if that is your example, a PvP game that sells only cosmetic gear, it seems like a very strange jump to go from that to selling gold ammo.  If you think that is what Fortnite does, go educate yourself.  And that comparison gets even weirder when he sounds so uninterested in cosmetic options.

Second, one of Matterall’s repeated campaign slogans is that he listens to everyone.  That seems to be something of an idle boast if he can blithely state that gold ammo isn’t a big deal.  Or maybe he does listen, but just doesn’t care.  Either way, if this is a hot button issue to you (it is to me, if only for the survival of the overall game) then Matterall would clearly not be representing you on the CSM.

Third, another of his campaign statements is about the unity of the game (you can find this over on his CSM Wire page for CSM 14), that he doesn’t like to break things up into null sec, high sec, faction warfare, and whatever.  As he writes, “those distinctions don’t make sense to me.”  But here we have him chopping off part of the game, PvP, which I would argue makes up a critical core of the game… you don’t have an industry game or a mining game or a hauling game unless people are buying replacement ships and modules due to losses… in a way that seems diametrically opposed to his stated position.  If you want to take a holistic view you cannot then set aside major parts of the game.

Fourth, his attraction to literature as a monetization option seems misplaced.  Not that I do not share his interest.  I have many back issues of EON Magazine and most of the books and what not.  The thing is, these are not, nor ever have been, a money making ventures for the game.  Things like that, and the EVE Online Store (about which I have written), are marketing.   They don’t make money, they promote the game.  Rare is the gaming company that turns a profit, or breaks even, on that sort of thing, and I feel like somebody who wants to go engage CCP about their marketing efforts ought to know that.

Finally, I think that Matterall, who has been playing since 2008 and who has done a couple of presentations at EVE Vegas about the game’s history, ought to be aware of what happened the last time CCP brought up the idea of gold ammo and cash shop ships.  While the event is erroneously called “Monoclegate” because the press likes a snappy term (with “gate” appended) for a headline, the backlash against CCP with the Incarna release was driven in large part by the leak of the Greed is Good internal publication that seemed to chart out a plan to monetize all the things, selling special ship and ammo and implants and whatever in the cash shop.

That did not turn out well for CCP and to be indifferent to that is a serious disqualifying factor to my mind.

Gold ammo – Artist concept

So there we go.  I’ve spent time talking with Matterall at EVE Vegas and we get along.  I don’t particularly want to bash him.  I was even inclined to slip him onto my ballot… not in first position, as he was asking, but somewhere… however now I cannot bring myself to put him on the list.  This interview changed my mind.  It was almost 30 minutes of empty rhetoric and high concept where the one concrete issue that came up he said it didn’t interest him.  That was only a couple minutes out of the interview, but it was the only part where the rubber met the road really, the only part where we had a glimpse of him being handed an actual topic of substance, and he didn’t have the moxie to go there because he didn’t really care.

Matterall, if you really do listen to everybody, listen to this:  I think you went far astray on this one.  You differentiated yourself, but not in a good way.

I hope, if you do managed to get elected after this faux pas, you are willing to do the job you’ve asked for and not just the bit you say that interests you.  My cynicism regarding CCP and its use of the CSM, reinforced by the recent Jester post-NDA AMA, leads me to believe that somebody trying to blaze their own path is likely doomed, if not to failure, then at least to irrelevance.

This naturally leads to something of a larger question about what qualifies somebody to be on the CSM?  Is having strong but more general opinions about internet spaceships, or the marketing thereof, enough?  Should being able to discuss and evaluate the often intricate mechanics of the game in a detailed and authoritative way the sole requirement?  Jin’taan and Jester both strongly imply that is really what CCP wants and, that if you fail at that, if you cannot engage at that level, you may as well stay home.  CCP has proven in the past that they control the discourse, that if they don’t want to listen that no member has any real agency within the confines of the CSM unless CCP grants it to them.  The only time that the CSM has successfully defied that was during the Incarna and Greed is Good imbroglio.

So do you vote for somebody you know will play by CCP’s rules and take the wins they can get, or do vote for somebody attempting to bring their own view of the role of the CSM and accept that it may well be a wasted vote?

Addendum: I was just early, Jin’taan has more interviews and two more just appeared.

On the monetization question, Olmeca Gold follows the safe line, being against in game items, as well as being worried about the skill points that CCP has been giving away.

Juris Doctor took the question and essentially argued in favor of what CCP already has (PLEX and skill injectors), which I guess is a position.  When pressed with a follow up to get him to actually answer the question, he went down a theoretical path about being able to buy alternate star gate routes in New Eden (Amarr to Jita or Dodixie to Pure Blind were given as examples) which sounds like a something ripe for exploitation, such that doubt CCP would ever embrace it.  So I’m not hot on Juris Doctor being on the CSM either. but at least he didn’t wave off gold ammo as something that didn’t matter.

Quote of the Day – Goblin Gets His Due

Gevlon was right

-The Mittani, Imperium Fireside May 4, 2019

I previously mentioned the ongoing conflict in Perimeter over control of trading citadels.  Last year the Imperium and Legacy Coalition began to assail the trading citadels set up by Pandemic Horde.  Those were blown up and replaced by citadels run by TEST alliance, including a Keepstar.

Shop at the sign of the middle management dino

Why Perimeter?  Well, it is one of the eight systems that connect directly to Jita.

Jita and Perimeter

More importantly, it is one of the five neighboring system in The Forge, the same region as Jita, so if you are in Jita and searching for something to buy, goods in Perimeter will show up in your results as well.  As to why Perimeter won out over the other four, my guess is that being on the direct route to Amarr, the second trade hub of New Eden, probably tips the scales.  People try to set up in the other systems, but the listings there are even more meager.

Anyway, since the swap over to Legacy Coalition holding the trade stations in Perimeter a low scale conflict has carried on to try and wrest control away or at least make life annoying.  I had not heard much about that conflict of late.  As it turns out that was likely due to negotiations going on over the whole thing.

At yesterday’s fireside The Mittani announced that a deal had been reached and that going forward the Imperium, Legacy Coalition, and Pandemic Horde would all work together to defend the structures of the Tranquility Trading Corporation, consisting of the Keepstar, two Sotiyos, and one Tatara in Perimeter.

Instead of fighting, each of the three groups will now share in the profits from the trading complex.

This is where Gevlon comes in.  Somebody sent the link to one of Gevlon’s posts where he predicted something like this would come to pass to The Mittani, and Mittens had to admit that Gevlon was right on that particular point.  Some null sec powers did come together to hold a trading citadel together rather than fighting over it.

Of course, Gevlon was wrong on just about everything else in that post.  It is debatable as to whether or not the Imperium, led by Goonswarm Federation, Legacy Coalition, led by TEST, and Pandemic Horde add up to being “everyone significant” when it comes to null sec powers.  It most certainly does not mean peace between the three powers.  Even as I was writing this I got a ping to log in and shoot Pandemic Horde and expect to continue with the campaign against them and NCDot in TKE and The Spire, striking straight at their rental income.  These are not staged “gud fites” but an actual campaign meant to hurt them.

And then there is the effect on Jita.  While some trade is going through Perimeter, it seems to be mostly focused on some high price density items, things like PLEX, skill injectors, and the like.  Trade at the station at Jita 4-4 carries on pretty much as before, three years after the Citadel expansion brought this player run trade center option to the game.

Whether people keep trading in Jita out of habit, ignorance, or mis-trust or player run citadels… some of those trade citadels have been blown up after all… doesn’t matter, people still do most of their buying and selling in Jita.

This means that Gevlon’s assumptions and ISK estimates are all completely bogus.  If his prediction had come to pass we should have seen some sort of drop in the Broker’s Fees collects on the ISK sink side of the chart in the MER.  However, compared to his numbers from the February 2016 MER, the broker’s fees collected were actually up in the March 2019 MER.

As for how much the owners of the trade citadels have to discount their fees in order to attract business… well, he was way off once more.

Fee comparison

In Perimeter they had to cut the broker’s fee to the bone to get the business they have, and that hasn’t moved very much out of the much more expensive Jita.  Even if they got the level of business he predicted, the net profit would be nowhere near his cataclysmic outlook.

And Gevlon said he left EVE Online because of this, because of his grim predictions of what was to come with player run markets in citadels.  I guess he could have stuck around.  The null sec empires are still getting rich, but it doesn’t have much to do with markets in Perimeter.