Category Archives: World of Tanks

My Gaming Forecast for 2020

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.

-Woody Allen

There are days when I want to quit my job, sell the house, cash in my 401k, and do whatever the modern MMO equivalent of buying a VW bus and following The Grateful Dead would work out to be.

I can’t quite imagine what that would be, and it is all a bit of fantasy, as much as the virtual worlds I wander around in.  Also, I have a now adult daughter whose college education needs paying for, not to mention what my wife might have to say about such notions.  And my 401k only recovered from the last recession due to the money I have shoveled into it since.

Reality dictates a more modest vision.

So when a part of me wants to fly free, do new things, and maybe actually play Project: Gorgon or some other game less than a decade old, I have to temper myself with an examination of what is really likely to happen.

And so any such list has to start grounded, setting a foundation of the likely or obvious.  What will I play in 2020?  Here is the forecast.

The Sure Things

Games I will almost assuredly play in 2020.

  • WoW Classic

I’ve almost certainly logged in and played this, even if just for a short time, since the clock struck midnight and the new year was rung in.

And why shouldn’t I play it?  I am enjoying it, I have friends to play with, and it is a voyage both nostalgic and fulfilling.  Four months into the game and in our 30s, the instance group is maybe a third of the way

  • EVE Online

The way my main account is setup right now I will remain an Omega clone into 2021 thanks to one final bump from the Fansite program.  There is no reason not to log in and keep things going.  But I am also feeling a bit weary of New Eden.  I have been subscribed and playing since late 2011, when I came back to see if the Crucible expansion would be a worthwhile return point after the fiasco of Incarna.  In December of 2011 I went to null sec and straight into a war and have been there ever since.  But wars in null sec are barely a thing anymore.  I’ll play some EVE Online, but it might be time for a change of scenery.  But what I may or may not do is something for another post.

  • EverQuest II

My last couple of runs back in Norrath have gone pretty well.  In fact, I did so well in November that I bought the Blood of Luclin expansion, having managed to get a character up to the level cap and ready to take part in it.  Having thus invested it seems pretty sure that I will play.  How long I will play is another question though.

The Likely Candidates

Titles that history indicates are probably going to get played.

  • WoW Shadowlands

This would have been a sure thing a couple of years back.  When was the last time I didn’t run straight to a WoW expansion launch? (Answer: Only twice, The Burning Crusade and Mists of Pandaria, both arguably very good expansions.)  But a decade haunted by wrong turns leaves me less than excited at the prospect of another WoW expansion.  We’ll see if I am saying that when the pre-expansion events kick off.

  • RimWorld

It seems probable that I will go back to this for a bit.  The build up part, the struggle to get to a stable state that can withstand setbacks is still quite enjoyable.  Whether I will be able to endure another long mid-game is another story.  But it is an easy game to pick up and while away the hours with as I listen to podcasts or audio books.

Possibilities

Titles I have a fondness for and which I wander back to now and then.

  • Civilization V

When I am in a mood for a strategy game there is always Civ V there waiting for me.

  • Stellaris

If not Civ V, then this is the other likely alternative.

  • World of Tanks

I keep thinking I am going to log in and play this again.  I think I like looking at the tanks more than I like playing, but it is still fun.

  • Minecraft

While I took down the Minecraft Realms server due to nobody playing, a big new update might get me back to poking around.

  • The Witcher

I just bought it on Steam for a buck and half, maybe I should play it.

The Long Shots

I might log into these now and again, but I am not sure I will commit to any real play time.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

The Legendary server proved to me once again how much I like the initial 1-50 content.  I suppose I might wander back into that.  The problem is, as I have said before, the Siege of Mirkwood is an impenetrable barrier for me, and the live servers hold no temptation.

  • EverQuest

For all the nostalgia I spew about EverQuest back in the day, it has not always aged well.  It looks and runs better than any 20 year old game has any right to, but that doesn’t mean it is the best game for me.

  • Diablo III

Not beyond the realm of possibility if I get the simple ARPG urge.  The problem is that I really only enjoy two classes in the game and I have played those multiple times.

  • Elite: Dangerous

Somebody said they have automated docking.  Since I could never quite master that, maybe it is worth a look back in at the game.

  • New World

I played in the closed test phase for Amazon’s new game last year.  It had its merits.  It was kind of interesting.  I just don’t know that it really grabbed me all that much.

I Should Make Time

But if history is any indicator, I likely won’t.

  • Project: Gorgon

I keep thinking I should go play, but it is always a few places down the list.  You find the time to do the things you really want to do, so that I have not found the time must mean I don’t really want to play I guess.

  • Grim Dawn

I should dedicate a month to just getting into this.  I dipped my toes into it previously, but didn’t get that far in.

  • Something Else from Steam

My list of unplayed, or underplayed, games in my Steam library is annoyingly long.  It weighs upon me if I stare at it too long.

Something New?

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you’re probably of the opinion that new isn’t really my thing.  And it would be difficult to argue with that, though I would point out that a lot of “new” seems synonymous with “the same old stuff we’ve seen before.”  I think the only “new” I saw last year was the auto battler genre.

Still, I live in hope.  Maybe there will be something new in 2020 that will catch my eye.

My Games of the Decade – A Look Back from 2019

I have noticed that a number of people and gaming sites are taking a moment to celebrate the coming change in the tens column of the year to take a look back at the last decade, the teens, and to pick out high and lows and bests and worsts and whatever.  As an end of year summary post is an easy pitch, so too must an end of decade summary pitch.

I didn’t do this back at the end of 2009.  I know, I checked and back in December of 2009 my posts… all 38 of them… showed only a low level of reflection, and that involved reviewing my gaming goals and predictions.  But the blog was just past the three year mark back then and I had yet to settle down and recognize how a recurring topic makes an excellent writing crutch.

With that in mind and some empty days to fill I thought I would join in on the retrospective action and pick out a list of what I consider to be my games of the last ten years.  I do have a decade of blog posts to refresh my memory here.

How I picked them is vague mixture or memory, blog posts, and any measure of how much time I spent with a given title over the time frame.  And, just to make this a bit more difficult, I am going to try to break these out into categories like some sort of award show, which will allow me not only to pick a winner, but then ramble on about other possible choices.

MMORPG – EVE Online

MMORPG is a special category in this list.  First because MMORPGs are the main focus of this blog and, second, because MMORPGs constantly renew themselves with expansions and updates.  So, unlike the other categories, I am not limiting this to games that launched this decade.  I would be hard pressed to pick an MMORPG I cared about that launched since 2010.  Maybe Rift?  And Rift fell apart for me with the first expansion.

So, with that out of the way…

Based on hours spent playing, number of posts written, and amount of time continuously subscribed, it would be impossible to pick anything besides EVE Online.  I’ve been playing EVE Online in a continuous arc since November 2011, when I came back to the game to see if the Crucible expansion would get the game back on course after Incarna.  And then I got tied up in the tales of null sec, where the stories are all player created, and have stuck around as a player/tourist ever since.  And, to loop back on how MMORPGs change, 2019 EVE Online is a lot different than 2011 EVE Online was.  Better or worse is up for debate, but definitely different.

As for other choices, World of Warcraft would probably place second, but a distant second.  I might even make it third behind WoW Classic if that wasn’t barely four months old.  Three disappointing expansions (Cataclysm, Warlords of Draenor, and Battle for Azeroth) and an inability to make things better has left me flat on the game.  They heyday of WoW was last decade, which is what WoW Classic is telling us.

And after that, what other choices could I justify?  I spent stretches of time in LOTRO, EverQuest II, Rift, Neverwinter, SWTOR, and a few others, but not nearly as much as either EVE Online or WoW.  So New Eden gets the nod, as nothing else comes close.

MMO – World of Tanks

I will make the definitional cut between MMORPG, where you can see or interact with hundreds or thousands of players in a virtual world, and MMOs, which are just online titles where a bunch of people can be in the same lobby, but actual game play is in limited arenas.

This was kind of a tough one, as I have pretty clearly spent more time playing War Thunder and I haven’t spent any time playing World of Tanks recently.  But when I do play, I like the way World of Tanks looks and feels, even if I am bad at it.  Also, I am way worse at War Thunder.

Other potential titles for me here included World of Warplanes (where I am even worse than War Thunder) or maybe World of Warships, though that never really clicked with me so my time with it is pretty minimal.  I never did play Destiny or the sequel or anything else along those lines, so World of Tanks it is.

Action RPG – Diablo III

This could arguably fall under the MMO banner, but I have chosen to break it out because there was actually some competition here.  The ARPG race this decade included Diablo III, Torchlight II, Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, and even Titan Quest Anniversary Edition, all of which I played.

In the end though, I have to give the nod to Diablo III.  It started off badly, with the real money auction house yielding results predicted before launch and an itemization scheme that seemed designed to make that situation even worse.  But somebody at Blizzard finally got the memo and, with the Reaper of Souls expansion, things were turned around.  The good game play and simple story let me click away happily for many hours.  I have spent as much time playing Diablo III as all of the competition combined.

On paper Torchlight II ought to have been the winner, with offline play and mods and such.  But all the mechanics in the world couldn’t save it from simply feeling bland and aimless.  And Path of Exile, while it felt closer to the Diablo II source of the ARPG genre, died for me under latency issues that they never fully solved and the desire to be something of an MMORPG which made going back later a pain as they had added so many additional bits and pieces to the game.

Grim Dawn probably gets short shrift in all of this.  I feel like I should go back and play that some more, but I never quite get to it.  If I were CCP, Grim Dawn would be my Faction Warfare updates… always on the list, but never high enough to get the attention it deserves.

While I do not go back with every new season, I have ended up playing and enjoying Diablo III more than any of its competition.

Strategy Game – Civilization V

For me, Civilization V is pretty much the culmination of the series.  I have owned and played the whole run, plus the side paths like Alpha Centauri (good) and Beyond Earth (not good), and Civ V is it for the decade.  And I write that having played Civ II, Civ III, Civ IV, Civ VI Alpha Centauri, and Beyond Earth this decade as well.

Civ V isn’t perfect.  It has flaws, both unique to itself as well as the usual flaws of the series (slow and overweight at launch along with the whole mid-game drag), and it was controversial at the time, but it has weathered the decade for me.  I was annoyed I had to make a new Steam account to play it, having rejected Steam after Valve screwed up my old account in the early HalfLife 2 era.  But I got past that.  I played it in 2010 and I was still playing it in 2019.  Hard to argue with that.

Other possible picks were direct competitors like Stellaris, excellent war games like Vietnam 65 and Unity of Command, literally the rest of the Paradox strategic game catalog, which I own, as well as RTS titles like Age of Empires II HD and a good chunk of the Total War series, all of which played and enjoyed.  But for my strategy title of the decade I cannot justify anything besides Civ V.

Builder Sim – RimWorld

I created this category pretty much to find a place for RimWorld.  I mean, I guess it is something of a genre.  The direct competitors for this on my list included Stardew Valley, Oxygen Not Included, Medieval Engineers, Space Engineers, and Kerbal Space Program RimWorld was pretty much a lock here… and then I looked down the list of games and found Minecraft.

Minecraft isn’t an MMO or MMORPG and is a full on multi-player builder sim and holy cow I spent a lot of time playing it this decade.

But, technically, Minecraft became available to backers in 2009.  So it is really a last decade game, no matter how much I played it.  The early access thing muddies the water.  And while it gets updates, it doesn’t get the MMORPG exemption in my book.

So RimWorld gets the nod, but with an asterisk for Minecraft.

First Person Perspective – Portal 2

Another force category.  When I was looking down the list of shooters I had played over the decade, thinking that FPS could be a category.  But then there were also a few outliers that were not really shooters but which had the first person perspective.  That led me to expand the category, which then went from me trying to balance Sniper Elite III and Doom to just handing things over to Portal 2.

And I think that is the right answer.  I played the game, I own the sound track, my daughter and I know the words to some of the songs, and it had enough cultural influence that, of the games I played, it has to be the winner.  Also, it was a very good game.  But I also own none of the Call of Duty or Battlefield titles from this decade either, so I am not much of a first person perspective fan.

Racing Game – Need for Speed World

I actually own a few racing games.  More than I expected, such that I decided I had better make this a category.  This is one area where console titles might fit in.  But when reviewing what I played, the one game I miss is Need for Speed World.

It had a lot of problems, not the least of which was being published by EA, but its simplicity and bits of destructible terrain and shared world and excellent customization options made it something I spent a lot of time playing.  And, honestly, there hasn’t been anything quite like it since.

Console Title – Pokemon SoulSilver

Proof that I am not much of a console gamer.  Yes, we have still have a Wii and a PlayStation 3 still. The former is now in a box and out of sight and the latter has spent more time streaming or playing DVD or BluRay discs than actually acting as a game console.  I did put in some time with both, most commonly with the LEGO Star Wars titles.  But that was really a last decade thing.  The Nintendo DS and 3DS series was really the console I played this decade, and for me that console is all about the Pokemon titles.

And if I have to pick one of the DS titles… and I’ve played them all… it has to be Pokemon SoulSilver, where I finally caught them all.

Mobile Game – Pokemon Go

As with console games, I don’t really play all that many mobile games.  Stretching the definition to include things on the iPad I probably have a few options.  I played Neko Atsume (in Japanese, back when it was cool) and Monument Valley and DragonVale and Words With Friends and Prose with Bros and some less memorable titles.  Ticket to Ride got a lot of play time, though I’ve faded on it over the years.  And let us not forget all the time I spent hate-playing Candy Crush Saga just to try to beat it without paying.

But the one mobile game I get out and play every day is Pokemon Go.

It helps that it is the one and only video game my wife plays, so we play together.

Crowdfunded Title – Defense Grid 2

This was a depressingly easy pick because almost every crowdfunded gaming title I have been involved with either hasn’t shipped (e.g. Camelot Unchained, Star Citizen) or was kind of shit (e.g. Shroud of the Avatar, Planetary Annihilation).  Some I haven’t played (Project: Gorgon) and others fell apart (Hero’s Song). This decade saw the emergence of crowdfunding, along with early access, but it hasn’t really been a boon for my own game play.

But the one outlier was Defense Grid 2.  I played that and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Its only problem was that it wasn’t quite as good as the original Defense Grid: The Awakening.

Pirate Server – Nostalrius

I guess the polite term now is “emulator,” but they are still pirate servers.  They still exist by stealing somebody’s IP and work, and the noblest intentions in the world won’t change that.  These days every shut down online game that ever had half a dozen loyal customers seems to have an emulator project going for it.

That means there are lots of such servers out there to choose from.  There are even competing projects for games like Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes, not to mention the actual server software from CoH out in the wild.  I am still waiting for the legal shoe to drop on that one.

But Nostalrius, and the family of WoW emulators that preceded it, have racked up a special achievement.  They got a company as conservative as Blizzard to roll out the version of the game they were trying to bring back.  These servers were popular enough to get the company’s attention and had enough support that the idea managed to get past the obvious corporate reluctance to go there.

Basically, WoW Classic is a thing due to the work that went into pirate servers like Emerald Dream and Nostalrius.  Bravo!

Best Hardware Purchase – Blue Microphones Snowball

Not really a game thing, though something that helped with gaming.  Having gone through various headsets with good earphones but crap microphones I decided to opt out of the voice side of the headset thing by buying a decent desk mic.  So during the 2018 Black Friday sales found the Blue Microphones Snowball on sale and bought it.  And it has served me well ever since.  I am now free to use whichever headphones I like and nobody complains that they cannot hear me anymore.  I am fully ready to be a podcast or streaming guest!  Of course, I have also reached a point of irrelevance such that people have stopped asking me to be guests on such things, but I am ready if my topics ever begin to trend again!

Worst Hardware Purchase – Mineserver

I almost skipped this as a section, being unable to think of any gaming related hardware I bought in the last decade that was worthy of scorn.  And then I remembered the Mineserver.

Technically, I didn’t purchase this, I backed it as part of a Kickstarter campaign.  The campaign, launched by tech columnist Robert X. Cringely in Fall 2015, it was supposed to be delivered by Christmas that year.  The campaign funded successfully and we got rosy reports initially.  This was going to be easy.

And then it wasn’t.  This is what I get for trusting in the word of somebody who is not technical to assess the technical issues of a project.  I should know by now that things that look easy to those on the sidelines are often not easy down in the code.  Also, Cringely’s next successful business venture will be his first.  I had forgotten about that.

This was also a bad example, amidst many bad examples, of how not to run a campaign post success.  Communication was sporadic.  The excuse was that he only wanted to report when there was good news, but apparently there hasn’t been any good news for a couple of years now.

Cringely was blowing smoke up our collective asses with some pie in the sky “maybe this will turn into a business and I’ll give you all shares” nonsense, but then his house burned down in the Santa Rosa fire and he has declined to update the Kickstarter campaign page or send anything directly to the supporters since.  Instead he occasionally makes reference to the campaign, mostly to blame people who are angry about the whole thing for the lack of any progress. In his world, all of the problems are the fault of the backers.  Money down the drain.

Best Game Purchase – Minecraft

This was a tough one.  There have been a lot of games I have bought and gotten a ton of play out of, that ended up being great and bargains at the price I paid.  Defense Grid: The Awakening was a candidate, as was the Mists of Pandaria expansion for WoW and even the first year of Rift.

In the end though, I am going to call Minecraft the winner, because the criteria here is purchase during the last decade, and while Minecraft became available in 2009, I didn’t buy it until 2015.

Even with renting a public server for a shared experience, the dollar per hour value of the game was pretty damn high.

Worst Game Purchase – Star Trek Online Lifetime Membership

There were a lot of competitors on this front, like every single game in my Steam library that I purchased and never played.  But none of them could measure up to the cost and impact of Star Trek Online.

I pinned such hopes on Star Trek Online and it ended up being so not the game for me.  While many will point to Warhammer Online as the end of hope for a MMORPG that would eclipse WoW or Star Wars: The Old Republic as the last gasp attempt at a big budget MMORPG, Star Trek Online was the boiling pot of hope that burned my hands and convinced me not to get invested in an MMO before it is live.  And no more up front lifetime subscription purchases ever.

Disappointing at launch with mundane and repetitive game play (even for an MMO), I probably ended up paying the most per hour played for it since the time of CompuServe and GEnie and hourly connection charges.  I tried to return to the game a couple of times, but Cryptic just piled on features to try and keep the game going, turning it into a confused jumble that still held no seed of attraction for me.  It was so bad I was surprised when it went free to play mostly because I was sure it must have already gone that route.

So if you want to know why I am such the cynic now, occasionally mocking those who get excited and invested in games based on a vague feature list and a few artists concept drawings, Star Trek Online is a big factor.  And yes, I know it is somebody’s favorite game.  Everything, no matter how bad, is somebody’s favorite.  If you enjoy it, carry on.  But for me it is an example of the kind of garbage, half-assed MMORPG effort that tarnished the genre and sped up its decline.  And none of that was helped by the game embracing things like lock boxes.

STO will be mentioned in the next few month in review posts as we get through its 10 year anniversary, but I doubt I will ever post about again until I write an obituary about it.  I generally don’t waste my time on games I do not like.  This post was an exception.

A New Decade

And so it goes.  I made it through this post and only had to reach into the past decade twice.

Soon it will be 2020 and a new decade will be upon us.  Not that an arbitrary changing in numbering means anything really, but we like to put things into nice neat categories even if we have to make them up.  I certainly made up a couple above.

I do wonder what the video game industry will be ten years down the line.  Mobile has become the big money maker while things like VR, hailed as the future, languish due to various technical and physiological reasons. (The puke factor is real.)

I especially wonder about games in my MMORPG category, the shared world online experience that seem to go on and on.  Ultima Online and EverQuest are still going past the 20 year mark, while World of Warcraft and EVE Online are now past 15.  Will we be celebrating 25 and 30 year anniversaries when 2029 is coming to a close?  Will I still even care?

WoW West Returns to SuperData while EEDAR has a Different List

Two SuperData Research related posts in one week?  Well, we got the 2018 in review report before they showed up with the December numbers.  But do the December numbers fill in any gaps left in the annual report?

SuperData Research Top 10 – December 2018

On the PC side of the chart League of Legends and Dungeon Fighter Online remain in the top two positions.  However, Fortnite managed to bounce its way up one spot, into third position, passing Crossfire by, which dropped to fourth.

Battlefield V disappeared off the chart, but as a title that series tends to be one that spike quickly and then fades.  But speaking of things that disappeared, Fantasy Westward Journey Online II, long a staple of the list, went missing on the November chart but returned for December, taking that fifth spot.  As I said last month, it had been rolling around between fourth and sixth for quite a stretch, so for it to go away for November and then reappear in that range in December raises questions.  Did somebody just forget to send in the numbers?

Likewise, World of Warcraft, another resident of the chart since it took on its current form, also went missing in November only to reappear in December.  And, even more odd, we’re back to the “West” designation for it, something that .  Does that mean that the game is strong here but tanking in Asia?  Or are we seeing the results of Blizzard being cagey about what they report?

The East/West thing first showed up in the report for January 2017.  It was a surprise at the time.  Then for the February 2017 report it was combined again, though the report was revised after it was initially published.  The split returned again for the April 2017 report, then was dropped until this month’s report.

Again, having dealt with this sort of thing in another industry, I suspect that SuperData has to deal with the data that Blizzard, probably via Activision, gives them.  But why they should want to split the data is unclear.  Maybe the “East” data wasn’t ready yet and they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss another month on the chart?  Who knows.  I certainly don’t.  And, as I have said before, I wouldn’t bet money on any single chart’s data.  It is the trend over time that interests me more.  If WoW sticks on the chart in 2019 it might be okay to discount the disappearance in November.

Anyway, lacking a crystal ball I will just carry on.

In between Fantasy Westward Journey Online II and World of Warcraft sits PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, holding its six place spot for another month.  At eight position is The Sims 4, down a spot from last month, but still very strong for the title.  Holiday sales must have been nice for it.

World of Tanks hung in there at ninth position, down one.  And then, in tenth place, there was a surprise appearance by Hearthstone, also wearing the “West” designation.  Are we seeing accounting issues or other problems with the Chinese government in that?  Strange times.

On the Console column Fortnite grabbed the top spot, followed by Nintendo’s release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Switch.  Red Dead Redemption 2 fell from first to fifth, but that still seems like a strong performance for the title.  And then the granddaddy of the list, Grand Theft Auto V, climbed up from ninth to six for December.  It just keeps on going.

Then at the Mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings grabbed back the top spot from Pokemon Go, which fell to second, while the six year old Candy Crush Saga proved its staying power once again by holding onto the third spot.

And so it goes.

As a comparison, EEDAR, part of NPD, has started sending me a monthly ranking for titles as well.  You can find the current list here.  Of course, it has PC and console combined, counts physical sales (which favors consoles more), doesn’t include mobile, and doesn’t include any digital sales for most titles, but it is another list, so I’ll put it in here as well. (Their chart isn’t as handy to take as a graphic so I’ll just write it out.)

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  2. Red Dead Redemption II**
  3. Battlefield V**
  4. NBA 2K19
  5. Mario Kart 8*
  6. Madden NFL 19**
  7. Super Mario Party*
  8. Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu*
  9. Marvel’s Spider-Man

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

That is definitely a different list.  Without digital League of Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, anything from Blizzard, and anything from China just disappears.  I don’t think either list is “wrong” per se.  This is just what you get what you measure different things.  SuperData is only interested in digital sales while NPD is the old school “What’s selling at GameStop” measurement for the most part. (They also have point of sales based number for books and videos.)  As NPD puts it:

NPD’s U.S. top 10 games list, ranked by dollar sales, includes full-game digital sales (from participating publishers) as well as sales for physical formats sold at retail and online across console, PC and portable platforms.

While I cannot find it written out anywhere, I suspect that it the numbers may be US and Canada only as well.

EEDAR also has a full 2018 chart, which looks like this:

  1. Red Dead Redemption II
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII**
  3. NBA 2K19
  4. Madden NFL 19**
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  7. Far Cry 5
  8. God of War 2018
  9. Monster Hunter: World
  10. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

Again, if you compare it against SuperData’s 2018 list, which I posted on Tuesday, that is… different.  And the list formats are even similar, as EEDAR’s list seems to line up with SuperData’s Premium Games list, which included both PC and console.

A few items overlap, but EEDAR again misses completely on things like PUBG and GTA V because of digital sales.

Amusingly, further down in EEDAR’s report they talk about social media impression data, and that is dominated by games missing from their chart, specifically Fortnite, League of Legends, CS:GO, DOTA 2, and PUBG.  Go figure!

Other items from the SuperData report:

  • Worldwide digital spending declines 2% to $9.0 billion. December’s weakness came primarily from Premium PC, which fell 21% due to an unfavorable comparison against PUBG and CS:GO last year, as well as another single-digit drop off in mobile. This more than offset a 12% rise in console, where Fortnite drove a 209% increase in the free-to-play segment.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite end the year on a high note. Fortnite had its highest grossing month to date, while PUBG sold 2.75 million units across console and PC.
  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate is December’s best selling console game. We estimate that Smash Bros Ultimate sold 2.49 million digital console units, making it far and away the best digital console launch on the Switch so far.
  • Sims 4 benefits from end-of-year promotions. A significant price cut led to a surge in new unit sales on both console and PC. However, DLC revenue on PC declined year-over-year by 10%.
  • Battlefield V falls short during the holidays. EA’s shooter missed out on the top 10 console list this month after selling significantly less than competing shooter titles.
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive finds early success as a free-to-play title. CS:GO hit a new MAU high point for the franchise in its second month as a F2P title. We estimate the free version generated roughly $49 million between November and December.

I generally do not comment on the other items from SuperData’s notes, but EEDAR has a different look at December.

  • Led by the record-breaking performance of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Nintendo Switch, tracked December sales reached $3.4B with growth of 2% when compared to a year ago.  Nintendo Switch also finishes the year as the best-selling hardware platform, while Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best-selling game of the year.

So SuperData, measuring digital only, says December was down while EEDAR, measuring mostly physical sales, says December was up, though the EEDAR number, $3.4 billion, was overall much smaller that SuperData’s $9 billion number.

Anyway, I’ll include EEDAR data as a comparison going forward if I can, though they are not as regular as SuperData, which is pretty consistent about dropping around the last week of the month.

SuperData and the Free and Mobile Future

SuperData Research put out their 2018 Year in Review report last week. (It is erroneously titled as 2019 as of my writing this.)  You can’t just look at it on their web site.  Instead, it is available in .pdf format and, while it is free, you do have to go through all the motions of “buying” it, save for providing a credit card.  They did the same thing last year.  The effort isn’t huge if you want to see some data.

One of the things they want you to know right away in the report is that they were acquired by Nielsen back in September.  So there is that, though I am not sure that has meant any changes in the short term.

Last year’s report was interesting for a few reasons, but what topped my list was the fact that World of Warcraft was missing from the report entirely.  Logic seemed to dictate that games that made their year in review charts, yet were consistently below WoW in revenue… and I speak specifically of World of Tanks… seemed to at least bring into question either the validity of the annual summary or the monthly charts… though there is no reason that both cannot be suspect.

So I was keen to see the report for 2018 to see if there was a repeat performance on that front.  And there is… sort of.

The problem is that SuperData chose a different way to slice and dice the game market, dividing the market into free to play and premium across all platforms.  That isn’t necessarily bad, but it does leave out any sort of “apples to apples” comparison with 2017. Still, numbers are number and lists are lists and I have long expressed a love of both, so here they are.

SuperData 2018 Year in Review – Free to Play digital revenue

The footnotes indicate that this chart was made with preliminary data for December and that Honour of Kings is known as Arena of Valor in the west.

The first thing to note, and the report goes into detail on this, is how much Fortnite dominated.  That number is across all platforms, but is huge all the same.  It is no wonder that Epic Games felt they could step up and challenge Steam.  They have a big enough world-wide audience, and no doubt enough money in the bank, to make it a pretty viable alternative.

The second is how much of that list is made up of mobile titles.  Pokemon Go is not all that far behind League of Legends, perennial list topper on the PC end of the monthly charts.  And while LoL has been down this year, I keep hearing people say that Pokemon Go was just a fad that peaked back in 2016.  That doesn’t seem to be the case. (Though, if you go look at various reported revenue numbers for Pokemon Go, they seem to be all over the map, so while it is doing well, I don’t know if it is doing as well as this chart indicates.)

Then there is the premium game chart.

SuperData 2018 Year in Review – Premium digital revenue

The footnotes again note that this includes preliminary data from December and that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds revenue does not include anything from mobile versions of the game.  This chart is limited to PC and consoles.

Probably the first thing that pops up when comparing the premium chart versus the free to play is that, save for PUBG, nothing on the premium chart made enough money to make it onto the free chart were they combined.

And then there is the question of where World of Warcraft lays in this mix.  It appeared on the PC charts from January through October (though it fell off in November) and topped League of Legends back when Battle for Azeroth shipped, but it doesn’t make the cut for premium.  But somehow Overwatch, which barely made the charts over the course of 2018, did.

Unlike in 2017, I cannot even use World of Tanks, which WoW scored ahead of for ten months running, as a signpost, since WoT didn’t make the cut either.

Of course, if I were to subscribe to SuperData’s Arcade report, I would likely have access to data that would clear this up.  However, that costs money, much more that I would like to spend, so I am left looking for clues in the incomplete data.

I think there is a hint in another slide.  SuperData breaks out the overall digital market, which raked in an estimated $109.7 billion dollars in 2018, into various groups.

  • Mobile – $61.3 billion (56%)
  • F2P PC – $17 billion (15%)
  • Premium console – $10.7 billion (10%)
  • Social – $7.3 billion (7%)
  • Premium PC – $7.2 billion (7%)
  • Pay to Play PC – $4.2 billion (4%)
  • F2P console – $2 billion (2%)

Mobile runs away with the market here, with 56% of the take.  But it is an all digital environment too.  Nobody is going to GameStop or Target or Amazon for a mobile game in a box.  And almost 70% of that came from Asia.  Of the remainder, the North America spends nearly double the amount that Europe does on mobile games.

According to SuperData, F2P makes up $87.7 billion of the market and, again, Asia consumes most of that, with more than 60% spent there.  Europe spends more than the NA on F2P PC games, but about half as much when it comes to F2P console titles.

As one might expect, premium on PC and consoles is strongest in the west.  Europe and NA spend about the same total, but Europe is split about even between PC and console while in NA about three quarters of premium dollars are spent on console titles.

And hanging about along the way is “Social,” which I assume is some subset of F2P, and “Pay to Play” which sounds a lot like the subscription model, which I think is where they stuck World of Warcraft.  It is in an awkward position now when it comes to categories as the game itself has no up front costs… you can download the client and start playing up to level 20 without a subscription and up to level 110 with one… so isn’t really a premium game, which implies buying a box.  But it also isn’t really F2P… though even if they threw it into the F2P bucket, I doubt it earned enough in 2018 to make that chart.  WoW earning a billion dollars in a year stopped being a thing quite a while back.

The “Pay to Play” category probably also includes things like the Xbox and PlayStation subscription models as well, which probably make up the lion’s share of that category.  So don’t get your hopes up on MMORPGs.  WoW, and maybe FFXIV, are probably the only two games in the genre big enough to even register on that front.

And so it goes.

I read the comments over at Massively OP where every time a mobile MMO comes up the crowd holds their nose like somebody passed gas and cash shops and lock boxes are viewed with opprobrium.  I read those sorts of things and I agree, because I am in that crowd.  But the joke is on us.  Mobile is big enough to dwarf our favored genre and free to play makes up such a big market segment that you can barely see the little corner of pay to play where our favorite games live.

So if you want to know what Blizzard will be showing mobile games at BlizzCon again this year, why even Daybreak is in that strange NantG Mobile deal, there it is.  Mobile is where the money is and free is anything but.

Then there is Fortnite, which made about double what WoW ever made at its peak.

The SuperData’s report has more to offer, including projections for the future of digital, looks into streaming, and some numbers about VR.  If you are interested you can sign up to download it from their site.

My MMO Outlook for 2019

I’m going to try this again.  It isn’t quite the famous quip about insanity being repeating an action and expecting different results, but the results have not always been spectacular.  Though, in my defense, that has on occasion not been my fault.

For those seeking a history of this particular post, I have a list:

This time around I am going to make this less of a goal setting session, where I declare I am going to run off and play some new games… or some old games… or some games in between that I have not played before.  Instead, this is going to attempt to be more predictive.

Didn’t I just do predictions yesterday?

Well, I didn’t attempt to predict what I was actually going to play in 2019, so this is a different avenue.  I’ll open up with the usual suspects.

Easy Picks

  • EVE Online

Pretty much a lock since I played it 12 out of 12 months in 2018.  If I log in today and play, I’m covered, and it seems likely that I will do so and continue to do so over the course of the year.  As long as Reavers deploy a couple of times I’m probably good.

  • Pokemon Go

The other game I played pretty much daily throughout 2018.  It helps that this is the one video game that my wife and I play together.  Also happens to be the only active Pokemon title on a platform I own, since Nintendo is abandoning the handheld model and throwing everything onto the Switch.  Not that I am bitter or anything.

  • WoW Classic

I think this one is a no-brainer.  I will certainly subscribe and log in for the spectacle that will be the launch of WoW Classic.  The real question is how bad will it be?  I don’t mean to suggest there will be any glaring lack of fidelity.  I feel Blizz will be about as true to the idea as they can be.  The question will be how slammed will the servers be and how fragmented will the community end up as Blizz opens up more and more servers?

  • WoW Not-So-Classic

This one is likely a gimme as well.  While Battle for Azeroth just didn’t capture me, the fact that the same subscription will get you into both WoW and WoW Classic makes it very likely that I will log into the former to play.  There will probably be a boost in people on regular WoW servers corresponding to the length of the server queues on WoW Classic.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

Lifetime subscription and the Legendary server… and the fact that I am still playing it right now, if not as actively as I was when the server kicked off… makes this another shoe-in for the list.  I may not last once it gets past Moria, but up until then I am probably in.

Somewhat Likely

After those titles we get into a more gray area.  Still, there are some candidates that don’t seem to be complete long shots.

  • EverQuest II

If things go badly for Daybreak, or if they have a good plan for the 15th anniversary of the game, it seems reasonable that I will be in for either a last look or another visit.

  • Project: Gorgon

The game I keep meaning to play seriously but somehow never quite get to.  I own it already, always a plus, and it gets good marks for its quirky nature.

  • Minecraft

Our server has been pretty quiet for the last year, but the panda update is coming.  That might at least get me back on long enough to scout out a bamboo grove to find them.  Technically not an MMO, but close enough.

Wildcards

Titles that might happen, if certain conditions come to pass… being something other than early access garbage being a key item.  I’m trying not to encourage the developer line about, “I’ll gladly ship on Tuesday if you’ll just buy my game today” by paying into that sort of thing any more.

  • EverQuest

Hey, it will be the 20 year anniversary of the game shipping come March 16th.  There is a distinct possibility that Daybreak will have something lined up that will make me want to log in, at least for a bit.

  • Atlas

Whether you see this as re-skinned Ark or not, a some people I know are getting into this… when it is running and you can log in… so there is the glimmer of a possibility that I might give it a try.  The whole early access aspect of it will be the factor keeping me away if I don’t play it.

  • Torchlight Frontiers

I don’t think it will ship in 2019, and I am not going to beta test it, which is what makes it a wildcard.  I’m interested to try it even if I am not amongst those publicly wetting themselves in anticipation of it.

  • Camelot Unchained

Didn’t I pay for this almost five years ago now?  It would be cool if there was something there both playable and worth playing.

  • Destiny 2

We got the base game for free back in October and I downloaded it.  So it is installed and ready to go if I decide I want to try it.

  • Diablo III

Also technically not an MMO, at least by my own measure, but if maybe Blizzard were to add something fresh to the game I could find myself playing again.  I enjoy it, but can only play through the story and seasons so many times.

  • War Thunder and/or World of Tanks

I have a bunch of time invested in both over the years.  They tend to be good games for quick action, but neither hole my attention for very long either.  Battles often become the same situation repeated ad infinitum.

  • Something Else New

I mean, somebody is going to ship something new this year, aren’t they?

Non-MMOs

Again, I don’t like to set goals, but I look at my Steam library and it there are games I know I will play and games I want to find time for.

In the former category are:

  • Civilization V
  • RimWorld
  • Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

In the latter:

  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Grim Dawn
  • Afghanistan ’11
  • Space Engineers
  • Valkyria Chronicles

And then there are games on my wish list that maybe I might yet buy.  The Steam Winter Sale still has two full days left to run.

  • GTA V (mostly for the mod where you can play as the police)
  • O.G.R.E. (played the original board game)
  • Darkest Dungeon (The Wizardy-esque vibe keeps in on my list)
  • Frostpunk (Overlaps a bit with RimWorld though)

So there are some options.  We’ll see at the end of the year what I ended up playing and what fell by the wayside.  As like as not something else will come up mid-year and I’ll divert into that.

SuperData Says League of Legends is Back on Top, But WoW is Nowhere to be Seen

SuperData Research is out with their November 2019 charts just in time to take the holidays off, and this data set has some interesting changes.

SuperData Research Top 10 – November 2018

First, League of Legends, which has been having a down year, has returned to the top of the PC games list, the spot it has pretty much owned since SuperData started publishing this particular format.  So the top three are back in what we might consider their normal alignment.  Missing, however, is Fantasy Westward Journey Online II, which had been bouncing around between fourth and sixth place for months.

But the bigger mystery is what happened to World of Warcraft?  I have been posting this chart since December 2016 and WoW has been a permanent resident, even when it was split into East and West for a few random months in 2017.  WoW has been as high as second place and as low as eighth, usually hanging around one notch ahead of World of Tanks most of the time, but it has never fallen off the list.  Well, until now.

WoW was doing well on the chart recently, rolling in the money from the Battle for Azeroth box sales and then propping up its revenues a bit with a six month subscription deal that threw in a special mount.  You know all the faithful bought in on that.

But now those birds are coming home to roost.  The faithful won’t be spending subscription dollars again until around May 2019 while the Battle for Azeroth expansion remains a confused muddle.  A pretty expansion with a set of very solid leveling zones and an actual split experience for the Alliance and Horde, seems to have fallen apart due to ill considered ideas and half measure fixes.  And once you lose the rank and file, the game is stuck until it can do something new.

I expect that we may end up seeing WoW Classic launch sooner than expected in order to “save” the game, or at least its revenues.  If Blizz sticks to the summer launch, it will be in June.  But I wouldn’t be surprised to find it moved up to May or even April now that Activision is probably on the phone every day wanting to know what the hell is going on.

That big news aside, the rest of the list isn’t unexpected.  Fortnite rang in at fourth, followed by the debut of Battlefield VPlayerUnknown’s Battleground grabbed sixth while The Sims 4 came out of nowhere to hit the list at number seven.  Was there a new expansion there?  World of Tanks hung in at is oft repeated eighth position, sans its usual partner in WoW, while the on-again, off-again Valve pair of CS:GO and DOTA 2 took the bottom two spots once more.

On the console chart, the game everybody was talking about, Red Dead Redemption 2, tops the charts.  This month shows how driven by new titles the console market can be compared to the PC market, where the same old online titles linger for years.  Almost everything on the console chart is a fairly recent release save for Fortnite in fourth place and the ever present Grand Theft Auto V in eighth.

And then on the mobile end of the chart Pokemon Go has managed to take the top spot, beating out the usual leader Honour of Kings, pushing it into second place.  And an even older title, Candy Crush Saga managed third place.  And so it goes.

Other items from the report:

  • Battlefield V and Fallout 76 launches fail to meet franchise benchmarksWe estimate Battlefield V and Fallout 76 sold 1.9 million and 1.4 million digital units, respectively, across console and PC at launch. Both are down from Battlefield 1 and Fallout 4.
  • Ultimate Team continues to underperform. Total additional content spending in FIFA and Madden grew by 1% in November, compared to a 25% year-over-year increase last November.
  • Destiny 2′sForsaken” boost was short lived. We estimate additional content revenue for Destiny 2 dropped 63% year-over-year. Overall, engagement and monetization seem to have reverted back to the same levels last seen before the launch of the “Forsaken” DLC in September.
  • Rainbow Six shows signs of fatigue. Ubisoft’s popular FPS title has had a better-than-expected performance throughout most of 2018. However, additional content revenue declined 33% in November, the game’s biggest decline to date, and follows a decline in October as well. This points to some likely disruption from recent launches of other high-profile AAA shooters.

SuperData Shows League of Legends Dethroned and Fortnite Still Booming

SuperData Research has their numbers for March out and it shows an unexpected (at least to me) change with some of the usual suspected.

SuperData Research Top 10 – March 2018

League of Legends lost its first place spot on the PC list.  If you go to the SuperData tag here and scroll down the past posts, you will see that League of Legends has held that spot since the list was a thing.  It has been there for so long it seemed like it was just locked in place.

Of course, it was supplanted by Dungeon Fighter Online, a Korean game big in the China market that has been hanging around second or third position for as long as LoL has been in first place.

I’m not sure if League of Legends is sagging a bit or if the Season 4 release for Dungeon Fighter Online was that popular, but we have a new player in first position for now.

Further down the list Fortnite pushed into fifth spot while PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, fifth last month, dropped down to seventh place behind World of Warcraft.  World of Tanks held on to the eighth slot while Far Cry 5 joined at ninth, taking that spot from Hearthstone, and CS:GO held on to tenth.

On the console list Fortnite broke into the number one spot in March, followed by popular new comer Far Cry 5, pushing down FIFA 18, Call of Duty WWII, and the long in the tooth GTA VSea of Thieves also hove into view on the list while Monster Hunter: World fell from fourth to tenth spot.

And on the mobile list Pokemon Go and Candy Crush Saga swapped positions compared to the February list.

It seems like things are still full speed ahead for Fortnite and their conquest of the battle royale genre.

Other items from their update:

  • Dungeon Fighter Online has generated the highest revenue of any Free-to-Play PC game in March on the back of their third anniversary celebration and a limited event that challenged players to level up new characters for special items.
  • Tencent’s mobile kart-racing game, QQ Speed, has generated over $100M in revenue for its third month in a row.
  • 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III continues to hold an impressive audience despite being two iterations behind this year’s Call of Duty: WWII. Developer Activision is continuing support for the game, releasing a new mode and map this month.
  • Fortnite had quite a March. The game has overtaken the previous “king of battle royale,” PUBG, in terms of revenue generated and monthly active users across all platforms. It also hit the #1 spot by revenue on iOS in the United States in its launch month and has the highest conversion rate of any free-to-play PC game in March. There’s no other way to say it: the game is a phenomenon. Fortnite generated $223 million across all platforms (console, PC, Mobile) in March, up a whopping 73% from February. Drake, a new season of the Battle Pass, and a John Wick skin all contributed to the massive growth.
  • Far Cry 5 marks a strong return for the franchise. Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 sold an estimated 2.5 million digital units across console and PC. On console, Far Cry 5‘s digital launch was up nearly 500% compared to Far Cry Primal two years ago. This points to not only the underlying health of the Far Cry series, but also to growing digital download rates for AAA console games in 2018.
  • Sea of Thieves has early success but with a caveat. Sea of Thieves had 1.7 million monthly active users on console and 283,000 on PC during its launch month. However – more than half of these users obtained the game through the limited free trial offered as part of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. This leaves some unanswered questions concerning the long-term success of the title.
  • Candy Crush hits another multi-year high on mobile. Candy Crush had its most successful month since 2014. King’s flagship mobile title has been showing double-digit year-over-year growth since mid-2017.