Tag Archives: NCsoft

Friday Bullet Points – Numbers, Pokemon, and Phishing

Another Friday morning when I have a half a dozen almost done posts in my drafts folder, but no real drive to finish any of them.  So time for some bullet points.

Such Super Data

I do enjoy when SuperData Research puts out another blog post with titles ranked by revenue.  They just posted one for June.

SuperData Sez - July 2016

SuperData Sez – June 2016

Of course, I enjoy their charts for odd reasons.  They are, in their own way, very effective trolling devices.  I can already predict a SynCaine response to this.

And then there are the questions raised.  What defines an MMO?  What defines a P2P MMO? (SWTOR claims to be F2P, right?) And, finally, how the hell is FarmVille 2 even a thing?  Is Zynga still a thing?

NCsoft Numbers

NCsoft put out their Q2 2016 earlier this week.  You can find them at their investor relations site.  The PDF summary is the usual 10 pages, with everybody’s favorite chart on page 4.

NCsoft revenue by title - Q2 2016

NCsoft revenue by title – Q2 2016

The surprise of the quarter is WildStar, which revived with a more than 40% boost in revenues over Q1’s all time lows.  Of course, WildStar’s revenue number is still pretty small.  GuildWars 2 dropped by more that 6.5 times the WildStar total and still pulled in 7 times as much revenue.

The numbers are in millions of South Korean Won (KRW), which makes the WildStar total about 2 million USD for the quarter.

Meanwhile, it looks like GuildWars 2 is going to be feeling some pressure to release another box and, as always, the 1998 title Lineage rules the revenue roost for NCsoft

(Hat tip to MMO Fallout)

Pokemon Nation Championship Restrictions

The 2016 Pokemon National Championships are being held not too far from where I live… just up in San Francisco… and Nintendo has asked me not to show up.

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay – By Invite Only

Due to the limits of the venue and the popularity of the event, no outsiders or random visitors will be allowed in to view the competition.  So that is that.  Nothing can keep you from going up to SF to hang out, but if you think you’ll be seeing some sort of Pokemon competition, you had best plan on running it yourself.

Also on this front, the whole Championship series is undergoing changes for 2017 as well.

New Eden Phishing and Seabeasts

CCP has an alert out on a phishing scheme going about, with emails pretending to be from support asking players to log into their account via a dubious link.

Know your login pages

Know your login pages

So, you know, don’t do the dumb.

On the upside, CCP also announced that the Matigu Seabeast SKIN is now available in the New Eden store for a variety of Caldari hulls.

And that is about it for Friday.  The weekend approaches.

The WildStar Headshot

Yesterday was one of those days.  I started writing about cash shop behavior being a symptom of the over-saturated MMORPG market and a couple of stories pop up that seem tailor made to illustrate that assertion.

The first, and closest to my interest, was the cancellation of EverQuest Next.  No new Norrath for us as Daybreak continues to sort itself out of its SOE history.

And then there was the death of WildStar.


Okay, no closure was actually announced.  What was announced was:

Hi Folks,

Earlier this morning, Carbine Studios completed a reorganization of its operating structure. Moving forward, the studio will focus on operating and updating WildStar as a live game in the US and Europe. As part of this change, the studio has canceled its plans to bring WildStar to China.

Unfortunately, as a result of these changes, we’ve had to reduce staff. These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title, to the cancellation of work to bring WildStar to China, and to the overall performance of WildStar since launch in 2014.

These kinds of decisions are exceptionally difficult. The talented and passionate professionals who are impacted by these cuts have been valuable team members and respected colleagues. We wish everyone well for the future and will be providing severance and employment search assistance.

As for WildStar, we remain committed to the game. Over the next few weeks and months we will deliver a significant update to the game, kick off a variety of community events, and continue our work on new content that we will talk more about in the near future.

-Omeed, NCSOFT Director of Community and Social

Summing up:

  • Cancellation of plans to bring the game to China
  • 40% of the current staff, 70 people, laid off (per Polygon)
  • Cheerful outlook about carrying on and delivering new content

That is sad for those affected by the layoff.  I hope they are able to bounce back with new positions soon.

If you are a fan of the game it is easy to spin this into something positive.  The game is still going.  Most of the staff is still there.  New content is coming.  And look, the NCsoft 2015 financial report says that WildStar revenues are up since the free to play conversion!

WildStar is up!

WildStar is up!

Unfortunately, I am not sure how well grounded that view really is.  Even without that Polygon article and its rumors of more layoffs and a sunset plan, or that analyst’s gloomy outlook, this seems like more of a last chance, and a daunting one at that.

Yes, revenue was up with the conversion to free in Q4.  However, that up is really only relative to how far down it was before.  The boost is nowhere near the previous peak and it barely gets the game within spitting distance of the revenue level for City of Heroes, $2.9 million, when NCsoft shut them down.  And look how its revenue stacks up against the other NCsoft titles.  GuildWars 2’s cash shop in any quarter you care to choose looks to have had more revenue that WildStar’s total revenue on that chart.

The game simply needs more people playing and buying things in the cash shop, but in this market that seems extremely unlikely to happen, especially with no new market to help.

Every game gets a bump when it goes free to play, but once that fades, and it always fades, what is left to make it a choice in a market crowded with very similar alternatives?

The thing is, there isn’t really anything wrong with WildStar so far as I can tell.  I haven’t played it myself, but my reading about it seems to indicate that It is well put together and has its high points.  It just didn’t really bring anything new to the table that would make it stand out, that would make it feel different from all the other WoW derivative MMORPGs out there.

Which is somewhat ironic, considering that Carbine Studios was founded by 17 former members of the original World of Warcraft development team back in 2005 with the stated intention to, “…do anything but WoW.”

Is there anything out there that might save WildStar?


WildStar Goes Free to Play

Two years ago I was wondering if The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar were throwing themselves under the bus by declaring for a monthly subscription model in an era when only a select few games seem able to hold enough customers to make that model work for their vision.


Back then the team doing TESO said that a subscription model was essential to deliver the experience they wanted while the WildStar team felt they could offer a PLEX-like option and declare themselves free to play already.

The subscription business model champions of 2013 have come around to free to play in 2015.

TESO went first, going free back in January, while WildStar, after a precipitous drop in revenue, reflected in the NCsoft quarterly results… I believe somebody said that WildStar might end up bringing in less revenue that City of Heroes when NCsoft shut that down… announced that they were going free to play back in May.  This staved off closure by the trigger happy team at NCsoft for the time being.

And today is the day.  WildStar is now officially free to play, another such title in a veritable forest of free to play MMORPGs.  I cannot name a single factor that would set it out from the crowd of other options.  We shall see if free is sufficient inducement for players to keep the game going.

The WildStar site has been updated and there is a FAQ spelling out what free to play means for the game.  As with the game itself, nothing in the FAQ stands out as new and different enough to separate it from the pack.

WildStar Survives Another Day by Going Free to Play

Back in January one of my least controversial new year predictions was probably this:

WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

The issue seemed in doubt when the NCsoft Q1 2015 financials were released and amongst the data it was revealed that WildStar was officially doing worse than City of Heroes was before it was shut down.  But Carbine appears to have dodged that bullet for the time being (though they were very touchy about the business model subject for a while) as they announced today that WildStar would be going free to play this autumn… provided it doesn’t tank even further… a possibility when you tell be subscriptions will be optional in a few months… and simply get shut down.

Wildstar_logoFor me the biggest surprise was that Elder Scrolls Online went for the free to play option first, given the dev team attitude about monetizing things in-game.  But then they had the big console release coming up and subscriptions are even more out of favor on that front.

But when it comes to WildStar, I have never really been a fan of the game.  I was skeptical of a team that left Blizzard in 2005 because they felt World of Warcraft was doing it wrong even as it was becoming a popular sensation.  I was dubious that their CREDD plan … which allowed Carbine to claim that they were offering up a “hybrid” model since you could play for free if you bought CREDD with in-game currency… would make an iota of difference, or that there was any evidence that WildStar could build up an economy that would support a PLEX-like scheme.  And I was somewhat exasperated at their near tragic misuse of the Bartle types for their path system.  Also, the graphic style did nothing at all the encourage me to play.

So, yeah, I wasn’t really all that interested when it was announced, it clearly wasn’t my thing when it launched, and going free is unlikely to change my mind.  There are simply too many other things I would rather play ahead of WildStar on my list.

But for those who enjoy the game, at least it will be around a while longer.  As I have noted, the conversion from subscription to free to play usually brings about a happy time, a resurgence of interest, and the joy of populated servers… at least until that dies down and the whole thing descends into the usual in-your-face cash shop focused lockbox monetizaion hell that is the standard for MMO F2P games these days.  A mixed blessing indeed.

The question, of course, will be just how free is “free” really going to be.  Well, there is a FAQ posted, because there is always a FAQ somewhere with these things.  And Carbine does seem to be serious on the free thing, emphasizing it throughout the FAQ, summing up with this paragraph:

We place no restrictions on any of the game’s content. Every zone, every dungeon, every raid, every battleground… they’re all available. All players will be able to create characters of every race, class, and path while choosing any tradeskills they like. Characters can achieve level 50 and path level 30, just as they can under the current system.

The nudge to get people to subscribe… which is being called a Signature player or some such… is the usual set of perks and restrictions on various aspects of the games.  The list from the FAQ is available after the cut because it is a bit long to stick in the middle of the post.  Saved for posterity, because we know how these things can change.

So another bow to the inevitable in an MMO market crowded with competitors.  Moment noted.

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Surprise! GuildWars 2 Announced an Expansion!

While the GuildWars 2: Heart of Thorns expansion announcement today at PAX Whatever didn’t feel as nearly per-ordained as the one about BioWare making a Star Wars MMO a few years back, the surprise factor on the whole thing was pretty limited.  You only had to look at the NCsoft financials to come up with the idea that more boxes for sale was in the cards.  (Also, analyst hints.)


(Financials image borrowed from MMO Fallout.  I added the captions.)

Still, if I were invested in GuildWars 2, I would be excited.


Expansion are a time of change and anticipation and speculation and worry and excitement.  I expect that this will drive a flurry of blogging from now through the expansion launch.

Did we get a date on the launch?  More speculation!

ArenaNet has a whole page on their site about the expansion and has, if I read some other posts correctly, promised not to make every single item currently available in the game completely worthless through the usual mechanic of expansion gear inflation.

There is even a trailer up on YouTube.

Anyway, that will be an item checked off my list of 2015 predictions… if they ship it this year.

First round of blog posts about the expansion:

Farewell to Paragon City

Tonight at midnight Pacific Standard Time, City of Heroes will be shut down.

Or sunsetted.

Or whatever it is they have chosen to call it.  But it will be gone all the same.  The heroes will be told to hang up their capes and move on with their lives.


CoH will join Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault, and Dungeon Runners, on the list of closed NCsoft MMORPGs.

The closure was announced back in August, which galvanized a chunk of the CoH player base.


Those players protested, created petitions, and questioned whether NCsoft was exploring any alternatives besides simply closing the game.  Even as time ran out there was hope of a Disney miracle.

But, at this point, it does not look like there will be any last minute reprieve.

The appointed hour approaches.

Among other things, CoH is another former subscription MMORPG that looked to boost its bottom line by going free to play.  However, we are now in an age where free to play is the norm.  Subscription only MMOs are now the rare breed. “Free” is no longer the inducement it once was.  And so, while reportedly still making money, CoH became a very small percentage of NCsoft sales, being folded into the “other” category for the last quarterly report.

I think if City of Heroes had been more core to the NCsoft corporate story, the way EverQuest is to SOE, we would have seen a lot more work on the part of the company to keep it around.  However, from NCsofts point of view, CoH might seem like Cryptic’s game.  A game that NCsoft published, then bought out, which was never a huge source of revenue for them, and was always something of an outsider.

Heroes are ever loners.

It is Lineage that is to NCsoft what EverQuest is to SOE.  It is core to their culture, popular in their home country, and still bringing in a lot of money after 14 years.  City of Heroes is just something in the “other” category, soon to be struck from the list altogether.

And so it goes.

How soon until there is a private server?  Somebody must be working on that.

I Guess I Won’t Be Going Rogue

Some time back, as part of a sale now forgotten in the mists of time, Steam had a deal on City of Heroes, complete with the new Going Rogue expansion.

Woman pictured: Not Sarah Palin

I think it was $5.00 or some such lowball number.

That was a price which, at the time, I felt I could not resist.

A couple of years has passed since then.  City of Heroes has changed a lot, the most radical change of all being the conversion from a subscription game to a free to play title a little over a year ago.

But somehow I never quite found the time to play City of Heroes.  It was always too far down the list of games I wanted to play.

So while I had it installed on my system, but I never once clicked on the Play button in Steam.

And now there seems little point in clicking that button.  In fact, I will probably unintsall the game now without ever playing the copy I purchased. (Technically I played the demo back in 2007, so I have “played” the game a bit.)

NCsoft has announced that City of Heroes is going to be shut down.

November 30, 2012 is the target date for turning the game off.

And what lesson should we take from this?

That free to play is not a magic bullet?

That the MMO market space is over crowded?

That super hero games are a niche market?

That an awesome character creation tool (so good it gets you sued) won’t save you?

That NCsoft is good at shutting down MMOs?

When it comes to that last point, City of Heroes is another notch on the belt after Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa, Dungeon Runners, and Dragonica, so it seems difficult to deny it.

City of Heroes did last longer than most though, and no game lasts forever.