Tag Archives: Tencent

Friday Bullet Points in the Dog Days of Summer

It is hot out, the price of everything seems higher, Covid infection rates are rising, and here in California we’re in a drought and the state is once again starting to catch fire again in a major way.   At least Friday Bullet Points is a category on the blog now, so they’ll be easy for future generations to find.

  • New World, New Delays

I suppose we ought to be used to this by now.

Just how new and how worldly?

After their final round preview beta over the last few weeks, New World was slated to ship on August 30th.  That date has been moved out to September 28th in an update from the company.

We are humbled by the support New World received from players around the world throughout Closed Beta. During Beta, more than a million adventurers entered Aeternum. Thanks to your support, New World became one of the most watched games on Twitch, and one of the most played games on Steam. The passion and enthusiasm you’ve shown for New World validates the work we’ve put in over the past year, improving the game based on your feedback.

Along the way, you’ve also given us a ton of feedback that we’ll use to make New World even better. We want New World’s launch to be a smooth and fun experience for all players, and that means making some improvements based on what you encountered during Closed Beta. So we’re going to take a few extra weeks to smash bugs, improve stability, and polish the game. New World’s new global launch date is September 28, 2021.

This was not an easy decision to make. We know this isn’t the first time we’ve changed our launch date in pursuit of quality, and that it can be disappointing to wait a bit longer. But we want to be sure we deliver you the highest quality game possible at launch. Thank you for your support and feedback. We’re listening. We’ll see you in Aeternum

Given past delays, another month probably isn’t going to change the launch day pile on very much.  I hope they use the time well.  A month seems like a long time when you’re waiting for something, but it can feel like a vanishingly brief interval when you have code to ship.

  • Switch Sales Hit 89 Million

Nintendo announced that total Switch units sold had passed the 89 million mark as part of their Q2 2021 financial update.  That is a lot of Switch units out in the wild.

My Switch Lite

Looking at the list of best selling consoles of all time, that number puts the Switch within striking distance of the Wii, a huge seller for Nintendo that moved over 100 million units during its reign.  The Switch is still quite a was from the top spots, occupied by the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo DS line, which solf 155 and 154 million units respectively.

Despite that big number, Nintendo said that sales were down some compared to last year, which was attributed to the fact that everybody and their brother bought a Switch and a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the pandemic.  Hot vax summer strikes again.

  • FFXIV Subscribers are Up

We have suspected for a while that Final Fantasy XIV has been benefiting from discontent in the WoW player base over the delay in the release of the first major Shadowlands content update.  Anecdotal evidence was mounting, with major WoW streamers jumping ship and word that FFXIV was having to limit new players.

But with the Square Enix Q2 2021 financials, the company confirmed that FFXIV subscriptions were in fact up.  They didn’t say how much they were up, but I bet we’ll hear that they are up even more when the Q3 financials are announced.

  • Chinese Government Frowns Once More on Video Games

You can always count on totalitarian governments to let you know what their leader’s pet peeves are, and video games appear to be on the list.  The Chinese state media lashed out video games, comparing them to opium and declaring that video game addiction was harming children’s growth and eyesight.

For the Chinese “opium” is an especially loaded word as it is associated with western imperialism and interference in Chinese affairs due to the opium wars fought with the European powers that led to a dismemberment of the country.  So using that word about something tends to signal that the government is serious.

This new government displeasure with video games caused Tencent’s stock price to drop as the company, sensing which way the wind was blowing, vowed to implement stronger restrictions on video game abuse, restricting the time minors are allowed to play.  China already has strict limits on video games, and this will no doubt expand those limits.

  • EQII Free Character Boost

A new Producer’s Letter came out for EverQuest II which included an outline for their summer plans including yet another free level 120 character boost for players subscribed via the all access pass.  I am not sure I would have enough character slots, were I to subscribe, to find space for another level 120 character.

  • EVE Echoes Anniversary

EVE Echoes, the mobile spin-off of EVE Online created by NetEase is celebrating its one year launch anniversary.   The game has some big new content in place for the anniversary.

EVE Echoes

The game launched to some acclaim last August, but has its share of issues.  The fact that they started publishing weekly ban stats is a reminder of the perils of free to play I suppose.

  • Amarr Foundation Day

Finally, it is time for another holiday in New Eden, as the Amarr Empire celebrates Foundation Day.  That means specials in the shop, daily challenges, a themed proving grounds event, new monuments, and of course login rewards.

Your Federation Day login rewards

No ISK this time around, but the usual SKINs, fireworks, and skill points are on the menu.  There are five days of rewards and you have seven days to log in daily to claim one, so you can miss two days and still get them all.

Taking a Nibble out of Steam

The big news in early December was that Epic Games was going to create their own online digital games storefront to compete with Steam.

Steam is big.  Big enough that no competitor is going to show up and hit them with a single knock-out blow.  EA couldn’t do it.  GoG certainly couldn’t manage it.  Amazon might have a shot via Twitch some day.  There is Discord gamely trying.  The Microsoft store persists out there, if you want the non-Java Minecraft of the remastered version of Age of Empires.  And recently Apple has been talking about a Netflix-like “games as a service” service.

And, despite its dominance, Steam is not unassailable.  Steam is vulnerable on a few fronts where an upstart could steal part of their pie.  There are viable markets to be invaded in the Steam portfolio.

Because who wants to be Steam anyway?  Is somebody else itching to be the top purveyor of Hentai themed Minesweeper knock-offs?  Let Valve remain king of their garbage heap.

Still, Steam was clearly their target.

Back when the Epic Store was announced, their big play was aimed at the development side of the equation, where Epic was planning to take only 12% of the sales price… and waive the fee for their Unreal engine… compared to Steam’s 30% cut.

Look how much more Steam takes

This prompted some questions.

This silliest was asking if Steam “deserves” a 30% cut.

As Clint Eastwood said in Unforgiven, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”  What made this especially silly was that this came from the developers, who honestly ought to know better.  That is the same group that howled over every possible barrier to entry that Valve set up for Steam, because being on Steam was their only chance at success.  Well, 30% was the cut when they were on the outside desperate to get in, but now that they’re in that cut is too much.  It is as if people just complain about everything… which they do. (I also feel like pointing out the cut that studios got back in the brick and mortar retail days.)

Still on the silly side of things were people wondering if prices might be lower on the Epic Store given the smaller cut Epic planned to take.

As if.  I bet the devs complaining about Steam’s cut would argue vehemently against this.

There is a stubborn ignorance out there that still assumes that cost and pricing are somehow linked.  The two are not, save for cost represents the floor above which most companies would like their pricing to remain.  But a year back we had a long discussion about how much it costs to make video games, at least top tier AAA games.  So one might argue that video games is an industry where that floor isn’t even part of the equation.

Pricing is based on what the market will bear and what your competitors are charging.  We pretty much know the price of any big name game coming from EA or Activision before they announce it.  It is going to be $59.99.  Do all those games cost exactly the same to make?  Or is there just an industry price beyond which studios believe they cannot stray lest it have an impact on sales?  I think you know the answer.

More on point were end users in touch with reality asking why they should care about the studio’s cut if prices remained the same.  If you’re already invested in Steam and have a big library there, what would Epic’s store offer besides the inconvenience of another login to manage?

Well, we got the answer to that.  Exclusives!

It is the console wars all over, writ small.  How do you get somebody on to your platform?  Offer something that the competitor doesn’t have.  Epic already had Fortnite, so that was a given.  But they needed something else.  They needed titles that Steam wouldn’t have.

When they managed to snag The Division 2 back in early January, that was news.  That gave Epic a big title that Steam would be denied, though UbiSoft would still be selling it directly as well.

This past week though fewmets hit the windmill when it was announced that publisher Deep Silver would be selling Metro Exodus on Epic’s store.  That catch here was that Metro Exodus had already been available for pre-order on Steam.  That availability was turned off with the news.

Note from Steam – When You’re Number One You Never Name the Competition

While Deep Silver said they would honor pre-orders, this got people to howl, and all the more so because the price on the Epic Store was $10 less. (You might be tempted to claim this as evidence that there will be a benefit to consumers on the pricing front, but I’d as soon bet that Epic offered additional incentives to get Deep Silver on board and at a lower price.)

That is how you get the market to take you seriously.  So seriously though that people were talking boycotts and such and Deep Silver eventually had to clarify that Metro Exodus would be available on other platforms come February of 2020.  At least you know it will be cheaper by then I guess.

This sort of thing isn’t going to turn the Epic Store into a full fledged Steam competitor.  But I don’t think they want that.  This will make Steam take them seriously though, as it takes money straight out of Valve’s pocket.  Metro Exodus was going to be worth more to Valve than a few thousand more indie titles cluttering its store front.  And given the persistent rumor that the only reason Epic has a storefront is because their parent company, Tencent, is to hit back at Valve for going into the China market with Perfect World Entertainment rather than them, and it seems to make a bit more sense.

Anyway, I don’t think Steam is going anywhere.  Valve is too entrenched to be moved quickly.  Epic will be another minor player, taking a bit of the riches from Steam.  There is a temptation to compare this to what is happening with video streaming services these days, where Netflix has lost its grip as every major player has decided to open up their own service.  I suspect that will shake itself out on its own when people vote with their wallets and a bunch of those services find they were doing better just licensing to Netflix or Hulu.  But on the video game front it is different, as there is no subscription to pay… at least until Apple shows up… just some logins and front ends to manage.

Some players are always going to be big enough to roll their own.  EA’s Origin, for example, is less the Nordstom storefront they promised and just them having their own online store so they don’t have to share with a competitor.  You don’t even need it for all of their games.

Likewise Blizzard has their launcher-and-store combo, which Activision, lacking their own, has decided to use as well.

Others, like UbiSoft or Paradox, play both sides of the game, listing on other storefronts while maintaining their own as well.

And Steam abides.

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