MMO Business Report: US Tariff on Game Consoles, Pearl Abyss Quarterly Report, and More

Our MMO Business Report is back once again! This week we have some more quarterly reports, this time from Tencent and Pearl Abyss. We’ll also be taking a look at US tariff on game consoles, and a disappointment in the esports industry.

 

Tencent Quarterly Report is Looking Up

Honour of Kings

Tencent’s online game revenue has increased 8% year on year. This is thanks to the end of China’s freeze on game approvals and because of Honour of Kings which has been a constant, steady earner for the company. Mobile games made the most revenue, $3.2 billion USD which is up 26% from last year, but in the same time period, they saw a decline in PC game revenue of 11% to $1.7 billion USD. Looking back at where Tencent was during Q2 last year  and comparing it to this year, you have to keep in mind that last year they were only able to release one new game in China during all of Q2. In comparison, in Q2 2019 they released 10 mobile games, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the company is doing well.

 

Source: Tencent Quarterly Report

 

MMO ‘Seed’ Raises $22 Million from Series B Funding

Seed

SpatialOS MMO Seed has raised an additional $22 million in funding. The money came from investment firms Novator, Northzone, Neoteny, firstminute capital, Makers Fund, New Life Ventures, and LEGO. Yes, THE LEGO. When combined with previous funding this brings the total for Seed up to $37.42 million.

“We are thrilled Novator and LEGO Ventures are making this big bet on us and for getting Ragnarsson on as our Chairman – he truly understands the value of single-shard MMOs and brings his amazing experience from CCP to Klang,” said Klang CEO Mundi Vondi. “Partnering with LEGO Ventures, the global phenomenon of emergent gameplay, is fantastic and aligns perfectly with our vision. Finally, we are humbled that our great current investors Neoteny, firstminute Capital, Northzone, and Makers Fund are joining the round as well and couldn’t be more excited to have the fuel to deliver SEED without compromising on its very big vision.”

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Pearl Abyss Quarterly Report Wows

Black Desert Online

Q2 2019 was Pearl Abyss’ best performing quarter in terms of sales with an amazing 266% rise in net profits quarter on quarter. The overseas market (in this case meaning outside of South Korea) makes up 74% of their sales. During the quarterly report, they also talked about upcoming games. EVE: Aether Wars has been given the green light despite originally only being a technical demo. Black Desert Mobile is set to launch in Q4 2019 globally. Project CD is a new AAA RPG that isn’t based on the Black Desert IP and is going to be targeted to a global audience. Project K and Project V are casual shooting games developed using Pearl Abyss’ new engine. No dates yet for the unnamed projects thus far.

 

Source: MMOCulture

 

Gfinity Esports Australia Closing

Gfinity Esports Australia which has been holding esports events across Australia for the last two years, will be closing in November. The company put out a press release that made it clear the company had not seen the return that was forecast when it was launched.
Dominic Remond, CEO of Gfinity Esports Australia said, “We would like to thank all our stakeholders and the Australian esports community for their support over the last few years. This is a very difficult announcement for all our staff. We will continue to meet our obligations to our existing partners, including Supercars with the upcoming Gfinity Supercars Eseries, and deliver outstanding events until we close later this year.”

Ciaran Davis, Chief Executive of HT&E added, “Esports remains an exciting industry with significant global interest and activity and HT&E believes it will become a mainstream and significant content-audience-commercial medium in the long term. But our absolute focus is on our core radio business and the economics of esports in the Australian market are yet to deliver sustainable, positive earnings. It is critical our investments deliver value for shareholders and with esports there is no certainty on when a positive contribution might be achieved.”

 

Source: Esports Insider

 

US Tariff on Game Consoles

New Tariffs on electronic devices made in China were set to go into place on September 1st, however, the United States Trade Representative said they will delay the tariffs until December 15th. The tariffs cover cellphones, laptops, some toys, computer monitors, video game consoles, and some clothes. The tariff was originally announced in May. Since then Apple, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have all sent letters to the USTR stating the tariffs would have an impact on the US economy and force them to raise the prices of their products. What does this mean for consumers? If you’re planning on getting anyone a console for Christmas, buy it now! In fact, Donald Trump even mentioned Christmas while addressing the press.
“We’re doing this for Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers, which, so far, they’ve had virtually none. The only impact has been that we’ve collected almost $60 billion from China – compliments of China. But just in case they might have an impact on people, what we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so that they won’t be relevant for the Christmas shopping season.”

Of course, what Trump said isn’t accurate. The tariffs aren’t being paid by the country they’re coming from or even the countries in that country. They’re a tax on the good being brought into the country by companies that typically end up being passed on to consumers. So don’t be surprised when Christmas is more expensive than usual this year.

Source: Cnet

 

Loot Crate Files for Bankruptcy

Loot Crate has been struggling quite a bit over the last 18 months and has now filed for bankruptcy. However, they’re also claiming they will continue with business as usual. Investor Money Chest LLC has purchased the company’s term-loan and offered $10 million to help keep operations going. Loot Crate said they will continue to pay their employees as usual and overall, from the way they speak of it things seem to be quite smooth.

However, former employees have made claims stating otherwise. Two days before the bankruptcy was announced Loot Crate laid off 50 employees with no severance and no warning. With one of them saying to GamesIndustry.biz, “There’s been a lot of speculation that the reason for that was those who put this layoff together knew the company would be filing bankruptcy, and that they did this knowing former employees couldn’t pursue legal action because of bankruptcy protections. Is this how and why this went down the way it did? I don’t have the ability to say, but I can see the sense in it from those involved in making the decision who likely were apathetic to the employees that would be lost.”

Lootcrate now employs 60 people.

 

Source: Games Industry

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Pearl Abyss Fanfest “Into the Abyss” at E3 2018

Pearly Abyss had its first Fanfest called “Into the Abyss” at the Regal LA LIVE Stadium 14 during E3 2018. While I may not be a core Black Desert Online player, I’ve played the game for a few levels, kept up on some of the PvP news, and somehow was lucky enough to represent MMOGames at the festival this year. CEO Robin Jung hopes this will be one of many, as the company certainly wishes to grow beyond a single PC game.

Into the Abyss

Secrets Unleashed

One of the nice parts about the festival was that it wasn’t just the team giving itself a pat on the back. Yes, we were given some interesting information, like a representative from Samsung saying the mobile version of Black Desert Online is one of the top data-eaters on people’s cell phones in Korea, up there with Facebook, and it’s currently the #1 mobile MMO title (which means something there). The game has apparently been translated into 12 languages and is available in more than 150 countries. It’s neat information, but the series of collected fan questions answered was meatier.

For example, the company name: Pearl Abyss. The idea is that it’s light in the darkness. Something precious from the deep. However, it’s also just a “gorgeous name.” It’s funny to see the developers go from something serious and deep sounding to admitting that their name just had a nice ring to it.

For those wondering why the game isn’t big on instanced dungeons and raids, it’s because Pearl Abyss didn’t think they felt right. They actually had over a hundred dungeons before they realized they wanted a living game world in a persistent space. It wasn’t an executive decision, but something everyone had a chance to express their opinion about before they reached a consensus to ax their babies. It’s naturally hard to make a great game with a single “voice” with so many developers and so many of their own passions, but the fans come first. Hidden caves felt more fun than another static pocket in the world.

The other part here is that by talking these things out, the team can avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again. There’s a certain balance between realism and convenience that the team straddles, and communicating this and trying to keep everyone on the same page ensures that the company is developing content for its actual audience.

Raids are a similar issue. It’s not that outdoor raids are impossible to craft, but they’re certainly more difficult, which is why Pearl Abyss chooses to put manpower elsewhere. Like in its mobile game. While not exactly a 1-to-1 recreation of the original BDO, there’s enough in common that people who played on the PC should feel at home. The same idea is mostly true for the upcoming Xbox version of the game. I was told the console version is 99.9% the same in terms of familiar aspects of the game, like classes, attacks, fishing… the 0.1% is only to account for error, supposedly.

Part of this includes the fact that the game needed a control and UI overhaul. While it’s physically possible to just shove the console players together with PC fans, it creates problems. Using the PC UI on consoles would be rough, much like with mobile being, well, literally smaller. Changes need to be made not just to fit the machine, but audience expectations. For example, you can’t maximize text windows outside of the PC game, but looting is handled differently. PC gamers have their mouse and incredibly versatile keyboard of many buttons. Phones have a small touch screen while console has buttons. While you could just have a lot of combos, changing the UI to do things like having an option wheel helps greatly. Sadly, it’s not enough to close the advantage gap between PC gamers and console controllers, so don’t expect to see cross-platform play.

However, Pearl Abyss also said they want the game to be available on every platform. No names were dropped, but it’s not like there are too many consoles to imagine (unless Pearl Abyss also wants to create games for pagers). Focusing on the present, however, you’ll have to remember that Black Desert Online isn’t launching on the Xbox One, it’s starting a beta this fall. That beta is there because the team knows there are bugs to fish, optimizations to make, and a UI to tweak, all based on what players find in the beta. That’s what it’s there for! The hope is that the beta won’t last too long, but it seems to have an understandable goal even an EA leery vet like myself can appreciate at face value.

Console is just another long arm of Black Desert though. While this will be the third platform for the game, the team does feel their world has so much more it can share. There are some ideas and projects related to spinoffs that would also take place in the Black Desert world, but there was nothing specific to mention at the time. With that in mind though, the team also doesn’t want to pigeonhole itself. They’re working with Counter-Strike co-creator Minh Le to create an unnamed FPS. We’ll have to wait and see where that goes in the future.

Hands-on With Black Desert’s Mobile Self

To be completely fair, I really haven’t enjoyed any core mobile MMOs. The genre generally doesn’t feel like it lends itself well to the smaller screen for me. I dislike the 2.5 perspective they use. Automating a lot of the work is boring. Black Desert’s mobile version does a lot of this but, somehow, works. Part of it may be because our characters were pre-leveled and equipped. Spamming buttons made things die, and that can be highly satisfying sometimes, especially when you’re feeling casual.

In the video, we saw group content, farming, pets, and other very “MMOy” activities. We were told we’d have guilds, 20vs20 guild wars, and duals in shared gameworlds. No asynchronous lies, but actual multiplayer. And I saw it, at least in 1v1 duels. Win or lose, several of us gave up some gourmet sounding food to just smash buttons and kill our digital co-festival-goers for far longer than we reasonably needed to in order to get a basic feel for the game. It’s embarrassing to write that, but true.

Unlike in the above picture, everything I saw was in understandable English, though admittedly I was mostly doing combat. You move with a virtual left control stick, then attack via “hotkeys” on the right-hand side, with dodge being in the lower left-hand side. It doesn’t feel precise at all, but attacks felt wild and wide enough to mostly hit the general area I wanted to be hitting anyway. I did a little gathering for fun, but no major quests, crafting, or anything non-combat, which is generally my focus. It could be the lack of sleep, but the spammy attacks were fun enough for a while, and I started to “wake up” and play for real after some of the other attendees started to get some wins against me. I think that’s a good sign.

Normally I’d be more cautious but one big thing struck me: the game was running live. On servers in Korea. This wasn’t something running off a local version of the game, which happens a lot at trade shows (online games really do get the shaft when it comes to showing themselves off in public displays). This was a specific build, yes, but a build populated with at least some other people. We could interact with each other (even if it was mostly murder). It just kind of clicked.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you all to get ready to download BDO Mobile when it (hopefully) comes out next year. I will say, however, that Pearl Abyss was wise to bring it, and that players should consider giving it chance, especially if they’re already enjoying Pearl Abyss’ world

 

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MMO Money: Mobile Revenue is Breaking Records

Quarterly report season, it’s exciting and a little bit brain melting. In between it all we’ve got other business news to talk about too including esports betting and more lootbox drama. We also get a real-world example of what can happen to a company’s stock when an embargo is broken and false information is released. There’s one theme that runs throughout this article, mobile revenue is breaking records all over the place. There’s a lot of information to digest in this week’s MMO Money so grab a drink, maybe a snack too and sit back for a wild ride. It all ends with more lootbox talk from Begium, Guild Wars 2’s game director, and everyone’s favorite…EA.

 

PUBG Mobile Revenue Only 1/3 Fornite iOS Revenue

Mobile Revenue is Breaking Records

While PUBG mobile and Fortnite iOS came onto the scene at roughly the same time back in March, PUBG has only started to monetize in the last week. The revenue for that first week isn’t amazing. In fact, it’s one third the revenue Fortnite got in its first week being on iOS only. For those who don’t know, PUBG is available on both Android and iOS. Fortnite generated 3.7 million dollars its first week on mobile compared to PUBG which comes in around $1 million.

The report from Sensor Tower also states that Fortnite beat out PUBG with fewer players, 3.7 million downloads vs 22 million. But it doesn’t show how many of those 22 million downloads since launch are still active PUBG players, so this isn’t really a fair comparison to make. The 3.7 million Fortnite players would have all been active at some point in that week simply because it was the very first week, and not a couple of months later. Randy Nelson, Head of Mobile Insights at Sensor Tower attributes the differences to the means of monetization. “There’s also the possibility that the way Epic Games has structured its purchases may be giving Fortnite a leg up on its biggest competitor,” he said. “It offers limited-time costumes and set daily items that players can purchase outright, as opposed PUBG Mobile’s primary use of loot boxes that produce random (and often duplicate) items when opened by players.”

 

Activision-Blizzard Q1

They’re winning all of the money. End of story.

Overwatch Retribution Event - McCree and Reaper

Kidding…well sort of. They really are winning all the money. Activision-Blizzard had a net revenue of $1.97 billion for Q1, that’s up from $1.73 billion for Q1 2017. Net revenue from digital channels were at an all-time quarterly record of $1.46 billion. In Q1, Activision Blizzard had 374 million monthly active users, 38 million of those coming from Blizzard games. Preorders for WoW’s Battle for Azeroth expansion are ahead of where they had originally forecast.

The Overwatch League has strong viewership globally, reaching millions of people every week. As a result of the league and the upcoming playoffs, this summer there is increased engagement with the franchise. This means more people are playing and watching for longer than previously.

On the mobile side of things, King has had its highest quarterly net bookings in history. That’s money made from merchandising, products sold, licensing fees, and so on. This quarter King also had 2 of the top 10 highest-grossing titles in US mobile app stores for the 18th quarter in a row.

Generally speaking, things are great for Activision-Blizzard, so much so that they’re raising their outlook for the full year.

 

German Mobile Game Revenue Seeing Explosive Growth

Thanks to the many articles we’ve done covering the 2017 games business scene we know that mobile is still growing in a massive way and is already really dominating the gaming industry. But there’s one market in particular that is seeing massive, unexpected growth: Germany.

The German Games Industry Association reported on data from market research company GfK that in 2017, mobile gaming revenue grew faster than all of the German gaming market. Mobile gaming sales rose 21% versus the overall market which saw only 15%. Most of the revenue came from in-app purchases which totaled €481 million ($569 million). Just to put all of this in perspective, in-app purchases have more than doubled since 2014. It also doesn’t look like things are going to slow down any time soon. What this does show is that Germans are a fantastic audience for mobile games, unlike most of Europe who seem to prefer to keep a tight hold on their wallets.

 

Want to learn more about the games industry in 2017 check out these articles:

2017 Online Games Financial Review
2017 Games Industry by the Numbers
2017 Games Industry Revenue

EA Celebrating Record Year

It’s good news for EA, despite all the very public lockbox drama they had throughout the last year. Game sales are actually down, but live services are picking up the slack and now make up 40% of the publisher’s income. For the full year, EA’s net revenue was up 6.2% to $5.15 billion. But the news that most people were really hoping to hear was about Anthem and EA did not disappoint, saying that Anthem is set to ship in the last month of the last quarter of the year, that gives it a launch date in March 2019. During the call, they also talked a bit about lockboxes, but we’ll go into more detail on that in the section dedicated to all things lootbox.

 

Dow Jones Reporting Problem

Dow Jones News Service broke embargo and false information was released ahead of Activision-Blizzard’s quarterly report call. This information caused Activision-Blizzard’s stock to tumble, as well as stock for EA and Take-Two. Activision-Blizzard suffered a 6.3% drop, but within a couple of hours the correct information was published and in the end, Activision-Blizzard closed down 2.3%. Afterward, Dow Jones issued a statement saying, “We regret our error as well as inadvertently breaking the embargo. We have issued a correction and are reviewing our processes.”

 

Tencent Q1

Have you had enough with all the good news yet? Well here’s some more for you. Tencent is reporting a 48% increase in revenue year on year. Most of this has been driven by mobile games and social platforms. Total revenue for the quarter was $11.69 billion with operating profit at $4.88 billion. Smartphone game revenue increased 68%. This includes both mobile games and social games on their social media platforms like QQ, which has 805.5 million active users. Facebook is at 2.2 billion, just in case you’re wondering.

On the PC gaming front, revenue remained fairly flat year on year. But with new titles expected in the coming months, Tencent has said this will change. The company also attributes the lack of significant revenue increase on more and more people making the transition to mobile gaming. Tencent is going to be responsible for releasing PUBG and Fortnite to China, assuming they get government approval. They’re also going to publish Ubisoft mobile and PC games in China. So, the future is looking bright for this monster of a company.

 

Boss Key Saga

By now you’ve almost certainly heard about the saga of Boss Key. The company shut down this week just a month after putting a new game up on Steam Early Access. If you haven’t heard all of the drama, or you haven’t seen the concept art from the games they never got to make there’s an entire article on the Boss Key saga.

 

Pearl Abyss Q1

Pearl Abyss had a record first quarter thanks to mobile games. Are you starting to see the same pattern we are? Net profits are up a massive 82.9% compared with the same period last year. Much of their success is thanks to releasing Black Desert Mobile in Korea. North America and Europe account for 56% of Black Desert Online’s game sales. Coming up, the company is working on MMOFPS Project K, casual mobile MMO Project V, and Black Desert Mobile is going to expand to more regions of the world. You can expect it to reach the West sometime next year.

 

Kakao IPO

Black Desert Online

Speaking of Black Desert Online’s performance, we need to talk about Kakao Games, the publisher of BDO in the west. They’re preparing an IPO on the KOSDAQ in Korea. If it passes the screening required, it will most likely go public by the end of this year. According to Samsung Securities, Kakao is worth an estimated $1.4 billion. In addition to BDO, they’re also responsible for publishing PUBG in Korea and developing mobile games.

 

NCSoft Q1

All of NCSoft’s games are down this quarter with the exception of Aion. Guild Wars 2, the company’s most popular game in the west saw a massive, though entirely expected drop. Q4 2017 is where all the revenue for the game’s last expansion Path of Fire was at, so while there was a 32% drop quarter on quarter, year on year there was actually a 66% increase.

During the investor call, NCSoft admitted that Blade & Soul II for mobile has been delayed until 2019 because it didn’t meet expectations. It has a new team and a redesign which is the same thing they did for Lineage Eternal.

 

Nexon Q1

Finally, we’re at the last quarterly report that has been released as of this moment, Nexon. Much like many of the companies already mentioned in this article, Nexon has a strong showing this quarter with $827 million in revenue. That’s up 21% year on year. One thing that really makes them stand out from other companies is that most of its business, 84% of it in fact, was on PC. The vast majority of Nexon’s earnings came from China (67%) and Korea (22%) while North America accounted for just 4%. Later on this year in the west we can expect to see Durango, Maplestory 2, Maplestory M, and Final Fantasy XI mobile.

 

Esports

You can expect to see esports betting blossom thanks to a ruling by the US Supreme Court. They effectively overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act which banned sports betting in all but a few states. The Supreme Court ruled that PAPSA violated the Tenth Amendment. What does this mean for esports betting? It means we’re going to see it a whole lot more. DraftKings have already got plans to move into betting for sports and esports.

In other esports news Quarterback Inc. has raised 2.5 million dollars in its initial seed funding round. The funding will go towards continued development and growth of Quarterback’s esports gaming platform. The seed round was back by Bitkraft Esports, Crest Capital Ventures, Deep Space Ventures, and UpWest Labs.

 

Lootboxes

Finally, we end this article as we always do with a look at what has been going on around the lootbox controversy in the last two weeks. The biggest news has been that the Belgian Gaming Commission released their full report on the controversy. The report itself is 25 pages long and in English, if you want to give it a read, but the most important thing to take from it is that they recommend criminal prosecution being initiated. Another recommendation that they give is age verification and banning the sale of games featuring loot boxes to minors. Wow.

Gamasutra posted an interview with Guild Wars 2 game director Crystin Cox from GDC that touched on the lootbox controversy that is well worth a read as she had a lot to say. She had a hard time defining what an ethical, non-painful lootbox experience might be like and she also said she hopes the government doesn’t get involved in regulation. Guild Wars 2 was specifically mentioned in a recent article here on MMOGames talking about a site that explains microtransactions for games. Guild Wars 2 has frequently been called out by players for their lootbox practices.

Lastly, as promised there is EA news to talk about. EA is adamant that lootboxes aren’t gambling at all. Why? Well, according to EA CEO Andrew Wilson, it’s because players always get a specified number of items and there’s no way to cash the items out or sell them for currency, real or virtual. This argument is a bit like Santa promising you’ll get 5 things for Christmas and on Christmas morning finding out that 3 of them are lumps of coal, one is a gum wrapper, and the other is reindeer droppings. You still got something though!

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Black Desert Mobile Makes a Splash at Mobile World Congress

If you’re not familiar with the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, don’t worry, we weren’t either. The reason this event is now suddenly on our radar, however, is because a Black Desert Mobile demo was unveiled and playable on the show floor, while a partnership announcement between Samsung and developer Pearl Abyss was also made at the event.

black desert mobile demo

The partnership in question will see Black Desert Mobile run a brand new Vulkan API developed by Samsung and Pearl Abyss. This new API helps power the game more efficiently on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ while also making it compatible with Samsung Dex, a docking station that lets certain Galaxy phones transmit their programs to a PC.

As for the game itself, the playable demo is featured on the Galaxy S9 and S9+ due to the line of phones emphasizing “high-quality graphics”. Which, of course, makes the mobile title look pretty good overall.

The press release hasn’t made any mention of plans for a release date or testing for the mobile game as of right now. That said, if by some chance you happen to be near the Fira Gran Via conference hall in Barcelona, you can check out the demo which runs from today until Thursday, March 1st.

Our Thoughts

So wait, you’re making an API that lets you dock a cellphone to a PC? Then…why not just…release it to PC? Ah well, we’re not ones to balk at advances in mobile gaming technology. That said, this new Vulkan API does raise questions about how compatible Black Desert Mobile will be for others who aren’t holding the latest, shiniest cellphone in their pockets even though a prior Q&A has stated those with a Galaxy S5 should be fine.

Source: press release

Articles Related to Black Desert Mobile

Black Desert Mobile Elaborates on Systems and Features
Absolute Skills Coming to Black Desert Online
13 Mobile MMORPGs You Can Play Now

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Black Desert Mobile Elaborates on Systems and Features

You’ve got Q’s. The devs of the upcoming Black Desert Mobile have A’s. Yep, it’s a Black Desert Mobile Q&A session, where the devs have collected some question from interested players and provided some insight on things like character skills, guilds and other systems.

black desert mobile q&a

Black Desert Mobile players will get to pick either a Giant, Warrior, Valkyrie, Ranger or Witch to start the game and their skills will be very similar to those on the PC version…except when they’re not. The devs have stated there will be some new skills or existing skills that are applied differently for the mobile version, including a Black Spirit skill exclusive to the title.

Guilds in Black Desert Mobile will be about 30 people at maximum, with content such as Guild Raids and a guild base available at launch. Other guild-related activities such as Node and Siege Wars will be added in later updates.

As far as the kind of device needed to play the game, the devs state that phones similar in spec to a Galaxy S5 should be able to run Black Desert Mobile, but they do bookend by saying that optimizations are still being worked out.

The Q&A session also goes over the weight system, family name details, character creation and equipment enhancement. You can read the full Q&A on Gamasutra for more.

BDO Mobile is planned to release globally sometime in 2018, with a Korean launch planned to go live first.

Our Thoughts

Sounds like the mobile edition of BDO is going to be a pretty beefy piece of mobile MMO gaming. Of course, we’re still waiting to learn a bit more about specs for this one as well as deeper dives into the game’s systems, but we’re sure to receive those details over the course of this year.

Source: press release

Articles Related to Black Desert Mobile

Black Desert Online Addresses Hidden Item Stats
Black Desert Online Takes Names for Southeast Asia Closed Beta
MMOGames’ Best of 2017 Awards

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