Blizzard Boycott Making Waves Online with Hashtag #BoycottBlizzard

Whichever social media platform it is you like you use you’re sure to find #BoycottBlizzard getting a lot of attention at the moment. Posts using the hashtag show players unsubscribing from Blizzard games and uninstalling them as well as sharing memes that are both anti-Blizzard and anti-China.

The boycott comes after Blizzard banned pro Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai and taking away all of his tournament money from this season after he showed support for the Hong Kong protests during an interview. They also fired the two casters who were interviewing him at the time.

A picture from Blizzard Headquarters shows part of the statue outside is covered, specifically the parts with the company’s core values that say “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters.” Later a group of Blizzard employees gathered at the statue carrying umbrellas, a symbol of the protests in Hong Kong.

One of the teams during the Collegiate Championship held up a sign supporting the Hong Kong protests and calling for a boycott of Blizzard. This little protest has been removed from Blizzard’s archives and so far there haven’t been any repercussions for their actions.

Now, Brian Kibler, a long-time pro caster has quit the Grandmasters in protest of Blizzard’s ban. In a statement made on BMKGaming, he said, “The heavy-handedness of it feels like someone insisted that Blizzard make an example of Blitzchung, not only to discourage others from similar acts in the future but also to appease those upset by the outburst itself. That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with. When I learned about the ruling, I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.”

In response to Blizzard’s actions, Twitter has been turning Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong protesters with images like the one seen below.

So far Blizzard hasn’t made any official statements about the boycott but this is unlikely to be the end of the story.

 

Source: Twitter, Rock Paper Shotgun, BMKGaming via Polygon

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MMO Business Report: Let’s Hunt Monsters, Mobile Esports, and More

In this week’s MMOGames Business Review we’re going to take a look at Pokemon Go’s biggest competition, Let’s Hunt Monsters. We also have a look at the mobile esports scene, a new location-based mobile game, and PUBG Mobile. What can we say, when it comes to business at the moment mobile gaming is the thing everyone is talking about while the rest of the world is WoW crazy.

 

Let’s Hunt Monsters is Pokemon Go’s Largest Competition

There have been many games that have tried to capture the success that Pokemon Go has had since it released in 2016. Games like Jurassic Park Alive, Ghostbusters World, The Walking Dead Our World, and Harry Potter Wizards Unite have all failed to make any significant move in that direction. But, there is one game that stands out above the others, Let’s Hunt Monsters.

Let’s Hunt Monsters is a monster-hunting AR game from Tencent that has only been released in China. It just recently crossed the $50 million mark in player spending on iOS. This is, of course, only 4% what Pokemon Go has grossed. But, it is more than double the amount of Jurassic Park Alive, the next highest-earning AR game. This is quite a remarkable feat for a game that isn’t based on a pre-existing IP and has only been released in one market while others have seen a global release.

It is important to note that Pokemon Go hasn’t been released in China yet, though there are plans for it to go forward. When it happens though it is expected to be done with Tencent’s rival NetEase. One of the complications Pokemon Go is facing in China is that Google Maps is banned in the country. Pokemon Go relies on Google Maps to function so as you can see, there’s a bit of a problem for Niantic.

 

Source: SensorTower

 

Mobile Esports Games Poised to Overtake PC Competitors

arena of valor switch

According to a new report from Niko Partners, mobile esports games generated $15.3 billion last year compared to PC’s $16.1 billion. The report also states that China is overwhelmingly the largest market for both mobile and PC esports accounting for $5.6 billion and $6.4 billion respectively. It also points to League of Legends as the biggest PC esports game, having grossed $1.9 billion last year. This is down from $2.1 billion last year. On the mobile side of esports, it is Tencent’s Arena of Valor which is taking the lead. It grossed $2.5 billion last year, up from $2.4 billion in 2017. But, while mobile esports games are set to overtake PC there were 4 PC esports titles which generated over $1 billion last year in comparison to mobile which only had 2.

The report also suggests that there is going to be a shift from spectator focused tournaments towards more open regional tournaments. “Mobile esports tournaments will engage consumers not only as spectators but as participants,” said Niko Partners managing partner Lisa Hanson. “This will create mass market participation and engagement, growing a far larger audience for esports and generating new opportunities for revenue. We will see esports transition from fewer large tournaments to the addition of large numbers of smaller tournaments that are open to everyone who wants to compete.”

 

Source: Games Industry

 

$1.75 Million Raised by Cerberus Interactive for Location-Based Games

Cerberus Interactive is working on a location-based strategy game which is said to be the first of its kind. It has grabbed the attention, and finances of the CEO of Reddit Steve Huffman and CBO of TikTok Blake Chandlee who were some of the lead investors in this round.

“We believe our marketing-driven approach to game design is a new way forward for mobile game development that has double fold benefits – players get features which are important to them, and studios are able to mitigate financial losses,” said Khan. “Premiere mobile titles require a great deal of capital, and with the funds raised thus far, we hope to not only pioneer a method that greatly reduces the risk involved, but also reshapes the mobile game development industry as a whole. We expect ‘Atlas Empires’ will be our proof of concept.”

Atlas Empires being developed in collaboration with fans and players. It democratizes the process to ensure they have a strong fanbase from development and going forward which is certainly a novel way to develop a game. Should it prove to be successful though it would be interesting to see it attempted in other games going forward.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

PUBG Mobile Now Highest Grossing Mobile Battle Royale in the World

Revenue for PUBG mobile is up an amazing 748% year on year thanks to its release in China. After just 60 days China has become PUBG mobile’s highest-grossing market, accounting for 28% of everything the game has grossed to date. But, it isn’t just China that is contributing to PUBG Mobile’s success, in the United States revenue for the game rose 565% year on year from 4.8 million to 32 million monthly. It is important to note that these numbers for China only take into account the iOS version of the game, Android isn’t included, which means that in reality, the numbers are much higher.

Revenue for PUBG Mobile last month was 5 times higher than its closest competition in the genre, Fortnite and Knives Out. The game has spent 3 months now at number one globally amongst all mobile games according to SensorTower. Superdata however, who release a list of the top 10 grossing games for PC, Console, and Mobile, didn’t list PUBG Mobile in their recent list for July 2019. It’s always interesting to see how two different companies can come to different conclusions about a game’s revenue. It is possible that Superdata simply doesn’t have the information about PUBG Mobile to include them on the list, though this seems unlikely considering PUBG is on their list for PC. It may also be that because SensorTower’s data only includes iOS that they have come to completely different conclusions than Superdata who includes Android and iOS.

 

Source: SensorTower

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Esports Isn’t Mainstream Yet, But It’s Getting Close

We’re closing the gap! Esports is finally starting to be recognized by the mainstream as more than some stereotypical teenagers binging Call of Duty in their mom’s basement all night. You know, munching Cheetos and inhaling energy drinks? Esports is starting to be seen as a real sport. While we’re not there just yet, seeing the perception of media makes one thing very clear: esports is here to stay and they’re not just “playing” around anymore.

The Fortnite World Cup Surely Was, Well… Epic

Fortnite World Cup esports

Let’s take the recent Fortnite World Cup as a solid example. Epic Games are the makers of Fortnite and the Epic Engine that runs the majority of your favorite games. They put on a real spectacle in July! During the three-day event, 19,000 fans gathered at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City to watch a bunch of kids play video games. That’s no small feat, considering the stadium and event sold out, something very mainstream.

Back in February 2019, Epic Games announced that on top of the $100 million prize pool announced back in May 2018, they were dropping another $100 million for 2019. For comparison sake, the more mainstream horse race, The Kentucky Derby, had a prize pool in 2019 that was only $2 million, while the mainstream tennis-focused Wimbledon’s entire prize pool equaled over $41 million (34 million GBP) for 2019. 

 

The New Kids On The Block

We’re not talking chump change here. In fact, 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf took home $3 million from his first-place solo finals finish. During the duos finals, Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist Pedersen and David “Aqua” Wang (aged 16 and 17, respectively) split their winnings of $3 million. These three kids won the combined spoils equaling three Kentucky Derbies. 

Let’s not forget about the viewership. What makes the more traditional sports so popular is that the average everyday person can root for their team both in-person and from home. This is the part where esports has some work to do. While the Fortnite World Cup finals peaked at the impressive 2.3 million viewers across YouTube and Twitch, the 2019 Kentucky Derby had 16.34 million at its peak, according to NBC. While the 2.3 million doesn’t include “fans watching in-game and on other streaming and social media platforms,” such as Twitter, Facebook, and within Fortnite itself, there’s no way they hit the same numbers as the horse race. Let’s not even try to compare that to the 98.2 million that watched the 2019 Super Bowl.

 

Esports Isn’t Just Another Sport, It’s Better

Esports has an evolutionary edge, though. While the aforementioned horse racing and tennis sports don’t generally change at all, video games do often, and they do so really quickly. A weapon in a game could get a buff (upgrade) or a nerf (downgrade) in the very next patch, or a new map could be released, changing the entire landscape for that game. Developers tend to make updates to their games to fix bugs, errors, or to change the way one plays their game! And what of sequels?

While Epic Games has created a truly adaptable game that doesn’t need a Fortnite 2, games like Call of Duty and Madden have yearly releases, keeping players on their toes to learn new mechanics every twelve months or so for the competitive market. The professional players at the officially sanctioned Call of Duty World League jump ship the second that a new game launches for the new season, for instance. Players that want the newest roster of NFL teams are likely to grab each year’s Madden. Even the incredibly popular Blizzard title, Overwatch, that harbors the seasonal Overwatch League is allegedly flirting with the idea of a sequel.

So, where does that leave us? Esports is still volatile, but expanding near daily. Each year, esports athletes are getting younger and younger, retiring in their 20s, and making names for themselves. It’s not going to help anyone to mince words here. Esports, as a whole, has three key points that need to be addressed to really make it big with the mainstream viewership: leveling off, camera views, and product options. 

 

What Esports Needs To Do

What I mean by “leveling off” is that the average viewer doesn’t want to learn all new rules every time they turn on the TV. The constant tweaks and patches to games are surely going to confuse fans that don’t play the game. Where football has remained unchanged for decades, a new map, mode, or changes to that sniper rifle over there would change the game entirely. 

If you’re watching a game being played, you want access to the action. That’s why camera angles and views are another key point to address here. In most traditional sports, the focus is on the player holding the ball or in a single area. In a game like Fortnite, where there’s 100 players all at once, that can get trickier if there are three big fights going on in three different areas.

As mentioned before, new games come out constantly and each have their own respective athletes. There’s no way to compare this phenomenon to classic sports either. A professional Halo player may not also be a professional Call of Duty player, even though they’re both of the same “first person shooter” genre. A pro at Street Fighter might not be any good at Mortal Kombat, even if both are considered fighting games. Each game has clear lines in the sand due to different mechanics. Sure, one could say the same about traditional sports, but we’re talking hundreds of games at an unprecedented scale, not a few dozen.

 

Where Will It Lead?

Needless to say, when I call it the “mainstream viewership”, I don’t mean the Millennials and Gen Z generations that already watch these things on Twitch or YouTube. Viewers that are used to watching know how to adapt quickly and easily. I’m talking about the main media outlets and the average everyday person. While some outlets have dipped their toes, such as the Overwatch League being presented on ABC or the TBS-backed eLeague, allocation is clearly skewed still. While we have an uphill battle still to go, it’s not all bad.

blizzard esports

More and more esports stadiums and physical places to play are popping up all the time. More schools are looking into the idea of adding esports to curriculum. Professional traditional sports stars are investing in pro gaming teams, such as NBA star Rick Fox and Echo Fox. Parents are embracing the idea that their kid may not be cut out to be a Varsity football player, but they still can be an athlete with the right training and focus. 

Plus, with big money moves like what Epic Games is working through, it’s only a matter of time before esports hits that mainstream. It’ll be no time before we start seeing the finish line. Until then, esports will continue to grow.

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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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Blizzard Global Esports Director Leaves the Company

After 13 years with the company, Kim Phan, Blizzard Global Esports Director is leaving the company. For anyone keeping track at home this is in fact the second major esports departure from Blizzard in the last month. The first was Nate Nanzer, the Overwatch League co-creator who left Blizzard for a position at Epic Games.

Kim Phan said that she’s leaving the company in favor of a “new endeavor” elsewhere in the games industry. She shared news of her departure on an esports forum post where she made a lengthy statement.

Dear friends,

Fifteen years ago, I discovered the TeamLiquid.net forums and became a part of this amazing family. This site has been around longer than I have been in esports, and a big reason why I’ve decided to make this post here today.

Back then, I was heavily involved in WarCraft III, running my own fan site at WCReplays.com. I played Brood War casually and tried to play WarCraft III professionally. I wasn’t good enough to be a pro, so instead I became a team manager and picked up shoutcasting. Some of you might have known me as ‘bunny’. I have always been – and still am – deeply in love with esports and its community. The passion, dedication, and camaraderie surrounding the games we love is infectious. Once you become immersed, you never want to leave.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the passion I invested into these early projects that opened the doors to a 13+ year career for me at Blizzard. My first role was in development as a producer in online technologies (think Battle.net and game websites). I then went on to business intelligence to work on security, hacks, and anti-cheat, before eventually taking a seat at the table on Blizzard Esports. What a complete honor and privilege it has been to serve this amazing community. I will always remember the moments we created together, the blood, sweat, and tears we all poured in, and the late night hours we spent cheering on our favorite teams and players.

I have watched this industry grow through the support we’ve given one another: the strides we made when we lifted each other up rather than pulling each other down. I have enjoyed following the conversations in these forums, and in so many other venues where we have gathered both online and in person. I am a better person for having been a part of this amazing community, and will forever be grateful for it.

Going forward, I will be pursuing a new endeavor within the gaming industry. My last day with Blizzard was Friday, June 14th. As I hang up my sword and shield, I look forward to a bright future and wish all my Blizzard friends and family the very best.

Thank you for keeping me/us/Blizzard honest. I ask that you never stop. Even when you didn’t hear from us, we were listening. Even when we made decisions you didn’t agree with, we were listening (and learning). Never stop voicing your concerns and sharing what’s most important to you — it makes all of us better.

I am planning to attend BlizzCon this year, this time around as a diehard fan. I hope to be cheering alongside some of you there.

GL HF,

.kim

 

Source: tl.net via Gamasutra

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Twitch Bought Bebo

Most of us remember Bebo as that other social media platform you were on besides Myspace and Facebook, back in the days before Twitter. It turns out they’re still kicking, much to everyone in this office’s surprise when we saw the news that Twitch bought Bebo.

What interest does Twitch have in a third rate social media platform? None at all actually. Bebo stopped being about social media after bankruptcy and has shifted its focus to being a High School esports company. After the bankruptcy, they rebranded to be a streaming service provider similar to Xsplit, but for esports and they currently, host a High School Fortnite league.

So it is really no wonder, now that you know all the details why Twitch took an interest in Bebo. The acquisition reported cost under $25 million and Discord was also bidding on the company. Based on Linkedin profiles of ex-Bebo employees it looks like all of this took place sometime this month. You can see the former CEO of Bebo now lists his job as Senior Director of Product, Esports at Twitch. With the acquisition Twitch picked up the 10 person staff that make up Bebo as well as the IP of Bebo, the social network company turned esports streaming company.

So, what is next for Bebo’s team and the Bebo platform? Only time will tell for sure, but right now it looks like they’re going to be working together on Twitch Rivals. As the company prepares to face competition from other streaming services in the near future.

 

Source: TechCrunch

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Roller Champions – A Brutal Adrenaline Rush on Roller Skates

Some movies are best left forgotten, but others seem so avant-garde that it almost feels like there was some sorcery involved. Rollerball is one such perfect example, a movie where a brutal futuristic sport took center stage – and I don’t mean the dreadful remake, but the 1975 original which was jam-packed with timely social commentary.

Amidst a barrage of Tom Clancy games, Roller Champions was one of the most surprising announcements from Ubisoft at E3 2019. I’ll eat my shorts if the designers didn’t take inspiration from Rollerball in any way, seeing that the similarities are too deliberate to refute.

But as they usually say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and considering the grand scheme of things, we do need more futuristic sports games. After all, even Rocket League gets tiring after a while.

Roller Champions Preview High Speed Chase

Keep Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Roller Champions is the kind of game that may deceive you and tempt you to discard it as micro-transaction ridden, pay-to-win garbage. I understand where you’re coming from and it will take a few matches to properly tune your mind into it. In less than an hour you should have a clearer view of the whole picture and that view will probably include the words “thrilling” and “fun.” You will probably want to throw a “#$%#!” in there as well, but that is all part of the healthy. no-holds-barred competitive spirit of Roller Champions.

The E3 2019 reveal came with a demo that was as barebones as they come in terms of content, but it was more than enough to show how the game will play. In that respect, it was fairly finetuned, with the bulk of the work surely falling upon the physics department. The skating feel had to be just right, and it mostly is, with a convincing sense of speed as you ride up walls and dodge rival players, with many falls and hilarity ensuing.

The core mechanics look simple enough, but you’ll soon find that this is a sport where skill and teamwork are of utmost importance. It’s not a simple matter of skating in an oval arena, you must rely on your teammates to clear the way for a successful goal attempt. There are many variables coming into play, one of them called pumping.

Roller Champions Preview Acrobatic Takedown

Pumping is a maneuver where the skater gains speed by bending the knees, something that would instantly make this Daenerys’ favorite sport. You only use it when going downhill, picking up speed until it’s time to start skating again. Pursuing your opponent from behind will take advantage of their draft, gaining speed to ultimately dash and barge onto them, sending the unlucky fellow in a spectacular spin.

When you have the ball, you can press a button to perform a daring last-second dodge that will leave your opponent befuddled. Jumping is another option to potentially avoid the incoming burst of fists and elbows.

Scoring a goal is a matter of throwing the ball through the hoop. It’s not as easy as it sounds since you must consider timing and aiming to successfully throw the ball, not to mention the vicious rival skaters trying to barge you off the track. But this comes with an interesting mechanic that is going to affect the outcome of every match – your goals are worth a different number of points according to the amount of laps your team completes before scoring. You can make a full lap in any direction but losing the ball to an opponent will reset the neon lap counters. A one-lap goal is worth one point, a two-lap goal is worth three points, while a three-lap goal earns you five points. Since the first team reaching five points wins, there is a significant risk/reward factor at play that you mustn’t ignore.

Roller Champions Preview Going For the Goal

If You Win It, They Will Come

Roller Champions puts a clever cosmetic spin to the XP system. Your performance in the arena will be rated according to goals, victories and other factors, increasing your fans, a.k.a. experience points. This will serve to unlock new gear, outfits, animations, customization items and even stuff for your fanbase, such as new celebration and outfits. It would be amazing if you could customize the crowd chants in any way, but that would lead us into dangerous territory that no publisher is willing to risk.

Sadly, the demo didn’t have any of the customization options unlocked. There was no way to mess around with your character – you couldn’t even pick a skater, in fact – and I can only guess what kind of options we’ll get. Hopefully Ubisoft won’t neglect this aspect since it is one of the areas that could make or break a free-to-play game – let’s have enough content to fiddle with without bumping into paywalls at every corner.

The Roller Champions demo featured two arenas set in Acapulco and Mexico. The sunny Acapulco arena feels cheerful and relaxed, but I preferred the Mexico indoor arena by a long margin. It’s best suited to the violent nature of the sport, the lighting is also tighter, and the overall mood is that this is in a more advanced shape graphically speaking.

Roller Champions Preview Mexico Arena Skating

Speaking of graphics, Roller Champions starts with a stylish intro that sadly doesn’t find proper correlation with the actual in-game models. The different personalities are patent, but these champions need a more refined art style, one that will make you hesitant when it comes to choosing one skater. I didn’t notice any specific stats differences between them such as speed or acceleration, but I’m willing to bet that this will happen when unlocks come into play, hopefully in a way that won’t break the game balance.

I’m convinced that many gamers scoffed when Ubisoft announced Roller Champions at E3 2019. I was one of them, rolling my eyes as I thought that this mix of Rollerball and Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe seemed too derivative and bland to stand a chance. 

Mea culpa, then, as I learned the basics during the first few matches and suddenly, I was having a lot of fun pumping and dodging, delighted by the sheer speed and acrobatic take downs. I felt the adrenaline rush and I can see it earning a decent fanbase capable of turning it into serious eSports material. I just love a good underdog story and Roller Champions has all the makings of one.

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Battle Royale Weekly: State of the Battle Royale Genre

IHS Markit put out a pretty extensive report this week that covered a lot of topics in the mobile games industry, but a good chunk of the 13-page report was specifically about the Battle Royale genre. So, this week, instead of our usual dive into the news from the genre I want to look at what this report has to say about Battle Royale games.

Click the image to enlarge it

The report begins with two charts side by side as seen above. One is the top 10 mobile games by net revenue and the other is the top 10 by the number of downloads. Right away we can see that PUBG mobile, with 274 million downloads doesn’t make the revenue chart at all while a game like Pokemon Go which brought in $729 million isn’t in the chart for downloads at all. In fact, the only game that appears on both charts is Candy Crush Saga which lands at number 9 for downloads and number 1 for net revenue. On the other side, Fortnite makes the chart for revenue near the bottom with $390 million in revenue and isn’t anywhere to be seen on the number of downloads. Clearly, we’re seeing that having a lot of downloads doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be making all of the money. Other Battle Royale titles on the charts include Garena Free Fire…and that’s all. Quite a lot of the games on the charts are considered to be hyper-casual games. The sort that makes adult women the largest demographic of gamers in the world right now, and yes, that is true.

In another chart, focusing just on Battle Royale games, we can see revenue and downloads together in one place. Downloads for PUBG Mobile are massive thanks to China, however, the game isn’t able to monetize that audience so they’re losing out in a big way. The revenue they do have for PUBG Mobile is for the international version of the game which can be monetized, but as you can see, that doesn’t amount to much. The revenue on that chart for Fortnite, by the way, is only for iOS since Epic has quite famously decided not to use the Google Play store to release the Android version of the game. Even with just one revenue source, we can look at how Fortnite still manages to completely dominate the industry. We can only imagine what that would look like with Android thrown in on top.

The report goes on to predict that the Battle Royale genre will go in a way that is similar to what we saw with the MOBA genre. They’re predicting that there will be a few high profile failures coming in the near future because of the extreme influx of competition. This is something we here at MMOGames have also been predicting since Battle Royale fever took over the industry. They also predict that we will see the genre filled with a lot of titles that never stand a chance at being at the top, and that there will be a high turnover for these games. We’re already seeing this on Steam with indie Battle Royale titles that sometimes only get a daily concurrent player count in the dozens. This is especially difficult for the Battle Royale genre because the games require a higher number of players to get a match going than you would see with other games. So, when a player logs in and is never able to get a match going they stop logging in. This in turn makes it even more difficult to get a match going and quickly the game is considered dead.

This isn’t all bad news for the industry and once again, our old friend esports is predicted to swoop in and save the day. While esports may not be bringing in much, if any money right now for Battle Royale games, it does keep interest in the games, which keeps people playing. Epic also announced in mid-2018 that they would be providing $100 million for prize pool funding to establish Fortnite’s esports scene.

Ultimately, however, the report points out that Battle Royale is more of a game mode than a fully fledged game genre in its own right. With this in mind, they say that we will see RPGs in Asia adding Battle Royale modes to their games as they did with MOBAs. Battle Royale games are limited in their scope and really, there’s only so much you can do with a Battle Royale game. That’s one of the reasons we’re seeing a decline in Fortnite. Players are growing tired of the same old formula and doing the same old thing, and Epic hasn’t yet found a way to keep things new and exciting all of the time.

One example of a game that has done this well is Pokemon Go. On the surface, Pokemon Go doesn’t really have a whole lot to it. Catch Pokemon, visit locations out in the real world, and catch more Pokemon. However, Niantic found its footing in 2018 with a constant stream of in-game events that take place at the very least once a month, though usually more often than that thanks to real life holidays and events. The game went from declining to one of the highest earning mobile games on the market thanks to this shift. For Fortnite to continue to enjoy being top dog in the genre it needs to find its footing like Pokemon Go did and work out a way to keep players interested more consistently. Otherwise, it risks losing the interest of players while only enjoying brief moments of popularity after new content releases.

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Despite Certain Omissions, Here’s Why the EVO 2019 Lineup is Rad

Every year, the Evolution Championship Series- or EVO, as it’s known to some- enthralls the fighting community with its tremendous match-ups straight out of Las Vegas. And this year is no exception with EVO 2019, as the team behind the event revealed the games that we can expect this time around.

EVO 2019

And while there are some omissions that are a bit on the painful side (is Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite really that much of a letdown?), the inclusion of some favorites is a welcome sight. Although there is the question as to why a couple of fighting games that are debuting this year are being left out.

First, let’s take a close look at the games that will be included this time around, including a couple of big surprises that should be worth watching.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle: One of last year’s most engaging 2D fighting games, BlazBlue stirred up all kinds of attention when it released on multiple consoles, including the Nintendo Switch. So it no doubt will be a welcome addition to the EVO roster this year, with many fans picking favorites from a number of characters from various universes, coming together for one great superbrawl. We can’t wait to see how these fights go down.

Dragon Ball FighterZ: After being painfully left out of EVO Japan earlier this year (reportedly due to rights issues), it appears that one of last year’s strongest titles, FighterZ, will be making a welcome comeback. Now the real question is if the game will be getting more attention than the usual headliner Street Fighter V, which easily got overshadowed, despite the build-up to the finale back in 2018. We’ll have to see where the placement order is, but don’t be shocked if Fighter steals the show once more, especially with its second season of content in tow.

Mortal Kombat 11: Another newcomer that is set to take the stage in a big way, the newest Mortal Kombat will be a heavy-hitter at the fighting event, replacing previous fan favorite Injustice 2. That’s fine with us, as we get to see a number of ‘Kombatants’ mix it up across a number of arenas, spilling all kinds of blood and creating chaos from fatalities and brutalities. It may not be for the squeamish, but Mortal Kombat 11 will get its fair share of fans when it makes its debut this August. Fatality!

EVO 2019 samurai showdown

Samurai Shodown: Perhaps the biggest surprise that was announced with the line-up this year is SNK’s revival of its weapon-based fighting series, which will debut on the PlayStation 4 in early summer. Featuring a number of returning favorites (Haohmaru!), along with some new faces, and 2D gameplay along the lines of the King of Fighters series, Shodown should get a great deal of attention. Now give it to us already, SNK!

SoulCalibur VI: We won’t lie, we’re thrilled to see the newest SoulCalibur get the nod for the tournament scene this year. EVO fans will love what this weapons-based brawler has to offer, with favorites like 2B from NieR: Automata and Geralt from The Witcher included, along with a number of great characters we’ve become accustomed to over the years. Expect lots of great tactics and fierce battles when this game takes the Evolution Championship Series with a vengeance.

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition: We’re not too surprised to see this game make its return to EVO, if only because it’s become one of its biggest staples over the years. Part of that is due to the undying support of Capcom, which actually makes custom skins and arena stages just for the EVO community. Now the real question is what it’ll be debuting with this year’s event. A new season of content, with more fighters joining the fray or perhaps new tournament options to keep the popularity of the game thriving? It could be anything, really but we can’t wait to see what they bring.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: We remember the days when Nintendo frowned upon the idea of including its Smash series in EVO events, and we’re perplexed as to why. However, it’s changed its tune, as the tournament will officially see the debut of Ultimate and, with it, some of the best match-ups we’ve seen on the competitive side. This should be a lot of fun, especially given the number of characters that are available. Plus, Nintendo could totally use the showcase as an opportunity to debut a potential new downloadable character as part of its season pass. Give us Banjo Kazooie already!

Tekken 7: The popularity of the latest Tekken game continues to be sky-high, mainly due to the two new characters, including The Walking Dead’s Negan, that will be debuting later this week. So we’re happy to see that it’s coming back to EVO alongside Dragon Ball FighterZ and SoulCalibur VI, solidifying Bandai Namco’s presence at the event. As for what we’ll see from the game, there’s a chance that even more characters could be introduced, along with potential modes that might keep things interesting. Or, hey, maybe we’ll finally get a glimpse at the oft-delayed Tekken vs. Street Fighter game that the team has been working on. Please?

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]: Some of you fans may not have heard of this game, and, hey, a few of us are right there with you. But to ignore what Aksys Games has created with this sleeper would be criminal, even with BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle taking the spotlight first. Under Night has a favorable fighting community standing behind it and its many fighters, along with balance and tactics that many have come to embrace over the past few months. Plus, its arrival at a major tournament such as this is sure to boost its popularity, which wouldn’t hurt the publisher in the least.

So What’s Missing? Even though the line-up that’s coming to EVO 2019 is star-studded, there are a few games that are missing, although we have a pretty good reason why. Let’s take a look at some of the obvious titles that aren’t making the cut once August rolls around.

First off, no Super Smash Bros. Melee. A lot of fans have been wondering about this one, since it’s a staple fighting game. Well, with Ultimate on the scene, some feel that having two Smash Bros. games on the roster is a bit much, despite them being somewhat different. Indeed, its time has probably come, and Nintendo probably gave the go-ahead with the idea that Ultimate would be getting attention. So, sorry, fans, we know this one hurts, but there’s reasoning behind it.

Then we come to Dead or Alive 6. The fighting game, which is set to debut this Friday, is sure to be a big hit with its fans, but as far as EVO goes, it doesn’t fit into its “core values”. That’s an interesting decision, particularly after what went down when the game stream from EVO Japan was stopped, but it looks like it was made to keep focus on the more traditional fighting games. Don’t worry too much, though,as Koei Tecmo already has tournaments planned for the forthcoming sequel, and they’ll be freshly packed with competition.

There’s also Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, and…sigh. Capcom has given this crossover fighter the cold shoulder, and it looks like Marvel has as well, despite the fact that its characters will be featured in upcoming films like Captain Marvel and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. So what’s the deal? Well, actually, there’s a slight chance that Capcom could bring this game back as Marvel vs. Capcom 4, adding new characters from the X-Men universe (favorites like Magneto, Wolverine and, of course, that Mango Sentinel) and a few other favorites. EVO would be a great relaunching ground for the series, if it doesn’t happen at E3.

Then there’s Jump Force. While this game has some engaging 3D fights going for it, there’s also a lot working against it, as you can see from our recent review. There’s just way too much loading time to go around, which could easily throw off the momentum of the tournament as we know it. On top of that, there are some folks that prefer to watch traditional fighting compared to, say, arena-style 3D tactics. That would explain why we haven’t seen games like the Naruto titles in the tournament in the past.

As for why Injustice 2 wasn’t included, the case could simply be the same as it was for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a few years back. As engaging and fun a game as it is, it’s time has simply come when it comes to the fighting tournament scene. Even though it’s bound to have some hardcore appeal with fan-held battles, its place on the main stage passed once NetherRealm was finished with its DLC plan. Besides, now Mortal Kombat 11 can get the focus, and that works best considering its popularity.

EVO 2019

Finally, where is Killer Instinct? Alas, probably waiting for a new season at this point. I do hope we get it, because this is a fun game to watch.

There are other titles we could mention here, such as Fantasy Strike, EX Fighting Layer and even SNK Heroines, but the fact of the matter is there’s only so much room for competition, and the EVO team did a good job with its selections this year. We’ll see how the event goes down when EVO 2019 takes place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada from August 2-4. See you in the fighting ring!

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Esports Medical Program Started for Smite Pros

You may not think that playing games is a physically demanding sport, in fact, many would be hesitant to call it a sport at all. But, for the professionals who are practicing up to 16 hours a day, it is physically draining. Injuries in professional gamers are a very serious problem and now, thanks to Skillshot Media and the Northside Hospital Sports Medicine Network Smite and Paladin pros will be able to have those injuries taken care of by experts. The two companies have teamed up to create an esports medical program to look after the professional gamers.

Thanks to the new program pro gamers will have access to pre-performance screenings, endurance training, sports nutrition training, a team/league doctor, access to experts for physical and mental health management, and an injury training room.

Talking about the new program Todd Harris, Co-founder of Hi-Rez and President of Skillshot Media had this to say.

“In discussions with the Northside Hospital Sports Medicine Network, it became clear that they are not only taking early notice of the rising trend of esports injuries, but also aspire to serve our pro players just like athletes in traditional sports – benefiting from nutrition, exercise, rest, and best practices for optimizing performance and prolonging careers. We are thrilled to partner with Northside to provide complementary injury-prevention services for our players and also share ongoing research with the broader esports community.”

 

Dr. Vonda Wright MD, an orthopedic surgeon and chief of Northside Hospital Sports Medicine Network added this.

“As the convergence of technology expands our definitions of ‘athletes and competition,’ Northside Sports Medicine is proud to step into this unique role. Through preventive care and innovative research, we hope to maximize performance while minimizing injury for these pro players, while setting a standard of care for esports athletes at every level.”

 

The field of esports medicine is a growing one, in fact, it was just last week that team Magic Gaming signed a sponsorship and health service deal with regional healthcare network Orlando Health. It’s likely that we will see more of this happening in the future

 

Source: The Esports Observer

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