The Division 2 is Free to Play This Weekend

If you haven’t tried it yet and you’re curious The Division 2 is free to play this weekend on all platforms it is available on. That’s PC, PS4, and Xbox One in case you didn’t know. During the free to play weekend, you’ll have access to the entire game. If you’ve taken part in previous free to play events you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off. If you do decide to buy the game any progress you’ve made during the free weekend will carry over.

Speaking of buying it, the game has been discounted 70% and the Year 1 Pass has been discounted 40% for the duration of the free to play weekend. The free to play weekend has already started and will continue to run until Monday, October 21st at 8 AM UTC for UPlay, PS4, and Xbox One and 5 PM UTC for the Epic store.

They have an FAQ on their official website but it is pretty small and is just made up of everything you just read. The one thing it doesn’t explain is why the free to play weekend. It’s to celebrate the launch of Episode 2, a massive game update and Title Update 6. Episode 2 is the new DLC that is tied to the Year 1 Pass. It includes 3 missions that are all around the Pentagon, which gives the episode its title, Pentagon: The Last Castle. Title Update 6 has revamped character customization, crafting, and a whole lot more. The update is available to everyone and doesn’t require the Year 1 Pass.

 

Source: Official Site

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Weekly Business Report: Nexon’s Internal Restructuring, Ninja’s Leaving Twitch, and More

MMOGames Business Weekly Report is back to take a look at mobile gamer preferences for free to play games in China, the latest news from Nexon, Ninja leaving Twitch, and a few other topics relevant to the business side of making online games.

 

Automaton Games Shuts Down

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

Automaton Games, the folks who were behind the unreleased 1,000 man Battle Royale Mavericks: Proving Grounds, has shut down and in the process the game has died. In the announcement on their website, they cited a lack of funding as the reason for their sudden closure. Thankfully Improbable, the makers of SpatialOS, have said they will be trying to find places for Automaton employees in their company. Mavericks: Proving Grounds is actually the second SpatialOS game to meet its end in recent months leaving some to speculate that SpatialOS falling out with Unity earlier this year may have played a role. If that’s true, this might only be the beginning of SpatialOS related sunsets. MMOGames staff will be watching and will continue to bring updates in our weekly business report.

 

Source: MMOGames

 

Chinese Consumer Preferences

According to recently released research, over half of Chinese consumers prefer free to play or ad monetized games over premium titles. In fact, the research found that 61% of people prefer non-premium games. 85% reported they spend money on mobile games with 3% spending more than $50 (¥330) a month. In contrast, the average spending is just $5.80 a month. Those interviewed between the ages of 26 and 30 had the highest average spending at $10 a month.

The research also showed there is a high level of brand loyalty. 92% of respondents said they stick with a game for more than a week and 87% say they’ve played fewer than 5 different games in the previous month.

One challenge that developers face is how well divided the market’s stores are. In China, 30% of the market is using the App Store, 29% are using Tencent’s MyApp, and 26% use the Huawei app store. In the West we really only have Google Play or the App Store for mobile games.

It would be really interesting to see this same research completed in a few different Western countries to see how our views differ. I would personally much prefer to pay for a game or even pay a subscription for a game over being nickel and dimed to death by an in-game shop.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Nexon Internal Merger Incoming

The last few months have been a wild ride for Nexon. First, their founder and CEO was putting the family’s stake in the business up for sale, worth between 9 to 11 billion dollars. After months of speculation that everyone from Disney to EA were interested in buying, it seems Kim Jung-ju may have simply decided not to sell. Of course, I’m sure a decision like that wasn’t made lightly. Following the release of this rumor, Nexon’s stock dropped resulting in a loss of up to 5%. Now we know that Nexon is reorganizing and merging their two core business units. No jobs are going to be lost in this internal restructuring, but the company is looking at getting rid of projects with low commercial value. They also hope that the restructuring will improve the company’s operating profits and increase its stock value. News of this restructuring started out as a rumor but was quickly confirmed by Nexon. It is set to take place sometime in August.

 

Source: MMOCulture

 

Ninja Leaves Twitch for Mixer

Ninja Fortnite

Ninja has announced that he will no longer be streaming on Twitch and is instead switching over to Microsoft’s Mixer platform. The specifics on this particular deal haven’t been released but last year he was making $500,000 a month streaming Fortnite on Twitch and a paid promotion deal with EA for Apex Legends got him $1 million, so it is safe to assume he got a pretty sweet deal. This marks a major shift for Twitch which has been seeing its growth slow over the last year.

Mixer has always been playing third fiddle to Twitch and Youtube but has also seen consistent growth. Last quarter it saw 119 million hours watched, an increase of 37% year on year. Ninja’s move to Mixer might be exactly the sort of push the platform needs to catch up to its two bigger competitors. However, Fortnite’s popularity, especially in streaming, has been on the decline. It is also possible that many of Ninja’s fans wont follow him to this different platform because they prefer Twitch. We can see an example of this in the industry already looking at people who refuse to play a game that hasn’t been released on Steam. Only time will tell how this transition actually goes.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

 

Zynga Eyes China

At one point in time just a few years ago Zynga was dominating the games industry. They were all we ever talked about it seemed like. Of course the days of Facebook games are long gone now, but that doesn’t mean Zynga is gone or that they’ve even slowed down. Zynga has been transitioning to a mobile game developer and having great success with it. They recently released Empires and Puzzles in Japan and Korea, the beginning of their strategy for expansion into the Asian market. Now they’re eyeing China.

In a call with GamesIndustry.biz Zynga COO Matt Bromberg said, “We are beginning to look at China for Empires & Puzzles as well, and as our portfolio continues to develop we have both Star Wars and the Harry Potter game on our slate for the future. When there are big global pieces of IP like that, which we think will resonate across Asia, we’re hopeful that will also help us expand there. We’re trying to take a measured approach to it, and learn as we go and make sure we have the right match of game and personnel on the ground and marketing strategy. When you get those lined up it can be terrific, but it is a complicated market and we’re still in learning mode.”

A complicated market is putting it lightly. Still, if they are successful in their push into China, they’ll be tapping into a mobile games industry with an estimated 586 million gamers.

 

Source: Games Industry

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Albion Online is Going Free to Play Next Month

Next month Albion Online is going free to play after spending nearly two years behind what they call a $30 paywall. They said this in the FAQ section of announcement answering the question, Why are you making this change now? Here is the full text of their answer:

Overall, the game is doing very well. We have a fully staffed development team of 35 people, just released our sixth major post-release update, and have a stable and growing player population.

However, we’re also convinced that Albion Online can be taken much further. Our mission is to bring back that old-school, hardcore MMORPG feeling, to as many players as possible.

In today’s world, a 30-dollar paywall – the price of our cheapest game pack – is a massive deterrent for trying out a new game, especially one as unconventional as Albion Online. We believe that by removing the initial paywall we will be able to grow Albion Online as a game and continue to further expand our development team to bring you even more content updates and exciting new features going forward.

Ultimately, we believe this step will help us realize our long-term vision for the game.

As a thank you to their loyal players they’ll be giving anyone who has redeemed a starter pack before April 10th an exclusive Specter Wolf mount, 1,000 gold, and 3 days of claimable premium time. Starter packs will continue to be available until April 10th, and are in fact, discounted for the remaining time they’ll be available.

Premium status which can be bought with in-game currency or real money will remain the same. The only thing being changed is that barrier of entry wherein you must buy the game.

All of these changes take place on April 10th at 10:00 UTC. If you’d like to learn more about Albion Online going f2p you can find more information in the official announcement linked below.

 

Source: Official Site

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Wargaming Announces a Next-Gen F2P MMO Shooter

Wargaming announces a next-gen F2P MMO Shooter that they’re working on with Frag Lab. They’ll be using nearly a dozen Amazon Web Services products to make the game including Amazon GameLift, and Lumberyard. Why this was mentioned and took up about half the press release announcing the project I can’t really say, but they seem to think it’s important. Or they’re using it as an ad. Either way, we’ve mentioned it and now we’re moving on to the bits people actually care about.

This is Warface, Not the newly announced game of which there are no images.

Here are a couple of quotes from Wargaming and Frag Lab about their new partnership.

“When Frag Lab approached us with their vision of what they wanted to develop, we felt that it perfectly matched our core values, and their passion was palpable,” states Shahzad Khan, Product Director, Wargaming. “We knew by combining their experience working on a successful shooter with our unrivaled free-to-play expertise, together we could bring this vision to life.”

“Having Wargaming as a publishing partner was the obvious choice for us; they have a great wealth of experience in delivering successful titles to players worldwide,” states Maxim Dembik, Frag Lab CEO. “We started this ambitious project from scratch with nothing but our collective knowledge, and this gave us the opportunity to choose any technology we wanted. We’re always looking to embrace new tech and we’re glad we did: Amazon Lumberyard is the perfect fit for our vision.”

Sadly there isn’t really much more to be said about the game right now. But the press release announcing the game does say that a public announcement which will feature more details is scheduled for later this year. So consider this your announcement of the announcement.

 

Source: Press Release

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Switchblade, the MOBA with Vehicles is Now Free to Play

Vehicle-based games are rare so when Switchblade graced our inbox we knew had to talk about it. Switchblade is a 5v5 team-based MOBA where all the combat takes place with heavily armed sci-fi vehicles in a massive arena. The game is currently in Early Access and is being developed by UK development team Lucid Games. You can find it on Steam right now and Playstation 4 is scheduled very soon.

From a development standpoint, the move to free to play also represents a transition from Early Access to beta. Of course, this can’t quite be accurately displayed in places like Steam. For them being in beta means that the game is effectively feature complete. Beta is about getting player feedback, squashing bugs, and introducing more content.

If you’re interested in learning more about the game there will be a developer livestream tomorrow, January 23rd at 3 PM GMT on Twitch. They don’t have an agenda planned for the livestream but they will be there to answer player questions, celebrate the launch of free to play, and giving away some in-game currency. If you have a question already in mind send them a tweet and they’ll be sure to answer it on stream. This is especially great since 3 PM GMT is 10 AM Eastern so there’s a good chance you won’t be able to watch the stream live anyway. Thankfully the livestream will be available on social media after it wraps up so you’ll be able to watch it whenever you get the chance.

If you’re interested in giving Switchblade a try head over to Steam where you can grab it for free. If you haven’t already seen it be sure to check out the brand new, explosion-packed trailer below.

Source: Press Release, Official Blog

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Torchlight Frontiers Details its Free to Play Monetization

The Torchlight Frontiers folks have been pretty busy, releasing little bits of information every little while, but today they’ve released a pretty significant one: confirmation of a Torchlight Frontiers free to play model as well as their philosophy behind the monetization.

torchlight frontiers free to play

While the game’s free-to-play model is going to do its best to sell items “that you want to buy, but do not need to buy,” the game also offers a nod to the fact that some people don’t have time to earn everything via purely in-game means. As such, certain items that accelerate earnings like gold or luck will be on offer. There are also plans to include cosmetics like Fort decor.

The team is also considering selling special items like Relic Weapons on its storefront, though normal gear will always be earned from in-game pursuits. The blog suggests the addition of Relic Weapons is not finalized, but if it ever is there will be “reasonable” means to craft or find those same store Relics in-game.

Finally, the blog post states that content will not be paywalled and that its store items won’t be pay-to-win by virtue of the fact that Torchlight Frontiers isn’t a game you can win.

“We want you to be who and what you want to be in our world,” reads the post. “We know that killing a boss and finding that cool rare item is immensely satisfying, but buying that same item from a store or auction house is less so.”

Our Thoughts

Consider ourselves extremely leery of the addition of Relic Weapons to the in-game store, especially since those are literally means to buy power. Which can be seen as paying to win to some, semantics aside.

Source: official site

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Shroud of the Avatar is Now Free to Play

If your instinct regarding Shroud of the Avatar’s free-play features were the game dipping its toes into the monetization water, then you were bang on. Shroud of the Avatar free to play is now a thing with the MMO’s latest release.

shroud of the avatar free to play

Last week’s R59 update officially kicked off the game’s switch to the free-to-play model, which has removed a number of restrictions to trading, land ownership and story progression. “We have removed almost all gameplay restrictions from our free players,” remarks creative director Richard Garriott. “We are thrilled to open up Shroud to a larger audience of gamers.”

The update has also introduced a revamped new user experience meant to teach fresh players the basics in a specific tutorial area called the Isle of Storms, which walls off each section of the zone until players learn and use the specified skills.

Since the tutorial is now its own dedicated region, this lets players choose their own story path independent of their starting deck. This also has led to starting areas that are reportedly more tightly focused in terms of both narrative and gameplay direction.

There’s a whole lot more with the new release as well, so make sure to take some time to look over the patch notes. As is often the case, however, they’re pretty much a small novel’s worth of things to read, so get comfy.

Our Thoughts

Perhaps this will bolster Shroud’s population? It will certainly be interesting to see if this F2P shift means more people take the plunge and check out what this game has to offer.

Source: press release

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Star Trek Online’s Age of Discovery Launches Today

The day is here, Star Trek Online fans! It is October 9th and the Age of Discovery launches today for PC players, bringing Cryptic’s beloved MMORPG to the most recent series with a brand new starting experience, two new Discovery episodes, a new Task Force Operation to defend Starbase 1, and a shiny new look for the Mission Journal.

Let’s briefly recap, shall we? The Age of Discovery update allows fleet captains to explore all-new content based on the CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Discovery, while they wait for season 2 of the show (or just to enjoy in general, that’s also fine). Players will be able to dive right into the new content and create a brand new Starfleet Captain from the Discovery timeline in the year 2256, right after the Battle at the Binary Stars, and go forth and fight the Klingons with Cadet Sylvia Tilly, voiced by Mary Wiseman herself.

The Age of Discovery launch is just the beginning, marking the start of a whole host of future updates that will introduce more Star Trek: Discovery content as time goes by. In November, Captains will be able to join the first Featured Task Force Operation, which will be centered around the Battle at the Binary Stars. Following that, you’ll be exploring the forest planet of Pahvo from Star Trek: Discovery episode “Into the Forest I Go”, which will occur during Star Trek Online’s anniversary event early 2019.

New players will see level requirements unlocked for all of Star Trek Online’s story content, and also offers a more streamlined mission flow. Active captains, meanwhile, can enjoy the benefits of the new Random Task Force Operation System, which lets you queue for a random TFO for a bonus reward, and added Reputation Tiers, extended to Tier 6 with upgrades for existing rewards as well as some new ones. Players from all factions can experience the two new Discovery era episodes, where they’ll need to fight off Klingon attempting to get onboard the U.S.S. Glenn, as well as defend Starbase 1 from a Klingon House D’Ghor assault.

There’s plenty to be doing with the launch of the Age of Discovery update, so better hop to it!

 

Our Thoughts

It’s really awesome to see how Cryptic are handling different timelines in Star Trek Online between the different shows, finally bringing them right up to the most current content they possibly can. It makes me wonder if they might ever go one step further and create their own all-new timeline, separate from the shows, and what interesting things that could bring to the Star Trek universe. Either way, enjoy the new content, and let’s hope that console players don’t have to wait too long for their chance in the Age of Discovery!

Source: Press Release

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Bless Online Interview: Early Access, F2P Release and Beyond

So we now know that not only does Bless Online have a launch date, but it’s doing so as a free-to-play game. However, does this really make the game finished? Do the folks at Neowiz think that early access was a mistake? Where does the game go from here? We had the opportunity to speak with the devs once again in a Bless launch interview to see if we could get some answers to these questions.

bless launch interview

So the first and obvious question is: what made you change your mind on the game’s business model?

For the past 5 months of Early Access, we have updated Bless Online with a variety of content and have received a lot of feedback from our North American and European players and collected meaningful data.

With the official release now before us, we have been immersed in preparing an improved player experience and next-level quality service using the data that we have collected during EA as the foundation. We want as many players as possible to experience and witness the completed Bless.

The transition to F2P will be the chance for many new players to easily experience Bless, and we expect that the influx of both new and existing players will enrich the Bless World with a more lively and active atmosphere.

The next obvious question, perhaps: what makes Bless Online’s cash shop avoid being called “pay to win”?

When Bless Online was presented on Steam, we understood that players in North America and Europe tend to value fairness, and accordingly developed a principle to stay away from P2W.

In line with this principle, we avoided having items in the shop purchasable with paid currency that could have a direct impact on the game experience. Instead, we focused on having cosmetic and convenience items for players to buy with paid currency such as costumes, mount skins, and combat XP bonuses. We also implemented a feature that allows players to exchange their content points earned from playing the game into paid currency.

We are doing our best to match our perception of P2W with our players’ and make sure everything is aligned. However, we are well aware of the players’ worries that we may change our minds along with the conversion to F2P. While this is not the case, we are going to work extra hard to both try to avoid any P2W and to correct quickly with patches if we misjudge any new aspects of the game.

Many people accuse Neowiz of using early access as a “cash grab”. Are you concerned that a free-to-play launch will poison the well against anything the game’s cash shop offers?

We believe that the transition to F2P will not have a big impact on revenue growth since it still adheres to the anti-P2W principle and since there won’t be a significant change in the sales structure. The biggest reason why we decided to have the F2P transition during the official launch is because we wanted to provide the best experience possible for players in content that works best with [a] high numbers of players, such as PvP, PvE, Siege of Castra.

What kind of items can we expect to see in the cash shop?

The F2P switch will not change many of the items that are available at the cash shop. We will continue to add new costumes, pet skins, and mount skins just as before.

Has the general negativity surrounding the more vocal people in places like Steam had any effect on the decision to go free-to-play?

Player feedback and comments have played an important role when improving the content of the game during Early Access, however the decision to switch to F2P was not made because of our awareness about the negative comments, but rather because we want Bless to become a game that everyone loves and can enjoy for a very long time.

bless launch interview

Do you think this shift to a free-to-play game will help repair relations with those who perhaps feel disappointed?

We think that the official launch will be a great opportunity for players to see all the progress we’ve made since the start of Early Access. We, of course, hope that those who already purchased Bless during Early Access will also enjoy the founder thank you gifts that we have planned for them, and we hope that they will also enjoy the new content that will be arriving with release. We think all players, both new and old, will be able to experience Bless in a great new way at official launch.

What do you say to those who believe that the game is unfinished and being rushed out the door?

We know that when Early Access began, there was a mismatch between our expectations of EA and many of our players’ expectations. We saw EA as a time of active development where we could work closely with the community, gathering and implementing their feedback as we prepared Bless for its official release later in the year. However, we think that when players experience Bless at launch, they will see just how far we’ve come since the start of EA.

You recently confirmed your selections for the Bless Emissaries. Do you think they’ll help in bringing Bless Online into a new light?

Absolutely! We believe that each and every one of our Emissaries will not only help to bring Bless to new audiences but also to show off the game in their own unique ways. In the program, we strive to encourage not just participation, but creativity as well. The next Emissary activities are planned for the Halloween content, but that will just be the first step.

Has the team had regrets in how they’ve handled early access? Is there anything that you feel could have been done differently?

We felt that, despite some unexpected issues at the start, Early Access was a success. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and we wish that we would have had a better idea of what player expectations of Early Access would be going into it. As mentioned previously, we saw EA as a time of ongoing development and improvement, while many players ended up expecting a fully complete game. Having more knowledge of this would have allowed us to perhaps better set player expectations for EA.

What sort of things do you hope the team will do in order to demonstrate that Bless Online is a completed, finished and fully-realized MMO?

Bless at official launch will be “content complete.” Throughout Early Access, we’ve been continuing to add new content and make improvements, and we think that it is finally in the place that we want it to be for release. With launch comes a whole new raid and afterward, sometime in November, we have an update planned focused around raising the level cap to 50. From launch onwards, players can expect to see brand new content that they would expect to be added post-launch [just as] with any other MMO title.

Do you think that early access was a bad idea? Would things have been different if the game were tested internally or with a select number of outside testers?

Definitely not, we are glad that during Early Access we were able to work closely with the community to gather their feedback and make improvements to Bless based on it. We are grateful to the players that they were willing to share such valuable feedback with us; it was because of player feedback on the combat system that we originally implemented the combat rework for the Steam version of Bless. Having players get a feel for the game in a live environment can oftentimes produce the most useful feedback.

bless launch interview

What features can players expect when Bless officially launches?

Besides of course all the many improvements and content updates that have been added over time since EA began, players can look forward to German localization being added, an assortment of fixes and adjustments, and a whole new raid. We also plan to provide EA users with rewards during the official release as a token of thanks for their contribution in developing the game during the EA period. Soon after the official release, around November, there are also plans for a large scale level expansion update in Bless.

How does the update cadence for Bless Online look post-launch? How frequently can players expect content updates and how big will those updates be, roughly?

There will be a large-scale update around November that includes the addition of new dungeons along with the level 50 expansion. After that, there are updates planned for new dungeons, a restructuring of the Rift of Space and Time, skill expansions, and more. We will be looking at the player influx and player opinion and will adjust update schedules and plans accordingly. As always, we will continue to work hard to bring a new variety of content to Bless for our players to enjoy.

Beyond content, will there be any kind of in-game events or seasonal events to look forward to?

Of course! First up will be Halloween events for the month of October. After that, we will be working hard to prepare seasonally appropriate events for the NA and EU audiences.

We also have the monthly Attendance Check events, with which we aim to provide a variety of rewards that both new and returning users will be satisfied with. We are preparing future promotions as well, such as a Siege of Castra promotion, a Rune Break Prevention promotion, a Dungeon Drop Rate promotion, and a Hot Buff promotion. We think all of these events and promotions will help players to enjoy Bless even more.

Can you offer any indication on what the next big update to Bless Online will be after launch?

Yes, there is a large-scale update planned for around November, after the official release. We plan to raise the characters’ max level to 50, open new areas, and reveal two new dungeons. We hope to give our users more freedom and fun with this update. We’ll have loads of details on it in the very near future.

What final words would you like to share to the Bless Online community?

We can’t wait for official release, and we are so grateful to the community for all the support they’ve shown us and Bless Online through Early Access and beyond. We have more in store for after release, and we’re working as always to make it the best it can be. Thank you!

 

As always, we’d like to thank the developers of Bless Online for taking the time to answer our questions.

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MapleStory 2 Pre-Registration Brings Exclusive Rewards

Nexon are offering some pretty ridiculous rewards if you sign up for MapleStory 2 pre-registration, which began yesterday and continues on until October 8th! Of course, as we have previously reported, those of you who purchased Founder’s Packs for the MMORPG can dive into Head Start from October 1st, ahead of the global launch on October 10th.

MapleStory 2 Pre-Registration Brings Exclusive Rewards

Head Start will, of course, carry over any character progression into the official launch, and includes all of your Founder’s Pack items, access to Gemstones, level 1 to 50 quests and dungeons, Premium Club benefits, the Meret market, and you can choose from the Archer, Assassin, Berserker, Heavy Gunner, Knight, Priest, Thief, and Wizard jobs. You can still purchase a Founder’s Pack as of now if you want to get in on the action early.

If you take part in the MapleStory 2 pre-registration, you’ll receive the ridiculous Roosting Seagull Hat, frankly silly Sucky Rickshaw Mount, and the ‘Rustic Mushcabin’ name tag. You can also get a hold of a Mint Body Pillow (yes, really) by retweeting the Runeblade trailer on Twitter, or liking it on Facebook. They’re kind of awesome, take a look:

MapleStory 2 Pre-Registration Brings Exclusive Rewards

Register here to claim your in-game rewards when MapleStory 2 goes live.

 

Our Thoughts

More MMOs need more wearable birds. It’s just a fact. You’ve probably worked this out by now but we can’t wait to explore the light-hearted silliness that MapleStory 2 has to offer, especially after worrying for so long that we’d never get the chance to. And hey, October isn’t too far away, now!

Source: Press Release

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