MMO Money: 16 Countries to Investigate Lootboxes and More China Trouble

There are really only two big news stories from the last week in gaming business. The biggest story is the ongoing lootbox controversy and the fact that 16 countries have now signed a declaration to investigate lootboxes and skin gambling, and news on the Chinese regulation of new games entering the market is grim as it looks like it could continue for some time to come. Plus, there’s a surprise in this week’s UK gaming charts as an MMORPG that is several years old enters the top 10. Find all of that below in this week’s MMO Money.

 

China’s Freeze on New Games May Continue Another 4-6 Months

There’s more bad news this week for Tencent and in fact, any game company hoping to break into the Chinese games market from outside of China. It looks as though the government mandated freeze on new games may continue another 4-6 months. It began in March as the government announced they would be implementing new procedures and systems for games entering their market but these things take time to create. In the meantime, there has been a massive reduction in the number of new foreign made games released in China. Part of the reason they’ve cited for not approving new games has been a recommendation from the Ministry of Education who suggest that limiting games and the amount of time young people can play them may reduce child myopia. This, despite there being no scientific proof that looking at a screen all day causes myopia.

So far this hasn’t had a massive impact on larger publishers like Tencent and Netease. Yes, Tencent lost billions in its market value, but it still only amounted to a small percentage of their worth. Larger companies like this will have had permission for games well in advance of their release and they’re still banking on those, but the longer this hold continues the fewer games they will have left to release in China. That lack of growth will end up impacting the bottom line of these companies in a big way. The Chinese market is already starting to feel the effects too, as market growth is down to just 5% from 30% at the same time last year.

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

 

UK Charts

The Elder Scrolls Online

This week The Elder Scrolls Online was the big surprise on the charts. It entered the charts at number 8 ahead of the release of their latest DLC Murkmire. At the same time, GTA V has dropped down a few places to number 6. PUBG was also pushed down to 11 from 9. Ultimately, Spider-Man managed to keep the number one spot for another week, which isn’t surprising at all given how universally loved it is. Check out the full top 10 below.

This Week Game Last Week
1 Spider-Man 1
2 Shadow of the Tomb Raider New Entry
3 NBA 2K19 New Entry
4 Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy 5
5 Mario Kart 8: Deluxe 7
6 Grand Theft Auto V 3
7 F1 2018 4
8 The Elder Scrolls Online New Entry
9 LEGO The Incredibles 10
10 Super Mario Odyssey 15

 

Lootboxes

Just when it seemed like we might be able to stop talking about lootboxes because news was slowing to a complete standstill on that front, it jumps back up to be the center of attention again. Since the last MMO Money was released, we’ve had three different stories coming from Europe about lootboxes.

The first one is actually a continuation from last week. Belgium has officially started criminal investigations into EA’s noncompliance with the country’s gambling laws. EA has continued to maintain that lootboxes aren’t gambling, which seems like a pretty massive gamble on EA’s part. We’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out in Belgium.

Just a couple of days later researchers in the UK identified a link between lootboxes and gambling. They surveyed adults playing 10 major games with lootboxes and found there is an important relationship between problem gambling and the use of lootboxes. The more severe a participant’s gambling problem, the more money they spent on lootboxes. They also go on to say the following:

“However, regardless of the direction of causality, the games industry faces a crisis of conscience. Industry bodies such as the ESRB can no longer claim that there is little evidence of a link between problem gambling and loot box use. We call on individual companies within the games industry to remove loot boxes from their products. When companies include loot boxes in their games, our results suggest that they are either profiting from problem gambling or causing problem gambling. Loot boxes have no place in video gaming culture. We also follow Drummond and Sauer in recommending that ratings agencies incorporate additional parental advisories into games that feature loot boxes. We recommend that games with loot boxes are restricted to players of legal gambling age. Given the severity of the link seen here we also strongly recommend that relevant authorities restrict access to loot boxes as if they were a form of gambling.”

Your move EA.

Finally, 15 member nations of the 2018 Gambling Regulators European Forum signed a declaration in which they expressed concern over third-party game related betting and skin-gambling sites, as well as the potential for lootbox models to bleed over into legitimate gambling. This is mostly a declaration stating that they intend to begin investigating lootbox regulation. The declaration was signed by the 15 nations that take part in the forum, which are Austria, Czech Republic, France, Gibraltar, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Latvia, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Washington State, and the UK. Finland also joined in the signing of this declaration, though they aren’t involved in the forum. This could represent a major shift in lootbox regulation just as it seemed like the whole issue was dying out. It’s going to be interesting watching this story develop over the coming months, and could finally mean the big change so many consumers have been hoping for. Everyone cross your fingers!

And no, I don’t know why the United States has a representative on the Gambling Regulators European Forum, I’m still trying to work that out myself.

Source: Nieuwsblad.be, Loot Box Spending in Video Games is Linked to Problem Gambling Severity by David Zendle and Paul Cairns, UK Gambling Commission

 

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MMO Money: Champions Online Subscription Controversy and GTA V on the Decline

GTA V on the decline as the game is starting to show its age. Meanwhile, Fortnite is continuing to smash records as it is shown that Battle Royale players are more invested in their games than other gamers. Star Citizen made the news for a $27,000 ship pack, and we got the latest game charts from Superdata.

Champions Online Creates Controversy with Subscription Changes

Champions Online Nightmare Invasion Event

You don’t usually hear much about Champions Online in the news. The game is silently carrying on as it always has. But on June 1st the game found itself in a bit of a controversy over announced changes to subscriptions. In fact, it was going to drop subscriptions altogether. While there were some fears that this was signaling the beginning of the end for Champions Online that actually wasn’t what had fans up in arms. The new premium pack that was going to replace subscriptions had one thing, that fans are massive fans of missing, Freeform character slots. Fans were so vocal about their displeasure that Cryptic has delayed the changes to address the issue.

 

Bless Online Launch Disaster

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard that Bless Online had a disaster of a launch. Endgame content was missing, features you’d only see in bad mobile games were there…it was and still is a mess. If you want to learn more about Bless, its messy launch and why you really shouldn’t be surprised by it check out the article I did on the history of Bless Online. But right now you might be asking, why is this in the business column? Well, that’s because Steam was giving back refunds past their usual limits. So the bad launch is also hurting Neowiz’s bank account.

 

Funcom Q1 Report

Funcom has had one of its best quarters in a very long time thanks to the sales of Conan Exiles, which they also pointed out is now officially Funcom’s best selling game of all time. Secret World Legends didn’t get much of a mention, just a promise of more content and events. They also reminded everyone that they are working on a new game, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, which is due out in the second half of this year.

 

Star Citizen Offers Ship Pack Worth $27,000

star citizen like eve online

Once again, if you’ve been living under a rock you may have missed Star Citizen releasing a ship pack that they’re selling for $27,000. Even worse, to see what the pack offered you had to have already spent $1000. Did anyone buy one? The world may never know. What we do know is that a lot of people had something to say about it. In their defense, Star Citizen claimed that this pack was requested by players. If you’re curious what you could have bought instead here’s an article we did right after the news broke.

 

PUBG Sues Fortnite

The battle royale of the Battle Royale games has taken a bit of a nasty turn as PUBG has sued Fortnite developers Epic Games. The lawsuit, which is taking place in Korea, states that Epic Games plagiarized PUBG’s interface and in-game items. Many fans see this as a low blow from PUBG Corp as well as an attempted money grab and an attempt to keep Fortnite out of the Korean marketplace. It will be interesting to watch how things progress in this case while Fortnite continues to dominate gaming.

 

Battle Royale Gamers More Likely to Spend

Data from Newzoo shows that Battle Royale players tend to spend more money on games than other gamers. They’re also more engaged than those who play other core competitive games like CoD, CSGO, Overwatch, LoL…and so on. 88% of Battle Royale players are likely to spend money on games vs 75% in these other competitive games. Also, more than 80% of Battle Royale players watch live streams of game content. It’s 67% for competitive games.

From the report, we’ve also learned that Fortnite appeals to a younger, more casual audience vs PUBG. PUBG players are more likely to identify themselves as core gamers.

 

Superdata April Report on the Gaming Industry

GTA V on the Decline

Fortnite is continuing to break records for yet another month. But the real story from Superdata for April is that GTA V is finally starting to show its age. In fact, GTA V Online has been declining every month so far in 2018. This is most likely due to the popularity of Fortnite and the lack of new content from Rockstar. Meanwhile on mobile Honour of Kings brought in $185 million in revenue in April. In comparison, Fortnite made $296 million on console, PC, and mobile in that same time period.

 

Tencent Gets Majority Stake in Path of Exile Creator

Tencent continues its domination of the gaming world by getting a majority stake in Path of Exile’s creator Grinding Gear Games. In the announcement, they quickly tackled any concerns that this would mean the game would be changing by saying that the studio would remain independent.

 

Lootbox Roundup

Talk about lootboxes seems to have calmed down some in the last couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to talk about. The first news is that Webzen has decided to pull Mu Origin out of the Netherlands over lootboxes. The game will no longer be playable in the country as of June 20th. In the announcement, Webzen directly stated that this was in response to the recent decision from The Netherlands Gaming Authority against in-game lootboxes.

EA has also taken a bit of a stance against lootboxes, at least in Battlefield V which they’ve promised won’t have them. They also said the game won’t have premium passes. What they haven’t said however is what will be replacing both of those things in their business model.

Finally, GamesIndustry.biz put out a fantastic article on some things the president of the ESA said recently about lootboxes. In a speech at the Nordic Game Conference, he compared the lootbox controversy to the WHO’s gaming disorder crusade and the US government’s attempts to link video games and violence. He also spoke out against government regulation, effectively saying that the government couldn’t possibly understand well enough to have input. It’s an interesting article if you’re invested in the lootbox controversy.

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GTA V Most Profitable Entertainment of All Time

GTA V is amazingly profitable for Rockstar Entertainment. It initially released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in September of 2013 and since then it has brought in $6 billion in revenue. For anyone keeping track at home that’s more money than Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time which only brought in $2.8 billion. 90 million copies have been sold worldwide which leaves music’s top album, Michael Jackson’s 1982 Thriller in the dust having sold 66 million units.

To get an idea of how well GTA V is doing it was the 6th biggest selling game in the US in 2017 and third biggest in the UK and Europe. On top of that it is still making the charts in 2018, currently sitting at number 8 on the UK gaming charts.

Some of GTA V’s success can be contributed to the fact that since it’s release we’ve had a new generation of consoles come out. Many people who owned it on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 would have bought it a second time for Playstation 4 or Xbox One. Another major contributing factor is the online multiplayer gameplay which has allowed the game to continue having life years after it released.

So, are there any records left for GTA V to break? Actually, yes there are. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is estimated to have sold 500 million copies. That’s a whole lot of books. In fact, it has been estimated to be around the same amount as the entire Harry Potter series has sold. Of course, tracking how much money Don Quixote has made is impossible. The book came out in 1605 after all.

It also hasn’t broken Superbowl records yet, the 2015 Superbowl was watched by 111 million people in the United States. This is a number that GTA V is quickly approaching and could easily break.

What all of this means is that GTA V isn’t going to be going anywhere for a very long time.

 

Source: GIBiz, Wiki, Wiki, Chart Track, BoxOfficeMojo

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