Blizzcon Protest Now Being Organized

On Friday, after 5 when most news writers, including MMOGames had packed up and gone home for the day Blizzard made a statement that backpeddled their heavy handed ban of professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung. Now a Blizzcon protest is being organized by the non-profit organization Fight for the Future and the Protest Blizzcon subreddit. Yes, there’s now a subreddit.

The Protest Blizzcon subreddit has a GoFundMe campaign running at the moment with the plan of getting hundreds of Hong Kong flags for protesters at Blizzcon. They’ve already raised $3,285 though they were only asking for $3,000. The campaign is still running so there is still time to donate if you’re interested.

“This is not going away,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, “Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated.”

Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the Future, added, “Gamers deserve to know which companies are willing to engage in censorship on behalf of authoritarian regimes and which companies will defend basic freedom of expression. Blizzard has engaged in blatant censorship and should immediately reverse its decision to ban Ng Wai Chung, restore his tournament winnings, and repair its relationships with the livestream casters. No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights. And no game company should ever ban or penalize players for advocating for their own political freedom. We call on all game developers and publishers to make a public commitment to support the rights of their customers, employees, and fans to freely express their beliefs in America, in Hong Kong, in China, and around the globe.”

In case you missed it, on Friday Blizzard made a statement saying that Blitzchung would be receiving his tournament prizes and that his ban, along with the ban on the two casters has been reduced to six months. They also said that Blizzard’s decision to punish them had nothing to do with their business in China. But, Blizzard fans and gamers were unconvinced by this statement, especially as a social media post from Blizzard on Weibo was translated and it vows to protect the national dignity of China was being shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other English focused social media sites.

 

It’s unclear right now how many people will be attending the Blizzcon Protest but we will continue to follow the news as it comes.

 

Source: Fight for the Future, Protest Blizzcon Subreddit

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BlizzCon 2019 Virtual Ticket is Available Now

Can you believe that BlizzCon 2019 is just a month away? It’s amazing how quickly this year is passing us by. The important news now is that the BlizzCon 2019 virtual ticket is available now. As is always the case the virtual ticket comes with a collection of commemorative goodies for WoW, Overwatch, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, Heroes of the Storm, and Diablo III. What are this year’s extras you might be asking, well here’s the full list straight from Blizzard themselves.

World of Warcraft: Ride the tides of war with a pair of murloc-ified faction leaders: Finduin (for Alliance heroes) and Gillvanas (for the Horde). Plus, bundle up for your next trip to the icy mountains with the whimsical Wendigo Woolies transmog outfit. Available in-game starting today!

Overwatch: Commemorate 25 years of Azeroth as you fight for future Earth with a pair of Warcraft-themed legendary Overwatch skins. Prepare to seek vengeance as Illidan Genji, and call upon the (hard-) light of Elune as Tyrande Symmetra. In-game before BlizzCon!

Hearthstone: Celebrate the excitement of BlizzCon the next time you sit down for a duel with the BlizzCon 2019 Card Back. Then prepare to claim a mysterious Golden Legendary card, to be revealed at BlizzCon. In-game after BlizzCon!*

Heroes of the Storm: Make your mark in the Nexus with a commemorative BlizzCon spray and portrait, and ride into battle on the Celestial Deepcrawler mount. It may not look dangerous, but those claws can give you a nasty pinch . . . or wipe out all life on your planet. Available in-game starting today!

StarCraft II: Equip a trio of Brood War®–era unit skins and portraits the next time you go into battle. Scout for a zerg ambush aboard the Classic Battlecruiser, hunt your prey with the sinewy Classic Ultralisk, and honor Tassadar’s sacrifice with the Classic Carrier.  Available in-game starting today!

…And more to come: More BlizzCon bonuses are in the works, including a pair of commemorative wings for Diablo III players (PC/Mac version only)*—stay tuned for more details on this year’s legendary haul.

Along with all of that you of course get access to the various presentations that will take place at Blizzcon this year. “This year’s BlizzCon is shaping up to be our best yet, and we want to make sure everyone in the Blizzard community can experience it together, whether they’re joining us in person, from home, or hanging out in-game,” said J. Allen Brack, president of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re looking forward to delivering an epic experience for those watching our free broadcasts—which we’ll have more of than ever before—and for everyone tuning in for all of the extras provided with the Virtual Ticket.”

The virtual ticket costs $49.99 and can be purchased at blizzcon.com.

 

Source: Press Release

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Blizzard is Skipping Gamescom 2019

It is time once again to add to the list of “WTF is Blizzard thinking?” list that we’ve been collecting this year. This time it’s the news that Blizzard is skipping Gamescom 2019. Now, there might be a lot of people, especially those in North America who aren’t familiar with Gamescom and why Blizzard’s absence is so noteworthy. Gamescom has 370,000 visitors with 1037 exhibitors making it by far the largest gaming event in the world. In comparison, E3, which is often thought to be the biggest and most important had just 69,000 attendees in 2018.

Gamescom has, in the past, been a very important location for Blizzard themselves. It is where they’ve debuted some of Overwatch’s most beloved animated shorts and World of Warcraft expansions. They’ve also often giving players the first chance to play new content for games before they’re released.

But, with nothing big and new to show off this year it clearly isn’t worth the cost for Blizzard to attend. We can only imagine how much it costs for Blizzard to go to Gamescom. In the public area, they take up nearly if not actually half an entire hall. In the business area, the Activision-Blizzard area is half of one floor of a hall. They send a huge team of developers from California and let me tell you, the cost of hotels in Cologne during Gamescom is insane. So, on the surface, it may seem totally insane for Blizzard not to be attending…it actually makes a lot of sense.

Plus, Gamescom is in August and with such a big dry spell like Blizzard is having this year it makes sense for them to save what they do have for Blizzcon in early November. Blizzcon, in case you were curious, had more than 40,000 attendees in 2018.

So while this might be the right thing for Blizzard to do those of us who are Gamescom regulars are most certainly going to feel their absence.

 

Source: PCGamer

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Blizzard Customer Service Concerns as 100 Staff Members Voluntarily Leave

One hundred staff members of the Cork, Ireland branch of Blizzard customer service have voluntarily accepted money to leave their jobs. An anonymous Blizzard employee contacted Eurogamer to tell them about this deal. According to the source it has been offered to Cork staff at least five times, and the amount of money they were offering has gone up each time. One source who did take up the offer said that it amounted to a year’s pay.

In a statement to Eurogamer Blizzard said, “The employees who are choosing to leave the company later this month are taking advantage of a voluntary and longstanding program we offer in various locations around the world. This program, which has proven popular in the past, gives eligible staff the option to make the most of incentives while proactively pursuing other career opportunities. No one is required or encouraged to participate in this program, but for those who do, we work hard to make it generous.”

Overwatch Arcade Changes We'd Like to See - Overwatch Volleyball

This is in fact already having an impact on the quality of customer service provided to European players. Blizzard English language customer service has tweeted several times over the last few weeks that callback and live chat services would be closed from 4 or 5 PM on certain days.

Some staff who have remained at the Cork office have expressed concern over the future of the office and unsure about the future. But, Blizzard reassured Eurogamer that they have no plans to close the Cork office.

This is all of course just the most recent thing to happen to Blizzard that has been somewhat questionable since Blizzcon when Diablo Immortal was announced. Heroes of the Storm esports were also very suddenly cancelled. Leaks from the main Blizzard office suggest that there has been a cultural shift at Blizzard and money is more of a focus than it ever has been before.

 

Source: Eurogamer

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MMO Money: Arena of Valor Finds Success At Last

Here we are at the second to the last Tuesday of the year, which means this is our last look at the news from the business side of the games industry. Next week we’ll have an article that looks back at the biggest stories of the year so keep an eye out for that. For now, though we have Blizzard to discuss along with the Zenimax vs Oculus lawsuit, esports, and Arena of Valor’s success on the Nintendo Switch.

HGC Western Clash

 

Blizzard Kills Heroes of the Storm Esports

There have been a lot of unpopular things going on with Blizzard recently that are leaving lifelong fans wondering what has happened to the beloved brand. Most recently Blizzard took a chainsaw to Heroes of the Storm. They put an end to the competitive esports scene saying that the Heroes Global Championship and Heroes of the Dorm won’t be returning in 2019. This very sudden change has put a lot of people out of jobs. Stars who left college to pursue esports, team managers wondering what to do next, and many others from all aspects of the esports scene.

At the same time, Blizzard says that they will continue developing the game, though the cadence of releases will change. In other words, they will be releasing content less often. Blizzard also moved some developers, though they didn’t say how many, from the Heroes of the Storm development team to other teams. While they aren’t giving up on Heroes of the Storm completely it certainly sounds like this is the beginning of the end for the game, which would be just another unpopular move on Blizzard’s part. That really breaks all of this to one final question….is Blizzard working on a Battle Royale game? Only time will tell, but based on the decisions they’ve been making recently it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Source: Official Site

arena of valor switch

 

Arena of Valor Downloaded 1 Million Times on Switch

In China, Tencent has seen massive success with Honour of Kings. It’s been at the top of the mobile charts every month in terms of revenue for the entire year. However, when they released it as Arena of Valor in the West it wasn’t a massive success at all. At least that is until it was released on the Nintendo Switch. Since Arena of Valor launched on the Switch at the end of September it has been downloaded 1 million times and the United States was the biggest market. While Arena of Valor hasn’t been performing as well in the West as it has in China it hasn’t all been bad news for the game. In September the MOBA reached the $15 million milestone in player spending between the App Store and Google Play. At that time the game also experienced 49% growth month over month in comparison to August. So even almost a year after launching it was still growing in a big way.

Arena of Valor is Tencent’s first console game, but with results like this, it almost certainly won’t be the last. This is especially true as the company has to try to claw back from the really quite awful year they’ve had.

Source: Games Industry

 

Intel and ESL Announce $100m Esports Investment

Blizzard might be taking a step back from the Heroes of the Storm esports scene but in other corners of the esports world, things are looking good. Intel and ESL have announced that they will be continuing their partnership to 2021 and more than $100 million in investments in the industry will be made. The partnership between the two companies is 18 years old, making it the longest standing partnership in all of esports. The deal will help to drive growth in new regions which includes a focus on hosting and large-scale events within some Asia-Pacific countries.

“ESL and Intel have worked side by side on growing esports for nearly two decades,” said Ralf Reichert, ESL founder and co-CEO. “We built a number of cornerstones of this industry together and helped many gamers in becoming legends of the sport. The long-term extended partnership with Intel opens even more opportunities for us to take our efforts to a whole different level on a global scale.”

The Vice President and General Manager of VR, Gaming, and Esports at Intel had this to say, “This joint investment with ESL into the ecosystem means that the esports growth and innovation that we’ve led over the past two decades will continue. This partnership will advance the rapid evolution of esports, and Intel is committed to ushering in this new era with technology solutions that place the gaming community and fans first.”

If you’re wondering how the esports industry is doing, on the whole, we’ll have more on esports in the coming weeks as we take a look back at 2018 from a business point of view. So be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Source: Games Industry

 

Zenimax and Oculus Settle Their VR Lawsuit

It might feel like Zenimax and Oculus have been involved in a lawsuit over the Oculus VR system forever. It all started in 2014, which certainly feels like an eternity ago. In 2017, Zenimax was awarded $500 million by a judge, but that was later cut in half upon appeal. That then led to even more appeals, though those have now been dropped. The two companies reached a settlement outside of court through the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals mediation program. The terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed and they likely never will be.

Both sides seem to be quite pleased with the outcome, and Zenimax Chairman and CEO Robert Altman said, “We are pleased that a settlement has been reached and are fully satisfied by the outcome. While we dislike litigation, we will always vigorously defend against any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property by third parties.”

A representative for Facebook, who own Oculus said, “We’re pleased to put this behind us and continue building the future of VR.”

It’s nice to see this story finally put to rest.

Source: Games Industry

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Heroes of the Storm Reworks Stitches and Sylvanas

It’s time for another set of character reworks for Heroes of the Storm. This time around, it will be two of the first characters introduced in the game: Stitches and Sylvanas. In addition to the hero updates, changes to experience gain, catapults, and armor will be making their way to the Nexus.

Heroes of the Storm

Stitches has been a core tank in Heroes of the Storm since its inception, but his talent tree has been lacking for quite some time. In this update, he’s receiving more of a facelift than a complete rework. The range of his Hook ability is being slightly reduced but additional talents are being added for it, and Slam is receiving the slow effect as a baseline to the ability. Additionally, his passive now applies Vile Gas to enemies attacked instead of releasing it after receiving damage.

On the other hand, Sylvanas is receiving a couple of core gameplay changes, which likely stem from the reduced significance of lane pushing because of the previous updates to tower ammo and now experience gains. First off, Withering Fire now expends all five arrows at once instead of building up charges. Her passive is now an active ability that lasts 10 seconds and stuns all minions, mercenaries, and structures for 3 seconds but it has a 40-second cooldown. Additionally, basic attacks infect enemies with Banshee’s Curse for 3 seconds and heroes with 3 stacks of Banshee’s Curse receive 25 percent bonus damage from Sylvanas. Finally, Mind Control is now a skill shot ability that forces the first enemy hero hit to walk towards Sylvanas while being silenced and slowed.

Heroes of the Storm 2019 updates

The rest of the changes were outlined in the 2019 gameplay update blog, but here is a quick overview. Forts and Keeps will no longer provide experience while tower experience has been decreased by 50 percent and passive experience increased by 15 percent. Destroying a fort will now spawn a catapult every third minion wave, killing enemy mercenaries will reward 100 percent additional experience, and armor will no longer stack with only the highest armor modifier being applied to heroes.

Additionally, a new toy-themed event will take place just in time for the holidays, which will include a slew of new mounts and skins.

Heroes of the Storm

 

Source: Blizzard Entertainment

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Heroes of the Storm Brings King’s Crest Event and a New Comic

Heroes of the Storm has brought along its latest update from PTR to live. The King’s Crest event is now playable in the MOBA for really reals alongside a comic book that helps build some of the lore reasons for this particular conflict.

king's crest event

Alongside the already elaborated upon update, this update has prompted the third comic in the ongoing Raven Lord storyline that links up with this in-game event. There’e even a documentary outlining how Blizzard puts together comics for its games.

In addition to this new event, the update brings reworks to Kerrigan and Brightwing online, adds the adjusted version of the Garden of Terror battleground, and kicks off the MOBA’s fourth ranked season of play. This season of ranked is a little different in that Team League now allows for parties of all sizes, including solo players.

Finally, HotS has unveiled its digital goodies for this year’s BlizzCon: the Nexus Razorgrin mount, a Razorgrin spray, and a BlizzCon 2018 banner, all of which are available in-game today for ticket holders. A video showcasing these goodies can be seen below.

Our Thoughts

A beefy update indeed for Heroes of the Storm. There’s really not an awful lot more to say about this update beyond wishing those who are playing Blizzard’s MOBA the best of luck in ranked and hope they all have fun in-game.

Source: press release

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Heroes of the Storm Announces Fall of King’s Crest Event

Another special event in Heroes of the Storm has been teased by the MOBA for the past couple of days, but now we’ve gotten our first information of just what’s going on. The Fall of King’s Crest event will dress up several heroes in the regalia of the Raven Lord as the headlining feature of this new piece of content.

fall of king's crest event

Details are a bit scant at the time of this writing, but it appears this new event will operate much the same as previous ones where players can follow quest chains to unlock a variety of rewards such as mounts, emotes, portraits, skins and more. The end of the quest chain will also let players choose their final reward from two options.

On the skin side of things, several heroes have been re-imagined as generals for the Raven Lord. Whitemane, Zarya, Maiev, and Alexstrasza are all getting some swanky new looks as these formidable foes in the game’s overarching canon.

Details on this new event are likely due on the game’s official website soon, but for now there’s a trailer with a look at all the new pretties below.

Our Thoughts

As usual, those new skins are pretty damn impressive looking. We’ve said it a few times before, but we really do love how Heroes of the Storm is unafraid of playing around with the established lore of several existing characters. Ideally, we’ll continue to see more story-focused content like this in the near future.

Source: Twitter

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MMO Money: Tencent’s $20 Billion Loss and Fortnite’s Decline

After having taken a little bit of time off for the end of convention season the weekly online gaming business article is back with more amazing news. We have Superdata’s latest gaming revenue charts, the UK’s weekly gaming chart, a little bit of lockbox news, and a company that lost $20 billion in value and is still going strong.

 

Superdata July Charts

Fortnite's Decline

Superdata released their monthly look at the gaming charts around the world with some interesting findings for July. First up, League of Legends drops down to second in terms of earnings on PC. It was overtaken by Dungeon Fighter Online which is massively popular in the east. In fact, only 2 of the top 5 PC games at the moment are from the West; LoL, and Fortnite. Speaking of Fortnite, the game’s earnings were only up 2% in July over June which is prompting many to say that the game’s peak is now behind us and Fortnite’s decline is imminent. However, it is still growing…for now. And, if they can get past all the security issues, Fortnite does still have the Android release coming which will be massive for the game’s population and revenue.

Overwatch, despite having a very stable player base is seeing revenue continue to drop month after month. In fact, the game is no longer charting at all but looking back as far as December, this isn’t the first time that has happened this year. It was also the case in February and April. In December 2017 and January it was number 10 on the PC chart. It hasn’t appeared on the chart for PC again since then. Looking at the charts for all of 2017 Overwatch ranked number 2 on the revenue charts for all Premium PC games. So, while it may not be on the charts right now, there is every chance for it to come back as it has done previously. On the other end of the spectrum, No Man’s Sky had its best month since it launched, and GTA V had its second best.

Fortnite still hasn’t managed to make it into the charts for Mobile games and in fact, the mobile chart changed very little from June to July. The one change was Fate/Grand Order overtaking Monster Strike. Until Fortnite has a global release on Android we’re unlikely to see it push into the mobile charts. Even then, the early security issues may have done enough lasting damage to make sure they don’t chart.

Source: Superdata

 

Tencent Market Value Drops by $20 Billion…but its ok

Tencent mobile financials - MMOGames.com - Your source for MMOs & MMORPGs

If any other company besides Tencent had lost $20 billion in market value the company would be done for. For Tencent though, that was just 5%. While they did lose a massive amount of money, the real story is why. China has been cracking down on games from other countries for quite some time. Tencent has been able to profit off of this. They know the laws better than any Western studio so they can offer to publish the game in China and deal with all the red tape themselves, but recently China has been making it even harder for game studios.

What triggered this massive loss for Tecent was China’s new regulation that will restrict the number of new online games that are released as well as implementing age-appropriate restrictions on games, including how long you can play them. The reason they give for doing this is the massive number of nearsightedness found in Chinese youth. Though there hasn’t been any scientific backing of the claim that screen time has any impact on vision. All of this puts Tencent’s current business model in jeopardy and they will have to make some changes if they want to continue. If you’re interested in reading more on this check out our recent news post that goes into more detail.

 

UK Charts Gaming Charts

Minecraft MMO Money: Tencent's $20 Billion Loss and Fortnite's Decline

The UK is one of the few countries that release gaming charts on a weekly basis. We’ve decided to add them to our weekly business article as they give us some idea of how games are performing, not just in the UK but among all western audiences. At the top of the charts this week was F1 2018, managing to hold out against a new game on the chart, PES 2019. In third is Grand Theft Auto V which actually climbed one place from last week. PUBG managed to climb up from 11th to 7th this week. Amazingly, Minecraft is still in the top 20, last week it was at 14 and this week it dropped to 20. Check out the top 10 for the week ending on September 1st below.

This Week Game Last Week
1 F1 2018 1
2 Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 New Entry
3 Grand Theft Auto V 4
4 Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy 3
5 Yakuza Kiwami 2 New Entry
6 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 5
7 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 11
8 God of War 6
9 Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate New Entry
10 Fifa 18 10

Source: Press Release

 

Lootboxes

Overwatch Winter Wonderland - Christmas Loot Boxes

There hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about on the lootbox front. It seems like the world is slowly moving on and forgetting the topic altogether. Or maybe there’s a whole lot going on in the background that is going to take time to come into being. Either way, the big news recently is that Blizzard is disabling Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm lockboxes for Belgian players. Earlier this year Belgium was one of the first countries to investigate lootboxes in online games and issued threats to ban multiple games. Valve very quickly took action for CSGO and Dota 2.

Blizzard announced that they would be doing this on the official forums. In it they said…

“In April 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission published a report that was endorsed by the Belgian Ministry of Justice in which they concluded that paid loot boxes in Overwatch are considered gambling under local law. While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law. As a result, we have no choice but to implement measures that will prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money and gems.

No matter what, we want to make sure that our players around the world have the best entertainment experience possible. While players in Belgium will no longer be able to purchase paid loot boxes in Overwatch and loot chests in Heroes of the Storm, they’ll still be able to earn them by playing the games, and they’ll still have access to all in-game content.

These measures will be implemented shortly. We also remain open to further discussions with the Belgian Gaming Commission and Ministry of Justice on this topic.”

Source: Overwatch Forums

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Heroes of the Storm Details Mephisto and Reworked Hanamura

The Lord of Hatred from the Diablo universe is coming to the Nexus. Heroes of the Storm has officially confirmed its latest Assassin Mephisto with the usual in-depth look on the game’s website and in video form.

mephisto

Mephisto is a ranged Assassin character who excels in putting out sustained AoE damage to multiple targets while also being able to evade CC abilities. His latent trait, Lord of Hatred, decreases the cooldown of all of his skills with every target hit, which links nicely into the fact that all of his attack abilities do something bad to everything nearby.

As for CC avoidance, that’s where his Shade of Mephisto Heroic ability comes into play. This basic ability teleports Mephisto to a targeted location, deals damage in a small PBAoE burst, and creates a Shade that he ports back to after 2.5 seconds. Mephistot will even return to his Shade’s location if he is stunned or incapacitated.

Of particular note among Mephisto’s Talents is Shade Lord, which provides a significant upgrade to Shade of Mephisto, adding every level 7 Talent to the ability. This means Shade of Mephisto will slow enemies and grant Mephisto himself added armor and speed.

In addition, Heroes of the Storm has offered a breakdown of updates to the Hanamura map, which was pulled from the game for a bit of tinkering. These tweaks include a single payload among other changes, which are outlined in this video. You can also get a closer look at Mephisto’s abilities at either his hero page or in the spotlight video below.

Our Thoughts

Mephisto absolutely looks like one of the more aggressive members of the Assassin roster, so we suspect locking him down before he can disrupt multiple targets will be key. As for Hanamura, we hope these new changes will make the map more appealing to players of the MOBA.

Source: YouTube

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