Guild Wars 2 Whisper in the Dark Press Preview

Whisper in the Dark leads us to Bjora Marches in the Far Shiverpeaks. As you might expect this is a very cold zone and visibility there is low to say the least. You might expect that because it is further north than the Bitterfrost Frontier that it is as bitterly cold and as dangerous as that zone. But it isn’t. So far we’ve not seen any signs of the Bitter Cold environmental hazard that plagued the Bitterfrost Frontier. But it is possible that this could change in the future as Bjora Marches will be with us in future episodes of the Icebrood Saga and ArenaNet has said that the zone will evolve and expand with each update. The zone as it stands now is quite significantly smaller than previous Living World zones. This is to be expected, though I was taken by surprise by just how small it is.

I was fortunate enough to play on a map that was nearly completely empty except for a few people here and there. This allowed the sinister atmosphere that you have seen in the trailer to shine through. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this atmosphere will last when you’ve got everyone and their Sylvan Hound running around. It was a problem that The Secret World faced many years ago, how do you keep the spooky atmosphere you’re trying to portray when there are 50 to 100 people running around spamming sword attacks? Funcom ended up solving that issue by reducing the zone cap to just 10 people and it worked amazingly well for their game, though some would argue that it has made the game feel abandoned and soulless. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that in Guild Wars 2 however. That sinister area also only accounts for a small portion of the zone.

 

New Masteries

One thing that you see throughout Bjora Marches is the new masteries in action. There are four of them in total, Raven Attunement, and the three new essence manipulations. Raven Attunement I don’t want to talk about too much because all of my experience using it was tied in with the story. You will unlock it quite quickly though and you have to unlock it to gain access to essence manipulation.

You will have seen the essence manipulations system in action in the trailer. Enemies who glow green, red, or blue. Many of the enemies in the zone have this glow, though not all of them. You also aren’t at a disadvantage if you don’t have the system unlocked while you’re out in the zone. The impression is that these will be vital for the Strike Missions. This may also mean that they become more important as the story continues. For now, though, they’re powerful attacks that only work on the appropriately colored enemies. This means that essence manipulation is completely useless outside of Bjora Marches and I actually think that’s a good thing. My husband and I can already duo many of the champions in Tyria on an Elementalist and Engineer who are specced for fun, not for being the best. I would hate to see content in the old world trivialized by this new system. Though yes, I do agree with many that spending a bunch of time unlocking masteries that don’t work anywhere but one zone is annoying. This isn’t the first time we’ve done that though and it is unlikely to be the last.

As it stands now I worry that the enemies in Bjora Marches will be trivialized by this new system. When everyone has unlocked the various essence mastery points will people end up having to wait around for a champion to spawn again if they want to fight it because if they aren’t there at the exact moment the fight starts then the enemy is dead? Sure, I can see it coming in handy later in 2020 when we’ve moved beyond Bjora Marches to a new zone and getting enough people to fight a champion is difficult at best. Right now though, I’m not so sure about the system. It feels a bit like the Incarnate system from City of Heroes, for anyone who is familiar with that.

 

No More Legendary Weapons

The second generation of legendary weapons ended with the release of Exordium, a gorgeous greatsword that is singlehandedly responsible for me coming back to the game in a personal capacity after taking a year-long hiatus. As I recall, though I can’t find when and where it was said, ArenaNet has said that there won’t be any more legendary weapons after gen 2. This was a statement made several years ago however and things do change. After all, there was one point in time when ArenaNet said they weren’t working on an expansion and that Guild Wars 2 would never have an expansion, now we’ve had 2. So it is possible that a new legendary weapon could be released in the future. But it isn’t going to be in Whisper in the Dark and there has been no mention of a new weapon coming by ArenaNet so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Still, the team had a lot of really fun uses of technology in the gen 2 legendaries, even if some of the weapons themselves weren’t all that well received. I personally don’t have any use for a weapon that gives you a giant demon hand, but it would be interesting to see other ways that technology could be applied. I would also gleefully grind for the rest of my days to have a complete set of weapons that work and look like Exordium. Anyway, the whole point is that this is the first proper update after all of the legendary weapons have been released and I’m a bit sad that there isn’t one. A weapon, possibly made of the Boneskinner’s bones would be so, so epic. Who knows, we may get this in the Black Lion store. But there’s something really satisfying about creating the weapon yourself.

Whisper in the Dark is playable right now as you’re reading this. As always, make sure you have map chat turned off and you ignore your guildmates until you’ve finished the story. Social Media, including Youtube and Reddit will be abuzz with spoilers. Have fun and don’t let the Boneskinner get you.

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MMO Money: Nexon is for Sale

A massive share of Nexon is for sale with some of the biggest names in the entertainment world taking an interest. Niantic has raised more funds to help them shape the future of Augmented Reality. Plus two different stories that involve lawsuits, including another one about Fortnite. Find all of that and more in this week’s look at online gaming’s business side.

 

Niantic Raises $245 Million in Funding

The makers of Pokemon Go are riding high right now as they just finished a round of funding that brought in $245 million for them to use on Niantic’s Real World Program. The funding will allow the company to bring on more staff for the AR project that aims to deliver “contextual computer vision” that will allow AR objects to understand and interact with objects in the real world. The funding brings Niantic’s total value up to nearly $4 billion.

The funding round was led by IVP who join the likes of aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV, and Samsung Ventures who have already invested in Niantic. IVP Partner Sandy Miller had this to say about the funding, “IVP is excited to support Niantic in building the future of AR — initially as it delivers the magic of AR through highly popular games, but ultimately by delivering an operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world. It’s a rare opportunity to partner up with a company that is already highly profitable at this stage, which is another reason we are so bullish on Niantic.”

Source: GamesIndustry

 

NCSoft Layoffs Staff at North American Mobile Studio

A few years ago, NCSoft announced they were pulling away from the North American and Western audience to focus more on their home audience. Then after a year or two, they announced that North America and Europe would play a key role in the company going forward. Part of that announcement included a new mobile games studio in California: Iron Tiger Studios. This studio was to work on mobile ports of NCSoft’s games as well as making new games.

Now here we are at the start of 2019 and layoffs have been announced for the studio. It wasn’t made clear how many people were hit by the layoff, but an NCSoft representative did stress that the studio wouldn’t be closing. Also, the game they were developing would continue in the hands of another studio, though which one isn’t known yet leaving the fate of the game up in the air at the moment. From the sounds of it, Iron Tiger Studios will continue to create mobile ports of NCSoft games rather than working on their own projects.

Source: MMOGames

 

Nexon is for Sale

When a 98.64% share in a company goes up for sale that effectively means the company is up for sale too, right? This is exactly what is happening with Nexon as the founder, Kim Jung-ju is selling his share of the company. This share is reportedly worth 9 billion dollars and it already has attracted a lot of attention from companies who are interested in buying it. Those companies include Activision, Disney, EA, and Tencent. There are also a number of US investment firms who are looking for US game companies to partner with to gather the funds needed for a bid.

An investment presentation session is planned for October in San Francisco in order to sell the shares. With $9 billion to be exchanged, it really isn’t a surprise that this is the sort of story that will take all year for us to see to completion. Whichever company does end up buying the shares will have quite an investment on their hands as Nexon has been having a great few years with their work in mobile gaming.

Source: MMOGames

 

Westworld Mobile Shutdown after Lawsuit

You may remember that back in June 2018 Bethesda and Behaviour Interactive along with Warner Bros. got into a legal dispute over the Westworld Mobile game that looked suspiciously like Fallout Shelter. Bethesda went so far as to call it a “blatant rip-off of Fallout Shelter.” In fact, it was so bad that they could point out specific bugs that existed in Fallout Shelter as well as the Westworld Mobile game.

After many months the copyright dispute was settled amicably, and in early January the companies involved put out a press release that was incredibly light on details. It only went so far as to say that the dispute was settled amicably and leaving every other detail out entirely. This, of course, left people wondering what the details of the agreement were and now it looks like we know.

The Westworld Mobile game is shutting down in April and it has already been removed from the App Store and Google Play. The dispute wasn’t mentioned in the announcement that the game was shutting down, but it isn’t very hard to put two and two together. Anyone who already has the game will be able to continue playing it until mid-April when the servers will be turned off for good.

Source: GamesIndustry

 

Orange Shirt Kid Joins in the Lawsuits Against Fortnite

The mother of Fortnite superfan Orange Shirt Kid has joined the list of people who are suing Epic over dances used in Fortnite. In this particular case, Orange Shirt Kid’s dance, which he called The Random, was put into the game as part of a dance contest. Unlike the others, The Random, called Orange Justice in Fortnite was never sold. In fact, it was given away for free. It was also submitted as part of a contest that specified the winner wouldn’t be compensated and that the dance would be used for promotional material, which is pretty standard stuff for a game run competition. After the dance became popular though, Orange Shirt Kid became the target of extreme cyberbullying that eventually resulted in his YouTube and Instagram accounts being deleted. It should also be said that this lawsuit was filed by the same law firm behind the 2Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Backpack Kid lawsuits against Fortnite.

Source: Variety

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NCSoft Lays Off Staff on Unannounced Project

2019 isn’t off to a great start for Iron Tiger Studios as NCSoft lays off staff just a few days into the year. The staff were working on an unannounced project that was started a few years ago. The studio was opened in 2015 with the intention of adapting already existing NCSoft IPs to mobile while also developing new games.

At the time the studio was announced the plan was to have 3 development teams as well as a publishing group. They also intended to have more than 100 employees. How many of those employees were let go during the layoff weren’t announced, but a spokesperson for NCSoft told VentureBeat that the studio would remain open and continue to publish games like Aion: Legions of War. They also said, “I can confirm that NCSoft is reshaping Iron Tiger Studios and is in the process of transitioning development to a third-party for a mobile title.” So, from the sounds of it, they won’t be developing that new unannounced game anymore, but it isn’t dead either. It will be developed by someone else, though who that will be isn’t said.

There isn’t a whole lot of information to go on for this story as you can see. An unannounced game isn’t going to be developed by this California studio that is a branch of NCSoft, but it is still getting developed and an undisclosed number of people were laid off because of this. There will obviously be more to this story in the future when the game gets announced. However, it might get announced without us outside the studio knowing that it is this mysterious, unannounced game. We will, of course, continue to follow this story, just in case something more comes of it.

For now, we hope that those impacted by the layoffs land on their feet quickly.

 

Source: VentureBeat, GamesIndustry

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NCSoft Launching into Western Mobiles with Aion: Legions Of War

Three weeks from today there’ll be a new foray from NCSoft into the mobile game market, this time with its first mobile RPG in the west, Aion: Legions of War. With the success they saw in Korea in 2017, NCSoft decided to try its hand at another mobile experience. Certainly, there are a number of mobile titles that have been announced by NCSoft recently like Blade & Soul M but their Aion entry is being touted as the first mobile RPG of theirs for the western market.

This particular entry, borrowing from the MMO Aion is created by the original Aion development team at NCSOFT’s headquarters. Players will be able to collect heroes from the world of Aion and build up combinations of them for use in boss battles, PvP, and Guild Dungeons.
Check out some of the short clips of the game here.


While you cannot download the game yet, pre-registration is available now on https://www.aionlegionsofwar.com/en along with that most classic of pre-order enticements, an unlocking bar. Pre-registering gives 100 points to the total, though how many are needed for each tier is a question. There are other share options to add to the total.

Unlocks include 36,000 in-game gold, a “rare confinite”, 160 gems and the biggest unlock being a three-star hero. Notably, you will need to connect with your Facebook account to redeem the rewards after launch.

With NCSoft leveraging Lineage for a mobile game and now Aion, you have to wonder if we’ll see some odd resurrections in the future. While Master X Master never made it, it was notable for having characters from Guild Wars 2 and City of Heroes. With the recent shut down of Wildstar, maybe there is a mobile future for the Chua or a return to the streets of Paragon City for that most classic of activities. Go, Hunt, Kill Skuls.

 

Source: Press Release

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MMO Money: Tencent Gets Budget Cuts and More Quarterly Reports

More quarterly reports have been released in the last few days and it isn’t really very good news. Activision-Blizzard saw a drop in stock price after the release of their quarterly report. While NCSoft is more of a mixed bag. Perhaps one of the biggest stories, however, is that Tencent gets budget cuts to try to reduce the amount they’re losing as the saga with the Chinese government continues.

 

Tencent Gets Budget Cuts

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

We’ve been following the Tencent story for a few months now as the company hemorrhages money in the face of China’s ever-increasing crackdown on the gaming industry. The company has spent much of 2018 losing billions of dollars, $190 billion in value as China has continued to step up their efforts to get kids gaming less. Tencent has started to respond to this after months of waiting it out did more harm than good. All games that haven’t made it through China’s licensing process are now being hit with budget cuts.

It is the unlicensed games that are the biggest concern for Tencent. They’ve pours millions into these games that have just been sitting there since this all started in April when the freeze on new licenses was introduced. It was hoped that Tencent would be allowed to continue getting approvals through a special “green channel” but, after months of waiting for that to come to pass China has killed that possibility.

This is, of course, starting to have a knock-on effect on the international games industry. Newzoo actually lowered their global games forecast for the year. It isn’t clear how long this will continue but, some analysts believe it could be March 2019 before the whole Chinese audience problem is worked out.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

NCSoft Quarterly Report Has Ups and Downs

Total sales are down in the third quarter for NCSoft according to their most recent quarterly report. Sales are down 7% quarter on quarter and 44% year on year to KRW 403.8 billion. This meant that the operating profit for the company is also down, 13% quarter on quarter and 58% year on year.

For the five PC games that NCSoft reports on there was a 1.5% growth quarter on quarter. Lineage II, Aion, and Guild Wars 2 all had revenue higher than the second quarter. Lineage and Blade & Soul were both down, though only very slightly.

Mobile gaming, which was so massive for them in Q3 2017 with 551,032 million KRW is down to 216,490 million KRW this quarter. That is up from last quarter, however. That is in part thanks to the resilience of the Lineage M update effect. NCSoft does have a number of mobile games in the works, so once these start releasing we’ll see the sales numbers go up again.

In Taiwan, sales went up 68% quarter on quarter thanks to Aion’s F2P conversion. However, royalty revenue went down 44% quarter on quarter because of the elimination of one-off Lineage M Taiwan revenue. Korea continues to be their biggest market which has always been the case for NCSoft.

In NCSoft’s future, we have several mobile games to look forward to, though none of them have release dates yet. We also know that Wildstar will be shutting down on November 28th.

 

Source: NCSoft Quarterly Report

 

Activision-Blizzard Quarterly Report Causes Stock to Drop

Weaker than expected results in the Activision-Blizzard have caused an 11% drop in share price for the company. This is the second time in a week that this has happened. The first came with the disastrous reveal of Diablo Immortal at Blizzcon.

Analysts suggest that there is pressure for current titles to perform better than they are. This makes sense because Activision-Blizzard doesn’t have a whole lot scheduled for 2019 yet. Another Call of Duty game is expected in Q4 2019. There’s only one other Activision game expected next year at the moment. Blizzard, on the other hand, has both Diablo Immortal which may release in 2019 and WoW Classic which will certainly bring many players back.

What was so bad about the quarterly report? Total revenue was down nearly 7%, Destiny 2 is underperforming, and monthly active users is down. However, PC revenue is up, in part thanks to the launch of Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft’s recent expansion.

Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said, “Activision Blizzard’s results for Q3 exceeded our prior outlook as we continue to entertain large audiences, drive deep engagement, and attract significant audience investment across our franchises. Our unique advantage continues to be our ability to create the most compelling interactive and spectator entertainment based on our own franchises, combined with our direct digital connection to hundreds of millions of customers, in over 190 countries. With these competitive advantages we continue to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment.”

But, it would seem that investors aren’t all that convinced. It looks like the rest of 2018 and 2019 might be a difficult time for Activision-Blizzard. But, we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Source: Games Industry, Quarterly Report

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NCSoft Announces Aion 2, Blade & Soul 2 and Other Mobile Games

Nexon’s annual NC Media Day had a whole lot of things to unveil ahead of the upcoming G-Star 2018, and almost all of those reveals were brand new mobile games based on the company’s established IPs. We can now confirm the upcoming arrival of Aion 2, Blade & Soul 2, and no small number of additional mobile titles.

nc media day

Aion 2 takes place 900 years before the events of the first game and focuses on the arrival of dimensional cracks. These are more than just story device — they’ll actually will let players from other servers come together for large-scale PvP.

Aion 2 will also be lifting the PC version’s restrictions on gliding, which opens up what they call a “three-dimensional battle system.” The game will also let players wield different weapons without the constraints of class choice.

Blade & Soul 2, meanwhile, takes place years after the events of the PC game, where the characters from that title have passed into legend. Nexon touted smarter enemy AI and new ways of interacting with NPCs, as well as the removal of the faction system in order to build a “free community.”

NCSoft also unveiled Blade & Soul M, a mobile edition of the original PC game; Blade & Soul S, a super-deformed variation of the original game with character collection and open-world combat; and Lineage 2M, a massive MMOARPG with 100 million square meters of land to explore.

There are a lot of details and videos to take in, so be sure to head to the source link for some more in-depth coverage.

Our Thoughts

Well, these title announcements will either be of interest to fans of the IPs in question, or will be another mobile-shaped slap in the face. Though considering the way people have taken to the reveal of Diablo Immortal, we suspect it’ll primarily be the latter.

Source: MMO Culture

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NCSoft Decides to Bury WildStar

It appears that NCSoft has finally decided to cut ties with WildStar and its developer Carbine Studios. According to Kotaku, the staff was informed of the closures in a meeting earlier today.

WildStar

 

Of all the recent games to come to a close, WildStar is one of the least surprising. Many MMORPG players and news outlets had high hopes for the game during launch, but it was clear that things were rushed to meet deadlines. Numbers were initially high, but the population declined with the numerous bugs, progression issues, and general lack of listening to the community.

All of that, combined with a slow post-release schedule, ended up with the game being put on life support much earlier than expected. Eventually, WildStar went free-to-play, and it was slightly revived, but never returned to its former glory. Starting today, Carbine Studios will be closed with WildStar to eventually follow suit.

NCSoft made this announcement:

“Today, we are closing Carbine Studios and will begin the process of winding WildStar down to ultimately shutter the game,” NCSoft said in a statement. “WildStar players who have spent money within the game will be refunded purchases from July 1, 2018 until the payment system is shut off. We are also in the process of identifying the teams that will be doing the work to bring WildStar to a close. These decisions are very difficult to make and we are in the midst of shifting as many of our teammates as possible into other roles within the organization.”

Our Thoughts

WildStar is a game that I, and many others, had high hopes for but it simply couldn’t live up to expectations. It was the last real attempt at a “WoW killer” and looked to be successful on launch. However, bad management and game design decisions hurt the game early in its life and it simply couldn’t recover. It’s a sad day when any MMORPG, or game studio, shuts down and we wish the best for Carbine’s employees.

Source: Kotaku

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NCSoft Posts Job for Next-Generation Aion MMORPG

It appears that NCSoft isn’t the reaper of MMO souls many would like to think it is. At least as far as its Korean market is concerned. Case in point; a new job posting by the company which seem to hint at some next-generation Aion MMO, or at least something based on the Aion universe.

next-generation aion mmo

According to the posting, the company is seeking an animator to work on some undetermined new project based on the Aion IP. As one would perhaps expect, the details of this job posting are pretty sparse on the specifics of what this project involves, but it does mention that the project is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and is intended to be “a next-generation console and PC MMORPG.”

This new job posting could have connections to a January 2017 rumor of a direct sequel to Aion, though bear in mind that was an assumption that was reached thanks to the project’s codename of “A2”, a project that was in the planning stages at the time of the initial rumor in question.

That said, a year between planning and hiring an animator for characters and monsters of the project could certainly fit the timeline of development. The iron may also be hot for a sequel to Aion; bear in mind that NCSoft’s Q1 report saw the game’s sales jump by 48% as a result in a monetization scheme adjustment.

Our Thoughts

By our admission, there are a few stretches in this logic regarding this all leading into an Aion 2 and there’s even less chance that any of this will mean anything to Western players of Aion. All the same, we are curious to learn just what this “next-generation” form of Aion will end up being one way or the other, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Source: MMO Culture

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MMO Money: Mobile Revenue is Breaking Records

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

 

PUBG Mobile Revenue Only 1/3 Fornite iOS Revenue

Mobile Revenue is Breaking Records

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

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

 

Activision-Blizzard Q1

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

Overwatch Retribution Event - McCree and Reaper

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

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

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

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

 

German Mobile Game Revenue Seeing Explosive Growth

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

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

 

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

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

EA Celebrating Record Year

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

 

Dow Jones Reporting Problem

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

 

Tencent Q1

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

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

 

Boss Key Saga

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

 

Pearl Abyss Q1

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

 

Kakao IPO

Black Desert Online

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

 

NCSoft Q1

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

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

 

Nexon Q1

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

 

Esports

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

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

 

Lootboxes

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

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

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

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MMO Shut Down Concerns in 2018

As of writing this, we are 67 days into 2018 and we have already lost 10 MMOs, MOBAs, and other types of online games. This counts games that have shut down and those that have been announced will be shutting down in the near future. That’s one game lost for every week of this year, which is a startling amount. So let’s take a look at which games have shut down, the reasons for them getting shut down, as well as trends for previous years.

2018 got off to a rough start with Perfect World announcing that they were closing down not one, but two games; Battle of the Immortals and War of the Immortals, which were both shut down just a few days later on January 9th. It really came as no surprise to anyone that these games were shut down, they never really had a large population, but this isn’t the last time Perfect World will appear in this article.

MMO Shut Down Concerns in 2018

In mid-January, it was announced that Perpetuum’s official server would be going offline. This was somewhat inevitable as development on the game stopped back in September because of low population and income. Sadly, the cost of keeping the server running was just too high, which is why the official server is leaving so soon. It isn’t all bad news for the game however, there’s a semi-official private server keeping the game alive that is being run by one of the former devs.

The first MOBA that announced it would be shut down this year was Paragon. Epic stated that the game had trouble expanding beyond its core player base. The lack of growth slowed development and  it eventually became clear that it was time to shut the game down. Epic offered full refunds for everyone who had ever bought the game, a really nice gesture for those still disappointed about the end.

I didn’t say it, they did.

At the end of January, LinkRealms announced they would be shutting down. The game never gained much traction outside of its core audience and sadly funds to keep the game running were running out. It first came onto the scene back in 2010 when it entered beta and was only added to Steam in 2016. At this point, there’s starting to be a bit of a pattern behind the shutdowns.

When Perfect World announced they were closing Motiga it was only a matter of time before Gigantic, the MOBA they had created, would follow. So, again, at the end of January when the announcement was made that Gigantic was shutting down, it wasn’t much of a surprise. As of writing this, the servers are still online and they will remain so until the end of July. Once again, difficulty breaking into the market was to blame. The lack of audience and the difficulty of fixing some of the issues with the game sadly proved too great.

The third MOBA to close in just one month was NCSoft’s Master X Master. This was a game we learned would be shutting down all the way back in November. In the shutdown announcement, it was said that the game failed to connect with the players. The game wasn’t sustainable with the population it had, so the decision had to be made, purely for business.

Mojang’s card game Scrolls shut down in the middle of February. This was another that was only a matter of time. Development on the game stopped in June of 2015. At the time Mojang promised to keep the servers online until July 2016 at least. So, the fact that it lasted as long as it did is amazing itself. When development stopped in 2015 it was because of the population and the inability to sustainably continue development. Most games are not so lucky to get such a long lead time to the moment the servers are taken offline.

At the end of February, Cabal 2 announced they were shutting down in the west, though exactly when that’s going to happen is still up in the air. In the announcement, it was said that continued operation was unsustainable and Cabal 2 didn’t resonate with as many players as they had hoped.

Demon’s Souls, part of the Dark Souls series, was well known for having a robust online system. Or rather, it was. It was shut down at the end of February, though this was no surprise for anyone who was a fan of the 9-year-old game. To be clear, much of the game is still playable but the online components; seeing player messages, summoning others to your game, and other such features are now inaccessible.

And now that brings us to the beginning of March which has already seen the end of Trion’s Devilian. We found out in January that it would be closing. Unlike the other games, this one was closed because the developers, Bluehole, had stopped working on the game. Bluehole Ginno, the creators of Devilian, was renamed the PUBG Corp and from then on the game was pretty much forgotten.

 

A Look at the Past

If you take a look at the last three months of 2017 you’ll see that 7 titles shut down. The most notable of them all was Marvel Heroes. The difference between 7 and 10 doesn’t seem very big, however, we’re not yet three months into 2018. If we continue to have an average shutdown of one game every week, we’re looking at possibly reaching 14 online games closing this year. That would be double the amount from the previous 3 months.

But, maybe there’s more going on here. After all, the end of the year happened and that tends to bring about big changes. So, how many games were shut down from January to March in 2017? 7, just like the last three months of 2017. In 2016 there were 13 games shut down which is very close to what we may face this year as well. So is this year abnormal or were we just really lucky in 2017? What will the rest of the year hold for online gaming? Maybe right now it just feels like a lot because we’re still in the moment. If nothing else comes from this article, then hopefully it serves as a reminder to keep playing and supporting your favorite game financially. A game can’t run without some sort of income.

The clear theme across all these titles is a lack of population and a lack of funds. Is it a sign of market saturation? Quite possibly. It certainly seems like MOBAs are past the point of saturation. More of them are shutting down than launching and it would seem that audiences have found the game they prefer.

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