Kartrider: Drift Preview – Chasing Mario Kart

Kartrider: Drift is Nexon’s answer to Mario Kart, Nintendo’s uncontested leader of the kart racer genre. However, this would be belittling the legacy of Crazyracing Kartrider, the 2004 game that kickstarted what we can now rightfully call a full-fledged franchise. The colossal success in Korea and China prompted the studio to take the series to the next stage, with a global release that spares no expenses.

A quick look at Kartrider: Drift’s bullet points shows some intriguing ambition and the determination to go against some of the current tendencies. A PC and Xbox One cross-platform game running on Unreal Engine 4, with no mobile version in sight? To some extent, that is daring in our times. The disappointing lack of a fun free-to-play racing game with high production values also reinforces the notion that Kartrider: Drift may be here to fill that void.

Kartrider Drift Preview Ramp

All is Fair in Kart Racing | Kartrider: Drift Preview

The first Kartrider: Drift closed beta revealed a surprisingly player-friendly game with no cash shop in sight. This will surely make an appearance later, as any game with a free-to-play business model needs to be sustainable, but right now it was nice to browse the available customization options without stumbling upon locked drivers or karts.

There were eight karts available during the beta, most of them based on their real counterparts, but three are animal themed. You have monkey, bunny, and tortoise karts, boasting a much more radical design that adds some interesting diversity to the selection. You can’t just rely on looks, however, as each kart is designed around four characteristics: speed, handling, drift, and boost. While a couple of vehicles seem to be slightly more balanced than the rest, there is no way that you can pick one of them and take the victory for granted.

Kart parts are bound to be a vital mechanic in Kartrider: Drift, with items that are predictably unlocked as you gain experience levels. You can customize your kart with your preferred pieces of different tiers, including the front, side, rear, wheels, and booster. These parts seem purely cosmetic for now, and let’s hope they stay that way. The other aspect of kart customization is a lick of paint, with a few preset spots that you can dye to your liking. In the future there will be custom wraps to add to the kart body, taking personal customization a step further.

Kartrider Drift Preview Drifting Items

Those karts won’t drive themselves, so you must pick a driver to embody your persona. The three measly characters aren’t likely to rock your world, and their design is probably going to be one of the more divisive points of the game – this is no Mario and friends for sure. Dao, the poster boy for the game, looks like an exile from Katamari Damacy, although his alternative baseball skin is a bit more agreeable. Bazzi is a boy wearing a teddy bear costume, and Brodi is a mysterious factory foreman. The graphics and animations are beyond criticism, but the cast lacks charisma, and there is a lot of room for improvement here. Nexon may not have a legacy to rival with Blizzard or Nintendo, but it could add a few guest drivers from some of its famous games, including but not limited to Dungeon Fighter Online, MapleStory, and Vindictus. Either that or add charming characters with a distinct identity that really stands out.

Racing is fun and frantic as it should be. Controls can make or break a game such as this one and thankfully Nexon has mostly nailed the feel of an arcade racer. It’s incredibly simple to drive and use the items, but you need to master the drifting mechanic if you want to reach the finish line ahead of the pack. It requires a delicate balance as you drift to fill your turbo meter, avoiding the track barriers by the skin of your teeth. The technique here is to start drifting as soon as you have triggered the turbo so that you keep that momentum going, but it’s easier said than done. You gain experience not just by winning races or placing on the top spots, you also earn points for actions such as drifting, passes, attacks landed, and attacks blocked. Take more than 10 seconds to finish the race after the winner and you’ll be retired, with your experience taking a hit in the process.

Kartrider Drift Preview Item Attack

Boosts are the central gimmick of the Speed mode, but Kartrider: Drift also comes with the Item mode. These are two separate experiences that you can play solo, in duos, or in squads, but you need to choose one mode over the other. Currently, there is no league mode of sorts to participate in, something that is sorely lacking but is certainly in the works. It is essential to give the game a long-lasting appeal because this kind of multiplayer racing may be fun, but it will only hold your attention for so long.

The Item mode makes the races look and feel akin to Mario Kart, as you randomly collect power-ups in certain locations of the track. You may get a useful booster, but there are quite a few attack and defense items as well. There is a shield to protect you from enemy attacks for a brief time, the mandatory banana to make the rival slip, barriers to make your chasers crash, a magnet to pull yourself closer to a driver in front of you, among others. The items add an element of surprise to the races and the winner isn’t always the best driver, but this mode surely boosts the fun factor in ways that the Speed mode isn’t capable of.

Currently there are nine tracks available, set in diverse environments including forests, glaciers, graveyards, and villages. The track design pulls all the punches in order to keep races frantic, with ramps, shortcuts, and long straight roads to make the most out of the turbo.

Kartrider Drift Preview Race Start

Kartrider: Drift makes good use of Unreal Engine 4, delivering some pleasant sights and colorful tracks. The lighting effects and reflections are top-notch, and the game conveys an accomplished cartoon mood capable of entertaining kids and adults alike.

The closed beta is a nice presentation card for Kartrider: Drift. The core mechanics are in place and it just needs more: more drivers, more tracks, more features to keep you coming back for another race. Nexon seems to be committed to its game and it might as well be – it may be no Mario Kart beater, but it sure is nice to welcome a serious contender to the genre.

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Durango Wild Lands is Shutting Down After 5 Months

Nexon’s Durango Wild Lands is shutting down just 5 months after it released. The mobile survival game was in beta testing for years before it finally launched in May. It isn’t the end of the game yet though and Nexon actually has one more update for the game before the end. Here is what they have planned from their announcement on Facebook.

Final Chapter of Durango: Wild Lands

The finale for Durango’s main storyline is in preparation. It will be available for pioneers through quests. The end is connected to the beginning, as K and X are the main characters for it. It will also include many answers to questions that arose as you explored the world of Durango.

Combat Island & Instruments

Combat Island is a PvP content in which pioneers gather in a small island for a fight to the finish. In a sense, the structure is a bit similar to the previous Warp Rush. The play experience, however, is something quite different. With the loots that you receive from the Combat Island battles, you can craft rare weapons that you can boast to other pioneers.

Instruments will also be introduced in the next update. In contrast to the action-packed combat of Combat Island, the new instrument system will bring a tone of peace. You can select a piece and play it, or utilize the editing function in order to create your own. Craft and play the new instruments so that you can spread tranquility in a world of exploration and survival that is Durango.

Faster & Better Experience in Durango

In order to experience the many contents in Durango: Wild Lands, one needed to invest time and effort. Now, considering that we’re near the end, we are preparing an update that will bring in a way to enjoy the various contents in a short amount of time. But at the same time, we will try our best not to diminish the gameplay of the past.

Keeping the Private Islands

We are currently trying to find a way for pioneers to keep their private islands even after the service for Durango: Wild Lands ends. This will allow you to see your private island after the termination and also show it to others.

Durango Wild Lands Review Zebraceratops

Heartbreaking to see that they still have content in development while knowing that the game is coming to an end. About the shutdown they said:

After Durango: Wild Lands was released, our pioneers have turned the wild lands into a new world. Vacant islands became flourishing cities, and lands of nothing became homes, farms, and shelters to many pioneers.

To put it bluntly, we have decided to end the service of Durango: Wild Lands. It seems we have reached our final destination in the wild lands that we have explored together. We would like to apologize and show our gratitude through this note.

We would sincerely like to thank you, our pioneers, for being part of the Durango world. We, as developers and operators of the game, were able to do our jobs largely due to your support. While the in-game characters were warped to Durango despite their intentions, you our pioneers chose to be part of our family. We deeply empathize with you not being able to continue your expeditions in Durango.

Life in Durango will continue on until its termination. We will continue its development so that memories from the wild lands will last for a prolonged period.

 

In-app purchases are no longer available for the game and the game will close on December 18th. They don’t have a release date yet for that new content, so if you’re interested in that be sure you’re following them on social media.

 

Source: Facebook via MMOCulture

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Nexon Shutting Down 2 Western Subsidiaries

We found out last week that Nexon would be going through some restructuring and now there are more details. The update to that story today is Nexon shutting down two of its western subsidiaries. Both Nexon M and Nexon’s Division Partners Office will be closing at the end of August. While some of them have been moved to other Nexon units there will still be many left without jobs.

Mabinogi

The Nexon’s Division Partners Office was responsible for QA, community management, marketing, publishing, and providing live operations in the West. It isn’t clear yet how these vital components of the company’s business will be operated going forward. They specifically provided these services for Mabinogi, Rocket Arena, and an unannounced title.

Nexon M, Nexon’s Mobile division in the west created games like Durango: Wild Lands, AXE: Alliance vs Empire, Marvel Battle Lines, and a few other titles. This particular division of Nexon has only been around for 5 years, but as part of the company’s restructuring, it is getting the axe. What will happen to the games they’ve developed and any that they had in progress remains to be seen.

Based on the talk around Nexon it would be safe to assume that this is only the beginning of their restructuring and that more news will be coming out about it soon.

If you’d like to stay up to date on the latest news from the online games industry be sure to check out the MMOGames Weekly Business Report which comes out every Friday. Here we will continue to stay up to date on the latest Nexon news, look at quarterly financial reports as they’re released, and any other business news that arises during the week.

 

Source: MMOCulture

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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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Rocket Arena – Everybody Was Rocket Jumping

Rocket Arena is the latest game from Nexon and its inspirations are obvious. A first glimpse at the name brought back fond memories of long nights rocket jumping in Quake, quickly traveling across the map, leaping with unmatched poise and getting back into the fight in the blink of an eye.

But Quake isn’t the only source of inspiration for this hero shooter. Rocket Arena has a visual style that seems to channel both Blizzard’s Overwatch and Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins. The comparisons are inevitable, but Rocket Arena has a confident style and visual substance that makes it difficult to dislike.

I couldn’t help but smile when I first saw the Rocket Arena characters. What a cheerful and colorful bunch that Final Strike Games designed for its 3v3 arena first-person shooter. It’s like they jumped out of the best Saturday morning cartoons for a quick and unpretentious brawl. A quick “Smash” brawl.

Rocket Arena Preview Amphora Rocketball Crater's Edge

All the Bros Were Smashing

In Rocket Arena, your goal isn’t to drain your opponent’s health bar. After all, everyone is using non-lethal rockets, if such a thing is even plausible. Instead of a health bar you have a Blast Meter and when you take significant hits you are “Megablasted” out of the arena, only to slowly float back down again and reenter the fight. Evidently, this makes you lose precious seconds and your team is weakened during this process.

It’s a mechanic that seems lifted from Super Smash Bros. or Brawlhalla. At this stage I can’t say for sure if it fits the gameplay, as the closed beta feels somewhat unbalanced and in need of further testing. I’d be hard-pressed to choose between this and a traditional health bar, as I don’t think that the Blast Meter adds anything worthwhile to the matches, feeling like a glorified respawn period that gets on your nerves as your hero slowly floats back into a random location.

The rocket jumping aspect needs more work, as it feels unfitting. For a game that is pretty much selling itself on this gimmick, there is a long way to go before it feels satisfactory and worthy of comparison to the mighty Quake series. The main problem with it is the strange physics system or lack thereof, with no proper correlation between the angle of your shot and the way that you are thrusted in the air. Most of the times you’ll simply be propelled upwards, even when you are aiming at a wall, something that should give you a boost and shoot you backwards across the map.

Rocket Arena Preview Izell The Wilds

It’s also odd that other players seem unaffected by the rocket impacts. As Quake has so deftly proved, skilled players can easily come up with amazing strategies that add layer after layer of strategy to a seemingly simple gameplay premise, so long as they are provided with the right tools. This would ramp up the gameplay of Rocket Arena, but right now it lacks that spark that would improve its competitive potential.

Rocket Arena has an interesting take on verticality and the ability to take the fights airborne. The maps are small but aptly designed, but to explore their full potential you will need a fully functioning rocket jump mechanic. You also have a double and triple jump which regrettably turn the game into a clay pigeon shooting gallery of sorts, as you try your best to hit those annoying jumping players from afar. Rocket Arena would surely gain from a more restrained jump feature and a focus on ground-based gameplay, as the matches are almost entirely spent airborne and may end up getting on your nerves.

I don’t mean to sound too jaded or overly critical of Rocket Arena as I understand that it is still in active development and welcoming player feedback. It is an occasionally fun game and it’s obvious that a lot of work went into making it look great and play decently, but I wish some of the issues above were fixed if it wants to stand a chance against other hero shooters. This is the time to do it, to balance the characters properly – a couple of them feel utterly overpowered – and adjust those physics. This could make or break the game.

Rocket Arena Preview Jayto Icefall Keep

Easy Like Saturday Morning

It’s not entirely fair to label Rocket Arena’s visuals as childish; this game is only as childish as a Toy Story movie can be, a Disney movie or some of the best Saturday morning cartoons. The flamboyant and jubilant art style isn’t there to be enjoyed solely by kids, as a keen adult eye will promptly notice the talented design and attention to detail that permeates Rocket Arena.

There are currently six characters available in Rocket Arena, and they are a wide-ranging bunch, both in looks and abilities. Amphora is a cute fighter with an underwater penchant that would make Aquaman proud; Blastbeard is a larger-than-life pirate that carries a massive cannon; Kayi is the Disney princess Elsa in everything but name and looks, sporting ice powers and hailing from the snowy Icefall Keep; Izell is a fearless jungle warrior; Plink is a creative kid and wannabee Inspector Gadget; finally, Jayto is the brash returning champion and acts as the poster boy for the game. Each character comes with their own loadout, with specific strengths and an ultimate ability, and soon you will begin to find a favorite or two among them.

In a nice touch, each contender comes from their own region, corresponding to one map per character, at least so far. It’s easy to see that Kayi comes from the lovely snow-covered Icefall Keep, a kingdom that wouldn’t be out of place in Frozen. Blastbeard has his own pirate-themed Crater’s Edge map, with lovely waterfalls and a shine to the whole thing that turns it into one of my favorite maps visually speaking. Izell naturally comes from Gemstone Jungle, a place filled with ancient temples and a distinct Mayan vibe. I won’t go through the remaining three maps, but each one of them has an inherent style that perfectly suits the respective character – well, maybe except for Plink, who seems at odds with a dino excavation site set in a desert.

Rocket Arena Preview Plink Mega Rocket Crystal Reef

Despite their small size, these maps are expertly designed and have enough elements as to feel unique and entertaining. As I’ve mentioned before, verticality plays an important role, for better and for worse, so you must get used to it if you want to succeed.

You level up each character independently, unlocking rewards such as alternative outfits, trails and artifacts, which provide buffs to certain characters. Extra damage while on the ground for Plink, gaining full health after knocking out an opponent for Amphora, or gaining a short speed bust after a rocket jump for Izell, among others.

As for game modes, there are three PvP modes available and one cooperative mode that pits players against waves of AI-controlled Rocketbots. Knockout is your basic team deathmatch, except that no one actually “dies” in this game, instead being thrusted into the skies and out of the arena. Each player has three badges, nine in total for each team, and when a team is out of badges, the match is lost. Megarocket is about territory control, with rockets falling from the sky and teams having to hold possession for a few seconds until a point is conquered. Rocketball tries to bring a sports twist to Rocket Arena, and you can toss the ball or carry it with you, something that is utterly not advised unless you have a well-oiled team by your side. Currently it feels somewhat frustrating – possibly a matter of easy to learn and hard to master, as I’ve witnessed some players flawlessly scoring goal after goal.

Rocket Arena Preview Amphora Gemstone Jungle

A Promising Start but Not Quite Ready for Lift-Off

My time with Rocket Arena so far has been both fun and frustrating in equal measure. I can clearly see the potential of a game that may give the misleading impression of being aimed at children, but don’t dismiss it on that basis alone; Fortnite isn’t exclusively targeted at adults either and yet it is played by different age groups. It is a long way off from the likes of Quake or Overwatch, with the physics in need of a serious redesign. The characters also feel slightly unbalanced, with occasions where you are blasted out of the arena in a couple of seconds because you looked at someone in a funny way… or because Izell, for example, seems overpowered.

Rocket Arena has an announcer to lend the matches a feeling of spectacle and he mostly delivers. The problem with this is the usual repetitiveness that quickly sinks in, as he seems content in announcing the important events such as goals or badges taken, without any extra flair or funny one-liners.

Despite its flaws and shortcomings, I had fun with Rocket Arena when I switched off my brain and kept my expectations under check. I couldn’t possibly hope for it to play anything like its inspirations at this stage, but it’s impossible to dislike its accomplished art style, cool characters and interesting maps. If all of the issues are suitably addressed, Rocket Arena could end up being a blast. A Megablast, in fact.

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NEXON Opens Durango: Wild Lands Pre-Registration For Mobile

A new MMORPG with dinosaurs is about to make its way to mobile, thanks to a little help from NEXON. Now the publisher has the tools necessary to get players ready for the Jurassic adventure Durango!

The team announced today, in conjunction with its Korea office, that it has launched pre-registration for Durango: Wild Lands starting today. This mobile sandbox MMORPG, as they describe it, “transports players into the middle of a vast wilderness in an alternate universe where humans live alongside dinosaurs. The only way players can survive the uncharted and unforgiving land is to explore, compete and band together to build a functional society.

Durango: Wild Lands features a persistently-evolving open world where freedom of choice grants players the power to control their own destinies. Crafting, cooking, farming, sewing, gathering and taming wild dinosaurs are just several of the skills players will need to master to establish a thriving civilization in the midst of the hostile wild.”

Pre-registration has officially opened up for both Google Play and iOS devices through the official game website. And those who jump at the opportunity will score some free bonuses when the game launches, including the following:

  • Collectable Items– An exclusive package of useful in-game items, including the Broomstick, Paper Box, Doggy Mask, Dino Mask, Warp-Box, Health, Striped Compsognathus and more.
  • Rare Gems– Android players who pre-register through Google Play will receive 300 Warp Gems.

A release date for Durango: Wild Lands still hasn’t been provided yet. But considering the game is set with pre-registration, it probably isn’t too far off now. Not to mention that the game is available now in various markets, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others.

Will you be taking the journey into the world of Durango?

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Nexon’s 2019 Launch Roadmap Released

During their media event “Nexon Special Day” we got a look at Nexon’s 2019 launch roadmap, mostly for the first half of this year. It also mostly focuses on mobile games. When they were asked about PC games they said that they would talk more about it in their second or third special day events later this year. So basically, if you’re hoping to see Peria Chronicles you’ll have to wait until later this year at the very least.

 

Magia: Charma Saga

A side-scrolling action RPG that has already soft launched in five countries. It appears that Nexon has hopes this game will become a new standalone hit IP for the company. If you’re interested in checking it out our friends at MMOCulture have a 50-minute long preview of gameplay from the soft launch. Currently, the game is available to play in the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand. The inclusion of two English speaking countries gives us high hopes that this game will release in the West.

 

Durango: Wild Lands

Its been a while since we’ve heard about Durango: Wild Lands, but it looks as though they’re preparing to release the game in the west in the first half of this year.

 

Overhit

Details so far are very vague for Overhit, but we do know that Nexon is planning to release it in 150 countries simultaneously. It’s the eagerly anticipated mobile RPG from NAT Games, the makers of HIT.

 

Maplestory M

MapleStory M is finally going to be released in Japan this April.

 

Godzilla Defense Force

Perhaps, the most exciting thing to come from the special media day was the announcement of Godzilla Defense Force, a game in which players need to defend cities against more than 100 different monsters from the Godzilla series. The game will be launching worldwide this May and be available in 10 different languages.

 

It looks like Nexon has a busy few months ahead, especially when you remember that 98% of the company is going up for sale very soon. If you’re interested in reading more about that check out the latest MMO Money column to see which 5 groups will be allowed to place bids.

 

Source: MMOCulture

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MMO Money: A Week of Lawsuits and Nintendo Being Awesome

Lawsuits abound this week in the online gaming world with both Activision Blizzard and Epic Games the focus of new lawsuits. Meanwhile, Nintendo gives us a much-needed breath of fresh air with how they treat gamers and their employees. Bidding for Nexon is set to begin in April with the list of bidders reduced to just 5. Find all of this and more in this week’s MMO Money.

 

Nexon Shortlists Five Bidders for the Company

There has been quite a lot of interest in Nexon recently from major companies around the world including Disney, EA, Comcast, Tencent, and many others. But, Nexon has now lowered that list to just 5 bidders. Those five include Tencent and Kakao Corp. along with three private equity firms, Bain Capital, MBK Partners, and an unidentified firm. Quite significantly Netmarble isn’t included in this list. Netmarble had been putting together a consortium of Korean firms to bid together, believing that selling to an overseas company will damage the local games industry. In fact, this may be why we don’t see any Western-based interests in the shortlist. Bidding for the 98.64% share of Nexon that is expected to be worth as much as $13.3 billion is expected to begin in early April.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Nintendo Asks Mobile Partners to Stop Players From Spending So Much

In a time when it seems like all game companies are after is your money Nintendo comes out and gives you a little bit of faith in the industry once more. The company is concerned with its self-image and has asked some of its mobile game development partners to adjust the microtransactions in their games so players are less likely to overspend. A source at CyberAgent, who owns the developers of Dragalia Lost told the Wall Street Journal, “Nintendo is not interested in making a large amount of revenue from a single smartphone game. If we managed the game alone, we would have made a lot more.”

This also comes less than a week after a recruitment page for Nintendo shed some light on what it’s like working for the company. The average salary is ¥9.03 million, that’s $80,000, employees can potentially get bonuses in June and December plus a pay increase every April. The average workday at Nintendo is seven hours and forty-five minutes long. As if all of that doesn’t already sound amazing full-time employees stay at the company for an average of 13.5 years. Anyone familiar with the games industry in the West will know that developers tend not to stay in one company for very long. If you’re interested in knowing more about that check out this article from Polygon.

From a personal point of view both of these pieces of news make me more likely to look at Nintendo games and support what they’re doing. Their views and the way they treat their employees is a breath of fresh air in the games industry today.

 

Source: Wall Street Journal, Games Industry

 

 

Vivendi Sells Remaining Ubisoft Shares

Ubisoft Joins Forces With Horror Movie Studio

Its been almost a year since Vivendi announced it was going to stop trying to acquire Ubisoft and finally the remaining shares it had in the company have been sold. The remaining shares it had was about 5% of the company, €429 million.

At one point in time, Vivendi owned a 27.3% stake in the company and though its attempts to own the company completely failed they did bring in about €2 billion, a capital gain of €1.2 billion. Though they failed to achieve their original goal you can hardly call the entire thing a failure. I’d love to fail my way to €2 billion, that’s about $2.2 billion USD. Vivendi has stated that they will honor their agreement and not buy shares in Ubisoft for at least 5 years.

Vivendi had previously owned Activision Blizzard but it sold the company to an investment group led by Bobby Kotick and Brian Kelly for $8.2 billion. That deal pushed Vivendi out of the games industry for 3 years until it bought its way back in with a hostile takeover of Gameloft.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

A New Law firm is Encouraging Shareholders to Sue Activision Blizzard Over Bungie Split

Another law firm is inviting shareholders to join in a class action lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, accusing the company of misleading shareholders over the end of its partnership with Bungie. The firm’s loss submission form makes the following claims:

Activision failed to disclose that “the termination of Activision Blizzard and Bungie’s partnership… was imminent”

That this termination “would foreseeably have a significant negative impact on Activision Blizzard’s revenues.”

And as a result “Activision Blizzard’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all times.”

Activision Blizzard previously said that the split from Bungie was because Destiny 2 failed to meet financial expectations. But in a recent SEC filing, the company recognized $164 million in revenue from Destiny for 2018 as a result of the split.

This comes at a time when shareholders for Activision Blizzard aren’t too happy with the company. They’ve had to warn investors that cutting hundreds of jobs (800 in total) may damage the company. They even went so far as to say there can be “no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective” than it was before this new strategy.

Why can’t you be more like Nintendo?

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Man Sues Epic Games Over Predatory Loot Boxes

While we’re on the topic of lawsuits we should mention that Epic Games is being sued, yet again. This time though it isn’t because they used a dance in their game, instead it’s over allegations that Epic Games has engaged in predatory schemes with loot boxes in Fortnite. They allege that Epic intentionally designed Save the World to hinder player’s progress if they didn’t spend real money. They also say that Epic has “made a fortune on in-game purchases, preying in large part on minors who are especially susceptible to such predatory tactics.” The lawsuit accuses Epic of violating California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law.

What the lawsuit doesn’t mention though is that since January Epic Games now shows the contents of loot llamas in Save the World before they’re purchased with V-Bucks. So it is possible that the lawsuit won’t go anywhere since they’ve already made changes to the areas that the lawsuit covers.

 

Source: Games Industry

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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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Nexon For Sale Reportedly

There were reports earlier this month that claimed Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju was preparing to sell his 98.64% controlling stake in Nexon. Now it seems that it is officially up for sale, which effectively makes Nexon for sale. The controlling stake in the company is reportedly worth $8.9 billion and there are quite a few big names interested in buying it.

According to Korean news website Daum Tencent, EA, Activision, and Disney are all listed as interested parties. In addition to that Goldman Sachs is assisting Tencent. American investment firms KKR, TPG, and Carlyle are also reportedly looking to partner with US gaming companies to gather the funds necessary to place a bid. An investment presentation session is planned for October in San Francisco to sell the shares. So, American companies do have some time to coordinate and decide if they want to make a bid or not.

For anyone who has been following gaming business news (we have a weekly column on Tuesdays) it won’t come as a surprise at all to see Tencent on the list of potentially interested buyers. They’ve been snatching up shares in game companies all around the world for years now and making a lot of really profitable business moves.

Given everything that has been happening with Activision recently, it is both a surprise and isn’t a surprise to see them on the list. Nexon has been thriving thanks to their early adoption of mobile gaming and Activision could really use that on their side right now. However, $8.9 billion is a lot of money and it could be a risky move. It’s a move that makes sense for EA who don’t really seem to be having a great time the last couple of years. Disney is the big surprise. They don’t really have a strong gaming presence. Of course, they are Disney, they own the rights to…well the childhoods of anyone born after 1980 if we’re honest. Getting a controlling stake in Nexon would be massive for them as they could make a lot of games based on their IPs. Plus, every time a new Disney movie comes out…having a tie in mobile game would be huge!

We’ll be following this story closely as it is an early contender for biggest news story of 2019.

 

Source: Games Industry

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