Massively OP’s Best of 2017 Awards: Biggest MMO Industry Blunder of 2017

Massively Overpowered’s end-of-the-year 2017 awards continue today with our award for Biggest MMO Industry Blunder of 2017, which we awarded to the industry’s VR obsession last year, and I just need to point out that some of you mocked us for that pick, but we’re feeling mighty vindicated this year, and you’ll soon see why. This isn’t an award we particularly enjoy giving, but I think it’s a fitting complement to praising trends and big stories: We must consider the mistakes of the year so we don’t make them again and so we can be prepared for how they’ll affect us in the future.

The Massively OP staff pick for Biggest MMO Industry Blunder of 2017 is…

CCP’S DRAMATIC VR PULLOUT & EVE ONLINE LAYOFFS

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I was going to say Chris Roberts saying he was tired of giving 3.0 release estimates (which is my runner up pick), but instead go with Star Citizen asking people to buy land well before the game’s out. This isn’t just bad for the MMO industry but the Kickstarter industry as well. Star Citizen can really bring faith to Kickstarter fans with patience or (more likely) remind bitter old gamers like myself that it should be an option best left to smaller teams with partially finished projects in need of capital to help them cross the finish line. With the way the genre’s looking and some of the past stories with not just Kickstarters but Early Access in general, the cash grab after already selling so many ships seems to have fallen to the same level as their former contractors (illFonic, which went on to cancel Revival). Roberts also probably shouldn’t have voiced his frustration with being asked when the game would be essentially ready for the public. Maybe if he’d done a song and dance instead it would have gone down better and possibly raised them another million dollars. Maybe Richard Garriott will do that instead of selling blood art.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): EVE Online firing its entire community team when pulling out of VR. While pulling out of VR was ostensibly a business decision for CCP, the way CCP handled it was deplorable. Once again it seems that the studio financially over-extended itself and had no plan for failure other than to panic and fire a lot of staff. The worst part was the fact that they unexpectedly let go all but two members of the EVE community team and the entire Atlanta office. The entire thing came just days after EVE Vegas 2017, where the Sparc and Valkyrie devs were all proudly talking about the future of their games and the EVE community team announced ambitious plans for future Fanfests. Nobody there had any idea they’d be looking for a new job at the end of the month.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna): I don’t even play EVE Online anymore and I’m horrified at the way CCP dumped the entire community team over its VR misjudgments while telling the press and the players that everything was fine, situation normal – that EVE Online wouldn’t be affected. Any studio that truly believes — or thinks we’re dumb enough to believe — that a game of EVE Online’s magnitude (and frankly, toxicity level) will be just fine without a solid global community team is in trouble indeed. Seems like we’re in a “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” situation with the Reykjavik company.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre): CCP Games and the Incredible Layoffs and Shutdowns. I spend a fair amount of time making fun of Jagex, chiefly because Jagex makes RuneScape but falls down horribly when trying to make anything else. CCP Games is like a version of Jagex that apparently can’t even manage making its one game at this point. Gutting the EVE Online community team to the point of killing community events indicates that there’s a whole lot of disconnect going on at the most fundamental level. On some level, this is a “blunder” that predates 2017. Heavy investment in VR was a dumb idea when it first happened. But the chickens came home to roost this year, and so here we are.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster): ArcheAge server merge/wipe. While the final result was probably the smoothest server merges that the game has done yet, the truth is that ArcheAge is a game that guts itself anytime it does one of these “evolutions” that wipes out player progress and asks its community to do a land grab all over again. There had to be a better way to go about this.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie): I feel the biggest blunder this year that has been making a negative impact on games is the whole focus on making all development decisions as to what is best for PvP. For instance, ArcheAge mergers were obviously needed to boost up PvP, but was it the best for the game as a whole? I know a sizeable chunk of folks who enjoyed the game’s other features (trade, farming, housing) who quit over the housing wipe. I left, taking all three of my subs with me. Even the trade system was changed up to encourage more travel in PvP areas. And now lets talk about ARK: There have been so many changes to the game because of PvP and PvP exploits that made everything worse for PvE servers that I couldn’t even begin to list them!

Tina Lauro Pollock (@purpletinabeans): I have to get on the CCP train too: Brendan and I live together and have spent plenty of time discussing this as the news rolled out to everyone, and he was very upset by the development team accounts he’d heard. Some of the greatest talent under the studio’s banner was cut, and that is a huge blunder for any studio to make. Runner-up goes to ArenaNet for it’s rather lacklustre (read: practically non-existent) Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire launch hype: The community drove the hype train for the studio and the lack of run-up PR was, and still is, a little baffling when the expansion was so solid.

CCP Games’ VR pullout and subsequent EVE Online layoffs won our award for Biggest MMO Industry Blunder of 2017. What’s your pick?

Reader poll: What was the biggest MMORPG industry blunder of 2017?

  • CCP's VR bungle and EVE layoffs (17%, 105 Votes)
  • ArcheAge's server merge-wipe mess (5%, 30 Votes)
  • Star Citizen's land claims (16%, 102 Votes)
  • ARK exploits (1%, 6 Votes)
  • Chris Roberts 'fed up' drama (5%, 32 Votes)
  • Lack of proper Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire hype (2%, 12 Votes)
  • Guild Wars 2 mountgate (5%, 30 Votes)
  • Funcom making Secret World players reroll for the reboot (9%, 56 Votes)
  • Gazillion's Marvel Heroes failboat (36%, 229 Votes)
  • Nothing (1%, 9 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments) (4%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 634

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Poll options include all stories nominated plus other games we thought would be worthy.

MOP’S 2017 AWARDS (SO FAR)
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84 Comments on "Massively OP’s Best of 2017 Awards: Biggest MMO Industry Blunder of 2017"

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Chosenxeno .

Even though I like SWL and I never played TSW I voted for that. That’s just not fair. I always talk about how MMORPGs should respec a players time. Which is partly why I argue against Archaic Design Philosophies so much(thing I saw this year was TOS having a flower that has a 5 hour spawn timer to unlock a specific class. Uh, I have shit to do lol). My time is valuable. It’s not something you can get back. For them to do what they did to people that had thousands of hours played is a disgrace.

I don’t like how MHO ended either.

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Suikoden

So far it sure looks like the popular opinion goes to Marvel Heroes. I certainly understand that.

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Robert Mann

I would agree with MJ, but that is a long term trend in multiplayer where PvP is involved. So yeah, Gazillion or CCP.

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Alex Malone

Voted for the Marvel Heroes blunder.

Whilst the EvE story sucks, I still believe it was right for CCP to stop investing in VR, they just did it badly. But ultimately EvE is still there, the game is still playable, it just sucks about the community events and all the staff having to find new jobs.

With Marvel Heroes…it’s just gone. Not only does it suck for those people who enjoyed the game, but I imagine it will make some of them jaded about the whole genre which is a shame.

cambruin
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cambruin

None.

As I only read newsitems about the few games I play, none of them seemed to have drawn negative attention. So good job Elder Scrolls Online, Civilization 5, CS:GO and Elder Scrolls Legends.

5seconds2urheart
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5seconds2urheart

I’m going with Battlefront 2, EA and that whole gamble box debacle. It brought gamble boxes to the attention of the mainstream media and politicians having a potentially positive impact for the players who are against that kinda malarky.
While EVE’s issues were sad for the employees, EVE isn’t really an important game in the industry and hasn’t been for time so I don’t see that debacle having much effect on gaming as a whole.

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Alex Malone

Whilst EA definitely blundered with SWBF2, it’s not an MMO and is actually leading to positive things for our genre.

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touchofkiel

Everything about Marvel Heroes, which stretches back to last year. The changes they made to the PC version while still denying a console port exists – changes which worked for consoles, maybe, but gutted the PC version. Then the console port comes – it runs like crap, it offers maybe 2/3 of the content (if that), and everything is vastly more expensive.

And then (I believe) before it even gets out of open beta, it’s canceled. Sunset time: end of the year.

And then the sunset was canceled and the game was shut down a few days later – and the entire company collapsed with layoffs on the day before Thanksgiving.

(Special mention to FFXIV’s housing issue! But my FC already has a house and in the end, housing is useless and unimportant to most of us in the FC.)

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Fisty

I’m with everyone else on Gazillion being the biggest offender, but am entirely okay with CCP or Chris Roberts taking the brunt of the editorial criticism.

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mistressbrazen

This was a question that begged for a choice that said “Pick all that apply.” Of course, my heart wanted to pick the way Funcom treated us with the reboot of SWL, but the EVE Online mess was really good too. Ultimately, I voted for the Gazillion Marvel Heroes choice because not only did they mismanage the adult game but they failed on a thoroughly enjoyable children/family game (Hero Squad) which also went down in flames earlier this year. So overall, I had to think Gazillion impacted more players, across all age groups, than did CCP.

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Jeffery Witman

How did Marvel Heroes and Gazillion collapsing overnight not win?

Brendan Drain
Staff
Brendan Drain

It’s winning the the reader vote by a landslide! Without spoiling the other awards still to come, I can promise the Marvel Heroes fiasco did not go ignored. It featured heavily in our discussions, and for this award we came to a consensus that the EVE layoffs (including firing almost its entire community team) to make up the shortfall for a failed misjudgement in VR was the bigger industry blunder.

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Sorenthaz

Guess more folks are invested in EVE or something.

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Kherova

I voted for Star Citizen. A game that made me give them money by selling me the spacefaring story now wants to sell me land? What?? Really???

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Alex Hyer

Or you can not buy it and earn it for in-game money someday in the far off future.

But maybe there’s gun to your head, I don’t know….

I don’t give a shit about the land claim thing. None of it is forced or enforced or going to effect the game if it ever does come out someday. There’s going to be an insane amount of real estate in the way the game is currently shaping together.

An entire Studio being disolved and a once-popular MMO based on the most popular comic IP on the planet being canceled is a far bigger blunder.

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Sorenthaz

They’ve gotta keep finding ways for people to give them money before they fail expectations somehow. /s

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TotalCowage .

I voted for Star Citizen and land, although I have never followed the game, and have no money in it, but because it’s emblematic of a disturbing trend which still hasn’t died yet in the public’s eyes; the willingness of the industry to turn people’s hopes and faith against them.

SC, like the bane of my own Kickstarter disillusionment, Shroud of the Avatar, and so many others are deliberately inflating Bubbles which any rational mind would see can’t be maintained. Let’s express it mathematically to illustrate why.

Let’s say you promise 120 bars of chocolate, for $120, and to complete the order within 1 year. So you have 1:1 cost and 10 b/m time ratio.

After 1 month, you’ve produced only 2 bars of chocolate. But you’ve continued fundraising, so the total cost goes up, whilst the ratio of bars per dollar for the consumer becomes worse. Efficiency is 1/5 (2/10 bars made), so actual completion time would now realistically be 6 years, not 1 at that pace. But the company says “We’re doing the hard stuff now! Just setting the chocolate making machines up! We’ll still do it all on time though!”, and it’s faith on the backers part that leads them to accepting this.

In month 2, you’re still only producing two bars a month. So you rename it to “Early Tasting Chocolate”. But from the backers point of view, you’re still progressing; “Look, we’ve got 2 new bars now! We genuinely have new content!” The underlying inefficiency remains the same; but the back log will now be harder to clear because instead of 120 in 12 you need to clear, you have to do 116 in 10.

Price meanwhile has continued to rise as fundraising has. And here’s where we get to the bubble. In order to keep inflating public investment, you now need to offer something new… let’s keep it as more chocolate for now, but in a different shape. A tube of sweets rather than a bar, maybe. Let’s say you sell another $20 of 20 chocolate Rolos in the second month.

Can you spot the confidence trick? Without gains in efficiency, you can’t possibly meet the increased chocolate production: You’re already failing to make the bars at the price and time that the public originally paid for. Only now you have to leap from 116 in 10, to 116 bars and 20 Rolos in 10 months. By taking more money in, you’ve made the actual financial challenge worse.

Assuming that is you intend to honour it, and not just take the money and run like SotA clearly does with it’s “launch” announcement with many of the promises left on the table.

And although software isn’t physical like chocolate, there are still production costs associated with it… and unlike chocolate, which we know exists, it may not be possible to code for the new promise. Think things like server code, engine limitations etc…

This is what sunk the original South Sea Bubble; people backed it assuming that the issue was there were blockages in the way of profit, and more investment would clear those blockages… increase efficiency, in other words. In reality, the industry was never going to be profitable, the rights to the Ports they claimed they’d trade in didn’t exist.

So how are games companies getting away with this? Well, they simply allow the time to “Launch” to slip to match what they quietly knew was the real time table. “Oh, we’ll launch in 2 years. Did we say 2? We meant 3? Thank you for staying with us, and keeping faith! Ahh alas, there was a short term problem with the chocolate machine, but we’ll release in 4 now, definitely…”

However in the meantime the new products they promise keep piling up, to prevent the money drying out and the bubble bursting right here and now. Ok, so what about chocolate buttons? Chocolate houses? The rights to own your own plot of chocolate land?!

Any sane person would at that stage pull their money and run. But this is where Sunk Cost Fallacy gets them… by now you’ve conditioned them to a drip feed of chocolate so much that they fear losing the odd bar per month more than they fear the whole thing collapsing. Indeed, they’ll savagely turn on anyone who warns that it will, because with the whole thing being a confidence trick, it’s the people who have no confidence in it that are the danger, not the actual structure they’re in.

This is the horrifying psychological manipulation that deeds to land in a game that hasn’t even got lands to claim yet symbolises so perfectly. And sadly, it’s everywhere in crowdfunded games these days. Remember, they must have some awareness of just how realistic the prospect of success is, but they instead choose to sell people lies just to keep the lights on a little longer. Maybe they even believe the lies themselves. But it’s all irrelevant because they’re clearly not factoring in the extended time for this extra production. Promises cost then nothing… until you have to honour them later, anyway.

EvE and VR? Terrible miscalculation and cost a lot of good people their jobs, yes. But it wasn’t the exemplar of a parasitical, genuinely evil system of thought which means that people who cannot do their jobs, perhaps never intended to do their jobs are able to keep them no matter what by taking tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars off naive, well meaning others… the wreckage when all of this collapses is going to go so much further than just one company.

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Melissa McDonald

Brilliant post, wish i could upvote it more. Your ‘chocolate’ description sounds amazingly like a Ponzi scheme.

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TotalCowage .

Many of the same psychological tricks are coming direct from Ponzi upselling, yes; And not just on the perception level, many of these crowd funded games, SC and SotA especially involve people trying to get in early, in order to resell the virtual goods to later backers; which means they have to keep faith in the company up as long as they have stock… indeed, act as recruiters into it for other because the only way anyone can enjoy the stock you sell them is if they join the game themselves.

But what makes it especially dangerous is unlike ponzi/MLM selling for things like make up or hoovers or “Health” goods, if the game is hosted on central servers, when the market crashes you’re left with nothing at all when it’s turned off. In today’s Always Online DRM model, you’re not even buying software any more, only the licence to use it as long as the company says you are. The RMT within games is selling you nothing more than a licence to use a single piece of art within that sub-licence. In SotA’s case, it’s even a re-licence of a licence, because they re-sell Asset Flips in their Add On Store that they got for free.

People often think when they sign up for Amway or Zurvita et all that they’ll make money because the basic product is good. RMTs in the new model have to know sooner or later, it won’t be.

And RMTs have vested interest in making sure you, not they get stuck with the vanishing inventory.

Kickstarters etc have tried saying what you really bought was “looking at how the sausage is made”, so you got your money’s worth; but it’s just a weaselly way of avoiding the obvious moral responsibility. That’s what has turned “crowdfunding” so vile to me. Like setting someone’s hat on fire, then saying “Think of the valuable lesson you learned about not trusting me!”

Brendan Drain
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Brendan Drain

As a side-note, I would totally sign up to “Early Tasting Chocolate” :D

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TotalCowage .

You can! Here is a JPEG of some very early chocolate. Send me money now, and eventually we’ll make it.

(Disclaimer: May not include chocolate making Elves, and C’buryTech are currently suing us for breaking contract so may not taste anything like you expected. Caveat Emptor)

flyingltj
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flyingltj

Sunsetting Asheron’s Call

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Vincent Clark

I think the Mordor launch trailer that SSG…blessed us with deserves at least an honorary mention…if only because it made the game look worse than it actually is. #promotionfail

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Alex Willis

It was the marketing equivalent of farting loudly when you meet the Queen.

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strangesands

Funcom could still pull out a win if they provided a character transfer once they release the new zone. Even if it was an approximate of the old character it would be a win.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

ccp blunder.gif
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kanbe

While I love it, it hurts to watch. The truth hurts =/

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rafael12104

Hmm. No. It’s the SWBF2 loot box progression Epic Fail.

So, let’s not quibble about whether or not SWBF2 is a real MMORPG. It doesn’t matter in this case, because the fall out and exposure of loot boxes is having and will continue to have an impact on all the gaming industry.

So, aside from SWBF2 making changes, there has been a lot of discussion investigation and at least one proposed bit of legislation. Seems like a whole lot of nothing, right?

But I can make my case simply. All devs now ask themselves two question as they prep their next game, “What are we doing about loot boxes”? “Should we be doing loot boxes?”

So, it’s a blunder. EA’s Industry blunder. And it is in our favor, for once.

I’ll take it and gladly give EA this award even though it is an Industry award.

Thank you, EA. We knew you could do it.

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Greaterdivinity

Eh, I don’t know if I’d get behind CCP’s decision to pull out of VR as a “blunder”, IMO that was a smart choice on their part. Their blunder was years ago when they thought going big on VR was a good idea.

I’m going to get behind Bungie’s handling of Destiny 2 pretty much across the board. Their design changes from Destiny 1 seem to be pretty unpopular with the original community, their communication has been atrocious, their QA frequently missing big bugs that make it live and linger for weeks or longer, and their general poor handling of everything beyond building a fantastic core to the game.

Destiny 2 went from a game I was initially in love with and incredibly excited about, one that I prepurchased the season pass for assuming that Bungie would improve things by the time the first DLC launched and have a solid first DLC. But instead it’s just been disappointment after disappointment and frustration after frustration in what it otherwise a fantastic game.

It affects me more directly, hence my vote, otherwise I’d get fully behind the Gazillion shitshow. What a mess that was : (

Though this year has an unfortunate number of solid contenders for this award, and not just the “usual suspects”. Kinda disappointing : /

Brendan Drain
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Brendan Drain

Their blunder was years ago when they thought going big on VR was a good idea.

Bingo! The blunder was that CCP bet AAA-big on Valkyrie even though the VR market wasn’t big enough to make a good return at that scale. They had 30 million of investor money to play with on VR projects and they chose to spent over 30m on Valkyrie alone. Most damning of all I think was the suddenness of the layoffs and pullout though, if VR wasn’t working out for CCP, they should have put the brakes on before opening a hole in their books that required suddenly firing 100 staff, closing an office, and selling part of the company.

It was definitely a panic decision and not planned in advance. The layoffs came right after EVE Vegas where Hilmar gave a CCP Presents speech that was all business as usual and he seemed excited to be at his first EVE Vegas, but then he disappeared after the speech. All the staff were blind-sided by the layoffs (though that’s the nature of layoffs), plans for Valkyrie and Sparc suddenly changed, and there was no plan for handover of current projects on the community team so a major community event was scrubbed. There was even panic about future plans for Fanfest, because so many of the people who helped with it were now gone.

If Hilmar knew those layoffs were likely happen, he screwed up by allowing the company to get into that position and not making any contingency plans or even transition plans for if layoffs would be needed. If he didn’t, he screwed up though incompetence. Either way I’d call it a pretty big blunder.

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Greaterdivinity

Yeah, it reminds me a lot of their “adventure” with Dust 514, which seemed like a similarly bizarre/awful decision on their part and unsurprisingly never seemed to get much traction.

It’s really disappointing to see so many of CCP’s non-EVE specific ventures struggle over and over again. On the one hand I applaud CCP for being willing to try new things and not tepidly tip-toe their way into different genres…but their decisions on which genre’s to enter and how to enter them have been less than impressive.

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Jonny Sage

Thats whats businesses do. Innovate. Maybe EVE is just a one hit wonder.

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McGuffn

The best ones aren’t even here! The Marvel Heroes shutdown fiasco, the Cliff B “I’ll be nicer” fiasco, the Star Wars BF fiasco, the last month or two of Destiny 2 fiascos. And that’s only the recent ones. I can’t remember the early year.

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Paragon Lost

Somehow I had a reading failure and missed it as well and voted on something else. lol. I would have choose the Marvel Heroes fiasco as well. Damn my reading fails.

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Fervor Bliss

Voted for Chris Roberts rant, because a Roberts promised transparency. No one forced him to do it, Every week they put out so much press and still simple questions are never answered. Hoping this does not become the standard for the industry.

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Dobablo

Something about lockboxes.

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A Dad Supreme

I imagine an EA employee looking over this list and thinking “It’s not us! It’s not us!”

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Zora

Heh they still have the resources and influence required to pilot the narrative of any blunder.

While they make headlines it’s never going to be them qualifying for top spot when, as in gazillion’s case,there’s contenders who completely blew up and nobody is there to put out the fire at all.

styopa
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styopa

Star Citizen…pretty much everything about it.
The Squadron42 lulz is just icing.

(Public): Jesus, SHIP A GAME already?
(CIG)(hurt): We have shipped a game, it’s Squadron42! Ta-da!
(Public): What? That’s not a GAME. It’s a crappy little empty-arena dogfight thing, more like a glorified concept-tester and model viewer. You couldn’t sell that for $5.
(CIG): No, really, it’s a GAME, we insist!
(Public): Really, it isn’t.
(CIG): It IS, it really IS I tell you!

(Crytek): Oh, so you shipped a game, did you? Where’s our check, then?

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Nick // Genghis

I have a few friends that were die-hard Marvel Heroes fans and I’m sad that their game of choice got ended too soon imo. Marvel was on the upswing perceptually with all their movie IPs releasing and I just can’t get why they didn’t do more crossover promotion and marketing towards it as an avenue for Marvel junkies to get their fix. Idk.

In terms of an actual blunder? It’s probably more personal as I have a decent amount of money in Star Citizen, but land claims? Please. Release or at least show us progression systems, mechanics, and gameplay of a real SC MMO. Just once. I’m interested, but not as interested in the Sq42 or the Co-op stuff and I have a general sense that the gaming industry is in the same boat. Single player and co-op have been done and done well in the last few years, but pulling off an MMO with the scope they are attempting to reach for is, right now and what I’ve seen, still 2-3 years out from really seeing any product development for an MMO. They will consistently and continuously give us the PR jargon, “We will use Sq42 and the co-op missions to give us a good idea of what our community wants and provide feedback to ensure as high quality of a game as we can give our customers. As a result, this will help in the development of the MMO portion of our game and we will slowly begin sending out invites for land claims as we get closer to a soft-launch, open beta situation.” The whole thing is trivial and it seems like a lot of larger developers are TRYING in such a brazen, masochistic fashion to have their product decrease in value as soon as it hits the market. In SC’s case, it’s much much sooner before hitting the market, as we can see such a decrease from the transparency that is apparently making their game development better.

Other than that, AA was a hot mess, EVE/CCP I saw coming as there wasn’t a substantial playerbase for it, and of course non-MMO mutually exclusive lootbox issues.

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Armsbend

Get a refund while you are still able.

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Nick // Genghis

You know I’ve thought about it. However, I’ve put my money in at this point and I want to see it out til the end. I know that sounds strange, but I truly think it could be a good game (notice I didn’t say great lol). There are obviously red flags, but hey maybe I’m a little masochistic too…

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Armsbend

I wouldn’t take your money away in anger I’d take it back, then let them decide if they really want to make this project work or not. If they do you’d be right back in the thick of things. Maybe I’d re-give $35 – a reasonable amount of money – so I could stay in and feel I was a small part of it.

That’s what I would do – but it isn’t my money.

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Zora

I’ll stick to gazillion because the CCP thing honestly went under the radar with me, barely remembering it happened until you mentioned in the article.

They both look and sound on the same magnitude with layoff and anything, although EVE still operating might make that one more relevant compared to a company that simply disappeared with nobody to answer to the public anymore.

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Bryan Correll

I have to go with Marvel Heroes on this one. At least CCP and EVE still exist. You can’t say the same for Gazillion and Marvel Heroes.

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Alex Willis

I’m having a hard time looking at layoffs and studio closures as an “industry blunder”. There’s a fine line between bottom-line business decisions and strategic decisions. Calling something an “industry blunder” gives the impression that you’re judging these decisions in the same context as the surrounding ecosystem. Are all layoffs a “mistake”? I find that a little curious a perspective to hold. Is the “industry blunder” really being awarded to decisions made in 2016, and are only coming home to roost now in 2017? It does seem a bit as if you’re seeking vindication for your VR predictions from last year, but I’m not sure CCP’s the best canary in the coal mine for that.

I do think the Star Citizen land sales one is far more measurable by “industry” standards. It is a planned action that’s meaningfully comparable on a playing field to other decisions of similar nature being made (namely, what to sell your players before a game is released, or even in beta). Given SC’s current risk status — that is to say, FRICKIN’ HIGH — I would say their ludicrous choice to “sell land” reeks of both avarice and development confusion.

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McGuffn

I measure blunder in terms of the decisions that brought them to this point, it’s the same reasoning as the person that nominated SWTOR server merges. Maybe the decisons/blunders weren’t made this year, but they came to their unfortunate fruition.

Brendan Drain
Staff
Brendan Drain

Calling something an “industry blunder” gives the impression that you’re judging these decisions in the same context as the surrounding ecosystem. Are all layoffs a “mistake”? I find that a little curious a perspective to hold.

I don’t think anyone on staff holds the opinion that all layoffs are a mistake or all business pullouts are industry blunders, but there’s plenty of reason to consider CCP’s VR performance/pullout in particular to be an industry blunder, and some of the layoffs they made were absolutely mistakes.

CCP got into VR because a handful of devs were playing around with an Oculus Rift DK1 one of the higher-ups got from the kickstarter, and they made this dogfighter prototype called EVR in their spare time. They tried it out on journalists at EVE Fanfest 2013 and the following year put it into full production as EVE: Valkyrie, it was a hell of a success story for cheap experimental development. Fast-forward to fanfest 2015 and there was a little VR Labs room where they did more cheap experiments with VR and tested them out on attendees. They announced the first project from the lab to be spun out into a product was the mobile VR game Gunjack.

Here’s where things get murky, because a few months after that fanfest CCP raised $30 million from a venture capital firm specifically to develop VR games. We now know that over $30 million was spent on Valkyrie alone over its lifetime, that it was only starting to break even this year, and that the recent non-VR Steam release and gameplay overhauls didn’t generate a lot of interest. CCP had $30m of investor money to play with and a low-risk model of developing lots of cheap experiments and spinning the popular ones out into production titles, but in the end they spent over $30m on a dogfighter that just wasn’t worth the price tag. The blunder as far as I’m concerned is that CCP bet so heavily on Valkyrie with no plan for failure.

The studio was left with such a big and somehow unexpected hole in its finances that it had to suddenly fire 100 staff, sell off the Newcastle VR studio, and close the old White Wolf office to fix it. What makes those layoffs a mistake is the caliber of some of the people let go, the importance they seemed to have in the studio, and the fallout from it, all of which I touched on in my article on the issue ( http://massivelyop.com/2017/11/08/eve-evolved-eve-onlines-ccp-games-is-gambling-with-the-livelihoods-of-employees/ ). They fired all but two of the community team, their only Russian-speaking community member (a sizeable chunk of EVE’s players are Russian), even devs who had been with the studio for over 10 years. The last time CCP did panic-layoffs of that scale, it was followed by several of their top devs jumping ship to Riot Games within 6 months of each other.

I’d call that a blunder.

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Alex Willis

That’s a very reasonable timeline and I don’t dispute the facts. But it’s also the story of many games and their development, isn’t it? Test concept looks promising, they fund it, actually develop a product that is good, it doesn’t succeed like they want it to, and they have to make adjustments elsewhere to accommodate. I mean, 100 layoffs is a big loss for a studio the size of CCP, but it’s hardly a blip on the “industry radar” as it were. I’m not even sure this would make the news beyond a week if you scaled it up to a larger studio and saw the same kind of results. I guess I’m just not seeing much here that I’d characterize as wildly irresponsible in the way that I’d qualify the term “blunder”.

Brendan Drain
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Brendan Drain

Fundamentally, CCP’s story is one of a remarkably financially stable company (thanks to EVE) with a history of taking unnecessarily large risks with new projects without adequate market research and with no plans for failure. CCP has a history of betting the company on risky projects that then fall short of expectations, often because the execution is poor and the expectations are unrealistic.

Hilmar admitted at Fanfest 2012 in the wake of Monoclegate that the company had stretched itself too thin and was too liberal with how it risked its current business interests in the pursuit of new projects. Every year he brings up that incident almost as a re-affirmation that CCP wouldn’t go down the same path again. And then … they did it again.

The scale of the layoffs and the money involved may not make much of a blip on the wider industry radar. But CCP getting caught once again being financially irresponsible, taking poorly managed risks backed by current business interests, gambling with people’s jobs and losing again, there’s no word for it except blunder.

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Alex Willis

Fundamentally, CCP’s story is one of a remarkably financially stable company (thanks to EVE) with a history of taking unnecessarily large risks with new projects without adequate market research and with no plans for failure. CCP has a history of betting the company on risky projects that then fall short of expectations, often because the execution is poor and the expectations are unrealistic.

I cannot argue with any of that.

I guess I’m still not convinced that their VR venture can be called a “blunder”. As EVE is their only stable property, they needed to take some risks to break out and achieve longitudinal growth. VR was always going to be a long shot (insiders at this site certainly seemed/seem to think so!), so it’s not like they screwed up a sure bet. So part of me isn’t certain if this “award” was given because a studio failed after taking a risk, or because CCP failed after taking a risk. Put another way: would this award have been given to another, larger studio had it turned out this way? And if not, why?

If CCP’s failed VR venture and subsequent layoffs are the result of poor planning — well, I think it’s fair to point that out. I’d even allow that it is a “blunder”, taken purely on its own. But I’m not sure it qualifies as an industry-wide blunder, relative to the known and calculated risks they took.

Brendan Drain
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Brendan Drain

Put another way: would this award have been given to another, larger studio had it turned out this way? And if not, why?

Good question, probably impossible to answer but I can give my view on it. Personally I think it would have been harder to claim that these were such egregious missteps if they’d happened to most other studios simply because most studios don’t have CCP’s history or openness with fans. Company history definitely colours how this event was viewed, and I think that’s perfectly reasonable.

In fact, I think it’s a subtle enough distinction that I’m not surprised most gaming news outlets just reported on CCP pulling out of VR in terms of the business decision and VR market viability. One of the reasons I wrote my article on the layoffs was specifically because I think it’s important to put the news into its proper context, and to pull in relevant information on the company’s history, its position in the market, and things developers have said.

So I guess if most studios tried and failed to launch a premium price game in VR and ended up firing a hundred staff, it probably wouldn’t be seen as a huge company misstep and the news would be more that it’s an important market indicator. But for CCP it has special significance because they’ve been stable on EVE’s revenue stream for so many years and previous risks like this that were taken before blew up in their faces. The fact that they did it again and still didn’t appear to plan for the bet not paying off, that’s important to the discussion.

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Alex Willis

Thanks for the clarifications! This puts things into a bit more context for me.

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Armsbend

You are right. Shutting down their VR operations was the only card they had left in the deck – their blunder was mishandling their entry into VR – not making it go away. The closure probably took sound financial planning and admitting you didn’t do it right – both difficult things to do. An huge blunder would have been throwing more money at a losing proposition.

Same with Gazillion. Keeping it open for less than 1000 players, while facing legal trouble, while holding a huge property, while you continued to erode the consumer’s faith in the project wasn’t an option.

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Arktouros

I voted for EVE and VR but for difference reasons.

I voted it was a huge blunder because they didn’t try to do anything interesting with their VR products. They tried to approach the VR market like an established games market taking exclusivity funding from companies like Oculus or PlayStation (just like they did with Dust…and we saw how that turned out) and didn’t manage to do anything interesting with it.

I mean here you have a new technology and providing users a new way to interact with games and game environments and they ignore all that and provide a game pad driven snoozefest that’s the equivalent of strapping a monitor to your face. Instead almost all their VR Products (Valkyrie, Gunjack) aimed for that maximum compatibility to work on as many VR systems as possible and just ended up being boring and uninteresting games as a result.

If you’re going into an experimental and new technology platform you gotta do something interesting and something that’s going to take advantage of the features that new technology allows for. I mean even they had just a VR client for EVE with a new 360 degree, touch based interface for EVE simply would have been a lot better than anything they did. It’s unsurprising that it got shut down and I feel for the people who had to pay for CCP’s mismanagement and lack of vision.

Brendan Drain
Staff
Brendan Drain

I voted it was a huge blunder because they didn’t try to do anything interesting with their VR products. They tried to approach the VR market like an established games market taking exclusivity funding from companies like Oculus or PlayStation (just like they did with Dust…and we saw how that turned out) and didn’t manage to do anything interesting with it.

I think this is accurate, and the most damning thing was that they thought the VR market was established enough to make a good return on a $40 multiplayer game with a $30m development budget. VR was (and still is) an experimental platform with a small but highly captive audience, that would seem to require a different approach.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Gaz. Disney only wants homeruns. They’ve got no time for small ball.

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A Dad Supreme

Don’t think that’s why Marvel shut down.

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Armsbend

That being true, which it is, I’d vote shuttering Marvel Heroes as ‘Greatest MMO Industry Success of 2017’. It was a sound business decision that literally garnered them zero bad will at all.

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David Goodman

I wanted to vote for CCP and Gazillion both :( I would say they are equally disgusting, how they lied to their players to their face before folding. It’s absolutely more deplorable than selling land that doesn’t exist. (Which while pretty disgusting, is an investment you have to willingly opt-in to. )

Ultimately I voted for CCP to try to even up the bars since I can’t vote for two things.

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Alien Legion

Have to throw my vote at the Marvel Heroes / Gazillion debacle.

While I would love to jump on the SC bandwagon, that is simply separating ‘a fool and his money’. Much like the MOP staff’s pick, the Gazillion blunder cost people their livelihood. While the company was crumbling from the ground up, all anyone was told is “Nothing to see here, move along.”

Bad ju-ju …

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pepperzine

Surprised IF buying the rights to the Repopulation isn’t up there. It’ll never gain enough traction to have a stable population, as most of the people who supported it in the past are bitter (rightfully so) and it’s not cutting edge enough to pull in those who weren’t interested in it in the past. It’s pretty much a Double Blunder, waste of money to purchase and waste of money/time to continue developing.

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Armsman

Where’s:

“SWToR merging down to 5 Servers”? (The game at its height had 200)

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Sally Bowls

IMO, their. and TESO’s, blunder was in launching with more than one megaserver per continent. Number of Realms was an ePeen metric a decade ago. Now it is just outdated.

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Armsbend

Is that a blunder or just a necessity? No one is playing you gotta do what you gotta do.

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Armsbend

I voted for something else. My vote is for all of 2017 to be gaming’s biggest blunder. From the first month until the 31st of December.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

The EVE hate train keeps on rolling. In a year where Marvel Heroes completely shut down on short notice and the studio laid off its entire staff CCP has somehow made the biggest blunder.

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cursedseishi

To be fair, both are pretty big on their own merits. One however was a business failing to do some proper management of resources when they decided to go whole hog on VR then scale it back sharply once it looked like it was failing. Hence why they likely shifted the Eve VR title into a non-VR game, so they could recoup a little on it.

The other? It was less a business failing and moreso a personal failing. Big guy at the top gets hit with allegations in a climate that has seen support for people drop sharply and understandably under the same claims. Without him there as the money man, everything else just… kind of fell apart. It’s timing was worse than the Eve debacle thanks to it being before Thanksgiving, and it’s impact to those employees equally as unfortunate…

But CCP has a habit of over-extending and costing people jobs like Drain’s article before had talked about. After those allegations hit Gazillion, honestly the outcome was sure to have been expected by that point. Yet you can’t ignore a studio who consistently tosses people out on their bums chasing one thing or another. Especially when some of those people let go end up being most everyone who was responsible for running events, facilitating communication, and handling the players.

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David Goodman

Marvel Heroes is literally on the list above us…

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Darthbawl

Lockboxes and microtransactions and the way the companies handled getting their hands caught in the cookie jar.

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IronSalamander8 .

Had to vote for the Marvel Heroes debacle. I played it for a bit and it had issues, especially with inventory being a serious mess, but it was fun once in awhile. The way it shuttered was especially bad for the community.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Blizzard being stubborn about not launching vanilla servers when players begged for them for years. They redeemed themselves abit with Blizzcon announcement, but god knows how long it will take for vanilla servers to actually appear since they just started gathering team for it. And god knows how much money they lost underestimating interested for legacy stuff

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Armsbend

The biggest blunder was announcing they are doing what you want them to do.

Okay.

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David Goodman

That’s not a 2017 thing though.

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Melissa McDonald

After so many articles about loot boxes I am frankly astonished that isn’t what they chose.

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David Goodman

In order to vote on the lockbox issue, you have to purchase a key from the MOP store; the key opens a box that has a chance of giving you 1/10th of a vote.

… flees

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Bryan Correll

That was my first thought, but the game that finally made the issue explode outside of gamer culture, SWBF2, wasn’t an MMO by any stretch.

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hugmonster

Guild Wars 2 monoclegate…

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