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SOS fully abandons its classic mode, and its Steam reviews are a dumpster fire

Outpost Games sent round a mailer this week announcing that SOS Battle Royale is now “free to play forever,” thanks to its latest patch, content update 4, which adds “a ton of new weapons, loads of new outfits, leaderboards, and a Season Pass through which you can earn great rewards.” Sounds nice, right?

Well, maybe take a jaunt over to Steam, where the game’s recent reviews have sunk to “overwhelmingly negative.” You’ll recall that the original idea behind the game was to toss 16 players into a map and have them play a 30-minute match to find a relic and escape in a helicopter, with up to three winners per match and the chance to coordinate via voice chat. There were plenty of survival mechanics along the way, including making your own weapons and traps to survive as the audience cheered you on a la Running Man.

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Bethsoft alleges Behaviour and WB ripped off Fallout Shelter in the new Westworld mobile game

A trio of companies known best to our audience for their MMOs are gearing up for a big court battle in the streets of Sweetwater.

Bethsoft is apparently suing Behaviour Interactive and Warner Bros. over alleged copyright theft in the brand-new Westworld mobile game. You’ll recall Behaviour from its development of MMO Eternal Crusade, and of course Bethsoft owns Fallout – it’s Fallout Shelter that Bethsoft believes was “ripped off” here.

Bethsoft says Behaviour and WB breached their contract, misappropriated trade secrets, infringed on copyrights, and unfairly competed with it in relation to the two games. Apparently, Behaviour developed Fallout Shelter for Bethsoft and stands accused of reusing its design, actual code (complete with identical bugs), and “substantially similar gameplay” for Westworld for Warner Bros., entirely without permission.

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E3 2018: Bill Roper on gaming’s smoke and mirrors, Worlds Adrift, and building on SpatialOS

For MMO players, Improbable brought some interesting ideas to GDC this past spring. It also brought some games I wasn’t expecting, and the ones I was expecting were kind of downplayed. On the ground floor, developers from some of our favorite MMOs hadn’t heard of SpatialOS, a platform that allows games to be “bigger” by running multiple game engines in an innovative way, with a few developers being exceptions. I was set up for a meeting with Improbable CCO Bill Roper to help figure things out, but soon into our physical meeting he was pulled away and we had to follow up with emails, which rarely goes as well.

Fortunately, Roper had time to sit and chat again with me at E3. With SpatialOS’s first game out in the wild and more on the way, I felt like there was a lot Roper could explain about SpatialOS, MMOs, and Improbable’s role in it all.

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has lost nearly half of its players since January as Sanhok map goes live

Alas, poor PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, we’ve entered the second phase of your musician biopic when the fans start leaving. Sure, the game was riding high in January with 3.2 million concurrent players on Steam. But we’re six months away from that now and the game is now down to 1.7 million concurrent players. These are clearly not numbers to scoff at, but they’re also easy to see as a sign that the game hits its peak and then has started turning downward.

What’s caused the drop? Lots of factors are obvious culprits, including the success (and free-to-play nature) of Fortnite and the simple decay of interest over time, but there’s no obvious magic bullet. Feel free to speculate about it whether you play or not. The game clearly isn’t about to die, but if you thought there was no upper limit on its playerbase, it looks like that’s been proven false.

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Steam and Discord keep trying to copy each other

Where does your allegiance lie: Steam or Discord? It won’t really matter either way, considering that both online services are trying so hard to ape each other that they’re becoming hard to distinguish.

Earlier this month, we covered how Steam is instituting a very Discord-like chat system in an attempt to pull some players back into its ecosystem. Now, Discord has pushed out a games tab that looks pretty much exactly like what you would find on Steam.

Both platforms show what friends are playing (because virtual stalking is a must-have feature in 2018) and pulls some headlines from games that you’ve indexed. Maybe when we blink, the two services will merge together and become the ultimate social gaming platform that will devour the world and consume all our attention?

Source: Eurogamer

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Champions Online slashes prices on freeform characters, three for 60 bucks

At the beginning of June, PWE announced big changes for Champions Online: It was planning to drop the game’s optional monthly subscription in favor of a one-time purchase premium pack. But players were deeply concerned over the move, chiefly because of the way freeform character slots work. Subscribers receive access to freeform characters – that is, characters who can take nearly any power from any tree rather than be hemmed in by an archtype layout, but losing that access would mean they’d have to pay the free-to-play price of $50 per character.

PWE wisely put the switchover on hold, but now, it appears it may have sorted out a solution, as it announced that it’s reducing the cost of all character slots and freeform slots “starting today” – which sure sounds like a permanent reduction. Freeform slots themselves now work out to $30 apiece or $60 for three, while character slots are 100 ZEN apiece or 10 for 700 – the latter are so cheap they may as well be free.

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EU’s Copyright Directive proposal has Second Life and Roblox players worried

A proposed law that’s making its way through the European Union’s legislative bodies has both players and studios worried that a wave of oppressive censorship might be on the way for video games (never mind other publishers, bloggers, and internet users!).

The law in question is called the Copyright Directive, which is being designed to protect (obviously) copyrights. The problem is that there are multiple provisions that are “vaguely worded and ripe for abuse,” including one that would make it a law to check everything uploaded online for possible copyright infringement.

Online games such as Second Life and Roblox that rely heavily on player-created and -uploaded material are at risk for possible censorship from an automated filter that will most likely not be up to the task.

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Glassdoor marks Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime as a great boss but says the studio’s salaries are too low

If you had to go work for a major corporation, what would factor into that decision? Having a great boss might be a consideration, and if that’s the case, then Blizzard Entertainment has this covered.

According to Glassdoor, a site in which employees give their companies anonymous reviews, Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime is one of the top CEOs of a large company according to 2018 rankings. Morhaime placed 23rd on the list of 100.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized on this list,” Morhaime tweeted. “Thanks to everyone at Blizzard for making it such a great place to work.”

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The Daily Grind: How much dough have you dropped on Steam in its lifetime?

VentureBeat noticed this week that it’s possible to figure out just how much money you’ve blown on video games, at least through Steam, by using Valve’s “account spend tool.” A lot of people clicking that tool are about to get a sobering reminder that they’d better stay on Valve’s good side if they don’t want thousands of dollars’ worth of games whisked away into an account black hole.

My own number… well, let’s just say that it’s not nearly as bad as I was fearing. I’ve spent far more money on World of Warcraft than I’ve spent on Steam. But that’s probably because most MMORPGs I’ve paid into for so many years aren’t there, and most of what I do buy on Steam is deeply on sale. And my husband and I have our accounts linked too, so we don’t double buy much. I escaped easy – less than the VentureBeat writer!

How about you? How much dough have you dropped on Steam in its lifetime? Does the number give you pause about just how inured to digital distribution we’ve all become?

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PSA: EVE Online is offering a 15% Omega discount through June 26

Devoid of further context, the phrase “Omega Discount” sounds vaguely threatening. It’s the last discount? No, it’s a discount on the price of picking up an EVE Online subscription in three-month chunks of time. That’s 15% off buying a three-month stretch, and it’s available until June 26th.

The three-month deal will cost you $33.02 in total, which works out to around $11 per month; that’s a better rate than anything other than the year-long package, which is impressive. So if you want to be subscribed through the summer, you have a path to do so on the cheap. And if you were going to buy yourself some subscription time afterwards… well, now you might as well do so early to save some cash.

And make sure you pick up a new Venture Capitalist ship while you’re at it, eh?

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Valve turns off lootboxes in the Netherlands for DOTA 2 and CounterStrike: Global Offensive

If you were in any way hoping that the Dutch Gaming Authority’s ruling about lockboxes would lead to a worldwide shift, it seems that’s not quite what’s happening. Valve was one of the companies told to change their lockboxes or face prosecution in the Netherlands for failing to comply with the country’s policies, and Valve has responded… by disabling the Steam Marketplace selling or direct trading of lootboxes for CounterStrike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 in the Netherlands.

The official statement from Valve indicates that it does not agree with the DGA’s ruling and that appeals are ongoing but that the current action is the only possible solution to the problem. There’s no word of any sort of long-term plans if the DGA does not change its ruling, especially as Valve is currently framing the disabling of lockboxes as a wholly temporary measure. Our condolences to players negatively affected by the decision.

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Final Fantasy XIV could still arrive on Nintendo Switch if console companies decide to play nice

Naoki Yoshida of Final Fantasy XIV fame was at this year’s E3, and that means interviews with the man himself. One of those interviews from VGR brought up the question of whether or not the game could possibly arrive on the Nintendo Switch, which prompted some excitement about the idea that it might come to the platform. After all, Yoshida says that he would like that!

Except that this isn’t a new answer; it’s the same answer that fans have been getting since the last hardware generation when people were asking about the game arriving on the Xbox 360. It’s always been the same answer.

The team behind FFXIV insist on the game having full cross-play compatibility between all platforms it can be played on (so console players and PC players are on the same servers) and no additional monthly fees beyond the subscription. Those two requests long prevented it from appearing on Xbox consoles (as Microsoft didn’t like the idea of the game not requiring an Xbox Live subscription or cross-play with PlayStation users), and they’re likely the same things holding back any Switch port. So we remain in a world where you have to play on your PlayStation 4 or your desktop.

Source: VGR via Techradar; thanks to ChaosConstant for the tip!

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E3 2018: Hands-on with Funcom’s upcoming Mutant Year Zero

Apparently, GDC was good to Funcom, The Bearded Ladies, and Mutant: Year Zero. The teams had originally thought to skip E3 this year, but after the reveal led to even one developer’s mail attendant in Sweden fanning out a bit, it became clear that an appearance at the Expo might be in order (and to maybe not wear developer t-shirts in public).

The Bearded Ladies developers said that they’ve received nothing but positive comments so far, and I can’t say I’ve been able to give them more critical feedback either. Part of that is because my tactical RPG experience is limited to super casual Fire Emblem outings that never end with my finishing the game. Admittedly, I also didn’t have a ton of questions to bring with me this time because the guys were just so open at GDC. It’s probably for the best, though, as I was finally able to get my hands on the game. Spoiler alert: Not only did I fail my mission, but so did almost everyone else!

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