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EA is fixing Star Wars Battlefront II’s monetization mess (again): It won’t be selling lockboxes

Don’t call it a victory – nobody wins forever in the Star Wars universe – but there’s still reason to cheer in Star Wars Battlefront II today. EA has announced that it’s overhauling the entire progression system for the game. Readers will recall that outrage over the game’s lockbox gambling was the final chunk of kindling in the monetization dumpster fire that finally blazed over into mainstream media coverage at the end of 2017. (The “a sense of pride and accomplishment” line was being quoted in government hearings last month.)

“With this update, progression is now linear,” EA declares. “Star Cards, or any other item impacting gameplay, will only be earned through gameplay and will not be available for purchase. Instead, you’ll earn experience points for the classes, hero characters, and ships that you choose to play in multiplayer. If you earn enough experience points to gain a level for that unit, you’ll receive one Skill Point that can be used to unlock or upgrade the eligible Star Card you’d like to equip.”

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For science: New long-term study shows video games don’t make adults violent

Before we start, yes, I’m sure many of our readers are feeling a big wave of “duh” at the statement in the headline, but remember that testable results carry more weight than anecdotal evidence and feelings. And these results are solid.

As researchers Simone Kühn, Dimitrij Tycho Kugler, Katharina Schmalen, Markus Weichenberger, Charlotte Witt and Jürgen Gallinat note in Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study, the paper here is the “first to investigate the effects of long-term violent video gameplay using a large battery of tests spanning questionnaires, behavioural measures of aggression, sexist attitudes, empathy and interpersonal competencies, impulsivity-related constructs (such as sensation seeking, boredom proneness, risk-taking, delay discounting), mental health (depressivity, anxiety) as well as executive control functions, before and after 2 months of gameplay.” While two months may not be that long, it’s pretty good when you consider the number of shortcomings we see in game aggression research.

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The Daily Grind: Why do you read and write MMO reviews?

Rock Paper Shotgun has an intriguiging pair of articles out this week on video game reviews. The first covered what game developers think about reviews on places like Steam; while some devs dismiss reviews as unrepresentative, many actually treat reviews quite seriously, as the most “raw unfiltered feedback” available.

The second, and even more interesting to me, is the one on why reviewers bother, specifically the ones who are offering detailed reviews for free on Steam. Why would you spend two hours typing your soul to total strangers, when you could be making money or playing the game? Those interviewed said they do it for their friends, to practice their own critical thinking, to entertain with jokes, to encourage other people to leave reviews, to “inform consumers about predatory tactics,” and to track their impressions “in the most extremely nerdy, excel-table kind of way.”

Do you write Steam reviews or reviews elsewhere? Why or why not?

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The Crew 2 is rescheduled for a June 29 launch

The Crew 2 isn’t as delayed as you might’ve thought: Ubisoft just announced that it’s launching on June 29th, and it’s looking like a simultaneous PC, PS4, and Xbox release.

The Crew 2 will let players experience the thrill of American motorsports inside a fully redesigned USA. The game’s playground pushes physical boundaries to let driving and open world fans test their skills, solo or with friends, in nonstop competition and exploration. From coast to coast, drivers will explore America and compete to become the greatest motorsports champion, by collecting a wide variety of exotic cars, bikes, boats and planes, and dominating the motorsports scene on the land, on the water and in the air. Players will find challenges and inspiration among four different motorsports families: street racing, off-road, pro racing and freestyle, and will be given a broad set of options among a wide selection of vehicle types.”

MMO players will recall that the sequel to The Crew was originally announced just before E3 of last year, and by summer, it had a release date. That release date would’ve been tomorrow, incidentally. But in December, Ubisoft admitted it needed more time for TC2 and several other games, pushing the date somewhere between spring and fall of this year.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Why SWTOR fans should be excited about Fogbank

This week, I’m going to depart a little from the usual insights into the world around Star Wars: The Old Republic and talk about another studio that isn’t owned by LucasFilm and certainly isn’t owned by Electronic Arts. I’d like to talk about Fogbank Entertainment.

Some people believe that a studio makes a game what is it. Others believe that it’s the IP that the studio carries that makes the video game unique. I think that IP and the studio name carry weight. I certainly would not play SWTOR as much as I do if it carried an IP like Valérian and Laureline. But one of the primary reasons that I believe that SWTOR performed as well as it did (or didn’t, depending on your opinion) was the quality of the people behind it. For me, some of the most integral people to making a good game are the writers. And many of the SWTOR writers have moved on from BioWare and have effectively started their own studio: Fogbank.

If you recognize names like Daniel Erickson, Alexander Freed, Drew Karpyshyn, and Hall Hood, then you will definitely want to see what they are up to at Fogbank Entertainment. If you don’t know who they are, then give me a moment to explain why they are superstars of the gaming and MMO industry.

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Stardew Valley multiplayer development progresses, includes horse hats for some reason

Doesn’t it feel as if it’s been half of forever since Stardew Valley was supposed to pick up official multiplayer, thereby finally becoming a multiplayer sandbox we can legitimately cover because it’s awesome and we’d like to? It’s actually been almost two years as Chucklefish Games, whom creator Eric Barone brought on to handle the ports and multiplayer, worked on just that, with a late 2017 beta and early 2018 launch planned. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Last month, we learned that the beta is now slated for spring. The latest news is that… work continues. And also hats.

Stardew Valley multiplayer is in QA and bugs are being fixed at a very good pace!” Barone tweeted yesterday. “One of my favorite things in the new update… hats on your horses. They look very good on the horse. Looks pretty natural, actually.”

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PUBG, TERA, and A:IR company Bluehole has gone on a shopping spree

South Korea’s Bluehole has been busy as the rise of PUBG has filled its coffers. It partnered with Tencent. It’s been hiring for TERA’s mobile port and even snapping up execs from Riot. It fended off rumors of a Microsoft buyout. It teamed up with Kakao for Project W. It built subsidiary PUBG Corp offices in four corners of the globe. And now, it’s picked up two more studios.

GIbiz reports that Bluehole and PUBG Corp have bought up MadGlory. We don’t know how much money changed hands, but we do know that the company is primarily focused on “custom matchmaking engines” and other multiplayer tools. The publication suggests that the newly dubbed PUBG MadGlory will be working on the PUBG Developer Portal coming out in April, which will basically allow community modders access to the API.

And MMO Culture has a brief piece out on Bluehole’s acqusition of Red Sahara Studio, a mobile studio that will be working on another TERA spinoff.

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Spellsworn launches, goes free-to-play

Watched the new Fantastic Beasts trailer and felt the deep pull of wizards and spells pull at you once more? You may be able to sate some of that desire with the full release of Spellsworn, which is now live on Steam.

The PvP arena brawler puts players in the roles of wizards battling it out with spells and using their environments to their advantage.

Spellsworn moved out of early access with Tuesday’s Update 1.0, which also brought the game into a free-to-play business model. The studio plans to finance the game through a lockbox chest system that pays out in cosmetic items.

To celebrate the launch, Spellsworn is holding a double loot drop event for a limited time.

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Google and Ubisoft are working on a multiplayer open source server

The next time you play an online game, you might have Google to thank for handling the heavy lifting. The tech giant announced that it is working on an open-source multiplayer server called Agones that should allow gamers “more freedom and flexibility” to host their own matches on the cloud.

Google is developing this new server setup with Ubisoft, as the latter is more than familiar with the requirements and demands of online gaming. The project is still in the early stages but when it comes out, users will be able to create, run, and scale servers to meet the needs of individual matches.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 161: Project power

On this week’s show, Bree and Justin roll up their sleeves and take on projects left and right. It’s a look at the announcement of Project C and the imminent early access launch of Project Gorgon, among many other exciting developments this week!

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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SoulWorker Online begins selling subs, responds to outcry over energy system P2W

SoulWorker is technically in open beta on paper; it isn’t supposed to truly launch until later this quarter. It hit Steam at the end of February. It announced it was done wiping. It opened up the cash shop. And now, it’s got a subscription too – an optional one, mind you.

There are actually two different subscription plans, both 30-days, and they are stackable; the silver sub grants keycards, respawners, battle books, extra auction slots, and an additional 80 daily energy. The gold sub doubles most of those bonuses, adds a few more, and adds an additional 120 max energy. It’s also possible to buy subs and sell them in-game.

But it’s the energy perks that have beta testers particularly concerned about pay-to-win, as energy limits in-game activities in a way few MMORPGs can get away with. In SoulWorker, players start with 200 daily energy, so with the double sub, they can double that number. Gameforge says it’s still considering how to proceed.

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Fortnite: Hack compensation, the FortCraft clone, and mobile event registration

Were you one of the long list of folks hacked in Fortnite? Epic Games told Kotaku that it’s aware of the mass-hacking going on, at least some of which appears to be originating in Russia and resulting in wild purchases in the game on victims’ credit cards. The good news is the company is also helping players affected.

“We are aware of instances where users’ accounts have been compromised using well-known hacking techniques and are working to resolve these issues directly with those players affected. Any players who believe their account has been compromised should reach out to our player support immediately.”

Meanwhile, if Fortnite isn’t doing it for you, how about FortCraft? That’s Netease’s overt clone of the game, coming straight to Android and iOS. The company is promising a huge map, 13 environments, destructible environments, on-the-fly building, five weapon classes, and three gameplay modes.

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Dota 2 introduces a subscription option for players

After a long time of being free-to-play, Dota 2 is exploring the possibility of letting you pay money for it on a regular basis. Sure, cosmetics have always been there, but you couldn’t subscribe just for cosmetic impact. But now you can with the game’s Dota Plus subscription, charging $4 a month for unlimited access to the weekly Battle Cup along with hero progression tracks and challenges along the way.

Players can also unlock a little added advantage in the form of the Plus Assistant, which will offer suggestions and advice about how to play the game and how to level based on your matches and your play patterns. Whether or not this offers an unfair advantage for the subscription price is going to be in the eye of the beholder; then again, most of the beholders probably wouldn’t have expected to have a subscription option for a MOBA in the first place. It’s a wild time to be alive.


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