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New Zealand declares lootboxes not gambling under the law

Are lootboxes gambling? It seems like such a simple question, but it really isn’t simple from a legal or ethical standpoint, and the answer has a pretty big impact. According to the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, following reviews, lootboxes do not meet the legal requirements of gambling, thus freeing them from the scrutiny of agencies designed to look more closely into gambling-related issues.

In short, the argument hinges upon the fact that lootbox items cannot be exchanged for cash and thus do not qualify as gambling under the law. That having been said, it’s not an ironclad ruling which cannot be changed; indeed, it’s something likely to be debated extensively as more and more lawmakers turn a critical eye toward the practice. For the moment, though, New Zealand considers them perfectly acceptable and has picked a side in the ongoing battle.

Source: Gamasutra

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The Humble Bundle for the holidays is full of MMO goodness, including Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter, and Blade & Soul

So here’s how the latest Humble Bundle is working. Drop $35 on the bundle and all of your money goes to charity, and you get to take part in the rolling advent calendar of bundle stuff. Which is important to us here because that rolling advent calendar includes a whole lot of MMO stuff already. Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, Blade & Soul, and Guardians of Ember already have shown up to the party, and there are still several more days yet to be revealed.

That’s not to discount the non-MMOs in the pack so far, but we know what we’re about. So if you’re looking for a way to get a whole lot of games and bonus items besides in one place, you can do worse than dropping $35 on the bundle. Heck, get two and give one to someone else who likes a pile of games. Then you’re actually giving gifts as well as buying them for yourself.

Source: Official Site; thanks to Kanbe for the tip!

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Half of the LawBreakers founding team has left the studio

The face of LawBreakers development and Boss Key is arguably Cliff Bleszinski, but Arjan Brussee was co-founder of the studio and half of the brain trust behind the studio as a whole. We use the past-tense there, though, because according to Twitter Brussee is no longer with the studio. He’s announced that he has left and is heading back to Epic Games to work on a “secret project,” with no word on what that might entail.

Of course, that’s what makes it a secret, but you know how it is.

Bleszinski himself has wished Brussee the best of luck on Twitter without any acrimonious undertones. There’s no announcement at this point about who will take over Brussee’s duties at Boss Key. It’s not an entirely unusual move after a studio’s first major release has shipped for people to move on to different careers; we’ll see what this means in the longer term for Boss Key (if anything) in the months to come.

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SuperData says the e-sports industry grew to $1.5B this year alone

SuperData has a new report out this week that suggests e-sports haters will not be getting what they want for Christmas.

“The esports market has finally hit the mainstream,” the gaming analysis firm declares, echoing the argument it made in October. “Once only large in core Asian markets like Korea, esports have expanded worldwide and are now top of mind of every publisher, platform, and brand. As recognition of the importance of esports grows, the data and insights needed for strategizing become vital.”

The report estimates that the e-sports industry is on track to grow by almost a billion dollars per year by 2022, driven in part by a huge increase in investment and advertising revenue. It also recognizes the big four games: League of Legends, with its huge viewerbase; Dota 2, with its mega prize pools; Overwatch, which is laying the foundation with city-based teams; and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which has drawn over 200M monthly viewers in just half a year during early access.

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Sword Coast Legends ends development – grab it from Steam while you can

Better buy Sword Coast Legends while you still can: It appears that Wizards of the Coast and Digital Extremes will be ending the publishing contract for the Dungeons and Dragons-based co-op game at the end of 2017. The good news that the servers will stay up for those who already own it (or who purchase it before December 31st).

“Purchase Sword Coast Legends now at 67% off and receive the Rage of Demons DLC for free,” the devs posted to the official forums. “Our publishing contracting is ending, but although Sword Coast Legends will no longer be available to purchase after December, its multiplayer servers will remain live indefinitely.” (It looks to be $14.99 on Steam as I type this, so the sale doesn’t appear to be live yet.)

We’ve been following the game since 2015 when we first heard about this odd multiplayer-slash-single-player game, which allowed one player to step into the gamemaster’s shoes to run campaigns for a team. It officially launched in October of that year after an initial delay, then rolled out an expansion in May of 2016, followed by a double console launch in July of 2016, but it’s been relatively quiet since then. In the middle of it all, the original developer, n-Space, was shuttered, leaving further development to Digital Extremes.

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Conan Exiles formally launches on May 8th, 2018, for PC, Xbox One, and PS4

Conan Exiles needed some good news this month, and it’s getting just that.

“Funcom today announced that Conan Exiles, the studio’s open-world survival game set in the savage lands of Conan the Barbarian, will shed its Early Access skin and launch in both digital and retail stores on May 8th, 2018. Currently available in PC Early Access and Xbox One Game Preview, May 8th next year will also see the premiere of Conan Exiles on the PlayStation 4.”

Funcom does note that the PS4 won’t get any sort of early access period, though preorders will begin soon, complete with a limited collector’s edition, and yes, it has a Conan statuette, as well as the map, artbook, soundtracks, comic book, and digital goodies.

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World of Warcraft’s Celestalon moves over to Hearthstone team

He’s giving a sad goodbye to World of Warcraft but a happy hello to Hearthstone, as Game Designer Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig has switched teams over at Blizzard.

Nervig announced the move on Twitter late last week: “Classes, systems, spreadsheets, the occasional obscure questline… These have been the primary focus of my life for years now. I cannot thank the WoW community enough, for your passion, your friendship, the laughs, the excitement, for being able to do something I love. It has been an honor. But the time has come for me to adventure elsewhere within Azeroth, and tackle a different challenge… Cards! I’ll see you soon, Hearthstone fans!”

Speaking of Hearthstone, have you seen this truly hilarious Kobolds and Catacombs live action trailer? It may just sweep the Oscars next spring, but you can watch it now after the jump.

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EVE Evolved: Calling time on EVE Online’s five-year vision

When Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren walked onto the stage at EVE Fanfest 2013 and delivered her long-term vision for the future of EVE Online, the excitement in the room was palpable. EVE was riding its highest peak concurrent player numbers in the game’s history following the overhauls of the Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution expansions, and players were ready for a new blockbuster feature to fire their imaginations. CCP delivered its ambitious five year vision to hand the reins of EVE‘s living universe over to its players, with player-built stargates and deep space exploration in completely uncharted star systems.

We’re now about four months away from the five-year mark on that vision, and many parts of it have now been completed, but no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. We’ve seen some big feature drops such as the release of citadels, the industry overhaul, and the recent moon mining overhaul, but that deep space colonisation gameplay still seems far off. Some players feel as if EVE is currently in a holding pattern, with everyone waiting for the next big feature or overhauls to their favourite part of the game before deciding what to do next. So what does come next?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I break down the progress toward Nordgren’s 5 year vision so far and talk about the possible next steps I think CCP could take to make it a reality.

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Betawatch: There’s factions in them there hills of Wild West Online (December 8, 2017)

Let’s start with something that you probably already ascertained: Wild West Online is being delayed. It delayed its early access alpha, and that delay leads rather naturally into a delay for for full early access into 2018. But the good news for those who aren’t fond of free-for-all PvP is that the game appears to be moving to a factional PvP system instead of a free-for-all. So less like the hypothetical wild west and more like the actual wild west as it existed in history, then.

Meanwhile, the beta band plays on.

That got a bit sad toward the end, didn’t it? Let’s see if we can’t ameliorate that with a nice shiny list just below. Let us know about the tests you’re taking part in down in the comments, or just let us know if something has soft launched without us noticing it.

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PUBG makes Aussie players geocache for lootcrates this weekend

Dammit Australia. As if buying lockboxes in video games isn’t bad enough, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds means to make you chase them in real life.

Apparently, Xbox Australia is doing real-life supply drops in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne this weekend. The “dropped” crates have tons of loot – genuinely good loot, from the sound of it, including Xbox One Xes, controllers, codes, and PUBG loot and codes too. You basically need to hang out on Facebook to puzzle out the clues that’ll guide you to the drops and hopefully get you there first with the password so you can collect your shinies.

It’s basically high-stakes geocaching, but we’re betting that nobody playing has any idea what that is. Then again, you don’t technically need to care about PUBG to participate, now do you? The hoopla kicks off on Saturday, so if you’re down under, check out Facebook for the event deets.

Source: Facebook via IGN

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Ask Mo: Counting the hits and misses of our 2017 predictions

As we do every year, today we’re going to peer back into the depths of last year’s staff predictions for the genre and the games within it to determine just how we fared. After all, what would be the fun of making predictions if we couldn’t have a laugh at how wrong we were a year later? So let’s dig in and find out whether we nailed it or failed it!

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Leaderboard: How should MMORPG studios communicate to players?

The most peculiar comment thread erupted in MJ’s recent post about Secret World Legends’ Krampusnacht. In response to the casual note that the holiday event rewards had been announced by the community manager in Funcom’s Discord channel, MMO readers expressed furious annoyance that details of that sort were being disseminated in obscure chats instead of through official channels accessible to everyone.

MOP commenter Greaterdivinity rather colorfully requested that developers stop using chat channels “for delivering information to the community at large,” not out of specific dislike of Discord but because studios must surely know that they’re reaching only the tiniest sliver of their full audience that way. The alternative “doesn’t even need to be a forum,” commenter Styopa chimed in. “Forums are for interacting and dialogue. I would be happy if they just had a single reliable go-to source for current game information. Like, say, an official web page?”

Now don’t go getting all reasonable! Save that for the polls! How should MMORPG studios communicate to players? Choose all that apply in today’s Leaderboard:

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Amazon stops selling digital cards for Star Wars: The Old Republic

You can no longer purchase digital time cards or Cartel Coins for Star Wars: The Old Republic through Amazon. This is clearly a sign that you can… er… no longer purchase those digital options through Amazon. They remain for sale from the official site, you can still buy physical copies of the cards off of Amazon, and so forth.

Clearly, this means that the game is in imminent danger and is going to shut down within the hour, if you go by the forum thread on the matter. Or, as people point out on Reddit and elsewhere in that same thread, it just means… you can’t buy that set of digital goods through Amazon any longer.

A number of speculative reasons have been put forth for the change: A new package being offered for a new expansion, a change in how profits are being shared, a desire for people to move through the official store fronts, or just a routine set of business decisions. There’s been no official statement on this change at this time, but there’s not much reason to think the sky is falling just yet.

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