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EverQuest II opens Planes of Prophecy expansion preorders, includes $139.99 edition

Daybreak has just announced that EverQuest II‘s Planes of Prophecy expansion first teased back in September is launching on Tuesday, November 28th, with preorders live now. The basic edition is $34.99, but the collector’s edition and premium edition are $89.99 and $139.99 respectively, which seems like an awful lot for an MMORPG that launched in 2004, but then again, you get a ton of stuff with those bundles, including level boosters and access to previous expansions. And content too:

“You’ll explore the perils and mysteries of the Plane of Magic, the Plane of Innovation, Solusek Ro’s Tower, and the Plane of Disease, just to name a few. […] As you cross to the planes, you’ll encounter many obstacles, not the least of which is the mechanical sentinel in the Plane of Innovation, the Manaetic Behemoth!”

In the meanwhile, MOP’s own EverQuesting columnist MJ Guthrie just pubbed a brand-new guide to the currently live Halloween festivities in the game – that ought to tide you over.

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Albion Online’s new trial is a referral system that costs the referrer in-game gold

If last week’s rumors about a new trial version in Albion Online had you excited, good news for you: It’s actually happening and in fact is already in place as of today’s update to the Joseph version of the game.

The trick is that it’s not just a trial where you show up and get to play; it’s a referral system. Currently active players – i.e., players who’ve bought the box – will have to buy “trial keys” for 1000 gold in-game and then pass along the keys to friends through the referral email system. Naturally, you’ll be rewarded for recruiting friends this way, and if your buddy buys the game, you get your gold back – plus up to 4000 more gold, depending on which kit your friend buys. The rewards will change up over time, so hopefully you have a long list of mates to invite.

The game’s latest patch also tweaks the UI, hub positioning in most cities, and a whole bunch of bug issues.

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The Daily Grind: Is PUBG finally the ‘WoW killer killer’ we’ve been waiting for?

Say the words “WoW killer” to a bunch of MMORPG players in 2017 and you’re bound to get eyerolls, for good reason: Even though we’ve been watching over the last decade as game after game chased the title, most folks don’t really believe that any MMORPG will ever truly “kill” World of Warcraft except possibly WoW itself, however slowly. Globally oriented, e-sports-centric games like MOBAs and shooters have long since surpassed the MMORPG market anyway, beating them at their own community game.

What I didn’t really expect to ever see was a game that killed the “WoW killers,” and that’s exactly what PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is doing. Oh, League of Legends, Dota 2, and CS:GO aren’t dead, and they’re not going to roll over and give up so easily, not when they’re still making money hand-over-fist (just a little bit less than before). But I have to admit that I didn’t see this coming. Battle royale is an old game type, and PUBG isn’t even the first to try to revivify it. I never expected this kind of dramatic sea change in online gaming. We’re watching a huge shift happening right before our eyes, and bizarrely enough, Daybreak is partly responsible.

Is PUBG a “WoW killer killer”? Is PUBG really worthy of all the fuss, or are people just sick of the old-school MOBA and shooter lineup?

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Shroud of the Avatar sells toilets and wheelchairs for charity

While it still continues on that long road to launch, Shroud of the Avatar is using some of its development time and resources to help those in need outside of the game studio. In this past weekend’s newsletter, Portalarium mentioned a few new store items that it’s created for the purposes of raising money for charity. One of these? A toilet.

Yes, if you buy SOTA’s steampunk toilet (“an ingenious contraption that brings bodily evacuations indoors through the clever use of Kobold technology”), you’ll be pitching in to help with Water.org’s World Toilet Day effort to address a sanitation crisis in impoverished nations. Other charity-related items include a wheelchair for children’s hospitals and Doctors Without Borders.

The team also showed off some new Halloween-themed rewards, new houses for SeedInvest backers, and Oktoberfest cosmetics for postmortem rewards. Shroud of the Avatar recently raised an additional $80,000 through an October 12th telethon and is working toward Release 47 on October 26th.

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Chronicles of Elyria picks up former Revival lead developer

Has enough time gone by to start erasing memories of Revival, that ambitious but troubled horror MMO that was canceled back in March 2016? While the project is dead, its developers have forged on — and one has made the jump to another indie MMORPG.

Chronicles of Elyria announced this past week that it picked up Adam Maxwell to become the game’s new lead designer. Previously, Maxwell worked on RIFTStar Citizen, World of Tanks, and Revival (in addition to almost a dozen other titles). Hopefully this new berth will be a good fit for him and Soulbound Studios.

Maxwell says that it was an easy jump from Revival to Elyria: “Half my fun getting to know everyone here has been in asking questions like, ‘So how did you all handle…’ and then randomly picking a feature from Revival. Weather, NPC memory, narrative dynamics… every answer is different from Revival, but they always hit the same mechanical goal. I feel like the two projects are siblings separated at birth. It’s both awesome and eerie at the same time.”

Source: Press release, Chronicles of Elyria. Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

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CD Projekt Red confirms that Cyberpunk 2077 is still being made and ‘progressing as planned’

Considering the sparse information that has been released about CD Projekt Red’s perhaps-an-MMO Cyberpunk 2077 over the last four years, it’s easy to assume that the game has long been abandoned. However, the studio asserted this week that it has a good reason for being closed-lipped about the project, saying that it takes time to “reinvent the wheel” and innovate with new games.

The Witcher 3 studio was prompted to make an official response about the game following public concerns over alleged poor morale and high turnover behind the scenes. CD Projekt Red said that instead of shrinking, the studio is now double the size that it was in 2015 and is still hiring. And best of all, CD Projekt Red confirmed that Cyberpunk 2077 is still being made and has the backing of the studio.

Cyberpunk 2077 is progressing as planned, but we are taking our time — in this case, silence is the cost of making a great game,” the studio said. You can read the full letter concerning the project after the break.

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Overwatch dings up to 35M players ahead of quarterly financial report

Blizzard just announced that it’s just counted 35 million Overwatch players – not too shabby for a buy-to-play team shooter that started out by tossing half a dozen MMORPG development dev years down a drain. That ought to make investors happy – expect the next investor relations report in early November.

I’d love to give more info, but the #8 revenue PC game and #6 revenue console game in the world sent a press release with nothing else. So instead, we’ll compare it to some other big numbers lately: 10M have shown up for Fortnite’s free-to-play console battle royal mode, while PUBG’s sold 13M in the last couple of months.

Also, this guy speaks for everybody.

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UK lawmakers examine lockboxes, PEGI leaves definitions to gambling commissions

The ESRB may not be interested in protecting gamers against predatory business model practices like lockboxes, but European regulators may be joining their Chinese counterparts in at least taking a look before casually dismissing concerns.

As Polygon reports, a member of the UK parliament, Daniel Zeichner, submitted formal questions to the UK’s secretary of state on topic, requesting information on her plan to “to protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games,” specifically on the Isle of Man, whose legal code refers by name to “in-game gambling and loot boxes.”

Meanwhile, the European PEGI – akin to the ESRB on this side of the pond – has said that it can’t rule on the issue for game studios because it “cannot define what constitutes gambling” because it’s not a national gambling commission – contrary to the ESRB’s statement.

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H1Z1 has defeated its ‘King of the Kill’ branding in a last-man-standing battle royale

Looks like at least some of the rumors last week have proven true, as Daybreak is indeed removing the “King of the Kill” branding from H1Z1, meaning the battle royale half of the zombie survival sandbox is now getting the unified game’s original name free and clear.

You’ll recall that in 2016, Daybreak split H1Z1 into two separate games, H1Z1: King of the Kill and H1Z1: Just Survive; this past summer, the company dropped the “H1Z1” from Just Survive’s branding, cutting loose the survival sandbox half of the original split-apart game, and then it announced a pro league for H1Z1 just last week.

“Throughout development we’ve continued to define the vision for H1Z1, which is competitive at its core with fast-paced and action-packed combat,” Daybreak explains. “Over the past year, the game has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of both player base and development, so we thought it was time to evolve the game’s look to something that better represented the spirit of H1Z1 and the level of quality we aspire to. H1Z1 is also the name that our players connect with most, so it was just natural evolution for us to transition back. We’re also working to ensure that H1Z1 can be enjoyed by players around the world, and having the word ‘Kill’ in the name of the game can be limiting with some global audiences.”

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The Daily Grind: How should studios solve the gaming-while-rural problem?

If you’ve ever read any of MOP’s Andrew’s coverage of Pokemon Go, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme: One of his biggest pet peeves is that Niantic privileges urban players over everyone else. If you live far away from a large city, you’ll not only struggle to attend events there; you’ll suffer from a lack of hotspots, gyms, raid opportunities, and other players on the daily, and you’ll have to drive between far-flung destinations just to play. A studio obviously can’t fix a population weakness, but it surely could work harder to stop making game opportunities and rewards effectively dependent on where you live.

The same problem’s apparently cropped up in Hearthstone as Blizzard has begun incentivizing what are essentially player-hosted LAN-party events with an ultra-rare Nemsy cards, ostensibly in the service of community. I plugged my current address in and came up with no less than six events over the next month within 20 miles of my home – triple that if I am willing to drive up to 100 miles. But I live in a large city (6M metro area) in the midst of even more large cities. If I plug in my address from back when I lived in New Mexico, there are no events within 100 miles of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Zip. Nada. They don’t even make the top 50 list for metro areas in the US, but they’re the biggest for 300 miles in any direction where they are. And still nothing.

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Frontier Expo 2017: Science, history, and gaming make for a great first con

This past weekend was not the first time I have attended a developer’s convention, but Frontier Expo 2017 was one of only a very few times when I have been able to attend the first one of its kind. Last weekend, I got to witness the birth of Frontier Developments’ fan convention, held in London, UK. At 1500 attendees, it may have been a relatively small gathering compared to conventions like PAX or other more established cons, but it was still great. In fact, it offered fans a few firsts of their own! Besides your classic meeting-and-greeting, game announcements with reveals, and after parties (including live entertainment by Jim Guthrie, the musician who created the Planet Coaster music), folks got to try their hand at the studio’s really old games on their original equipment in the Frontier Developments museum.

Even more than that, attendees got to meet and listen to world-renowned experts in the fields of paleontology and astrobiology. Not because these would sell the game, but just because they are subjects of interest to fans. How many studios have offered that?

Now there were understandably a few bumps and learning experiences in this first endeavor, but in all, I say the inaugural FX2017 was a resounding success! It was easily the most chill convention experience I have ever had, and I look forward to next year’s show (and hanging out with the space loach more!). Let’s dig in!

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Betawatch: Wild West Online’s alpha just isn’t ready (October 13, 2017)

It’s not high noon in Wild West Online. It’s not any time at all, in fact. The game’s early access alpha would have established a time, probably, but that’s been delayed because… well, the game just isn’t ready for that sort of testing yet. Disappointing for those looking forward to the game? Certainly. But probably for the best in the long run, we hope.

This week has been thin in terms of beta news, but we’ve still got a few pieces here and there to show off, don’t we? Of course we do; check out this list.

Sorry there’s a little less news this week, but we do have that whole list down below; that’s something cool, right? You can let us know what you’re thinking about betas you’re playing in the comments, or you can let us know if something surreptitiously launched without us noticing as well. We would prefer that you not place your recipe for chili con carne in the comments; just mail that along.

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IGN has apparently bought up the Humble Bundle company

IGN has just announced that it’s scooped up a pretty sweet acquisition: It now owns the company behind Humble Bundle, known best for its cheap game bundle deals and originally famed for its charity work (reportedly over $100M for charity since 2010).

In an interview with Gamasutra, the top men of both Humble and IGN say they have no grand plans to change anything about the platform.

“We want to stick to the fundamentals in the short term. We don’t want to disrupt anything we’re doing right already,” Humble’s John Graham reportedly said. “Because of the shared vision and overlap of our customer bases, there’s going to be a lot of opportunities.”

No doubt.

Source: Gamasutra. With thanks to TJ and OneEyeRed.

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