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Betawatch: Boxes of sand survival for Conan Exiles and Wild West Online (May 11, 2018)

Sometimes, the title “survival sandbox” might seem a bit inaccurate or limiting. But then you get into stuff like Conan Exiles and Wild West Online, games that… well, pretty much place you inside of a box of sand to survive. And they both launched this week! Which means that we’re waving farewell to them from this particular column, but we hope everyone has fun in that box full of sand. Oh, there’s so much sand there, you wouldn’t believe. Sandy everything.

Other beta news? Hey, why not, it’s a free country. How fun.

Want more betas? Boy, you always want more. Good thing there’s a list just below! But do let us know if something slipped into proper launch without letting us know or if the developers seem to have dropped off of the face of the planet. That… latter one might be more likely.

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Bless fansite leaks founder pack info and partial subscription plan ahead of today’s stream, and people aren’t happy

This story has been heavily updated post-stream – keep on scrollin’!

An apparent leak on a Bless fansite – which was hastily scrubbed but nevertheless preserved by players and Redditors – has the community watching the game ablaze today. The leak revolves around the game’s plan for founder packs, set to be revealed today; according to the rumor, Neowiz aims to charge $40 for the standard edition of the game, on up to $200 for the collector’s edition. All of the packages include headstart, with differing chunks of premium membership time chunked together.

Neowiz has previously said it leaned toward a buy-to-play model in order to avoid pay-to-win pitfalls, but the premium membership time mentioned makes players think the game is more a hybrid model with an optional subscription.

The official stream is set to begin at 3 p.m. EDT, and then we’ll know for sure whether the rumors are bunk or not.

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Black Desert studio Pearl Abyss had a record first quarter thanks to mobile

Pearl Abyss’ financial report for the first quarter of 2018 is good news for both the Black Desert franchise and the company. PA, which went public last year, recorded a hefty increase in revenues and profits, thanks largely to the release of Black Desert Mobile in South Korea. The report mentions the console release still slated for this summer, the continuing PvP revamp, and plans for two new characters and “Ramones battle field”. The company is also still working on two new games: MMOFPS Project K and casual mobile MMO Project V.

The investor documents for the previous fiscal year on the whole tout the expansion of the franchise around the globe and into new markets, particularly the mobile sector. North America and Europe continue to dominate sales of the original Black Desert MMORPG in particular, accounting for 56% of the game’s sales (contrast that with NCsoft’s regional report yesterday).

During the call, the executives also noted that Black Desert Mobile is expected to roll out to Taiwan and then South East Asia by fall. Don’t get too excited, though; the game won’t reach western shores until next year.

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Revenues for all NCsoft MMORPGs are down in Q1 2018 except… Aion?

NCsoft’s first quarter 2018 financial results are in, and it’s… kinda OK? Guild Wars 2 saw a big drop-off, though that’s to be expected since the previous quarter saw revenues from Path of Fire. “GW2 sales dropped 32% QOQ but increased 66% YOY, as some of the 2nd expansion pack effect was included,” NCsoft notes.

Blade & Soul continues to perform well QOQ, though it’s lost a quarter of its revenue YOY, and Aion revenues surged, NCsoft says, “fueled by the change in the monetization scheme.” Lineage itself at one time seemed to drive the company all by itself, but it’s down QOQ and YOY too. So is the company’s mobile games branch, which was riding high on Lineage M last year but is now “stabilizing” at what one might assume is a more realistic number (which is still higher than the five big MMORPGs combined).

As MMO Culture reports, the investor call itself admitted that Blade & Soul II for mobile has already been delayed into 2019 as it “didn’t meet expectations.” It’s apparently gotten a new team and new redesign, which is basically what happened to Lineage Eternal way back when, you’ll recall. And speaking of that: Project TL is supposedly still on schedule, with a launch still on track for next year.

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Belgian Gaming Commission releases full report barring gambleboxes in video games

Back in 2017, at the height of mainstream outrage over lockbox shenanigans, Belgium became one of the very first countries to take the problem seriously (instead of just passing the buck). The Belgian committee assigned to investigate concluded in November that “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling” and pledged to ban them. At the end of April of this year, the country effectively did just that. Its Gaming Commission spent several months investigating multiple games, ultimately finding that OverwatchFIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are operating in violation of its laws specifically because of their lockbox mechanics.

At the time, we had only a few scattered quotes from a translated press release, but this week the Commission has released its entire report (and there’s even a version in English). Its goal is clear: to examine “whether the use of loot boxes in video games constitutes a gambling operation in the sense of the Belgian Gaming and Betting Act. ”

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APB Reloaded and Fallen Earth developer GamersFirst acquired by Little Orbit

It’s been exceedingly quiet for a long while when it comes to APB Reloaded, and it’d be easy to think that the game’s second lease on life had come to an end. But it turns out that other things were going on. Little Orbit has acquired GamersFirst, the company behind APB as well as Fallen Earth, and is promising players in an open letter that more stuff is going to be happening and that this is the start of more active development for APB.

The open letter from Little Orbit CEO Matthew Scott states that there’s a lot that needs to be updated, ranging from content to simple quality-of-life improvements, but the first priority is an updated privacy policy and code of conduct, new forums, and a clear development roadmap moving forward. It’s a lot of news all at once, so time will tell how well the new owners deal with the existing properties.

Source: Official Site; thanks to Secrets, Genobee, and Steven for the tip!

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Capcom posts its best financial year ever thanks to Monster Hunter World

It must have been some time ago at Capcom’s business strategy meeting where the top executives were sitting around and talking in hushed tones about what the company’s development strategy would be. Of course, the whiteboard already had the obvious suggestions on it: a massively unpopular Street Fighter sequel that launched without features, a half-hearted Marvel vs. Capcom installment, pretending Mega Man didn’t exist, etc. And then one lone executive spoke up, saying, “What if we developed a game everyone wanted to play and then released it internationally, so American and Japanese players could both enjoy it?

Except he said it in Japanese, of course. Thus began the story of Monster Hunter World, which ends with Capcom experiencing its best financial year… ever. At any point in history.

More than that, MHW also managed to outsell every other game in the company’s history at 7.9 million copies sold worldwide. Understandably, next year will see a renewed push for live events for the title as its PC version launches later this year. The company is also planning a renewed e-sports push around that aforementioned Street Fighter sequel, because bad habits die hard.

Source: Eurogamer

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EA quarterly financials: Anthem due March 2019, record profits, and lockbox-gambling denialism

EA’s quarterly financial report and investor call turned out to be a doozy this year with quite a bit of useful news. To wit:

BioWare’s Anthem is set to ship “in the last quarter of the year, and in the last month of that quarter,” so if we’re counting by fiscal quarters, that’s March 2019, and no wiggling out of this latest delay, EA. According to PCGN, multiple execs inflated the hype, arguing it’s a “stunning and ambitious” game with a “fundamentally social experience.”

Also, in spite of industry interviews to the contrary, it appears that EA learned basically nothing from the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco that drove the ancient lockboxes-are-gambling argument out of weary corners of the online gaming market and into mainstream politics. The plan going forward appears to be fighting the perception – now codified in Belgium – that lockboxes are gambling in the first place. “We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” CEO Andrew Wilson said during the call.

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Jagex shutters Chronicles: RuneScape Legends, Ace of Spades, and its FunOrb portal

The developer Jagex is best known for various versions of RuneScape and shuttering any project that isn’t RuneScape. Ace of Spades is shutting down in July, its FunOrb game portal is shutting down sometime over the next three months, and even Chronicles: RuneScape Legends is being quietly taken down in August. In all three cases, a lack of development resources to address technical errors has been cited for the reason for taking down the games.

There are, however, abundant technical development resources for running the beta for Old School RuneScape‘s mobile version, so that’s still happening with the new always-on Android version. The core of having it always on is just what it sounds like; players can expect the servers to remain on and available at all times, rather than setting a firm end date for the beta testing. If all goes well, more players will be invited over time. So you could theoretically play one version in your phone and one version on the computer, if you really needed to do that for some reason.

Source: Gamasutra, Steam, Reddit, Official Site; thanks to Elio and James for the tips!

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Daybreak update: Renova boss questioned over Columbus Nova’s alleged payment to Michael Cohen

MMOs and politics once again collide this week as last night CNN broke the news that Robert Mueller’s FBI team has zeroed in on Russian oligarch and Renova Group chairman Viktor Vekselberg as part of the Special Counsel investigation into Russian election interference, questioning Vekselberg about money Renova’s US “affiliate” transferred to US President Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen. (Tangentially, those allegations were brought to light by Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti.)

And the name of that US affiliate under investigation? Yeah, it’s Columbus Nova, the firm that claimed it acquired MMORPG studio Daybreak back in 2015. Here we go again.

“FBI agents asked Vekselberg about payments his company’s American affiliate, Columbus Nova, made to Cohen, according to one source,” CNN reports. “The Russian was questioned as well about $300,000 in political donations by Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s American cousin who is the head of Columbus Nova, sources said.” Columbus Nova claimed to CNN that it is “owned and controlled by Americans”; it further denies any use of “Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments” to Cohen.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 169: Farscape and RuneScape

On this week’s show, Bree and Justin look ahead at the next generation of MMORPGs in development while saying farewell to a couple of the old guard. It’s a podcast full of conspiracies, time magic, debates over subscriptions, and way too much talk about Farscape!

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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World of Warcraft DDOSer sentenced to a year in prison, Blizzard chats about Battle for Azeroth’s latest round of faction wars

Blizzard is not messing around with DDOS attacks. The BBC has a piece out on a World of Warcraft player from Romania, Calin Mateias, who was apparently extradited to California, charged with conducting a denial of service attack on WoW’s servers back in 2010. He pleaded guilty to “causing damage to a protected computer,” will sit for a year in prison, and was fined around $30,000 to boot. The saddest part is that he was DDOSing servers to get back at guildies over raid loot and participation.

In other WoW news, production director John Hight spoke to PCGamesN about the march toward Battle for Azeroth; he not only teases the story arc but philosophizes about the on-again, off-again war between the factions.

“We thought it would be appropriate and very interesting to say that the biggest threat now in Azeroth is each other. Can we, without that uniting threat of the Burning Legion, come together – or are we going to battle each other? And as you can see in Battle for Azeroth, we’re going to fight it out.”

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The Daily Grind: Have you backed any MMO Kickstarters that you deeply regret?

Yesterday, as our writers were shaking their heads over Star Citizen’s latest shenanigans, Eliot cracked a joke about how having backed the game had become a punchline. I said I doubted anyone on the team had backed it, and then MJ pipes up and says she did: She grabbed one of the earliest intro ships and has barely looked at it since, just waiting for the actual finished game to emerge.

We gave her a pass, since honestly, anyone who backed it way back when couldn’t have really seen the last five or six years coming, right? Elite Dangerous’ Kickstarter was the same year and it’s been out for ages – Star Citizen didn’t look like a bad bet back then. (If you’re still paying $700 for a concept ship sight-unseen in 2018, well, I have no words for that.)

I didn’t back Star Citizen, but I have backed some serious duds. I’m livid over the stalled development of TUG and complete lack of communication from its developers. Greed Monger gave refunds (though apparently not all – thanks Xanward), but TUG won’t even say boo. Yeah sure it was 10 or 20 bucks, but still. Weird world.

Have you backed any MMO Kickstarters that you deeply regret?

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