Have you been wondering which of the big battle royale titles would make a bid for mobile? Probably the first one that came to console, yeah? You’d be right: It’s Fortnite. Epic announced last night that BR mode is headed to iOS and Android, though iOS first, which might have seemed normal years ago but is admittedly a bit bizarre in 2018, given Android’s overwhelming market share, but there you go.
“Fortnite Battle Royale is coming to mobile devices! On phones and tablets, Fortnite is the same 100-player game you know from PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac. Same gameplay, same map, same content, same weekly updates.”
The really awesome part is crossplatforminess. “In partnership with our friends at Sony, Fortnite Battle Royale will support Cross Play and Cross Progression between PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, iOS and eventually Android,” Epic says. “This means players across devices can squad up with friends and play together.” Note, not Xbox One. Save the World mode is also not mentioned.
In an earlier Daily Grind on peripherals, I mentioned how I used to fold up a piece of paper into a triangular prism, write down my keybinds, and prop it up on my keyboard in old school Ultima Online. That was because the game really didn’t have much of an interface. Things like healthbars and paperdolls and bags and spells were ad hoc; you could pull them out and drag them around your screen (that was ahead of its time!), but there wasn’t even a trace of the rudimentary hotbar that EverQuest would later introduce to the genre. You set your macros in options and that was that.
Since then, UO has come a really long way in the UI department thanks to multiple client upgrades. The current top-shelf UI for the game is in the “enhanced client” that about half the playerbase reportedly uses, and it’s much more like the sort of UI modern players are used to, complete with endless hotbars, API support, and on-the-fly configuration. If I dropped that UI onto a screenshot for a different game, I bet most of you wouldn’t bat an eyelash. (I was going to do that for this post, but I decided to use the brand-new F2P login screen instead – does that take you back, vets, or what?)
Anyway, that’s just one example of an MMO with a vastly improved UI. Which MMORPG do you think has most improved its UI over the years?
Remember way back in the long, long ago, before H1Z1 hit early access, split, reconstituted, renamed, didn’t launch, aborted a console port, and all those shenanigans? You know, back when the game was planned as a free-to-play title, but it didn’t happen?
Now it’s happened.
Following the official launch of H1Z1 (the battle royale half) last week, Daybreak has formally announced that it’s going free-to-play. Today. There are brand-new buyable packs on Steam running up to 100 bucks, but they are at least technically optional.
Readers will recall that the game has appeared to be struggling on Steam over the past half year as other battle royale games picked up players; as of February, the game had apparently lost 90% of its playerbase since last summer, presumable to the likes of PUBG and Fortnite, the latter of which launched free.
The zombie sandbox half of the game, Just Survive, hasn’t made any free-to-play announcement yet.
What’s going on in the online video games business this week? Let’s dig in.
Steam, toxicity, and Kartridge
The Center for Investigative Reporting (via Motherboard) has a scathing piece out on Steam toxicity this week. Valve has traditionally maintained a hands-off approach with Steam groups, which means that the groups can easily become a toxic cesspit. The platform is accused of being loaded with hate groups, many of which support racist agendas or promote school shootings. Motherboard notes that Valve has refused to respond to questions on this topic since last October.
Meanwhile, Kongregate is launching Kartridge, a potential Steam competitor that says it will embrace indie “premium” titles and small-fry developers. “Our initial plan is that the first $10,000 in net revenue, one hundred percent will go to the developer,” Kongregate’s CEO says. “We’re not coming in just to build another store. No-one needs that. This is about building a platform that is focused on creating a very fair and supportive environment for indie developers” – as well as on social and community tools.
We were all pretty stunned when Trion announced Defiance 2050 last week, and indeed, we fired off a round of questions almost immediately. Trion’s answered our questions today, including those about what’s going on with the original game (spoilers: It’s not being abandoned). Read on for the details!
Massively OP: The big question is what’s happening to original Defiance itself? Will it continue on in any way? Maintenance mode, or will it continue to see updates and holidays?
Trion: Definitely! Original Defiance will continue to receive event updates, and players can continue to login and play. We’re even working on a new Valor rewards system for people who jump in and play the game before Defiance 2050 launches, which we’ll have more information about very soon.
With the insane success — both in terms of popularity and finances — that Dota and League of Legends spawned, you can easily understand why game studios latched onto the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) as a relatively quick cash grab. After all, with players providing the ongoing content (through PvP matches), developers were freed up to focus on balance tweaks and churning out new skins and characters to sell.
In a relatively short span of time, the market became flooded with many imitators that sought to grab that slice of the profitable pie. And while some, such as Hi-Rez’s SMITE, have endured, many games discovered the one key danger with this approach: If you could not generate and sustain a large, active playerbase, you were as good as dead. A critical mass was needed, and when it was not achieved, games started folding up left and right.
In today’s Perfect Ten, we’re going to look at a dozen MOBAs that tried and failed to make it. Perhaps they serve as cautionary lessons to other studios seeking to mimic League of Legends’ format, but we somehow doubt that the era of the MOBA is over just yet.
You currently cannot play Diablo III on as many different platforms as you can play, say, Skyrim. But it looks like the number of available platforms will go up soon; Gamespot is reporting that anonymous sources indicate the title is indeed coming to the Nintendo Switch. Those sources have nothing to say on the topic of whether or not the game’s expansions will be included, but one can certainly assume that will be the case.
So why the silence after an earlier tease for exactly this? Well, it may be because Nintendo seems to prefer to remain tight-lipped about these ports until they’re closer to release, or it may be that the current testing is more about seeing if it’s doable than specifically making it happen. Or it could just be willful obtrusiveness, or the anonymous sources are wrong. You get to decide!
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin cruise into a wild week jam-packed with updates and a full-fledged MMO reboot on top of everything else. It’s all they can do to hang on to the bucking bronco of news without being flung off into side topics, but they’ll do their best!
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:
Who saw this one coming? Fortnite has officially pushed past PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in terms of games that get the most playtime on Twitch. That’s according to SullyGnome, which tracks streamtime for big online games. Fortnite is now topping PUBG in number of streams, number of channels streaming, time streamed, and number of daily viewers as Fortnite continues its climb – and PUBG falls.
Worth pointing out, however, is that the Fortnite community is somewhat skeptical about the sudden boom. As Polygon explored yesterday, some streamers and watchers argue that multiple Fortnite-centric channels are seeing a spike in Twitch Prime subs from “compromised accounts and bots” thanks to Epic’s current skin promotion, through which Twitch offers an exclusive. It’s possible the spike in viewers and viewtime for the game are related.
In other Fortnite news, Epic says it’s “working on bringing parity to the control schemes” between the PvP battle royale and PvE Save the World modes.
Ubisoft is sick of toxicity in its games, and to combat it, it’s whipping out the banhammer as a “first step” in getting the playerbase under control.
“Starting next week, we will be implementing an improvement on the system we have been using to ban players that use racial and homophobic slurs, or hate speech, in game,” the company told Rainbow Six Siege players on Reddit over the weekend. “The bans for this will fall within the following durations, depending on severity” – that’s everything from two days to a permanent ban. “Any language or content deemed illegal, dangerous, threatening, abusive, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, hateful, racist, sexist, ethically offensive or constituting harassment is forbidden.”
Moreover, toxicity-related bans will be broadcast via global message for all to see.
Just for the record, we are not the only ones engaged in the discussion and controversy surrounding lockboxes and lootboxes as of late. YouTube channel Extra Credits put together an entertaining and informative video that brings everyone up to speed on what’s happening with all of this, even if you’ve been out of the loop.
The video does raise some concerns about what might happen if and when governments get involved in legislating lootboxes under gambling laws. Some of these concerns have to do with states that consider gambling illegal, access to games with “gambling” if you are under 21 years of age, varying forms of lootboxes, and studios worrying about lawsuits from players over bans if that person has digital property with monetary value. Regular readers will recall a few months back when our SWTOR columnist considered the direct implications for his own game too.
“There are a whole bunch of effects this legislation could have on gaming beyond simply restricting lootboxes as a model,” the video argues. “So we have to be incredibly careful about how we approach this legislation.”
Here’s a message that Blizzard Entertainment wants to trumpet from the mountaintops: Heroes of the Storm is not, in fact, spiraling down to oblivion.
So why would this be a question right now? It seems that the combination of the recent MOBA shutdowns and a consolidation of Heroes’ merchandise store section from five to one page had some players concerned about the lifespan of Blizzard’s oft-overshadowed title. But the studio went on the record by saying that it isn’t downsizing the MOBA or preparing to give it a pink slip.
“Heroes of the Storm is not dying. We’re not giving up on it, nothing like that,” said E-sports Franchise Lead Sam Braithwaite. “In general, I think people are taking something that is very unrelated, at all, to the game’s health, which is some merch that we’re re-evaluating, and kind of putting a doomsday ticker on that, which is absolutely not the case. We have an incredibly jam-packed content schedule for the rest of this year, people are going to be really excited for the stuff that we have planned.”
Last week, almost buried in the avalanche of other news was a datapoint from SuperData that the analytics firm characterized as bad news for the existing subscription MMORPGs. “Continuing their decline, the Social and Pay-to-Play MMO segments shrank 5% and 9%, respectively.” A downer for the incoming MMOs planning subs, yeah?
Maybe not. It’s possible that, as our commenter Sally Bowls noted, it’s not doom for sub MMOs; that’s just to be expected when we have so few existing sub MMOs as it is, and surely that pay-to-play number is heavily influenced by World of Warcraft specifically. “So we would expect the P2P segment to drop or be stable in Q1 and ‘pay-to-play’ MMOs [to] show huge increases in Q3,” she argued. But then again, even WoW is in gradual decline.
I know there are plenty of MMO veterans who are more than willing to pay subscriptions in 2018 – I’m paying one right now. But that’s different from whether you believe they still work for new games or have enough appeal to make subs truly viable. Can a sub still work for MMORPGs in 2018?