business model

Hyperspace Beacon: If you're not playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, why are you still subbed?

Let me start this article by answering my own headline: It's partly because I'm an idiot and cannot let go of this IP.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has been a part of my life for over six years, and not having it there to fall back on would be difficult. But I could still play SWTOR without a subscription. Many of my friends still do! The truth of the matter is that I'm still having fun in the game, just not playing the game. I still have a guild of about 50 people who log in regularly to participate in activities. I have friends whom I've grown close to. And as much as I hate to say it, there is no other game that can give me my Star Wars fix.

I guess it's possible that I could still log into the game and not pay a dime for it, but hopefully, if I tell you what happens during my typical game day, you will understand why I still hold a subscription for the game, despite not playing a single bit of the content BioWare has given and sold me.

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The Soapbox: What the Mass Effect Andromeda kerfuffle ought to teach us about games criticism

Today is the official release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, which was preceded by the frankly baffling decision to allow people access to an early build of the game ahead of time. Or perhaps the final build without everything enabled? The point is that you could play a bit of it if you were willing to drop some money. That seems like a bad idea that we've been dealing with in online-game-land for a long time, but regardless, it gave people the opportunity to see some of this RPG ahead of time.

This, in turn, allowed the typical internet trolls to find any and all animation flubs and then happily declare that it was all the result of one woman working on the game and handling all of the animations. Which, you know, is a conclusion that would be helped significantly if the woman in question actually worked in that role on the game, which she did not.

Obviously, the game under discussion is not an MMO. But it is symptomatic of two all-too-common problems in gaming culture that are worth noting to people who do not have balls of spiders in place of a soul. So let's talk about those.

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Leaderboard: The Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind 'chapter vs. DLC' fee debate

In the comments of a Daily Grind last week, a few commenters tangeted into debate about The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind pricing.

See, the original "ESO Plus" deal for ESO subscription holders granted them full access to all future downloadable content (DLC) forever and ever, as long as they were subscribed to the game. Morrowind, however, has been marketed not as DLC but as a "chapter," meaning it will not be subject to the Plus promises, and so everyone will have to pay for it. Grumbling ensued.

"Suppose I paid BMW a monthly fee to drive [BMW] cars," commenter Odin wrote. "I could drive whatever I want as long as I paid. They announce a great new car I want to drive. I cant wait, but they tell me, "This isnt a car; it's an automobile. You have to pay extra.'"

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DDO and LOTRO suffer sub woes, LOTRO Issue 20 arrives this week

How would you feel if you paid money to subscribe to an MMO, and the company took the money without delivering that sub? Probably pretty disgruntled, which is exactly the mood among some DDO and LOTRO players this month as they struggle with attempting to secure a VIP membership to Standing Stone's titles.

On both the DDO and LOTRO forums, players have been complaining since early March that the studio took their money but haven't activated their membership. It seems that PayPal is a possible issue in this transaction, so you might want to avoid that payment method for the time being. For the studio's part, SSG said on the 12th that it would be looking into the issue.

There is some good news, however. LOTRO Issue 20, with the new Wastes zone, looks to be coming this week. Let's hope the Standing Stone Games tech team can sort out the lag that's been caused by the squash of players in the end game areas when it arrives.

Source: DDO forums, LOTRO forums. Thanks Sanasu!

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EVE Evolved: What's the deal with EVE's PLEX changes?

This week CCP Games announced that some big changes are on the way for PLEX in EVE Online. The PLEX or "30-day Pilot's License EXtension" is a virtual item that represents 30 days of subscription time and can be bought for cash and then sold to other players for in-game ISK. This simple mechanic has proven to be one of the most important innovations in the subscription MMO business model over the years, allowing players with lots of in-game wealth to effectively play for free while permitting cash-rich players to buy in-game currency without funding dodgy farming operations that can disrupt the game world. Dozens of games now support some kind of player-mediated currency roughly like PLEX.

The proposed changes are intended to simplify EVE's business model by merging PLEX with the microtransaction currency Aurum. Players will also be able to put their PLEX into invulnerable account-wide PLEX Vaults that are accessible at all times rather than having to move the valuable items manually by ship. There's been significant backlash from the EVE community over the newfound invulnerability of PLEX, plans to delete some microtransaction currency from the game without compensation, and the possibility that someone leaked the announcement to friends early in order to make a profit. So what's the deal with these PLEX changes, and why are some EVE players going nuts over them?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the upcoming changes to the safety of PLEX, the opportunities that more granular PLEX could have for EVE, and why players are up in arms over plans to delete Aurum from thousands of accounts.

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Make My MMO: Pathfinder is alive, Starfighter seeks crowdfunds (March 18, 2017)

This week in MMO crowdfunding, Pathfinder Online resurfaced this weekend with good and bad news. Paizo's Lisa Stevens tells fans that efforts and research into selling the game to a large MMO company to finish weren't fruitful. While consultants said the game might appeal to a more indie developer, ultimately they recommended Paizo finish the game itself, which the studio is doing, putting together a one-year timeline to polish the title for "open enrollment."

We've also got a new online multiplayer space sim cooking (thanks, Crow!). The game is Starfighter, Inc., and it describes itself as "Counter-Strike meets World of Warships in Space." It's about a third of the way to its $150,000 US goal with 27 days yet to go.

Meanwhile, we checked out the newly revived Repopulation, Chronicles of Elyria suffered controversy over its monarchy allotment, Grim Dawn got a new patch, Wild Terra began open testing, Dual Universe delayed its alpha, we spoke to Legends of Aria's team about its name and design changes, OrbusVR's Kickstarter funded for over 200% its original ask, Ship of Heroes announced it'll seek $400,00 in crowdfunds, and Star Citizen gave a clear view of its level development. It's been an incredibly big week for crowdfunded MMOs!

Read on for more on what's up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and the regular roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we've got our eye on.

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EverQuest turns 18 years old, throws birthday bash with free heroic characters for everyone

One of the most famous and longest-lived MMORPGs is celebrating its 18th birthday today. Back on this date in 1999, EverQuest released to a much different gaming world than what we have today. Since then, it has released 23 expansions, switched to a free-to-play business model, and endured when many of its contemporaries have sunsetted.

Daybreak is cranking up the anniversary festivities with loads of activities, starting with the completion of two player-designed missions that were drafted up back at SOE Live in 2014. There are new rewards and marketplace items, as well as the return of all of the anniversary content from previous years. Gotta get your gnome race on!

Even better, the studio is handing out free heroic toons. "All players who have ever played the game will be granted a heroic character if they log in between March 16th and March 31st," Daybreak says.

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Albion Online AMA on pay-to-win, free trials, and global servers

Sandbox Interactive ran an AMA for its in-development indie MMO Albion Online on Reddit last night, covering everything from the game's business model to how players in far-flung locations fare on its global server. Here are the highlights!

  • There are no plans for a freebie weekend or trial as a result of fairness to founders and botting issues -- as well as performance issues. "The game is extremely well populated as it is, and we'd be worried that free trial could slow down the servers."
  • Likewise, SI will be sticking to its original plan to reward founders with early access, though players have expressed concern over the potential for an ArcheAge-like land-grab.
  • In response to players bringing up pay-to-win and the game's $30 buy-in, SI explained the game's business model is based on EVE Online's and that while players can essentially gain an advantage by buying and then exchanging real-money currency for in-game currency, it won't afford players a guaranteed win. As for the currency exchange, it should be possible to play the market.

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Sony is going to let you access PlayStation 4 games through your PC

Don't let the lack of a PlayStation 4 in your house stop you from, y'know, playing the console's games. On Monday, Sony announced that it will be paving a path for players to get their hands on PS4 titles even if they're on a PC.

This is thanks to the growing popularity of Sony's PlayStation Now cloud streaming platform, which allows PS4 and PC users to access hundreds of PlayStation 3 titles. With the upcoming expansion to the service, gamers will be able to get their grubby mitts on PlayStation 4 titles as well for those who subscribe for $20 a month.

Obviously, this is good news for MMO players who would like, for whatever reason, to access online titles exclusive to PlayStation. Sony has not revealed how many PS4 games will be available at first or when the studio will be rolling out the expanded service. A "private test" of the new PlayStation Now is set to commence over the next few weeks.

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Final Fantasy XIV discontinues 90-day subscription option for PS3 players on March 18

If you're playing Final Fantasy XIV on a PlayStation 3, your days are numbered. Support for the platform is being discontinued with the launch of Stormblood, something that the official site is reminding remaining console players about on a regular basis. This is why the option to pay for a 90-day subscription for PS3 users is being removed on the weekend of March 18th; you won't have more than 90 days to play, so it's unfair to have you pay for that full subscription.

Of course, if you are on PS3 and want to keep playing, the game is still running on PC and PS4, and you can take advantage of the game's upgrade option to move your account to the PS4 at no additional cost. (If you don't already own a PS4, it's still a bit pricey.) It's just the end of support for the old hardware already struggling on occasion, but it's being done with an eye toward transparency for players on every platform.

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Trove officially launches for Xbox One and PlayStation 4

Voxel sandbox Trove has formally launched on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One today, having been in open beta on both consoles since December. Trion says it's now "captivated nearly five million" players across both consoles, which by our estimate makes for about 10 million players total, including those already on PC.

Trove "has become one of the largest free-to-play console releases of all time during its successful Open Beta," the studio says, "with thousands of unique worlds being built by players and tens of millions of hours logged in the game before it’s even officially launched."

Existing beta characters and plots should be just as you left them as the studio promised no more wipes past closed beta. The game is free-to-play on both platforms. Check out the launch trailer below!

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Why gacha is the 'gotcha' tactic of MMO sales

Making money in free-to-play games isn't as simple as pursuing a single revenue stream. Often studios are looking at multiple approaches to coax players to part with their money in exchange for various goods and services. Now we all know that psychological manipulation is a key part of monetization, which is why it behooves you to read this Gamasutra article on a specific type of microtransaction moneymaking called "gacha."

Gacha is derived from Japanese vending machines that people would pay for a random toy that is part of a set. The idea is, in both the physical and video game space, that by convincing customers to repeatedly buy objects for a chance to complete a set, the customer will often end up purchasing many repeats (and thus buy the same thing more than once). Gacha can be implemented in many interesting ways in video games, turning the process into a game in and of itself (that costs real money to play).

Is this method evil or entertaining? The article says that it leans toward the latter: "Gacha is a powerful game design technique that allows developers to successfully monetize on F2P market. It's worth to remember that gacha may be designed in numerous ways that don't exploit human addictions to gambling but entertain and monetize in a synergy."

Source: Gamasutra

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PAX East 2017: Hands-on with the surprisingly fun Kritika Online

It's pretty much a rule of nature that at least one game is going to be far better and more fun to play than I expected on the PAX East show floor. This has been true every year, and while the past couple of years have involved my spending a bit less time on the show floor overall, I've still walked away with some surprises. This year, it was Kritika Online.

What I expected from Kritika Online was... well, nothing particularly impressive. I didn't expect it to be bad, but that was because I didn't expect much from it at all. It was a game that En Masse was bringing over that sounded, at a glance, like the sort of game which fades from memory shortly after you play it. What I actually got was a game that has a clean purpose and remarkably fun mechanics, like the pure product of an MMO marrying a Dynasty Warriors clone.

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