How hard is EA trying to salvage its rep hit from the Star Wars Battlefront 2 drama? It’s hard to judge right now. This week, the game will patch up with tweaks for economy and progression, complete with improved end-of-round payouts (something players complained about bitterly when EA tooted its horn about reducing the cost of heroes while simultaneously reducing payouts and not mentioning that part because EA is sneaky like that). The patch will also generate for players more daily credits from arcade mode and daily login freebies (still crates, though). New characters, including Finn and Phasma, debut as well.
Some gamers, however, are not appeased. There’s at least one petition floating around right now trying to convince Disney subsidiary Lucasfilm to revoke EA’s license to pump out Star Wars games because EA has “proven to [its] consumers that [it] honestly [doesn’t] care about the gameplay experience or content” and instead would “rather rush out a game that will try [to] milk as much money out of consumers as possible.” It’s not the most convincingly crafted petition in the world, but it nevertheless has 120,000 signers so far.
Even if Gazillion and Disney can’t or won’t do the right thing by their customers following the termination of Marvel Heroes, at least the console companies are picking up the slack.
Similar to how Microsoft was making good on refunds for Xbox One players who dropped money on the MMO this year, Sony is returning cash to PlayStation 4 gamers. There are a few caveats, such as the fact that the refund period only covers from August 17th on, but at least it’s better than nothing!
“Within the next few weeks, you will receive a PSN wallet refund for purchases made between 8/17/17 and 10/17/16,” the company has told former players according to a screenshot on MMO Fallout. “Purchases made after 10/17/17 will be refunded to your original payment source.”
If you happened to catch the Massively OP Podcast this week, you heard my positively livid rant about the whole Marvel Heroes situation. Now, I have been doing this a long time, and I’ve weathered a lot of extremely painful sunsets of beloved games. But I’ve never, ever seen one handled as abysmally as the Marvel Heroes sunset.
Gazillion, Marvel, and Disney completely and utterly dropped the ball on telling players about the stepped-up sunset, to the point that many players had no idea what was going on. Nobody sent so much as an email or tweet or forum post to the players. The only company granting refunds? Microsoft, eating costs it shouldn’t have to eat. The only ones who did anything were laid-off rank-and-file devs who felt a duty to warn the public.
In fact, the only thing that comes close is Firefall, and that sunset came after a year of that weird thing with the Chinese cashmere company. It was bad, but it was understandable because it was basically a clownshow from the day Red 5 got bought out. This? There’s no excuse for a company as huge and wealthy as Disney/Marvel to screw over players in this way when either could have easily floated Gazillion and the game to the end of the year as promised. Or at least sent them a damn email of apology, knowing the banks were yoinking the servers on Monday. Nothing. We got nothing.
One thing you can say for the MMO industry: It never ceases to surprise all of us. No matter what predictions we may make at the beginning of a year, by December we will all be proven fools who lack vision and foresight.
Although 2017 isn’t quite over yet, we here at Massively Overpowered wanted to count down the biggest news stories that crossed over into our neck of the woods so far this year. We witnessed controversies and delights, shockers and sadness. We saw launches and shutdowns, expansions and bugs.
So before we move into 2018, let’s take a look at the year that was and remember the biggest stories that dominated headlines.
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree pat their turkey-filled tummies and pontificate on the nebulous fate of Marvel Heroes, look ahead to Lord of the Rings Online’s future, and chide World of Warcraft for taking away fun toys.
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:
Still reeling from the abrupt early sunset of Marvel Heroes yesterday? Same here. If you want a little closure, maybe check out Kinda Funny Games, which yesterday posted an interview with former Gazillion Systems Designer Anthony Gallegos, who discusses the collapse of the studio.
Gallegos suggests that Gazillion is going through “some kind of bankruptcy” and notes actually furloughed employees a week and a half before the layoffs – and indeed, lost a quarter of its staff from layoffs earlier this year. He also confirms that the license (he says “contract”) for Marvel Heroes was lost in October and negotiations with Disney/Marvel began anew.
This was a time when Gazillion reps were telling the press and the playerbase that “the company [was] functioning normally.” It clearly was not.
Over the last couple of weeks as players fought EA and Disney turned on its own in the Star Wars Battlefront II mess, I’ve seen many gamers (and even a few relieved developers) suggest that EA has unwittingly done us all a solid. Not only has the most-hated video game company in the west rocketed the lockbox gambling debate into the mainstream and into the political spotlight, but it’s made it that much harder for other studios to get away with similar monetization antics. Scrutiny is high right now, and we’ve actually seen several online gaming studios large and small denounce the mechanics that got EA in trouble. And all because EA delved too greedily and too deep: If it hadn’t pushed so hard, the whole industry might have skirted by for years more with MMO players’ complaints subsumed beneath the thrum of business as usual.
Did EA do gamers a big favor with its monetization overreach? Or do you really believe that scrutiny and oversight will somehow end worse for gamers than it is right now?
It’s gone, gang, and I’m so sorry.
Following the disastrous silences and accusations that unfolded over October and November, Marvel announced that it had terminated its relationship with gaming studio Gazillion and canceled MMOARPG Marvel Heroes, which was then scheduled to sunset at the end of the year.
However, on Wednesday, Gazillion employees began reporting that they’d been sent a letter by company CEO Dave Dohrmann announcing the end of Gazillion, the loss of their jobs (and some of their benefits), and a rushed end to Marvel Heroes as the bank called in its debts. The letter said the game would be shut down on Friday following an announcement, causing panic among MMO players who thought they had a bit more time. But no announcement came, and the game stayed up through the weekend.
Now, players on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 report that the game has indeed gone fully offline as of this afternoon.
Massively OP has received a credible tip from a former Gazillion employee who told us under condition of anonymity that Marvel Heroes will be over significantly sooner than Disney and Marvel previously declared.
The ex-employee says he was terminated as of today, that Gazillion is being shut down entirely, and that Marvel Heroes will sunset this coming Friday, not at the end of the year as originally announced.
The termination letter written by CEO Dave Dohrmann was shared with Massively OP and claims that banking creditors have effectively pulled the plug on the company, leading to the termination of almost every employee at the studio and the apparent renege of benefits including accrued PTO.
Late yesterday I read these words Google-translated from Belgian news site VTM
: “The Minister of Justice wants to prohibit purchases in video games if you don’t know exactly what you’re purchasing.” Yes, he means lootboxes, or what MMO players usually call lockboxes. These words stem from the growing controversy of lockboxes in video games. Gamers might argue that pay-to-win boxes are the real problem, but to an outsider, there really isn’t a way to distinguish pay-to-win from other lootboxes, and so here we are.
Because Star Wars: Battlefront II was the target of the latest lockbox controversy, I wondered what it would mean for EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has long been criticized for it’s handling of lockboxes and cash shop. The simple answer is that it probably will not affect the game much at all because as I understand it, SWTOR follows most of the existing gambling regulations for Belgium. BioWare or Electronic Arts would just have to file for an online gambling license.
Is this just the beginning, though? What if other European countries follow suit and started calling lockboxes and lootboxes gambling?
As CMs lock down any speculation about Marvel Heroes’ demise on the forums and players do their best to secure refunds before the title goes away completely, the question looms of what game would be an acceptable substitute to fill the upcoming void. Here is one possibility: Marvel Strike Force.
Created by FoxNext Games and Disney’s Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Strike Force is an upcoming mobile RPG with tactical elements. The game is slated to come out in 2018 and will feature both a single-player campaign and PvP battles.
“We wanted to capture the core mobile fantasy of who wins in a fight. Hydra or Shield?” said FoxNext President Aaron Loeb said. “Earlier, we had the question of who wins in a fight. Hulk or Hulk Buster? Now we ask who wins between the Avengers or the Defenders? You’re trying to solve the puzzle of how to beat the other team.”
KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren, who surely makes more money than you do, wants you to know that he’s a gamer too! And he assures you that you’re paying too little for games! In fact, KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren says the real problem with the whole Star Wars Battlefront 2 monetization fiasco – the one that apparently worried Disney enough into making EA turn off microtransactions – is actually the big scary powerful gaming press, some dudes on Reddit, and their “popular press narrative.”
“This saga has been a perfect storm for overreaction as it involves EA, Star Wars, Reddit, and certain purist gaming journalists/outlets who dislike microtransactions,” KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren insists. “Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.” Indeed, KeyBanc Capital Markets financial analyst Evan Wingren estimates that you’re paying only 40 cents an hour for the average video game, compared to 60 cents for TV and 80 cents for a movie rental! Shit, guys, I’m going to go write EA a check right now.
To put it simply, it has not been the best of weeks for Electronic Arts, DICE, or Star Wars Battlefront II.
The publisher’s decision to push exploitative and pay-to-win lockboxes as part of the multiplayer shooter’s business model sparked a mainstream headlines-grabbing backlash from the community. After several PR stumbles, EA finally made the decision to reduce the cost of the lockboxes and pull microtransactions from the game (for now) prior to Battlefront II’s launch.
But the real decision for this move probably came from even higher up. The Wall Street Journal backs up last week’s rumors that “alarmed” Disney execs, in particular Disney Head of Consumer Products and Interactive Media Jimmy Pitaro, put direct pressure on EA to improve the situation. Considering that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is coming out in theaters next month, we suspect it definitely doesn’t help the franchise to have a high-profile video game racking up massive amounts of bad publicity.