Last week, we covered an ESPN piece in which the author called out Blizzard for sitting on its hands after an Overwatch League player signed to the Dallas Fuel, Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, was caught openly using homophobic, racist, and ageist language toward other players, not the first time for the Fuel. It was just one more piece in a long series of incidents in Overwatch toxicity that’s now spilled over into the e-sports league itself.
Or is it? After initially reportedly dismissing the complaint back in January, Blizzard announced this weekend that it was fining Taimou $1000 for the slurs. It also fined an LA Valiant player $1000 for account sharing, issued a “formal warning” against a Houston Outlaws player who posted an offensive meme, and fined a fourth player, Félix “xQc” Lengyel from the Dallas Fuel, $4000 for having “repeatedly used an emote in a racially disparaging manner on the league’s stream and on social media, and used disparaging language against Overwatch League casters and fellow players on social media and on his personal stream.” In fact, we’ve covered Lengyel before when he was fined, suspended, and benched back in January for homophobic remarks to an openly gay fellow player.
The name that put Battle Royale on the map is going to fight hard to keep that throne. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds released its 2018 roadmap this week with a promise that major releases would be rolled out every two months from here on out.
This year, PUBG players will see an experimental test server, a new 4x4km island map, the emote system, new game modes, new vehicles, an achievement system, an in-game friends list, squad voice chat, improved animation, a parachute overhaul, more client stability, better sound design, a custom game system, developer API, and limb and bullet penetration.
The team said that it is working hard to establish PUBG’s e-sports scene: “Seriously, we are not there yet, but we will be. Thanks to the amazing feedback coming from the player community and professional scene we believe we’re moving in the right direction. We truly want to build a great foundation for Battle Royale e-sports, and while we have seen some great events already using our game, we have much work to do, especially with the observing side of things.”
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.
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.”
Welcome back to another edition of our informal business roundup, where we wedge all the fun MMO industry tidbits that pile up in our newsroom.
Remember EA Spouse, the EA developer’s wife whose initially anonymous article busted open the doors on EA’s culture of abusive crunch back in 2004? Rolling Stone’s Glixel blog (via Gamasutra) has a 14-year retrospective and a sum-up of the state of “crunch culture” since then. Intriguingly, EA Spouse herself – Erin Hoffman-John – declined to comment much on how she got the ball rolling, but other developers gave Glixel conflicting accounts. Some believe that EA has made an attempt to change and is no “worse than anyone else,” while one producer scoffed at the pushback against crunch, calling it a “disruption.” According to him, hustle is just the patch to greatness.
This week’s Massively Overthinking topic comes to us from Steve, and it’s a frustration for our team as well, I promise.
“If the following statistics industry execs and analysts put out are true – that online multiplayer games are most profitable, that the average age of gamers is 35, that over 40% of gamers are female, and that ‘women’ and ‘over 35’ are two of the fastest growing demographic segments – why are virtually all major online multiplayer games designed primarily (in fact, almost exclusively) for males aged 15 to 35? I can’t speak for women, because as a straight, white male, I am aware 97% of the world exists to obey my whims and desires. However, as someone in my 40s, I notice that video games increasingly tend to be the exception, and it’s pissing me off more daily. So I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for women (40% of gamers, but just one Overwatch pro, for example, has to be infuriating). For an industry that wants every cent it can get its hands on, ignoring these groups (particularly the affluent 35+ age group) seems like a massive oversight.”
Yep! Let’s dig in.
Superheroes and streaming make for interesting bedfellows, but for fans who are used to watching a ton of Overwatch on Twitch, it’s perhaps not that surprising. The two entities are teaming up for a series of promotions designed to push viewership of the fledgling Overwatch League.
Viewers can actually earn special Overwatch character skins and Twitch emotes by cheering on their favorite teams and showering them with Twitch Bits. Players can also link their Blizzard accounts to Twitch and earn one league token per live match finish.
“And some lucky viewers will get 100 tokens for every final map they watch per match — enough to get your favorite Overwatch League team skin in the game,” Twitch said.
And “coming soon” will be a purchasable VIP ticket to the Overwatch League. This will give access to behind-the-scenes info, more in-game items, and other unnamed perks.
World of Warcraft and e-sports go together like coffee and donuts! Macaroni and cheese! Bubblegum and walking! Yeah maybe more like that last one. And Blizzard is not giving up making the two work. In a new stream and dev blog out today, the company discusses just how season of the Mythic Dungeon Invitational is going to work.
Like last season’s showdown, this season’s will begin with two weeks of proving grounds beginning February 27th and March 6th. “During the two-week Proving Grounds period, you’ll form a group of five friends and tackle the highest difficulty Mythic Keystone dungeons you can handle,” Blizzard explains. “Your goal is to complete a total of five level 23 Mythic Keystone dungeons over those two weeks.” Duplicate runs don’t count, you can’t swap out characters, and you’ve got to beat the timer. Then you’ll register your team and await your invitation for stage 2. It’s an invitational, after all.
If you didn’t get in on the ground floor of the Overwatch League with a professional team of your own, just know that it’s going to cost you greatly to join up in the future.
This is because the popularity and success of the e-sports league is driving up the price of a team buy-in. Initially, the cost was $20 million for each of the 12 teams, but this looks to be on the rise for future franchise owners.
ESPN is estimating that, depending how the first season of OWL pans out, the second season could wield a buy-in price of $35M to $60M. “In the past three months, though, the Overwatch League has exceeded its revenue expectations, and several league sources said that the league is at almost four times its original projection. The league got a reported $90 million, two-year Twitch deal, and its two-year deals with HP Omen and Intel are worth $17 million and $10 million, respectively,” the news agency reported.
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from Vendetta Online, Worlds Adrift, Monster Hunter World, Hellion, Rust, Skyforge, Blade and Soul, Portal Knights, Final Fantasy XI, Dreadnought, PUBG, Hyper Universe, Crossout, Black Desert, Dark and Light, H1Z1, Dauntless, Robocraft, Fortnite, War of Rights, Cosmos Invictus, Ultima Online, and Vendetta Online, all waiting for you after the break!
When the toxicity topics just keep piling up in the news room and nobody wants to cover them, you get the Toxicity Roundup, your weekly report on who’s being a jerk in gaming this week! (We’re kidding. This is not really a thing. We don’t really want this to be a thing. Please don’t make this a thing.)
Let’s start with Overwatch. Kotaku has a report out on a stream sniper who was hassling popular streamer TimTheTatMan. The troll would show up in the streamer’s matches, refuse to play anything but Symmetra, and proceed to suck – meaning the team always lost. Apparently, TimTheTatMan wasn’t the only person this jerk had griefed. “To be clear this player is being banned, not for their hero choice, but rather for systematically ruining Overwatch games for thousands of players,” Blizzard wrote on Reddit. “We recognize that not finding this player faster is an unfortunate failure of our ever-developing reporting system and we’ve already taken steps to quickly eliminate outliers like this in the future.” So one down, how many more to go?
What else have we got here…
E-sports blog Dbltap is reporting that Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon told her Twitch following that she has accepted an offer to play on a foreign team – the assumption being that it’s an Overwatch League team as she’s a top Overwatch player in Korea. The best guess on Reddit is that she may be playing for the New York Excelsior (NYXL) as they’ve already got a Korean roster – language barriers and existing rosters seem to point away from other teams – though other people think she’ll be on an academy team.
Geguri became a household name in the e-sports community even in the west back in 2016, when she was harassed by both gamers and professional players who claimed she either wasn’t real or was cheating in her Overwatch play. She wasn’t; she’s just that good on Zarya, as she proved with her video of herself playing. (Apparently, she’s more of a D.Va player now.) That was unfortunately just the beginning of the harassment.
If you want SuperData’s complete 2017 Digital Games & Interactive Media market brief, you’re… not going to have to pay for it. It’s free, or at least the “executive summary” is, assuming you’re willing to put in an address to get it. Here are some of the more interesting highlights from the doc.
- MMORPG players, take note: Guild Wars 2 is included on the top 10 premium PC games by revenue for 2017. It’s at #8 with $87M.
- There are a few MMOs on the top free-to-play games by revenue for 2017 list too, including Blade & Soul, MapleStory, and Roblox. (We’re not quite sure why World of Warcraft isn’t on either list.)
- PUBG owned 2017 with $712M in revenue in less than a year – yes, more than Overwatch, Destiny 2, and Grand Theft Auto combined in 2017.
- A third of the world plays free-to-play games. That’s 89% of the revenue of the mobile and PC markets.
- Mobile isn’t dead; we spent $14 billion more dollars on mobile than PC last year than in 2016. Notably, a huge chunk of that money is funneled to just a handful of games – most of them in the east.
- E-sports is only getting bigger, with $756M in 2017 revenue.
You can take a peek yourself on SuperData’s site.