game industry

Trace the history of the battle royale genre from inception to now

It all started with a new mode for DayZ. No, it all started with Minecraft. Wait, maybe it started with deathmatch games. There’s a lot of things you can trace as the origin point for the current battle royale trend in games, but a new video from Gamespot attempts to cut past speculation and hazy half-memories to provide a history of the genre in gaming from its first origin points to the modern war over players. And if you thought this was a video that would omit mentioning the obvious pop culture inspirations like the eponymous novel and movie Battle Royale… well, prepare to be disappointed.

The video traces the line through Minecraft game modes through DayZ, the initial launch of H1Z1, and through the various mods and alterations that brought us to games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Check out the full video below if you’re interested at a relatively brief overview of the genre’s history, although be aware that this is “brief” in the sense that it’s only 20 minutes long. There’s a lot of history to cover.

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Wargaming Seattle shuts down while Digital Extremes gets an American sister studio

Corporate shuffling is rarely great news, but for the employees at Wargaming Seattle, it looks like it’s worse news than normal. The American wing of Wargaming.net, best known for World of Tanks, appears to have been shut down and put over 100 staff members out of work. No reason has yet been given for the closure and no statement has been issued regarding the studio’s fate.

Meanwhile, the owners of Digital Extremes (best known for Warframe) are busy getting more invested into gaming with the opening of a new studio in Burbank, CA. Athlon Games is a US publishing arm of Leyou Technologies Holding Limited, which might seem odd for a company that supposedly deals in chicken products. The publishing arm apparently will be specializing in free-to-play titles, so it remains to be seen exactly what it will be bringing out… just that it’ll be expanding the company’s existing assets.

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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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Dutch Gaming Authority calls out four games as violating its lootbox policies

If you had expected the Netherlands to be leading the fight against lootboxes, you may be more clairvoyant than the rest of the population. After investigating 10 games, the Dutch Gaming Authority has found that four of the games tested feature lootboxes that violate the Better Gaming Act. That may not sound too serious until you consider that the offending games have eight weeks to make changes to the lootboxes to comply with the law.

Failure to do so can result in fines or just straight-up forbidding the games from being sold in the Netherlands. That’s a pretty big deal.

While the DGA did not specifically name games, the Dutch paper reporting on the situation cites FIFA ’18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League as the offending titles. The remaining six titles are not in violation of the law but were still sharply criticized for the lootbox implementation, which is said to target younger players and encourage gambling. It’s also worth noting that each of these violations specifically pertains to tradeable items for real money, which just squeaks in as a gambling option.

Source: NOS, VG24/7

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MOBAs provide a template for the future of the battle royale genre

So where will battle royale games be in another five years? We don’t know just yet, but from a purely business standpoint we can extrapolate some ideas. GamesIndustry.biz has an analysis up suggesting that we can look to the last overnight genre explosion in the form of MOBAs as a good indicator of what will happen with future battle royale entries, scrambling to pick up the scraps not already picked up by Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Why? Well, the entrenched playerbase has already been established in those games, which means that slight tweaks to the formulas are unlikely to cause player shifts, and by the time these competitors are released most players will already be committed. In short, it’s many of the points we raised in a piece about trend-chasing on Wednesday, just applied more specifically to this genre. So if you’re hoping that the next battle royale game will be the one to dethrone the ruling powers, you might not want to bet too heavily on that.

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Hate groups are getting deleted from Steam… if they’re overt enough

It’s fair to say at this point that Steam is an enormous part of the PC gaming market. It’s also fair to say that Valve has demonstrated very little interest in moderating the platform in any way, preferring algorithms to actually walking in and stopping review-bombing efforts (among other abuses). There’s no real way to program in algorithms to prevent hate groups forming, but it does appear that Valve has gone through the Steam Groups and done one of its most aggressive banning passes to shut down hate groups.

Successful? Well, you won’t find a bunch of hate groups by searching for “school shooter.” You can, however, still find them; you just have to work a little bit harder at it. At this point, it seems that the only way these groups are really going to be removed from the platform altogether is if Valve really makes an aggressive project of moderating the platform, and that seems unlikely. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Source: Kotaku

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Steam terminates its relationship with MMO company Insel Games over alleged review manipulation

It’s really unusual to see publishers outright booted off of Steam, but Valve has done exactly that to Insel Games following reports of review manipulation. It started with a Reddit post yesterday posting an alleged email from the company’s CEO lamenting the lack of a proper review score for Wild Buster and asking all employees to purchase a copy of the game along with leaving a positive review on the game page. Apparently whatever Valve found behind the scenes was enough to convince the company that the accusations were legitimate and terminate the relationship.

Players who already own copies of Wild Buster, Guardians of Ember, or any other Insel Games titles will still be able to play the games, and they can still be purchased through other sources, but new copies cannot be obtained through Steam. We’ve reached out to Insel Games for comment on the matter and will update this post with any response we receive. [Update: We’ve included the statement made to MOP via email below.]

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The Daily Grind: Has the MOBA bubble burst?

The past few weeks have not been kind for fans of MOBAs. In a short span of time we’ve lost Paragon, Master x Master, and Gigantic; it wasn’t so long ago that the not-quite-a-MOBA-but-close-to-it Breakaway got put on indefinite hiatus by Amazon. Off the top of my head I can think of a lot of other MOBAs that arrived, failed to make any significant impact, and then shut their doors without a whole lot of fanfare.

Of course, this also prompts a question of whether or not the bubble has burst or if there was ever a bubble in the first place. I’ve always found it kind of odd that the genre exploded as it did in the first place, because it’s already fundamentally a genre based on a mod for one very specific game. There are only four titles that have really taken off in a significant fashion, and two of those are somewhat debatable depending on who you ask.

So what do you think, readers? Has the MOBA bubble burst? Was there never really a bubble in the first place, just a bunch of games rushed out with no real sustainable market? And how does it make you personally feel either way?

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Amazon’s New World page is back again [Updated]

On Monday of last week, we reported that a video of the anticipated and rather mysterious New World from Amazon had been leaked… and the game’s Amazon landing page vanished at the same time, sending out missives to everyone who’d registered to follow it. In what is probably good news, it turns out the page is back again and none the worse for wear. So now you get to pick your own explanation for what happened to it.

  • It was never supposed to go down at all and was entirely an accident, and the timing of that and the video is pure coincidence.
  • The removal and replacement represents a big shift of some sort behind the scenes and the leaked video was before the change, thus meaning that the leak may not bear much resemblance to the final product.
  • It was already cancelled but somehow the page got turned back on by mistake.
  • Someone thought it was Breakaway.

Which one is correct? We don’t know yet! Perhaps keeping our eyes on the page will produce some answers.

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Why developers believe abusive vitriol is the cost of doing business with games

When is it appropriate to send verbal abuse to someone you don’t know personally? When is it appropriate to tell someone that you hope they lose their job or suffer significant personal injury? The obvious answer to these questions should all be “never,” and yet a new article by small indie developer Morgan Jaffit points out that in the game industry, dealing with vicious targeted abuse is part of the cost of doing business. Development across the board is dealing with people who feel that there is a point when all of this is appropriate, even if they differ on the circumstances when it’s appropriate.

Needless to say, this has a pretty huge impact on development, and it spills over to related fields. (Is it appropriate to say awful things to a community manager over a feature you don’t like when the community manager is not a developer and had nothing to do with it?) The article cites the omnipresence of social media and the popularity of personalities who “tell it like it is” (read: spew invective and curses at top volume), and it’s the sort of thing that everyone who cares about the future of games should read and consider.

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EA filed an ‘Engagement Optimized Matchmaking’ patent in 2016

Remember Activision’s rather skeezy matchmaking patent from last year? That one was pretty straightforward in how it worked, if unpleasant: You buy something from the cash shop, and the game then makes an effort to match you up in a place where that cash shop purchase was a super great idea. Turns out that Electronic Arts has a similar but distinct patent filed from 2016, and it should get your hackles up just as much as its predecessor.

This one, at least, is not going to validate your every cash shop purchase directly; instead, it’s a matchmaking system dubbed Engagement Optimized Matchmaking that links you up based on play style, sportsmanship, skill, and willingness to spend money. The bright side you could point to is that it’s less explicitly about reinforcing cash shop purchases; the down side is that it’s still a matching system based on keeping you playing rather than providing a fair match, and at this point EA does not exactly have the goodwill of players. You can watch a whole video breaking it down piece by piece below.

Also worth noting is that the patent was filed in 2016, but it has not yet been approved. So it doesn’t appear to be live in the wild yet, but it’s on track to be.

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LawBreakers is the weak link in Nexon’s Q3 2017 financial results

Here’s the good news for Nexon’s Q3 2017 investor call: The company had a good set of third-quarter results overall, and it has a strong lineup of titles in the pipeline, including the long-awaited and largely unrevealed Final Fantasy XI mobile incarnation. Here’s the bad news: LawBreakers was the weak link in its lineup. Not only was it responsible for the majority of the company’s losses during the quarter, but company CTO Shiro Uemura stated that the game would acquire no further losses, meaning that it had functionally been written off altogether.

What does that mean for the future of the game? Nothing positive; companies don’t tend to write off games they plan to continue supporting. Your speculation is welcome, but it should run toward darker possibilities. On the bright side, it looks like the future is bright for Nexon as a whole, so based on player numbers the fate of LawBreakers is not so much cloudy as it is unpleasant.

Also worth noting is that Nexon has merged its Nexon RED and NDOORs subsidiaries, both with a roster of successful games under their belts. The merge is aimed at providing more consolidated and skilled mobile game development.

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Rumor: Blizzard’s next title involves vehicles and may be an Overwatch spinoff

There’s a title under development at Blizzard that’s been hiring for a while now, but no one actually knows what it is. So when a new job opening goes up looking for people familiar in working with vehicles, the assumption that the title has vehicles in it seems… well, rather natural. Another job listing is just looking for a software engineer, which doesn’t suggest much about the content of the game.

The current speculation is that the title is some sort of Overwatch spinoff, although nothing has been confirmed or stated about that; it just matches the first-person design requirements, some job listings have mentioned familiarity with character sheets in existing Blizzard properties, and there’s more than enough material to mine out for more games. But what does it actually entail? We won’t know until these positions are filled and something is actually announced, sadly.

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