This comes on top of another promotion in which Hearthstone is doling out three Journey to Un’Goro packs to anyone who logs in this month. Even if you don’t currently play Hearthstone, it might be worth the five minutes to load up the game and grab these freebies for future play.
Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
Launch Date: March 11, 2014
Business Model: F2P (Cash Shop)
Platform: PC, Mac, Mobile
Overwatch is turning one year this month, so bust out your hipster camera and baby confections for a cake smash! Just kidding. Actually Blizzard is kicking off a huge promotion next week starting with a free play period over Memorial Day weekend and ending with the conclusion of season 4:
“In addition to Overwatch Anniversary, we will be holding another free-weekend from May 26th-29th. For this free weekend, we’re making Overwatch’s full roster of heroes and maps available for play in a variety of modes, including Quick Play, Custom Games, and the latest Weekly Brawl. Players will also have the ability to level up, earn Loot Boxes, and unlock a variety of different customization options. If players decide to purchase a copy of Overwatch after the free-weekend they will get to keep any progress made during the weekend.”
Wanna buy it after that? Maybe hold out for the GOTY edition, which launches the same day as the promo event for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. In it, you’ll find 10 loot boxes, plus Overwatch skins, Tracer in Heroes of the Storm, Baby Winston in World of Warcraft, Mercy’s Wings in Diablo III, new portraits in StarCraft II, and a special card in Hearthstone. ALL the cross-promotions. The new anniversary trailer’s down below.
Chinese operator, developer, and publisher NetEase posted its Q1 2017 financial report this week, and the news is quite good for the company. NetEase made $2 billion in revenue during the quarter, out of which $1.6 billion can be attributed to game sales. This marks an astonishing 78% increase from Q1 2016 and sent U.S. stocks of the company up 3.6% this past Wednesday.
The end result? NetEase is enjoying nearly $570 million in profit thanks to its performance.
NetEase operates many of Blizzard’s games in China and has its own line of mobile and PC games. It attributed its Q1 success to the launch and huge popularity of Onmyoji in Japan, the release of several new mobile titles, and the juggernaut that is Hearthstone. The report singled out the latter for praise: “Achieved record number of quarterly active users for Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone.”
Activision-Blizzard can’t claim “biggest quarter ever” for the quarter ending March 2017, but it continues to rake in huge sums of money, enough to at least claim “biggest first quarter ever” on multiple counts with the $1.73 billion it made during the period. But you’re here for the MMOs, which is good, because it’s Blizzard’s titles making all the bank.
“Activision Blizzard had 431 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs)A in the quarter. Blizzard had the biggest Q1 online player community in its history with MAUsA of 41 million, up 58% year-over-year. Overwatch continues to be Blizzard’s fastest growing new franchise, reaching over 30 million players globally less than a year after launch. Overwatch is now the 8th billion-dollar franchise in Activision Blizzard’s portfolio. Hearthstone® MAUsA grew year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter, despite no content releases in the first quarter, and recently surpassed the 70 million registered player milestone life-to-date.”
World of Warcraft managed this bit: “With a regular content and feature update cadence, World of Warcraft® time spent grew year-over-year in the first quarter.” Rah-rah.
Notably, 80% of the revenue comes from digital sales — including subs, online and lootboxes, as Gamasutra has rightly pointed out.
“It’s a good thing that there’s always room for one more, because the tavern has now welcomed over 70 million players!” Blizzard said. “On top of that, with Journey to Un’Goro, Hearthstone had more players playing together on the same day—around the whole world—than at any point in its history!”
To give you some idea of the growth of Hearthstone, the digital card game was at 30 million players in May 2015 and 50 million players by April 2016. So 20 million a year? That’s not a bad trajectory at all.
Looking back at March’s digital sales, the industry was up 15% year-over-year from 2016, Superdata Research reports. Mobile was the largest area of growth, while PC revenues remained “relatively flat.”
The report noted that Blizzard is having a mixed spring. Overwatch was overtaken (see what we did there?) by Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for the first time since its launch, while HearthStone rebounded from February by doubling its sales.
As to MMOs specifically, World of Warcraft, Dungeon Fighter Online, and Lineage I were joined by Chinese title New Westward Journey Online II in the top 10 of PC sales. Destiny continues to hang out on the console top 10, while Lineage 2 Revolution joined the rankings in the mobile category.
Is there a Blizzard franchise you want to carry around in your pocket? Obviously, you can already play Hearthstone on your phone, but perhaps you’d like to play a version of Overwatch where you’re tracking down and shooting Omnics in the real world, or perhaps a version of Diablo allowing cross-client progression. Whatever the case may be, we don’t know that another mobile title is on the way, but considering the company is hiring for a new mobile software engineer, it seems likely.
While it’s unlikely to be a completely new title, there have been rumblings for a while that either Overwatch or StarCraft would lend themselves to mobile offerings. That could mean it’s one of those two, or it could be another crossover property like Heroes of the Storm. Or even a mobile port of the original StarCraft (stranger things have happened). It’s all speculative at the moment, but if you enjoy playing on your phone, it’s all positive speculation.
The patch wasn’t just about Un’Goro, however. It also made preparations for the Year of Mammoth (which will shift sets to different formats), added the Rogue hero Maiev Shadowsong, and laid the ground work for a Fireside Gatherings Tavern beta test.
You shouldn’t have long to wait now, but in the meanwhile, check out the latest episode of Hearthstone’s web series, Wonders of Un’Goro.
German bot company Bossland has lost another battle in its war with Blizzard, though that’s to be expected since it didn’t even show up for the fight.
Bossland creates, distributes, and sells bots for World of Warcraft, Overwatch, HearthStone, Heroes of the Storm, and Diablo III, which Blizz argues violates its copyrights and costs it exorbitant amounts of money to fight in-game and out. In May of 2015, Bossland convinced a German court to deny Blizzard’s request for an injunction against it, which prompted Blizzard to sue Bossland’s American contractor in a California federal court. That led Bossland to absurdly accuse Blizzard of copyright infringement for its acquisition of the Heroes of the Storm bot’s source code. Last year, Blizzard sued Bossland again in a California court over its many hacks, as of March seeking the minimum $8.5M in damages, and this past January, Blizzard scored a win against the botmakers in a German Supreme Court ruling, which overturned lower court rulings to determine that Bossland’s HonorBuddy bot program for World of Warcraft is in fact in violation of anti-competition laws.
That’s indeed exactly what the company has built in Taiwan. The so-called Blizzard eStadium (seriously, I thought this was an April Fools’ Day joke at first, but no) apparently seats 250 fans and is stuffed with swag and snacks.
This weekend, Blizzard will use the new venue to kick off the Overwatch Pacific Championship, the regional sub-tourney that ultimately leads to the Overwatch World Cup at BlizzCon this fall.
“The venue will expand to host matches from other games in Blizzard’s competitive retinue, like HearthStone and StarCraft 2,” reports Engadget via its Chinese branch.
Gambling in video games has been a huge topic for devoted MMORPG players over the last year or so, as core MMOs like Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Elder Scrolls Online have added or tweaked lockboxes, Path of Exile has raised the bar on lockbox transparency, Valve has been hassled by regulatory bodies for enabling underage gambling, and countries have considered classifying certain MMO practices as gambling for the purposes of regulation.
But it’s probably worth remembering that there is a very real and legitimized online gambling gaming industry out there competing for your dollars (in fact, some of them occasionally pop up in our remnant ads, depending on where you live, and we have to get out the mallet).
It’s all explained in a new report the analysts at SuperData prepared for the Dutch government as an overview of gambling practices in digital games, from the “social casinos” of Zynga and trading card games to e-sports bets and in-game item wagering.
I’ve been a bit frustrated with Niantic lately. I love some of its ideas, but I watched someone else play Ingress prior to Pokemon GO’s release, and I noticed very similar problems between the two games after release — problems that the company should have noticed and corrected in its followup.
Recently I decided to try out the former. Both are totally unintuitive. You have to search the UI for the tutorials, though Ingress’ can be accessed only near objectives. You’re asked to join a faction sooner there than in PoGO and with no context beyond 2-3 sentences. The game throws jargon with little to no context at you throughout the tutorial, making it difficult to follow. I walked around, clicking things and used items that I don’t fully understand, not because I’m too lazy to read but because I wanted to understand a game without consulting google. I saw portals get taken without anyone around me as I stood by an objective near a government-restricted area where standing still longer than it takes to read “No Trespassing” could trigger security. I couldn’t get into it, not just because it was simple but because it was poorly designed.
Happy SuperData day! That’s the monthly holiday when we pore over the market analysis report, freak out over something doing well, freak over something doing poorly, and then fight over definitions, the evils of trusting paywalled science, and why more MMOs aren’t on the current list. This round, there’s lots to bicker over — but also some bits to celebrate in the February 2017 charts of top-grossing game titles.
On PC, while League of Legends, Crossfire, and Dungeon Fighter Online continue their top-three dominance, the rest of the roster has seen a bit of a shake-up, as Overwatch has fallen from #4 to #6 and World of Tanks has pushed past it as well as World of Warcraft. WoW’s status is a tad confusing; last month, SuperData began reporting Western and Eastern WoW separately, even though it does not appear to be doing that for any other game. This month, it’s omitted the West/East tags but still has two entries for WoW, so we’re left to assume to top one is still West as it was last month.
On console, ARK: Survival Evolved has fallen from its #4 spot to #6. As always, we point out that ARK: Survival Evolved has yet to formally launch, and it’s absurd that it’s on this list at all, but fools and their money and all that.