Thirdly, players will no longer get more copies of a card in a given pack than can be used in a single deck, so you won’t find yourself flooded with copies of cards you do not and will not ever need. There’s also a limited-time promotion on card packs, offering more packs for the same price, which seems like a perfect motivator if you’re still trying to get one or two elusive options.
Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
Launch Date: March 11, 2014
Business Model: F2P (Cash Shop)
Platform: PC, Mac, Mobile
Phoenix Labs’ not-Monster Hunter monster-hunting game Dauntless is obviously standing in a big shadow after E3 2017. I wasn’t yet fully aware of what Monster Hunter World was doing, but I’ve seen solid games lose to their larger rivals who are slower to innovate in the past. Capcom, while constantly disappointing Mega Man fans, is generally quite good with its co-op hunting series. RaiderZ, a Perfect World published not-MH game that also tackled the monster hunter genre, made minor changes to the formula and came as an actual MMO but still shut down. Though the Phoenix Labs guys weren’t aware of RaiderZ‘s failure, they seemed barely fazed by Capcom’s announcement, and maybe they’re right. Surprisingly, they’ve innovated a few things Capcom itself is doing while also adding a few things Capcom isn’t.
Two of gaming’s forces are partnering up, at least for the next year or so, and players might come out on top of the whole deal. Twitch announced that it has signed a deal to be “the exclusive third-party streaming platform for more than 20 Blizzard tournaments.” In return, Blizzard is going to be giving out some goodies through the platform and probably using the word “Twitch” in every fifth sentence of press releases.
To start things off on a good foot, Overwatch players who have access to Twitch Prime can enjoy a free golden loot box that contains a guaranteed legendary item. You do have to own Overwatch to redeem this loot box (which should be obvious, but hey, there’s always that one guy who doesn’t get it).
Twitch said that this is just the beginning of the Blizzard parade: “Over the coming months, Twitch Prime members will receive 10 more loot boxes containing more in-game content. Similar promotions for Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone players are coming later this year.”
The patch also adds in a new card back for placing at rank 20 or higher during June’s ranked play, and it adds a variety of quality-of-life features like gold cards stacking with normal cards and gold hero borders for alternate heroes. It might not be a new batch of cards, but it’s a patch to make it that much easier to sling virtual cards with friends and others, which is a good thing in the long run.
There seems to be a very rabid, very enthusiastic community that’s developed around CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher (particularly its third installment), to the point where it might be making BioWare a little nervous. And if you have a hit IP franchise with its own TV series on the way, why not make a few extra bucks by developing a spin-off? Perhaps a digital card game, hm?
Possibly taking a cue from how Hearthstone drew off of World of Warcraft, Gwent is a card game set in the world of The Witcher. The card game just went into public beta on PC and console earlier this week, offering players a chance to see what makes this game different from its competition.
One interesting upcoming feature is that Gwent will feature a rich story mode: “Brought to you by the creators of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the single player campaign of Gwent thrusts players into an event-rich world they can roam freely. To be released in episodes, the story unfolding in the campaign will feature the choice and consequence mechanic the Witcher games are known for.”
Ready to play some Warcraft on your mobile device? What are we saying, of course you are. Other than the various companion apps to World of Warcraft, and of course, Hearthstone, Blizzard hasn’t spent a lot of time bringing its franchises to the mobile space. This might be changing, however.
Conversation is swirling around a job listing on Blizzard’s site for an FX artist to work on an “unnannounced” mobile game. In addition to the posting mentioning that the artist must be able to work with Unity and a small team, the studio says that it is looking for people who have a “passion for creating imagery synonymous with the Warcraft IP.”
We first got wind of this mobile project back in April, although no particular franchise was tied to the game.
SuperData’s April worldwide digital video games market summary has arrived, and with it we get a glimpse into the top gaming studios. And only the tippy top.
Irritatingly, World of Warcraft has once again been split into east and west, contrary to every other game on the chart. SuperData had split the game for its January report, botched the entries in February and hastily repaired its graphic to rejoin the two, and for March, the WoWs were one from the get-go. Now they’re two again.
The upside for WoW is that its western branch pulled out ahead of World of Tanks in terms of revenue (Tanks was beating a combined WoW last month). Dungeon Fighter Online and New Westward Journey Online II have swapped positions, while the addition of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (and separated WoWs) has pushed Lineage I and Wildlands out of the top 10 entirely. Wildlands dropped down the console list as well; ARK Survival Evolved and Mass Effect Andromeda have dropped from the console chart altogether.
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.
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.