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Improbable’s plan for rescuing the MMO genre from ‘nuclear winter’ involves a crapton of money

Improbable keeps popping up in news stories relating to MMOs lately — that’s thanks to SpatialOS, what the company is calling a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming.” The platform is now in use on MMOs from Identity and Worlds Adrift to Chronicles of Elyria and Metaworld; its most recent partnership was announced last week with RuneScape studio Jagex, and it’s already working with Google to bring the tech to “hundreds” of developers.

GI.biz has a great interview out with Improbable CEO Herman Narula today that illuminates what the team worth over a billion bucks (an extrapolation based on the fact that Japan’s SoftBank’s half a billion dollar investment bought less than a 50% stake in the company) is focused on. It turns out it’s mostly video games — but it’s also bigger than video games.

“Our long-term objectives, and it is long-term, is to literally create other worlds,” explains Narula. “Not just in the context of gaming, but in the context of being able to solve really important problems. This core problem of massive distributed systems and engaging large-scale virtual worlds, is as important and significant as AI or space travel. It is just as important for the future of what our experience will be like as human beings in the world, and how we are going to solve some of the most pressing problems that we have. […] A lot of people just can’t believe that we think games are important. They are incredibly important and they’re going to be more important. Hypothetically, one day, if 100m, or 1bn, people entered simultaneously into a virtual world, that would cease to be a game, that would be a country.”

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Emil Chronicle Online closes its last server

It’s the end of the line for one long-running Japanese MMORPG.

Emil Chronicle Online, also abbreviated ECO (no relation), is closing down its very last server in August, MMO Culture reports. The anime MMO first launched in Japan back in 2005 and was gradually licensed out to other countries and regions over successive years. However, most of those other versions were subsequently shuttered (such as the English version back in 2010), leaving the Japanese server as the sole survivor.

The game went free-to-play back in 2009 and included some pretty wacky stuff, including the ability to morph into a marionette and the opportunity to roll as a machine race called (we kid you not) Deus Ex Machina. Check out a trailer below for a sample of Emil Chronicle Online’s flavor.

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The Game Archaeologist: When Hellgate London got Flagshipped

It seems that it really wasn’t too long ago that I was filling in the time between night classes by boning up on video game news. I was drinking up all of the hot up-and-comers, such as Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, when I caught word that the maker of Diablo was trying to do the same thing again, only more online, in 3-D, and with a cool modern-day/futuristic/horror vibe.

There’s no better way to put it than to say that from the start, Hellgate: London looked all kinds of cool. Oh sure, you can scoff now with your perfect 20/20 hindsight, but I’m betting that more than a few of you thought the same with me around that time. Diablo but with guns and an online persistence — how could we not be intrigued? One of my most vivid memories was being torn between the idea of buying a lifetime subscription deal for $150 or not (again, this was before the free-to-play era, but also before the era of us spending the same money on alpha access. I’m just saying that you can’t judge me.).

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NetEase has a smashing good first quarter 2017 thanks to mobile sales and Hearthstone

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.”

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Square-Enix financials show steady incoming but slow sales on online gaming

If you’re worried about the overall health of Square-Enix, a glance at the company’s most recent financials should assuage any concerns, since the past financial year was quite good for the company. That’s with an extraordinary loss in the company’s yearly evaluation, even. But if you’re worried about the company’s health when it comes just to online games, that’s… also just fine, according to the same report. It’s not as good as it could be, but it’s fine.

The report states that ongoing revenue from the company’s online titles (Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV, and Dragon Quest X in Japan) was steady and reliable, although actual sales and operating income were lower due to the lack of an expansion disk during the year. Considering that the point of comparison was the previous financial year and the release of Heavensward, this would fall under the “unsurprising” header. With Stormblood on the way later this year, it’s good for fans to see that the company continues to post solid results for its various online offerings.

Source: PR Newswire

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Final Fantasy XI preps a new event for its 15th anniversary

It’s been 15 years now since Final Fantasy XI first launched in Japan, and the game is still receiving updates to this day. (Seriously, we’ve made hundreds of “maintenance mode” jokes by now.) So it’s probably no surprise that a new anniversary event is coming to the game starting on May 16th. We don’t know what it’s going to include just yet, but we know there will be crab shirts and fantastic prizes for players to earn celebrating a game that launched closer to the creation of the world wide web than to the present day.

Of course, if anniversary events aren’t your thing, you could instead fill your time with a bit of good old-fashioned Mog Bonanza antics. Yet another lottery is coming, and plays can start purchasing marbles on May 16th. So you’ll have plenty of chances to celebrate the game, and you’ll have a chance to gamble big and totally lose out on what you wanted. It’s really the full FFXI experience right there.

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Perfect Ten: Exploring MMORPGs from the far corners of the world

Have you ever noticed that while there’s an entire world out there, most all of the MMORPGs we discuss and play tend to either be ones crafted in the USA or imports from China or Korea? We even have a shorthand for this: “western” and “eastern” MMOs. We’re usually not talking about entire hemispheres with these references, but rather about categorizing three countries that are big into the MMORPG business.

But what about the rest of the world? Are all of these other countries so uncaring about this genre that they’ve never tried their hand at making an MMO? Of course not; as I’m about to show you, there are plenty of online RPGs that have been made in countries other than China, the USA, and South Korea. It’s just that for various reasons, those three countries ended up fostering concentrations of video game developers who knew how to create these types of games.

So let’s take a tour around the world and see if we can’t give some credit to other countries for their contributions to the MMORPG genre past, present, and future. Before you click the link, see how many you can name off the top of your head!

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Massively Overthinking: Are MMORPG players a minority in their own genre?

Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.

“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.

“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”

Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

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Enter to win a Neverwinter unicorn mount on Xbox One and PS4 from PWE and MOP

To celebrate last week’s arrival of the Cloaked Ascendancy expansion for Neverwinter on console, PWE has granted Massively OP 50 unicorn mount keys to give away to our readers– 25 apiece for PlayStation 4 (the cerulean unicorn) and Xbox One (the chartreuse unicorn). Quick, to your color wheels!

“These majestic beasts live to protect the forests where they dwell. In honor of these powerful creatures, the forest dwelling fey groom them and adorn them with bright flowers staining their pure white coats with vibrant color. These uncommon mounts grant 50% increased mounted movement speed and two Insignia slots to gain additional powers.”

The codes can be redeemed only once per account and expire at the end of 2017, and the mounts are bind-on-pickup. Critically, these codes are redeemable on console only in the regions as outlined below, so if you’re a PC person, you can skip this one!

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The MOP Up: Overwatch gives smurfing a pass (April 16, 2017)

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!

This week we have stories and videos from Heroes EvolvedDungeon Fighter 2Splatoon 2OverwatchHeroes and GeneralsAionNeverwinterElswordGuild Wars 2CS:GO, and MU Online, all waiting for you after the break!

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Japan and the US led mobile app sales in 2016

We’re number one! No, actually, we’re number two. And it’s in mobile sales. Dammit.

That’s according to AppAnnie, which on Friday released its 2016 rankings of mobile app publishes across the world. Japan and the US led the pack, followed by China, though it’s China’s Tencent that topped the publisher list itself thanks to its purchase of Clash of Clans dev Supercell last year.

“Year over year we see that Asian-Pacific publishers dominate the Top 52. This year was no exception, with 30 of the top publishers hailing from that region. But when we look at the country breakdown, it’s clear that the United States and Japan are producing some of the most influential and successful publishers.”

US-based Activision-Blizzard is the fifth highest-revenue publisher on the list (thanks, Candy Crush and Hearthstone). Niantic, the dev behind last year’s breakout Pokemon Go, comes in 10th place, ahead of Square Enix, Electronic Arts, and Sony.

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Massively Overthinking: That moment when your MMO looks like a ‘fire sale at an exotic pet store’

Massively OP Podcast listener John recently sent us a really great question that saw Justin and me sharply divided in terms of our responses, so naturally, we decided to kick it to the whole team and the readers too.

“When you walk through a city in WoW, you very rarely see two adjacent characters riding the same species of mount,” he wrote. “I just walk by, thinking, ‘Unicorn, griffin, dragon, wyvern, skeleton of a horse, motorcycle, floating-on-a-cloud, mammoth, turtle, rocket, sparkle pony, rancor, miniature TIE fighter,’ and so on. Once there’s a cash shop, special instance rewards and PvP mounts, a flood of new (and increasingly implausible) mounts hit the scene. It makes it hard, for me at least, to imagine that I am in any kind of a coherent setting. Why not add an optional checkbox for ‘Traditional Mounts’ that would cause other people’s mounts to render as normal mounts for their race? Everybody else would be able to see what they want to see, and cities wouldn’t look like a fire sale at an exotic pet store. I also propose the same solution for people who find female gear too revealing and impractical: Give me a ‘Sensible Armor’ checkbox as well!”

Why not indeed? Let’s hear it!

(With apologies to Trove, whose screenshot I just had to use above but is actually wholly justified in being wacky.)
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The MOP Up: Hearthstone gets ready to banish dozens of cards (February 19, 2017)

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!

This week we have stories and videos from Overwatch, League of LegendsEVE OnlineMabinogi DuelSpace EngineersIngressEternal CrusadeElder Scrolls OnlineFinal BladeHearthstoneGod Eater OnlineDrakensang Online, and EVE Valkyrie, all waiting for you after the break!

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