Up until now, the political grumblings about video game gambleboxes has been mostly limited to state governments, specifically Hawaii’s Chris Lee, who submitted four regulatory bills this week, and Washington state’s Kevin Ranker, whose January provisional bill would require an investigation of whether the mechanic constitutes gambling under state laws.
But they’re getting a higher-ranking ally today. As Rolling Stone reports, New Hampshire Senator – that’s the US senate, not the state senate – Maggie Hassan has apparently joined the fray. She sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and used a recent committee hearing to ask FTC nominees their opinion on gaming addiction and lockboxes. (All four apparently said the issue is something they will address.)
Hassan also penned a letter to the ESRB asking it to “review the completeness of the board’s ratings process and policies as they relate to loot boxes, and to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children.”
In Sea of Thieves, your character is a pirate roaming the high seas for boxes of treasure, but in real life you won’t need to exchange your own treasures for random in-game treasures. Design director Mike Chapman has stated that microtransactions are possible for the game post-launch, but loot boxes are definitely out of the question for future development. So you might drop a little coin to get a nice skin or cosmetic gear or whatever, but you won’t be looking at lootboxes no matter what.
Of course, if your computer can’t handle the game you probably won’t be looking at anything whatsoever, so you might want to check out the game’s system requirements before eagerly declaring that it’s a sailor’s life for you. The bare minimum specs still require a Windows 10 machine, so if you’ve stuck by an older operating system we’re sorry to inform you that Windows ME is no longer going to keep you in the game. Check out the chart to see if you need to upgrade, and if you refer to buying new hardware as “trimming up the mainsail” in the checkout line, the employees at the store likely won’t care.
Such dog, very mount, many lunar new year, WoW. Yes, World of Warcraft has introduced a new mount for the Year of the Dog, and it is… a dog. It’s just a big old dog. Why is Shu-zen, the Divine Sentinel available for purchase? Because you can get him over in the Chinese version of the game for buying a large amount of game time, and the rest of us want to be able to fly around on a good dog too.
Obviously, the dog in question can fly, because of course it can. It also features all of the usual elements of a cash shop mount, unlocking on all of your characters for one purchase price of $25. If this addresses a pressing need in your life to have a flying dog in the game, it’s available now; if you can’t understand why someone would drop $25 on a flying dog mount, feel free to mutter “heck” and move on.
With revenues and net bookings up, Activision Blizzard is riding high going into 2018. CEO Bobby Kotick introduced the Q4 2017 report by saying that it was “a record quarter to cap off a record year for Activision Blizzard.”
The studio’s net revenues shot up 6% to $7.02 billion and its revenues were up 1%, bringing in $2.04 billion during the quarter. The company’s stock price took a dip that it attributes to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, however. More than $4 billion of that net revenue came from in-game microtransactions, half of which came from the company’s PC and console titles.
Destiny 2 and Overwatch did its part to push earnings, with the former being the second-highest-grossing console game for 2017 in North America. Overwatch has witnessed “higher engagement” since its Overwatch League began. And while Blizzard continues to not report on the population of any given game, the studio said that it had 40 million monthly active users during the quarter.
Here is some nightmare fuel for gamers imagining the future of the industry. How about an artificial intelligence that deliberately manipulates and messes with players in games to drive revenue growth?
Back in January, a leaked and unconfirmed (and possibly fake) slide show from Data Broker LLC outlined a draft of something called “online game revenue models with AI.” In it, an AI was described that manipulated players’ gameplay experience to drive them toward more microtransactions. Even worse, it uses real-world information about you to drive this process.
“We have proven that allowing the AI to alter a player’s game as a whole (social engineering),” the slide show appears to say, “and alter the player’s individual gameplay experience (psychological manipulation tactics) causes a consistent and dramatic increase recurrent revenue streams.”
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 EVE Online, CSGO, Fortnite, EverQuest II, Star Wars Battlefront II, Black Desert, War of Rights, Armored Warfare, Dota 2, Hellion, Elder Scrolls Online, Overwatch, Fortnite, Final Fantasy XI, and Pokemon Go, all waiting for you after the break!
While some consider the acquisition of stuff to be distracting to gameplay, others of us know that it is actually a vital part of of the experience. Everyone needs a friend who is a go-to for whatever you need, their bags bursting with everything you can imagine, from obscure stuff collected forever ago to bushels of crafting materials. And I am that friend.
Hi, I’m MJ — I am a packrat, and I am proud of it!
And with all the talk lately about hoarding, I’ve come to better appreciate just how nearly perfect EverQuest II is for someone like me. EQII is truly a packrat’s paradise! Here, you are free to stock up on all the essentials (and you can decide what is essential) and non-essentials alike. And all this without having to resort to any microtransactions! Sure, there are a couple things that would make it even better, but I hold this MMORPG up as a model of item management. If only more games aspired to this.
Destiny 2 is definitely not riding high in its first year of live operation. Warning signs started to appear late last year, as datamining pointed to a large player slump. Bungie hasn’t been helping its own cause despite a 2018 roadmap, as Destiny 2 has struggled with throttling bugs and poor communication in the past month.
Now one Wall Street firm has analyzed the state of the game and predicted a not-so-rosy future.
“Destiny 2 is struggling right now with player engagement appearing to be on the wane,” wrote Cowen analyst Doug Creutz to the firm’s clients. “We do think Bungie still has some opportunity to fix the game’s problems over the next year and recapture engagement, but we’re not sure they have the ability to pull it off at this point. We also note that Destiny currently has more serious competition in its genre from a refurbished Division (Ubisoft) and the indie title Warframe than it did three years ago, when Destiny had its own share of player dissatisfaction.”
By coincidence, two articles in my feeds this past week both centered on video game hoarding – not hoarding the actual games but hoarding stuff inside of them. Blizzard Watch posted a piece on what makes people stop hoarding things like currency in Blizzard’s games, while Gamasutra published an article about how game designers can stop turning us into hoarders in the first place.
For this week’s Overthinking, I thought it would be constructive for the staff and readers to reflect on hoarding in MMOs specifically. Do you hoard, and if so, is it primarily consumables? Currencies? Event items? Something else? Do you think it’s a problem, or only when it’s encouraged as part of a microtransaction loop that ends with your buying more storage?
If you know one thing about indie MMORPG Camelot Unchained, it’s that CEO Mark Jacobs appears to dwell perpetually in internet comment sections amiably sparring with gamers and attracting loyal advocates.
But if you know two things, you also know that the game is late. Really late. The RvR-centric, PvM-free, anti-lockbox, sub-only MMO was supposed to enter beta three years ago, according to its successful 2013 Kickstarter, but studio City State Entertainment suffered admitted setbacks along the way – both hiring difficulties in the company’s Fairfax, Virginia, location and technical hurdles. Much of that has since been rectified; in 2016, the company launched a second studio in Seattle while continuing to hire engineers and spending the better part of a year completely refactoring its character ability code and polishing up its home-grown engine. But here we are in 2018, still mumbling beta when? at Jacobs and his dogged crew.
Well, we’re finally getting an answer to that question and more, along with a significant blast of hope for the future of the game, as CSE has just received a massive cash infusion to speed up development. I spoke to Jacobs at length – he’s infamous for being effusive – about what’s going on with the game and the studio in 2018. Read on for the executive summary!
During the roundtable podcast a few weeks ago, when we had the whole Massively OP staff on to chat, we tackled a question from Teviko on the future of MMO business models. We’ve come a long way from free-to-play, microtransactions, and double-dipping sparkleponies, after all, to lockboxes. Indeed, he asked us to speculate on where we’ll be in 2023, looking back so fondly on 2018’s business models the way we look back on the relative quaintness of $25 flying mounts, and saying, “Instead of X, I’d rather buy a lockbox and take my chances!”
On the podcast, several of us agreed that big data will be our big problem: that business models will evolve further and further into monetized psych experiments as predictive algorithms dictate content, drops, and prices. And yes, lockboxes will seem quaint by comparison.
But maybe you have different ideas. How much worse could MMO business models get? Which games will be winning worst business model of 2023? What exactly will the bad MMO business models of tomorrow look like?
Builder-centric sandbox Life is Feudal has officially launched into early access with a buy-in of $29.99, and that’s the MMO version, mind you, not the Your Own survival sandbox. Consider it a bit like part two of the open beta, which has been running since autumn after initially being plagued by exploits and bugs.
“The Steam version contains all the features and content of the currently active Open Beta version, which means Steam users can join the tens of thousands of Open Beta players already building homes, keeps, and castles in the game. They will also be able to work with those same players to forge alliances that will over time form mighty guilds who control vast kingdoms. There’s a place for every type of player in Life is Feudal: MMO, from the butcher or baker, to the royal guard, regal knights, vassals and kings or queens.”
Last month, Bitbox implied it had “tens of thousands of players” romping through the game, though reviews are mixed; in the most recent reviews, players seem to be complaining chiefly about expensive P2W microtransactions, bugs, confusion, and grind.
You know the lockbox thing is reaching saturation when there are so many things to cover we have to resort to a roundup. Nevertheless, for those of you who want to stay on top of developments and arguments, here we go.
Polygon has an explainer piece up on Destiny 2’s Eververse fallout and why everyone is still rioting over the game’s monetization. Of note for this discussion is the publication’s note that if Destiny 2 is hell-bent on having lootboxes, it ought to adopt Overwatch’s lootboxes, as they’re relatively tame and haven’t produced a Reddit in full meltdown.
Gamasutra has a roundup of MMO developer quotes from studios that believe they’re doing lockboxes “elegantly,” including Trion (for Defiance), PWE (for Star Trek Online), Wargaming (for World of Warships). In this particularly case, that means either being easily accessible through in-game play (not just in the cash shop), making lockbox drops tradeable to other players, creating systems of accruing lockbox rewards, or offering a choice of lootbox type.