MMO Business Roundup: Stardew, Curse, Epic, Niantic, unionization, and HOTS’ wrecked esports scene

    
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Welcome back to another catch-all post of gaming business stuff that might otherwise slip through the cracks!

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone, who recently took back over publishing of his wildly popular sandbox, announced that he’s sidelining his next game in order to form a team to “keep making new content for Stardew Valley,” including a new free content update that’s on the way. “This world is so full of potential, I could probably work on it for the rest of my life,” he writes. “There’s also such a wonderful community surrounding the game… and I like making you guys happy.”

Twitch announced last week that it’s selling off Curse Media to Fandom (you probably know it best as Wikia). Curse, of course, is widely used by online gamers and MMO players for its mod hosting platforms, though as Gamasutra notes, it’s more likely Fandom wants the Gamepedia wing of Curse Media in an effort to consolidate its hold on the fan wiki market.

More info on the Epic Games Store deal has come to light thanks to Rebel Galaxy developers, who in the process of explaining why the game wouldn’t be on Steam immediately revealed that part of the Epic Games signing deal requires them to stay exclusive to Epic’s platform for a year. They aren’t mad about it, either: “Is some form of exclusive content required to get the momentum to make that happen?
Yes. And we’re willing to get on board to make that happen. The only way this gets any traction is with some exclusive content and we’re willing to be one of the canaries in the mineshaft. Do we hope there is a big upside for us? Sure. That’d be amazing. But we also hope this is the start of establishing a new standard.”

Not all video game companies slumped this year in tandem with the overall market: Pokemon Go company Niantic, for example, is currently worth $4 billion, thanks in part to its latest venture capital raise.

Last week, video game industry unionization effort Game Workers Unite announced that it has become an official branch of The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain. GIbiz calls it the “second union in the world to represent industry employees” in video games. The first is STJV in France, formed last year.

Finally, as we reported last week, Blizzard announced that it was scaling back Heroes of the Storm development, ending its esports program, and pulling developers for other projects. Polygon chronicles the creator and esports scene as folks have been devastated by the news, including people who’d dropped out of college to pursue pro careers and signed leases and said they’d been entirely left in the dark by Blizzard for many months. HOTS Production Director Kaéo Milker also penned a letter, but it’s more to the playerbase and doesn’t apologize to those whose real lives have now been disrupted by Blizzard’s change of plans.

With thanks to Xijit and BalsBigBrother!

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packagegrope
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packagegrope

i don’t care how much money a platform shares with the devs. i care about how much money -i- have to spend, and which is most convenient to me.

steam or gtfo with your game i don’t need anyway.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Only 1 year exclusivity for using the Epic Games Store platform? Not sure if that’s good or bad news.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

Can’t find it now of course, but I vaguely remember something like some ridiculous percentage of game’s lifetime sales occur in the first year.

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Sorenthaz

The Epic Games launcher exclusivity will probably hurt indie devs compared to if they were on Steam. Buying into it this early is very much a gamble with the caveat being that if it does well you’ll get more $$$.

Also the only thing it really does is argue the morality of whether it’s bad or good for Steam to take a large cut. Most consumers won’t care because Steam offers a number of convenience factors that Epic doesn’t.

Like I decided to load up Fortnite yesterday and the Epic Games launcher has become flat-out confusing and bothersome to navigate. There isn’t a simple list over on the left or right hand side – instead they do the obnoxious spread-out blocks format similar to Origin and Uplay.

So maybe in the long run it can gain some traction, but right now it just seems like a trap for indie companies who are being promised better cuts and Epic is banking hard off of trying to take a moral highground + using Fortnite’s popularity.

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Schmidt.Capela

Actually, if releasing on Steam (and every other PC platform besides Epic’s) could have gotten them 30% more sales than being exclusive to Epic then the game would have made more money outside Epic’s store even with the less favorable cut.

Besides, in my case at least, knowing the Epic store has an one year exclusivity requirement means I will flat out refuse to even consider purchasing anything from there until Epic removes that and allows devs/publishers to release on other platforms simultaneously. I’m not against the dev getting a larger cut, but I’m really against exclusivity deals, to the point it makes me far less likely to purchase any game that took one of those even if they are exclusive to my preferred platform.

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Armsbend

I’ve been keeping up with the HoTS drama and I for one think it is always a bad idea to put everything on the line for a piece of entertainment that is run by one company – and likely only a very few people. You dropped out of college to pin your hopes on the 3rd most popular MOBA – a genre that is increasingly less popular every year? Let me ask. Is that on Blizzard or is that on you? In no alternative universe is it solely on Blizzard that you made a disaster decision on your future. But you are young still. Go make it happen. As for the caster’s reading their responses they really think they were entitled to that $40K/year for the rest of their lives – because…wait for it…they needed it.

I’m sure Blizzard didn’t take the decision lightly – no one wants to admit they lost like they did. But at a certain time business decisions have to be made, sometimes very quickly. You don’t work for the company you are on the periphery – as a 3rd party “vendor” so to speak – you have no rights what-so-ever. Next time pick a more popular game.

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Bruno Brito

I’ve been keeping up with the HoTS drama and I for one think it is always a bad idea to put everything on the line for a piece of entertainment that is run by one company – and likely only a very few people. You dropped out of college to pin your hopes on the 3rd most popular MOBA – a genre that is increasingly less popular every year?

Agreed, but it was a moba that BLIZZARD had. So they had every opportunity towards improving it and took none.

et me ask. Is that on Blizzard or is that on you? In no alternative universe is it solely on Blizzard that you made a disaster decision on your future. But you are young still. Go make it happen. As for the caster’s reading their responses they really think they were entitled to that $40K/year for the rest of their lives – because…wait for it…they needed it.

No, they were entitled to a better layoff, to a helpful process to move on, like 3rd party companies are now doing since Blizzard just stabbed them.

I’m sure Blizzard didn’t take the decision lightly – no one wants to admit they lost like they did. But at a certain time business decisions have to be made, sometimes very quickly. You don’t work for the company you are on the periphery – as a 3rd party “vendor” so to speak – you have no rights what-so-ever. Next time pick a more popular game.

Then the company shouldn’t treat them as such. I’m sorry Arms, this doesn’t fly. You shouldn’t receive words of praise and promises followed solely by “such is life, baby.”

It’s a work, and as with any work, they at least deserved more than what they got.

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Armsbend

Having played a few 100 hours of HotS I can say that Blizzard gave it their absolute best go – without pandering to become their competition. I think they did everything in their power to make a hit – both in the esports scene and sales – and simply failed at it. It happens.

While I agree that it could have been handled better – maybe with a few months notice – they certainly weren’t entitled to it. If they were – it would be explicit in a contract. but of course it isn’t – because that contractual entitlement doesn’t exist. Then again I’m not sure if they could have let them know well in advance. Think about it. In this internet era there is no way they could have kept it a secret. In the cloak and dagger world of games – you couldn’t give that information away. ‘Loose lips sink ships’ doesn’t exist within gamer’s ranks. Riot or Valve could have used it against them – or 100 other negative scenarios.

I am making the assumption that someone at Blizzard is clever. However, with recent news that is not a guarantee.

I was bummed about the news. I really liked the game and even though I haven’t been playing much lately I enjoyed it’s streams almost over all other streams. But from a business perspective – I am not really sure there could have been any other outcome.

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Greaterdivinity

If Blizzard didn’t take the decision lightly – and I’m talking about executives/leads here, not the core devs – then they would have given their esports players/teams a heads up in advance so they could start preparing before the announcement. They wouldn’t have hyped up next years tournament as recently as Blizzcon, and reportedly told teams they were planning budget increases for tournaments next year. They would have sent out personalized notes to their esports players/teams rather than a form letter after the fact. They would have done something more than a blog post from 2 C-level exec’s (one of whom very few people know despite him being the Chief Development Officer) and would have included the HotS team leads in it. They would have had messaging for the community ready to start blasting out instantly to quell fears/concerns and calm folks down.

I mean, I could go on, but either Blizzard actually did take the decision lightly or they simply don’t give a shit about the HotS community and the hundreds of people who found out they lost their jobs via a blog post.

I have a few friends who are deep in that community and hearing how utterly crushed they and the hardcore community is is really heartbreaking. Watching the pro players literally crying on-stream because they were so shocked and saddened by the news was soul-crushing. And it seems like as more and more information comes out it seems like and even worse and worse series of decisions by Blizzard that made what was likely a necessary business decision all that much worse.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

There’s really only one reason for a company like Blizz to make one announcement and then so completely backtrack to something — they got a visit from Bobby “I like lootboxes so much I make my kids use them instead of lunchboxes” Kotick who’s cutting out large chunks of the business to increase profits.

You can be assured that this has Kotick’s clammy, moist hand-prints all over it.

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Greaterdivinity

I’m still not on the, “THIS IS ALL ACTIVISIONS DOING!” train. Blizzard has been slowly drifting this way for years, and there’s still scan evidence I’ve seen to support this argument – and a drunken rant by David Brevik that he admits is pure speculation doesn’t count : P

I have little doubt Activision is putting pressure on Blizzard in many areas, but I’ll be doubtful of just how much without some more concrete evidence. Then again that may be in part due to my dwindling view of Blizzard over the years.

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Armsbend

I get the pain and disappointment – I’m just not sure there was an alternative. ‘Not sure’ being the operative word. There are probably always better alternatives.

Blizzard seems mired in missteps lately.