MMO Business Roundup: Morhaime is back with Dreamhaven, plus NCsoft’s parking lot and Epic’s Manticore ambitions

    
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MMO Business Roundup: Morhaime is back with Dreamhaven, plus NCsoft’s parking lot and Epic’s Manticore ambitions

Welcome back to another quick roundup of video game industry news relevant to MMOs and MMO fans!

The Morhaimes: When Mike Morhaime announced he was leaving Blizzard just two years ago, there was plenty of speculation about what he’d do next, especially since it appeared his resignation wasn’t the most voluntary thing ever. Today, he and wife Amy Morhaime have officially announced their new thing: a new company called Dreamhaven, which is currently composed of two internal studios, Moonshot and Secret Door, both staffed by former Blizzard luminaries from StarCraft 2, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. Mike Morhaime will serve as CEO, with co-founder Amy Morhaime as head of ops; he’s said the company will be a “haven for creators.” We don’t know what they’re making yet, but it’ll be one to watch. (Cheers, Loopy and Aralith!)

NCsoft: Seoul-based NCsoft is busy building stuff – in the real world. According to reports earlier this year, the company spent the equivalent of more than $650M US to buy up a massive public parking lot in Seongnam. The deal was meant to be finished by August, and now here we are. MMO Culture reports that NC plans to build a “global R&D innovation center” on the new site.

Epic: Epic Games splashed out this week on Manticore Games, pushing $15M worth of investment into the platform, ostensibly in an attempt to capitalize on its “multiverse” ambitions as “Manticore’s mission is to unleash a new wave of creativity in games by radically lowering the barriers to game making and publishing the same way that YouTube revolutionized video creation.” Epic’s Fortnite has been busy this week too, preparing to play host to Kpop megastars BTS and collaborating with the underperforming Rocket League.

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rafael12104
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rafael12104

I like that Mike is doing more. And I think he will show many what can be done the old fashioned way: hard work, no gimmicks, and a group of devs that care about what they are building.

But alas! I’ve become jaded. Like Bruno, I think the reality of the work required and the time investment will slow Mikes efforts down to a crawl after a good initial start.

I’ll be glad to be wrong. But we see “new hope” spring up from time to time in this gaming business only to be crushed by reskins of the same old issues.

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Bruno Brito

I am extremely jaded here. I do think Brack is a waaaay worse boss than Mike, but Mike wasn’t flowers either. And again: My issues with the resume of this company are not monetary, they’re design-focused. I have HUGE issues with the design of HS, which is RNG out of the ass, to the point where a player won two rounds on a competitive setting ( Pavel ) thanks to pure RNG, and i have issues with the design of HoTS where Blizzard didn’t realize how fragile and volatile mobas are, and denying your game of one currency focus it entirely on the other. Their attempts to simplify the game went too far, and ended up shooting themselves in the foot.

If they can learn from those mistakes, good. If they can’t, welp, i can’t say i didn’t expect it. I’m quite tired of Blizzard getting existing ideas and “refining” it. They haven’t been able to create a deep game for a while now. Enough is enough.

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Morgan

I will follow Mike Morhaime to the ends of the earth!! <3 <3 haha

Celestia
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Celestia

I like to think this will bring some hope to all the lifelong Blizzard fans who have been feeling let down by the company over the past several years.

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Bruno Brito

So do i, but i’m a hopeless pessimistic, so i think it won’t end up being actually that better.

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Ozzie

Dreamhaven is actually really big news…or might be eventually. We’re finally seeing a direct and credible challenge to predatory business practices in gaming. An anti-Activision, an anti-EA. Or an alternative timeline Blizzard (retconned Blizzard?). All they gotta do now is develop a few stellar, genre-defining games that opens the door for an industry renaissance. No big deal. But hey, if they’re even remotely successful then gaming will be moved in a much better direction. I read their mission statement and they have a great vision that benefits us all.

The only other company I see doing this Raph Koster’s with a return to designing worlds instead of monetized games. It’s too bad there’s no collaboration between these two. What a wonky and glorious duo that would be: Mike’s business and technical management would greatly empower Raph’s ambitious sandbox/systemic world designs.

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Krista Allen

Meh. Probably just another MMO dev/producer that will use nostalgia and the popularity of their previous titles to manipulate their old fan base into backing them financially. Only to take their money, make huge promises and “develop” said game for 7-8 years, while selling pets, land and titles for an unfinished game that looks and plays like something from 1999.

If he was actually serious about producing and developing MMOs, why didn’t he knock on Amazon Games Studio door, and gain backing that way? How will he fund this studio and game development.

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Eamil

They almost certainly won’t be working on MMOs, at least not right away. Nothing in their info describes them as an MMO developer.

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Leiloni

If he was actually serious about producing and developing MMOs, why didn’t he knock on Amazon Games Studio door, and gain backing that way

Why would he leave one major corporation who was the bane of all his creative and gamer nerd dev dreams, only to get in bed with another one?

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Leiloni

I think the Dreamhaven news is big enough to warrant it’s own post (because honestly I nearly overlooked it here). Holy cow! Lots of potential with this one. There’s a post about it on Wowhead as well.

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Blake

I imagine there will be one once we have more information. I can see Bree and co. hitting up contacts as I type this. 😀

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Bruno Brito

both staffed by former Blizzard luminaries from StarCraft 2, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm.

Yeeeeah. Great resume.

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Loopy

All 3 are great games ruined by shitty monetization. I can understand why they’d leave ActiBlizz after working on them.

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Mark Jacobs

I expect great things from Mike and his new company. Can’t wait to see what they do freed from the strings that were always on them once they were acquired back in the old days of Davidson and Associates. For those that don’t remember or didn’t know the full story, here’s a link on their initial acquisition or you can just check the Blizzard wiki- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davidson_%26_Associates

This will be the first time that Mike has truly been independent in a long time. I think it’s going to be a fascinating ride and I can’t imagine that he can get as much money, with as few strings, as he wants.

Again, can’t wait!

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Bruno Brito

Sure, but i disagree with Loopy that monetization was the issue. My problems with these specific games are design-wise, and if Morhaine wants to bring “Blizzard outside Blizzard”, i’m not going to be one of his target-customers.

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McGuffn

I’m not sure monetization in itself killed hearthstone. They were always going to add new cards, even if they gave them to people free, and for me adding cards is what killed it. Would have preferred it much more if it was a static game because they had something actually great at the beginning.

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Eamil

I end up feeling this way about most TCGs, which is why I ultimately decided the genre isn’t for me.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Once you realize you don’t want to be on that merry-go-round, it makes no sense to play. Although I’m super sucky at TCGs, I did find a single player game that is heavily RPG-influenced and bears little to no relationship to the MTG paradigm of card games. Erannorth Reborn.

It’s a solo developer game and I’ve no idea what they plan to do with it, but right now it’s a fun battler.

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rafael12104

Mcfuffn nailed it. I love card games but I don’t play them anymore. Why? I got sick for building new decks and all of the shenanigans therein.

It wasn’t to monetization that killed it for me. It was the fact that to keep up, I wasn’t adding and augmenting my deck, but rather building a new deck.

I had enough of the treadmill. I just wanted to play cards, not build decks.

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Bruno Brito

I disagree. I can’t speak for SC2 altho i think what killed it was Blizzard not knowing how to invest in competitive.

But both HoTS and HS were “killed” not by monetization but by design choices. Egregious ones.

HoTS decided to do away with the concept of separated levels, gold acquisition, the jungle, creep equilibrium and items, and their team found early that those things are extremely important because mobas are by nature extremely volatile and fragile. The lack of any currency other than XP made the game revolve around it, and you don’t have any window where teams drop one currency for another. The game devolves into a team brawler because of this very nature of fighting around team peaks of power. It’s a snooze fest and there’s a reason why the only big tournament we saw from HoTS was paid by Blizzard itself. It is not, by design, a good competitive game. It’s fun playing but that’s it.

Heartstone also got ruined by design choices. RNG is the BANE of competitive games, specially cardgames. These games are already as P2W as they get, allowing the game to become a RNG fest on top of overpowered cards is not a good idea.

I won’t say Morhaine will be better or not. But the history of these games don’t color me anything good. If at any moment they attempt to build a competitive game, i’m going to be pessimistic about it.

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Loopy

I think you might have a problem with TCGs in general, not just Hearthstone. I personally don’t play them because of the very nature of RNG associated with buying packs, but you can’t deny that HS has a HUGE audience.

HoTS (as many other Blizzard games) took the basic concepts of MOBAs and boiled them down to the very basic core elements. I personally don’t enjoy the idea of last hitting and jungling, so to me HoTS was just pure brawling fun. This may not resonate with you, but i enjoyed the casual nature of it. That very same casual nature also restricted its competitive potentials, but i still stand by the statement that the game is inherently fun.

I also don’t think that Morhaime is the savour of gaming, nor would i say that he is the sole reason behind the “fun factor” of the original Blizzard games. However, i do feel that Morhaime and ActiBlizz didn’t see eye to eye causing him to leave, which to me is already a good start.

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Bruno Brito

I think you might have a problem with TCGs in general, not just Hearthstone. I personally don’t play them because of the very nature of RNG associated with buying packs, but you can’t deny that HS has a HUGE audience.

Not really. Most TCGs in general do have a issue with RNG, but they fix it with tournament rules ( Magic has sideboards ), and the decks tend to be tailored to minimize RNG. And no card in TCGs has RNG imbued in it. Only Heartstone. Which is the main problem here. I’m not talking about the already normal RNG found in TCGs. I’m talking about HS taking one step further and creating cards that are random by nature, like Arcane Missiles. Terrible design.

HoTS (as many other Blizzard games) took the basic concepts of MOBAs and boiled them down to the very basic core elements. I personally don’t enjoy the idea of last hitting and jungling, so to me HoTS was just pure brawling fun.

Last hitting is not a core concept in mobas, but they are tied with creep equilibrium. Creep equilibrium is EXTREMELY important in mobas.

Doing aways with what makes mobas, mobas, is why HoTS failed. It was casual to the point of hurting casuals ( xp sharing is NOT good design to anyone, not even casuals, because it requires understanding of team peaks and character peaks, which most casuals don’t ) and made the competitive side of the game a joke ( which btw is how mobas are balanced around ).

This may not resonate with you, but i enjoyed the casual nature of it. That very same casual nature also restricted its competitive potentials, but i still stand by the statement that the game is inherently fun.

I played HoTS. It’s really fun. I’m not detracting of the fun side of it. I just think if Blizzard wanted a brawler, they could simply make HoTS a Smash-like game. It would be WAY better. Including the talent system on it would also be godlike.

My problem with HoTS is not the fun factor. Is the detriment that taking of moba aspects from it did to the game. The only reason HoTS can be considered a moba right now is because of semantics, because it has almost NOTHING that ressembles a healthy mobagame.

I also don’t think that Morhaime is the savour of gaming, nor would i say that he is the sole reason behind the “fun factor” of the original Blizzard games. However, i do feel that Morhaime and ActiBlizz didn’t see eye to eye causing him to leave, which to me is already a good start.

Actiblizzard happened in 2008. Morhaime stepped down in 2018. There was a 10 year gap there. I think it’s waaaay more complex than “didn’t see eye to eye”, specially considering that Blizzard still has quite a lot of autonomy over it’s games, specially WoW.

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Loopy

Without going down a rabbit hole of what is or isn’t poor game design, i think that a lot of the point you’ve outlined don’t confirm your thesis that the games are bad. They may not exactly fit the molds that served as their basis, but they are inherently fun and relatively popular (some more than other).

I do feel though that a lot of the design choices came from the suits that further propagated the monetization model that serve under currently.

Actiblizzard happened in 2008. Morhaime stepped down in 2018. There was a 10 year gap there. I think it’s waaaay more complex than “didn’t see eye to eye”, specially considering that Blizzard still has quite a lot of autonomy over it’s games, specially WoW.

I’ve worked in corporate world for a long time now, and i can tell you from first hand that change is not instant, especially with large mergers. Things happen very slowly and often times without realizing what the final product will look like, so i wouldn’t be surprised that Mike’s discontent with the merger specifics has progressively grown to critical levels as opposed to being an instantaneous event.

Again, only he knows how much of a hand he had/didn’t have in what ActiBlizz currently looks like, and i certainly don’t consider him to be the martyr that others label him as. I do however feel optimistic about somebody who’s been with Blizzard from the very beginnings, left the current monster that the company grew into, as is now spearheading a new team.