Believe it or not, we’re finally almost done with our entire lineup of turn-of-the-calendar-year content and recaps and tallies. It’s exhausting! But I have one more thing I wanna do before we call it a done job, and that’s make sure we didn’t miss anything – specifically, to make sure we didn’t missing calling out or calling attention to some of the shenanigans that might have flown under the radar, having been granted free cover thanks to one of the biggest gaming stories of all time dominating all the headlines. I found a few doozies in my thumb-through of last year’s articles, real whoppers that might’ve had a more spectacular explosion but for everyone being distracted by… well, you know.
So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, let’s see if we can pinpoint the shady stuff that almost slipped on by without enough fanfare – the stuff that didn’t make it to the top of our “biggest blunder” list. What were the biggest 2021 MMO trainwrecks that (almost) nobody noticed?
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Niantic further incentivizing its playerbase to send recorded images of real-life spaces to “power-up” gyms and pokestops. I’m still not 100% convinced of the in-game benefits; I just know a lot of people questioned the very idea of sending data to Niantic for the regular recording tasks. It’s made the “power-up” addition largely dead on arrival, or at least for the areas/players I know, much like most of Niantic’s camera-based additions. Trying to further develop a system most players wanted nothing to do with while not addressing the reasons it’s failing is dumb from a game development POV, and while it may make good business sense, knowing that Niantic’s games are largely funded by how they use our data is shady as heck.
Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): World of Warships had one major mess-up in 2021, but it had several other missteps that went generally unnoticed by the larger gaming community. These include refusing to address a community contributor who used racist language in his discord for nearly a week after staff were made aware, going back on promises made to another community contributor to let her design a Canadian battleship, distributing a game code that included a hidden message “FKU” to a streamer critical of the game, and abusing copyright takedowns to get World of Warships videos removed from an (admittedly awful) Russian content creator. In all, not a great year for Wargaming – but most of it has been met with a collective shrug by press and gamers alike.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’m still a little annoyed that the Dual Universe dust-up didn’t have legs, which I guess says more about the small number of people following Dual Universe than about anything else. The short version is that last April, Novaquark’s board quietly removed its much-loved president and founder Jean-Christophe Baillie and replaced him with a wealthy financier… only they didn’t tell anyone. Players found out by digging around in stock filings, and when we inquired with Novaquark’s reps, they wouldn’t answer our questions and tried to pressure us to hold our article about it. When the studio finally did address the “speculations,” as the company put it, it only admitted that Baillie was out as the day-to-day manager of the game; it didn’t actually confirm his replacement, even though everyone already knew because it had already leaked out. To this day I don’t understand why they acted so shady about it. I’m assuming that at some point we’ll get the whole story, and I doubt it’s going to be good.
Also, can we get a mention for the Blizzard bathroom peeper? Like, what the actual hell, Blizzard?
Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Ubisoft is still a garbage company that thinks shuffling a few pieces of furniture is the equivalent to a remodeling, as was evidenced by reporting from current and former employees. Just because Blizzard’s tire fire is putting up a huge column of smoke doesn’t mean Ubi’s own burning isn’t being noticed.
Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): The disappointing ending to Guild Wars 2’s Icebrood Saga. I get it, many people weren’t super happy with Icebrood Saga, and then ArenaNet got the green light for another expansion and wanted all hands on deck making it a good one. And as far as we’ve seen so far, End of Dragons seems like it’s going to be great, and I’m pumped for it. But I’m still cranky at the rushed, unceremonious way that Icebrood Saga was wrapped up in a hurry. I even wrote a whole column on better ways it could have been handled. It’s too bad because there were some really interesting story threads in Icebrood Saga that never went anywhere, and will probably never be resolved.
Sam Kash (@thesamkash): The Chinese government is continuing to come down hard on the gaming sector. Thousands of companies in the country reportedly shut down last year. Many companies work hard to adjust their game into the rules that China has in place and so they rely on that market heavily. Now that China has some kind of freeze on licensing games, it seems like that could be troublesome for many companies. We’ve seen recently Steam shutting down their version there too. I wonder how far it will all go.