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Massively Overthinking: What important lessons are MMORPGs failing to impart?

MOP reader and Patron Brett has a burning question about the lessons we’re learning (and not learning) from playing MMORPGs.

“In his book Theory of Fun, Raph Koster suggests that games are really just systems of learning things in a way that we enjoy with fewer consequences. In his words, ‘That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning.’ If that’s true, then modern MMORPGs and their narratives would seem to be a pretty mixed bag of lessons – individual power can be accumulated like wealth; evil can be conquered through solo and group acts of courage; violence is a feasible solution to almost every problem; your race, nation or profession defines a lot about who you are; and accessorizing with the most expensive bag is possibly the most crucial decision to make before leaving home.

“So with so much opportunity at the moment for our real-world societies and communities to be better, I’d like to know what you think is the most important lesson or lessons that MMORPGs could be teaching us, but currently don’t? How could these games leave us wiser or more richer people for the experience?”

I’ve posed Brett’s questions to the team for the resurgence of Massively Overthinking this week.

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PUBG pushes out custom match patch, apologizes for insensitive cash-shop items

PlayerUnknown’s Battleground’s update 18 is live on PC servers today after a brief stint on the PTS. As we previously reported, the update adds new weapons, a new truck, and the new custom match creation mode, which allows players to combine their selected game mode with other presets, like weather, spawn types, and maps. And yes, that includes the zombie mode that for some reason everyone wants in spite of the fact that every new zombie game is instantly mocked. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Meanwhile, PUBG Corp and Bluehole have apologized for upsetting Korean fans with the addition of an offensive Japanese military symbol on a pilot’s mask and the inclusion of an AI bot named Unit 731, presumably after the Japanese army division known for chemical and biological experimentation on Korean, Chinese, and Russian captives during WWII. There’s your history lesson for the day.

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Netease calls PUBG Corp’s copyright lawsuit ‘shameless’, Riot and Tencent win non-compete lawsuit against alleged cloner

Remember back in April, when Korea-based PUBG Corp. accused China-based Netease of ripping off PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with its battle royale titles Knives Out (which is making bank) and Rules of Survival, and subsequently lodged a lawsuit against it in the US courts? Then remember when Netease threatened to sue everybody who cloned it and PUBG dropped its other lawsuit against Epic Games?

Netease has responded to PUBG Corp.’s complaint against it with a motion to dismiss, predictably arguing that no company is entitled to ownership of an entire genre like battle royale and that the copyright act protects only original expression; specifically, it claims PUBC Corp. cannot legally copyright things like game lobbies and health bars.

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SuperData: Fortnite’s success hit League of Legends and PUBG hard, but not all online games are struggling

There’s a new thinkpiece out on how Fortnite happened and what it all means every week lately, but SuperData’s latest might be a comfort to the rest of the industry. Analyst Bethany Lyons argues that Fortnite’s wild success isn’t coming at the expense of all other games.

Fortnite Battle Royale has grown without disrupting the bottom line or player base of a surprising number of free-to-play games. For example, the title has increased its console revenue in May at a rate of 12% month-over-month, while other free-to-play console games stayed more or less consistent,” she writes.

So that’s revenue. What about users? Other games are still growing, some even faster than Fortnite, she says, particularly in the free-to-play console market, which is encouraging competitors to focus there. And streaming? Seems hours-watched on Twitch for the big games have stayed fairly even too as Fortnite has taken off.

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Blade & Soul buffs up its subscription benefits in its False Idols update

It’s always a great feeling when you get a good bang for your buck. While Blade and Soul isn’t changing the cost of its subscription, it is making the premium membership more lucrative — and attractive — by adding several new benefits to the service.

Based on feedback from the community, NCsoft is adding a monthly supply of 20 outfit delivery stamps, periodic character alteration vouchers, a 20% discount on chromatic thread, and far better daily login rewards.

All of these subscription benefits will go live on July 25th with the False Idols update. You can peruse the full list of membership benefits on the site and decide for yourself if a monthly fee is worth it.

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Warlords Awakening just sunset in Korea, and now it’s coming to Steam early access here

As we reported in June, Paywith’s Warlords Awakening MMOARPG is coming westward, with a launch planned for October and an early access date now set for July 26th. The base game will run for $11.99, on up to the top bundle at just shy of 30 bucks.

What we didn’t immediately realize last month is that this game is a rebrand and remastering of Elite Lord of Alliance aka Kuntara Online: The Elite Lord’s Awakening aka ELOA, licensed to a new company. That would probably be fine, except that as MMO blogger Murasama has pointed out, the circumstances surrounding the Korean relaunch of the game last autumn and its recent sunset are concerning. In spite of what appeared to be a respectable playerbase and following in its home country, Playwith shut down the game in Korea just a week ago, and it’s not clear how long the western version will be supported.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first temport we’d ever seen, though for $12, it’s not much of a cash grab. Caution is probably advisable in the meantime, and y’all know the early access rules anyway.

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Ubisoft believes The Crew 2 is performing as well as The Crew – ‘its digital performance is outperforming’

The Crew 2 might be struggling to garner praise on Steam, where its beta ratings were poor and its post-launch reviews are merely mixed, but Ubisoft is projecting contentedness with it all the same.

“Its activity is trending in line with The Crew 1, which had benefited from a Christmas launch. Its digital performance is outperforming,” the company CFO said during Ubisoft’s investor conference call yesterday, as quoted by GIbiz. “What we can say is the game is performing in line with the activity of the prior one. It’s really on par from where we stood with the prior one. We know also the prior one had a kind of slow start and started to pick up as we built up more content and activity in the game. So if we do that, I think there would still be significant part of the sales of that game in the next three quarters” – that’s because the first Crew game had a second year almost as strong as its first.

Overall, Ubisoft reported earnings far outperforming expectations, at $444.8 million net bookings, leading to a record first quarter, with the rest of 2018 projected to look sweet indeed thanks to the new Assassin’s Creed title and The Division 2.

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EVE Online has banned almost 20,000 accounts since February for botting and RMT

Y’all remember the wild mess in EVE Online last winter and spring, when CCP Games said it was “coming for the bots” and getting tough on botting in the space sandbox? At the time, CCP said it had already banned 1800 accounts just in the month of January – and that was after a group of bot-hunting vigilante players had exposed the scale of the problem by taking down some of the outrageously expensive supercarriers owned by an RMT crew and piloted by bots.

CCP Games put out an update on its progress in the war on bots today, saying it understands that it’s “a key issue in the eyes of [its] community.” It says it’s banned 18,398 accounts since February: 8771 for RMT, 4250 for botting, and 5377 for account hacking.

The studio also says it has implemented a new password checking system to prevent account hacking and further asks the community to help by voluntarily enabling two-factor authentication on EVE Online accounts and by keeping those bot reports coming.

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The Daily Grind: How can we solve Reddit’s gaming ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem?

In dealing with the ArenaNet fallout over the last couple of weeks, I started giving serious thought to the Reddit problem in gaming, and I’m not just talking about the overt hate groups allowed to fester there. You know how one of the rules of thumb for MMORPG communities for the longest time was never go to the official forums because you’d come away feeling depressed and dejected, believing the game community was a hot mess and your class was most assuredly the most broken? Reddit is like that, only nobody there cares enough about fixing it to see it through, and so we’ve got a tragedy of the commons problem playing out in cyberspace.

When game companies owned their own discussion spaces, most of them at least made some modicum of effort to keep them respectable. Oh, sure, some took that way too far and deleted criticism, but most, barring the very biggest, tamped down on toxicity because that space reflected on them. They cared. This is how I feel about our own comment section, incidentally, because our team owns this site and cares about the conversations we have here, unlike many other sites owned by corporate groups that don’t even care if comments exist at all.

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What made Fortnite so ridiculously popular? Anticipation is baked into both the loot and the gameplay, says one psychologist

Over the weekend, I was chatting with the mom of my son’s friend and let slip that I’m a video game blogger. Her reaction? “What do you think of Fortnite? Is it so big because it’s free-to-play?” Our kids aren’t even old enough to play this game, and she knew all about it and wondered about its runaway success.

The truth is, there are lots of reasons for Fortnite’s success, more than I had time to mumble out in small talk. Jamie Madigan on The Psychology of Video Games blog took a stab at answering the same question this week, and his answer is probably not what anybody is expecting.

“I think Fortnite Battle Royale’s secret sauce has to do with something that’s kind of obvious once you think about it: random chance. I don’t mean that Fortnite’s success is due to luck. Rather, I mean that Epic smartly leveraged the power of random rewards in their design for the game, and that’s one of the main reasons it’s so popular.”

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German courts rule against companies using ‘coming soon’ marketing for preorders

Making its way through the German court system right now is a case that could be of considerable importance to consumer protections, and not just in Germany.

As German website Computer Base reports (via TechPowerUp and some Google translate because my German has gotten too rusty), a Munich Regional High Court ruling in a consumer lawsuit against MediaMarkt effectively argues that vague promises like “coming soon” are off-limits for dealers of preorder items. In October, the judges ruled in favor of the consumer in a case over a Samsung Galaxy preorder; this past May, the higher regional court upheld that judgment, and an appeal to the top court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) was rebuffed.

“In the view of the judges, this information was too vague to comply with the statutory information obligation of the providers. According to this, potential customers should know before the end of the ordering process how long the delivery time will be at the maximum.”

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Nintendo bans Splatoon 2 greyhat who begged it to address the hackers and exploits destroying the game

I’m not gonna lie, watching my kid and his cousin play Splatoon 2 on said cousin’s shiny new Switch made me reaaaalllly want to get a Switch. But maybe Splatoon 2 could use a little rethink. That’s because, as Polygon reports, the game is becoming “increasingly overrun with hackers, who have figured out ways to not only claim an easy win, but also circumvent the game’s abuse report system.” The publication reports that the multiplayer modes are riddled with the equivalent of god-moding speed-hackers abusing hardware exploits, and Nintendo apparently prefers to take a reactive rather than proactive approach, asking players to report cheaters after the fact.

Last week, a greyhat hacker and game fan brought matters to a head by hacking the game’s leaderboards with a demand that Nintendo fix the exploits and get rid of the cheaters itself. Oh, and then that guy trying to raise awareness for the problem was summarily banned while the hackers he was complaining about continue on. How dare he impugn the good name of Splatoon 2! Reddit is calling him a martyr and a saint, as they should.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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Star Citizen backer took CIG to small claims court over his refund request – and lost

The Star Citizen refunds subreddit is often the home of big words and tall tales, but Redditor firefly212 did more than just talk: He actually tried to take Cloud Imperium to court over his refund request. Unfortunately for him, he lost in small claims court and the case has been sent to arbitration, as the judge apparently agreed with CIG that its retroactive policy regarding refund arbitration should apply even to donors and package-buyers who began contributing to the game before that policy existed.

“In mediation, CIG/RSI would not agree to refund the portion of my account not covered by the arbitration agreement. Though lawyers aren’t permitted, CIG/RSI lawyers drafted and submitted statements that were permitted. The judge declined to hear anything about the conscionability or lack of consideration in the TOS. Despite the top sentence on the TOS, CIG/RSI successfully argued that the arbitration clause should be applied to transactions even before the clause existed. CIG/RSI repeatedly argued that there is a playable game and that funds have been earned, but the judge did not rule that either. Following application of arbitration clause to transactions outside covered dates, court orders matter to arbitration, case is dismissed without prejudice.”

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