game industry

Riot and Tencent appear to be on unpleasant terms with one another

Some fans are still probably a bit miffed that Riot Games (maker of League of Legends and that’s all) teased them about the possibility of an MMO. But it seems like the studio’s parent company is pretty miffed at Riot in general. Gamasutra cites a report from several anonymous sources (which is unfortunately behind a paywall) that China’s Tencent (owner of Riot) and Riot are not on cordial terms due to differing opinions about mobile titles and the reported decline of LoL‘s playerbase.

The short version is that Tencent wants more mobile titles (which Riot does not wish to develop) and has shopped out something just short of a clone to other studios, while Riot is dealing with dropping numbers as other games move into the spotlight. An official statement from Riot disputes this report, stating that the company is happy with LoL at its current numbers and it remains a vibrant community, and relations with the studio’s parent company remain positive and supportive.

It’s also worth remembering that the studio does appear to be working on something new. Equally relevant are the issues surrounding any new games in China, with Monster Hunter World running into trouble and Korean developers unable to publish there.

Source: Gamasutra

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Amazon Game Studios hires Christoph Hartmann as Vice President

The first big release from Amazon Game Studios, Breakaway, was pretty unceremoniously killed earlier this year. That means that the future of the studio’s other games, like the anticipated New World, feels somewhat in doubt. So it’s good news that the announcement of Cristoph Hartmann joining the team as vice president of Amazon Game Studios includes an explicit namedrop of New World as one of the titles he’ll be handling in development.

Hartmann joins the studios after his long run as president of 2K Games, so he’s got 20 years of experience in the industry. Of course, that’s not quite as calming as actual news about the game… but it’s not nothing. There are also promises of new titles to be announced, so it’s quite possible that Breakaway will turn out to be more of a hiccup than an indication of the future.

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Albion Online’s shift away from mobile was a matter of market forces

If you remember a lot of the early marketing for Albion Online, it focused quite heavily on how the game was going to feature cross-platform play for PC and mobile devices. The game has launched at this point, but the mobile versions are still in testing. A recent interview with CTO David Salz reveals that it’s hardly something the developers forgot; it’s simply that when the game was first planned, it seemed that mobile was the wave of the future. As the game acquired fans, it became clear that PC was the preferred platform for most of the would-be players, which caused a shift in design to emphasize desktops over mobile devices.

Salz also talks about the shifts in business models and the technical hurdles involved in building the game from the ground up, starting with a prototype that was built to see if the game could even be made fun or if the project was doomed from the start. Check out the full interview for a peek at the industry history as well as the technical roadblocks that hit the game over time.

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ZeniMax is getting only half of the amount originally awarded in the Oculus lawsuit

Did you think that the Oculus vs. ZeniMax lawsuit was over when ZeniMax was awarded $500 million in its legal battle with the VR manufacturer? That’s silly; this lawsuit and associated wrangling will outlast the stars themselves. The judge in the case has cut the award from $500 million to $250 million while also denying an injunction against the sale of the headsets. That’s a bit of a black eye for ZeniMax, with a statement that the company is considering its next steps.

For those of you who no longer recall why these two companies were fighting like newly divorced parents, the courts found Oculus guilty of using proprietary software and copyright infringement when developing the Oculus Rift. ZeniMax Media is of course the parent company of Bethesda Softworks and ZeniMax Online Studios, the latter of which is in charge of The Elder Scrolls Online, so that’s very much relevant for both MMOs and future VR developments. If you need a bit more recap, we’ve got our whole roundup of coverage of the trial below for your enjoyment.

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Nexon rolls out a flexible work schedule similar to Netmarble’s to reduce employee overwork

No company wants to be in the news by overworking its employees to death; that usually looks bad. (Due to it being bad.) Netmarble already got hit with that particular bit of badness, but Nexon appears to be hoping to get out ahead of the pack by introducing its own flexible working schedule to reduce employee stress. And it probably looks better than your work schedule, to boot.

Employees will either have a mandatory working time between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., with more flexible arrival and departure times along with a hard limit of work past 10:00 p.m. during holidays or weekends. Nexon will also be working with shuttle bus services and other local conveniences to better accommodate the needs of employees. You can catch up on the history of Netmarble’s particular struggles just below, but it’s good to see a company moving out to hopefully take care of this before multiple employee deaths.

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Trace the history of the battle royale genre from inception to now

It all started with a new mode for DayZ. No, it all started with Minecraft. Wait, maybe it started with deathmatch games. There’s a lot of things you can trace as the origin point for the current battle royale trend in games, but a new video from Gamespot attempts to cut past speculation and hazy half-memories to provide a history of the genre in gaming from its first origin points to the modern war over players. And if you thought this was a video that would omit mentioning the obvious pop culture inspirations like the eponymous novel and movie Battle Royale… well, prepare to be disappointed.

The video traces the line through Minecraft game modes through DayZ, the initial launch of H1Z1, and through the various mods and alterations that brought us to games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Check out the full video below if you’re interested at a relatively brief overview of the genre’s history, although be aware that this is “brief” in the sense that it’s only 20 minutes long. There’s a lot of history to cover.

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Wargaming Seattle shuts down while Digital Extremes gets an American sister studio

Corporate shuffling is rarely great news, but for the employees at Wargaming Seattle, it looks like it’s worse news than normal. The American wing of Wargaming.net, best known for World of Tanks, appears to have been shut down and put over 100 staff members out of work. No reason has yet been given for the closure and no statement has been issued regarding the studio’s fate.

Meanwhile, the owners of Digital Extremes (best known for Warframe) are busy getting more invested into gaming with the opening of a new studio in Burbank, CA. Athlon Games is a US publishing arm of Leyou Technologies Holding Limited, which might seem odd for a company that supposedly deals in chicken products. The publishing arm apparently will be specializing in free-to-play titles, so it remains to be seen exactly what it will be bringing out… just that it’ll be expanding the company’s existing assets.

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Capcom posts its best financial year ever thanks to Monster Hunter World

It must have been some time ago at Capcom’s business strategy meeting where the top executives were sitting around and talking in hushed tones about what the company’s development strategy would be. Of course, the whiteboard already had the obvious suggestions on it: a massively unpopular Street Fighter sequel that launched without features, a half-hearted Marvel vs. Capcom installment, pretending Mega Man didn’t exist, etc. And then one lone executive spoke up, saying, “What if we developed a game everyone wanted to play and then released it internationally, so American and Japanese players could both enjoy it?

Except he said it in Japanese, of course. Thus began the story of Monster Hunter World, which ends with Capcom experiencing its best financial year… ever. At any point in history.

More than that, MHW also managed to outsell every other game in the company’s history at 7.9 million copies sold worldwide. Understandably, next year will see a renewed push for live events for the title as its PC version launches later this year. The company is also planning a renewed e-sports push around that aforementioned Street Fighter sequel, because bad habits die hard.

Source: Eurogamer

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Dutch Gaming Authority calls out four games as violating its lootbox policies

If you had expected the Netherlands to be leading the fight against lootboxes, you may be more clairvoyant than the rest of the population. After investigating 10 games, the Dutch Gaming Authority has found that four of the games tested feature lootboxes that violate the Better Gaming Act. That may not sound too serious until you consider that the offending games have eight weeks to make changes to the lootboxes to comply with the law.

Failure to do so can result in fines or just straight-up forbidding the games from being sold in the Netherlands. That’s a pretty big deal.

While the DGA did not specifically name games, the Dutch paper reporting on the situation cites FIFA ’18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League as the offending titles. The remaining six titles are not in violation of the law but were still sharply criticized for the lootbox implementation, which is said to target younger players and encourage gambling. It’s also worth noting that each of these violations specifically pertains to tradeable items for real money, which just squeaks in as a gambling option.

Source: NOS, VG24/7

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MOBAs provide a template for the future of the battle royale genre

So where will battle royale games be in another five years? We don’t know just yet, but from a purely business standpoint we can extrapolate some ideas. GamesIndustry.biz has an analysis up suggesting that we can look to the last overnight genre explosion in the form of MOBAs as a good indicator of what will happen with future battle royale entries, scrambling to pick up the scraps not already picked up by Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Why? Well, the entrenched playerbase has already been established in those games, which means that slight tweaks to the formulas are unlikely to cause player shifts, and by the time these competitors are released most players will already be committed. In short, it’s many of the points we raised in a piece about trend-chasing on Wednesday, just applied more specifically to this genre. So if you’re hoping that the next battle royale game will be the one to dethrone the ruling powers, you might not want to bet too heavily on that.

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Hate groups are getting deleted from Steam… if they’re overt enough

It’s fair to say at this point that Steam is an enormous part of the PC gaming market. It’s also fair to say that Valve has demonstrated very little interest in moderating the platform in any way, preferring algorithms to actually walking in and stopping review-bombing efforts (among other abuses). There’s no real way to program in algorithms to prevent hate groups forming, but it does appear that Valve has gone through the Steam Groups and done one of its most aggressive banning passes to shut down hate groups.

Successful? Well, you won’t find a bunch of hate groups by searching for “school shooter.” You can, however, still find them; you just have to work a little bit harder at it. At this point, it seems that the only way these groups are really going to be removed from the platform altogether is if Valve really makes an aggressive project of moderating the platform, and that seems unlikely. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Source: Kotaku

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Steam terminates its relationship with MMO company Insel Games over alleged review manipulation

It’s really unusual to see publishers outright booted off of Steam, but Valve has done exactly that to Insel Games following reports of review manipulation. It started with a Reddit post yesterday posting an alleged email from the company’s CEO lamenting the lack of a proper review score for Wild Buster and asking all employees to purchase a copy of the game along with leaving a positive review on the game page. Apparently whatever Valve found behind the scenes was enough to convince the company that the accusations were legitimate and terminate the relationship.

Players who already own copies of Wild Buster, Guardians of Ember, or any other Insel Games titles will still be able to play the games, and they can still be purchased through other sources, but new copies cannot be obtained through Steam. We’ve reached out to Insel Games for comment on the matter and will update this post with any response we receive. [Update: We’ve included the statement made to MOP via email below.]

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The Daily Grind: Has the MOBA bubble burst?

The past few weeks have not been kind for fans of MOBAs. In a short span of time we’ve lost Paragon, Master x Master, and Gigantic; it wasn’t so long ago that the not-quite-a-MOBA-but-close-to-it Breakaway got put on indefinite hiatus by Amazon. Off the top of my head I can think of a lot of other MOBAs that arrived, failed to make any significant impact, and then shut their doors without a whole lot of fanfare.

Of course, this also prompts a question of whether or not the bubble has burst or if there was ever a bubble in the first place. I’ve always found it kind of odd that the genre exploded as it did in the first place, because it’s already fundamentally a genre based on a mod for one very specific game. There are only four titles that have really taken off in a significant fashion, and two of those are somewhat debatable depending on who you ask.

So what do you think, readers? Has the MOBA bubble burst? Was there never really a bubble in the first place, just a bunch of games rushed out with no real sustainable market? And how does it make you personally feel either way?

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