The rollout of yesterday’s pre-expansion patch for World of Warcraft could have gone smoother. Much, much smoother. During the day, many players were completely unable to log in, and the problem reportedly popped up on Overwatch’s servers as well. While progress seems to have been made toward fixing the issue, Blizzard did take its Communities feature offline to improve stability.
Of greater concern for certain players is the fact that Blizzard is lowering the boom against players using certain cloud gaming services. Multiple users have reported that suspensions and even bans have been levied for those who have used cloud services to stream the game and play it remotely.
“If you are still using cloud gaming services for WoW, I recommend stopping now until Blizzard stops being anti-consumer about it,” said one Reddit player. “This is a real blow for my gaming for a while, as I don’t have the cash to buy hardware to play anymore at the level I was on my cloud machine.”
We’re going to bet that a literal hamster ball (albeit a well-armed ball) as a hero is going to divide the Overwatch community. That’s to be expected, but if you’re on board with Wrecking Ball — a genetically-enhanced hamster who crafted his own battle mech — then you’re going to be counting the days until he arrives next week on July 24th.
Wrecking Ball may be small, furry, and oh-so-adorable, but he is also packing a punch. His mech includes quad cannons, a grappling claw, mines, and shields. If that’s not enough, W.B. can roll over or slam into his competition.
Hamster or no, Overwatch is happy that its recent endorsement system and looking for group feature has proved to be major hits for the team shooter. According to VG247, chat abuse is way down, as much as 26.4% less in the Americas than it used to be.
Remember last spring when Ubisoft said it was getting serious about cracking down on toxicity in Rainbow Six Siege? The company said it was improving upon its existing chat monitoring system to “ban players that use racial and homophobic slurs, or hate speech, in game,” booting players for at minimum two days and at maximum eternity for “language or content deemed illegal, dangerous, threatening, abusive, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, hateful, racist, sexist, ethically offensive or constituting harassment.”
In response to one player complaining he’d been banned for using a variation of the N-word, the Rainbow Six Siege twitter account replied, “Good. […] Games have rules, and we’re just asking you to follow them.” Of course, trolls then began responding to the Twitter thread with the same sorts of slurs and variations on the slurs intended to get around chat filters and slip past Twitter blockers. There are also plenty of folks thanking Ubisoft for cleaning up the game.
Count this as a huge victory for Blizzard’s attempt to legitimize and popularize its fledgling Overwatch League.
The studio announced this week that it has signed a deal with both ESPN and Disney XD to exclusively televise Overwatch League games for the next two years. The coverage began yesterday with the League’s first season playoffs and will continue through the grand finals later this month. In fact, Blizzard is touting the fact that Overwatch will be the first e-sports championship broadcast ever on ABC.
“We are pleased to partner with Activision Blizzard to bring Overwatch e-sports to our audience,” said Disney XD Senior Vice President Marc Buhaj. “The Blizzard team has created a genre-leading esport and a premium professional franchise system in the Overwatch League. We are kicking off the agreement by showcasing the inaugural season playoffs and Grand Finals live across our linear footprint. Together with our telecast partners at ESPN, we look forward to growing a legion of new Overwatch fans across the next two years.”
Source: Press release
Who would have ever imagined that a Blizzard game’s looking for group tool would be a big hit with players? Overwatch only recently expanded its mindset to include LFG with the late June update, and so far the multiplayer shooter has shot up in popularity because of the system.
“In the first week, instances of players grouping in six-stacks has doubled,” reported Jeff Kaplan. “The awesome part is, six stacks have seen a significant improvement in queue times. But the best part is, none of this has impacted any other group size queue times or solo queue times at all. So it’s been purely a positive in that regard.”
Kaplan promised “changes and improvements” to the looking for group system with Overwatch’s next patch. In the meanwhile, you can see the evidence for yourself about LFG’s popularity after the break.
Remember last spring when Blizzard ran that big “Pink Mercy” charity campaign in Overwatch? The company’s run the numbers, and it turns out Overwatch players are really generous, really pissed off about cancer, or really like pink. My guess is it’s all three.
“Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Overwatch community during the Pink Mercy charity campaign, we’ve raised more than $12.7 million (USD) to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This is the largest donation by a corporate partner within one year in BCRF’s 25-year history, and it’s all because of you.”
Naturally, there’s a video of the pink Mercy skin contributors have snagged!
Playing a game of linking awful online activities to white supremacist movements is like the worst possible variant of the old Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, but it’s important to note. You know that guy in your Overwatch match who’s spouting out a whole bunch of offensive slurs? He may very well be there to actively recruit for white supremacist movements according to former white supremacist leader Christian Piccolini.
In a recent AMA Piccolini explained that operators are there using various techniques to draw in vulnerable people, with various “recruiters” in basically any popular online game. Piccolini specifies Fortnite, Minecraft, and Call of Duty while also noting that it’s really any popular online title with enough people playing. This probably doesn’t come as any major surprise to people who have long followed the path of watching “trolling” racism and misogyny used as a front for actual racism and misogyny, but it’s certainly another smoking gun.
Remember Blizzard’s tease from earlier this week, the one that set the internet to speculating on whether a wrecking ball might be Overwatch’s next hero? Blizzard is adding more fuel to the fire today with a tweet that implies the wrecking ball is inhabited by the most adorable little woodland creature ever. No one is even sure whether Blizz is just trolling us at this point, but I am here for the lil’ guy.
So let the hamster ball jokes begin. Or droideka jokes. Whatever. Reddit has them all.
Who’s a good-tempered Overwatch player? You! Yes, you are! And you know this because you just got an endorsement from some other player in the game.
Wait, what are endorsements? These come from a new system that Blizzard introduced with yesterday’s patch to encourage gamers to play nice with each other. Now players can wing endorsements at each other as “a way to acknowledge a positive impact on your gaming experience.” The endorsement rating is available to view on any player’s career screen or the group menu, offering a quick way to tell who’s on the up-and-up.
Another much-anticipated feature that came with the patch is the new looking for group tool: “Looking for group allows you to find like-minded players before you queue to make sure you have the kind of Overwatch experience you want! Things like specifying what game mode want to play, preferring voice chat, and knowing that a player wants to play a certain role before you go into battle together goes a long way toward solid hero compositions and team work.”
May 2018 was good to Fortnite, again, SuperData’s latest global revenue report shows, but its growth rate may be coming to a middle. “Fortnite hits a new high but growth is slowing down,” the research firm says in today’s report. “We estimate that Fortnite made $318 million across all platforms in May, up 7% from April. The majority of growth came from console, with mobile and PC both coming in flat compared to April.”
On the PC side, Dota 2 came out of nowhere to return to the list at #6, bumping World of Warcraft down a tick and Hearthstone off completely. League of Legends continues to rule the roost.
On the console side, Fortnite is still at the top; both Overwatch and Destiny 2 have returned to the top 10 as games like Far Cry 5 and Battlefield have fallen off.
And on mobile, Pokemon Go has resurged, as it always does in summer in the northern hemisphere, as it’s gathered up more players than ever. Fun side note: Remember Netease’s Knives Out, one of its two PUBG clones on mobile? It’s in 5th place globally on mobile, just behind POGO, so PUBG’s lawsuit isn’t so bonkers after all.
Way back in January, Blizzard Korea announced that it was working with Korea’s National Policy Agency cyber crime unit to track and arrest the perpetrators of Overwatch hacking and cheating crimes, following an investigation that lasted throughout most of 2017. Thirteen individuals were identified, and then the courts moved in. In May, one hacker received a suspended sentence, while another was fined $10,000. A third, Dot Esports reports this week, has now been sentenced: He’ll sit in prison for a whole year, apparently being more harshly punished due to his having made a truckton of money off his hack program.
In happier news, Blizzard released a brief teaser for what’s probably the game’s next hero, if player speculation holds. Seriously, people think the wrecking ball is actually the hero.
And that’s not even peak 2018. This is: A year and a half ago, Blizzard began trying to patent the algorithm that determines Overwatch’s plays of the game. And we’re just finding out about it this week.
Absolutely no one likes to start a match in Overwatch and then immediately feel outmatched. It’s easy to look at the game’s upcoming group finder feature as something tailor-made to produce just that; suddenly it’ll be easier to form full groups and just stomp the uncoordinated group of randos on the other side. But a new post on the official site explains that this is unlikely, especially as the game’s matchmaking system already assigns a win probability to the match and simply doesn’t create the match if the odds are worse than 60-40.
The whole post details lots of math and systems going on behind the scenes of the matchmaker. Rating changes are unaffected by your group and are entirely based on your projected odds of winning, your overall performance, how long you’ve been playing, and so forth. Meanwhile, full groups of six players are already overwhelmingly likely to at least be matched against other teams consisting of at least one pre-formed group, so the odds of this dramatically changing seem low. If you want to know about what goes on beneath the hood for Overwatch matchmaking, this would be a good thing to read.
Massively OP reader ichi_san has a burning question about the state of the industry.
“Lots of people seem to be looking for an MMO they can get into – consider the rush into Bless as an example. Lots of games are being released, but most (or even all) have some glaring issues, like pay-to-win, lockboxes, ganking, poor optimization, heavy cash shop, horrible gameplay, and so on. There’s the WoW model and other semi-successful formulas, and a lot of unexplored territory. The market seems hungry, and there is a bunch of history to build on and new territory to explore, but either gaming companies don’t understand their customers or greed/laziness/expediency get in the way, such that we see release after release that fails to scratch the itch. Am I missing something – are there fun MMOs with good graphics and fair monetization that I’m missing? Or is there a gaping hole in the MMO scene, and if so, why isn’t someone filling it?”
I’ve posed his question to the writers for their consideration in Overthinking this week. We’re long past bubble-bursting here when all of the still-major MMORPGs are four years older. What exactly are we looking at? Why is the obvious demand for MMOs not being met?