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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

AVATAR

Posted by Inktomi Sunday August 26 2012 at 9:17PM
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-There’s always the Metaverse, and in the Metaverse, Hiro Protagonist is a warrior prince - Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson.

This is not a post about half-naked blue people running around a day-glo forest praying over the animals they kill. This is about the people who run around forests, cities and dungeons while sporting coats of many colors LTAO while killing anything that get in their way. This is about the most powerful draw to any MMORPG-even better-to video games as a whole: the relationship between you and your avatar.

What was that...you say you have no relationship with your avatar? Right. Could it be the time spent at the character creation screen just trying to get it right. Or maybe that money spent in the item mall/cash shop on vanity items. MMO companies are cashing in tremendously on vanity items and one of the biggest advantages when an MMO pulls the plug on its subscription model is the items they offer in the mall. Even games that have held their subscription plans are offering vanity items for sale. Hair styles, clothing, mounts and accesories are all ready and waiting for you to acquire through diamonds, Aurum, coins, points or straight off paypal or credit card.


From the infamous “Greed is Good” newsletter leaked from CCP: Those same players will buy PLEX without any qualms to get instant access to that ship they just “need to have right now” and they might even go as far as buying a $500 leather jacket that matches the one their avatar is wearing. And all of these expenditures will actually improve their experience of the game and make them feel better about it and about themselves.

Hey, I like your hair, how many Aurum was that?

Cool hair, how many Aurum was that?

Making you feel good about yourself is the absolute biggest and most powerful tool that game designers build into each and every one of their games. The ability to entertain you by giving you the experience of actually being someone else is what draws most to these games in the first place. What have I been? I have been the lone traveler, seeking fun and profit in the deep darkest reaches of space. I have been that brave warrior who stands in the way of horrific monsters and soak up damage so friends may progress and enjoy the spoils of war. I have been a thief, an assassin, a travelin triage, a soldier with a powerful gun, and a powerful bow. I have run the gambit of different styles and paid the price to do it all; most importantly I had to look cool at all times.

Just have to have that matching cape that matches the weapon glow that matches the color of the mount that matches the vanity pet. I have worked hard for the image and the price that I paid in various types of currency: from my time to money spent in the virtual shop, from straight out grinding for hours, sometimes even days. Taking abuse from someone who you don’t even know or respect for the opportunity to get that one cool item so you can upgrade to get the next cool item.

Does all this sound redundant to you? Quite frankly, it is, and even more redundant while you are going through it. So this is the main reason why game developers have taken the time to put all those cool items in the shop and easily accessible to you because who the hell want to do all that grinding anyway?

A secret: It was this scene that actually brought me back to the World of Warcraft.

I wanted to ride a big red dragon, and I actually got to do it...sort of.


Decisions, decisions, do I want to delve into the sword and sorcery world of Guild Wars 2 or solve modern day mysteries running around in a black trench coat wielding black magic saying, “There can only be one!” Or would I break down again and toss on my old beat up cowboy hat, jump in my Drake and chase around anyone flying while wearing a monocle? But I digress. If you notice that most of the new games due to be release have item malls with vanity items. Now I can really be that one-eyed space pirate-ARRG!

Just one word of advice: no matter what you look like, just make sure to remember that what your looking like does not really exist. I know a girl that actually spent hundreds on vanity for a free to play game that she doesn't play anymore. Don't spend beyond your means and let the developers take you for a ride. You don’t really own anything in the game, yes, even those cool samurai swords on your back or your monocle. Once you turn off the game, you are who you are. Don’t judge people by what they look like, ingame or in real life. Because looks really aren’t everything. But dang, this fiery little critter looks cool as hell with my crown of fire on my head. Now I just need the fiery....

Play safe,
Inktomi

Investors Shun Funcom Shares

Posted by Inktomi Tuesday August 21 2012 at 10:43PM
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Shares of Norwegian MMO developer Funcom traded as low as 3.16 in intraday trading on their homeland Oslo Bors Stock market. The shares are off almost 80% from their year high of 24.70 and have been trading down steadily in the wake of the release of their heavily anticipated  MMORPG The Secret World.

Photo courtesy of  Oslobors.no

In Funcoms latest Investor Relation update states that following the launch of The Secret World on the 3rd of July 2012, Funcom's share price has decreased significantly. The company attributes this mostly to the aggregate review score, the "Metascore", for the game at MetaCritic (www.metacritic.com) together with other public sources for tracking the performance of games. 

Also in that release Funcom says that they will implement several "cost-cutting" measures just as they confirm layoffs to online video game magazine The Verge. The Verge reviewed The Secret World and gave them a 6.5 out of 10 score and called the game  "underdeveloped."

Just how seriously are Norwegian investors taking scores from Metacritic? In past interviews some CEO's and game developers have claimed that Metacritic scores are unfair at best. Saying that they don't encompasse all of the review scores and do not give a correct average. Marc Doyle, co-founder of Metacritic.com admitted to the podcaster over at A jumps, B shoots that "in order to have a balanced average, reviewers have to review all the cr@p." Which rings some truth as we have read numerous stories of how game reviewers can give a less than honest review of a game and sometimes only the most popular games get reviewed.

In My Humble Opinion

Not to dredge up the whole game reviewer topic but I do feel as if game reviews are very top heavy compared to music, movie and tv show review. As we see some of the most popular and well funded games get blessed with 90's or better, some hidden gems get left aside with paltry 70's and 80's doomed to a life of Steam sales and bargain bins.

Not true in the case of movie and music reviews. I would watch a movie that was somewhere around the 60's if the subject matter interested me. Cough:::Prometheus:::cough. While some other movies that score higher I would take a pass. Same with music and TV shows, it comes down personal taste, not a red, green or yellow score.

Game reviews are at best uneven, biased and best be taken with a grain of salt. The best test is by speaking with a close trusted guinea pig, oops, I meant buddy, and getting their take on the game. Also, if the game has a trial period or a beta then that would be the best way to decide for yourself, instead of an aggregate score.

Someone should have told that to Norwegian shareholders of Funcom. Unfortunately, the people who are going to pay dearly are Funcom employees; I wish them the best of luck.

One more thing...

Funcom shows having a market cap of only $41 million? That is tiny in the grand scale of software companies. I would view that as a microcap company and just as risky as an investment as Gravity Co (GRVY) makers of Ragnarok Online and horror grindfest Requiem Online. They also hold a $45 million dollar market cap. If you are an American investor looking to buy into Funcom shares, you can find them on the Nasdaq Pink Sheets for only $.62.

The pink sheets are companies that do not have the qualifications of being listed on the Nasdaq market, viewed as the riskiest bets. In my entire career as a stockbroker I have never bought a company on the pink sheets, and I am not about to start now.

Play safe,

~Inktomi