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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

DCUO To Be Delayed Until 2010; Champions Online Will Launch With Lvl 40 Cap

Posted by UnSub Thursday March 26 2009 at 2:01AM
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A short post before a very long one later this week:

  1. DC Universe Online delayed until 2010. As is The Agency, which seems to exist in a perpetual "almost finished, really, but we haven't decided to announce any beta / launch dates yet".
  2. Champions Online will launch (still Spring 2009) with the level cap set to 40, not 50 as was originally indicated in a Game Informer (March 2008) issue. Which probably means the Omega System, ChampO's secretive end-game system, is off the table for launch too.

DCUO's news isn't that surprising but is still disappointing. DCUO will need a lot of work despite the attractiveness of the small areas they've demoed.

ChampO's news is surprising AND disappointing. Cryptic dropped the launch content of CoH/V from lvl 50 to lvl 40 as well (lvl 40+ content was later patched in and it was pretty good) but you would think they'd have learned from that.

Gazillion Signs Deal With Marvel For A MMO et al, Will Likely Crash and Burn

Posted by UnSub Tuesday March 17 2009 at 9:30AM
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Today Gazillion Entertainment exploded onto the MMO scene with the news that it has an exclusive 10 year deal with Marvel Comics and is going to have it's first MMO out in 2010 aimed at kids. Also, it is made up of four studios, of which NetDevil and Slipgate Ironworks are the established ones and two new studios in Amazing Society and Gargantuan. I count seven MMOs (perhaps a stand alone game are part of their vague ideas) planned to come out of four studios. It has raised funds from some big investment houses, probably off the idea that MMOs are recession proof.

Things don't look good.

First off, if NetDevil and Slipgate Ironworks are your 'established' MMO companies (my term, but they are known) things are off to a bad start. NetDevil has two failed MMOs under its belt - Jumpgate and Auto Assault - and is hanging its hat on a Jumpgate sequel / update and the LEGO MMO who's concept art makes me scratch my head. Slipgate Ironworks is John Romero's (of Daikatana infamy) studio who has been working on a MMO for a while now with nothing to publicly show for it.

The Amazing Society is meant to be releasing its kid-friendly Marvel MMO named Super Hero Squad (based on Hasbro's Super Hero Squad figures which are licensed from Marvel) in 2010. Good luck with releasing a new MMO - I'm expecting Marvel's version of FusionFall - from a new studio in less than two years. Especially since it is going to be associated with a new cartoon series launching in 2009. I can't really imagine Super Hero Squad Online getting that much of a run if the cartoon series flops.

Gargantuan Studios is developing the Marvel Universe MMO. Let's hope they fare better than Vivendi / Wolfpack, Microsoft / Sigil and Microsoft / Cryptic. The last 10 year exclusive MMO deal that Marvel signed lasted less than 3 years.

I see four studios, major IPs, lots of plans and mentions of how much money Marvel films make or the MMO industry is worth and think of Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment and FireSky. Also, it seems like the F2P / microtransaction model is the core of Gazillion's revenue plan. That's fine - I don't shun RMT out of hand - but every successful F2P title out there there are a lot of second tier or those that end up in the gaming graveyard.

Gazillion has launched with a lot of promises, but it feels to me like one big bluff.

Champions Online Xbox 360 Version Delayed: PC Comes First

Posted by UnSub Thursday March 12 2009 at 2:23AM
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From an interview between Eurogamer and Cryptic Studios' Bill Roper:

"Eurogamer: So the console versions will be coming out some time afterwards?

Bill Roper: All I know is it's coming out first on the PC. We really, really want to bring it out on console, the consoles are just hungry and perfect for an MMO, and we've done a lot of work to ensure that there's nothing to prevent us from doing that. It's an area beyond my control at this point, I just work on the game."

It's not clear who is driving this change to the release schedule, but it is a big blow for Cryptic. First they move from announcing their intentions to be a successful independent MMO studio only to sell out to Infogrammes (understandable, given the economy and their lack of revenue); now they've delayed their Xbox 360 version that has been trumpeted since ChampO was announced. Some issues have been placed at Microsoft's door in that the Xbox 360 QA process slows down the release of patches / content on that console, but this has always been a known issue.

The reason I see this as a big strike against ChampO's potential success is that releasing just on the PC puts it up against pretty much every other MMO in existance, both launched and unlaunched. On the Xbox 360, the only MMO competition is FFXI and that isn't exactly a powerhouse. Although a risk, the Xbox 360 is an open market for the first current-gen MMO who goes for it. Yes, there is risk in a new market, but all the "console players won't pay a sub fee for games!" is exactly what was said about PC players about a decade ago and ignores that a lot of console players already pay regular fees to access online content.

Ultimately, this seems a bad move for Cryptic. If they've been developing both the PC and Xbox 360 version side-by-side (or the combatibility for both platforms) dropping one platform will only see that code get further and further out-of-date and resourcing issues related to ChampO's post-launch support and Star Trek Online's development and launch is only going to make it harder for that Xbox 360 version to see the light of day.

It could work in the Xbox 360's favour to be delayed - launch is always a rough time and getting additional content after launch from post-launch updates would help hold the Xbox 360 player base - but I can also forsee it ultimately mothballed as Cryptic focuses on other development areas.

All of which leaves to door open for someone else to crack the Xbox 360 / console MMO nut for this next generation of titles.

Highest Revenue Generating MMOs of 2008: Not Who You'd Think They'd Be

Posted by UnSub Tuesday March 3 2009 at 10:03PM
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Although usually based heavily on estimates (because not every company releases such important data publicly) a list of the highest revenue generating MMOs in 2008 is out. The full report costs real money and isn't available for another month, so we'll go with the pre-release PR article.

For those who don't click links, the list is:

  1. World of Warcraft (no surprises there)
  2. Fantasy Westward Journey (Chinese market MMO I've never heard of)
  3. Maple Story (probably the most well known of the F2P MMO crowd)
  4. Shanda (not sure how the company behind Legend of Mir and World of Legend gets on the list, but anyway)
  5. Lineage 1 and Lineage 2 (is linking sequels together really valid in a list like this?)
  6. Runescape (everyone's favourite western MMO that no-one talks about)
  7. Club Penguin (kid-friendly MMOs can be money generators too)
  8. Lord of the Rings Online (there's an irony that it is ranked ahead of...)
  9. Warhammer Online (which is at least ahead of...)
  10. Age of Conan (at least AoC is top ten in one list that wasn't Most Disappointing PC Game of 2008).

Now, this list is based on revenue, not profit, and I have some issues with how it was compiled, but it is interesting food for thought. The key things I take out from this list is that 1) free to play (F2P) can still earn huge amounts of money, 2) graphics are less important than distribution when it comes to MMOs, and 3) that just because a MMO doesn't get a lot of hype doesn't mean it is empty of players.