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Exclusive Columns

Columnists - The Free Zone

Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres. This column runs each Monday.

Two Recent Questions

General -  Column

What role should governments have in the online game industry? This question was brought back to mind recently by news about a bill in Singapore that may have substantial potential to impact how the free to play revenue model can operate there. I also had renewed reason to wonder about the future of World of Warcraft in our planet's largest market, China. Posted Oct 14, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Blizzard's Titanic Question

General -  Column

Last week, Blizzard revealed it had cancelled Project Titan, which can now lay claim to a couple of rather dubious honors. It's certainly the most eagerly and widely awaited MMOG to be killed off before we actually knew what it was, and it may also hold the record for being in the works longer than any endeavor that was never announced. In any case, its demise raises an enormous question. What will the company do instead? Posted Sep 30, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Are eSports Sports?

General -  Column

Earlier this month, John Skipper, President of ESPN, the network that, just this summer, had streamed the finals of the $10 million DOTA 2 championship tournament, The International, opined about eSports that “It's not a sport; it's a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition.” He followed up by saying “Mostly, I'm interested in doing real sports.” Was this frank, disingenuous, hypocritical or maybe just an unconsidered slip of the tongue? Posted Sep 16, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Two Questions About Game Shows

General -  Column

Like many MMOG fans and gamers in general, I tend to pay attention when major game shows roll around. I'm no longer a regular attendee like I was for years, but I still look forward to them. That said, I started to question a few years ago how much I do so due to force of habit rather than their actual importance. In addition, while looking for information on this year's upcoming Korean event, G-Star, I wondered about its future and potential. Posted Sep 2, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Coming Our Way From Korea

General -  Column

While it's arguably not as difficult as it once was, staying reasonably informed as to what's happening in the Korean MMOG development industry remains far from easy. As a result, few western observers are truly up to date. I'm not. However, I've recently spent some time trying to catch up a bit. So, here are some thoughts on a trio of projects that seem positioned to raise their visibility on this side of the globe over the coming months. Posted Aug 19, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Summer Snapshots

General -  Column

Let's try playing a little game. I'll pose a bunch of topics and provide my thoughts on each. You're invited to do the same. The only stipulation is that the word snapshot in the sub-head means there's a limit of 100 words per subject. Are you up for it? I guess we'll see soon enough. Here's your chance to join me in offering quick takes on Firefall, Destiny, WoW: Warlords of Draenor, WildStar, ArcheAge and which MMOGs may be approaching their sunsets. Posted Aug 5, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Talking Skyforge and F2P With Obsidian

Skyforge -  Interview

Last summer, we learned that Obsidian Entertainment had been retained to help develop Skyforge. Since the studio is strongly associated with standalone RPGs, this news was interesting and at least somewhat unexpected. Following E3, where parts of the game were playable and appeared to be favorably received, I had the chance to follow up with Development Director of Culturalization Eric DeMilt about his team's role on the project. Posted Jul 22, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Two Interesting Developments

General -  Column

Although the month or two after E3 can sometimes be slower than usual in terms of news, there was still quite a bit going on in the MMOG space over the past couple of weeks. A number of items caught my attention over this span. The top two, both involving potentially intriguing changes, were Perfect World's latest western acquisition and the departure of Blizzard's Chief Creative Officer.Posted Jul 8, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

TESO - The Post-E3 Rumor Mill

General -  Column

With the latest iteration of the US trade event having come and gone, it was natural to expect the bump in volume of rumors that has followed. For various reasons, it doesn't seem as pronounced as it once was. Nonetheless, it's still an annual rite. This time, The Elder Scrolls Online has been front and center. Posted Jun 24, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

RIP Mythic

General -  Column

It's not my fault. Mythic's closing, which was revealed last week, did not come about due to any curse associated with me. Admittedly, I've written quite a bit about the studio and its projects. I can say the same thing about Origin, NetDevil, Artifact Entertainment, Nival, Cryptic, Destination Games and more. That all of these are now either gone completely or substantially changed from what they were is, I assure you, purely coincidental. Posted Jun 3, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

My Most Memorable MMOGs

General -  Column

It's approaching two decades since I started writing about the massively multiplayer category. I don't recall the exact date or even which title was the first I covered, but since then, I've played hundreds for at least a few hours each, and seen lots more. Recently, I was asked which ones I most remember. While this question may seem simple enough, it took me a fair bit of time and thought to answer.Posted May 20, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Issues With F2P Games' Visibility And Image

General -  Column

Over the past decade or so, I've had occasion to wonder if various free to play titles would have benefited from more visibility than they actually achieved. Most of these times, I thought they could have done better in terms of reaching their potential target audiences. So, why didn't they? Posted May 6, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Some Intriguing Info On F2P ARPUs

General -  Column

Research house SuperData recently released some findings on the average revenue per user for 10 prominent free to play online games. This is an area in which there has never been much readily available data. So, while limited, the bits that were revealed about the likes of World of Tanks, Guild Wars 2, DOTA 2 and League of Legends grabbed my attention and got me wondering. Posted Apr 22, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

MMOG Monetary Miscellany and More

General -  Column

Do you get the feeling that there has been a lot of recent activity in the area of game-related corporate ownership changes? If so, your impression appears to be very solid. According to information released late last month by UK-based Digi-Capital, the total value of mergers and acquisitions during the first quarter of this year was more than $5 billion. Posted Apr 8, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Free to Play - My Personal Review

General -  Column

To avoid any chance of confusion, today's topic isn't the business model. Rather, it's the documentary of the same name that Valve released last week. Available at no charge on Steam and elsewhere, it takes us back to August of 2011 and the first ever e-sports tournament with a top prize of $1 million. Called The International, it took place during Gamescon in Germany, with 16 invited DOTA 2 teams battling it out for a total of $1.6 million. Posted Mar 25, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Can So Many F2P Gamers Really Be Wrong?

General -  Column

If there's a truly accurate figure available for the total number of people who currently play F2P MMOGs, I'd love to know what it is. That said, it seems pretty safe to think it's in the tens of millions. Indeed, even higher isn't out of the question. So, whenever I see yet another statement to the effect that (almost) every offering in the entire category is bad, I can't help but ask whether their players agree. Invariably, my answer is that they don't. Posted Mar 11, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

What Games Drive Nexon's and NCsoft's Profits?

General -  General

Pop quiz. Which title generated the most revenue for NCsoft in 2013? As I noted last time, February is always an informative month for those of us who like to follow the state of the global MMOG industry because it's when various publicly traded publishers report their Q4 and full year financials. So, we now know that the answer to our question was not, as many here in North America might have guessed, Guild Wars 2. Posted Feb 25, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

WoW's Subscribers Are Up... Maybe?

General -  Column

'Tis the season for 2013 fourth quarter and full year financial reporting, which means we can update ourselves as to how various publishers and their key titles fared during these periods. It's an unfortunate fact of life that game companies dislike making their numbers more transparent than necessary. That said, a little data mining can often be edifying and interesting. Last week learned about World of Warcraft, and from elsewhere, about the Russian market. Posted Feb 11, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

2013's Free to Play Top 10

General -  Column

Research company SuperData recently released a list of the top 10 F2P games based on their estimated worldwide revenue last year. Not surprisingly, the top position was occupied by CrossFire, which is said to have brought in a cool $957 million. Depending on how this figure was sourced, is it possible that the MMO shooter from SmileGate and Tencent may actually have surpassed the $1 billion mark? Posted Jan 28, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

Will Subscriptions Truly Prosper in 2014?

General -  Column

It isn't difficult at all to find predictions that this year will be a very good or even a great one for the subscription MMOG segment. For the most part, this thinking seems to be fueled by the impending arrivals of two high-profile titles. The more prominent of the pair is Zenimax' The Elder Scrolls Online, which brings one of the game industry's premier properties into the massively multiplayer space that has undoubtedly consumed hundreds of millions of dollars.Posted Jan 14, 2014 by Richard Aihoshi

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