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MMORPG - our Virtual Worlds are under attack. Log in and fight dammit!

Our genera is under fire by a generation of gamers for whom the term MMORPG represents an extension of Animal Crossing or Battlefield 2. Writers are telling gamers to buy buffs from people who control the need for them. I hope it's just a Secret World ARG

Author: Cyberdeck7

Prove LotRO tripled revenues and I'll record myself dropping $50 in their item shop.

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Friday August 12 2011 at 8:11PM
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OK - and I'm surprised a free blogger had to find this instead of one the journalists. Here are some facts:

Time Warner 2010 Earnings Report: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File?item=UGFyZW50SUQ9Nzk3ODZ8Q2hpbGRJRD0tMXxUeXBlPTM=&t=1

Time Warner had lost $20,000,000 in its Filmed Entertainment division by the end of 2010. This is the sub-division in which their video game business resides. So someone lost money there; here's what the financials say about the other 95% of the "Filmed Entertainment Division"

"In 2010, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group broke the all-time industry worldwide box office record with receipts of $4.814 billion, which surpassed the prior record of $4.010 billion (set by the Studio in 2009). Warner Bros. also established a new industry benchmark for the international box office with a total of $2.93 billion (marking a record third time of crossing the $2 billion threshold) and retained its lead domestically with a box office of $1.884 billion. 2010 also marked the 10th consecutive year Warner Bros. Pictures Group passed the billion dollar mark at both the domestic and international box office."

And No, the purchase of Turbine and Rocksteady get reported elsewhere.

Many of you keep parroting the "LOTRO tripled its revenue since going free to play" line. If you Google for the quote, the ONLY results are from video game sites like this and you'll see it all attributed to the answer the head of Turbine gave on a podcast at Ten Ton Hammer.

Adam Mersky himself makes no mention of the milestone on twitter or any of his social network sites and he retweets every little detail of what Turbine is doing. There's also no collaborating post on any Official LotRO, Warner Bros. Time Warner Inc, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, or Warner Bros. Interactive website.

The only mention of Lord of the Rings Online in any stock holder's report, earnings report, SEC filing or anywhere official at all is:

"In 2010, WBIE continued to expand its games publishing business through acquisitions, including the acquisition of Turbine Inc., the developer of The Lord of the Rings Online"

Now isn't that odd that such a smart purchase that tripled in revenue isn't trumpeted to the investors? That it isn't anywhere where Mersky could be held accountable for the quote, in fact no where official at all? I don't know, maybe Ten Ton Hammer has a bible they have all the MMO marketers swear on as they're entering the studio, but last time I checked people advertising on Podcast interviews don't have to tell the truth. After all, didn't the same dude say they would never sell anything game altering before they went from clothes all the way through potions and on to selling Legendary Weapons in less than a year? So now we know he lies on Podcasts. Period.

The situation we have at all of these MMO sites is some writer reading some other guy's article, maybe 10 ton hammer or something, and just repeating it without doing any research whatsoever. It's not just here - it's all over the net - some guy attributes his facts to Massively who attribute their facts to MMORPG.com and they pass it around and around until it's everywhere, but what it comes down to is some guy answering a question on a gaming site's podcast that makes him look like a business genius who then won't reassociate himself with the quote or brag about the major milestone on the net. It is a giant marketing circle jerk.

There are a few sites that tried to investigate, who could only say 'a line item for the gaming division was 'suspiciously missing' from their earnings report.' At least they found that the triple earning quote was inconclusive.

So here's a challenge - find anything officially owned by Time Warner or Turbine that has any mention of a tripling of the revenue pulled in by LotRO. Anything, as long as it's official. And Official MMO Journalists, especially that grey haired F2P pied piper who apparently can't track spending - I'm looking at you - are you a cut and paste shop or do you research what you're told? I think you should analyse this stuff before encouraging thousands of kids to go spend $5 on copies of buff icons while publishers are tweaking the game so the icons don't last as long.

If anyone finds anything, I'll go drop $50 in the Lotro (maybe Vindictus) Item shop and record the whole thing.

F2P and the Explosive death of an Industry

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Monday August 8 2011 at 11:01PM
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While games that go F2P may take a while to die, it'll happen. A game's primary cornerstone is achievement and they've stripped it out to sell for parts. It's a logical projection if you watch the progress games are taking towards selling buffs and items that affect game-play, watch the industry and watch how MMO companies behave running a F2P business model. The death of F2P will be a spectacular explosion taking a lot of the gaming industry with it. Here’s my take on the how we’ll get to the explosion and what will happen after.

At first the company converting is all altruistic about what they'll sell: only cosmetic items. Besides the fact it eliminates crafting right away, it also dries up one entire avenue of achievement. It then takes nothing to wear fancy clothes except the ability to spend more than the next player, so you can't measure how well you're playing based on it unless you're interested in comparing real-world wallets.

Next, they start selling quick travel. This means one of two things - either their quests were set up badly in the first place or the company considers their world and the experience of being in the world as unimportant. You'll also probably find that new quests released after this point have locations that are a bit further apart.

Then come experience buffs to make the game quicker; to "ease the grind" so to speak. Most games I've played have a pretty clear, pre-laid out quest and level progression. So, now they’re saying content and story is unimportant because you can just skip past pre-maturely grey quests. Again - look for more discontinuity in quest chains to force you into a little experience buff burning grind.

 

After that are health buffs. So now you're standing there fatigued or soul drained from dying multiple times when your party got in over their heads. Of course the lawyer and engineer are still alive as well as the spoiled rich kid. Sure, they spent $5 in buffs a piece to make it through but now they're waiting. In a grouping game you'd be peer pressured into spending the money so you could stick with your guild in battle.

Some raiders might even require that you're fully stocked. So, then raids cost $5 for you to run. How often has everyone been in a raid that *gasp* wiped once or twice in a night before you were successful or quit out of disgust? No refunds. If you raided once a week, assuming you’re in a non-hardcore elite raiding guild like 90% of the rest of the players, you could pay for 3-4 subs to different games (with all item shop items included) for your raiding expenses in a free game. Now your mobs are getting harder to help you burn those health potions.

 

The death wallow of a game is the selling of buffed weapons and armor. LotRO is selling Legendary Items. This means there's absolutely no achievement left in that game at all. There's nothing you can accomplish that you can't buy. It's no longer a game; it's dress-up in a virtual interpretation of Tolkein's world that is enough off canon that if it were a little glitzy museum it wouldn't fly as a tourist trap in a town named Mordor.

 

There are only two reasons for going back on promises to your community (documented in the tubes, forever) and watering down the quality of the gaming experience. Either these companies are stepping back their standards incrementally because they're losing players or they're just that greedy - the round of explosive profits from the first icon (oh, little red dress, buff, potion, whatever - it’s an icon) release just wasn't enough. Seriously, is there a higher profit margin in the world than 8-bit icons that get “used up”? Man that’s tempting.

What's next?

Well, personally I think the sand-boxers aren’t having anything to do with F2P.

PvPers, unless they have fat wallets and the overwhelming need to teabag, won’t play games with purchasable non-cosmetic items.

Raiders have max level characters and are dedicated to their game. They have/are figuring out that even $5/week > $Sub fee. What most of them are spending would pay for two or three subs. B-bye.

Players that love to group but live on a budget are starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the pressure they feel to spend in order to not be a beggar in groups. Live on a budget = most people.

The social fabric of the game, the people who play to craft, for profit or just to help others, will be the slowest to react though they're the first casuality. They don’t want to fight monsters, they just want to do something useful for their guild. They’ll finally figure out that crafting in a F2P game is largely pointless.

Additionally, the current batch of games are for tourists and the converted ones all move towards solo content so there’s a severe lack of social continuity in F2P. Those people that are there for friends will gravitate to sub games that, by default, have a more dedicated player-base.

The other thing working against the 2010-2011 round of labeling things "FREE" sheisterism is age. People that see the F2P model clearly for what it is trend towards older players as a whole. That’s because we experienced the big media companies huddle up around music CDs and price fix something that cost all of $.25 to produce and ship at $14.99.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but $15 now isn’t the same as $15 was then. The most popular, trendy shoe at the time, the Black Reebok, cost $40. If the hot shoe of today costs $120 that’s the equivalent of them charging us $45 for an album. They were eventually prosecuted for price fixing and a lot of us got a surprise $5 check in the mail if we actually signed and mailed back the class action papers. Some people had CD rack walls in their houses and apartments. $5.

We also got $80 long distance bills and $50 dial-up AOL or CompuServ bills back when they charged internet access by the minute. We’ve seen it happen time and time again. The time period I’m talking about is back before Web 2.0 became “The Cloud” and web servers became “Cloud Services.” Back before “the ‘net” became Web 2.0; before the Internet became “the ‘net”; before cyberspace turned into the internet... all the way back before the Tech Bubble when the web was called The Information Superhighway and it was trendy to use modem squealing in commercials. Catch my drift? It's all marketing.

That’s why I say age is trending against the F2P “revolution;” a lot of players will become more experienced in life and will end up warning their kids about whatever BS is going on in the future. This will have been a learning experience. Back when we were paying $45 for an album there were people all over in magazines singing the gospels of CDs and what a deal we were getting with the new high-tech music.

What this is all leading to is not an explosion of a genera, but an implosion of an industry. Notice the F2Ps getting gobbled up by or converted by major F2P empires? Remember the buying spree that lead to the internet bubble? This is a media bubble.

Before the tech bubble, the vast majority of the population didn’t take the Internet seriously and the “brick and mortar” retailers actually framed online shopping as a trend to fight against instead of using it to augment their services. Then the Internet user-base grew like wildfire and there was a huge buying spree. Big software corporations bought up or out-right stole technologies from all these little innovative companies and tried to charge for them as add-ons to their operating systems. All the sudden everyone realized they were getting screwed as they peeked over the AOL walled garden into the ‘dangerous Internet’ and POP!

A quick meta-note on comments: if you’ve read this far and would like to comment add ## to the beginning. Everything else is getting deleted. There’s no point in discussing any sort of article with some F2Per that finds the first point he doesn’t like and cries. Thank you.

I think MMOs should be taken very seriously as the next trend leading towards a shift in humanity - like the Internet. As resources run low, it’ll become too costly not to do business in virtual environments. What we play is the genesis of these virtual environments where everyone will go for work and entertainment. Your job will pay for your access like they pay for your cellphone now. The problem is they’re all not interconnected yet - you can’t maintain an avatar from game to game or environment to environment. That’ll change.

My prediction is that there will be a media bubble driven by games, it’ll pop and the industry will be in shambles. Then, of course Google - who has their fingers in all areas of technology and media except online worlds - will buy up everything, shove it all into google earth, add ads, product placements and give free glasses with the Nexxus 20. Then we’re back on the path to the metaverse.

Gold sellers are better for the industry than item shops

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Thursday August 4 2011 at 6:55PM
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I'd rather buy gold from a seller then items from a shop. The industry has everyone chanting "gold sellers are evil" as they deploy their item shops, however consider these points

1) Gold sellers don't take anything from the game or inject anything into the economy that wasn't there first.

2) Item shops remove achievement, challenge and decimate crafting.

3) You can buy items with your gold, but you can not accelerate leveling or skills. You also don't have access to any item that people with less money don't have even though you can afford things sooner.

4) Gold sellers 'work' for the money in-game and sell you something that has value in the game world.

5) Item shops sell icons that they replicated

6) Gold sellers can't affect the difficulty of the game before or after they make their sale

7) The entire F2P business model is to adjust game difficulty to get you to use buffs faster.

Sure they're annoying to players, but in reality they're only moving and redistributing parts of the game that already existed. They operate in a closed system - they don't have the ability to damage anything at all. Item shops' goals are to inject as much from outside the game world as they can.

All in all, to me it would feel a lot better buying gold from a source that operates by the same rules I do in-game then buying any buffs from the same person who controls the need for those buffs.

Why sandboxers need to shed the MMO moniker

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Thursday August 4 2011 at 4:35PM
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I've been arguing that since the mixing of F2p browser credit card games with actual MMORPGs under the same moniker, the real sandboxes are getting lost in the white noise.


Either we need to kick this crap over to its own moniker or get another catchy abbreviation for ourselves. Right now devs don't see us as our own market, just a small niche of a giant market where people are willing to pay real money for icons. We need separation from that. We need our own name and own sites again. It's the only way we'll get funded.

The sandboxes are waaay outnumbered by these cheesy money grabs calling themselves MMOs. To the devs it appears as if there isn't a market for real virtual worlds. In reality our genera and the moniker MMORPG has just been watered down by companies making a cheap money grab at what was a burgeoning industry ripe with innovation by just stealing the name.

From the 'dinosaur' perspective, in the real world it's like going out for a nice double shot of Tullamore Dew and finding out they now only sell pint glasses of single shot bar rail whiskey and water but advertise it as a double of Tullamore Dew. Eventually the bar is filled with watered down whiskey fans who think their favorite drink is Tullamore Dew. Capiche?

If you write about Farmville as a MMO you're going to attract a ton of Farmville fans who think their favorite casual game is a MMO just because they searched Farmville on google and your article popped up. 

The MMO sites aren't helping things. I don't know if there's still a columnist at any of them that would staunchly defend the real concept of MMORPG or tear into FTP item shops and analyze why so many companies are racing towards them.

Here's a clue: You purchase potions and buffs from the people who control the difficulty of the game. I think it's ridiculous to think they don't engage in world tweaking to make more profit.

If there is a MMO Journalist anywhere that can see what F2P is really all about and has the cojones to just ask permission to do an Investigative piece you'd be helping recover the genera. We need help. Please.

I don't blame the columnists at these sites for helping to water everything down. One example of the pressure to add water was when Massively was brought from a niche forum into the fold at AOL when this F2P junk really started taking off. It's the nature of the beast - if they stretch the definition of MMO then they get a larger audience. If you post a job for a columnist to report on Facebook MMOs then guess what? You only get applicants that enjoy facebook games and think they're MMOs.

Global Agenda tried to pass its lobby+ graphics off as an MMO and MMO sites supported them in it. They asked for a monthly fee to participate in persistent conquest play - it was a freaking hex map. I don't know who the heck OK's encouraging gamers - a lot of them young teens and 'tweens' - to pay $15/month for a lobby and a hex map. The sites even got these people all fired up defending the game as an MMO until HiRez realized their marketing failed and went on to create their own 'MOBA' moniker. They're pushing to get into professional competition gaming now. Good for them - they finally realized they were Counterstrike.

I think it's pretty much proof positive that the MMORPG genera is being watered down with the complete support of these MMO sites when a site called 'Massively' runs a column called 'Not so Massively.' Are you serious? You guys aren't having fun chipping away at our niche are you?

Here's Massively's first issue:

All of the games, even the F2P ones, were actual Virtual worlds. It took them four years to go from MMORPGs being Virtual Worlds to calling 2d clickers with chat on an iPhone MMORPGs

You can write about whatever you want, call it a MMORPG and people who enjoy that game will show up. This does not mean the game is an MMO.

Just buy the Green Lantern DLC

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Monday August 1 2011 at 7:07PM
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First some facts. Everyone is parroting - they broke their promise! they broke their promise! about monthly content releases. Well, that's crap unless you think they should have released when they found out that everything got hacked (waaay before it hit the news) or when we were all locked out because of the hack.

In order to figure out what is actually going on and make up your own mind on whether or not to pay $10 for a crapload of content, consider the following.

DCUO was released in Jan

Feb - Catwoman, Batcave, Valentines thing

March - Two Face Instance, Two-Face in Legends, Batcave 3 raid

Apr 12th - Sony hacked (if they didn't hedge on the date). I'd assume all projects were halted. Who'd fund pushing out content when they were facing the extinction of their gaming community?

April 27th - Public announcement and the beginning of subscription losses - yeah, we were locked out of cancelling but were reimbursed in full + free service + digital crap

May - Servers down for 12 days - between that loss, free game time, subscriber loss and paying for everyone's ID protection they lost $3.6 Billion ($260 billion yen) 

****************************************************

Fun fact: If you stacked 3.6 billion 1 dollar bills, the stack would be 244.44 MILES high.

this is not true.---> That is further then the distance between the center of the earth and the center of the moon.<--- but it has to stay for posterity. (Thanks Deathtrip)

****************************************************

A quick lesson in corporate finance before we move on. Sony is not just a big blob of money. Corporations are divided into something similar to divisions, departments, large projects and contributing projects. Everyone from the smallest dev team who wants to get their special move implemented to the entire entertainment division fights for a budget and receives less of an allocation then they ask for.

June - July : Well, Sony didn't lose $3.6 Billion, Sony's gaming division lost the $3.6 billion. Every project would have been looked over. We lost SWG because of it and we lost the upcoming Spy shooter thing. We probably lost crap we never heard of and if you don't think a low performing game like DCUO didn't take a budget hit you're nuts. The reason Sony doesn't come clean about these layoffs and cancellations is that no one at Sony is allowed to mutter the word hack - they don't want to freaking remind us of it, do they? MMO players have an even longer memory than voters.

The item shop was a surprise announcement in July and it is a half-assed thing they threw up to sell the Green Lantern content. The content was never intended as DLC; it was going to be released with the movie along with a TV commercial blitz stressing the relation between the game and the movie. They'd then ramp up content production with the money from the box sales and then maybe satisfy all of us yammering morons.

Look, if you really take a 10,000 foot view of the situation the game is going to be cut unless they can pull in some cash. Plain and Simple. 

If you like to see this game continue, help fund it - give them their $10. It's like two Starbucks for crying out loud. It's probably the closest you'll ever get to the much ballyhooed "speak with your wallet"... ever.

If you hate it, go find a game you like and talk about that.