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Business Models

Under construction: Who benefits from MMO early access?

Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Miscellaneous

under construction
On its Early Access page, Steam posts a manifesto of sorts praising this radical new type of development in which players get in on the alpha or pre-alpha stage, saying, "This is the way that games should be made."

Is it? I'm not so sure.

Early access -- and all of the other similar names for the same concept -- appears to be the latest trend that's sweeping not just MMOs but video games in general. Both Steam and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are largely responsible for promoting early access, and it has been a popular attraction for players who previously had to sit on their hands and wait for a game to get, y'know, finished. Now we can indulge instantly and run around the structure even as it's still under construction.

I was talking about early access with Bree on the podcast the other day, and both of us were expressing distaste and an increasing uneasiness with the early access trend. Popular as it may be, is it really the way that games should be made? Will it result in better titles in the end? And who is getting what, exactly, out of it? It's this last question I want to address today.

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John Smedley praises free-to-play on consoles [Updated]

Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Business Models, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Consoles, DC Universe Online, PlanetSide 2

If you ignore all the money I spend on it, it's free as heck!
Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley knows a thing or two about running free-to-play MMOs on consoles. The studio already has DC Universe Online as a free-to-play title on PlayStation 4, it's bringing PlanetSide 2 to the console soon, and both titles are already free on the PlayStation 3. And there's good reason for it: Smedley said recently to Gamasutra that players on the PS4 have been monetizing on DCUO at nearly three times the rate of PC players.

This isn't unique to the newest console, as DCUO players on the PS3 shell out cash twice as often as PC users. He also notes that it's a challenge to port to the console, as the lack of a mouse has to heavily influence design, plus it requires a method of dropping simultaneous updates across multiple platforms, which in and of itself can be a tricky venture. Read the full article for more insights from Smedley regarding the console market's free-to-play sustainability.

[Update: Smed further clarified his statements over Twitter earlier today. "People think we're becoming a console first shop. NO! consoles are a great place for F2P, but we have always been a PC first company because that's our heritage. We aren't dumbing down PC ever."]

The Daily Grind: Is $10 a good price for a monthly MMO sub?

Fantasy, Business Models, The Daily Grind, TERA, Subscription

TERA's $10 subscription offer ends today, and that gives me a good excuse to talk about business models in this morning's Daily Grind. In case you missed it, En Masse's Elite option has been on sale for five dollars off the regular rate, and the firm is also allowing players to lock the $10 monthly fee in place going forward as long as the sub is maintained.

What about the number, though? Assuming you're not allergic to subscriptions, is $10 about right, or do you think sub games should go lower (or higher)?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

PlanetSide 2's PS4 beta arrives on January 20th

Betas, Sci-Fi, Business Models, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMOFPS, Dev Diaries, PlanetSide 2, Sandbox

A post on the official PlayStation blog today confirms that PlanetSide 2's PlayStation 4 beta will begin on January 20th.

"We'll be using this beta period to test our servers, performance, and various other aspects of the game, and we also want you to share constructive feedback on PlanetSide 2," says SOE Executive Producer Clint Worley. "How does the game look and feel? Is navigating through the menus intuitive and utilizing DualShock 4 in the best way? All players in the Closed Beta will have access to our special Beta forums, which will be the primary location for development interaction and feedback. We want the massive battles to make your heart pound and adrenaline pump, so share your thoughts with us."

Beta signups for the PS4 edition of the game have been live since early December. PlanetSide 2 has lately made news for its frank discussions about monetization; SOE president John Smedley admitted that "PlanetSide 2 only recently has turned profitable on an operating basis."

Rumor: BioWare's Shadow Realms 'totally rebooted'

Fantasy, Business Models, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items

Shadow Realms is "going through big changes and may have been totally rebooted," according to an unnamed source who spoke to Kotaku. BioWare's episodic online action RPG was revealed in August of last year and was hit with an alpha delay on October 31st.

A "reliable source familiar with goings-on at BioWare Austin" tells Kotaku that the title was revamped in October and "will now have a full campaign." Why the changes? Apparently BioWare's decision to embrace the integration of EA's digital store and Origin coincided with the decision to reboot Shadow Realms. "Developers at EA take budget hits if they don't use internal technology and services," Kotaku says.

New Kickstarter sandbox Identity promises 'complete freedom and a focus on player interaction'

Betas, Real-Life, Trailers, Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, News Items, Crime, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Buy-to-Play

Who's ready for some new Kickstarter MMOs for 2015? How about an ambitious modern-day sandbox? That'd be Identity, an MMO by indie studio Asylum Entertainment, headed up by Mortal Online vet John "Paratus" VanderZwet. The game promises a dynamic, player-run open world, player-driven economy, player housing, minigames like karaoke and paintball, and what sounds like open PvP complete with "player police force, gangs, cartels, [and] businesses."

The title's business model isn't discussed in detail, but it appears to be buy-to-play; VanderZwet says it won't have a sub and won't be pay-to-win: "We hate 'pay to win' games as much as anybody, and will always ensure that items and upgrades purchased with real money will not give a notable advantage in-game."

A 10 CAD pledge is the cheapest with game access; pledges run all the way up to 5000 CAD. Asylum is seeking 150,000 CAD. Closed beta has not been announced, but pledge awards are scheduled for "delivery" by December 2016.

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Not So Massively: Destiny's rumored DLC, Elite's server blip, Hearthstone's new season

Video, Bugs, Business Models, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Miscellaneous, Not So Massively, MOBA, Crowdfunding, Destiny, Elite: Dangerous, Path of Exile, Buy-to-Play, Hearthstone, E-sports

Welcome back to No So Massively, where every Monday we round up the highlights from the past week in the world of MOBAs, roguelikes, MMOTCGs, and other games that aren't quite MMOs.

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Smedley wants to talk more about monetization

Sci-Fi, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, PlanetSide 2

John Smedley's not done talking about monetization. The SOE CEO posted on Reddit a bit ago and added to the recent discussion surrounding PlanetSide 2 drop rates, the cert economy, and F2P in general.

"PlanetSide 2 only recently has turned profitable on an operating basis," Smedley wrote. He also says that the majority of players have a ton of certs because SOE didn't balance properly and "erred on the side of giving away too many or making things cost too little so we don't make you grind too hard."

Smedley takes issue with the rhetoric painting SOE as "money grubbing a-holes," but he does own up to the company's lack of clear communication on this particular issue.

Hi-Rez offers more advice on how to break into the games industry

Video, Business Models, MMO Industry, News Items, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Community Q&A, E-sports

If Hi-Rez's last set of videos on how to break into the games industry didn't scare you off for good, then congrats: You are exactly the kind of idealistic glutton for punishment who should totally jump into the games industry to be underpaid and overworked for your valuable skills!

Last time, the SMITE developers covered design, programming, and QA; this round, they're focused on 3-D character art and 2-D concept Art. Just before the holidays, they also pushed out a trio on marketing, shoutcasting, and streaming. Enjoy!

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PSA: TERA's $10 sub deal ends Thursday

Fantasy, Business Models, News Items, Free-to-Play, TERA, Promotions, Subscription

If 2014's new MMOs are leaving you cold, maybe an older game would perk you right up and get you through January: TERA is still offering discounts on its revamped (and optional) Elite status subscription package. Until January 8th, players can sign up for a $9.99 monthly sub that lasts as long as it's maintained. In fact, if you were subbing last month, you'll want to take advantage of the resub to lock in the cheaper price and snag the new bonuses.

The Elite tier now includes a mount, experience boost, reputation boost, gold boosts, atlas and travel journal, a daily loot box, and several potions.

TERA launched its first expansion, Fate of Arun, earlier in December. I don't want to spoil anything, buuuuuuut TERA fans might want to keep an eye on Massively every Wednesday this month. Hint, hint.

[Thanks, Nate!]

Make My MMO: December 28, 2014 - January 3, 2015

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Crowdfunding, Make My MMO

This week in MMO crowdfunding news, pretty much everyone took a vacation. Including Frontier, which now finds itself with something of a mess after its Elite: Dangerous server went whacko and screwed over the sci-fi title's economy.

In happier news, Project Gorgon got the green light from Steam's community, and Pathfinder's early enrollment period got underway at long last. Click past the cut for the rest of our weekly roundup to make sure you don't miss a beat.

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Betawatch: December 27, 2014 - January 2, 2015

Betas, Business Models, Launches, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Massively Meta, Betawatch, Miscellaneous

Pathfinder Online
Pathfinder Online's early enrollment period opened for backers this week. If you're not a backer and still want to play, you can pony up $100 to join; that includes three months of access. Goblinworks' Ryan Dancey dropped by the Massively comments to assure readers that "from this point forward there are no planned server resets." Unplanned rollbacks and resets are a possibility, but accumulated XP "will never be revoked."

What else is new in the world of MMO testing this week? Our complete Betawatch roundup lies ahead.

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Project Gorgon is coming to Steam

Fantasy, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Sandbox, Crowdfunding

Indie sandbox Project Gorgon finally caught a break this week in the form of Greenlight approval on Steam. Two separate Kickstarter drives failed to fund, one in 2012 and another earlier this year, but former Turbine and Perpetual developer Eric Heimburg continued work on the project and has now announced a forthcoming Steam launch.

"There's a lot of work to be done to get the game Steam-ready, and I don't know the exact timeline yet," Heimburg wrote. "But the hard part was getting Greenlit."

Gorgon seeks to marry old-school and new-school MMO design; it includes features like player-authored books, exploration without signposts, and additional goodies that you can see in the video past the cut.

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever been hacked in an MMO?

Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Hands-On, Miscellaneous

The Massively tip line frequently receives notes from MMO gamers who are upset about being hacked in one MMO or another. Sometimes it's the result of a serious security flaw in the game, but sometimes it's just a lapse in a player's personal security. One way or another, it sucks.

I've never had an MMO account of mine hacked, but a guildie or two of mine has in the past, which has resulted in our guild vault being cleaned out. Fortunately, the studio (Blizzard, in this case) restored the accounts and every scrap of loot and gold that was taken. But I know not all studios respond that way when it's not their fault but ours, and some folks find they've lost their accounts and characters forever.

Have you ever had an MMO account hacked? How did the studio handle it? And what did you do to safeguard yourself afterward?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Make My MMO: December 21 - 27, 2014

Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Crowdfunding, The Repopulation, Make My MMO

This week in MMO crowdfunding news, The Repopulation dropped its NDA and thrust itself firmly into the middle of Steam's Early Access conga line. This was a pretty big deal, given how the game is channeling a certain late great sci-fi sandbox and given how many people responded with their alpha tester opinions in the announcement thread.

Some other stuff happened, too. Christmas, for one thing. But, really, this week was all about TR when it comes to crowdfund happenings. If you simply must know what else was up, click past the cut for our roundup.

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