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Elder Scrolls Online lowers the banhammer

Fantasy, Legal, The Elder Scrolls Online, Subscription

Elder Scrolls Online cheaters beware! ZeniMax is taking aim at your head with its mighty banhammer.

Community Manager Jessica Fulsom posted an announcement today of the studio's opening shots against evil-doers: "Today, we made our first major strike against those who choose to cheat in ESO, permanently banning thousands. This is only the beginning of our ongoing efforts to keep the game free from botters, speed hackers, and gold spammers. We want to thank everyone who has sent in-game reports about these individuals in ESO -- your reports helped us identify many of the accounts we banned today."

Senator who crusaded against game violence arrested on corruption charges

Legal, Humor

Leland Yee says don't play with pretend guns, but real gangsters are OKCalifornia state senator Leland Yee, a Democrat best known in gamer circles for authoring Assembly Bill 1179 that sought to prevent the sale of violent titles to minors, has been arrested on public corruption charges.

SFGate reports that the predawn raid of Yee's San Francisco office involved hundreds of federal and local authorities. The ongoing investigation also "targeted notorious former gangster Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow who was once sentenced to 25 years in prison on gun charges."

Senator Yee was previously arrested for shoplifting a bottle of suntan oil and was twice stopped by San Francisco police officers who suspected him of "cruising the Mission District in search of prostitutes."

Yee made headlines in the wake of the 2013 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting by telling gamers to shut the heck up. "Gamers have got to just quiet down. Gamers have no credibility in this argument," he said. "This is all about their lust for violence and the industry's lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest."

Blizzard wins court case over patent troll Worlds Inc.

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Free-to-Play, Legal, Miscellaneous

A Boston court ruled in Blizzard's favor last week against a lawsuit brought on by Worlds Inc. (aka Worlds.com) that claimed the studio infringed on four patents that Worlds Inc. made in the mid-1990s.

This ruling is the latest development in a case that spans back to 2012, when Worlds Inc. filed the suit. The company claimed that Blizzard violated patents that showed the invention of "a method for enabling a first user to interact with other users in a virtual space," among other items. A U.S. District Judge ruled that these patents are invalid because those inventions already existed prior to the filings.

This isn't Worlds' first attempt to sue an MMO studio over these allegations, as it went after (and lost to) NCsoft and Linden Lab several years ago.

Embers of Caerus website is nuked by its host

Betas, Fantasy, MMO Industry, Legal, Sandbox

Embers of Caerus
Website woes have hit Caerus hard in the embers, if you get our drift. Embers of Caerus' site was nuked by its host, and it looks as though some data may have been lost for good.

The problems began back in early February, when the sandbox MMO's website went down. Regular posts on Facebook indicated that the site would come back, but that changed when the game's creator realized that agreements between the company and the website host lapsed. Subsequent renegotiations did not go well, and the site has remained offline.

"After lengthy discussions with the host, it seems they're absolutely unwilling to work with us," the team posted on Facebook today. "They're basically wanting a big chunk of change that Forsaken Studios can't afford. Unfortunately, because they shut everything down without us being aware that it was happening/impending, they also have a lot of data on their servers that we no longer have access to. Obviously, some of that which was hosted was the website and everything on it. I'm not certain where we're moving to from this point, but this monkey wrench definitely hurt."

Funcom's financials take a sharp blow

Age of Conan, Anarchy Online, Business Models, MMO Industry, The Secret World, Legal, Miscellaneous

The earnings report for Funcom's fourth quarter 2013 is in -- and it doesn't look pretty.

The studio reported that revenues are down both year over year and quarter over quarter due to deferred billings with The Secret World and increased competition. However, Funcom said that a better business model and new marketing programs are resulting in a stronger first quarter for 2014 and that its MMOs are "cash-flow positive and will remain so in the foreseeable future."

Funcom said that it is taking steps to turn around the business with a new strategy to focus on more mid-core online games with smaller budgets and shorter development time. It's also continuing to invest in LEGO Minifigures Online and the Dreamworld technology. The latter is important so that the studio can release games across multiple platforms including Android and iOS tablets. LEGO Minifigures Online is scheduled for open beta testing this summer.

The Økokrim charges regarding possible market manipulation between August 2011 and August 2012 were mentioned. Funcom said that no employees have been charged, and the company is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.

Aura Kingdom hacked and emails stolen... or maybe not [Updated]

Fantasy, Free-to-Play, Legal

Aura Kingdom
Recent hacking of Aura Kingdom apparently resulted in stolen email addresses that are being used to pester users players are reporting that they're getting invitations sent to their Aeria Games email address from an individual asking them to join an Aura Kingdom private server. Fortunately Aeria Games does not store credit card information, so it seems as though that information is safe.

An Aeria Games GM responded to the claims by saying that the company is investigating the issue: "Thanks for reporting this. We'll look closely into this reports. We will let you know if we need more information. Also note, we do not process any payments, this is done through the service you utilize to buy AP. So this is not something we store."

[Thanks to Thomas for the tip!]

[Update: Aeria has contacted us to update us about the situation and provide an official statement: "We have investigated this issue and would like to confirm that we have found no evidence of our servers or players' account information being compromised. This includes the email addresses that were reported to have been affected in this article. We have, however, found potential security vulnerabilities through third parties unaffiliated with Aeria Games. We caution against providing contact information to these unaffiliated entities and encourage all players to change their passwords on a regular basis to maintain account security."]

Wurm Online still offline, offers bounty for DDOS attacker

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Patches, Wurm Online, Legal, Sandbox

Wurm Online's 1.2 patch was supposed to herald a day of rejoicing for the community, but that quickly turned sour as a severe DDOS attack on its hosting forced the devs to take the game offline for over a day now.

"Shortly after todays update we were the target of a DDOS attack and our hosting provider had to pull us off the grid for now," Code Club posted. "As annoying as this may be, we are taking steps to turn this to everyones advantage. I announced earlier that we were already looking at migrating the hosting of Wurm. When the attack forced us offline, we went straight ahead and pushed for this to happen as soon as possible."

The team is working on switching hosting and said that service should be restored within a day. Code Club is offering a bounty of 10,000 Euro "for any tips or evidence leading to a conviction of the person responsible for this attack."

Kickstarter hacked, customer information accessed

Legal, Miscellaneous, Crowdfunding

If you've logged in to use Kickstarter, perhaps to support an up-and-coming MMO, then pay attention: earlier today, the site reported to users that it was hacked this past week and customer data was accessed.

In a security notice posted on the site, Kickstarter said that it was notified by authorities this past Wednesday that hackers gained access to the site. The company has since closed the breach, bolstered its security, and notified customers to change their passwords. Credit card information was not part of the accessed information, but user names, email addresses, and encrypted passwords were.

"We have since improved our security procedures and systems in numerous ways, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come," the company posted.

Rhode Island Governor signs 38 Studios settlement bill

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

Following successful votes in the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives, a bill designed to help settle the 38 Studios fiasco was signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee yesterday.

Lawmakers hope that the bill will encourage settlements by shielding defendants from further litigation. Involved parties say that this bill will pave the way to recover as much as possible of the $90 million that Rhode Island is responsible for paying following the defaulted loan to 38 Studios.

NCsoft boosts numbers in Q4 2013 while Nexon names new CEO

Aion, Lineage, Lineage 2, MMO Industry, Guild Wars 2, Legal, Blade & Soul, Miscellaneous, WildStar

NCsoft is thanking its lucky Blade & Soul these days, as revenues from the game's popularity in China have helped to boost its financial status.

In the recently released Q4 2013 earnings report, NCsoft announced that sales, operating profit, pre-tax income, and net income were up over Q3 2013. Overall, 2013 was profitable for the company as its income went up year-over-year. NCsoft credited a growing Lineage and a "strong" and "solid" Guild Wars 2 for this effort, as well as cost savings initiatives. While sales in Korea improved from 2012 to 2013, those in Japan, Europe, and North America all declined over the same time period.

Lineage is by far NCsoft's biggest earner, followed by Guild Wars 2, Aion, and Blade & Soul. The company said that WildStar is on track to launch in mid-2014 and that the key GW2 focus is not on an expansion but with bringing the game to China.

Meanwhile, NCsoft's biggest investor, Nexon, just named Owen Mahoney as its new president and CEO, replacing Seungwoo Choi. Nexon also announced a revenue and income increase in 2013 and acknowledged that it is underperforming in Japan and the West.

Rhode Island House passes 38 Studios settlement bill

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

If you're playing along in the home version of 38 Studios Saga, we're deep in the trenches of Legislation Alley with the end of the game coming into sight. You're now allowed to move another piece forward as the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted to pass a bill to settle the 38 Studios quagmire.

The House vote was the twin of the Senate bill that passed last month. The bill shields the ex-38 Studios defendants from being sued further, aiding a final settlement in the legal matter of the defaulted $75 million loan and the studio's subsequent collapse.

Now the bill will be handed over to Governor Lincoln Chafee to sign. The lawmakers also discussed whether or not Rhode Island taxpayers should continue to pay off the $90 million that the state is responsible for. One representative said that the state should be solely repaid from funds recouped following this round of litigation.

Rhode Island House to vote on out-of-court settlements for 38 Studios fiasco

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Legal, Miscellaneous

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
After a successful vote yesterday from the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee, the full state House of Representatives is set to consider legislation next week that encourages out-of-court settlements in Rhode Island Commerce Corp.'s lawsuit against 38 Studios and its founder, Curt Schilling.

The bill, which won unanimous support in the House Judiciary Committee and has already been passed by the Senate, is designed to protect defendants who settle in this case from lawsuits levied by co-defendants found liable for damages. Fallout from the collapse of the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning studio has left Rhode Island stiffed on a bill that totals out to roughly $90 million; The attorney for the RICC believes this bill will provide for an increase in potentially recovered funds.

In related but sad news, Schilling has revealed to ESPN that he was recently diagnosed with cancer. His statement expressed hope, with Schilling saying, "My father left me with a saying that I've carried my entire life and tried to pass on to our kids: 'Tough times don't last. Tough people do."

Rhode Island senate passes 38 Studios legislation

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

Rhode Island
A major hurdle in paving over the bad feelings, poor decisions, and millions of dollars in unpaid loans that 38 Studios caused when it defaulted two years ago has been crossed, as Rhode Island's Senate has approved legislation to settle the affair out of court.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill to shield from future lawsuits any party that settles with Rhode Island Commerce Corp. The RICC, formerly the Economic Development Corp., has been trying to figure out a way to recoup as much of the $90 million lost through former 38 Studios deals as possible, and the attorney for the state says that this legislation will increase any future recovery of those funds.

The Rhode Island House of Representatives has to consider and vote on a similar bill for this to proceed. Lawyers say that the longer this case goes without a settlement, the larger the legal bills will be, which will diminish those funds the state does recover.

Funcom back to business as usual after ├śkokrim document seizures

MMO Industry, News Items, Legal

Funcom logo
Yesterday's Økokrim raid on Funcom's Oslo development office is in the company's rear-view mirror according to director of communications Erling Ellingsen.

Ellingsen told Massively that while Funcom is "fully cooperating" with the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, it's now back to business as usual.
Production on all Funcom games continues as normal, and the company remains fully committed to games in development as well as the continued operation and updating of existing live games. Yesterday's events is not expected to have any impact on the company's continued operation or the development on future releases.

Funcom's key priorities are the development of the upcoming LEGO Minifigures Online, as well as supporting and expanding on the live games Age of Conan, The Secret World and Anarchy Online with new and exciting content.

In terms of The Secret World, developers are currently in the process of finalizing its ninth content update, which will send players on a grand adventure through Tokyo, and Funcom will be releasing new information and screenshots from this update soon. Trading in the company stock was only suspended temporarily yesterday, and trading was back to normal shortly thereafter.

Funcom office raided, charged with suspicion of stock infringement

MMO Industry, Legal, Miscellaneous

The Secret World
Several reports are coming in this morning of some legal trouble plaguing The Secret World and Age of Conan developer Funcom.

According to several Norwegian news outlets, Norway's economic crime unit paid a visit to the Oslo studio to retrieve "packed boxes of seized documents" thought to be financial records involved in a suspected "infringement of the provisions of the Securities Trading Act."

Funcom acknowledged to Norwegian reporters that it was charged with breaching disclosure requirements related to The Secret World when the company failed to report company financial information between August 2011 and July 2012. This has resulted in a temporary closure of Funcom's stock during the investigation.

We've reached out to Funcom for more details.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in.]

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