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Free for All: The continued standardization of selling power

EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Business Models, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Mobile, MMOFPS, MMORTS, Mabinogi, Wizard101, Free for All, Pirate101

EVE Online forum screenshot
Selling power is a much quieter controversy than it used to be. I've been in gaming long enough to remember when selling anything desirable at all was taboo. At the same time, it's always been OK to sell some things like subscriptions or special boxed editions, proving that MMO gamers and others are brilliant at segmenting their rage. If it's a cool, special box with a neat virtual item inside, it somehow does not fall under the same umbrella as selling powerful, useful items in game. I think it does. But geeks in general are good at justifying poor behavior if they get what they want; just ask the hackers and file-swappers.

Still, it doesn't matter how we feel about selling power because the industry is already moving in the direction of selling power, lots of power. EA recently announced that every title it produces from now on will feature microtransactions. While that doesn't guarantee the sale of powerful items, I can promise that it will include some. This train ain't stopping. Sure, the console community seems a bit late to the party when it comes to the power-selling controversy, but that's likely because of MMOs' always-on multiplayer mode.

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MMO Family: What exactly is a kid-friendly MMO?

A Tale in the Desert, Flyff, Opinion, Kids, Wizard101, Star Wars: The Old Republic, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  What exactly is a kidfriendly MMO
Recently, Massively's Jef Reahard seemed to revisit his inner-child with his Why I Play article on Clone Wars Adventures and a Daily Grind of a similar topic. He summed up perfectly why CWA, a kid-friendly MMO, is a lot of fun for grown-ups too. There are actually many MMOs that are marketed toward a younger audience but are fun and challenging enough to entertain adults. Meanwhile, there are plenty of kids who have no problem holding their own in "grown-up" MMOs.

So what exactly makes an MMO kid-friendly? It might not be as easy to define as we think.

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Wizard101 comes to Mac

Fantasy, News Items, Free-to-Play, Wizard101, Family

Oh, and here's a fox playing a watermelon
Mac-users, we know you're magical as it is, but if you want to flex your wizarding muscles a bit more, KingsIsle Entertainment has a robe and wizard's hat waiting just for you. Today the studio announced that its family-oriented spellslinging MMO, Wizard101, is now available for Mac. The game is free to download and play, so if you want to get in on the action, just head on over to the Wizard101 official site.

[Source: KingsIsle Entertainment press release]

MMO Family: Winter roundup of kid-friendly MMOs

Events (Real-World), Events (In-Game), Opinion, Browser, Casual, Free Realms, Kids, Wizard101, MMO Family, Family, Pirate101

MMO Family  Winter roundup of kidfriendly MMOs
Winter is always my favorite time of year for family-friendly MMOs. Holiday events tend to be the norm now in most MMOs, but they're tailor-made for games with a younger audience. Winter also seems to usher in lots of new changes and updates as well, so it's time again to revisit some popular titles to play catch up.

Over the past year, we've looked at several new titles and visited veteran MMOs titles to see what's changed. From Club Penguin to Pirate101, we'll look at recent updates and upcoming news in MMO Family's winter roundup!

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Wizard101, Pirate101 celebrate season with 12 days of specials

Fantasy, MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, Wizard101, Giveaways, Family, Pirate101

Wizard101, Pirate101 celebrate season with 12 days of specials
It's that time of year -- the time when the festivities lurk around every corner and good cheer permeates the air. And KingsIsle Entertianment joins in the celebration with the 12 Days of the Spiral! Starting today and going through December 19th, the studio is offering a special daily surprise for Wizard101 and Pirate101 players. Each day could reveal a special offer, a free giveaway, or a new item for one or both of the games.

The first deal really gets to the heart of the spirit of giving: Every purchase of today's special, the Fa-La-La-La Llama mount, will directly benefit two children's charity organizations. This limited-edition mount is available for both games, but must be purchased separately for each.

The Soapbox: Remembering that games are games

World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Free-to-Play, Wizard101, World of Tanks, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

RIFT Boss Fight
I think it's safe to assume that we all love games. If we didn't, I wouldn't be in this crowded, noisy coffee shop writing this and you wouldn't be blowing off some sort of important responsibility reading it. We're all here together, engaged in this somewhat-anonymous internet back-and-forth, because games have touched our lives. It sounds corny, but it's true.

For many of us, games have a deeply personal and specific meaning. We like the games we like not so much for their craftsmanship or content but for the way they engage our minds and spirits. Games create incredible, irreplaceable moments infused with emotional resonance, and it's only natural we would feel some sort of personal connection when a piece of digital entertainment syncs just right.

It is precisely this personal connection that leads many of us to act like total morons.

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Dinosaurs are now live in Wizard101's Azteca content update

Fantasy, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, PvE, Free-to-Play, Kids, Wizard101, Family

Dinosaurs are live in Wizard101's Azteca update
Last month, KingsIsle Entertainment shared the news about an upcoming land in Wizard101 populated by intelligent dinosaurs and littered with ancient temples. Today, that lost world of Azteca has been found, and is now on the live server for players to enjoy.

Besides dinosaurs, this content update includes new mounts, gear, pets, another crafting tier complete with new recipes, a higher level cap (90), and many new spells. Adventurers can also explore 13 new zones. To learn more about the update, check out Massively's Interview with Producer Leah Ruben. Don't forget about the patch notes!

[Source: KingsIsle press release]

KingsIsle releases Grub Guardian satellite game for Wizard101

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, News Items, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Wizard101

KingsIsle releases Grub Guardian satellite game for Wizard101
KingsIsle Entertainment wants you to know about Grub Guardian, its latest product that is both inspired by and accessory to Wizard101. Grub Guardian is a stand-alone guardian defense game for iOS devices and PC or Android web browsers.

Players can log in using their existing Wizard101 accounts and "advance the skills and experience of their in-game pets," according to a KingsIsle press release. The company boasts of more than 30 million registered users across its free-to-play family-friendly MMOs, and it says that satellite games like Grub Guardian "represent a new frontier for game design in which standalone mobile game connect seamlessly with larger online worlds like Wizard101."

[Source: KingsIsle press release]

Massively Speaking Episode 222: Trick or treat!

Podcasts, MMO Industry, News Items, Massively Meta, Massively Speaking, Wizard101, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, World of Tanks, Miscellaneous

Massively Speaking Episode 222
Never accuse us here at Massively of being prejudiced against dinosaurs. We love them. Sure, they're scaly, bitey lizard/bird/demon monstrosities, but they do make great mounts and steaks. Oh, and MMOs. We desperately need more dinos in our MMOs, which is why we applaud Wizard101 for doing so this week.

Have a comment for the podcasters? Shoot an email to podcast@massively.com. We may just read your email on the air!

Get the podcast:
[iTunes] Subscribe to Massively Speaking directly in iTunes.
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[MP3] Download the MP3 directly.
Listen here on the page:

Read below the cut for the full show notes.

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Wizard101 invites us to the dinosaur world of Azteca

Fantasy, Expansions, Interviews, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play, Interviews (Massively's), Kids, Wizard101, Family

Wizard101 announces Azteca, level cap increase embargo 100 pm EDT 1024
While KingsIsle has been heavily focused on Pirate101's recent launch, the studio wanted to send a strong message that it's still fully behind Wizard101 and has a dedicated team working hard to keep improving and expanding the game. In fact, the Wizard101 team is larger now than it was at launch and has a huge announcement to share.

So what's the big exciting news of the day? Producer Leah Ruben was bursting at the seams to tell us in three words: "Dinosaurs are awesome!"

Actually, the big news is that Wizard101 is preparing to release its ninth new world since launch, a dinosaur world named Azteca. Azteca not only will challenge players to progress through 13 areas but is going to raise the level cap. And the biggest surprise of all? It's going on test servers this week for players to try out.

Keep on reading to find out what Azteca is going to do for the landscape of Wizard101!

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MMO Family: How kid-friendly games can treat MMO malaise

Opinion, Free Realms, Wizard101, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Pirate101

MMO Family  How kidfriendly games can treat MMO malaise
Let's face it: It hasn't been a banner year for MMOs. We've witnessed disappointing launches, studio layoffs, and even studio meltdowns. There have been reports questioning whether MMOs are a good investment, and some studios have even signaled that they're shying away from traditional MMO development in the future.

With all of these dark clouds looming overhead, it's sometimes hard to stay cheerful about MMOs. But ironically, the kid-friendly genre might actually buck the trend. KingsIsle's launch of Pirate101 and SOE's recent updates to Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms might help curb the malaise with a blend of old and new styles of gameplay. In this week's MMO Family we'll look at what's new with these titles and why kids both young and old have reason to celebrate.

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Pirate101 head start begins on October 8th

Interviews, Launches, New Titles, Free-to-Play, Interviews (Massively's), Kids, Wizard101, Family, Pirate101

Pirate101 Interview
If you're a fan of family-friendly MMO Wizard101 and can't wait to get a taste of KingsIsle's next project, then this is your lucky week because Pirate101 is set to begin its head start on October 8th. While the game doesn't officially hit digital shelves until October 15th, you can hop in and get to pirating beginning on the 8th by picking up specific membership types or snagging a pre-launch game bundle (beta participants are also invited). Additionally, Pirate101 game cards will be available in retail stores as of October 8th.

Pirate101 is in many ways the spiritual successor to Wizard101 and marks an ambitious undertaking by KingsIsle to build another engaging and successful MMO that is also family friendly and safe. We talked to producer Jay Gordon and associate producer Mike Stone to get an idea of the challenges the team faced and what may lie in store for those looking to loot and plunder.

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The Soapbox: There's no such thing as pay-to-win

Sci-Fi, Lord of the Rings Online, Business Models, Culture, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Wizard101, Battlestar Galactica Online, The Soapbox, Miscellaneous

Battlestar Galactica Online screenshot
Disclaimer: The Soapbox column is entirely the opinion of this week's writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Massively as a whole. If you're afraid of opinions other than your own, you might want to skip this column.

I hate it when MMORPG players completely misrepresent this hobby. I cringe every time I find myself in the middle of a discussion about "MMOs" when most of the people chatting are pulling only from their experience as a World of Warcraft raider and nothing more. There are hundreds -- actually, thousands -- of MMOs in existence. Discussing MMOs without knowing about as many as possible is really talking about specific titles, not a genre. You wouldn't catch a group of "foodies" basing all of their passions on a few items from a handful of menus. The same should apply to MMO discussions if we ever want the genre to be taken more seriously by outsiders.

MMO players love to pigeonhole titles. What are some of the worst descriptions? "Hardcore" is one. What does that even mean? Does it mean a title is hard to play? In what way is it hard? Does it mean that it takes time to play? How much time equals hardcore? "Facebook game" is another term that drives me crazy, and it's often used by many MMO fans to dismiss all sorts of titles. While I know that the term generally refers to FarmVille-style gaming, using the term literally reflects how little the person knows about the variety of games that actually appear on or are connected to Facebook.

The term that drives me the craziest of all is pay-to-win.

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Massively's first impressions of Pirate101

Betas, Fantasy, Galleries, Screenshots, New Titles, Previews, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Casual, Humor, First Impressions, Kids, Wizard101, Family, Miscellaneous, Pirate101

Pirate101 screenshot
If you've been following the MMO industry for a while, you've probably been watching in near astonishment as Texas-based developer KingsIsle Entertainment grew a little-known MMO called Wizard101 from the level of "just some kids game" all the way to a very successful world for all ages. So when we heard about a new title in the works, we wondered whether it was possible for the KingsIsle team to duplicate its earlier successes. Well, after trying out new kids on the block Pirate101, I can say that it might even dwarf the success of its predecessor.

Why do I say that? Well, there are many reasons. The game is in only a beta stage, but it's aiming for a launch this year. And even though it's still in beta, the current Wizard101 fanbase is going nuts over the game. If that, combined with the unique selling points of the two titles, is any indication, KingsIsle can count Pirate101 as a huge step forward. One that will make a lot of money, I'm sure.

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KingsIsle discusses Wizard101, pet upgrades, PvP, and pirates

Betas, Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Interviews, Launches, New Titles, Previews, PvP, News Items, Free-to-Play, Trading Card Games, Races, Casual, Interviews (Massively's), Kids, Wizard101, Family, Pirate101

Wizard101 screenshot
If you've found yourself going crazy over raising pets in the hugely successful Wizard101, worry no longer! We called up Fred Howard, KingsIsle VP of Marketing, to discuss some of the upcoming changes en route to one of the most popular activities in Wizard101. These pet changes are underway thanks in large part to a very passionate, informed community of players who have been asking for specific tweaks for quite a while. Pets aren't just for looks in Wizard101; they can level, aid in combat, and be hatched from eggs. There's even a fan-made Petnome Project to break down each pet and its abilities.

We also virtually twisted Fred's arm and got a few comments about Pirate101, KingsIsle's next MMO. Fans of PvP will also be pleased at what he had to say. Just click past the cut and we'll break it down for you.

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