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Archive for May, 2011

Funcom and NCSoft info

May 30, 2011 1 comment

Usually when I get engaged in some MMO I tend to look up the company itself for some information. If it is a public company I have a look at the financial reports – sometimes a bit boring info, but may sometimes also provide some interesting insights.

I took at look at the Funcom Q1 2011 financial report that were released a few days ago, as well as the report before that. For The Secret World there were a few bits of information availble, which included:

  • Over 400K people have signed up on the games web site so far
  • The game is now in limited beta testing, on schedule
  • 170 persons are working on the game currently
In a way I think The Secret World is a bit of going back to their roots in terms of game philosophy – I think the game is closer to Anarchy Online than it is to Age of Conan in a few different ways, except that the underlying technology is using the same as for AoC. WHich is also something Anarchy Online supposedly will get also, any year now
They have 3 launched games which are profitable and 4 other games in development; the latter eating up the profits from the former so that in total they are making some losses in last quarter. Revenue for Age of Conan and Anarchy Online was about 2.8 million USD for the first quarter, with a profit of about 800K USD.  That could be estimated to a bit more than 60K subscribers for both games – most of them would be AoC subscribers.
This is roughly the same revenue that is reported for City of Heroes by NCSoft in their Q1 2011 earnings report (after currency conversion).  In NCSoft case this number a minuscle part of their revenue – about 2%. Aion accounts for 44% of their quarterly sales and Aion + Lineage 1 and 2 in total for 94% of the sales.
If one looks at regions then Europe and North America contributes to 9% of NCSoft sales, while their domestic sales is at 65%. With a population of almost 49 million compared to to the over 1 billion for Europe and North America I think they might see a market growth potential, but with the exception of Guild Wars perhaps have not seen any big numbers there yet. I wonder what their expectations are for Guild Wars 2 here.
Sadly the NCSoft report is very dry to read, the Funcom one is a bit more fun to read, as they do provide some game information and also some general market view.
Another piece of information from the Funcom report was that their Bloodline Champions arena PvP game have over 600K register users and provided 555K USD in revenue (63K USD in profit) for Q1. At least the game is the only one in that segment that have launched, so I assume those numbers are for just that game. So on average a registered user have spent almost 1 dollar on the game in the first quarter. My guess that is a reasonably ok number, although remains to be seen how that evolves later – there could be a spike in sales close to launch.

Is older better?

May 30, 2011 3 comments

About a week ago Jef Reahard of Massively posted an article about older MMOs being better than newer MMOs and not just some nostalgia from people playing their first MMO. I think Jef has a point there, but I would not necessarily agree that older MMOs are generally better.

Rather I think the perhaps less varied content one sees in newer MMOs is a question of market adaption, trying to capture a wider audience. Even a relatively simple MMO may have a learning curve for an entirely new player that is a bit higher than many other games. There is also a lot more online and multiplayer games of different types being offered today than a few years ago; grabbing the complete attention of a player for a long time is less likely today.

Newer games are adapting (or trying to adapt) to the new market conditions, grabbing more players than the typical MMO games have done in the past (except WoW). This direction is better graphics and settings, cool effects and various other things to draw people in and play for a while – but also keeping things simple so that even a fresh player can get into it and perhaps get hooked for a while.

The player category that may be hurt by this is the MMO veteran. Having mastered many MMO gameplay elements in the past the veteran quickly relatively quickly identifies and understands many of the mechanics and features of a new game. Even a moderatly complex game (including all sorts of games) may be too simple – it has all been done before.

I think Jef’s point is certainly valid in the view of the veteran player and this is a target audience that older MMOs may be in a good position to capture – at least if some of the actually bad parts that may have been there in the beginning are fixed. Veterans may be more time-constrained nowadays, but still crave for that extra involvement that would be needed to provide a proper level of stimuli in the game.

The people in this picture have nothing to do with this post

Categories: MMO Games

Shades and Banshees

May 29, 2011 Comments off

Perhaps there is some longing back to old times in MMOs; as I sampled a bit more of Anarchy Online I find myself getting hooked again. Lately I have started to explore Shadowlands a bit. This was the first full-fledged big expansion to Anarchy Online and as such it split the AO community in two – the ones who loved it and the ones who hated it. Part of the reason for not liking it I believe was that it felt too much like a fantasy game for many and played a bit different from the classic Anarchy Online. Those who like it seem to like the storyline and story focus, plus that there is good xp and some extra bonuses to play through Shadowlands also. I found the official good trailer for the expansion and regardless of what I may end up thinking about Shadowlands, I think the trailer was pretty good.

I only sampled a little bit of the newbie zone when I first bought the game. Now I have ventured there again, bith with a new character starting there (a Shade) and another (my Meta-physicist) going there pretty much right after the newbie Island (ICC Shuttleport). So far though I must say I like it; the timing is better now for me to appreciate the content I think now than it was when I originally bought it – I did not appreciate the fantasy style back then. Now I think it is quite nice actually.

Shadowlands newbie area

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Categories: Anarchy Online

The story of Rubi-Ka

May 25, 2011 2 comments

Going back to Rubi-Ka again in Anarchy Online brought up some old memories, things I had forgotten about. First was of course the introductory movie played when you first started the game. It was a quite nice piece introducing you to the backstory of the game. Nowadays it seems it is no longer in the game client (choosing to play does not do anything), which is a shame. Fortunately it is preserved on YouTube:

Back when the game was originally released, Funcom did a few different things to on the basic MMO experience and the world of Rubi-Ka.

They published a novel, Prophet without Honour, as a starting point for the story and events of this world. Nowadays it is available as a PDF file form the game web site. I did not buy the book back then, but will download it to my e-reader for something to read when there is time.

Another thing that they did was to produce a number of animated short movies – Anarchy Online, the animated series. These were a set of a story which were then also supposedly combined with in-game live events as well, telling some other parts of the progressing story. I say supposedly, since I never had the chance back then to actually participate in one of those live events.

As I recall they suffered from what most live MMO events have suffered from – either you only reach a very small group of your total audicence and the others feels left out. Or you have too many players in one place that performance goes down and it becomes a bit painful for the participants instead.

But the strong foundation backstory have nourished and supported a role-playing community within the game. I do not know to what extent it is alive and kicking today, but at least reading some old posts from a few years back indicates that it was something special.

I have always liked MMOs which has provided an interesting backstory foundation that I may care about and perhasp even some progression of an overarching story in the game. Going back to the game after these years reminds me that a good story foundation is not something new – it is rather something MMOs may have lost for a while and which may be coming back a bit more now in some newer releases.

Categories: Anarchy Online

To Rubi-Ka (again)

May 23, 2011 2 comments

Almost 10 years ago I started playing MMOs and Anarchy Online was my first MMO game to play. After my initial year with the game I have had some brief re-visits, but really never more than a few hours each time – almost to the point that it is negliable.

But with the 10 year anniversary it was time to jump in again and this time put a bit more effort into it. I am happy to say that I probably will get hooked into the game again for a while; learning and re-learning the game systems and mechanics is quite fun, as well as a few frustrations.

Hi Rubi-Ka, missed me?

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Categories: Anarchy Online

Steampunk booster pack

May 18, 2011 Comments off

Paragon Studios has announced the next booster pack for City of Heroes, this time with a steampunk theme, which will be available for sale on June 1st. I have bought most of the booster packs, except the Animal and Wedding packs. As for this booster pack, they had me quicker than you could say “Nemesis for president (again)”. A definite buy!

They have released a video showing some of the features of the booster pack:

Categories: City of Heroes, MMO Games

DDO, City of Heroes and Black Prophecy…

May 18, 2011 Comments off

..are the MMO game forums that did something with the birthdate information I provided.

Cryptic and Atari go separate ways

May 17, 2011 1 comment

So the news is now out that Atari intends to dump Cryptic as part of their long term plan to have fewer titles and focus more on the social/facebook/causal game space. There is a post at Massively about it, which refers to a Gamasutra post, which in turn likely have looked at the latest financial report from Atari.

Reading a bit beyond the full year numbers one can see that Cryptic for the whole fiscal 2010/2011 had a net loss of 5.3 million Euro, of which 3.3 million Euro was from the first half of the year. So the second half was doing better.

Looking at the revenue they got 7.2 million Euro for fist half and 15.9 million for the whole year, i.e. 8.7 million Euro for the second half. So people paid them 1.5 million Euro more during the second half. Their profit improvement, although still a net loss, was about 2 million Euro in the 2nd half compared to the first. An improvement of 1.3 million when you get 1.5 million more from customers does not sound bad. How much did the Champions F2P conversion contribute to that?

And it does sound like the company is going in the right direction and they have been hiring more people who will start soon. So financially I think they probably already have something sorted out; either some other company buying them or some investors liking the direction the numbers are going and who may be more interested in the traditional MMO market than Atari.

Going back to my roots

May 16, 2011 2 comments

From time to time I read the Friday With Means community news on the Anarchy Online web site, from game director Colin “Means”  Cragg. I like the general community and daily life-type tone of thee posts and some posts like the one about the The Tale of The Secret Nerf Table made me smile (it may help to have a developer background).

Through numerous posts this year the 10 year anniversary of Anarchy Online has been mentioned and it for some reason it just recently struck me that it is actually the 10 year anniversary of Anarchy Online – the first MMO I played and also not that far off my own 10 year anniversary in MMO space. The loading graphic with its musical tune still triggers that feeling of excitement and going into a new world as it did the first time I started the game.

Last Saturday was my 117 month anniversary as an MMO player; I started to play Anarchy Online on August 14th 2001, about 1 1/2 month after the game was launched. I realized I cannot really miss this, so I reactivated my subscription to the game. At the very least I intend to be around the game’s 10th anniversary in late June as well as my own MMO anniversary in August as a subscriber.

Categories: Anarchy Online

HoD, HoDwI’

May 15, 2011 Comments off

Somehow I tend to end up on the underdog side in a way, if there is an MMO with multiple factions. It is not a deliberate choice, but perhaps subconsiously I go with what not everyone else picks, or it fits better with my character backgrounds – at least my favourite characters are often with that type of faction.

So in recent weeks I have played my Klingon Defense Force character (not Klingon, she is an alien who joined their ranks) a lot more than anything else. Despite the fact that there is a limited amount of PvE content for KDF characters I must say that I have still enjoyed it quite a lot.

Klingon side is warming up to me, sort of – as much as you can feel warm and fuzzy about a harsh warrior race.

My new battle cruiser I.K.S. SuS'a' in the middle, ready to depart from Qo'noS

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Categories: Star Trek Online