Efforts to balance Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s free-to-play features are ongoing, as communicated by executive producer Jeff Hickman. Over on the official website, he describes the process as an ongoing dialogue between players and developers, citing adjustments in Preferred Status upgrades and larger global character limits. Previous changes included increases in PVP limits and additional Quickbars.
For the curious, Hickman’s full post can be read here.
All right, back in business once more. Hopefully we won’t be hit by another freak storm this weekend, but really it seems like the power dies if someone so much as coughs too loudly. Let’s get to the news before it happens again. Here’s what’s going down:
- Zynga starts getting hit with lawsuits regarding allegations of insider trading, with underwriters paid to help insiders offload stock before it fell. Also known as “Tuesday on Wall Street.”
- Not to be outdone, EA has also filed suit that Zynga copied The Sims Social to create The Ville. Man, who do you root for in that fight? (The answer is EA, seriously.)
- Ubisoft’s Uplay exposes players to an exploit that allows websites access to, and control over, a user’s computer. It’s like they want people to pirate their games.
- The Old Republic pulls the pin and goes free-to-play. Should’ve kept the base, BioWare! And the base I mean your playerbase. By making KotOR III instead.
- Sony posts a sizable loss of some $312 million for the first quarter of 2012, including losses in the games division. Tempting to blame the Vita, but their true problems run deeper.
- Squenix has an ambitious ten-year plan for Dragon Quest X. It sounds crazy until you realize they’ve been running Final Fantasy XI for at least that long.
- Rumors abound regarding Bethesda and the STALKER series, Take Two posts a lower earnings report due to unrealistic expectations, and more!
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – The Cold Calculus of Microtransactions’ »
And so it begins: EA BioWare has announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic will transition to free-to-play this fall. Players will have free access to a majority of the game – up to level 50 and all eight classes – with microtransactions to remove restrictions and expand the content. The standard subscription is still an option, granting players an allowance of in-game currency to buy customizable gear; current subscribers (and those who sign up before the change) are also eligible for special rewards.
Say what you will about obscure Korean MMOs, but they come up with some catchy (if unrelated) promo videos. But I digress. News time! Here’s what’s going down:
- 38 Studios and Big Huge Games got shuttered this week, their staff laid off and Amalur now property of Rhode Island. Sadly, not too surprising given the money hole they were in.
- Conflicting sales goals hide the real issue of what those 300+ developers – and their shiny new second mortgages from relocating – are going to do now.
- Meanwhile, BioWare lays off some of its own people from The Old Republic team. How’s that $200 million development cost working out, guys?
- All this prompts Pachter to speculate that MMOs are dooooooomed! My take: maybe, if everybody keeps trying to imitate/defeat World of Warcraft. And speaking of which…
- Diablo III got hacked, with reports of stolen items, money, and even characters. Getting hacked in a single-player game has got to be some kind of record.
- The horrible, horrible contract between Activision and Bungie is revealed. Short version: 5 million sales of a new property in six months, and eight titles in eight years. Read it and weep.
- Sony patents a technology to interrupt your game with advertisements, Japan developers alternatives to kompu gacha, and more!
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – Endless Online Phenomenon’ »
Nothing quite like a sales binge to pick up on games you missed, especially when it reminds you how expensive some of them are. Hey, dude selling Suikoden V for $100: I hope your parents hated you, because I do. Also, a heads-up: I’ll be in DC next week starting Sunday, so no podcast while I’m away. See you all the following week! With that said, here are this week’s headlines:
- Rumors swirl that EA may be laying people off, though even if they’re true there may be a plausible explanation. Or EA’s stock could be dropping, it could be that too.
- That said, Zynga appears to have gone off the deep end, with more OMGPop-style pricey acquisitions in the future. OMGPop, incidentally, may have peaked the very day of its acquisition. Get some popcorn, folks.
- Two of the Big Three schedule their E3 conferences, prompting a rehash of speculation. My take: Microsoft offers no surprises, Sony needs to explain themselves, and Nintendo will steal headlines whether it wants to or not.
- Speaking of Sony, the New York Times offers a revealing look on where the electronics giant stumbled. Short version: departmental tribalism, right down to war paint and scalping.
- Wired’s Chris Kohler asserts the existing publisher-hardware-retailer model is broken and we don’t really need it. I agree, but scrapping it all seems premature.
- Namco-Bandai may avoid using GFWL for the PC version of Dark Souls. On bended knee, I beseech Bamco to do the right thing and serve the Newell.
- A rumored meeting between Apple and Valve is debunked, Saints Row DLC may have saved THQ, and more!
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – The Future Needs More RAM’ »
The news: disturbing the Force, all day erry day. Also, going to be off next week for the Super Bowl; not that I have a huge stake in it, but I owe the Giants some residual gratitude for taking out Green Bay. Us poor Chicagoans would never, ever hear the end of it if they made it back-to-back. But I get off topic. I’ll see you all the week after next, but in the meantime here’s what’s going down:
- The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement steps in to fill the SOPA/PIPA void of “simultaneously overzealous and ineffective legal frameworks for punishing 4chan users.” Also, at least part of Poland’s parliament is awesome.
- The Economist dispels a few myths about the US trade deficit with China, using the iPad as an example. Short version: paying workers ten cents an hour means China doesn’t actually get a lot of money per gizmo.
- Diablo III‘s senior producer makes an abrupt departure from Blizzard. Since the game doesn’t even have a release date yet, there can only be one explanation.
- Meanwhile, EA expands Origin’s reach to include several third-party companies, counting beloved Polish developer CD Projekt among them. The more you tighten your grasp, EA…
- The Family Research Council claims the Gay Agenda has its claws in Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare responds by thanking them for the free advertising.
- Nintendo mulls over a rebranding effort for the Wii U, worried that nontraditional gaming demographics might not get the concept of console cycles.
- Mass Effect 3 will tie random DLC to action figures, Voodoo Extreme faces staffing budget cuts, and more!
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – The Jedi Are Gonna Feel This One’ »
Hey-hey! Are you all excited? I know I am, because a Giants-Patriots rematch in the Super Bowl means we’ll get more of this classy gentleman. Seriously, Carl’s locks make the NFL worth watching long after your team has washed out because you didn’t have a backup quarterback.
Me? Bitter? Pshaw. Anyway, here’s the latest:
- SOPA and PIPA have been shelved in response to public outcry and prolonged protest. Major backers withdrawing their support might’ve had something to do with that, too.
- And yet despite the bills not passing, the FBI and DoJ had no trouble shutting down Megaupload and arresting people in New Zealand. Why, it’s almost like Washington already has broad powers to pursue people in other countries.
- Commentary: despite the bills being on hold for now, expect this issue to resurface at some point. Google “Congress riders” for just one worrying example.
- All this begs the question of what can be done going forward, both about piracy and the clumsy responses to it. Ars Technica offers in-depth solutions. I would start with “try treating your customers like people for a change.”
- Meanwhile at BioWare, The Old Republic suffers an unfortunate PvP issue right when it can least afford one. This wouldn’t be quite such a problem if the game weren’t so expensive to produce.
- Mass Effect 3 aims to ditch the mission-based structure of Mass Effect 2, going for something more fluid and constant. You mean like Mass Effect 1, right?
- Zynga buys more mobile game studios. Yes, Zynga, because that’s what you were doing wrong: not buying enough smaller companies.
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – The Internet is Safe… For Now’ »
BioWare has publicly responded to recent allegations regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic, where players were supposedly banned for visiting certain high-level areas. The original claim, based on a post from Reddit, was that collecting loot from the planet Ilum before reaching the recommended level range could result in a ban.
Community manager Stephen Reid handled the response, detailing what happened on the official forums. In short, players were only banned for confirmed goldfarming. Several players were given warnings or temporary suspensions for repeatedly raiding Ilum containers in large numbers, but no bans were issued on this second group. Simply exploring the area while underleveled and searching containers is not a violation and, according to Reid, was not treated as such.
Happy New Year, everybody! Welcome back, time to round up the news as per usual. Today’s selection should serve as a healthy reminder that not all publicity is good publicity, as the good David Bowie can attest to. Here’s what went down over break:
- The PS Vita launched in Japan, moving fewer than expected numbers and with several software glitches. Even straight-up hardware reviews were mixed, like this one from Joystiq. Sony is probably relieved that’s all they had to worry about.
- BioWare’s co-founder hints that they’re taking cues from open-world games, including Skyrim, for Dragon Age 3. Oil, meet water.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 also sold less than anticipated, which was a total surprise to people that have no idea how sequels work.
- A Firefox add-on subverts DNS blockades like the ones proposed by the Stop Online Piracy Act… before the Act is even released. No prize for second place, Congress!
- Leaked email chains provoke the internet to converge on one Ocean Marketting (typo intentional) and its hilariously awful one-man operation. The Mayor of Boston is now a meme.
- Nintendo finally unveils the official Legend of Zelda timeline. All three of them. That high-pitched collective cry of anguish you’re hearing is the fandom trying to sort this out.
- Star Wars: the Old Republic finally launches, the Big Three “kind of” withdraw their support of SOPA, and more!
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – Shame, What You Have is Gone Tomorrow’ »
The closed beta test of Star Wars: The Old Republic draws near, with BioWare issuing registration keys through certain channels: IGN, FilePlanet, and their own social network. Participants must have accounts with any of the above to request a key, and must do so before the end of Friday, November 18.
Upon redeeming your key, which can be done here, you’ll receive a beta test invite by email. BioWare plans to run the beta for four days, with the full game still scheduled for a release on December 20.
Good evening and greetings! Hope the fall is treating you well so far, and your punt returner didn’t showboat in the end zone, giving the other team good field position to score an answering touchdown. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Devin Hester as should any red-blooded American male (cryingeagle.jpg) but that touchdown could have been avoided and thus the Bears didn’t beat the spread. Celebrate after the game, Devin!
That was a sweet return though, wasn’t it?
Ahem. Anyway, here’s what’s going down this week:
- Square Enix’s CEO catches up to everybody else by admitting the damage FFXIV did to the brand. I suspect the real issue is who did the damage to FFXIV, and I think Wada knows it.
- Meanwhile, City of Heroes goes free-to-play while The Old Republic reveals its pricing packages, providing an interesting compare/contrast as to who can withstand going F2P and why.
- Activision’s Jamie Berger says paid services like Call of Duty Elite – providing stat tracking, clan management, etc. – will be mandatory in 3-5 years. Hey, some of us remember when games provided that sort of thing for free. Don’t get greedy, man. Well, greedier, anyway.
- CliffyB gives a neat postmortem on Gears of War now that Gears 3 is out, speculating on how giant musclemen with saw-guns fighting evil intelligent bugs could be taken more seriously.
- Shigeru Miyamoto speaks out a bit on Skyward Sword, suggesting it’s one of the most expensive projects the company has worked on. Well, I guess if you’re gonna send the Wii off…
- I catch up on the Netflix news and correspondingly terrible stock performance, while Joystiq regales us with a story of the fastest-thinking men in the industry.
Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – Improvised Payment Devices’ »
At the Eurogamer Expo, BioWare’s Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk announced the release date for Star Wars: The Old Republic: December 20 in North America and December 22 in Europe. Subscription prices are set at $14.99/£8.99 a month, with bulk pricing at $41.97/£25.17 for three months and $77.94/£46.14 for six. As is customary for many MMOs, the first 30 days will be included free with each copy.
Damn but it was hard to focus and get this done. Human Revolution is right there on my hard drive, locked away and waiting for a signal from the Steam mothership to grant access. Buuuut I guess while I’m waiting we should get to the news. Here’s what’s going on this week:
- Following sluggish sales, Japanese retailers begin scaling down 360 business. Microsoft, trying sticking anime girls on more things next time. Hey, it worked for Windows 7.
- Valve’s Gabe Newell responds to the whole EA-taking-its-games-off-Steam thing. Gabe, if they threaten Mass Effect 3, for the love of god just give them what they ask for. It’s not worth the risk, man.
- Sony and Nintendo have a crazy-off, chopping features out of new PSP and Wii models in Europe. I’m short on explanations that don’t involve hallucinogens.
- Nintendo announces The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower for Europe, while ShopTo.net reports “unexpected late demand” for Xenoblade Chronicles. Well, gosh, where could that possibly be coming from?
- Star Wars: The Old Republic may actually need a limited launch to keep servers running smoothly. No, that still doesn’t make it a World of Warcraft killer, stop asking.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution is rumored to be region-locked in Europe, until Squenix drops this idea after being warned it may be illegal in response to fan outcry. Hooray!
- Seriously guys, we’re getting another Deus Ex in a matter of days oh god I forgot to turn off italics I don’t even care eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Continue reading ‘What Happened This Week – My Business is Augmented’ »
Available copies of Star Wars: The Old Republic will be intentionally limited during its initial launch period, both for retail and digital sales. Reportedly this is for server stability reasons, or so an EA representative at Gamescom explained: once a certain number of copies are activated, EA will temporarily cut off digital sales (which are available exclusively through EA’s Origin system) and work on expanding the servers to compensate.
EA’s Frank Gibeau had indicated that such expansion will occur shortly after launch, stating that “We’ll be able to scale up and light up new severs on a fairly quick basis. We’ve got a plan to do that over the months following ship, and we’ve got a lot of capacity built into that.” No indication was given of what the player count threshold might be to restrict sales, though EA has previously indicated a substantial, albeit unspecified, number of preorders.
The Old Republic has not yet received a release date.