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Blizzard Rumors Once Again

Rumors are usually something best left alone, but when it comes to Blizzard rumors they might as well be true. The most recent rumors have made their way to Reddit and are worth a read if you enjoy Blizzard games as I generally do.

Hearthstone is doing incredibly well.  As I have often said, I think this is a great path for Blizzard and any company to take. I think Hearthstone is brilliant and I’m eager for it to come to iPhone. The fact that Blizzard is profiting so much from Hearthstone and outsourcing WoW art asset creation does lend credence to my insane notion that they are slowly phasing out WoW in favor of games like Hearthstone.

Gutting the Diablo 3 team is no shocker as the game itself has seen growing pains and failed to really gain the traction of other Blizzard titles. What’s surprising is that the staff are working on a Starcraft game with Left4Dead, Dayz, and Smite elements. I have no idea how that will all combine together into anything feasible… but I imagine how awesome it might be to play as a Marine in a FPS scenario against other players taking control of zergling and hydralisks.  That could be a blast!

The news that Heroes of the Storm might not be doing so hot, or at least expected to do so hot, saddens me. I like it a lot more than DOTA and definitely way more than LoL. It’s not even out of beta yet and if the rumor is true it might end up being scrapped before it ever begins — Blizzard has done it before (SC Ghost).

Lastly, Overwatch’s business model is being tossed around. I’m convinced it’ll be some sort of TF2 F2P meets B2P (hows that for acronyms?) which will make stupid amounts of cash. That will surprise absolutely no one.

I wouldn’t mind if the rumors all came true. I’ll be sad about HotS but otherwise seems like a direction I’d be happy to see Blizzard go.  Now, any news about Warcraft 4?

P.S. WoW expansions and all that yada yada.

 

I Hope Massively Shuts Down

Massively is shutting down — hopefully. [Update: Confirmed it is shutting down.] If I just caught you off-guard then allow me to explain why I won’t be disappointed and even look forward to the day when Massively is gone.

My biggest issue with Massively, and why this is personal, started back when they were still in their infancy. Some of their writing staff (who I will not name, but they know exactly who they are) thought it would be a good idea to post columns and discussion topics taken almost 100% straight from this blog. That’s right, they cut and paste and completely ripped content from me. It took several emails to their managing editor at the time for them to respond with a simple, “I’ve spoken to the writers and they won’t do it again.” I don’t like thieves.

Syncaine, a fellow blogger, often openly criticizes massively for what I consider my second biggest issue: They have ‘mass media’ opinions. In other words, they’re often full of crap and have no idea what they are talking about. The clickbait and deleting topics when they are wrong rather than retracting is one thing. But for the most part, their writers have no experience with the subjects they are writing about, and often I wonder if they even play the games.

Massively is mass media. Game devs love the eyes it brings to their press releases. Massively loves the ad revenue the game devs bring them. It’s a relationship rarely designed to actually benefit the real gamers unless you seek nothing but ‘mostly accurate’ (and oft spun) news. What bothers me most about this is that Massively breeds ‘argumentum ad populum’ or ‘appeal to the masses’. It’s the fallacious argument that just because lots of people believe it then it must be true.

Massively gets attention because it doesn’t question (unless questioning brings more visitors and revenue). Game devs will fly massively ‘reporters’ out to their HQ or give them exclusives because they know that Massively will deliver the message on-point. Think about it: Would you rather have your game seen by 50,000-100,000 people and have the message be the one you crafted or have it seen by 5,000-10,000 people and have the article be from someone who will give an honest opinion? That’s Massively vs. K&G and other blogs or smaller outlets. I do not mean to villainize game devs or Massively for doing this — it’s business. It makes sense. However, as a result, sites like Massively grow to become the aficionados and given incredible amounts of respect for having so much developer interaction. It has always felt like a ruse to me, but that could also be because I wrote for IGN for a few years and I know exactly how that relationship works. That’s why I left and started this blog.

As always, I want to make sure something is made clear. A few of Massively’s past writers had some passion and experience actually playing the game they purported to write about. For example, Karen Bryan did a nice job writing about the family side of gaming, and I know she was always passionate about EQ2. I won’t condemn all of the writers at Massively, but most of them probably haven’t even played more than one MMORPG, if that.

So I picked on Massively a lot. That’s because they’re an easy target and topical. I can think of plenty more sites just like them. They straddle the line between news and opinion, and their opinions are forced to change to align with what will bring more eyes to their news and exclusives.  It’s frustrating to see hundreds of thousands of people turn into sheeple and believe what they read because they saw it on sites like Massively.  That’s why I won’t shed any tears when the big ‘gaming journalism’ sites topple.

Holographic Games… If only.

Because the Kinect worked so well…

The excitable side of me wants to think that I can knock down a wall in my house and step into a fantasy world of virtual reality. I want to holodeck from Star Trek.

The realist in me knows that I’ll be saying “XBOX. PLAY!” over and over trying different emphasis on different syllables until the thing finally decides to resume my Netflix show or wonkily holding up my hand until it finally recognizes me.

 

Keep Your Eye On Crowfall

Crowfall

When it comes to community, crafting, and virtual worlds you can consider me a super-fan. I have written post after post since we started blogging in 2007 about UO and SWG crafting, relying on other players, creating virtual economies, etc.

There’s a new game on the horizon — a tiny speck on the horizon — worth looking at: Crowfall.

There aren’t a lot of details. Lots of little tidbits of info are dropping out there, and some bigger announcements are being teased. Their interview on MMORPG.com caught my attention. Here’s a snippet:

There are a ton of lessons to be learned looking at games like Star Wars Galaxies and EVE Online which had and still have success with their crafting and economic loops. From a very high altitude, crafters need to be able to: craft unique items, explore new recipes and profit from the results of this exploration, and create customized items for all styles of play. Crafters must have an audience to buy their goods. The loop between crafter and combatant has to exist! And, ideally, crafters need to be able to “mark” their product so that they can build a social reputation and a following.

The very concept that players can and will lose their items at some point is required, otherwise the game loop breaks. It is a very controversial topic for those who don’t like the potential of losing their items, and we understand that.  But sometimes you have to embrace ideas that may not be popular at first glance, because they open up amazing areas of gameplay that are otherwise not accessible.

They’re saying the right things. Some of the leads on the team have experience with SWG, UO, Shadowbane, and other older great titles. They’ve brought in Raph Koster as a consultant or sorts to weigh in on the project’s crafting side. Sounds to me like a team looking to hopefully make a game harkening back to the games these guys enjoyed — the same games I keep preaching about.

Here’s hoping!

Streamer Hype

You guys know I’m not a fan of streamers or how they have encouraged horrible marketing trends. Hopping on the streamer hype train and riding it hard is a very clear tell that your marketing team lacks creativity and a deeper understanding of how to build a lasting and dedicated following for your game.

Streamer hype is out of control. Companies fly dozens of them out to their headquarters, load them up on sugar, swag, and free access to the game then set them free. I have my own personal belief that more than a few of their palms are being greased despite Twitch’s supposed rules against it. From what I have heard (and can not find written verification), Streamers are not allowed to take money to speak highly of a game.

The streamer hype credo: Play it if it’s new. Play it if it gets viewers. Act like a buffoon. 

(Okay I added that last part.)

Very few of the streamers who make $10k+ a month are doing so for the love of the games they play. They are doing it because it’s now a job — an awesome job that makes them ridiculous amounts of sponsorship cash. When something risks the cash (like viewer boredom), they jump ship and hop onto the next new/popular game. I don’t fault them for making money, nor do I fault them for playing what they want when they want. Those are their rights and I respect that. I think it’s crap for game companies to abuse it, especially when it’s detrimental to the games.

Most of these streamers have fan clubs that follow them and lick their heels like lovestruck pups. When the streamers jump ship a couple weeks after launch, so do a huge number of players. When the streamers stop broadcasting, suddenly the marketing for that game dries up. Suddenly you start seeing a lot of banner ads and other knee-jerk reactionary marketing tactics to increase visibility. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a true following of players rather than illegitimately inflated numbers?

Streamers getting games for free and playing them to hype everyone up are killing the industry one game at a time. This type of flash-in-the-pan crap is being used to augment early access antics. Toss a dozen streamers free copies of your early access, give them private servers, and ‘encourage’ them to speak highly of your game when launch is less than ideal. I shouldn’t have to say more.

All of that said, let me get one thing straight: I enjoy watching streams. I watch some of the big names like Cohh and Lirik. I find them entertaining at times (albeit sometimes I have to stop watching because they go too far and start acting up for attention). I especially like Lirik who will openly act like a complete dick and decline being a puppet just to be different. It’s his shtick. But he’s definitely a sponsor-whore like the rest. Smaller streams are where you’ll find more of the real fans of the game and less of the hypers. Not always, but it’s reliable.

You and I might be intelligent. We can watch someone playing a game and hyping it all in that moment as super fun and think, “yeah but I wonder what it’s REALLY like…” But Some people watching streams get sucked into the hype and think the game is awesome because their favorite streamer is playing. Their favorite streamer is showing a version of the game that will not resemble their own experience. It’s an illusion.

Using streamers to market your game is asking to be a flavor of the month. If your goal is to grab a bunch of cash in the first 14 days then go for it. If your goal is to attract ‘real’ players who stick around, and you have long-term goals for your game then I recommend you look elsewhere.