Gaming Predictions, Resolutions, and Important Stuff

I think these obligatory New Years posts are fun, and required of all bloggers.  It’s a rule.

Evaluating 2013

Every year I make resolutions.  Last year I made a few, and sorta failed miserably.  I did grow the Keen and Graev Community this year, and made a lot of friends in the process.  I guess I also stuck with an MMO for at least 4 months (Final Fantasy XIV), but I think that classifies more as hanging on for dear life.  I didn’t write a whole lot about my ideal MMO, although I did formulate quite a few posts on what MMOs should be thanks to EverQuest Next’s Round Table discussions.   This past year I have learned a great deal about myself as a gamer, and had a lot of fun doing it.

I graduated college with a great job.   I learned how to balance family, games, and work.  That counts for something, right?

The blog itself has been rock steady.  We’re writing almost daily and trying to provide a very balanced coverage of games.  I think for many years we were viewed as an MMO blog when in reality we want to be known more broadly as a ‘Gaming Blog’.  Given our coverage and the publishers reaching out to us this year I think we can safely say we’re well on our way to achieving that image.

We should all clap it up for Graev who has shown a huuuuge surge in posting this year.  He brings an amazing complementary viewpoint with his ability to play so many console games and judge them against the game they should be rather than judging them against their competition.  I enjoy reading his posts and learning about games I normally wouldn’t try if not for his recommendation.  I can honestly say more readers have come to us from Graev’s posts than mine this year.  Well done sir.

Readership in general has been average.  This wasn’t a great year or a bad year for us.  Last year (2012) was insanely good, and I remember posting about the huge boost in readership.  When Google Reader was discontinued back in July we saw a 30% decline in visitors.  Slowly but surely those numbers are going back up as people find other mediums of enjoying our adventures.  If you don’t know, you can use our RSS feed or find us in places like Feedly — although we always prefer you bookmark us and visit daily!

Coming in 2014 to Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog

I’m not going to promise any new features or announce anything grand.  I want to keep this simple.  Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog will continue to be the website you can visit to read the honest opinions of real gamers who actually try and play all of a game before writing a review.  We won’t be the first site to review a game.  We won’t cover everything.  But we will continue to improve the quality of our coverage and do our best to give you the best balance of ‘real’ talk out there.  This includes more on board games, more on console games, and of course our continued MMO coverage.

I am personally going to continue to fight/write for what I believe games should be and point out when I feel the industry is straying off course.  I’m going to always try and be optimistic to a fault.   There’s enough negativity out there.  If you’re into negative sarcasm and that sort of things you can find it on another blog.  I want to find a balance in what I call subjective objectivity.  I’ll state my opinion on what I believe to be true while remaining positive that things can always change — including my opinion.

Predictions for 2014

These are the oft-silly predictions, and I had my fair share last year to which I will say I actually didn’t do so bad.  This year I’m not going to make any outlandish predictions.  I can already tell that 2014 is shaping up to be one of the better years for MMOs.  I don’t know if we’re going to see the next best MMO, but I do know we are going to have some great choices.  EverQuest Next Landmark followed by perhaps more information on EQ Next will introduce quite a different way to play MMOs.  The Elder Scrolls Online will transform a franchise, for better or worse, into something at least worth trying.  WildStar will likely epitomize the heart and soul of the themepark model, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Perhaps I will make a prediction and a resolution… 2014 will be a ‘fun’ year for games, and I am going to enjoy it.  We have three great consoles, all bringing something unique to the table with lots of games to buy.  PC Gaming is back in full swing.  MMOs are finding new ways to surprise us.  Yeah, 2014 is going to be a year we can look back on and say, “I’m glad I play games.”  And we’ll be right here the whole way.

See you all in 2014!  Let’s make it a great year.

  • I’m looking forward to 2014 for gaming. 2013 was rough for me, I just didn’t have the time or funds to really enjoy much. I thought I’d give blogging a spin myself, since I really should keep up with my writing, but it just made me realize I don’t game nearly as much as I wish I could. That and most of what I play is older stuff – I always seem to come to games like a year after they came out and were big and popular. I’m still playing catch up!

    2014 is looking good though. WildStar is the big game I’ve got my eyes on. Sure it probably won’t revolutionize MMOs or anything, but it looks like enough to keep me gaming throughout the year. I’ve specifically been setting aside cash into a little fund just to make sure I can keep playing WildStar.

    My big goal for the year is to get more active with the community here – I think actually gaming with people might help keep me on top of newer games! I’ve been starting to hop into vent when I can, even if it’s empty when I’m online, on the off-chance others will be on.

    Looking forward to 2014 with everyone though. Can’t wait!

  • keep up the good work charley brown! I enjoy reading this blog.. I noticed Graev posting more which is nice but i feel for him.. he doesn’t get the comments!!! too many non console gamers, or mmorpg only ppl here.. sorry Graevs..we old…(looks at his warcraft 2 cd in the pile of rubble) but good posts as well.

    Happy new year all, I am interested in EQ next but lying low in the weeds.. i hate minecraft so i am a bit torn. we shall see how they do to “satisfy” us all.

    Darksouls 2 for sure cant wait…and titanfall also looking at it more and more..

  • @TheRedComet: I look forward to seeing you more!

    @Romble:It’s interesting that a lot of the people who comment remember the days where forums were a really big deal. Yet, as we all know, our niche group of forum posters are a dying breed. It makes sense that a lot of our traffic comes from the newer generation on their iPhones looking for information about games — they look to be informed, whereas I look to interact.

  • I do like reading Graev’s blogposts as well.
    he can be quite enthusiastic about games hes into.
    Its refreshing to read about games other then the mmorpg kind.
    Can’t say I like the board games thing, but to each their own.

    Oh and optimistic approach for 2014 I am all for that.
    Bring on the fun. Let us know what is worth playing for fun.

    Been sticking around and replying every now and then in your blog since your first warhammer online topics. Came for warhammer stayed for the interesting reads and discussions.

    Though I admit I’m just here for the blog. Do not care for the forums. (Did look at them twice or so)

  • I also enjoy Graev’s posts, he is somewhat the comedic balance to your straight man approach. I hope to see more of his work in the future.

    My general gaming prediction for 2014 is more of an extrapolation of my 2013 observations. I expect the line between finished product, beta, and alpha to continue to become blurred to the point where releasing unfinished games becomes the norm. Developers will shirk responsibility by adopting a “help guide us in the developmental process” mantra as a crutch to make excuses for why their product doesn’t have full functionality, hasn’t been properly play tested, and is still buggy and yet ask the consumer to pay them for it (regardless if the final product no longer resembles the game that you bought into at the time).

    My prediction for this blog is a more frequent inclusion of board game reviews, or at least I can only hope!

  • Yeesh this post read like a PR release from IGN; you don’t have sponsor slavemasters (yet?), don’t start writing like you do. I’ll even take WAR-era hyper-hype Keen over PR clean Keen 🙂

    Need more solid predictions from you beyond “2014 is going to be fun”. That’s not fun to look back on. Where’s the beef?

  • There will be plenty of brutal honestly, but there won’t be negativity for the sake of using that as some sort of differentiator. I’ll leave that to other blogs. If a game sucks, I’ll tell you. If I love a game or I’m looking forward to it then I’ll tell you. I’m saying I won’t mope around with this woe is me attitude we’re seeing everywhere. There are too many games to have that type of attitude.

    We all know TESO (ESO, whatever) is going to be a bust. WildStar will be a 4-5 monther but people will look back and wish they quit at 3. FFXIV will see a major decline as a result of EQN, TESO, and Wildstar’s 2014 launches.

    Last year I’m pretty sure you criticized me for these obvious predictions. 😉

  • Just keeping you on your toes!

    Genre is weird right now. For instance why hasn’t FFXIV already declined? Most AAA themeparks have at this point, yet that game seems to be going strong still. Just randomness, or something else?

    That’s why I’m not 100% convinced about ESO fate. Yes, it should be a bust, yet somehow SW:TOR isn’t shut down yet despite being terribad and adding ‘expansions’ that add nothing to its 4th pillar, so again, wtf is happening in this genre?

    Not convinced 2014 will give us answers, but it will be interesting to watch at least.

  • Got castlestorm today.
    It is indeed an engaging and fun game.

    Will be playing it a lot more.

  • You say dependable profitability and then provide a link to an article from May about doubling (from what?) revenue. The same “F2P All the Way” news we get from every single MMO that goes F2P after its first month/week. Again, why can’t anyone ever provide a “F2P Still All the Way – a year later” article? Strange huh?

    Ah no wait, I do remember the post-bump SW:TOR F2P ‘article’, it was the CEO of EA dodging investor questions about SW:TOR and minimizing the biggest-budget title they invested in as “not that important”. Guess what’s going to happen on the next call (assuming investors even remember SW:TOR is still a weight EA carries).

  • Corporations are not necessarily long term driven, don’t be surprised to find a clear cut/strip mining attitude, and then move on to the next project. It is bad for the field in the long term as investors and consumers lose confidence in these large ventures, but I believe that addresses one aspect of the “wtf is happening in this genre” question.

    Nonetheless, if they cover their costs and turn a net profit with the extended lifeline F2P changes provide then it can be classified as profitable, albeit not as much as they hoped and hyped it to be.

    The F2P model will continue to pay off until it doesn’t anymore and then that specific entertainment product will be discontinued, but with foresight newer projects will have already been prioritized based not upon SynCaine scathing reviews, but upon how to most efficiently initially convert gamers’ hopes into pre-order dollars via their hype machine, and then string them along through an eventual F2P model transition. We see this with movies; no one expects “Despicable Me 2” to be at the top of box office returns indefinitely, but it was for 2013, and then there are DVD’s, and then transition to online providers, which will suffice.

    In no way construe this as an endorsement of this process, I believe EA is largely the antithesis of most of the creative ideas we discuss on this blog, and like in the movie business these cash cow ventures come dangerously close to destroying the system that created them, as it should be in my opinion; the industry cannot sustain too many Lone Ranger projects ($375 million production/$89 million total gross to date) before imploding, but I am not convinced that SWTOR can be classified as such a financial disaster as much as I dislike EA for what I perceive they did to BioWare and what SWTOR turned out to be.

    Excerpts from EA’s fiscal 2014 first quarter earnings call:

    “First, extra content and free-to-play contributed $177 million, up 35% over the prior year, led by sustained growth in FIFA Ultimate Team, as well as Star Wars: The Old Republic, and FIFA Online 3. This revenue relates to businesses on PC or consoles, where consumers can enhance or extend their gaming experience by buying additional digital content.”

    “In the previous year, Star Wars: The Old Republic was a subscription-only based MMO. This year, some of the revenue was recognized in the free-to-play category as we expanded this title to be both a subscription and free-to-play game. If you were to combine all of our extra content free-to-play with subscription, ads, and other, we still saw more than 10% growth over the same period last year.”

    I think a long-term subscription model of profitability is no longer driving corporations such as EA. I see it as more of a planned dog and pony show pre-hype, holding onto as many subs as long as possible until it is no longer sustainable, and then switching to F2P milking it for what it is worth, which does appear to turn a dependable short-term (over the course of a few years) profit. I mean if it did actually catch on like WoW all the better, but I don’t believe anyone at the top actually thinks this is a realistic expectation at the start.

    I would be interested to find out what SWTOR’s net profits are to date, but I haven’t been able to obtain that information even with my impressive Google skills. If SWTOR is in the red then you will have convinced me that it wasn’t a project that ended up turning a dependable profit regardless of the expectations they had going into it. 😉

  • “The same “F2P All the Way” news we get from every single MMO that goes F2P after its first month/week.”

    …for what it is worth that report was given 7 months post-F2P.

  • SW:TOR is in the red (the initial amount spent isn’t the only cost remember, since launch EA has had to continue dumping money into the title to pay the current staff to keep it running), that’s why it’s not a good comparison to something like a profitable blockbuster movie. It’s also why I continue to emphasis the difference between a “revenue increased” statement vs a “X amount of profit” statement. Investors are far more interested in the latter vs the former (unless we are talking young companies, which EA is not).

    Look at the timing of that release too; F2P ~7 months after the conversion is only 10% more revenue (again, not profit) than the sub model for SW:TOR ~5 months prior to F2P. At that point SW:TOR was already far into its plunge. That’s why you didn’t see a big PR release, but rather a tucked-away statement. It’s also why when EA talks its F2P games, FIFA is listed first.

    I get your point about short-term vs long-term, but lets not kid ourselves, prior to release EA was 100% banking on SW:TOR being WoW; long-term sustainable profits due to subscriptions. That’s the best-case model.. Due to it’s failure, its now attempting to scrap out whatever it can under F2P with as little investment as possible.

  • You may be correct about SWTOR still being in the red, but I haven’t been able to find reported gross earnings to substantiate it either way, have you been more successful? Given the obscene amount of money spent on hype and production I have to believe they started out in the red, but where they stand at the moment I cannot venture to guess.

    I have taken the 10% increase in revenue statement not to indicate SWTOR is a top earner, but to demonstrate it has stabilized and isn’t dead yet. I noticed they have released 13 content updates since January 2012 with the last being December 2013 and the Galactic Starfighter update planned to be released shortly, so on average about one update every 2 months; I take to demonstrate that EA is committed to keep the game running, which I in turn interpret, given their corporate mentality, that it is profitable to do so. As far as these updates are concerned I have no indication they are produced with “as little investment as possible”, or at least any less than the current standard for a successful developer.

    I don’t know how long they still need to run the game to put it into the black, again assuming that they haven’t achieved this already, but the F2P transition model appears to be the rule as opposed to exception for large MMO’s today (SWTOR, Tera, Aion, DDO, LotR, AoC, Everquest II, Fallen Earth, RIFT, STO, Vanguard) as a way to generate a continued revenue stream. So while our discussion has focused on the admittedly vague concept of “dependable profitability” (dependable being a modest descriptor in contrast to WoW profitability), I do believe that the sheer number of former subscription MMO’s that have turned F2P over the years presumes continued long-term profitability of the model.

    Of course we have to acknowledge that we are making many assumptions regarding intentions of EA. I will have to cordially disagree with you on the assumption that EA was “100% banking on SW:TOR being WoW” although I have no doubt that their press statements would support such a contention, if you understand what I am getting at. I am no EA insider, but even as an outsider with no direct experience in the gaming industry, I assume that any modern large MMO with an initial subscription model will eventually decline and then transition into an alternate payment scheme, most likely F2P; I have no qualms making this prediction, not on the basis of my keen prognostic abilities, but solely upon direct observation of the industry regarding F2P transition over the last few years. I am no fan of EA, but I will give them enough credit to assume the F2P transition was not a last minute salvage operation upon realization that they hadn’t made WoW in space (at least not from an earnings comparison), but that it had been on the table from inception as a recognized eventuality as a matter of practical business sense. Maybe I am wrong?

    Incidentally, I did not mean that SWTOR was directly comparable to a blockbuster movie such as Despicable Me 2, but that it also isn’t a Lone Ranger, it falls somewhere in between as an example of a project that certainly did not live up to the hype, but isn’t necessarily a money pit, which in its seemingly stable F2P incarnation might still prove to turn a “dependable profit”.

    I also noted how they nested SWTOR in with FIFA presumably to gain positive reputation through association. 😛

    I actually don’t want my overall point being overlooked on what now has diverted into a SWTOR profitability analysis. It is my contention that when large corporations design video games they do so with a primary emphasis of generating profit at the cost what video game bloggers would deem ideal mechanics, leading to a general “wtf is happening in this genre” sentiment; in support of this we saw the decline of the BioWare formerly a sterling brand among gamers as it was co-opted by EA. In one sense I believe this is represented by a greater focus on conditioned reinforcement as opposed to overall fun factor.

    By analogy if I want a fine Italian meal I would rather have an old school mom and pop owner designing the meal instead of Olive Garden that may design their next menu predicated upon analysis of the profitability of free breadstick distribution… 😉

  • Hello, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get
    a lot of spam responses? If so how do you stop
    it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s
    driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.