Thursday, October 28, 2010

The X-Fire Cometh

So, sitting back and pondering my blog...I came back to my old posts on X-Fire stats.

I have not looked at the numbers in a while, and feel it may be time to review how things have changed over the months. So many changes have taken place in the MMO world, that it may be time to see how this is affecting the stats or trends of those games on X-Fire.

X-Fire has always polarized so many people. Usually it has a negative connotation from those whose games seem to be failing on the X-Fire charts, while others can look at the numbers for what they are; trends of players who load the software.

With the changes...specifically with The Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest 2 and the upcoming F2P of Champions Online... it could prove to be interesting to see how these games have progressed on those charts.

Here is my current goal. The games that will be looked at are commercial titles. The list is...

  • EQ2 (please note, X-Fire has been known to be broken with this game...and the numbers may not pan out)
  • Age of Conan
  • Warhammer Online
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online
  • Champions Online
  • Star Trek Online (as this may go Free)
EDIT: Need to add Final Fantasy XIV to this list. Knew I was missing a game I wish to watch.

Note, there are a TON of games not on this list. I may touch on a game here and there, if requested. Vanguard will, for example, be ridiculed once. WoW just does not need to be here.
Also, note, I will not be looking at non-commercial Vindictus, Cabal Online, Mabinogi...etc. Their releases do not match the criteria of "big companies" trying to profit...both on box sales as well as subs.

The games I am watching the most are: Age of Conan and Warhammer due to their less than satisfactory retention of players; LOTRO due to it's change to Free to Play (or as coined at Ardwulfs excellent blog by Winged Nazgul - "Cover Charge"); Champions Online and it's upcoming change to F2P.

Like I said, other games are welcome, so please let me know what you wish to see.

Stay tuned and CHEERS!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Good Openedge - The Free 2 Play Model Can Work

Just read the report on the GDCO 2010 conference for Turbines report. You can catch the news here.
Turbine GDCO Report
"At GDCO, the studio [Turbine] announced that revenues from Lord of the Rings Online have doubled in the past month since switching to a free-to-play hybrid model."

Everyone knows how I feel about LOTRO, as I have stated in the past...the game is just not that good. Period. I could sit and point out the many flaws in gameplay and style, and most would even agree.

But, when it came to them changing to Free 2 Play, I was on onboard, and had even stated I could see their business doubling thanks to this change. Looks like I was spot on for that.

If Turbine has one thing right, it is how to treat their customers and how to make a game profitable. They pulled a rabbit out of their hat with DDO, and took a chance with a grade A (according to many) MMO and converting it to a less popular style of monetary arrangement in many MMO circles.

Most associate Free 2 Play with low quality. But, LOTRO is not too low quality wise (just in the aspect of character models and UI...which I understand has been tweaked some, but still needs work) , and Turbine took a big chance. Especially with the type of community that LOTRO exhibits, the belief was going F2P would be it's downfall. If anything, I applaud their move and am glad they have made headway. I hope they use this money wisely and apply it to a better animation engine and model designers, along with UI creators who understand DPI.

This leaves the window open now. Can this model succeed if done right? Want an example of NOT doing it right? Head on over to EQ2X and take a look.
You can't inundate your customer base with charges left and right. Also, there has to be a way to earn the same goods that can be bought in your store. Do this or alienate a large audience.
SOE's move to place the new "free" audience on other servers was genius...until they saw that their core audience wanted more people to play with, and saw an emptying of their pay servers...ouch. In so many words, don't separate your audience if you don't have a large audience to begin with.

So, is Free 2 Play the way to go all the time?  I still feel some games cannot work like this.

Take Warhammer Online. So many think it needs to go Free due to it's low populations. I disagree. The niche it inhabits does not bode well for a cash shop. Buying into a PvP oriented game is a big no-no to me.
But, the game could do with some price "tweaking". Changes to pricing structures for their "Tiers" is a start. Then charge for aspects that can be earned. Horses and Mounts could be one piece. New addons like their upcoming RvR packs is another.
The fact that PvE is taking a back seat to their PvP also means F2P would be disastrous. To top it off, their PvE is so broken to begin with...more work would have to be done in that arena before a F2P model could even look WAR in the eye.

PvE gameplay is 100% congruent to Free 2 Play in my opinion. People will be willing to buy what they need or want. But, you must offer some way to have the player gain these same items...just make sure it takes them a long time.

I welcome our new pricing models and hope it leads to more innovative ways to pay and play.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bad Openedge - We don't need your stinkin' MMO

Let me say this upfront. All MMO's seem to live by the "Give it a few weeks or months before playing" mantra.

Why should this be?

With the recent release of Final Fantasy XIV, I just have to ask..."Why?" Was your previous MMO already dying for customers? If so, was it your intent to make a game they could easily go to and continue their life? If NOT, then why not look at what the market has shown and improve upon this?

Or is this a "name only" money grab?

We all know for a fact, this industry is looked upon more harshly now than in the past. Any MMO player worth his salt is saying "I want a change". Graphics are one thing, but gameplay should be foremost. Make your game obtuse and far away from the norm, you alienate a core audience. Make your game different, but not well fleshed out in terms of content or playability, you will roast on the flames of the haters.

When your main player, an Eastern audience and players of your previous MMO, are saying things have gone awry...then be prepared to be left behind. When you formally ask reviewers to "wait" 3-4 weeks to have their say...prepare to be skewered.

I pity Square Enix's decisions. I do not doubt that down the road after all of the bugs and issues have been rectified, the PS3 version will most likely sell very well. But, as a current or next gen MMO, FFXIV leaves a lot to be desired.

Sure, I could wait a few months and come back. This excuse is getting old though. And should I be accepting of content that is there to get players through solo style? Should I accept menus that pull me out of my world to make decisions? Should I have to speak to a rock to get quests to do, that are available for set amounts of time?

I say, if you don't want to put in any effort to make a good game that could turn the industry around, then I don't need your stinkin' MMO.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why now?

I could go on and on about this for hours.

But, I think now is a good time to return. The past year has been quiet it seems in the MMO industry. No major releases (except for one), no major upheavals or changes (except for one)...

But, that is changing.

With a shutdown of a prominent title (APB) and the release of a major name (Final Fantasy), I guess there needs to be an intemperant voice among the masses.

Why did I leave (again...)? I don't wish to discuss it. Really. Why should I? What remains to be seen is how the blogger universe will handle me returning.

So, for now...keep an eye out, as I may eventually have something to say.

Like an Anthony Bourdain of the MMO bloggerverse...Will I be "Good Openedge" or "Bad Openedge"..