Pages

Friday, February 23, 2024

EVE Havoc Patch Notes: The Rest Of February's Updates

On Tuesday CCP released a patch for EVE Online that focused heavily on ship balance issues. But the developers added a few more updates. I thought I'd finish up with a post discussing the rest of the updates.

  • ­čĄŁ LP donations from characters to corporations, and from corporations to corporations, is now possible again.

An LP donation tax might be introduced in the future. We will monitor how the LP market is affected in the coming months.

Yes, I would expect CCP to impose such a tax, if only as an anti-RMT measure. In Tuesday's accompanying dev blog, the developers explained their thinking around the move.

Cooperation within corporations is a cornerstone of EVE Online, and the return of LP donations is a key step toward further fostering this vital aspect of gameplay. Since LP donations were paused following the release of the Havoc expansion for monitoring the new ecosystem, many groups & communities within the warzone and beyond have expressed a strong need to have this re-enabled sooner rather than later. The ecosystem will continue to be monitored, so in anticipation of the potential impact on the economy and to ensure a balanced environment, a future update will introduce a tax system to these transactions.

This enhancement is part of EVE's ongoing commitment to respond to community feedback and to refine the in-game experience, making cooperation not just a part of survival in New Eden but a thriving aspect of its rich, player-driven narrative.

I probably should have included this tidbit in yesterday's post.

  • ­čĄŁ It is now possible to pre-overheat modules while under the effects of jump cloak. (This is the temporary invulnerability and cloak you have from recently arriving in a new system from a Stargate, Shipcaster, Ansiblex or Wormhole.)

Spanish speaking players received some love from the localization team.

  • Voice over has now been added in Spanish.

The user interface received two tweaks associated with insurgencies.

  • The closest Forward Operating Base, or Zarzakh, will now appear in the loyalty points section of the wallet when looking at Malakim Zealots or Commando Guri LP.

  • Changed the fill color of the Corruption bubbles in the Insurgency Window to match the Corruption color of the UI.

Finally, CCP fixed a long list of bugs, including one affecting travel in null security space.

Gameplay:

  • Ship Autopilot will now jump through Ansiblex Gates.
  • Damaged Laser Crystals will no longer be counted as modules for the "repair all" option for Nanite Repair Paste.
  • It is now possible to import fits for the Avatar.
  • It is now possible to search for “blueprint” and “officer” in the search New Eden bar.
  • The quantity field no longer cuts off the numbers of charges in in the Fitting window in simulation mode.
  • The Zarzakh Toll Cost is no longer rounded up or down to 3 significant figures, and now always shows the correct cost.
  • The basic Shield Amplifiers will now appear in the Storyline Section of the Market.

Graphics:

  • Abyssal Mining Crystals now have a red-colored icon to match their red beam.
  • Complex Mining Crystals now have an orange-colored icon to match their orange beam.
  • Rare Moon Mining Crystals now have a red beam to match their red icon.

Localization:

  • The region description of Immensea now uses the correct spelling of “Arkonor”.

User Interface:
  • The Agency no longer opens with an incorrect tab in focus.
  • The Show Legend option choice in the Price History tab of the Market window is now preserved when switching between tabs.
  • Container icons in the Input Material Location drop down menu of the Industry window no longer move to the right when scrolling up and down.
  • The background of the Factional Warfare Enlistment window now fills the window. We have also removed the header icon and window title.
  • The Medium Industrial Core link in the "Can Fit Role bonus" for the Porpoise now correctly links to the Medium Industrial Core.
  • The arrow icons in the Agents category of the Character Sheet now face the correct way after the window has been collapsed.
  • Factional items in the Loyalty Point Store now correctly show the Faction marks.
  • The Compression window now correctly opens after choosing the Compress option when the window has been minimized.
  • The View Inside button tooltip now shows the correct tooltip.
  • Removed the extra line space in the tooltips in the Insurgency Info Panel.
  • The Insurgency gauges in the Info Panel are now clearer when viewing them over different backgrounds.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

EVE: Havoc Patch Notes - The February Balance Pass

On Tuesday CCP's monthly patch for EVE Online turned into a balance pass on both ships and weapon systems. The developers addressed the reasons in a separate post.

The EVE community has pointed out myriad opportunities for rebalancing through the CSM, and this feedback has been instrumental in the changes implemented in the new update. In the spirit of fostering a more dynamic and competitive Factional Warfare environment, significant ship rebalances are being introduced to enrich capsuleers' strategic options in New Eden.

The essence of these changes lies in addressing the dominance of certain ships, such as the Exequror Navy Issue, Osprey Navy Issue, and Caracal, which have historically overshadowed their counterparts due to their superior range and damage capabilities. These vessels receive slight adjustments to ensure they don’t dramatically surpass the diversity of viable ships in their respective classes. Furthermore, the Bellicose and the Republic Fleet Firetail receive much-needed enhancements to affirm their place in the combat ecosystem.

Two of the ships, the Caracal and Osprey Navy Issue, received adjustments due to the changes to Rapid Light Missile Launchers.

Rapid Light Missile Launchers have been incredibly powerful for some time, especially when combined with range bonuses. As we re-balanced the Cerberus in the Viridian Expansion last summer, we intentionally removed the light missile range bonuses from the ship. In this balance pass, we are removing all the remaining per level range bonuses to Rapid Light Missiles, to match the precedent set with Rapid Heavy Missiles, which do not increase with Bastion or Spaceship Command skills.

Note that role bonuses from ships will still apply just like with Rapid Heavy Missiles (Mordus Legion Ships and Combat Battlecruisers).

  • Caracal - Missile velocity bonus now only applies to Heavy and Heavy Assault Missiles.
  • Osprey Navy Issue - Missile velocity bonus now only applies to Heavy and Heavy Assault Missiles.
  • Onyx - Missile velocity bonus now only applies to Heavy and Heavy Assault Missiles.


Before the Uprising expansion, the Exequror Navy Issue was the least used faction cruiser. The Uprising buffs, as is typical in EVE, were too good and turned the least popular ship to the most popular. The ship received a nerf Tuesday.
  • Medium Hybrid Damage bonus reduced from 25% to 20% per level of Gallente Cruiser skill.

The poor, unloved Bellicose took another nerf with the changes to Rapid Light Missile Launchers. According to the patch notes:
With the changes made to Rapid Light Missiles, we want to make sure there are strong Tech I options for going all-out with medium missiles. This is why we are increasing the speed and powergrid output of the Bellicose, to help it stand out more against the Caracal as a speedier alternative for shield setups and help enable armor setups.

  • Max velocity increased from 240m/s to 260m/s.
  • Powergrid output increased from 700 tw to 780 tw.

Usage of the Republic Fleet Firetail fell behind that of the other three faction frigates following the launch of Uprising. To make the Firetail more popular, a new ship bonus was added.
  • New bonus added, 5% bonus to Small Projectile Falloff per level of Minmatar Frigate skill.
But heavier ships also received changes. The mobility of Marauders was just too good.
Marauders currently only warp 12.5% slower than T1, Faction and T3 Cruisers, which doesn’t leave much room for them to out-maneuver Marauders when choosing to avoid them. It also does not give players much reason to choose smaller hulls over a Marauder when travel time is a consideration for PVP and PVE. To tackle this, we’re reducing the warp speed of Marauders down to the same base level as T1 and Faction battleships.
  • Warp speed for the Marauder Class (Paladin, Golem, Kronos, Vargur) reduced from 3.5 AU/s to 3.0 AU/s.
The change to Black Op battleships, though, feels more like a bug fix and not a design change.
  • Cloak Velocity Speed Role bonus increased from 6.5x to 7.5x to match the current stated trait role bonus of 650%.
Field Command ships previously received a change to the hull bonus, removing the range bonus for command bursts to a strength bonus to command bursts. Experience showed the change was not good for skirmishing, so the class is receiving a new hull bonus.
  • Added 50% Role Bonus to Command Burst Range to the Field Command subgroup of Command Ships (Absolution, Nighthawk, Astarte, Sleipnir).
The developers also determined two command ships deserved additional attention. I'll include the entire explanation for the changes before listing the changes.

Astarte
The Astarte is currently the least used Command Ship and it struggles to compete with the cheaper Brutix Navy Issue hull. We also boosted the Deimos in an earlier balance pass which has made the extra ISK cost for upshipping into the Astarte hull not feel as worthwhile as it once was. To help address this, we are giving the Astarte a small bump in rep power to help it stand out more as a tankier alternative to the Brutix Navy Issue.
  • Armor Repairer bonus increased from 7.5% to 10% per level of Gallente Battlecruiser skill.

Nighthawk
Because the Nighthawk is overperforming in wormhole space and becoming oppressive, we are toning down on its damage by lowering the Rate of Fire bonus, but partially compensating it by increasing the Kinetic Damage bonus. Our aim here is to slightly lower the Nighthawk’s damage output and shift it more into Kinetic so players have more options to counter them outside of firewalls, such as fitting Kinetic Hardeners, Reactive Hardeners and bringing Tech II Gallente ships.
  • Rate of Fire bonus for Heavy and Heavy Assault Missiles reduced from 10% to 7.5% per level of Command Ships skill.

  • Kinetic Damage bonus for Heavy and Heavy Assault Missiles increased from 7.5% to 10% per level of Caldari Battlecruiser skill.
Finally comes the changes to the Triglavian main weapon system, Entropic Disintegrators. The disintegrators have made Triglavian ships popular since their introduction.
Triglavian weapons have been very powerful for a long time, especially since they feature medium ranges with better than blaster tracking, while in many cases, pre-ramp DPS can also be on par or close to other ships which operate at the same range. While we originally looked into reducing their tracking, we decided that the better alternative was to lean into their identity as a ramping damage weapon. Triglavian weapons are being adjusted to have slightly lower base damage, but they will retain the same damage at max spool as they have now by increasing the maximum ramp multiplier. The Mimesis implant set and Nergal/Ikitursa will end up having a small damage increase at max spool. We are also increasing the damage multiplier per cycle so it will still take around 30 cycles of the weapon to reach max ramp.
  • Base damage reduced by 20%
  • Damage multiplier per cycle increased from 5% to 7%
  • Damage multiplier max increased from 2.5x to 3.125x
This should make them weaker at killing tackle ships, since the initial damage when target swapping is lower. This will also help other alternative options that fill the same role stand out more, like in the case of the Omen Navy Issue vs the Vedmak, with the Omen Navy Issue now offering much better initial DPS.
Both of the Triglavian alliance tournament prize ships, the Hydra and Tiamat, had their bonuses adjusted to allow them to continue reaching max ramp in 20 cycles instead of 30.

The patch contained more than just the balance pass, but the balance pass portion was long enough. I'll need to create another post with the rest of the information.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Project Awakening Update: February 2024

Since CCP Games released the news last March, the general public has seen little news of Project Awakening, the Web3/blockchain game currently in development based on EVE Online. Over the past two weeks, little nuggets of news came out that I think can make up a short post.

First came Pearl Abyss' fourth quarter earnings call for 2023. During the call Pearl Abyss revealed CCP had conducted a confidential test and plans "to showcase Project Awakening within the first half of this year". As the continuing failure to launch Crimson Desert shows, however, Pearl Abyss often underestimates the time required to complete projects.

On the bright side for potential investors, Pearl Abyss returned to profitability in 2023, recording a net profit of ₩15.6 billion ($12.1 million). But the South Korean game makers operating profits fell into negative territory, indicating the potential for CCP to require another round of investment.

The second piece of news indicates the leadership of Pearl Abyss possibly isn't as far off the time estimate as normal. The Council of Stellar Management held a summit with the developers and leadership of CCP Games from 5-9 of February. The CSM is an elected group of players who serves partly as a focus group and partly as a warning system for changes the developers make to the game. If I am correct that Project Awakening is generally a port of EVE Online to Web 3 technology, then the input the CSM gives CCP about EVE Online will impact Project Awakening.

One of the members, Dark Shines, posted to the EVE sub-Reddit his notes about the recent summit. Why should millionaires care what Dark Shines thinks about Project Awakening? Because Dark Shines not only is the leader of The Initiative., the fourth largest alliance in EVE with over 16,000 characters, but is one of the game's top fleet commanders as well. If he says bad things about Project Awakening, that could affect acceptance of the game as well as those millionaires investments. CCP faced a significant player revolt against Web 3 technology in late 2021 and early 2022, so much that CCP's CEO  Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson had to issue a public statement stating, "we have no plans to add blockchain technology into EVE Online’s global server Tranquility for the foreseeable future." 

The first passage was Dark Shines impression of the first session on Project Awakening held on day 1 of the summit.

Yesterday I left out one meeting, regarding Project Awakening as I was unsure of the NDA boundries, but having spoke to CCP they confirm it was cool to mention it. Our second meeting yesterday was with the Project Awakening team.

I had a lot of reservations about Project Awakening given the nature of the tech it uses however I was able to voice those concerns during the meeting and was happy with frank conversation that followed. By the end of the meeting I was far more confident in this as a product and the direction / vision CCP have for it and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. I can't go into the specifics on it, but its clear to me that the drive behind the game and the people working on it are legit, so I look forward to seeing what comes next for Awakening.

Perhaps not the most information, but the members of the CSM are under an NDA concerning all the information discussed during summits. The second meeting, held on day 3, was also vague.

Our next meeting was with the Project Awakening Team. I asked several more questions around the gameplay, the vision of progression and how they would manage their messaging to the Eve Community given the massive concerns with Blockchain. I was satisfied with the answers I got, along with the answers to the other CSMs questions. It was also encouraging to see that Eve can benefit from some of the developments made here.

Again, vague on the details. But I was looking more for attitude towards the project, not details of what the project would present to players. And perhaps the most positive statement was the answer to a question, "How much do you know about blockchain technology from OUTSIDE of these meetings?"

Much like when I get a text asking me to click a link to accept a package i've never ordered, I know to avoid NFT, and the bad image with cash grabs on blockchain / crypto related stuff.

However from talking to people at CCP it's clear that it is a game using a specific technology, and not using a technology and tacking a game on as an afterthought.

The answer to the question tends to place into doubt my assumption that Project Awakening is a port of EVE with Web 3 technology added. Then again, how much would an EVE 2 differ from the original game? After twenty years CCP may finally deliver a sequel to the original game.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that one of the movers and shakers in the EVE player base doesn't hate Project Awakening. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is something to consider when thinking about the effort.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Looking Back At Five Years Of Pearl Abyss Earnings Calls

Listening in on the Pearl Abyss 4th quarter earnings call for 2023, I noticed something unusual. Unlike in past years, the presentation was missing a look back at data from previous years. Which got me to thinking, "Just how bad were things in Anyang?" I did make some comparisons to 2022 to show the company had another sub-par year.

But then I got to thinking. What if I looked at the data going back to 2019, the first full year CCP Games was owned by Pearl Abyss. The years 2018 and 2019 were great years for the South Korean game company. Black Desert Mobile launched in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan in February 2018. In October, the company finalized the deal for CCP Games, makers of EVE Online. In 2019, Pearl Abyss launched Black Desert Online on the Xbox One in March and the Playstation 4 in August. The company finished the year by launching Black Desert Mobile in North America, Europe, and the rest of Asia in December.

The ₩541.5 billion ($464.9 million) Pearl Abyss year 2019 proved to be Pearl Abyss' high water mark in terms of revenue. The only new game published by PA was EVE: Echoes from CCP Games collaboration with NetEase in China in 2020. The problems with developing Crimson Desert, originally due to launch in Q4 2021, stopped up the development pipeline in South Korea. A second planned game, DokeV, has not yet received major development work.

The lack of new game development is apparent in the 4 years of declining revenue since 2019. The ₩333.5 billion in revenue recorded in 2023 was a 38.4% decline over 4 years. The drop in video game revenue was worse than the chart above shows, as in both 2021 (₩40.8 billion) and 2022 (₩20.2 billion) non-gaming revenue made up a significant portion of corporate income.

Similarly, the South Korean game maker's profits have also tumbled over the last 4 years. The peak profit of ₩150.9 billion ($128.7 million) in 2019 fell 89.8% down to ₩15.4 billion ($12 million) in 2023. Worse, the company recorded a loss in 2022. As for the operating profits, last year's ₩16.4 billion operating loss of probably explains the need of CCP Games to seek outside investors to develop its web3/blockchain game Project Awakening.

Looking at the performance of the intellectual properties, CCP Games and EVE are not to blame for the fall in revenue. Admittedly, 2019 was CCP Games worst year revenue-wise since the $46.5 million recorded in 2008. The Icelandic game studio did have the excuse of not being able to operate in China that year. Once the Serenity server resumed service, along with the launch of EVE: Echoes, in 2020, the EVE IP has averaged a steady ₩73 billion in revenue from 2020 to 2023. Not great, but probably surpassing the expectations of the Pearl Abyss executives in Anyang.

The Black Desert games, on the other hand, have seen revenue fall 47.7%, from ₩483.1 billion ($414.8 million) in 2019 down to ₩252.5 billion ($193.5 million) in 2023. The question is, why?


Looked at by region, revenue from North America and Europe has made up a bigger share of Pearl Abyss' business over the five year period. The share from NA/EU almost doubled, from 28.9% in 2019 to 55.9% in 2023. But the shift has more to do with failures to maintain revenue in South Korean and the rest of Asia as opposed to success in the west. Revenue in South Korea fell 56.1% and in the rest of Asia by 70.2% during the past five years. In the effort to gain market share in North America and Europe, did Pearl Abyss neglect Asia?


In one way, the answer is yes. The biggest fall in revenue comes from mobile games, of which Black Desert Mobile is the clear leader. In 2019, Black Desert Mobile was the clear income driver for Pearl Abyss, bringing in ₩323.5 billion ($376.4 million). For comparison Black Desert Mobile brought in ₩10 billion less than all of Pearl Abyss recorded in revenue for 2023. Last year, BDM and EVE: Echoes combined for ₩49.7 billion, a drop of 84.6% in mobile games revenue over five years.

The revenue by platform chart also shows a problem that fans of the now-cancelled game DUST 514 would recognize. Pearl Abyss launched Black Desert Online on the Xbox One and Playstation 4 in 2019. In 2020, both Microsoft and Sony launched the next generation of consoles. My understanding is that while BDO is playable on the current generation of game consoles, the experience is not as good as playing on the previous generation's hardware. Since 2020, console revenue is down 67%, from ₩54.7 billion ($64.8 million) in 2020 to ₩18 billion ($23.4 million) in 2023. No wonder Pearl Abyss executives on the latest call mentioned upgrading the console experience was a priority in order to improve corporate income.

Stepping back like I have today, I realize just how much Pearl Abyss' failure to deliver Crimson Desert in a timely manner hurt the company. Not only has PA not received any income from the game, but I now believe the plan was to port the game over to mobile, thus reviving a major source of income. 

The delay on Crimson Desert development also impacted the development of DokeV, which cannot enter production until Crimson Desert is finished. And expect DokeV to also receive a port to mobile platforms. 

To top all the problems off, Pearl Abyss probably planned for Crimson Desert development to finish before upgrading Black Desert Online to efficiently run on the current generation of gaming consoles. The problem is, development of Crimson Desert, originally planned to release in the fourth quarter of 2021, is still ongoing.

As I conclude composing this post, I have a question. When the acquisition of CCP Games by Pearl Abyss was going down in 2018, did anyone still in management foresee this situation occurring 5 years later? I say current because, based on some things I heard while in Reykjavik for Fanfest in 2018, some people did. Those people, though, left the company before the sale was announced.

Friday, February 16, 2024

The Nosy Gamer Turns 15

I normally don't make note of blog anniversaries or blog milestones. But today is the 15th anniversary of the launch of The Nosy Gamer. Looking back I found the initial rationale for starting a new blog.

Just as I had the itch to keep playing MMOs, I’ve got an itch to blog again. I made the mistake of listening to gaming podcasts and became hooked. At first it was just the broadcasts/podcasts over at Online Gaming Radio. OGR has two excellent EQ2 broadcasts on Tuesday nights, EQ2's-day and the Jethal Silverwing Show, and I started going though the archives listening to the old shows. I also started reading one of the writers on Online Gaming Radio, Sister Julie Whitefeather, who now writes blog posts for Virgin Worlds and is the co-host of the podcast "No Prisoners, No Mercy". For those of you who may not know, Virgin Worlds is a web site chock-full of podcast goodness for anyone looking for podcasts about MMOs. After listening to a few of the podcasts, I realized I’d hit the mother lode. But the more I listened, the more I wanted to speak out about my own opinions. I didn’t want to just be a comments poster. I decided a long time ago that if I was going to start posting on other people’s sites and blogs that I was going to have a place where other people could comment on my thoughts. I don’t want to just comment on what other people say. Occasionally I would like to drive the discussion. So this blog was born.

Things have changed over the years. Initially my big theme was writing podcast reviews. Those didn't last too long, although I do have 68 blog posts tagged as podcasts. Then about six months in, I started playing a new game, EVE Online. I left Everquest 2 due to guild drama and really haven't looked back. 

Overall, this is the 2487th post on The Nosy Gamer. Looking back, the top 10 tags on posts are:

  1. eve: 1723
  2. illicit RMT: 159
  3. digital_dozen: 150
  4. war_on_bots: 140
  5. ffxiv: 139
  6. games_business: 134
  7. eq2: 105
  8. wow: 95
  9. star_citizen: 80
  10. podcasts: 68

The first tag, eve, doesn't really require an explanation. What came as a bit of a surprise is that less than 70% of my posts are tagged eve.

Two related tags, illicit RMT and war_on_bots are what I might be most famous for, if a blog with a readership of 2000 visitors a month is "famous". But my biggest speaking engagement, on the main stage at HARPA during Fanfest 2015, is due to my writing on the subject of bots and illicit RMT in EVE.

The third entry, digital_dozen, brings back memories. From 2011 to 2014 I wrote a weekly column looking at the most popular MMORPGs according to Xfire statistics. Xfire was a free messaging service for gamers that finally ceased to exist in June 2015. But the column was fun to write while Xfire lasted.

The fifth entry, ffxiv, will probably wind up in second place by the end of the year. Final Fantasy XIV is currently my main game and with the Dawntrail expansion launching this year may be the second tag that reaches 200 posts. What might come as a surprise is considering 2024 will mark my fifth year playing the game that I haven't reached the 200 post mark sooner.

Next comes the tag games_business. I began looking more into the business and financial side of some companies over the last few years as business models changed, particularly Pearl Abyss and Cloud Imperium Games. I've also began to look at layoffs in the video game industry, which means the category will probably wind up in the top three tags by the end of the year.

The seventh tag, eq2, goes back to the game I originally played when I started The Nosy Gamer. I really haven't written about the game since probably 2010 or 2011, but I did write over 100 posts that warranted the tag.

The eighth tag is wow. How can I not write about World of Warcraft every now and then? Eventually I'll write the 100th WoW post.

The tag in ninth place, star_citizen, is for a game I had to write about, if only for financial reasons. Currently the game, along with the single player game Squadron 42, has grossed over $800 million since 2012. How could I not write about such a phenomenon? 

And finally comes the podcasts tag, which goes back to the beginning of the start of the blog.

My output has definitely fluctuated over time. I have had five calendar years when I published over 200 posts: 2011-2014 and 2023. I've also had 4 years in which I published less than 100 posts: 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022. Overall, I've averaged publishing 165.8 posts a year.

So what does the future of The Nosy Gamer look like? I'm probably not going to publish over 200 posts like last year. That only occurred due to the insane, at least for me, number of posts I made around the two EVE expansions last year. My goal is a minimum of 15 posts per month. If I average a blog post every other day I'll be happy.

And what about the subjects? I'll keep writing about video games and the business behind them. I'm sure that in the future some sort of technology will come along and the opinions about how games were "in the old days" might come handy. Or at least get a few laughs.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Pearl Abyss Q4 2023 Earnings Call

On Thursday morning Seoul time, Pearl Abyss held its earnings call for the 4th Quarter of 2023. The big news is that the South Korean company was in the black in 2023, with a net profit of ₩15.6 billion ($12.1 million). In 2022 the South Korean game maker lost ₩41.1 billion ($35.6 million). Still, operating revenue fell 13.6%, from ₩386 billion ($298.8 million) in 2022 down to ₩333.5 billion ($255.5 million) in 2023.


Black Desert did not have a particularly good year in 2023. For the year, all the games in IP earned ₩255.5 billion ($193.5 million), a decline of 13.8% from 2022's ₩293 billion ($227.3 million). Year over year, Black Desert revenue dropped by 15.6% in the fourth quarter compared to Q4 2022.


By comparison, the EVE IP was the star of the earnings call. Quarter-over-quarter, EVE IP revenue was up 24.3% to 19.9 billion ($15.1 million) in the fourth quarter. Year-over-year, revenue was up by 15%. For the entire year, though, EVE IP revenue was essentially flat. The ₩73 billion ($55.9 million) was only 0.7% greater than 2022's 72.5 billion ($56.3 million). And due to currency fluxuations, revenue in US dollars was down by 0.7% in 2023. Still, with the fourth quarter recording the highest amount of users in EVE in 5 years, the executives on the call highlighted the EVE IP more than in any other call since I began covering the Pearl Abyss earnings calls at the beginning of 2019.



When the subject came to growth opportunities, the IPs created by Pearl Abyss didn't sound too promising. The PC version of Black Desert Online might receive government approval to enter the Chinese market. The executives also talked about porting Black Desert over to the next generation of consoles. The company is also looking to add additional content for The Land of the Morning Light expansion and some sort of new PvP-centric activity in BDO.

Of course, the wet blanket over any excitement is the continued state of development of Crimson Desert. Despite talk of putting on "the finishing touches", the only major activity concretely planned for 2024 is a major marketing push in the second half of the year. While not coming out and admitting such, don't expect Crimson Desert to launch until 2025.

No, the excitement lay with the projects under development at CCP. EVE: Vanguard, the first person shooter undergoing player testing, was touted a few times as an effort to extend the life of a 20-year-old game. The only possible bump in the road was the disclosure that CCP's London office will move to another location. But is that due to the need to cut costs or because the existing space is too small?

CCP does have a game that will fully launch in 2024: EVE: Galaxy Conquest. The mobile game is currently in localized testing and is expected to launch sometime this year. 

And finally comes the blockchain game, Project Awakening. We have not heard a lot about the game since its initial reveal last year. But the Pearl Abyss executives teased CCP would showcase the game during the first half of the year.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Notable Video Game Industry Layoffs - 1-13 February 2024

Compared to January, layoffs in the video game industry are very low. Looking at the list compiled at VideoGameLayoffs.com, however, are still piling up, just among indie developers. Before the list grows too much longer, I thought I'd go ahead and note four that stood out to me.

Perhaps the biggest story is the news concerning Prytania Media. According to Game Developer, an unspecified number of layoffs will hit the its writing, design, and engineering teams of Crop Circle Games. Another Prytania Media company, Game Science, laid off its entire staff according to a post on LinkedIn

The layoffs are notable because of one of the founders of Prytania Media, Jeff Strain. Strain was a co-founder of ArenaNet and founded Undead Labs. While at ArenaNet, Strain was the executive producer of Guild Wars.

Strain also emerged as a strong advocate for unions in the video game industry. In July 2021 Strain wrote an open letter following the news of the Activision-Blizzard lawsuits:

I’m an entrepreneur, and a veteran of three successful independent studio start ups. I’m highly familiar with the financial, legal, contractual, and organizational aspects of game development. I also know that I have nothing to fear from unionization, nor does any company that pays employees fairly and equitably, provides quality health insurance, models respect and civility for female, POC, LGBTQ+ employees, and supports a healthy, whole life. It seems simple, but we clearly need help with it. The giants of this industry have shown us this week that we cannot trust them to moderate and manage the wealth and power that players and fans have given them.

I welcome my employees to unionize, and I’m giving my full endorsement and support to an industry wide adoption of unions. I also encourage the leadership of game-industry companies, large and small, corporate and independent, to join me in endorsing and advocating for unionization as a concrete, actionable step toward improving our industry. As a studio owner, I’ll roll up my sleeves and work with union organizers in a spirit of collaboration. I greatly look forward to the day when the joy and love for what we create for our players is reflected in our workplaces for all employees.

The largest announced layoff so far in February occurred on 7 February at Hidden Path Entertainment. The Bellevue, Washington-based company laid off 44 employees. Those laid off included "several project leads, an HR director, and multiple artists, programmers, and designers." Geek Wire provided a brief history of the studio.

Hidden Path was founded in 2006. It’s known for tower defense series Defense Grid and VR games Brass Tactics and Witchblood. Hidden Path also collaborated with Microsoft to release an updated edition of Age of Empires II in 2013, and contributed to the development of its neighbor Valve Software’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Left 4 Dead 2.

In 2022, Wizards of the Coast announced that it had partnered with Hidden Path, among several other internal and external studios, to make a new Dungeons & Dragons game. Wizards subsequently canceled production on many of its video game projects in early 2023, which was initially said to include whatever was underway at Hidden Path.

Later reports contradicted that, however, and at time of writing, Hidden Path’s website still lists its D&D game as being in development.

One bit of surprising news was the announcement on 7 February that 91Act, headquartered in Chengdu, China, had laid off all its employees.  The studio's latest game, BlazBlue Entropy Effect, released on Steam on 30 January and at the time of this writing was very positively rated, receiving 89% positive reviews. But sales were not robust enough to solve the company's financial difficulties. According to Game Look, founder Jiang Lei mortgaged his home in order to provide severance payments to his employees. According to VideoGameLayoffs.com, 91Act had approximately 15 employees.

Finally, Cloud Imperium Games found itself on the list of companies laying off employees. A post on LinkedIn by Dane Kubicka indicated he was a victim of restructuring.

From what I can tell, Kubicka worked in the Austin studio. CIG purchased a studio in Quebec, Turbulent, last year in part due to lower labor costs than in the United States. He joined CIG in July 2021 as a Live QA Specialist before moving on to become a Level Designer in September 2022. According to his LinkedIn profile, he only worked on the Persistent Universe and not Squadron 42. And as part of my checking for this section of the post, I found an episode of Inside Star Citizen in which Kubicka appeared.

VideoGameLayoffs.com had no number of employees laid off at CIG.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Learning Culture Through EVE Online's And FFXIV's Current Sales Events

Oh, February. When my brain for some reason turns to comparing cash shop offerings in EVE Online and Final Fantasy XIV. Last year I just looked at the value propositions and practices of both companies. This year I want to look at the cultural aspects of the two sales.

As I did last year, I'll start with EVE Online. The sales pitch isn't exactly scintillating.

Celebratory capsuleers,

It’s time to light your firecrackers and exchange gifts to celebrate Lunar New Year. To mark the occasion, the EVE store is offering two packs with brand-new SKINs, apparel, Omega, PLEX and much more until 19 February.

Perhaps the lack of excitement is workload, because CCP didn't create an in-game event the marketing staff could associate with the sale. But Pearl Abyss wants CCP and EVE Online to appeal to more "cultural elements". I will say, though, the sale is pretty harmless in regard to the direction of the game.

The first deal includes dragons, because 2024 is the Year of the Dragon according to the lunar calendar.

The new SKINs


The SKINs displayed in the graphic above are:

  • Stiletto Empyrean Dragons SKIN
  • Loki Empyrean Dragons SKIN
  • Dominix navy Empyrean Dragons SKIN
  • Jaguar Empyrean Dragons SKIN
  • Hecate Empyrean Dragons SKIN
  • Huginn Empyrean Dragons SKIN
  • Vexor Navy Issue Empyrean Dragons SKIN

In addition, the package includes the Men's & Women’s Empyrean Dragons Jacket, each of which are currently available in the New Eden Store for 75 PLEX each. The package goes for $37.79.

The second package, for $53.39, is more interesting.

WEALTH AND WISDOM PACK

The Wealth and Wisdom Pack brings you a selection of everything you need to start a prosperous new year.

  • 1 Month Omega time
  • 800 PLEX
  • Specialist “Boost” Cerebral Accelerator
  • 2 x Skill Extractors
  • 1,800 HyperCores
The wealth portion of 1 month of game time and 800 PLEX makes sense. The wisdom part of the cerebral accelerator and skill extractors also makes sense. But how do HyperCores fit into the theme of the Lunar New Year?

Gambling turns out to have a place in Chinese culture and Chinese New Year's celebrations. Just because EVE does not offer games like Mahjong does not mean players cannot gamble in the game world. The HyperNet relay is basically a mini-lottery. But according to one website, most any type of gambling fits into the holiday.
Secondly, superstitions state that the act of gambling itself, regardless of wins or losses, brings good luck into the new year. This stems from the belief that handling money will bring good economic luck.

Chinese gamblers also often follow the Chinese proverb that says, “If you don’t bet, you don’t know how lucky you are.” They then believe that winning reflects one’s good luck and blessing by supernatural forces. 

In fact, in many Asian cultures, luck is closely related to fate; according to Dr. Timothy Fong, an associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, “Chinese people think a lucky person should have obtained blessing from the gods and his/her ancestors.” With that, many believe that fate is ever-changing, and can be manipulated by practices such as donning red underwear, or having a good luck charm near their deck of cards.
Talk of Mahjong leads to Final Fantasy XIV. But Square Enix is not celebrating the lunar New Year. Instead, the game is holding its annual Valentione's Day event. Why is a Japanese game not celebrating an Asian holiday? Believe it or not, all east Asian cultures are not the same. Japan departed from the rest of the region's reliance on the lunar calendar during the Meiji Restoration (1868-1889), when the Japanese switched to the Gregorian calendar to fit in with the rest of the world. That is not to say the lunar New Year is not celebrated anywhere in Japan, but mainly in places like the Ryukyu Islands and the many Chinatowns in Japanese cities.

This is not to say Square Enix totally ignored the holiday. But the in-game event, Heavensturn, took place from 31 December to 15 January, in line with the Gergorian calendar. The developers even alluded to the animal of the new year, the dragon.

The Dote emote

But the sale itself basically is the same as last year's.

New items added in 2024

Last year's rewards from the in-game event were added to the cash shop. No FOMO here as the additions, if not permanent, will stick around for years. And I can use my description from last year.
In addition, all of the items from previous Valentione's Day events are all off for 30%. This ranges from $1.40 for the Dote emote (almost mandatory for those participating in FFXIV's club scene) and $2.10 for The Kiss Orchestrion Roll (FFXIV housing has music) up to $7.00 for the Valentione's Furnishing Set and $8.40 for each of the Broken Heart mounts. Except for the new Ceruleum Balloons mount for $24, all the items in the FFXIV sale cost below $8.50.
The sale also lasts until 21 February at 10:59pm PST.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

A Look At January 2024's Active ISK Delta

Yesterday CCP released the January 2024 monthly economic report for EVE Online. Since I placed the Active ISK Delta under a microscope in 2023 as an indication of the game's health, I thought I'd continue looking to see if the developers can maintain the positive momentum.

Depending on one's point of view, January's Active ISK Delta of -61.5 trillion ISK was not great news. The amount was 40.3 trillion ISK less than the -21.2 trillion ISK recorded in January 2023. To give some sort of reference to just how much 40.3 trillion ISK is, the amount represents approximately 15,800 months of game time based on yesterday's average PLEX price of 5.1 million ISK in The Forge.

I then decided to compare the two latest winter expansions, 2022's Uprising and 2023's Havoc. In the two months following Uprising, the Active ISK Delta was -84.8 trillion, meaning the net loss to New Eden's ISK supply from November 2022 to January 2023 was 11.3 trillion ISK. After Havoc, the total Active ISK Delta in the following two months was -130.3 trillion ISK. So year over year, the decrease in the Active ISK Delta was 53.7%.

The Active ISK Delta doesn't measure how many people left or came back to the game, just the amount of ISK. If I had to say anything, I would say that people returned to EVE to check out the Uprising expansion. Uprising was the first expansion or update to focus on low sec in a major way in perhaps a decade. Havoc, on the other hand, was the third expansion in a year-long run of content for low security space. Probably not the same level of excitement. 

Perhaps the Active ISK Delta is showing why CCP wants to change the focus of development to null sec. If CCP decides to revamp the null sec sovereignty system this year, think null sec players will come back to give the game another look?

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Another Increase To The SCC Surcharge

On the first day of February I noticed a new patch note for EVE Online:

Features & Changes:

Science & Industry:

  • The SCC surcharge component of the Industry Job Installation Fee has been increased from 1.5% to 4%.

To learn more about the Industry Job Installation Fee and how it's calculated, you can check out the Viridian Expansion Notes here or over on the EVE University wiki.

When the Viridian expansion launched on 13 June, CCP made the following changes in an effort aid owners of facilities in low manufacturing index systems by letting them "set their taxes to a very low value but still gain a meaningful income while still staying competitive." 

  • Adjusted industry facility tax in NPC stations to 0.25% from 10%. 
  • Adjusted Alpha clone tax to 0.25% from 2%. 
  • Added a 0.25% tax that goes to the SCC. 
  • The maximum tax that can be set for industry services will be capped at 10%. 
  • You can now adjust your fees to 2 decimal places rather than being limited to 1. 

That didn't make much sense to me, because if the manufacturing index is low, then players can set their facility taxes higher. But not too high because the industry facility tax in NPC stations was set to 0.25%. Maybe someone can explain in the comments why the explanation makes sense.

Apparently, the new ISK sink of the SCC surcharge was not fulfilling its purpose, because last Thursday was the third time the tax was raised in the last eight months. The current running tally of the changes are:

  • 6 July 2023: changed from 0.25% to 0.75%
  • 12 September 2023: changed from 0.75% to 1.5%
  • 1 February 2024: changed from 1.5% to 4.0%

I wondered just how much additional ISK the latest increase would remove from the New Eden economy. Based on the December 2023 monthly economic report, a not insignificant amount. The SCC surcharge was the 11th largest ISK sink at 1.8 trillion ISK. If the SCC surcharge had been 4%, an additional 3 trillion ISK, representing 2.6% of all ISK sinks in EVE in December. At 4%, the SCC surcharge would have tied the Hypernet Relay Tax as the 7th largest ISK sink at 4.8 trillion ISK.

Building a Porpoise in Heimatar, February 2024

That is macro-level economics. But what does that really mean to a builder? I'll take myself as an example. I want to build a Porpoise, but have delayed gathering all the materials. If I had built the ship last month, I would only have paid the SCC a fee of 2,965,222.71 ISK. Now, I have to pay 7,907,260.56 ISK, an increase of 4,942,037.85 ISK, or 167%.

Both the manufacturer in the high manufacturing activity system of Amamake (security rating 0.4) and  low activity Klir (security rating 0.8) had the same absolute install cost rise. But on a percentage basis, the SCC surcharge comprises 31.3% of the cost of installing a job in a station in Amamake whereas in Klir, the percentage is 86.6%. Instead of job installation costs being 20.6% of the cost in Klir, the costs are now 36.1% the cost in Amamake. Proportionally, the costs have shifted in the favor of the system with the higher manufacturing activity.

The cost won't keep me from making my own Porpoise, especially with the cost of Porpoise in Rens currently running at 146 million ISK. If I purchased the rest of the minerals I need off the market, I can build the ship for half that amount. But the increase in the SCC surcharge, at least for the Porpoise in the Heimatar region of the Minmatar Republic, is 3.5% of the value of the ship. I'm sure producers will pass the price increase along to the consumer. I'm just not sure that is an unintended consequence or not.