Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A Telling Week For EVE Online

Today is a special day, as we get to witness the first full day a new generation experiences Wrath of the Lich King

The launch of Wrath of the Lich King Classic

For some companies, the competition isn't scary. The example that comes to mind is Final Fantasy XIV. The game's producer and director, Naoki Yoshida, actually urges players to take a break when they begin feeling burned out on the game. With patch 6.3 due out in December, now might be a good time for players to dip over and play what many, if not most, consider WoW's best expansion. If they don't like the game, well, patch 6.25 comes out in three weeks or so.

FFXIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida

On the other hand are games like EVE Online. Two of the metrics CCP Games uses to determine the health of the game is daily active users (DAU) and monthly active users (MAU). If players decide to take a break, the bosses begin to panic. And, in some sense, so do the players.

Courtesy of Jester's Trek

Not only is the activity on the Tranquility global shard the lowest it's been in the last four years, but is lower than any year over the past 16. Lately the decline as stopped and the average number of players logged in over the past few weeks has increased. With the release of new ships imminent and the first expansion in years due in November, the situation is beginning to look up for EVE players.

In 2019, EVE experienced a backlash by players fed up with the changes occurring in the game. The studio's leadership continued to tout the unpopular moves and when the original WoW Classic servers opened up in late August, activity suffered. A lot. The picture of how much damage became clearer when Pearl Abyss published revised revenue figures for EVE at an investors' earnings call in May 2020. The Pearl Abyss leadership also made the following statement at the time.
EVE Online is also maintaining stable performance. EVE Online -- which was known as the most difficult MMO game -- had the most important challenge, which was to motivate the interest of early users. Using Black Desert know-how and experience from EVE Online, many improvements were made. And accordingly, we saw a meaningful increase of new users. EVE Online, which is in its 17th year of launching, shows through many indexes that a well-made MMO game has a very long lifespan value.
The situation is not quite the same today, however. Back in 2019, the studio's top developers either didn't realize, or didn't care about, the player discontent. In contrast, CCP has dropped ideas like including unpopular monetization mechanics like non-fungible tokens and loosened up the economy. Will players look at the improvements and an expansion on the horizon and not turn to the latest shiny? Or is New Eden about to experience another massive player decline? The rest of the week will give us a hint about the future.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Star Citizen And Cloud Imperium Games Reach $500 Million In Sales

Last last night I refreshed my browser and the Funding Stats counter on the Roberts Space Industries website reached $500 million.

$500 Million Achievement Unlocked

Cloud Imperium Games incorporated in April 2012 and launched a Kickstarter on 18 October 2012. I highly doubt anyone thought the single player Squadron 42 and accompanying Persistent Universe would still be under development 10 years later, especially after raising a half a billion dollars. CIG itself estimated delivery of the game in November 2014.

The Initial Star Citizen Pitch Video

Things didn't quite work out with the timing. The amount of money CIG raised so early wound up contributing to feature creep. What initially was a spaceship game became one with a huge first person shooter component. 

CIG doesn't depend on the ship and equipment sales recorded on its funding site. Total known income since October 2012 so far is:
  • Ship/equipment sales: $500 million (through 20 October 2022)
  • Subscriptions: $22.8 million (through 31 December 2020)
  • Other income: $44.7 million (through 31 December 2020)
In addition, CIG has received a total of $63 million from South African billionaire Clive Calder and his son Keith's Snoot Entertainment. The first phase of the investment, $46 million, was originally targeted for marketing Squadron 42 for a summer 2020 release. CIG missed that date also.

But despite all the delays, the money machine known as Cloud Imperium Games marches on. May Chris Roberts one day delivered a finished product and make thousands of players' dreams come true.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A Shopping Center In My MMO?

Running around Final Fantasy XIV, I thought I'd seen everything in the form of player housing. From 21st century kitchens to 17th century Japanese style homes. I've eaten at a small Starbucks style cafe in my apartment building to visiting a tavern with a live music played by a bard and big hamburgers. The music venues range from discos to a copy of the old Tunnel nightclub in New York City.

A popular item at the launch of Endwalker

But last Thursday I encountered something from a movie. Someone had set up a free company house and turned the building into a shopping center. The house has 15 rooms and most of the space was occupied.

The Forum Shopping Center is built around The Swaggin' Wagon Department Store. Taking up 8 of the rooms, the concept is a bit wild. Each room has a theme, ranging from casual glamour all the way to crafting and gathering gear. The selection is limited by the number of mannequins available plus the 100 item per room limit, but the idea is nicely executed.

What is a shopping center without someplace to eat? That's right, the shopping center has a restaurant called Lil Lyne Mheg Cafe. When I went in, the place was dimly lit with a bard playing on the stage. Have to have the music, right? When purchasing food in an establishment in FFXIV, the prices are a bit high, but that is to help pay for the total role play experience. If you want a place to stick around, buying something from the owner and talking a few minutes helps a lot.

What's a shopping center without specialty shops? The Forum Shopping Center has three. The first one I visited was Time To Dye. The shop goes well with the department store, as people generally like to dye their clothing if they don't have a glamour plate ready. If Tiny manages to expand his dye supply, I can imaging some players searching him out when the Fashion Report goes live every Friday. Too bad the place is officially only open on Thursdays.

The second specialty shop is Eben's Toy Kingdom. The store specializes in stuffed animals and plushie type items for your in-game homes. When I walked in, the room was filled with them. I didn't realize for a few moments that I could buy things.

The final specialty store is Greenhearth Apothecary and Gardens. The shop spans two rooms, with the Gardens a place to buy indoor items. I've seen some of the items, like the Indoor Oriental Waterfall and Indoor Pond, in other people's homes. I personally can vouch for the Planter Partition, as I've used a few in my apartment.

The Apothecary section is the first time I've seen someone selling food and beverages in a shop for actual raiding/crafting/harvesting use and not as a form of roleplay. I have to wonder if the owner is combining a little roleplay with their crafting.

Next comes one of my favorite places, Steamy Ventures. The place is a complementary onsen for people to gather and relax after running around the shopping center. Having built a second floor in an apartment, I have to say the onsen is very well designed. The first floor has two changing rooms, each with a shower. Stairs lead up to the second floor, which has 6 hot baths, three lined up along each side. I wasn't sure exactly what to do, since The Forum Shopping Center is a safe-for-work environment but nudity is mandatory in real life onsens. I played it safe and switched to the bathing suit I use when spear fishing.

Finally, no place in FFXIV is complete without a photography studio. The shopping center has its own place, Peach Pelegrino Photography, to pick up a few gpose shots done by someone with a lot more skill than I have.

Despite writing a bit more than I have lately, I don't have a financial stake in The Forum Shopping Center. No, I just found an unusual place and thought I'd share. Amazing what players can do if given some tools, isn't it?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Uprising - The Next Major EVE Online Expansion

On Wednesday CCP gave a name to the expansion it teased at Fanfest: Uprising. Why the switch back to expansions? Who knows? Did CCP fear a backlash if the company continued to try to implement non-fungible tokens into EVE? Or did the replacement of Pearl Abyss CEO Jung Kyeong-In with Heo Jin-Young in March 2022 indicate a general change of direction away from the blockchain, NFTs and play-to-work schemes at Pearl Abyss? Whatever the reason, CCP's Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson announced in April that NFT now stands for "Not For Tranquility". 

If I were the cynical sort, I'd say CCP spent the month between the NFT announcement and Fanfest thinking up replacement content for the originally planned blockchain/NFT/play-to-work updates. I'd also say the scramble to present alternatives to the player base gave CCP Aurora the opportunity to push her ideas about factional warfare to the forefront. At least, the leadership at CCP seems satisfied to give her the credit for the idea. Of course, if the changes go wrong, the leadership seems willing to let her take the fall. Another reason to root for the success of the expansion.

The expansion is based around a revamp of the factional warfare feature. Introduced in the Empyrean Age expansion in June 2008, the feature really hasn't seen a lot of attention from CCP since the Inferno expansion in May 2012. In August, CCP issued a dev blog and produced a one-hour stream to update players on the new system.

One of the interesting themes is that all the features introduced in Uprising is just an introduction. In addition to the factional warfare upgrade, the developers will introduce the first steps of the Heraldry system.

Alongside this big shake up of combat strategy, opportunities to earn rewards that unlock Heraldry on ships will be made available. Corporation and alliance logos on ships will act as the introduction to Heraldry, with many more customization options on the horizon following this initial launch such as citadel SKINs and holograms on ships.

Oh, and did I mention new ships? Not a lot of details about those, but we may see new ships introduced for the first time since the introduction of EDENCON ships in the Lightning Strikes patch in June 2020.

CCP is promising an increase in information as we approach the launch of Uprising. Hopefully the hype train can pull players back to the game. Because at the end of August, the number of players in the game rivaled the low point of Blackout.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Cloud Imperium Games Rakes In $5 Million In August

For the first time in 2022, Cloud Imperium Games failed to set a new record sales total for a month. Last month's total of $4.96 million was $350,000 shy of 2020's sales of $5.32 million in August. Still, the total was still over $320,000 more than last year's total.

The company developing Star Citizen and Squadron 42 is still on pace to easily surpass last year's total of $86.4 million in sales. Through the end of August, the company had recorded sales revenue of $69.7 million in 2022. During the 12-month period running from 1 September 2021 to 31 August 2022, CIG brought in $113.3 million. The company is well on its way to surpassing the $100 million mark in 2022.

As of the publication of this post, CIG is less than $3 million shy of $500 million in sales listed on its website. The Kickstarter campaign for Star Citizen began in October 2012. The company should reach $500 million well before the tenth anniversary of the launch event.