Monday, March 20, 2023

Gearing Up The Rest Of Patch 6.3

I'm still living in a hotel, but due to a sale at Best Buy I now have a computer that is less than five years old. With equipment that reliably connects to the WiFi network, I started working on gearing up my character in Final Fantasy XIV.

The big angst amongst the community, or at least content creators, is the ease of completing the second phase of the Manderville relic weapon. After years of reading and listening to complaints of how grinding getting relic weapons are, people are complaining about the ease of acquiring the Endwalker relic weapon. The second phase, like the first, consists of two steps. First, complete the Manderville quest line up to the current time. Next, acquire three McGuffins at a total cost of 1500 Allagan Tomestones of Astronomy. Finally, turn in the McGuffins and receive prize. Easy peasy.

I'm not going to say the process doesn't involve a grind. All one has to do is run Lapis Manalis about 15 times using the Trust/Duty support systems and do a few treasure maps and a player can get the weapon playing solo. I'd estimate the total time at around 10 hours, although people who don't mind playing with others can obtain the tomestones much faster. I already had over 1000 tomestones, so I was able to complete the latest stage in less than a week.

I have the weapon, rated iLevel 630, but what about the rest of my gear? I'm still using the iLevel 610 gear I crafted for myself. I guess I could keep running the dungeon over and over since I need to turn in the drops for ventures to keep my army of retainers active. I have enough Allagan Tomestone of Causality to get the chestpiece, but that's about it. Or I can concentrate on gearing up my crafters and gatherers for the patch 6.4 meta.

I don't need the Indagator crafting set (iLevel 620) right now. I pentamelded the Pactmaker's set (iLevel 590) and that will see me through until patch 6.4 drops sometime in May. But if I want to be ready for May, I need to start making the crafting set now. No more spending time decorating my cottage for the foreseeable future.

I do need to upgrade to the Indagator gathering set now, though. I will need to start preparing to gather the next tier of materials for the next tier of craftable combat gear. I also need to pentameld my gear in order to have the stats to gather the items. Pentamelding is expensive in time and/or gil. I have enough gil to buy enough materia to complete the process, but I perfer to grind away doing things instead.

So my plan is simple. First, craft the Indagator gathering gear and pentameld the gear to achieve the stats for patch 6.4. Next, craft the Indagator crafting gear, but don't pentameld the gear until patch 6.4 drops and I know what stats are required to craft the next tier of gear. And while I do all of that, continue running dungeons to get the drops required to keep my retainers active and supplying me with gil and raw materials.

Oh yeah. And while doing all of this, I still need to find time to do things like work on the Loporrits' tribal quests, finish decorating my cottage, and finish the patch 6.3 MSQ (I'm almost done, honest!). Maybe some players are out of things to do. But this casual FFXIV player still doesn't have enough time to do everything I want to do in the game.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Star Citizen Is Basically Recovered From The Alpha 3.18 Deployment

I think this post is the last of the posts covering the launch of Star Citizen's Alpha 3.18. As of midnight UTC on St. Patrick's Day, Cloud Imperium Games still lists the status of the Persistent Universe as "Partial Outage". My personal belief is the status will remain at that level until a patch is ready to fix many of the issues discovered. At that point, the game will return to its buggy self.

I am getting a bit tired of all the dumb negativity surrounding the game. Look, hating Star Citizen, Squadron 42, Chris Roberts, Cloud Imperium Games, and yes, those who play the game is, at least in the United States, a constitutionally protected right. Given some of the history of those running Cloud Imperium Games, I even understand that hatred.

But understanding the hatred doesn't mean I have to like the vitriol. Some of the posting is so bad and dumb sometimes I just want to reach out and ask what did Chris Roberts do to generate such feelings.

 I've left a message around the Internet that I should also post here.

Let me expand just a little bit on the idea. In February, CIG averaged $150,000 per day in sales. For the first 10 days of March, sales declined down to $106,000 per day. Once the patch came out? On 11 March, CIG took in $1.4 million on a day most players couldn't log into the game.

From 12-16 March, CIG has averaged $264,000 per day in sales. If the pace continues, the sales amount will match last year's record pace for the first quarter of the year.

A lot of people want to dance on Star Citizen's grave, but the money train keeps rolling along. With the sales bump that accompanied the launch of Alpha 3.18, the total known funding reached $637.8 million.

  • Sales recorded on the funding page: $555.6 million (as of 16 March 2023)
  • Subscriptions and other income: $82 million (as of 31 December 2021)

When the Calders' outside investment is included, CIG reached $700 million in total funding on Monday. I am rooting for CIG to reach $1 billion in total funding before CIG officially launches any games. I want to see the heads of the worst of the haters explode.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Shadow War Event

I received an email from CCP advertising the new upcoming changes to factional warfare in EVE Online. In addition to Direct Enlistment and changing the fighting from a two-sided conflict to a four-way free-for-all, an event is coming up called The Shadow War.

The premise of The Shadow War is to collect McGuffins to enable each side to build teleporters to allow factional warfare players to travel directly to fighting in the war zones. Think the portal systems in games like Final Fantasy XIV. I can only imagine the local economies and trade hubs that will develop around the systems hosting the transporters.

Now, following December's Empire Frontiers event, each of the four empires is at different levels of technology. Thus, the goals are different, although the basic gameplay loop is the same. Players will go to one of three types of sites, depending on ship type. Basically, the event will bring a little bit of FW complex play to high sec.

  • Research Data Nodes - allows entry for Tech I and navy frigates.
  • Waylaid Courier sites - allows up to Tech I and navy destroyers plus Tech II frigates.
  • Besieged Laboratories - allows entry for ships up to battlecruiser and navy battlecruiser classes plus Tech II cruisers

Of course, the sites are protected by NPCs. These are not like data or relic sites.

The initial goals are accomplished by entering the sites and taking loot. Here are the details for each faction.

Caldari - steal stellar transmuter tech from the Amarr and/or Minmatar by targeting sites in the Factional Warfare (FW) warzone systems controlled by the Amarr and Minmatar, as well as within the highsec systems in the Kisana, Ryra, Tiat, and Ani constellations.

Amarr & Minmatar - steal transport relay tech from the Caldari by targeting sites in the Aokinen and Minnen constellations as well as Caldari-controlled FW space.

Gallente - steal both types of technology from all the sites mentioned above. If those loyal to the Gallente manage to acquire any of the above tech, capsuleers aligned with the other empires can expect Gallente sites to eventually spawn in the Intaki system, as well as within the Kiartanne constellation, and within Gallente-controlled FW space.

Once all the necessary material is gathered for a faction, the next step is to construct the interstellar shipcaster. This step requires the "the harvesting of materials from Pochven and moons, carrying out industry jobs, and then delivering the output to your empire."

Players can also receive individual rewards by earning points throughout the event.

These rewards include new combat boosters tailored to specific empire ship characteristics, and 11 fresh ship SKINs for each empire, including the all-new Penumbral Shadows SKINs as well as Versus Redforce and Blueforce SKINs available on some hulls for the first time.

The post also mentioned that The Shadow War replaces the The Hunt, an annual event featuring the Guristas. I'm sure CCP didn't think of the implications. A PvP focused event, which looks to bring player-versus-player gameplay to high security space by flagging participants for PvP, is replacing an event that allowed PvE players in high sec to participate as well.

At this point in time, I play very little EVE Online. The Shadow War won't bring me back, and not just because my gaming rig connects poorly to the hotel WiFi network. I don't like high sec PvP and do my best to avoid it at all costs. I can't do anything about suicide ganking, that is just part of the game. But the suspect flag mechanic? I avoid that at all costs.

That said, I like the thought and game design decisions in the post. The processes seem to flow in a logical way and will involve industrialists. I'm not sure what WoW/FFXIV style insta-travel will do to EVE long-term, but I think CCP's goal is to make factional warfare an instant source of PvP. We'll see how that plays out, but at least the developers are involving the players in making the story. One of EVE's attractions is that players make the story. Involving them in the developer-created story is a plus.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Star Citizen Is Back Up ... Maybe

Since I posted about the issues yesterday about the launch of Star Citizen's Alpha 3.18 patch, I figured I should follow-up on Cloud Imperium Games' efforts to resolve the situation.

The status of the PU as of 1300 UTC on 14 Mar 2023

Last night (or early this morning, depending on your time zone) CIG performed an hour long maintenance on the Persistent Entity Streaming infrastructure.  PES is the system that allows objects to remain in the game world, even after a player logs off. From everything I read and watched, the introduction of PES last year was a very big deal.

My understanding is for PES to fully work, CIG also needs to implement a technology called server meshing. Star Citizen utilizes a lot of server instancing to allow more than 120 players to play the game at a time. In order to get back to the proper instance where PES saved a player's items, some sort of match making needs to take place to have the player log into the correct instance.

The latest entry on the status page read:

[2023-03-14 Updates]

0350 UTC - Reducing severity to partial outage while we validate the outcome of infrastructure maintenance.

My understanding is that server meshing was not included in patch Alpha 3.18. In addition to helping with PES, server meshing is also required for the game to have more than one system. As most MMORPG veterans can attest, spreading players out to lessen individual server loads is a good thing. Ask the EVE players involved in Sunday's fighting in X47L-Q.

Hopefully the situation is actually resolved and Star Citizen players can go back to dying in elevators. I've never played a game with killer elevators, but apparently the experience is very enjoyable.

Monday, March 13, 2023

A Bad Weekend For Internet Spaceship Servers

I found out I was not the only one with some tech issues involving video games this weekend. Mine stem from having a very old PC that cannot connect into the hotel WiFi network except late at night and some fiddling. But CCP Games and Cloud Imperium Games also had some issues impacting the ability of players to play the game.

On Sunday, a whole bunch of players decided they wanted to play together in the system of X47L-Q.

Tranquility dumped 4700 players on Sunday

EVE Online is famous for hosting large fights. A fight involving 3,000 ships doesn't come close to setting a record for the game. But as Wilhelm reported, 6,100 ships engaging in a fight in the same system is a different matter. When the biggest null sec blocs get together to fight, the servers will crash unless the fleet commanders manage matters carefully. The crash saved the Fraternity keepstar in X47L-Q, but forces from The Imperium and B2 managed to set the armor timers on three other keepstars, setting up hull timer fights this week.

Next, we go from a game that can't handle 6,000 players in a system to one with trouble handling one player in an elevator. Clould Imperium Games finally launched the much anticipated Alpha 3.18 late Friday/early Saturday morning. Launching a game, or even a major patch, after the normal close of business on a Friday rarely goes well. The launch of Alpha 3.18 was not the exception to the rule.

Star Citizen status as of 1730 UTC 13 Mar 2023

A quick review of Google News makes little note of the problems. did report on the issues surrounding the launch of the new patch.
While the update brings in many exciting new features, it has also experienced a lot of problems, particularly with login issues. Some players have not been able to login, and support has stated that they will be doing a partial wipe in the 3.18.1 patch. However, the Community manager Captain Zyloh has stated in a reddit thread that they are not planning to do a wipe, conflicting with what support is saying.
At 1510 UTC on Sunday, CIG issued this update:
Since the launch of Star Citizen Alpha 3.18.0 our teams have been monitoring a number of issues players have been encountering while attempting to log into the game. These have primarily manifested in the form of 19003 and 19004 with a mix of other similar codes.

While monitoring those issues, the team has been able to tune and make adjustments to the entitlement processing flow to ensure that a large portion of player attempts were still successful and able to make it into the PU.
However, at a point in the early morning UTC, the environment entered into a state which would require a more disruptive recovery process.

As of 1300 UTC the environment has been in the process of recovering from the state it was in but we wanted to advise that, while this recovery is in-progress, players will experience periods of extreme difficulty getting into the PU. We expect players to see a mix of errors from the 19k, 30k, and 60k ranges.
I was wondering if CIG would push Alpha 3.18 onto the PU before the patch was ready. CIG warned players the patch was unstable, but I don't think the majority of players expected the inability to not log in. From what I've read, the issues are worse than those I experienced trying to log into Endwalker at launch. At least in FFXIV, I didn't have to worry about bugs trying to kill me once I logged into the game world.

CIG Sales jumped an order of magnitude on Saturday

The now-proven rushed launch also concerns me on the financial front as well. February's sales figures of $4.2 million had to disappoint the upper-management of CIG. The income stream for the beginning of March was even worse, with average daily sales of $106,000 through the first 10 days of the month. On Saturday, CIG recorded sales of $1.4 million. Think the launch of a patch, especially after a 10 month content drought, doesn't boost sales?

The difference between the server issues in EVE Online and Star Citizen is that the problem in EVE is a matter of capacity whereas in SC the issue is a bad software patch. EVE players can work their way around the issue by trying to keep fights in one system under 4000 ships. Star Citizen players, on the other hand, are in a bind. The only way they don't have issues is if they chose not to play the game.

UPDATE: 13 March 2023 @ 2300 UTC
This is not good.

Friday, March 10, 2023

When Do Successful MMORPGs Begin Their Decline

On Monday, MassivelyOP's Eliot Lefebvre wrote an article attempting to forecast how Final Fantasy XIV will end. A rather thought-provoking premise considering the game is either at or near its all-time popularity. I won't try to answer Eliot's question today. Instead, I'll broaden out the premise to ask when we should expect very successful MMORPGs like FFXIV to decline and then try to apply the theory to everyone's favorite game under development to hate, Star Citizen.

My memory isn't the greatest, but the game before FFXIV with an incredible starting run was EVE Online. From its launch in May 2003, the niche Icelandic space game experienced almost steady growth (except for 2011's Summer of Rage) until the summer of 2013. The game peaked with an estimated subscriber base of over 500 thousand accounts worldwide, with a peak PCU of 65,303 on 5 May 2013.

For more mainstream games, World of Warcraft is more instructive. The Blizzard Entertainment product reached its peak during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, with the decline occurring shortly after the launch of Cataclysm. As dominating as WoW has proved over the past 15-20 years, the game reached its peak of 12 million subscriptions worldwide sometime in 2010.

But what about story and lore rich games like FFXIV? Does that lead to an extended initial growth period. I'm not sure. The only game I can think of outside FFXIV is World of Warcraft, which continued the story told in Warcraft 3. Admittedly I am not familiar with Warcraft 3, but from all the gaming videos I've watched, the Wrath of the Lich King was the natural end to the story of Arthas that began in the single-player game. The "official" end of Arthas as told in Shadowlands I hear should only count as bad fan fiction.

A ten year story arc isn't just confined to video games. In the movie industry, the Infinity Saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ran from 2008's Iron Man to 2019's Spiderman: Far From Home. An 11-year run from what I'm told is one of the greatest movie arcs in history is just a little longer than FFXIV's first story arc told from August 2013 to last year. 

My conclusion is that a very successful game will grow between 6 to 10 years. A game with a very good story might last longer, although FFXIV's initial story has ended. We will find out if Yoshi-P and Creative Business Unit III can catch lightening in a bottle twice and come up with a satisfying sequel that will keep and grow the player base.

I like to test my theories. Currently, the perfect game isn't really a game. Instead, I will use Star Citizen as the subject of my test. 

The story of Star Citizen really began with the launch of its Kickstarter back in October 2012. The story presented by Chris Roberts was that of a plucky independent who decided to fight the establishment and create the game he's dreamed about his entire life. Though all the ups and downs of the process, the players (known as "backers" in the lore) have cheered and groaned over the last decade. Star Citizen's "backers" have become as invested in their way as FFXIV's "Warriors of Light" became invested in Eorzea.

As for gameplay, I would start the clock with the release of Alpha 3.0. December 2017 is the time when Cloud Imperium Games turned the alpha into a live service product. Except CIG cannot call Star Citizen a game until the software delivers a minimum viable product. The company is still years away from reaching that stage of development.

So my answer is that the best games will begin to decline between 6 and 10 years after launch, The very best will reach the 10 year mark. And as a test, I can use the funding page on the Roberts Space Industries website to test my hypothesis in real time by looking at the funds coming in to pay for Star Citizen. The test is not perfect, but is the best I have at the current time.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Looking Forward To FFXIV Patch 6.35

The title of today's post is a little unusual given that patch 6.35 in Final Fantasy XIV dropped on Tuesday. I should have already completed 90% of the content, right? In truth, I had an incident in which my condo flooded and I have been writing blog posts from a hotel room for over a week now. But looking at the patch notes, I may need to move my gaming computer to the hotel.

First, Loporrits. Every club owner in Eorzea is going to grind that tribal quest line. Why? To get the Loporrit dance floor. Sometimes players don't know they need something until the developer provides the item/feature/etc. Hopefully Square Enix didn't place the crafting quests behind a quest line that ends in a dungeon.

Loporrits. It's always Loporrits.

Next of course is the continuing adventures of Hildebrand. The Hildebrand quest line is connected to the new relic weapons and apparently some feel the weapons are too easy to obtain. I'm not really into relic weapons since completing the ones for A Realm Reborn and Heavensward. I have better things to do than grind in Eureka and Bozja, especially for glamour items. But getting to the end of a Hildebrand quest line? I have time for that.

One thing I absolutely have to do is pick up all my Splendorous Tools, at least for gathering. I have spent a lot of time decorating my home in-game. With the need to do so in real life as soon as the insurance company lets me know how much I have to spend, decorating in-game isn't so appealing. So now is the time to switch to another activity that will keep me preoccupied. 

One thing I won't jump into is the new deep dungeon, Eureka Orthos. I just don't have the desire to do deep dungeons. Perhaps the problem there is I am a white mage main and the Palace of the Dead isn't exactly friendly to healers. I don't think I've gotten past level 20 in the original deep dungeon.

What I've described above is a nice bit of content for the next 8 weeks until the launch of patch 6.4. Now, about moving my gaming rig to the hotel. I really do need some things to write about, and the news isn't providing enough content. I can only write about financial affairs so much.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Looking At EVE Online In February 2023

On Monday CCP published the February Monthly Economic Report. Getting into the nuts and bolts of the New Eden economy is fascinating, but some of the data issues makes the effort frustrating at times. Instead, I am looking at some other statistics. The first is the average number of concurrent users on at any one time. 

The 7-day rolling average fluxuated up and down throughout the month but the 30-day rolling average increased throughout February. Perhaps more surprising to some EVE players, the number of players logged in increased year-over-year. Many believe the price increases in May 2022 permanently damaged EVE. But in February, at least the number of pilots in space exceeded the time of the price hike.

The Uprising expansion in large part was based around low sec and factional warfare. Three months later, activity in low sec was still up compared to before the expansion.

The number of player-owned ships exploding in February was down month-over-month, but not unexpected since January has 3 more days. When adjusted to average per day, the number of ships dying only declined by 1.1%. Compared to February 2022, the number of ships exploding last month increased by 27.7%.

I also decided to create another graph similar to those I see for the warmest global temperature years just to show how activity has increased over the previous four years in low sec. Through the first two months, the number of player-owned ships exploding is up compared to the same time period from 2019 to 2022. Next month will pose a challenge as we will get to compare the changes implemented in Uprising to the beginning of the COVID lockdowns of 2020.

I did want to add a new chart this month. EVE Online cannot survive financially if CCP relies on low sec players to carry the weight. Null sec players, particularly those interested in PvE, carry a lot of weight. While not the most vocal in today's EVE media, the game really cannot survive without them.

The best measure outside the MER is probably the number of NPCs players kill in null sec. After efforts to limit player income, first by implementing Blackout, then the Scarcity Era, the developers did their best to suppress that type of activity in order to fight inflation via a rising money supply. In Uprising, players saw some of those efforts lifted. 

If February 2023, players killed 3 million more NPCs in null sec than in January, in 3 less days. Unadjusted, the number of NPCs dying rose 2.2% month-over-month. When the extra days are factored in, the daily average number of NPCs killed in null sec increased MoM by 13.2%. Perhaps more importantly, compared to February 2022 the number of NPCs dying in null sec increased by 34.5%.

I think three months is still too soon to tell about long term trends, but for now CCP appears to have stopped the bleeding caused by questionable design decisions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But if CCP can build on Uprising in the upcoming expansion, perhaps the game can continue on well into a third decade.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

CCP Games Lays Off 13 In 2023

A story from  revealed CCP Games laid off 13 employees in 2023 due to a restructuring of the company resulting in duplicate positions. In 2021, the last year I have figures for, CCP averaged 335 employees on the studio's payroll. At the end of 2022, Pearl Abyss had a total of 1452 employees.

The layoffs were split between Reykjavik (7 positions) and London (6 positions).

George Kelion, Communications Director at CCP Games, told the following about the layoffs:

Due to realignment in our development plans leading to a restructure across development, publishing, and operations, we have made the tough decision to make a small number of redundancies - 7 at our Reykjavik studio and 6 at our London studio - while also identifying and opening new roles for hire. This decision was not taken lightly, and we are providing those affected with outplacement support and guidance, including paid private coaching and outreach to recruitment contacts.

With the statement, I decided to take a look at CCP Games' career page and see the positions available. In Reykjavik, I saw 8 positions:

  • Senior QA Analysts (2)
  • QA Analyst
  • Graphics Programmer
  • Technical Producer
  • Senior Technical Writer
  • Experienced Software Engineer
  • Senior Systems Designer
  • Senior Software Engineer

I also saw the London studio is looking for a Lead Game Designer.

These are relatively minor cuts, except of course for those who lost their jobs. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop concerning Pearl Abyss' studios. The company was rather tight-lipped about labor costs on the last earnings call. Hopefully for all involved the upcoming cuts to staff in South Korea will prove as light as the ones that occurred in Reykjavik and London.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Yosuke Matsuda To Leave Square Enix

On Friday the Square Enix board of directors filed proposed changes to the leadership of Square Enix. Out will be current President and CEO Yosuke Matsuda, who assumed those positions in 2013. His proposed replacement is current director Takashi Kiryu, who joined Square Enix in June 2020.

Details of the change

According to the document, the board proposed the change to:

Under the rapid change of business environment surrounding the entertainment industry, the proposed change is intended to reshape the management team with the goal of adopting ever evolving technological innovations and maximizing on the creativity of the Company’s group in order to deliver even greater entertainment to its customers around the world. 

Venture Beat summed up some of Matsuda's recent actions.

Matsuda has run the company for a long time, but he also presided over one of the company’s biggest retreats as he sold the company’s Western studios such as Eidos Montreal, Crystal Dynamics Square Enix Montreal to Embracer Group for $300 million. That meant he disposed of properties such as Tomb Raider and then focused on an expansion into blockchain games. Square Enix also released the critically panned Forspoken title.

Back in January, in spite of a crash in cryptocurrency with the FTX meltdown and an accompanying drop in prices for non-fungible tokens, Matsuda issued another letter saying the company would continue to invest in cryptocurrency.

I am pretty sure players of Square Enix games would like to know whether Kiryu will end the move towards blockchain and Web 3.0 games. A company that specializes in video games, DFC Intelligence, isn't sure either.

Matsuda had been a major proponent of NFT and blockchain games.   After a rough 2022 for the category, Matsuda reemphasized the company focus on NFTs in a New Year’s Letter from the President.

What is unclear is whether Square Enix will continue to pursue blockchain development.  Kiryu has only been with the company since 2020 and is a relative unknown.  Our hope is that the company increases it focus on core games for an international audience (what they call MMO and HD games)

About the only piece of information I couldn't find is when the next annual shareholders' meeting is. The various news sources put it in either May or June, although the majority stated June. But what date? Going back through the Square Enix investor relations page, over the last few years the event is usually held during the fourth week of June, usually on a Wednesday or Thursday. The vote to replace Matsuda with Kiryu likely will occur on Thursday, 22 June. 

What other event is occurring on 22 June? The launch of Final Fantasy XVI. Coincidence?

Friday, March 3, 2023

Richard Hoeg And Virtual Legality Are Back

Today, Michigan lawyer Richard Hoeg posted his 58th video covering the Microsoft/Activision merger. No big deal, right? Except the video is his first since he suffered a stroke on 30 December 2022.

He had successful brain surgery on New Year's Eve and was removed from the ventilator on 3 January. 

Hoeg has received a lot of support from the YouTube legal community. Maybe the most widely known creator is Legal Eagle, who threw Hoeg a shoutout at the end of his video on the proposed new OGL 1.1 license for Dungeon & Dragons.

Perhaps on of Hoeg's lesser known efforts is his involvement with the Bitcast Podcast on the Seasoned Gaming YouTube channel as one of the regular hosts. Hoeg made his first YouTube appearance since the stroke on Bitcast 238 on 19 February. On the podcast he announced he wouldn't return regularly to YouTube until March.  

Hopefully Mrs. Hoeg doesn't let him come back too fast, but seeing Hoeg back making videos was a sight for sore eyes. I mean, someone needs to explain this complicated legal stuff to me.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Cloud Imperium Games Records $4.2 million In Sales In February 2023

In February, Cloud Imperial Games recorded $4.2 million in sales according to the funding goals page on the Roberts Space Industries website. Through the first two months of 2023, the makers of the upcoming Star Citizen and Squadron 42 games has sold $11.9 million in virtual spaceships and other assorted virtual goods. For the history of the project, CIG's surpassed $550 million, ending at $551.8 million.

February's total represents a 42.7% year-over-year decline in sales compared to February 2022. Due to seasonal effects I disregard month-over-month comparisons. For the year, sales are down 15.9% compared to the first two months of 2022.

A sub-par month of sales is not the end of CIG. The company has proven it can quickly raise money with the sales of new concept ships. A $2.2 million shortfall in revenue compared to 2022 is not a threat to the company's existence. But CIG may not expand as quickly as planned. I calculated that in order to expand the workforce another 15%, CIG would need to increase revenue between 13.8% to 18.5% in 2023. So CIG is approximately $4 million behind the minimum pace needed to maintain growth without feeling any fiscal pain.

Overall, CIG has raised $663.8 million from confirmed sources (the funding page & the 2021 financial report). The income breaks down as follows:

  • Sales/Pledges: $551.8 million (through 28 February 2023)
  • Subscriptions: $27.8 million (through 31 December 2021)
  • All other sources: $54.2 million (through 31 December 2021)

In addition, CIG received $63.25 million in investor funding in 2018 and 2019.

Monday, February 27, 2023

NCSoft Outsources Publishing Of Throne And Liberty To Amazon Games

Last week NCSoft announced Amazon Games would publish Throne and Liberty in North America, South America, Europe, and Japan. I'm going to skip pretending I know everything and just copy the press release below.

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Amazon Games and NCSOFT today announced an agreement to bring massively multiplayer online role-playing game THRONE AND LIBERTY to North America, South America, Europe, and Japan. Amazon Games will publish the highly anticipated title for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S, with support for cross-platform play.

“NCSOFT has created some of the most popular and longest-running online games in the world, so it’s no surprise that THRONE AND LIBERTY is among today’s most anticipated MMOs,” said Christoph Hartmann, VP, Amazon Games. “Publishing games that live and grow over time remains a critical piece of our strategy, and delivering games of the highest quality from the world’s most talented developers is one of the cornerstones of our business. The last year has taught us a great deal about publishing and managing a successful live-service game on a global scale, and we’re ready to bring THRONE AND LIBERTY players an incredible experience at launch.”

THRONE AND LIBERTY is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that combines story-driven adventure and action combat. In THRONE AND LIBERTY, players enter a vast world with constantly shifting geographical and environmental features that change the course of play. Massive-scale player vs. player and player vs. environment combat are fundamental to THRONE AND LIBERTY. Players can transform into animals to soar through the air or explore the depths of the sea, and even tip the odds of battle in their favor by triggering powerful environmental effects, like solar eclipses or rainstorms.

NCSOFT has a long history of developing and publishing beloved multiplayer franchises across the globe, including Lineage, AION, Blade & Soul, and Guild Wars. THRONE AND LIBERTY is the latest next-gen MMO from the South Korea-based developer, and its first to be released across multiple regions in collaboration with an external publisher.

“Amazon Games is one of the most reliable partners for publishing massive live-service games globally, with proven expertise in operations, localization, marketing, and community support,” said Moonyoung Choi, principal development management officer at NCSOFT. “For our next-gen flagship title, we’re confident they are the right publisher to bring THRONE AND LIBERTY’s inimitable value and its dynamic, immersive MMO experience to players around the world.”

THRONE AND LIBERTY continues Amazon Games’ momentum in game publishing, following the success of its internally developed MMO New World and action RPG Lost Ark from Smilegate RPG, both of which have topped Steam and Twitch charts and continue to nurture strong player communities. Amazon has also announced publishing agreements with Bandai Namco Online for Blue Protocol, Crystal Dynamics for the next major Tomb Raider game, and Glowmade and Disruptive Games for unannounced titles.

With the facts presented, I'm now free to offer up a little commentary. I could note that by outsourcing the publishing of the game in foreign markets, NCSoft was able to lay off  20% of the staff at NCSoft West, with NCSoft West CEO Jeff Anderson also departing the company. 

I could also note that Amazon Games is also turning into strictly into a game publisher. While the average concurrent players for New World is up almost 50% over the last 30 days compared to July, that figure is still barely greater than EVE Online's, with both games recording under 20,000 users online over the last month. Amazon Games is touting publishing games by Smilegate, Bandi Namco, and Crystal Dynamics, but what about its own upcoming games? I don't know of any.

Writing about the deal nearly a week late means I need to come up with a view hardly anyone has published. I think I found one. While NCSoft is outsourcing publishing its new game (and laying off staff), another South Korean company, Pearl Abyss, just spent the last two years moving all the publishing for its flagship game Black Desert Online in-house. Believe it or not, Pearl Abyss made more money doing so in Japan and did the same in North America in February 2021. Not so long ago, was it?

I probably won't play Throne and Liberty, although with the Amazon connection that could change based on how and when the game is finally released. But the quiet transformation of Amazon Games' to a publisher is an event to watch.

Friday, February 24, 2023

EVE Online One Year After The Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

A year has passed since Russian military forces crossed the border into Ukraine, turning a low-level conflict that began in 2014 into Europe's first major war since the end of World War 2. The effects of the war are not confined to the borders of Ukraine. Like in EVE Online, the effects of war ripple throughout the world. With today marking the beginning of the second year of the escalation, I thought I'd look back at how the war affected one of my refuges from the real world, EVE Online.

Right off the bat, the average player count online plunged from around 21,000 players down to around 18,000. Back when CCP released subscriber numbers, we knew Russians and other citizens of CIS states made up approximately 10% of the player base. Between Russian cyber-attacks on Ukraine's access to the internet and the disconnection of Russia from SWIFT, EVE players in the conflict zone were prevented from playing the game. Add in the inevitable losses from players conscripted to fight, those who fled as refugees, and those killed, and the single shard game was affected greatly.

EVE players tried to help those affected by the fighting. In a PLEX for Good campaign, players and CCP combined to raise $501,652 for Ukrainian war relief efforts. The money was donated to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the National Bank of Ukraine Humanitarian Assistance campaign.

Back when people thought the fighting would last a very short time, EVE players tried to save the positions of Russian and Ukrainian alliances in null sec. But as EVE players know, headshots like the one attempted by Russia on Kyiv rarely work. As time passed, so did the truce. But at least the Russians and Ukrainians in the game had a chance to recover.

But the war didn't just affect Russia. Sanctions on Russia affected the European Union's access to Russian energy, particularly natural gas. Overall, the Eurozone suffered 8.6% year-over-year inflation from January 2022 to January 2023, led by increased energy prices.

Increased energy costs came at a bad time for CCP, who had already committed to increasing the subscription price by a third in May 2022. So at a time when inflation was eating into players' disposable incomes, CCP increased prices.

CCP also faced a challenge as the two main currencies used by EVE's European base, the euro and the British pound, plunged in value against the U.S. dollar. CCP conducts all of its financing in the dollar, converting other currencies into dollars as soon as CCP receives payment. The United States is considered a safe haven in times of trouble, and with Russia doing relatively well militarily in Ukraine, the revenue from Europe went down just due to the changing currency exchange rates.

While I normally see an improving US economy and the Federal Reserves easing of interest rate increases as reasons for the recovery of the European currencies, I can't help but notice the bottom of the decline occurred on 28 September, when Ukraine's gains from its Kharkov counter-offensive looked to be long-lasting.

Finally, as further evidence of the rapid decline of players due to the Russian invasion, a look at CCP's game revenue is in order. While the chart above includes EVE: Echoes, CCP suffered a 10% quarter-over-quarter decrease in game revenue from the first to second quarters in 2022. Interestingly enough, quarter-over-quarter revenue grew in both the third and fourth quarters, if only slightly. Still, the year-over-year revenue in the final quarter of 2022 was down 9.7%.

One does have to wonder what New Eden would have looked like had Vladimir Putin not sent the Russian army across the border to attack the Ukrainian state back on 24 February 2022. Everything from the lives of players in the conflict zone, null sec politics, and CCP's financial situation were impacted in a bad way. Perhaps war is good for EVE in game, but in the real world?

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Holiday Behind Little Ladies' Day In Final Fantasy XIV

Hinamatsuri is not just a manga about a girl from the future dropping on a Japanese mobsters head. Hinamatsuri is also a Shinto holiday celebrated on 3 March in Japan. Also called Doll's Day or Girl's Day, the holiday inspired the Doll Festival in Final Fantasy XI and Little Ladies' Day in Final Fantasy XIV

Hinamatsuri is one of the five seasonal festivals, or gosekku, that are held on auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. When converted to the Gregorian calendar, those dates converted to 1 January, 3 March, 5 May, 7 July, and 9 September. The practice of celebrating the gosekku began in Japan sometime in the 8th century, ending in the Meiji era in the 19th century. 

The primary aspect of Hinamatsuri is the display of seated male and female dolls. The dolls, usually seated on red cloth, vary in quality, from simple paper dolls to intricately carved three-dimensional dolls. While the dolls represent a Heian period wedding (from 794 to 1185 AD), the dolls are usually described as the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

Wikipedia holds a description which probably explains why Little Ladies Day in FFXIV came about.

During Hinamatsuri and the preceding days, girls hold parties with their friends. Typical foods include hina-arare (้››ใ‚ใ‚‰ใ‚Œ, multi-colored rice crackers), chirashizushi (ใกใ‚‰ใ—ๅฏฟๅธ, raw fish and vegetables on rice in a bowl or bento box), hishi mochi (่ฑ้ค…, multi-colored rice cakes),[4] ichigo daifuku (ใ„ใกใ”ๅคง็ฆ, strawberries wrapped in adzuki bean paste), Sakuramochi (ๆกœ้ค…) and ushiojiru (ใ†ใ—ใŠๆฑ, clam soup, as clam shells represent a joined pair).[5] The customary drink is shirozake (็™ฝ้…’, lit. "white sake"), also called lit. "sweet sake" (็”˜้…’, amazake), a non-alcoholic sake.

Yes, Hinamatsuri is only celebrated by girls. Boys had their own holiday, Tango no sekku, celebrated on 5 May. But in 1948, the holiday was renamed Children's Day My guess is that the connection to the samurai and thus militarism led the American occupation authorities to nudge the Japanese into a different direction.

The in-game lore also connects Little Ladies' Day to royalty in the story, "The Legend of The Lost Lady".

Three centuries past, the city-state of Ul'dah was ruled by an iron-fisted sultan by the name of Baldric Thorne—a man feared across the region for his quick temper and his even swifter justice. Perhaps as punishment for his compassionless ways, the Twelve saw fit to bless the sultan with but a single daughter, Edvya, whom the sultan loved more than the sun and the moons. And it was this love that drove Baldric to take measures that would ensure no harm ever befell the princess—including her confinement to the royal palace and the assignment of a retinue of over fifty handmaidens and seneschals.

As the princess grew older, however, a longing to explore the unknown land that lay beyond the palace walls tugged at her soul, until one day, in a devilish display of wit, she switched clothes with a miller girl come to the palace with her mother to deliver flour to the kitchens. Once Edvya had exchanged her beautiful gown and tiara for the soiled rags of a commoner, it proved little trouble to pass unnoticed through her legion of servants and slip out into the city for a day of wicked fun.

It did not take long for the palace to realize something was afoot, and upon discovering that his only daughter was missing, the sultan, overcome with rage, immediately ordered the sultanate's entire standing army to scour the city until they had found the princess. As for the royal impostor, thinking that Edvya may have been kidnapped by the girl's mother, the sultan ordered the miller's house torn apart, her family arrested, tortured, and thrown in the royal oubliette.

As luck would have it, the princess had not wandered far from the palace, and was discovered in a nearby market by her father's men. Once back in the safety of the palace, Edvya revealed the whole ruse to her father, explaining that she had conjured it on her own, and begged that he show mercy to the miller's family.

Upon realizing that the atrocities committed to the miller girl and her family were without warrant, he had the family released from the oubliette and summoned to the royal audience chamber. Here, not only did he personally apologize to the family and order the royal architects to design and build them a new home, but, in a move most unexpected, Baldric himself offered to serve as the daughter's seneschal for a full day, saying that no young woman, regardless of her standing, should be denied the respect due all citizens of the sultanate; that all girls, common or noble, are 'ladies' in their own right.

Rumors of this unforeseen display of humility were quick to spread through Ul'dah and ultimately proved to be extremely well-received amongst the smallfolk, who, until then, had perceived their leader as little more than a heartless despot. So well-received were they, in fact, that the sultan declared one day from each solar year on which he would select, via lots, a common girl from the city and serve as her personal seneschal, as he had done with the miller's daughter.

Hopefully the background on Little Ladies' Day is helpful. I know I found the quick bit of research I did for the blog post enlightening. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Creating Player-Led Groups In EVE Online And Final Fantasy XIV

While looking at the requirements for purchasing a free company house in Final Fantasy XIV, I was struck by the difference in creating a player-run group in FFXIV and EVE Online. I think the difference is due to how important the advantages to a single player of owning a free company or corporation. At least, in the eyes of the developers.

I created a corporation back in 2009, so my personal knowledge is a little stale. According to the Eve University Wiki, the following is required:

  • Corporation Management trained to at least level 1.
  • 1,599,800 ISK in your wallet (other sources indicate that is the creation fee).
  • Docked at a station which you want to be your corporation headquarters.
  • Have no roles assigned to you if in a player corporation and not be the CEO of a corporation.
After completing the tutorial, and definitely after running through the career agents, players will have the ISK to buy the Corporation Management skill book and pay the creation fee.

Final Fantasy XIV is a little harder. First, the player creating the free company must have completed the level 20 quest to join one of the Grand Companies. Next, the player must have one class at level 25. I use class instead of job because jobs are not available until level 30.

Once the basic requirements are met, the player goes to one of the Grand Companies to get a petition to start a free company. At the time, the FC name and tag is chosen. Afterwards, three other players (or three characters on a player's second FFXIV account)must sign the petition and agree to join the free company. Finally, a payment of 15,000 gil to the Grand Company is required to seal the deal.

Are there any game-breaking or rule bending effects of a single player owning a corporation in EVE? I don't think so. CCP prefers players get out of NPC corporations, so even going into a solo corporation is a benefit. I know getting out of my starter corporation was a big incentive to create my own corp. Industrial players find advantages in owning a corporation with only their characters as members, thus helping the economy. Any disadvantages I can think of are limited by the game's PvP mechanics.

In FFXIV, the big disadvantage I can think of is housing. Due to the limited housing, a single-player owning an FC house is taking away a chance for another player to own a plot of land, as well as taking away a source of FC private rooms for other players. Part of the requirements for an FC purchasing a house is the FC must contain at least 4 members and have a rank of 6 or higher. Also, a financial incentive does exist. Square Enix makes money off of selling additional inventory space in the form of additional retainers. A single player owning a free company would make trading between characters on a single account much easier as well as providing additional inventory slots.

Still, compared to some other games, the requirements and process to create a player-run organization are not great. They only appear so in FFXIV because I came to Eorzea after playing EVE Online.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Some Complaints About Final Fantasy XIV's Housing System

Furthermore, even though I won a housing plot, I still contend that the housing system in FFXIV is one of the worst in our genre, bar none. The fact that housing space is artificially limited is awful, the lotto system is agonizing (I can’t begin to tell you how many guildmates who have been in the same years-long housing drought as I have been were wailing at their lost bids), and the stopgap solutions of apartments and guild hall rooms is hilariously miserable when compared to the size and sensation of actually having a house.

- Chris Neal, MassivelyOP, 2 February 2023

After participating in the land rush in Final Fantasy XIV a few weeks back, I wrote a couple of posts about the game's housing system. I listed the different types of housing available and the requirements to own a home. But before I make the housing system sound like the greatest invention since Hot Pockets, I really need to bring up some of the shortcomings of the system.

I have a little experience with housing systems in MMORPGs. I loved my place in Everquest 2 back in 2008-2009. The  Elder Scrolls Online, not so much. ZeniMax Online Studios allows players to purchase the really good homes in the cash shop and I took the company up on the offer. I really shouldn't have. I looked at the price of the house I purchased a few years back in ESO. The current price of the furnished house is over $100.

Square Enix doesn't sell plots of land, but has a bunch of other issues. Chris Neal wrote an article back at the beginning of February listing some of the weaknesses after he won a plot of land during January's land rush. I used his article as the basis of this post and added some additional details I don't normally see.

The major design choice that lead to most of the complaints is the limited amount of housing plots in the game. Except for some of the newer servers, each world has the following number of plots:

  • 900 large plots for mansions
  • 2100 medium plots for houses
  • 6000 small plots for cottages

In addition, each world has 300 apartment buildings with 27,000 one-room apartments. The way the developers dealt with the limited amount of housing contributed to most of the remaining complaints.

A major complaint is players cannot own the exact home in the exact place they want. A lot of players would prefer to own a mansion in The Mists, the housing district for Limsa Lominsa, next to a beach. But since only a couple of plots of land meet those requirements in each district or sub-district, only a lucky few can call those places home. And a lot of people who can't obtain the plot will loudly complain about the fact.

A closely associated complaint is the limited amount of homes a player can own. Many players love decorating homes. Others like the idea of living in each of the five housing areas on each world. The limit of three domiciles gets in the way. Worse, only one is on a plot of land. The other two are an apartment and a private room in the free company's house. 

Because of the limited housing, Square Enix instituted a lottery system for the chance to buy a plot. While much better than the old system of clicking on a placard for days, the lottery system does have some aspects that can irritate players.

First, players can only bid on a plot once every nine days. The cycle comprises a five day entry period followed by a four day collection period. Not too bad, but something some players will complain about. 

I've seen complaints about the requirement to post the gil for the bid upfront, with players losing the lottery receiving refunds. But the refunds are not automatic. The losing player has to go to the housing site and click on the plot's placard to receive the refund. If not collected within 90 days, the gil is lost.

Winners don't automatically receive the plot of land. The player must travel to the plot and click on the placard to claim the land. Failure to do so within the four day collection period results in a refund of 50% of the lottery deposit. I believe the requirement was put in place to discourage free companies from bidding on multiple plots of land. Winning more than one plot could get really expensive.

I see a lot of complaints in various comments sections around the internet about how in order to keep a house, players need to stay subscribed. While not exactly true, the complaint is close enough. Players lose their houses if no one enters the instance for 45 days. The restriction affects privately-owned homes a lot more than free company housing. For free companies, the FC loses the home if no FC member enters the home for 45 days, not just the owner. But yes, technically a player will definitely lose their house if unsubbed for 45 days.

One detail I don't see mentioned often, though, is that some items are destroyed once a player moves their home or otherwise demolishes their home instead of being sent to a player's storage. Housing destruction from not entering a home in 45 days does the same thing. Did I mention some of those items that are automatically destroyed are cash shop items? Square Enix flashes up warnings about such items, but a lot of players will purchase them anyway.

Those are the complaints about features directly related to the design decision to have limited housing. But I have two more to add. The first is the decorating system. The really advanced decorations require glitching the items into place. My big complaint on this front is, "Yoshi-P, why can't we put items on wooden lofts?" Incredibly, while the game provides wooden lofts, players cannot just put things like beds, chairs, or dressers on them. Those items need to be glitched into place. A very time-consuming process, especially when just learning how to glitch.

Also, players cannot sell items once the items are placed in a home. The game does provide a preview tool, but when decorating a new place, sometimes ideas don't work out and expensive items are no longer useful. Something for new home owners to think about, especially those without a lot of gil.

The final complaint isn't really a complaint I've heard often, but might go some ways to explaining why Square Enix doesn't just combine the indoor and outdoor housing into one big instance. Character limits exist for how many can go into a housing instance. 

Contrary to what a lot of articles imply, the inside of a house is an instance, which is why apartment buildings can hold 90 apartments and free company houses can hold up to 512 private rooms. And each size instance can hold a limited number of characters, with minions counting as characters. I don't know the limits for apartments, private rooms and cottages, but the limits for houses is 80 and for mansions 100 characters. The limits are a problem for nightclubs and very large free companies. If the event is going to draw more than 100 people, prepare to herd everyone outside where the limit doesn't exist. For nightclubs, sometimes that option doesn't exist.

Now, I rather like the design choice to go with housing limited by physical location. But some of the consequences of that decision rub a lot of people the wrong way, including gaming journalists. I figure I needed to acknowledge some of the complaints before going on to show the good things about the housing system in FFXIV

Friday, February 17, 2023

Applying To Go To FFXIV Fanfest

So I did it. I just applied to purchase tickets to go to Final Fantasy XIV's Fanfest at the end of July. I went to EVE Fanfest for the 10th anniversary of EVE Online. Why not do the same for FFXIV?

Getting tickets is so much like getting a housing plot in FFXIV. First, players can submit a request to be put into a lottery to get the chance to purchase two tickets. The time period to do so is from today to Saturday, February 25 at 11:59pm PST. At least we don't have to put up the $200 ticket price up front.

Next, Square Enix will contact the lucky winners by Friday, March 3rd via the email address the player is registered with. Thankfully I still have the address I used. The email account is only used for FFXIV

The purchase period for the winners of the lottery is from March 6 at 9.a.m. PST to March 13 at 9 a.m. PDT. Any unsold tickets will then be sold during the general sales period which begins on March 15th at 9 a.m. PDT. 

Hopefully I win the chance to buy a ticket. I didn't really think I'd ever go to Las Vegas again. The only reason I ever had to go was to attend EVE Vegas. But how could I resist going back for a Final Fantasy XIV convention? Especially the one for the 10th anniversary.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Guild Wars 2 Moving To Expansions

Guild Wars 2 is a game I haven't played in years. The first expansion, Heart of Thorns, just did not appeal to me. The game returned to my attention because of a change in its content release practices.

In a news article Monday, Game Director Josh "Grouch" Davis announced the change. He stated that Living World seasons have required almost the entire GW2 development team. The disadvantages were that trying to develop an expansion was difficult and many areas of the game went undersupported. 

At this point, the solution sounds familiar.

In the next phase of Guild Wars 2‘s development, we’re taking a more balanced approach that will allow us to provide more support for popular game modes, make frequent quality-of-life improvements to core gameplay systems like professions, deliver new features, and expand the world of Tyria with satisfying, immersive story updates.

What It Means for You

Our future expansions for Guild Wars 2 will be the backbone of this new approach. Rather than launching an expansion every two to four years with a season of Living World in between, we’ll be releasing smaller expansions more frequently at a slightly reduced price and adding additional content for those expansions through quarterly updates, meaning that the next big release is only ever a few months away.

The first release in an expansion cycle is the launch point for a new story arc, bringing with it two new open-world maps, two Strike Missions, new gameplay and combat features, new Masteries, and new rewards. In the following quarterly updates, we’ll add another open-world map, additional story chapters, challenge modes for the Strike Missions, a new fractal dungeon and challenge mode, new rewards, and additions to the new systems introduced in that expansion. Once that expansion’s story is complete, the next expansion will be just around the corner.

The change seems a lot like the system used in Final Fantasy XIV, with an expansion approximately every 2 years with five main post-expansion patches providing continuations of the story, new dungeons, trials, and other content, plus updates to systems. The big difference is that in FFXIV, the expansion's story usually concludes in the X.3 patch and the final two patches lead up to the next expansion's story.

ArenaNet, who went from September 2017 to February 2022 between GW2's third and fourth expansions, isn't the only studio moving to a faster expansion release cycle. CCP launched Uprising last year, EVE Online's first expansion in 4 years. The Icelandic game studio is returning to its old release cycle, with plans to launch expansions in the second and fourth quarters in 2023.

Even Blizzard jumped onto the bandwagon, at least in promising to deliver content on a reliable schedule. At the end of December, WoW Executive Producer Holly Longdale introduced a roadmap for the Dragonflight expansion covering all of 2023.

Usually games are marked as leaders when the big guys start to copy features from the game. Guild Wars 2 caught my eye recently when its flying mount system was copied by Blizzard and turned into a major selling point for Dragonflight. Another leader is now Square Enix, particularly Creative Business Unit 3, as companies begin to copy its development cycle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Pearl Abyss Invested In Intella X

Pearl Abyss has a history of investing in technology related to the play-to-earn business model. In November 2021, the company invested $3 million in Hyperreal, a Metaverse company, as part of a $7 million round of funding. Pearl Abyss also led a ₩3 billion round of funding into TUNiB, a "Natural language processing artificial intelligence start-up", that same month. Four weeks ago, the South Korean game company made another investment in play-to-earn technology.

On 17 January 2023, NEOWIZ issued the following press release:

SEONGNAM, South Korea, Jan. 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- One of South Korea's leading game giants, NEOWIZ, has announced that it has successfully raised $12M in private funding for its Web3 gaming platform, Intella X, in anticipation of its upcoming launch on Polygon.

The raise included over +20 investors from various sectors and includes notable partners such as Polygon, Animoca Brands, Magic Eden, Planetarium, Big Brain Holdings, Global Coin Research, Crit Ventures, JoyCity, Pearl Abyss, XL Games, and WEMIX.

As the next-generation Web3 gaming platform, Intella X's mission is to bridge the gap between Web2 and Web3 through unique platform protocols, services, and games.

"Develop and Earn", and "Contribute-Play and Earn"

What sets Intella X apart from its competitors is that the platform perpetually rewards the contributors of its ecosystem (i.e Game developers and users) with its native platform token, the Intella X token through its unique, rewarding service protocol, 'Proof of Contribution'.

Furthermore, the platform also redistributes shares of its revenue back to the contributors through its unique decentralized revenue distribution protocol to further exercise the fundamental values of Web3.

In combination with its one-of-a-kind service protocols and wide genres of games in its 2023 lineup, the platform offers additional features in an effort to remove high-entry barriers and to improve user experience in Web3.  From streamlined wallet creation to implementation of meta transactions, Intella X has set its mission on providing high-quality games and user-friendly environment to accelerate mass adoption.

Intella X is set to launch on Polygon in the first quarter of 2023 along with its proprietary Web3 wallet, DEX (Decentralized Exchange), NFT marketplace, launchpad, and games.

Intella X has a list of investors on its website.

Intella-X touts the following advantages for developers:

Discoverability and Accessibility: "For developers, the Intella X addon platform offers a one-of-a-kind platform solution for migrating existing or new gaming applications into Web3 while maintaining their presence, availability, and discoverability on traditional third-party stores. Simply put, developers can release their applications in major storefronts such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store to retain their Web2 user base while increasing accessibility and discoverability to wider audiences."

Monetization/Payments: "Through Intella X, game developers do not have to abandon their existing monetization (i.e., in-app purchases, Ad revenue, subscriptions, etc.) or rely solely on Web3 monetization. Instead, by integrating Web3 components with Intella X, game developers not only retain their traditional revenue streams, but also supplement their sources with Web3 revenue through NFTs, marketplace, digital asset transactions, and even Intella X’s native platform token, Intella X (IX), via the innovative ‘Proof of Contribution’ protocol."

Proof of Contribution: "For developers, the protocol provides Web3 revenue stream on top of their traditional Web2 monetization features by perpetually rewarding game developers with the Intella X token based on the game’s contribution."

The play-to-earn function is listed by Intella X under the Proof of Contribution category.

For gamers, not only can users “Play and Earn”, but also “Contribute and Earn” native by providing various types of value contributions such as, providing liquidity, or staking in order to participate in the innovative protocol and earn the Intella X token.

When gamers see NFTs mentioned, they tend to run away. The Intella X service does support the sale of NFTs, or will in the near future thru its Launchpad and Marketplace services.

Launchpad: "NFT Launchpad is a place where game developers and NFT creators to showcase their projects, mint, and pre-sell NFTs, and generate buzz in the Intella X community.

"And through the Intella X NFT Launchpad, users can get hands-on exclusive, rare NFTs, ranging from unique artworks, PFP projects, and game assets. The launchpad service is a powerful search and discovery tool that allows users to easily find the hottest, upcoming NFT projects and get the opportunity to participate to earn rare NFTs in their collections."

Marketplace: "The NFT Marketplace for Intella X is the trading hub for all NFTs in the Intella X ecosystem. Game developers and NFT project creators can showcase their unique collections where users can buy, sell and trade rare NFTs from various projects."

Admittedly I did a lot of copy and pasting for this blog post. Then again, the writers whose articles I read did a lot of copy, pasting, and rewording themselves. I'm not sure how many people really understand this technology. But I do know that investors go crazy over the subject, so to attract investors, companies will invest or otherwise try to participate in what is hot. And after listening to Pearl Abyss' latest earnings call, they need all the help they can get.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Pearl Abyss Q4 2022 Earnings Call

On Tuesday morning Seoul time, Pearl Abyss held its earnings call for the 4th Quarter of 2022. The big news is that the South Korean company lost ₩41.1 billion ($35.6 million) in 2022. The loss was punctuated by the ₩100.3 billion ($79.5 million) the company lost in the final quarter of last year.

What caused the shortfall? Pearl Abyss stated in large part the cause was the depreciation of assets at the end of the year belonging to Pearl Abyss Capital. Long time followers may remember that Pearl Abyss Capital was responsible for a ₩32.6 billion ($27 million) bump in revenues in Q4 2021. The venture capital arm of Pearl Abyss was active in the final three months of 2022, participating in an $11 million round of funding in CLASSUM in October and a $9 million round of funding for Plugo in December.

Overall, operating revenue increased 6.1%, from ₩97.3 billion ($68 million) in the 3rd quarter to ₩97.3 billion ($81.8 million) in the final quarter. For the year, revenue dropped 4.4% down to ₩386 billion.

At this point, observant readers will have noticed that the percentage changes are different between won and U.S. dollar totals. That is due to the wildly swinging values of the two currencies. In the fourth quarter, the won gained 11.8% in value against the dollar. But as a South Korean company, Pearl Abyss performs its accounting in won.

About the best the executives on the call could claim about 2022 was that the Black Desert and EVE intellectual properties managed to maintain sales at 2021 levels. But the fourth quarter news wasn't that great. While Black Desert posted a 6.3% year-over-year, revenue declined 7% from the third quarter, from ₩76.6 billion ($53.6 million) down to ₩71.2 billion ($56.5 million). No, that is not a typo, just the wild currency fluctuation of 2022 at work.  While won revenue fell 7%, the same figure converted to USD increased by 5.4%.

The same occurred with EVE revenue. In won, revenue declined by 9.3%, from ₩19.4 billion to ₩17.6 billion. But in USD terms, revenue increased 2.9%, from $13.6 million to $14.0 million. But even calculated in dollars, year-over-year revenue declined 9.7%, from $15.5 million in Q4 2021 to $14.0 million in Q4 2022. Overall, based on the quarterly earnings calls, EVE revenue declined from $62.9 million in 2021 to $62.4 million in 2022. If Russia had not invaded Ukraine, EVE revenue probably would have increased for the year.

One of the analysts on the call asked about how Pearl Abyss saw labor costs going in 2023. The executives on the call were non-committal, just expressing they would manage the costs. But a look at the employee counts in the presentation shows headcount decreased by 116, or 7.4%, during the course of 2022. Labor costs, however, only decreased by 2.5% from the final quarter of 2021 to the last quarter of 2022. Perhaps a cause for concern as 2023 continues.

Perhaps the biggest subject of concern, as is customary at this point, was Crimson Desert. Pearl Abyss CEO Jin-young Heo stated the game would launch sometime in the second half of 2023. But under what business model? The game sounds like a single-player, single time purchase for the PC and console. But then the discussion moved into possibly making the game multi-player after launch. By the end, the game sounds like a candidate to become another live service game. 

Not knowing the business model at this late date in development doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Plus the pressure to launch in the second half of 2023. Pearl Abyss continued to tell the analysts on the call that development on DokeV has to wait until Crimson Desert is complete. Personally, I would not pre-order the game.