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 (雛あられ, multi-colored rice crackers), chirashizushi (ちらし寿司, raw fish and vegetables on rice in a bowl or bento box), hishi mochi (菱餅, multi-colored rice cakes),[4] ichigo daifuku (いちご大福, strawberries wrapped in adzuki bean paste), Sakuramochi (桜餅) and ushiojiru (うしお汁, clam soup, as clam shells represent a joined pair).[5] The customary drink is shirozake (白酒, lit. "white sake"), also called lit. "sweet sake" (甘酒, 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.

Monday, February 13, 2023

A Quick Review After Using Nvidia Freestyle This Weekend

With the demise of GShade, I chose to use Nvidia's Freestyle over ReShade. I'm not sure how popular the application is since a lot of the documentation found with a quick Google search is 5 years old. Like this passage from the launch of the open beta in 2018.

Today, we’re unveiling NVIDIA Freestyle, a way for you to personally customize a game’s appearance through the application of real-time post-processing filters. With Freestyle’s options you can be more creative with your games, adding a retro war-themed filter for your favorite FPS, for example, or enhancing color and contrast to make a game look more photorealistic. Or maybe you’re color-blind, like me, and want to make a style that makes it easier to differentiate between colors and see key features.

After checking to make sure my computer could run GeForce Experience, I downloaded the application. I got to skip some steps because the application auto-detected Final Fantasy XIV.

The games GeForce Experience detected on my computer

Nvidia Freestyle has three quick keys:

  • Alt-F1 - Take a screenshot
  • Alt-F2 - Screenshot settings
  • Alt-F3 - Game filter

To set up, I first pulled up the game filter by pressing Alt-F3. I found 15 filters, each with sliders for various settings. The application allows for saving three sets of filters. I only saved one, which is down below.


  • Exposure - 10
  • Contrast - -14
  • Highlights - 9
  • Shadows - 21
  • Gamma - 0

  • Intensity - 30
  • Texture Details - 55


  • Tint Color - 20
  • Tint Intensity - 15
  • Temperature - 0.5
  • Vibrance - 20.6

I am sure some people will not like my settings, so use them as a starting point and adjust according to taste.

Unfortunately, to take a screenshot requires setting up the screenshot settings. The next thing I did after taking some fuzzy screenshots was press Alt-F2 and enter the settings into the screenshot filter. Just a warning, though. Freestyle only allows users to save one set of screenshot filters. Using the filters in FFXIV's Gpose feature is pretty much mandatory for anything fancy, although Freestyle does have those types of filters also.

I like the effect the application has during normal gameplay. However, I do have some things I find irritating. First, Freestyle requires running the game in full screen mode. No playing in windowed mode. Next, the slide-bars in the menu options are not fine and I could not find a method to enter numbers. The lack of fine tuning means my game filter and screenshot filter are slightly off. Finally, I could not take screenshots of the in-game menus, so I couldn't just take screenshots of my settings and post them in this article.

For my purposes, Nvidia Freestyle gets the job done. More artistic users or those with machines that don't meet the system requirements will want to move onto another solution. If anyone has a better solution that won't result in getting banned if used in a more modern online game, please let me know in the comments below.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Comparing EVE Online's And Final Fantasy XIV's Valentine's Day Sales

This week both EVE Online and Final Fantasy XIV launched what I will call Valentine's Day sales in their respective cash shops. Neither CCP or Square Enix labeled the sales as such, but the theme is there. In the case of the EVE cash shop, the sale ends on Valentine's Day. For the FFXIV cash shop, all the items except one are connected to the in-game Valentione event. I think each sale says something about the games.

First is the EVE announcement.

Skilful capsuleers,

Now is the time to accelerate and focus your skill training, with a pair of Boost Bundle deals exclusively available in the EVE Store.

Head to the EVE Store between now and 14 Feb, and you’ll find the Expert Boost Bundle available with 25% off the regular price. Containing 1,500,000 Skill Points and an Expert Cerebral Accelerator that grants pilots +10 to all attributes for 10 days, letting you get even more out of your newly acquired SP.

Also available until 14 Feb is the new time-limited Basic Boost Bundle. Containing 500,000 Skill Points, a Standard Cerebral Accelerator that grants a +4 increase to all attributes for 4 days, and 10 Daily Alpha Injectors. Daily Alpha Injectors each provide 50,000 Skill Points. Use Alpha Injectors to top up on critical skills as you journey through New Eden in pursuit of your goals.

The Basic Boost Bundle won't be around for long, so make sure to pick up yours before 14 Feb!

What do EVE players love? Power. For this Valentine's Day, CCP is selling the power players cannot lose to others: skill points.

Selling the Expert Boost and Basic Boost Bundles

CCP touts the training boost bundles as follows:

  • Boost your training: Cerebral Accelerators temporarily boost all attributions to train faster.
  • Train skills instantly: Unallocated Skill Points can be applied to any skill of choice.

In USD, the Basic Boost Bundle and Expert Boost Bundle cost $14.99 and $29.99 each. The FOMO factor is the indication the Basic Boost Bundle will disappear after Valentine's Day. The Expert Boost Bundle is $10 off until then.

How about Square Enix? What do FFXIV players love? Glamour and housing items alongside mounts. Oh, and music. Can't forget the music, although this post does not cover the release of the latest mini-album with songs from Endwalker.

The announcement on the Lodestone was rather bare bones:

New optional items will be added to the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Store starting Thursday, February 9 at 2:00 a.m. (PST). We’re also hosting a limited-time sale on a selection of Valentione’s Day items, so don’t miss out!

Visit the FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Store.

* The items featured above will be available for purchase after the scheduled maintenance on Thursday, February 9 around 2:00 a.m. (PST). Please visit the News section for detailed maintenance information.

* During periods immediately following the sale of new optional items, congestion in the delivery system may cause item deliveries to take longer than usual.

The three new optional items are a mount and the two items given out during last year's Valentione's event. Square Enix creates new items for each year's holiday events and begins selling them in the cash shop beginning with the next year's event. The Postmoogle Barding for player's chocobos and the Authentic Valentione Mobile for homes were earnable in the game last year.

The new items added to the cash shop

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.

What do the sales tell me about the games? That EVE Online is a pay-to-win game and CCP doesn't mind selling power to its players. And FFXIV? That the game has a not so serious side. Perhaps more importantly, Sqare Enix doesn't feel it has to embrace the try-hard side of the game all the time.

But perhaps I'm being unfair to both games. Are the sales really reflections of the games, or of the players?

The Dote emote in action

Thursday, February 9, 2023

The ReShade Question

GShade is dead, long live ReShade? In the immediate aftermath of the end of the popular fork of ReShade, many GShade users flocked to the original, myself included. But was that the right move? Having played Final Fantasy XIV for so long with GShade, I wasn't going back to the standard graphics. At the same time, I wasn't eager to install another mod. I had questions I needed to answer about whether I should search for another solution.

The first was the fact ReShade is a game modification. Third party mods aren't entirely reliably supported. Sometimes the developer leaves the game and loses interest in supporting their creation. At that point, functionality players rely on goes away. I've played EVE Online long enough to see that happen to several third-party tools. Now imagine something like that happening inside a game.

Sure, ReShade is open source software. GShade itself came into existence as a popular fork of the base project. But I've heard that ReShade would kind of go dormant at times. The question became, do I make the break now?

The second question was whether I wanted a more terms of service friendly solution to the fuzzy graphics problem in FFXIV. In the wake of the scandal involving the world first race for The Omega Protocol, did I want to leave myself vulnerable to using prohibited software? On FFXIV's FAQ page for prohibited activities in the game, Square Enix states:

Behavior that disrupts the game balance

Square Enix strictly prohibits the use of third-party programs or tools as these disrupt the balance of the game. Third-party programs and tools that permit automated or "absentee" play are prohibited. A Game Master (GM) may speak to players to investigate and confirm "absentee" play, and if the player continues with this behavior, contrary to the GM's instructions, they will be treated as participating in "absentee" play and subject to penalties.

Accordingly, the following activities are prohibited:

- Modifying, analyzing, integrating, and/or reverse-engineering game software or data.

- Creating, distributing, using, or promoting utilities that interact with the game.

Does ReShade perform any of the prohibited activities? I found a video from Digital Foundry that suggests that yes, ReShade does.

The way ReShade works is pretty simple. Basically it is based around the way Windows loads up programs. By utilizing specialized Direct3D or OpenGL dll injector files ReShade is able to load into the target program's memory at runtime and can also be modified in real time. ReShade is simply taking advantage of the intended open design of how exe programs utilizing graphics libraries such as Direct3D or OpenGL work in Windows. 

But since it is still modifying the game I do not recommend using ReShade necessarily in online games that have anti-cheat as ReShade's use may trigger automatic protections and earn you a ban you probably do not want. So definitely stick to older online games that don't have such anti-cheat measures or single player games with ReShade. 

Interestingly enough, someone in the comments section of an article on MassivelyOP argued that Square Enix has stated that ReShade and similar programs do not violate the terms of service. The argument started throwing up red flags for me as the poster linked to a forum post from October 2013.
Which statement has more weight, a 9 1/2 year old forum post from a community rep, or a two week old statement from Final Fantasy XIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida stating he has never allowed the use of mods? I think taking what Yoshi-P says as the rules is the prudent way to proceed.

On a personal note, I decided to do a little more digging and found another solution. After using ReShade for less than 24 hours, I uninstalled the program last night. But I'm not going to judge those using ReShade. As far as I can see, ReShade users are complying with the spirit, if not the letter, of the ToS. I just wanted to come up with a solution that wouldn't have me scrambling for a replacement like the downfall of GShade did. For me, ReShade wasn't that solution.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Goodbye GShade

Another week, another scandal involving mods in Final Fantasy XIV. Last week involved the use of a zoom hack by the winner of the world first race for The Omega Protocol. This week saw the developer of the popular GShade graphics program for FFXIV and other games basically kill his own project.

GShade was a heavily modified fork of ReShade, an open source, generic post-processing injector for games and video software. GameRant broke the news in the gaming press of the GShade developer adding a bit of malware to his project to teach another third-party dev a lesson.

At this point trust was broken and people started uninstalling GShade. One of the biggest FFXIV resources, r/ffxiv and the Reddit Discord server stopped endorsing the use of the program.

Yesterday Eurogamer reported that Github removed the GShade repository from the hosting service. I logged onto my Github account and confirmed the report.

I also saw the screen in the above tweet because I was a GShade user. So instead of getting all my weekly gathering in FFXIV done last night, I spent some of my time uninstalling GShade and installing ReShade in its place. 

Fortunately some instructions were already floating around on how to move from GShade to ReShade. I followed the instructions and managed to install ReShade successfully. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on fiddling with settings, so I chose the OMGEorzea Gameplay setting running in performance mode. I experienced 60 fps while running around gathering last night. Below is a screenshot of my new indoor garden using ReShade.

My indoor garden, pic taken with ReShade

I don't like using mods, but a graphics mod didn't seem like a big risk. But one never knows when a developer might decide to change what is in their software. People can use a mod safely for years and then GShade happens.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Requirements For Owning A Home In FFXIV

One does not simply walk into Final Fantasy XIV and purchase a house. Or even an apartment. The closest one can come to doing so is by joining a free company which owns a house and obtaining a private chamber. So how do one become qualified to take part in the game's housing system?

To own a personal home (including apartments), players have to reach level 50 in at least one class. Theoretically that includes crafting and gathering, but players must reach at least level 47 in a combat class. Usually players level up a combat class to 50.

Next, a player must become an officer in a Grand Company. The total number of company seals required to advance through the enlisted ranks to earn the title of Second Lieutenant is 54,000. Seals are earned by performing various activities like pre-Shadowbringers FATEs, daily supply and provision missions for crafters and gatherers, and expert delivery missions once reaching the rank of Sergeant Second Class.

Becoming an officer isn't just a matter of turning in seals. Players must also complete the Rank 1 section of the company hunting log, which involves killing 10 types of NPCs, to become a Sergeant Third Class, and then the Rank 2 section to become a Second Lieutenant. Completing each entry in the hunting log awards company seals, so if getting seals is boring, the hunting logs is a change of pace.

But wait, there's more. Besides the quest in the MSQ, players must complete two Grand Company specific quests. The first, Shadows Uncast, is a level 44 quest which requires clearing the dungeon Dzemael Darkhold. The quest is required to become a Chief Sergeant. The final quest, Gilding the Bilious, is required to become a Second Lieutenant. To complete the level 47 quest, one must complete the dungeon The Aurum Vale. Because both dungeons are not part of the MSQ, one cannot use the Duty Support System to run the dungeons. That's right, to become an officer requires grouping up with other players  to do content at least twice.

Oh, and one more proviso. Players can only own one private plot and one free company plot on the same world on one service account. The change was put in place in patch 4.2, which means some players still own multiple plots of land. Grandfathered players can't bid on additional housing until the return down to the current limits.

The game has additional requirement, such as owning the Heavensward expansion to own a home in Empyreum or the Stormblood expansion to own a home in Shirogane. But besides having lots of gil, these are the basic requirements for a player to own their own place in Final Fantasy XIV.

Monday, February 6, 2023

EVE Online Held Steady In January

I wanted to record a couple of observations about EVE Online in January before the month progressed any further. Apparently the naysayers need to put off funeral plans a little longer.

Average concurrent users from Jester's Trek

First off, the number of pilots in space grew slightly during January. While still down year-over-year and even from the peak right after the launch of Uprising, at least the trend is positive. 

Data from Dotlan Maps

The second data point I'm tracking is the number of player ships killed in low sec. Yes, the number of ships killed declined by 3.7% month-over-month, but is still up 28.4% year-over-year. While last month's total of 235,603 fell short of the magic 250,000 player ships killed number, at least the number is still comfortably above 200,000. When Uprising launched, critics credited a PLEX sale along with other promotions for the feature's success in low security space. The last couple of months have shown the factional warfare revamp is having some longer lasting positive changes on the game.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

A Cheating Scandal Around The Omega Protocol Ultimate Fight

Final Fantasy XIV has a problem a lot of other MMORPGs don't experience. The game is cross-platform, meaning both console and PC owners play on the same servers. Since console players cannot use mods, the rules is no mods, period. The belief among many in the community is, Naoki Yoshida, the producer and director of FFXIV, doesn't really mean it. During the just completed race to world first for The Omega Protocol Ultimate, at least one member of the winning team from Japan decided to use a camera zoom cheat to progress faster. Yoshi-P got mad.

In a classic case of fuck around and find out, the winning team was stripped of the title, achievements, and gear obtained by completing the Ultimate. In addition, those found guilty of using mods or other cheats face suspension or permanent account bans.

In a possibly related event, the final cutscene for the Ultimate fight was leaked via someone hacking The Unending Journey. From watching coverage of the event on YouTube, I hear that seeing the final platform even after a fight can give the raiders an advantage. Yoshida explained what happened in a post on The Lodestone.

We have confirmed that a video showing the cutscene that plays upon clearing The Omega Protocol (Ultimate) at a time before the fight had been cleared was posted on video upload sites. We conducted an investigation on this matter and discovered the cause of the issue. Through sending a cleverly disguised but illicit information packet from the user’s end while on the public game server, it is possible to manipulate the playback condition flag intended for use when replaying cutscenes via The Unending Journey. As a result, it was possible to play this cutscene via The Unending Journey, from which a video was then recorded and posted publicly. I wish to apologize that our measures to counteract these illicit packets was insufficient to prevent this occurrence.

Due to other illicit actions which occurred in the past, we had taken the steps to adjust the timing at which cutscene resources are applied to the client, but because of the above incident, the cutscene resources became illicitly obtainable even though proper countermeasures had been taken. We will continue to consider additional measures which can be taken and look to strengthen our ability to manage and address these instances.

However, for this particular case, we have identified the character who partook in this illicit action and have enacted a penalty against the account.

The red text above was in the original post. I didn't add it. Like I mentioned in the article, Yoshi-P is mad. He's also a little upset that people think he approves of the use of mods.

As I have mentioned previously, the terms of service for FINAL FANTASY XIV state that the use of third-party tools is strictly prohibited. This has always been the case and will continue to be so, and unless announced otherwise, there are no plans to enact any changes.

I have come across posts from individuals that say things along the lines of, “Yoshida allows the use of third-party tools, so it’s fine to use them.” However, let me make it clear that I have never permitted the use of these tools. You may find information below from past posts and livestreams which outline my stance and policies surrounding third-party tools.

Having lived through scandals like the input boxing ban in EVE Online back in 2015, I know from experience a difference exists between developers tacitly allowing a software to exist versus not having the ability to enforce the terms of service. In the latter case, the game company will do two things. One, enforce the ToS when someone so blatantly violates the ToS that enforcing the terms becomes possible. We see that in the situation today. The second is change the game so players cannot break the rules.

 Yoshida broke out the second option in his closing remarks in The Lodestone post.

The ultimate raid series is the most difficult battle content within FFXIV, and we release this content after testing that it can be cleared without the use of any third-party tools. However, if the presumption is that this content will be tackled and cleared with the use of third-party tools, then any reason to develop high-difficulty battle content seems to be lost. It’s very difficult for me to understand as a gamer what the meaning behind using numerous third-party tools to compete to clear first would be.

While I think many people don't believe we have seen the last Ultimate fight, if other activity like hacking is associated with the world first race, I can see Yoshi-P doing something dramatic to put an end to the activity. We won't know for sure until the next expansion, however, because The Omega Protocol was the last planned Ultimate fight for Endwalker.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

How Much Does Cloud Imperium Games Need To Sell In 2023?

In January, Cloud Imperium Games sold $7.7 million worth of virtual goods for Star Citizen and Squadron 42. The figure was a year-over-year increase of 12.7% over 2022's record sales level. But the question arises, how much is enough? How much does CIG need to sell in order to operate as planned in 2023?

We only have CIG's spending through 2021. To estimate the company's spending in 2023 will take a little guesswork, but I think is doable to a fairly general way. 

CIG Spending From 2012-2021

Two years ago, CIG spent a little over $100 million, a 24.2% increase over 2020's spending. We know that CIG expanded its workforce by 15% in 2022, with job postings indicating another 15% increase planned in 2023. With some capital expenditures pushed from 2021 to 2022, I suspect the percentage increase in spending in 2022 matches the increase in 2021. If so, then CIG spent approximately $124.7 million in 2022. We know that CIG recorded $113.6 million in sales in 2022. Add in an estimated $15 million for subscriptions and other sources of revenue and I estimate CIG made a profit of around $4 million in 2022. We'll find out how off I am when the 2022 financial report comes out in December.

Now to estimate the amount this year. As mentioned before, the number of job postings at the end of 2022 indicates plans to increase CIG's workforce 15% in 2023. Capital expenditures should decrease a bit, but the world is now undergoing a period of high inflation. I will assume spending will increase 15-20% in 2023, meaning the company will spend an estimated $143.4 million to $149.6 million. 

The final amount of estimated increased sales required to keep up with spending doesn't seem so wild, especially considering from 2018 to 2022 CIG's sales have averaged an increase of 28.2% per year. After accounting for another $15 million in sub fees and other sources of income, CIG only needs to increase sales somewhere between $15 million and $21 million. The total sales figures needed are somewhere between $128.6 million and $134.6 million. In percentage terms, CIG needs to increase sales somewhere between 13.2% to 18.5%.

January's 12.7% YoY sales increase falls a little short of the low end of the range calculated above. But just a little. Also, we only have one month of sales figures. The figures at the end of the first quarter will provide a better indication of the type of year CIG is having in 2023.