Tuesday, January 30, 2024

More Layoffs At Another Embracer-Owned Studio, Eidos Montreal

I thought news of video game related layoffs was over for January, but I was wrong. On Tuesday another Embracer-owned studio, Eidos Montreal, announced on social media it was laying off 97 employees.

Bloomberg's Jason Schreier also reported the studio was cancelling a game in the Deus Ex series. The unannounced project, according to Schreier, had been in development for two years and was scheduled to begin production later in 2024.

Eidos Montreal along with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix Montreal, was acquired from Square Enix for $300 million back in 2022. also reported in May 2022 Embracer also acquired several intellectual properties and games.

As part of the deal, Embracer is also purchasing the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Thief and Legacy of Kain franchises, as well as more than 50 back catalogue titles. According to Embracer's announcement, 88 million Tomb Raider games have been sold to date, as well as 12 million Deus Ex titles.

According to the website, other Embracer-owned studios that conducted layoffs in January were Slipgate Iron Works (Jan 3), Lost Boys Interactive (Jan 12), Pirahna Bytes (Jan 16), and Black Forest Games (Jan 25).

Monday, January 29, 2024

The Mystery Of The Disappearing Squadron 42 Sales Page Solved?

Any [sic] further speculation turns into conspiracy theory land. The theories could range from CIG is doing a price hike to coincide with the beginning of Invictus Launch Week tomorrow to the lawyers telling CIG to stop selling Squadron 42 NOW!!!. But the fact that, as I write this post, the pledge page issue has last for over 16 hours does lead to some speculation. CIG not fixing a problem that prevents people from giving them money is very unlike them.

- The Nosy Gamer, 18 May 2023

Over the weekend I went down a rabbit hole researching a question concerning Cloud Imperium Games' finances. I just wanted to know the official date of CIG's acquisition of Turbulent Media Inc., the Quebec-based software company purchased by CIG in 2023. The press release for the purchase was dated 13 July 2023, but I knew the actual date was earlier. What follows is something I would have considered a conspiracy theory close to a year ago.

I now believe the lawyers did tell CIG to stop selling pre-orders of Squadron 42 immediately on either 17 May or 18 May and the web hosting staff just yanked the page off the web servers. Why? Because while the merger certificate was registered on 2 July 2023, the initial declaration and certificate of constitution were both submitted on 19 May 2023.

Looking a little farther, we see the new entity that would become Turbulent Media Inc. was registered on 19 May 2023.

Finally, we see the ultimate purchaser was Chris Roberts through Cloud Imperium UK Ltd.

The description of the transaction, "More than 50% up to 75% of voting rights" fits with the facts as previous to the acquisition, CIG had acquired a 25% share of Turbulent in 2020.

In hindsight, I now see why the webmasters maintaining the Roberts Space Industries website might not be told in advance about the need to take down the Squadron 42 sales page. I'm pretty sure Turbulent is in charge of maintaining the site. As CIG posted back in July 2023:

As is well known, the initial response to the Star Citizen campaign was beyond any of our expectations; so much so that our quickly built site couldn’t handle the sheer interest of people backing the project!  We opened a parallel campaign 10 days later on Kickstarter to help ease the demand on our site, but we realized we had seriously underestimated our need for a robust website with a scalable platform better suited to a much larger audience. Luckily, one of our early external development partners in Montreal introduced us to Turbulent. 

Pretty quickly we realized that we were working with a talented, agile, and innovative web-development company. More than that, we found a group of developers who shared our ambition and vision to disrupt the industry. 

The agility we needed at the start of this project (and that we still need today) didn’t faze Turbulent. They innovated solutions and, later in our relationship, invented new technologies, methods, and software to support our completely different approach to game development, whether it was supporting the incredible fluidity of our eco-system or enabling us to communicate and showcase our developers’ progress. Features such as our Concierge program, Issue Council, Telemetry system, Community Hub, Galactapedia, Roadmap, award-winning StarMap, and Spectrum social network are some of the public-facing elements that Turbulent built. And, behind the scenes, Benoit and his team started to help us publish features and functions, like our launcher, and in more recent times, the team has been a core part of our efforts on cloud services, Persistent Entity Streaming, and Server Meshing.

I imagine the brain trust at CIG, and possibly at Turbulent, didn't want questions raised amongst the rank-and-file until the acquisition was almost complete. From my personal experience, telling the people in charge of the website to yank the page and not worry about the resulting errors definitely would raise questions. But preparing a smooth transition probably would have raised questions earlier among a larger group of employees.

The timing is circumstantial, but why would CIG stop selling pre-orders for Squadron 42? My guess is that CIG is using the proceeds from the sale of Squadron 42 as collateral for the loan required to purchase Turbulent. My estimate is the size of the loan is probably somewhere in the $35-$40 million range. The sale of 1 million copies of the game should cover that amount if the sale price is $70 per copy.

If CIG has to pay a bank all sales of Squadron 42 until the loan is paid off, then the brain trust at CIG would want to charge $70 per copy of the game instead of the $45 per copy CIG had been charging. But my theory has one major flaw. The line of credit CIG established with Coutts & Co in 2017. According to the latest available financial accounts filed with Companies House, what I am calling the line of credit was still active in 2021.

From CIG's 2021 Accounts

PC Gamer N contacted CIG at the time and reported the following about the loan:

And that is where the complexities begin. As explained by Cloud Imperium Games’s co-founder and vice-chairman Ortwin Freyermuth on the forums, this collateral “specifically excludes Star Citizen” referring only to single-player portion Squadron 42 (which is what Foundry 42 are making, if you didn’t catch the name link). He also explains that the loan is to cover an advance on a tax rebate:

“Foundry 42 and its parent company Cloud Imperium Games UK Ltd. have elected to partner with Coutts, a highly regarded, very selective, and specialized UK banking institution, to obtain a regular advance against this rebate, which will allow us to avoid converting unnecessarily other currencies into GBP. We obviously incur a significant part of our expenditures in GBP while our collections are mostly in USD and EUR. Given today’s low interest rates versus the ongoing and uncertain currency fluctuations, this is simply a smart money management move, which we implemented upon recommendation of our financial advisors.” [emphasis mine]

If the loan/line of credit with Coutts is still in effect, the theory of using sales of Squadron 42 to help finance the acquisition of Turbulent goes out the window. But the information available is over two years old because CIG did not submit its 2022 financial accounts with UK Companies House on time

Given the facts available, the scenario I described above seems likely. Perhaps CIG obtained the financing of the loan to purchase Turbulent from Coutts, making the scenario more plausible. Of course, due to CIG's practice of trying to submit its paperwork as late as possible, interested observers will not have access to the 2023 financial accounts probably until December 2024 or January 2025 at the earliest.

So for now, I'm declaring the case of the disappearing sales page for Squadron 42 closed. The solution was the lawyers ordered the takedown in connection with the acquisition of Turbulent by Cloud Imperium. I just wish I didn't have to wait a year to see if my analysis is correct.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Over 5700 Game Industry Related Layoffs In January 2024

If I'm going to cover the video game business, I really need to stay on top of the ongoing layoffs in the industry. In 2022 (8,500 jobs) and 2023 (10,500 jobs), the video game companies laid off an estimated 19,000 workers. The current year promises more of the same. According to, a site that tracks layoffs, and estimated 5,700 people have lost their jobs so far in 2024, and January is not yet over.

The press has covered four big rounds of layoffs at Microsoft (1,900), Unity (1,800)Riot Games (530), and Twitch (500). Something I didn't realize until researching this post is Embracer Group has announced layoffs at four studios: Slipgate Iron Works (Jan 3), Lost Boys Interactive (Jan 12), Pirahna Bytes (Jan 16), and Black Forest Games (Jan 25). So far in its restructuring, Embracer Group has laid off 500 employees since July. According to, the figure in January 2024 is at least 165.

The biggest round of layoffs not yet mentioned were announced at Playtika. The 350-400 employees laid off will mostly come from the company's Belarusian studio, which will close in February. 

So far, 2024 is a pretty lousy year for those working in the video game industry. Given the state of the world economy, I don't expect the situation to get better anytime soon.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

EVE: Vanguard - January 2024 Playtest Patch Notes

The January playtest for EVE: Vanguard is now live. Running from 12:00 UTC 25 January to 12:00 UTC 29 January, the second public playtest for Omega (i.e. subscription-paying) players is another step toward introducing first person shooter play into the EVE universe. While CCP did post an article covering progress so far, I thought a more patch notes type write-up for returning players could be useful. So here is my effort to write some patch notes.

Server Access

  • Access to the Vanguard test servers has been opened to players from  the Asia Pacific and South American regions.


  • Players completing at least one deployment as part of a squad of 2 or more over the course of the event will get an Executioner Arkombine Arisen SKIN
    • This EVE ship SKIN is exclusive and non-tradeable, and the reward is only available if the deployment is played all the way through without quitting
    • Successful extraction is not required to meet the qualifications.

  • Delivering the killing blow to 50 threats, including NPCs, other Vanguards, and turrets over the course of the event will reward you with the exclusive but tradeable Dragoon Arkombine Arisen SKIN in EVE Online. 

  • The top 10 players on the leaderboard will receive a PLEX reward
    • The results will be tallied up when the playtest officially ends at 12:00 UTC on 29 January.

  • Completing at least one deployment as part of a squad of 2 or more will make you eligible for an additional reward down the road. More will be revealed in further playtests and beyond. 

Uninstalling Vanguard

Following the December playtest, participants ran into challenges with uninstalling Vanguard from their devices. We understand the frustration this has caused and have been working towards a solution. Unfortunately, we do not have an uninstaller for Vanguard at this time. However, you can reference this help center article which outlines a method for removing Vanguard-related files from your PC without affecting your EVE Online installation. We appreciate your patience as we work to resolve this and plan to have a solution in place for the March event.


  • An exploit allowing players to avoid melee cooldowns by switching ammo has been fixed. 
  • An exploit related to fire rate being connected to mouse clicks, allowing very rapid firing with no cooldowns, has been addressed. 
  • A UI change has been implemented, fixing an issue that prevented players from looting if their inventory was full. 
  • Clones appearing to be walking around after being shot dead have been addressed. 
  • A problem that caused issues with reporting players after they had left their squads has been fixed. 
  • Collisions and assets have been adjusted to address an issue with multiple players falling through the floor. 
  • An issue causing squad mates’ ping markers to get stuck on screen after re-cloning has been addressed.  
  • An error causing the contract UI to stay on screen when extracting and redeploying into the same session has been fixed.  
  • A fix was made to prevent AR map icons from disappearing when switching window across monitors.  
  • An issue with changing input and output audio devices has been addressed.  
  • An issue that caused ammo to be duplicated when shooting and changing ammo type has been fixed.  
  • Streaming stats have been fixed to prevent flickering.  
  • A fix has been implemented to prevent the use of macros to increase fire rate. 
  • An issue preventing users from quickly looting energy cells has been addressed.  
  • Numerous crash fixes have been implemented.  
  • A new informational splash screen has been added.  
  • Numerous installation fixes have been made around EAD and Unreal prerequisites.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Spaceship Insurance: Star Citizen and EVE Online

I've put on many hats in my time writing at The Nosy Gamer. Texas space lawyer, interstellar economist and amateur corporate account are just three. But I don't believe I've ever stepped into the role of internet spaceship insurance agent. But after watching a video about insurance in Star Citizen, I had a couple of thoughts I wanted to get off my chest.

First, from what I gather players in Star Citizen are really risk averse. They want insurance on everything. Their ships, their weapons, any customizations done to the ships, even their cargo. From reading the Ship Insurance FAQ, insurance "ensures that your ship will be replaced should it be destroyed or stolen." Currently, I don't think players can permanently lose their ships.
Currently, on the Alpha and Public Test Universe (PTU), all ships and vehicles are given a basic insurance plan that does not expire to facilitate testing.  At this time, it requires no upkeep or fee for players to acquire basic ship loss coverage.  There may be a fee to file a claim or expedite a replacement, however.
Remember, Star Citizen is only set 900 years in the future. I mean, they use Newtonian physics and engage at visual ranges. A very primitive game! And to go along with the primitive nature of the Star Citizen universe, players have to manually submit insurance claims.
Should your ship or vehicle be destroyed, stolen, or stranded halfway across the 'verse from you somehow, you will need to file a claim to replace it.  Alternately, filing a claim on a ship can function as a work around to resolve some ship-related bugs, such as the doors not working for some reason.  Be aware that doing this will carry a UEC cost for the service!

To file an Insurance Claim:
  • Visit an ASOP terminal.
  • Browse through the ship list to find the vehicle or ship you need to file a claim on. Remember, file a claim on your vehicle first, ship second.
  • Click Claim.
  • On the next screen, you should see the location and status correctly.
  • Click File a Claim. A claim is entered!
Players can purchase insurance in game or when purchasing a ship from the cash shop. Players who purchase the game during the alpha (and presumably the beta) have the opportunity to purchase lifetime insurance for their ships.
Lifetime Insurance, or LTI as it is commonly referred to, is a special insurance policy that will cost the insured player no extra UEC payments to maintain their coverage.  Only those specific pledges that are noted to include LTI will have this "free" coverage once the game goes live. 

Players will still need to cover the cost of insurance claims and repairs, regardless of if their ship is covered by LTI or some other standard, finite-length plan.

LTI is offered rarely with certain pledges and promotions.  These may include past Kickstarter pledges, Concept Promotions, and extremely high value pledges like the Idris. 
Once Star Citizen is released, "the plan is for insurance policies to be purchased on an individual basis for each ship using UEC." One little important item isn't mentioned. What happens if a player lets their insurance lapse? Considering the hundreds, if not thousands, of real world dollars players spend on their ships, a pretty big detail. And with that much money on the line, I can see why players are risk averse.

While insurance in Star Citizen is, like much of the game, a system still subject to many changes, the developers of EVE Online have run ship insurance for over 20 years. Ship insurance works much differently in modern day New Eden compared to the ancient days of the United Empire of Earth. Instead of handing over objects to insurance claimants, Pend Insurance pays out claims using the in game currency, ISK.

Despite all the stories implying EVE players purchase their ships with real world currencies as is done in Star Citizen, the EVE cash shop does not sell ships directly. Instead, almost all ships are built by players in the game. Most of the rest that are not are either starter-level corvettes given out for free, ships given out from career agents, or those purchased from NPC corporations for loyalty points.

Insurance does not cover all losses in an incident. According to the EVE Online insurance support page
Insurance is a service available to players in certain stations in New Eden. This allows for a more favorable compensated amount of the ISK invested in the insured ship upon destruction. Insurance contracts are valid for up to 12 weeks, and only compensate for the ship hull, not any modules, rigs or assets in the various holds.

The insurance payout is a pre-determined amount for each ship hull, mainly based on the estimated value of the materials required to construct the ship, with other factors playing into the final value to a lesser extent, such as ship type itself. The estimated market value of the ship hull itself is not considered to determine insurance values. The insurance value for all ships is regularly being recalculated to account for market changes in the material markets.
Basically all insurance does in EVE is help replace the hull of the ship a player just lost. And by help replace, I mean buy the materials to rebuild the ship. But players can choose to not even cover that amount if they think they will not die over the next 12 weeks. The game will automatically pay out 40% of the value of the ship hull unless the ship is destroyed by CONCORD, the NPC police force patrolling the high security space of the NPC empires. Players have the option to buy 6 levels of insurance, from the basic plan that replaces 50% of a hull's loss up to the platinum plan that pays out 100%.

I should add the insurance does not necessarily last for 12 weeks and is voided under the following conditions:
  • If the ship is repackaged
  • If the ship exchanges owners, whether this is by trade, contracts or boarded in space
  • If the ship is placed in a corporation hangar.
  • If the ship was used to engage in activities which result in it being destroyed by CONCORD
Now, while New Eden is a harsher place than the United Empire of Earth, EVE does have an advantage due to its modern technology. Players get their insurance claims settled without having to submit a claim. Pend Insurance knows when a ship is lost and pays out quickly. I want to say instantly, but within 15 minutes at the latest.

Something Star Citizen players may find interesting is the ability for player groups in EVE to insure ships.
Ships can also be insured by corporations, rather than individuals, allowing the members of the corporation to utilize the ship, whilst still covering the potential losses upon its destruction.

This works in the same way as insurance does for individuals, with some minor exceptions, which are as follows:
  • The desired ship to insure must be in a corporation hangar
  • The corporation will pay for the insurance, as well as receiving the insurance payout, if the ship is destroyed.
  • If the ship is boarded by any character not part of the corporation, the ship is insured by, the contract becomes void.
While the insurance system in EVE does not cover cargoes, the courier contract system does provide some protection against loss if a player hires another to transport their goods.
Courier contracts are created to formalize the moving of items between locations by other players. The items selected during contract creation will be packaged into a "Plastic Wrap" package, which will be given to the contractor to be delivered to the target location. To prevent the contractor from simply keeping the package for his own, a collateral should always be set on a courier contract, which has to be paid by the contractor upon accepting the contract and will be returned to the contractor upon successful delivery. It the contract fails for any reason, the creator of the courier contract will receive the collateral instead.
I imagine any Star Citizen player who reaches this point in the article is asking, "What about cash shop purchases? You don't just lose items purchased using real world cash, right?" The answer is yes, players can and do lose items purchased with real life cash. CCP makes losing some items, like PLEX, ship SKINs, and clothing difficult, but a determined player can lose them all the same. And as for ships and modules purchased with ISK purchased with real world money through the PLEX mechanics, EVE has an old saying: Don't fly what you can't afford to lose. If you can't afford to lose $25 worth of ISK, don't buy the PLEX from the cash shop.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I am not an internet spaceship insurance agent. All I know about insurance in Star Citizen I gained from watching YouTube videos and reading support articles. And while I have personally received payments from Pend Insurance in EVE, I only went into the developer created insurance system in this article. The player-run ship replacement programs run by corporations and alliances to reimburse players for losses incurred in official operations would require a separate post. But I figure a look at insurance in the two games would help point out just how different the two games really are.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Checking A Box: The EVE Director's Letter

On Friday CCP released a Director's Letter to let players know what the developers plan to introduce into EVE Online in 2024. On my first read-through, the letter felt like CCP Burger and CCP Rattati were just checking off a box. All the directors of big time games like Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft come out with periodic communications, so EVE's directors need to also. Although, if I'm honest, comparing the EVE Online Director's Letter to one of Yoshi-P's Producer Live Letter's would embarrass Friday's post. So instead, I'll just look at CCP's Director's Letter.

First off, the initial image offers nothing new. The closest is confirmation that the monthly EVE: Vanguard testing will continue throughout the year. Oh, and confirmed Vanguard will not launch in 2024. I guess confirmation that the two expansions per year business model will continue is nice, but at this point assumed. The highlighting of the two seasonal events once again confirms the lack of them throughout the rest of the year. Also, for the tournament crowd, confirmation that CCP will hold an alliance tournament in the third quarter will come as a relief.

Reading through the letter, we can assume the focus will shift to null sec after 18 months of attention lavished on low sec. The statement in the "Future of Warfare" section left little doubt.

In the lead-up to the summer expansion, a new era will begin to unfold in New Eden, details of which will start to be revealed in-game shortly. What we can say is exciting new technology and resources will give players the opportunity to build and customize their space in nullsec, creating new conflict drivers and objectives. Bold and lucrative opportunities will arise for established corporations and alliances, but also for small opportunists that can attack vulnerable areas to gain resources. One thing is certain, the value of owning and defending space is set to rise.  

The letter did give a peak at customization options CCP plans to introduce in the summer expansion.

We are taking SKINR to dizzying new heights with ship customization through the design of custom SKINs, with an array of patterns, designs, and a broad spectrum of colors. The creative options are vast, and capsuleers will be able to design and manufacture SKINs, to personalize their own ships and entire fleets, or sell them to generate new income streams, further adding to individuality, identity, and agency in New Eden.  

I guess this development is the equivalent of Final Fantasy XIV introducing two color dye patterns to equipment in the Endwalker expansion. The big difference between the two games is I never heard an EVE player unironically state that SKINs are the end game of EVE Online. Perhaps a null sec player can let me know if that has changed.

The next section left me scratching my head. For years and years those running corporations and alliances asked for help in the form of UI and role improvements in the corporation user interface. The argument was that corp and alliance leadership shouldn't have to go to outside applications to run player organizations in EVE. The largest, most successful organizations had to have their own IT departments to compete.

The developers made great strides in improving corporation management in the Viridian expansion. Well, at least I feel they did in managing my little personal corp. Those belonging to the massive alliances with years of built-up infrastructure may feel differently. 

But is CCP going to jump the shark and make the corporation management improvements more than aids to make the lives of directors easier?

In 2024 we will expand the scope and impact of Corporation Projects with exciting improvements such as enabling corporations to create freelance tasks for non-members, which will become an essential avenue for recruitment, and a great way for capsuleers to build their confidence or simply earn some ISK. There will also be new methods to contribute to Corporation Projects, and the project conditions will be expanded to allow different methods of task completion.  

Our long-term goal is to make Corporation Projects a cornerstone of corporate life, offering more diverse tasks, customizable goals, and a deeper connection to current events and the economy of New Eden.

Finally we get to the odd subject, putting first person shooter play into EVE Online. The devs are not rushing the development of the module, EVE: Vanguard.

Looking ahead to June, our Founders will get hands-on with a new map, a weapon modification feature will be introduced, and fittings will be persistent across sessions. Add to this the evolution of our mining prototype coming initially earlier in March, and all fans of FPS experiences within the EVE Universe will want to keep their eyes out for Vanguard updates coming in spring, summer, and beyond. 

But why put an FPS into EVE after 20 years? If I were a complete cynic who has followed Pearl Abyss' finances for the last 5 years, I'd point out the disappointingly slow development of Crimson Desert and the need to help out our overlords in Anyang. But instead I feel idealistic and will point out the goal of CCP Games' CEO Hilmar Veigar PĂ©tursson to produce "the ultimate science fiction experience". Another company is also claiming the mantle of best science fiction world simulator: Cloud Imperium Games. 

While the two games, EVE and Star Citizen, operate at very different scales, Hilmar wants the title himself. Knowing Icelandic pride, I can't imagine CCP's leader wants to give up the title to a failed Hollywood producer who hasn't successfully published a video game since before the founding of Crowd Control Production in 1997. If Star Citizen has avatar and FPS play, rest assured so will EVE before Star Citizen launches.

As I re-read the director's letter for a third and fourth time looking for meaning, I came up with the words above. I'm not sure how satisfying people will find my take. But I really hope CCP puts out a lot more detail because I wasn't impressed with their first effort of the year.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Down The Rabbit Hole: Learning About The Future Of Final Fantasy XI

One of the strengths of Final Fantasy XIV's Endwalker expansion is the developers ability to include bits and pieces of previous expansions and tie them together to conclude the Hydaelyn and Zodiark story arc. But what about the new story arc beginning with the Dawntrail expansion? 

The alliance raid for the new expansion will be named Echoes of Vana'diel. Patch 6.55 just released so players are accustomed to seeing new content leading the player into the next expansion. But in the case of the alliance raid, the content was already created and released back in November and December of 2015. Periodically released, The Maiden's Rhapsody is returning to FFXIV on Monday, 22 January. 

The Maiden's Rhapsody is a crossover event with Final Fantasy XI, the other MMORPG in the long running Final Fantasy universe. According to the event description at the time, 

The final chapter of Rhapsodies of Vana'diel, the ultimate scenario of FINAL FANTASY XI, will soon release and bring the game's story to an end. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we're holding a special collaboration event. Participate and discover what strange twist of fate brought a hero of Vana'diel to Eorzea!

Of course, I had to dig a little further. What I found was a bit sad. The Rhapsodies of Vana'dield was the last hurrah for Final Fantasy XI before the game was to be put into maintenance mode. I found the announcement and figure I'd post it in full:

Rhapsodies of Vana'diel: FINAL FANTASY XI's Ultimate Scenario Content

The first chapter in FINAL FANTASY XI's final main scenario, Rhapsodies of Vana'diel, will be implemented in the May 2015 version update.

This scenario will serve to tie together fourteen years of FINAL FANTASY XI, and we aim for it serve as the ultimate compilation of all we have accomplished to date, with major characters from throughout the game's history making appearances--a feat that only a game as storied as FINAL FANTASY XI can offer.

The scenario will consist of three separate chapters, debuting in the May, August, and November version updates, respectively.

Coming along with the scenario are exciting new battle content, never-before-seen rewards, and a variety of other additions to engage players of all different stripes.

We plan for this to be a grand conclusion to the FINAL FANTASY series' first MMORPG--and indeed, the first console MMORPG--in a way that will be recorded in the annals of the genre's history.

FINAL FANTASY XI's major version updates will conclude with the implementation of the final chapter of Rhapsodies of Vana'diel, but there will continue to be minor version updates that address bugs and contain various balance adjustments.

Further, PlayStation®2 and Xbox 360® service will cease in March 2016. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to those who have enjoyed FINAL FANTASY XI on these platforms and to those who have assisted us in bringing Vana'diel to you.

Going forward, the team will renew its focus on providing an enjoyable FINAL FANTASY XI experience on the Windows platform.

We have also decided to hold a new event known as The Goddess's Gala as a show of appreciation for those who have loved Vana'diel throughout the years.

The Goddess's Gala is a series of various campaigns that have been held previously to great acclaim and can be enjoyed by both regular players and returnees alike.

These campaigns are not limited to in-game events, as we are also considering a welcome back campaign as well as a variety of anniversary events. We will work our utmost to bring everyone who has ever enjoyed Vana'diel an event to remember and hope that players both new and old will take this chance to visit our humble land and her people once more.

The staff is working tirelessly day and night to make Rhapsodies of Vana'diel the most spectacular event for FINAL FANTASY XI, but we also recognize that adjustments to currently existing content are equally as critical. Please continue submitting your feedback and making your voices heard on the official forums.

The development and operations teams alone could not have brought Vana'diel this far; it is because of all of you that adventures in Vana'diel have come to life. The world that you have created together with us is what FINAL FANTASY XI truly is, and nothing can ever change that.

We earnestly look forward to continue working with you in the future.

But a funny thing happened upon the conclusion of the Rhapsodies of Vana'diel. The minor version updates turned out more substantive than many games regularly released content. In May 2023, Akihiko Matsui stepped down as Producer of Final Fantasy XI after 10 years in favor of Yoji Fujito. The new producer had this to say about the future of FFXI.

First, I'd like to talk about our Development team. Most of our current Development team has served exclusively on FINAL FANTASY XI for many years. Remaining on the FFXI team full-time, however, would mean giving up certain opportunities in their careers as developers. For developers, working with new technologies and seeing the fruits of their labor take form in new products can be a huge source of motivation and an opportunity to grow. So rather than limit our developers to working exclusively with FFXI and its decades-old technology, I believe it would be better to allow them to gain experience in other development environments and bring back their learnings to FFXI. As such, I have elected to further downscale the scope of our Development team to provide more leeway for our operations to continue. The scope of our version updates will become quite compact as a result, but in exchange, we will focus on stabilizing our operations environment for the medium and long term...

Additionally, we are working on replacing the backend hardware which supports FINAL FANTASY XI's ongoing operations. This may cause maintenance to take longer than usual for some version updates, and I'd like to ask for your understanding as this is necessary to ensure the long-term stability of operations.

We're also looking into holding live events in the real world and releasing new merchandise. The pandemic made it difficult to even entertain such notions these past few years, but we will be proactively monitoring current events for the right timing to make those ideas a reality.

When watching the UK Fanfest in October, I received the impression FFXI was on its final legs and Yoshi-P was introducing the Echoes of Vana'dield as a final homage to the game first introduced to the world in May of 2002. Perhaps the above is true. But in my experience, companies don't invest in new computer hardware if the system is going to die in a year or two. So while the references to the original Final Fantasy MMORPG may end in FFXIV, the game may see 25 years in service, if not 30, before shutting down.

Oh, and for Final Fantasy XIV players, maybe consider playing The Maiden's Rhapsody. After all, Yoshi-P is including FFXI in Dawntrail. Might as well get the full experience.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

EVE: Havoc Patch Notes: Insurgencies Intensify

Another Tuesday, another patch drop in EVE Online. While World of Warcraft players are receiving the Seed of Renewal patch 10.2.5 and Final Fantasy XIV players just received Growing Light patch 6.55 and new servers in Japan, EVE Online players now have additional updates to the pirate insurgency system.

In today's patch notes, CCP added an Ambition Modifier to pirate insurgencies. In a dev blog, the system was described as follows:

Among the things announced on stage at Fanfest 2023, when the Havoc expansion was revealed, was the inclusion of an Ambition Modifier, which adjusts the number of points needed to win an Insurgency. The Ambition Modifier has now been implemented in Havoc, and it will affect the side that regularly wins Insurgencies by requiring more system wins for subsequent victories. In effect, this means that the more victorious one side is, the more it will take to keep the winning streak going. This will make the struggle between suppression and corruption more balanced, the fight more gripping, and the achievement of victory all the sweeter.

The patch notes went into further detail.

  • The Ambition Modifier will change how many corruption 5 or suppression 5 solar systems a side requires for victory in an insurgency campaign.

  • Whenever an Insurgency campaign is won by the pirates, or the anti-pirates, that side will increase their ambition modifier by +1 if they currently have equal or more ambition than the other side.
  • If an Insurgency campaign is won by the side with less ambition, it will reduce the ambition modifier of the other side by -1.

  • The Ambition Modifier can go as high as +13, requiring a side to fully corrupt or suppress 20 solar systems for victory or to make the FOB vulnerable.

  • Information about the Ambition Modifier can be found ingame in the pirate insurgency guide page in the agency.

  • Added a new insurgency filter to the starmap and the classic starmap.

  • New Graphics, Audio and VFX have been added to Insurgency solar systems and the pirate FOB to reflect the corruption and suppression state, campaign state and the Ambition Modifier.

    • As corruption goes up, stargates and stations will start to feature pirate billboards, electrical faults, fires, smoke, and clouds.
    • As suppression goes up, stargates and stations will start to feature police drones and “bobs”.
    • The Pirate FOB will feature additional VFX as the ambition modifier increases.
    • The Pirate FOB will also feature new VFX on the ‘undocking ports’ of the FOB as the pirates win solar systems.

The dev blog also offered a description of the map and graphics changes listed above.

Capsuleers now have improved oversight when it comes to the status of systems, as a filter can be applied to the new and classic star maps to view corruption and suppression in Insurgency systems. Additionally, the pirate FOB in the main Insurgency system now visually displays the level of corruption or suppression, as well as the current Ambition Modifier level, making it a lot easier to see the system’s status at a glance. Also, stargates and selected stations in corrupted systems now fly pirate banners, giving a better feel for pirate-affected space by setting the tone immediately upon entry. All of this combines to bring added quality of life to pilots involved in the struggle between pirates and militias, help capsuleers strategize more effectively, and add to the immersion in affected systems.

As a personal note, I appreciate CCP's years-long effort to making information available to players looking at elements in the game and not having to use a right-click menu.

The developers also introduced some behavior changes in the AI controlling the NPC defending some Deathless systems.

Since the introduction of Havoc, countless capsuleers have seized the opportunity to align with the Angel Cartel or the Guristas to bring corruption to various systems around New Eden. Impressed with the performance of capsuleer insurgents, Esri Hakuzosu of the Guristas Pirates has issued new orders to roaming patrols in the system of H-PA29 - they will now no longer fire upon those capsuleers enlisted with the Commado Guri. Rafik Zohar has relayed similar orders to Angel Cartel forces in G-0Q86 and Turnur, such that roaming patrols will not attack those who have pledged their support to the Malakim Zealots.

The patch notes might show a wrinkle not explicitly listed in the dev blog.

  • The Angel Cartel and the Guristas Pirates have increased patrols in the Zarzakh solar system.

    • These new NPCs will attack militia players, but will otherwise be neutral to capsuleers who choose to keep the peace in Zarzakh. They will engage anyone who has a deathless retribution timer.

  • The Angel Cartel and Guristas Pirates have also deployed new patrols in the surrounding solar systems of Turnur, G-0Q86 and H-PA29. These NPCs will be friendly to capsuleers who have chosen to enlist with them but will attack anyone else on sight.

In effect, the devs have set up a police force for the Deathless not as powerful as CONCORD is in empire space. On a personal note, I can't wait to hear the stories of players fighting off the Deathless' forces.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Time Is Money, Friend: EVE Online's Skill Training Boost Bundles

While writing last Thursday's article about the starter pack sale, I ran into something unusual. I saw what I believe are new packages for acquiring skill points that don't involve buying a starter pack. Now players can just buy skill points without all the extra stuff like game time, PLEX, and SKINs. For today's article I thought I would look at the packages and see what type of offers CCP put in the cash shop.

I have long wanted CCP to sell Cerebral Accelerators instead of straight up skill points in the cash shop. Generating the skill points at an advanced rate just felt more in keeping with the EVE universe. But I should explain how the cerebral accelerators work.

Basically, the cerebral accelerator adds a certain number of points across the board to all learning attributes for a set amount of time. Players can extend the time the training occurs by learning the Biology skill. Each level of Biology extends the time of the cerebral accelerator by 20%, meaning the enhanced training time doubles by training Biology to level 5. I would advise doing the training before using a cerebral accelerator, because the length of time the accelerator lasts is determined when first used.

The Biology skill causes something of a dilemma for the consumer. How many skill points are people buying? Looking at the skill point generation formula helps. Skill points are generated per minute with the following formula:

SP per minute = Primary attribute + 0.5 x Secondary attribute

Each skill has a primary attribute and a secondary attribute. For example, the primary attribute for Biology is Intelligence and the secondary attribute is Memory. With a skill training time multiplier of 1, training to Biology V requires 256,000 skill points.

If you want to know how many skill points are generated in a day by an accelerator, the formula is:

SP per day = 1440 x 1.5 x attribute bonus

or simplified to

SP per day = 2160 x attribute bonus

So a Standard 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator, with provides an attribute bonus of +4, grants an extra 8640 skill points per day.

The next step is to determine how many points each of the accelerators provides to determine how many skill points each package offers. They are:

  • Standard 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator - base: 34,560 SP, with Biology V: 69,120 SP
  • Advanced 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator - base: 77,760 SP, with Biology V: 155,520 SP
  • Specialist 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator - base: 138,240 SP, with Biology V: 276,480 SP
  • Expert 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator - base: 216,000 SP, with Biology V: 432,000 SP
  • Genius 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator - base: 311,040 SP, with Biology V: 622,080 SP

Now, someone looking at the offers for the first time might think to themselves, "Why are the best accelerators in the cheapest bundles?" Because CCP is really pricing the skill point bundles based on the skill points offered up front.

Below is a description of each bundle, the price, and how many skill points they offer:

Apprentice Bundle: $9.99
50,000 SP + Genius 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator (+12 to all attributes. lasts for 12 days or 24 days with the Biology 5 skill)
Total number of skill points: 361,040 skill points or 672,080 with Biology V trained.

Novice Bundle: $18.99
350,000 SP + Expert 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator (+10 to all attributes, lasts for 10 days or 20 days with the Biology 5 skill)
Total number of skill points: 566,000 skill points or 782,000 with Biology V trained.

Graduate Bundle: $22.99
700,000 SP + Specialist 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator (+8 to all attributes, lasts for 8 days or 16 days with the Biology 5 skill)
Total number of skill points: 838,240 skill points or 976,480 with Biology V trained.

Prodigy Bundle: $28.99
1,050,000 SP + Advanced 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator (+ 6 to all attributes, lasts for 6 days or 12 days with the Biology 5 skill)
Total number of skill points: 1,127,760 skill points or 1,205,520 with Biology V trained.

Master Bundle: $42.99
1,750,000 SP + Standard 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator (+4 to all attributes, lasts for 4 days or 8 days with the Biology 5 skill)
Total number of skill points: 1,784,560 skill points or 1,819,120 with Biology V trained.

I should add that a character who has remapped the learning skills and is using +4 learning implants can train 1,857,600 skill points in 30 days.

Finally, how many skill points do players receive per dollar in each package? I'll provide figures based on both the base amount and with Biology trained to 5.
  • Apprentice Bundle - Base amount 36,140 SP/dollar, with Biology V trained: 67,275 SP/dollar
  • Novice Bundle - Base amount 29,805 SP/dollar, with Biology V trained: 41,180 SP/dollar
  • Graduate Bundle - Base amount 36,461 SP/dollar, with Biology V trained: 42,474 SP/dollar
  • Prodigy Bundle - Base amount 38,902 SP/dollar, with Biology V trained: 40,184 SP/dollar
  • Master Bundle - Base amount 41,511 SP/dollar, with Biology V trained: 42,315 SP/dollar
The Apprentice Bundle offers the best skill point-to-dollar value. However, with the Master Bundle, someone could get the same amount of skill points in 4 days that a player only using the Apprentice Bundle would receive in 65.

The way the skill point bundles are designed, CCP is aiming toward those who want their skill points and want them now. If someone is visiting the cash shop to buy skill points, that is already the mentality of the customer. CCP is just taking advantage of the player's desires to get those skill points. For CCP, time is indeed money.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Cloud Imperium Games Faces £150 Fine For Failure To File 2022 Accounts

Look, I get it. Cloud Imperium Games is special. Through the end of 2023, the company had brought in over a confirmed $800 million through its founding in April 2012 when outside investments are included. The gameplay itself will revolutionize the industry. Chris Roberts is a genius. But CIG still needs to file their financial paperwork on time.

As seen at 16:45 UTC on 12 January 2024

The above is the picture which greeted me today when I checked Companies House for information I need for another article. Cloud Imperium UK LTD is the company under which both the Manchester and Frankfurt studios operate. As such, the financial report from Companies House has extra information not available in the annual report CIG posts to its website.

Up until now, I could not assume CIG had not turned in its 2022 financial report by the deadline of 31 January 2023. A year ago CIG appears to have submitted its 2021 financial report on the final weekend of 2022. Because of the holiday, the report was not stamped and processed until Tuesday, 3 January 2023.

The received stamp is in 2023 due to the weekend

Also, one cannot simply assume because the document was not posted that CIG had not submitted the document. For example, the 2022 financial report was tagged as received on 3 January, but was not posted to the Companies House website until 10 January 2023.

Penalties for a private limited company

Given the scale of operations, the late fee is change found between the couch's cushions for CIG. The company is only looking at a fine of £150 if it turns in the accounts by the end of the month.

Still, what is going on at CIG? I noted the lateness of the posting of the annual financial report at the end of 2023. The year 2022, just from the revenues, was a wildly successful year. Or, at least, from the outside looking in it was.

Honestly, I expected to have moved on from 2022 where Cloud Imperium Games was concerned by this time. I have questions about just how bad 2023 was for the company financially and how well CIG needs to perform in 2024 to keep Chris Roberts' dream alive. In order to analyze the future, I need to look back at the past. I suppose given Roberts' history, filing financial returns late isn't surprising. And yet I was surprised. Go figure.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Looking At The EVE Online Starter Pack Sale

Yesterday CCP announced a week-long sale on various "starter" packages. I put the word starter in quotes because in my view three of the four packages are also useful for veterans. I have looked at a lot of video game sales lately and some, to be honest, are ridiculous. So I decided when I received an email promoting the sale to look at the sale and try to judge whether the sale is good or bad. Or maybe bad and not so bad are better terms, depending on where the reader falls on the selling of skill points debate.

First, I'd like to copy down the advertising language.

The time to act is now! For a very limited time, new and veteran pilots alike have the opportunity to get their hands on the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Starter Packs for up to 50% off.

  • Bronze Starter pack – 50% off
  • Silver Starter pack - 50% off
  • Gold Starter pack - 40% off
  • Platinum Starter Pack - 40% off

Each pack can only be purchased once per account.

While the current sale runs from 10-16 January, I expect to see the same sale offered at least once per fiscal quarter. So think of this article as an evergreen review until CCP's marketing department changes up the offers. But I expect the basic contents of the packs to remain basically the same.

All 4 metal starter packs on sale

Before evaluating each of the packs, I want to elaborate up front what I look for in a sale. Quite frankly, I mainly look at one thing: play time. How much does play time do I get with each package, and what does it cost? Any package where the game time for the package is between $10-$11 per month is something I can seriously think about buying. If I get a lot of extra perks in addition to the game time, I'm more likely to pull out my credit card.

I also want to make a point to those who don't like CCP selling skill points directly to players. CCP crossed the bridge of selling skill points years before with the introduction of the skill extractor/skill injector system. To my mind, CCP has sold skill points, through ways convoluted and simple, since 2016. Those who want to read my views at the time on the selling of skill points directly from the cash shop can follow this link.

With those explanations out of the way, on to the analysis.

Bronze Starter Pack: $4.99 (regular price of $9.99)

The true starter pack


14 days game time: Normally a $9.33 value when converting the value from the basic price of a full month's game time. The sale price comes in at or below the target price of $10-$11 per month.

Standard 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator: A temporary implant that adds +4 to all learning attributes and lasts 4 days. If the character has the Biology skill trained to level 5, the length of the accelerator extends to 8 days. Yes, skills can affect cash shop purchases.

100,000 skill points: A nice little amount of skill points to start with.

Five SKINs (decorations for ships)

  • Heron Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Imicus Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Probe Issue Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Magnate Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Venture Lodestrike SKIN

The first four ships listed above are basic tech 1 exploration frigates with the last ship the tech 1 dedicated mining frigate. At least, I'm assuming so. The ad copy for the "Probe Issue" needs fixing, as no such ship as a "Probe Issue" exists. The Probe is the Minmatar racial tech 1 exploration frigate while the Probe Fleet Issue is the Minmatar navy faction version. I'm assuming the sale includes the basic Probe and not the much more expensive Probe Fleet Issue.

My take: In the past CCP has put out some starter packs that were little more than efforts to steal the money of new players. I can thankfully say that at the 50% off price of $4.99, the Bronze Starter Pack is good value if a player has finished at least the tutorial (and preferably the career agents) and wants to try the paid version of EVE for a couple of weeks. Usually by the end of the two weeks a player knows if the game is one they'll want to keep playing for months into the future.

Silver Starter Pack: $9.99 (regular price of $19.99)

Value for those who just want to take a peek


30 days game time: Normally a $19.99 value. The sale price comes in at or below the target price of $10-$11 per month.

Advanced 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator: A temporary implant that adds +6 to all learning attributes and lasts 6 days. If the character has the Biology skill trained to level 5, the length of the accelerator extends to 12 days. Did I mention that unlike other implants, accelerators do not expire upon clone death?

250,000 skill points: A useful amount, especially for new players.

Nine SKINs (decorations for ships)

  • Heron Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Imicus Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Probe Issue Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Magnate Semiotique Superluminal SKIN
  • Catalyst Semiotique SKIN
  • Cormorant Semiotique SKIN
  • Coercer Semiotique SKIN
  • Thrasher Semiotique SKIN
  • Covetor Morphite SKIN
The first four SKINs are the same from the Bronze package, meaning veterans do not have to purchase that package if they are collecting the SKINs. The next four belong to the oldest tech 1 destroyers for each NPC empire. Finally, the Covetor is the tech 1 mining barge with the most mining output.

My take: If someone is just looking for a cheap month of Omega game time, say to check out the changes CCP has made to EVE over the past year, then the Silver Starter Pack at the sale price is a good choice. Only paying $9.99 for a month of game time plus the extra skill points to try out changes faster is a good bargain.

Gold Starter Pack: $29.99 (regular price of $49.99)

A solid choice for a returning player


60 days game time: Normally a $31.99 value if prorated at the 90 day Omega time package rate. The sale price comes in at $16/month, which is above the target rate of $10-$11 per month.

500 PLEX: Normally sold for $24.99. Good for 1 month of game time or approximately 2.4 billion ISK at the average price of PLEX in The Forge the day the sale began. Also good for items in the New Eden Store, which uses PLEX as its currency.

Specialist 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator: A temporary implant that adds +8 to all learning attributes and lasts 8 days. If the character has the Biology skill trained to level 5, the length of the accelerator extends to 16 days. Unlike other implants, accelerators do not expire upon clone death.

500,000 skill points: The amount of skill points in a skill injector, with the added bonus of no skill point loss depending on how many skill points the clone already possesses.

Hephaestus & Eternity Apparel: A set of clothing for one male clone and one female clone. Not really useful in the game's current state. If walking in stations becomes possible with the launch of EVE: Vanguard, the value goes way up.

Nine SKINs (decorations for ships)

  • Omen Semiotique SKIN
  • Caracal Semiotique SKIN
  • Thorax Semiotique SKIN
  • Rupture Semiotique SKIN
  • Stabber Fleet Issue Snowline Bladeracer SKIN
  • Augoror Navy Issue Sarum SKIN
  • Vexor Navy Issue Glittering Dream SKIN
  • Caracal Navy Issue Ghostbird SKIN
  • Prospect Rockbreaker Pioneers SKIN

The first four SKINs are paint schemes for the four classic tech 1 NPC empire cruisers. The next four are for the faction navy versions of cruisers. The last SKIN is for the Prospect expedition frigate which is specialized for mining.

My take: If one uses the 500 PLEX in this package to pay for game time, then the buyer picks up 3 months of game time at or below the $10-$11 per month target price for these game packages. I am hesitant at recommending this package because while the skill point gain and SKINs are a nice value, I'm a bit wary of using the PLEX for other purposes. Plus, the avatar clothing is kind of a gamble on whether CCP eventually ports spaceship characters into Unreal 5 along with the Vanguard characters. Still, while I personally would hesitate at the $29.99 price tag, buying this package makes sense during a 40% off sale. I certainly wouldn't pay full price.

Platinum Starter Pack: $59.99 (regular price of $99.99)

You could start a skill point farm with this


90 days game time: Normally a $47.98 value if purchased separately. The sale price comes in at $20/month, which is above the target rate of $10-$11 per month.

1500 PLEX: Normally sold for $64.99. Good for 3 months of game time or approximately 7.2 billion ISK at the average price of PLEX in The Forge the day the sale began. Also good for items in the New Eden Store, which uses PLEX as its currency.

2 Multiple Character Training Certificates: Normally a $24.98 value, Multiple Character Training (MCT) Certificates allow training of a second (or even third) character on an account for 30 days.

Expert Cerebral Accelerator: I really, really hope this is another editing mistake and the marketing team meant the Expert 'Boost' Cerebral Accelerator. The boost version is a temporary implant that adds +10 to all learning attributes and lasts 10 days. If the character has the Biology skill trained to level 5, the length of the accelerator extends to 20 days. Unlike other implants, accelerators do not expire upon clone death.

I do have to call this out because I have a personal bad experience using Expert Cerebral Accelerators. In addition to only granting a +8 boost to all learning attributes, the Expert Cerebral Accelerator is only usable on accounts newer than 35 days. Maybe we no longer have to worry about the older version, but a lot of EVE players, myself included, have long memories.

650,000 skill points: The amount of skill points earnable in the latest seasonable event, Winter Nexus.

Radioactives Reclamation Apparel: Two sets of clothing, one for a male clone and another for a female clone. Not really useful in the game's current state. If walking in stations becomes possible with the launch of EVE: Vanguard, the value goes way up.

Five SKINs (decorations for ships)

  • Prophecy Navy Issue Crown and Swords SKIN
  • Myrmidon Navy Issue Inner Zone Vanguard SKIN
  • Ferox Navy Issue Steel Cardinal SKIN
  • Cyclone Fleet Issue Snowline Bladeracer SKIN
  • Hulk Radioactives Reclamation SKIN

The first four SKINs are paint schemes for the four factional navy battlecruisers. The last SKIN is for the Hulk exhumer, the pinnacle sub-capital mining ship in EVE Online

My take: If one uses the 1500 PLEX in this package to pay for game time, then the buyer picks up 6 months of game time at or below the $10-$11 per month target price for these game packages. 

I really hate this package because of the FOMO (fear of mission out) feeling I get. I would not buy this package at $99.99. At $59.99? It's almost too good to pass up. 

I would recommend that new players stay away from this package, despite the valuation. By new players, I mean those who have played less than a year. If the desire to purchase a package is too strong, purchase the Silver or Gold Starter Packs. The only exception would be those players looking at the Platinum Starter Pack as a pure purchase of Omega game time and will spend the PLEX on game time.

Final Thoughts

I have not really taken a close look at an EVE Online sale like the one running this week. I've written articles in the past, but those were a lot more superficial than I'd like. One of the ideas I had running through my head coming into 2024 was to take a closer look at the cash shops in various games.

Running through the four starter packs, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, I was reminded once again of how expensive the EVE Online cash shop truly is. I've wondered why, with the increased player counts over the last 14 months, why CCP is not doing better financially.

I think I know the reason why. Players have come to the conclusion with which I am about to conclude this post. Only buy from the EVE Online cash shop if something is on sale. Only suckers buy full price.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Uncertainty Over Video Game Laws In China

Has anyone heard of the geopolitical expert Peter Zeihan? Besides showing up everywhere following his prediction about the Russian invasion of Ukraine coming true, he maintains that President Xi in the People's Republic of China has set up a cult of personality in which decision making, to use my term, has turned flaky. The bureaucrats don't really know what President Xi wants and, worse yet, are afraid to ask. Apparently the flaky decisions include those involving video games.

On 22 December 2023, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) National Press and Publication Administration announced regulations to curb spending in and playing video games. Reuters had more:

The new rules revealed on Friday are the most explicit yet aimed at curbing in-game spending. Besides banning reward features, games are also required to set limits on how much players can top up their digital wallets for in-game spending.

"The removal of these incentives is likely to reduce daily active users and in-app revenue, and could eventually force publishers to fundamentally overhaul their game design and monetisation strategies," said Ivan Su, an analyst at Morningstar.

Games are also banned from offering probability-based lucky draw features to minors, and from enabling the speculation and auction of virtual gaming items.

But the new rules included a proposal that is widely expected to be welcomed by the industry, requiring regulators to process game approvals within 60 days.

Meanwhile, Chinese regulators announced on the same day licences for 40 new imported games for domestic releases, seen as a signal of Beijing's willingness to allow more games in the country, despite the draft rules on game spending.

The new rules also reflect Beijing's concerns over user data, requiring game publishers to store their servers within China.

Investors did not take kindly to the news, with shares of Tencent falling as much as 16% and NetEase falling as much as 25% throughout the day. In Europe, investment firm Prosus, which owns 26% of Tencent, fell 14.2% in early trading. One investor interviewed by Reuters summed up the situation from the perspective of the money people.

"It's not necessarily the regulation itself - it's the policy risk that's too high," said Steven Leung, executive director of institutional sales at broker UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong. "People had thought this kind of risk should have been over and had started to look at fundamentals again. It hurts confidence a lot."

The crackdown on video games at one point made sense, in a Chinese way, as the concern was on making sure young men were fit to serve in the military. And China's crackdown on video games, beginning in 2021, led to an actual decline in the video game market in China in 2022.

But that was 2-3 years ago. The World Bank is forecasting the worst economic growth in the People's Republic in over 30 years.

China also is weighing on the global outlook as its growth slows to a forecast 4.5% in 2024. That marks its slowest expansion in over three decades outside of the pandemic-affected years of 2020 and 2022.

The forecast was cut 0.1 percentage point from June, reflecting weaker consumer spending amid continued property sector turmoil, with 2025 growth seen slowing further to 4.3%.

"More generally though, weaker growth in China reflects the economy returning to a path of weakening potential growth due to an aging and shrinking population, rising indebtedness that constrains investment and in a sense, narrowing opportunities for productivity to catch up," [World Bank Deputy Chief Economist Ayhan] Kose told reporters.

In the People's Republic, economic growth is economic growth. More growth is good for the stability of President Xi's government. So possibly as no surprise, the government reigned in the National Press and Publication Administration. According to Reuters, five days later the agency "struck a more conciliatory tone, saying it would improve them by 'earnestly studying' public views." In the same report published on 2 January, Reuters broke the news that at least one head was figuratively rolling in Beijing over the move.

Feng Shixin was removed last week from his position as head of the publishing unit of the Communist Party's Publicity Department, the sources said. The department oversees the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) which in turn regulates China's vast video games sector.

On 7 January, The Financial Times published a report with official confirmation of Shixin's ouster.

Feng Shixin was a senior figure who had been seen at events discussing video game approvals and real-name verification requirements for gamers. He was removed from his position for not consulting top economic supervisors or incorporating the opinions of key gaming companies before releasing the draft, said two people close to the regulator. The propaganda department did not respond to a request for comment.

“Although the rising regulatory power was widely anticipated in the gaming industry, this proposal was still shocking because there was insufficient prior communication and the terms were extremely stringent,” said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. Reuters first reported Feng’s firing.

“We were told before that most of the regulation would be focused on minors. However, many of the strict measures in the final draft turned out to control all users, making us really nervous,” said an executive from a gaming start-up who did not wish to be named.

So in President Xi's China, the bureaucrats are fighting each other trying to keep their leader happy. I won't go into the pros and cons of the relative positions on consumers in the video game market to the proposed rules not passing into law. I'll just point out that despite the news, the price of Tencent stock is still down 10.4% and NetEase stock is down 14.6% since the news of the proposed regulations first hit the news.

Stock prices thru the close of business 9 Jan 24

Monday, January 8, 2024

Quick Thoughts On The Keynote At Japan Fanfest 2024

Over the weekend Square Enix held the third and final of its series of  global Fanfests in the Tokoyo Dome. I watched the keynote address and some reactions to the presentation. While Yoshi-P will flesh all the points out in future producer live letters (PLLs), I had a few initial thoughts that may or may not pan out.

Jockeying for position with Microsoft/Blizzard: Near the beginning of the presentation Final Fantasy XIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida announced that unlike at previous Japan fanfests, he would not announce a release date for the next expansion at this time. The stated reason was that after missing the initial Endwalker launch date, he didn't want to miss another. 

But I have to believe another factor is trying not to let the fine folks in charge of World of Warcraft interfere with the launch of Dawntrail. Blizzard already announced the launch of both The War Within and Cataclysm Classic in the summer of 2024. Trying to get a clean launch window is something video game makers strive to capture. WoW has a reputation of attempting to crash the competition's party.

Think I'm buying into conspiracy theories? Possibly. But both FFXIV's patch 6.55 and retail WoW's patch 10.2.5 are launching on 16 January.

Krile has a job: A member of the group formerly known as the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and head of the Students of Baldesion, Krile was first introduced into FFXIV in the Heavensward expansion. After all these years, Krile became the new job announced in the Tokoyo Dome, Pictomancer. Perhaps more importantly, she will now join the Duty Support system. I was a little unclear if that means she is part of the Trust system.

If Krile is added to the Trust system, we have the following cast to choose from:

  • G'raha Tia - Any role
  • Thancred - Gunbreaker (Tank)
  • Alphinaud - Sage (Barrier Healer)
  • Urianger - Astrologan (Pure Healer)
  • Estinien - Dragoon (Melee DPS)
  • Alisaie - Red Mage (Magical Ranged DPS)
  • Krile - Pictomancer (Magical Ranged DPS)
  • Y'shtola - Black Mage (Magical Ranged DPS)

In the past Yoshi-P teased that the MSQ 8 character trials could also fall under the Duty Support/Trust system. With a fourth dedicated DPS member, is a conversion of trials during the 7.x patches possible?

The new limited job: We don't know any details but the name, but Dawntrail will bring another limited job like Blue Mage in the 7.x patches. The name? Beastmaster. Are there any MMORPGs where players don't want such a job or class? I recall Beastmaster as a desired class when I played Everquest 2 almost 15 years ago.

Is Yoshi-P finished with new character races? With the introduction of female Hrothgars, Yoshi-P indicated, yet again, he will add no more playable races to FFXIV. Because new playable races are hard.

In my opinion, the world will see a drop in female Roegadyn and male Hrothgar in favor of female Hrothgars. But Yoshi-P needs someone to remind him he's not done with Hrothgars and Viera yet. What about their hats?

The graphical upgrade is on track: With the next generation of consoles now widely available, the graphics update was a no-brainer. The updates to the character models looked really good. For those playing on PCs, check out the new system requirements.

Return of Bozja-type content: While I'm not a fan, a lot of people loved the Bozja content in Shadowbringers. In Dawntrail the developers are including a Bozja-type zone for people who love grinding in addition to variant dungeons.

Returning to Eden: Every expansion always has an Ultimate trial. For Dawntrail, players will return to the First and revisit Eden. I have the feeling Yoshi-P and the design team plans to ensure each expansion has some sort of tie to Shadowbringers content.

New Lifestyle Content: The Island Sanctuary, at least to me, was a good start to another type of fun, out-of-the-way non-mandatory content. For Dawntrail, instead of staying in one place, players will travel from world to world in a system called Cosmic Exploration.

Once I saw the Lopporits in the artwork, I knew the developers were going for some fan service. I can't wait for the 7.x patches to come out to try out the new system.

Cross-overs: From the release of patch 6.55 next Tuesday until some point this summer, Yoshi-P is going to bury us in cross-overs with other games. For newer players the cross-overs will allow them to catch up to a bit of history. And for older players, we get a cross-over with Final Fantasy XVI.

I'm sure I missed a thing or three people find important, but these were just some quick thoughts I typed out. We will be hearing more details when the next few producer live letters come out. So we still have hours and hours of Yoshi-P talking to players about the new expansion coming this summer.