Gaming News: LOTRO goes F2P, Zynga buys Warstorm Dev, Sony announces Clone Wars Online, DC Online, Buzz about Halflife 3

Good news everyone, I didn’t have to make up any news this week!

LOTRO, Darkfall: Free as in Beer (the first round is on the house)

In case anyone had escaped the internet LOTRO blogging blitz, yes Turbine have announced that their  AAA Lord of the Rings MMO will be offering a wider variety of payment schemes from sometime this Autumn, so probably around November. Which does, yes, include some non-subscription cash shop options.

The big news from my point of view is that this is going to happen for the Euro servers as well as the US ones (unlike DDO). So we may actually retain some players. We still don’t know exactly how the changeover will affect existing players. So expect to hear more about that as the deadline approaches.

In other freemium news, Darkfall has announced a new 14 day free trial. So if you’re curious to test Aventurine’s claims that their MMO is not just a hardcore PvP gankfest with a confusing UI but actually does sport some challenging PvE also, this is your chance.

Zynga pays a high price for Challenge Games

Continuing to buy their way to dominance of Facebook games, Zynga announced a new acquisition this week. Challenge Games have made a name for themselves producing innovative social games like Warstorm (a collectible card type game) and Ponzi (a game that pokes fun at corporate life), with the obligatory cash shop purchases built in.

So it’s clear that Zynga recognise that they’ve been weak at innovation in this area – all of their more popular games right now were based on polishing other existing games. And this is how they plan to plug the gap. Challenge now becomes Zynga’s Austin office.

Sony announces two new MMOs, internet ignores one of them

Sony announced that they are releasing two new MMOs this year:

Care to guess which one got all the attention? Hint: It wasn’t DCU Online. This can’t bode well for the superhero MMO, maybe the popular interest in playing superheroes just isn’t there or is already well catered for with City of Heroes (due an expansion later this year too) and Champions Online. I was actually surprised by how few of the blogs and news outlets I read had much to say about it.

Everyone seems far more taken by the notion of Clone Wars Adventures, myself included. Maybe Sony have some agile PR campaign planned for DCUO later this year to stir up some excitement.

November is looking pretty busy this year for MMO releases, especially if Cataclysm ends up with a November release date too (which is likely). And we still don’t have dates for Final Fantasy 14, which also could potentially release this year, not to mention other smaller games (Jumpgate Evolution, Black Prophecy, TERA, etc.)

Valve cancels the Portal 2 demo at E3… what are they planning?

Lots of gaming journalists this week received a note from Aperture Science to announce the cancellation of the Portal 2 demo at E3. It will be replaced with A Surprise. RPS speculate whether the surprise might be related to a Half-Life 3 announcement.

From working my way through Portal (what a great game!!), I can only say that I regard announcements from Aperture Science with a degree of .. uh … cynicism. My 2c says that it is in fact going to be the Portal 2 demo, but maybe they’ll zap visiting hacks with cake guns or something similarly amusing to the public.

In any case, Valve could teach Sony a thing or three about PR campaigns. Maybe Portal 2 could include a Batman level to hype DCUO or something…

Puzzling PR #2, and a great article on casual/ hardcore gaming

Most puzzling comment made in an interview I saw this week was from Bioware, on the topic of Mass Effect 3. Apparently the third story is where they are going to bring some more fun and lightness into the trilogy, like the ewoks in Star Wars.

But I thought that everyone hated the ewoks and also, what if existing players love the games BECAUSE they aren’t fun and light hearted. Just a thought. Why are devs so scared of the grimdark, I wonder. It obviously does sell.

And because I forgot this from yesterday’s link post, everyone should go and read Greg Costyikan’s great article in The Escapist in which he ponders why publishers and retailers have been trying so hard to drive a wedge between casual and hardcore gamers. After all, don’t lots of people play both, and have been since the very dawn of gaming?

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4 thoughts on “Gaming News: LOTRO goes F2P, Zynga buys Warstorm Dev, Sony announces Clone Wars Online, DC Online, Buzz about Halflife 3

  1. My Dad wrote adverts for many years. He’s now retired but we play a game when we watch adverts together. We try to spot adverts that are aimed at the person approving it not the buying public.

    You see quite a lot of these adverts, elegant silver-haired men looking cool and suave. Then you think about the product and go hang on, why the hell are they trying to appeal to that demographic?

    The reason of course is that the advert was written to appeal to the middle-aged man approving the advert, not the market they want to sell to.

    A classic one is where you actually have the exec himself in the ad. They’re always terrible and off-putting but it’s very easy for a sycophantic ad man to sell it to the client that he’d look great on TV and get the account approved.

    Now the reason I mention this is DCUO.

    To everyone at DC it’s an amazing brand, synonymous with wonderful stories and characters that they all know inside out. Just mentioning the letters DC makes them go warm and fuzzy and think , yeah, who wouldn’t play that?

    To people outside DC it’s a terrible brand. It’s too lacking in distinction. A word like Blizzard is a lot easier to remember than two letters that might mean anything.

    Most crucially people don’t associate DC with what really sells – Batman and Superman. I had heard of DC for months and thought meh until Jon Shute mentioned who their characters are. I’m about as nerdy as can be, I own a lot of comics including DC ones and I didn’t know they had Batman and Superman. What’s more I didn’t even think about it – DC MMO? not interested, Batman MMO? oh that sounds cool.

    The combination of the branding and the release date is going to kill them. And that’s even if they find a way to make playing in the Batman universe without being Batman fun which is a big ask.

  2. Zynga bought Challenge Games/Ponzi, and thus Warstorm? I’m really sorry to hear that. I was actually enjoying the FB version of Warstorm and how it was so different to Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc., and how I didn’t have to be FB Friends with a thousand strangers and spam their Wall multiple times a day.

  3. The phrase “obnoxiously dark middle chapter” was uttered in my household a few times in reference to Mass Effect 2. I’m happy the next game will be a little lighter, personally.

  4. I wonder how many subscription MMOs are left now. I remember Wolfshead commenting that eventually WoW will be the only one.
    I too wonder how many future MMOs will be F2P straight away, even big budget ones.

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