Gaming News: Gamescom News (GW2, Diablo III et al), Skaven for Warhammer Online, Age of Empires goes F2P, Blizzard sues private server, 90% kids in the US play online games

It’s been a week of new trailers and press releases, as opposed to actual news.

One of the more interesting forum snippets that Player vs Developer picked up is that the majority of F2P players in Dungeons and Dragons Online don’t reach the endgame. I’m not surprised by this, given that the free to play model encourages more casual players who’ll tend to be less engaged with a game and probably more likely to drift away if it gets grindy. And also that we know that even in WoW, most casual players don’t get past level 10 in any case. But I also wonder how much of this is the model that allows you to unlock content for all alts at the same time. So once you have bought a few low level instances, you might as well level a few alts through them because … hey, you’ve already paid.

There are also rumours that Realtime Worlds (devs for APB) have found a buyer. Hopefully more news on that shortly.

Bits and Pieces from Gamescom

I thought the Best of Gamescom awards were quite interesting this year in that although Star Wars: the Old Republic was nominated for both best game and best online game, it didn’t win either. Guild Wars 2 won best online game of the convention, though. And that’s via voting from people who were there and tried the demos. I suspect that to be more of a judgement on the demos than anything else, but I really think that the Best of Gamescom category should be made up of games which already won their own categories. And maybe they should make the developers have a steel cage death match fight too.

Also any voting in which Gran Turismo 5 wins out over Kirby’s Epic Yarn is not reflecting my personal tastes so is largely irrelevant to me ;)

Blizzard turned up with some more information about crafting in Diablo III. Comments have noted seeing similar elements to WoW, but I suspect that’s missing the point. Or maybe it is the point. I’m looking forwards to hearing more about D3 at Blizzcon, it’s probably going to be the biggest ever PC game when it does launch. They also commented in interview that Cataclysm needs a couple more months before release.

Arenanet brought a video of Guild Wars 2 gameplay.

(edited to add: Yarr suggests in comments that people might find this to be a better and more informative link.)

There is also a Portal 2 trailer.

THQ also ruffled the Warhammer 40k fans by noting in interview that their upcoming MMO would not allow players to play as space marines from the beginning. I don’t really get why people are upset about this since inquisitors are way cooler!! *ducks the flames* but you probably won’t be able to play those either.

Bioware Mythic mention skaven, fans go wild

Mythic discussed future plans for WAR in an interview this week which mentioned ‘an RvR pack’ which would involve skaven but not as a standard race that players could play from level 1.

They expanded on this  in a chat session. There will be a new PvP zone, new renown ranks to earn, and a focus on open world RvR. We’ll expect more announcements on this fairly soon.

Age of Empires to go Free to Play

Microsoft is planning to release an online version of their popular RTS, Age of Empires. And it will use the free to play/ freemium model.

Apparently there will be levelling and quests and incentives to team up with other people. It will be quite interesting to see how this works out for a RTS game and why they aren’t going the battle.net route of matching opponents instead.

I suspect it’s easier to make and balance a cooperative game. And also, they’re keen to provide some permanence for your capital city which means that it can’t be nuked while you’re offline.

Blizzard sues private WoW server, wins $88mil

So the story is that someone was running a successful private WoW server, with a F2P type model. Blizzard found out and sued them. And was given a huge punitive award by the courts.

Lum notes that the private server had more players than most other MMOs out there, although I think that since it was F2P that most of them probably weren’t paying, or else registered to see what it was all about but didn’t play much. What is real is that the owner earned $3 million from the private server, and with that kind of money on the table, you can see where the incentive lies. And also why Blizzard pressed for a large award.

The question on the table is whether this indicates a large latent demand for WoW to go free to play. I suspect there probably are plenty of people who’d love to pay their way past bits of the  game they don’t want to play, and lots of others who think it would work out cheaper for them with a F2P model.

The kids are online

A report this week based on a survey of 5000 kids across the US showed that over 90% of ‘tween’ kids (8-15) play online games. My first reaction is to be surprised that 90% of kids in the US have access to game capable PCs or consoles and internet connections, so I’m assuming this survey is based purely on those in families which do have these things.

I mean, who gives an 8 year old an iPhone anyway?

More worrying was the facebook statistic:

Facebook is now the favorite website among tween (8-11) boys and teen (12-15) girls.

This is interesting because Facebook’s policy states:

  • No information from children under age 13. If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from a child under age 13, please contact us through this help page.”

Yes, you can play facebook games through someone else’s account, but … I wonder. Or is it just that it’s the easiest website for kids to remember and to tell surveys if asked to name one?

EQ2 Extended in Open Beta, has a bumpy ride

The free to play version of EQ2 is now in open beta, so feel free to go try it.

But don’t buy anything (who buys anything in a beta? Honestly, people!!) if you already have a subscriber account, because you might accidentally lose everything. I’m sure SOE will figure out a way to give all the stuff back and fix the bug, but that one is pretty epic.

Having said that, it’s great that people actually do buy stuff in the beta because it helps to find these sorts of bugs.

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11 thoughts on “Gaming News: Gamescom News (GW2, Diablo III et al), Skaven for Warhammer Online, Age of Empires goes F2P, Blizzard sues private server, 90% kids in the US play online games

  1. Maybe I’m just lacking imagination, but I’m struggling to imagine a version of Age of Empires where everything you build is persistent and that has RPG elements while still maintaining its typical RTS feel…

    • Yes, I’m not really sure about this also. I wonder if it’ll end up feeling like so many other web based games (Travian and the like). But I’m mostly curious about the co-op notion and whether that means something other than just an in game alliance.

    • It was apparently worth a few million, though. The business model works. I’ve argued before that Blizzard would be foolish to ignore it. Smart companies keep subs *and* other options on the table, sometimes concurrently.

      I have no doubt many players wouldn’t play WoW if it converted wholesale to a F2P model. I also have no doubt that many *other* players would jump right in. So, the smart money does *both*, perhaps on different servers, and caters to both crowds.

      This private server showed that WoW can be profitable without subs. The beancounters at Actiblizzard won’t ignore that.

      • It’s not clear that Blizzard would actually make more money if they went F2P. Subs are working well for them at the moment, the networking effect means a lot of people continue to pay when they aren’t playing very much.

        But I’d be surprised if they hadn’t discussed it.

      • I am not dissagreeing with you Tesh: I am quite aware how successful that model can be. But I also feels it borders on unethical, where players with healthy wallets will have advantages over those who don’t. And where it doesn’t become a game anymore when you can buy your way threw content. I know lot’s of players don’t have an issue with that. But it’s not the WoW I want to play…let’s just put it that way. :(

        And yes spinks, I believe it’s likely been discussed too….that’s what worries me. :(

      • I’m not talking about a wholesale conversion for the game, just opening new servers with a different model. I consider *subs* unethical; it spawns bad game design and has the effect Spinks noted: “a lot of people continue to pay when they aren’t playing very much.”

        Very uncool from where I sit.

        That said, I’m not really a fan of buying power either, actually, which is what it sounds like they were doing on that private server. I’d rather a “buy content” like Guild Wars or Wizard 101.

        Whatever the case, there’s money being left on the table. This is a clear demonstration of that. Break up the demand curve (leave subs as one option, absolutely), and you typically find more success.

  2. What blizzard did was reasonable enough. As we all know World of Warcraft has revolutionized the way games are played online. It is the most happening & most sought after game on the Net. Teenagers & even adults are hooked on it. Playing on private servers are way too different from playing on the original server. If gaming is your passion, satisfaction is what you’d crave for. If it goes F2P, that’ll be a different story then.

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