Lots of business news this week with some ludicrous amounts of money changing hands over ownership of social gaming developers and sites.
Also if you are a keen reader of MMO blogs (I am going to assume this will apply to most readers, otherwise why are you here?), check out the new MMO Melting Pot. Their goal is to pick out interesting posts from around the web, with commentary. And they also keep tabs on podcasts et al. As of now, it’s very WoW-focussed.
Richard Garriot wins lawsuit against NCSoft
The sad story of Richard Garriot (aka Lord British) and his dealings with NCSoft finally comes to a close. This is more of an employment law story than a gaming one, but he claimed that he was forced to resign from his post as NCSoft Austin CEO and then to write letters claiming that it was a voluntary redundancy.
This matters hugely in terms of what sorts of payments he was entitled to on leaving. You tend to have more rights to redundancy pay et al if you are fired than if you choose to leave.
A court decided in his favour and awarded $28million in lieu of the lost pay. I’m always happy when I see companies which try to pull a fast one on employees nailed down by employment law, most of which doesn’t represent all that much protection for employees anyway. Hopefully others in the industry will take note.
Everquest 2 Extended
EQ2 is going to offer a free to play payment option, on separate servers from the current ones – I think I’m rapidly preferring non-subscription over F2P for games funded by microtransactions. Their plans confuse commenters who note that the F2P servers will also have subscription options which offer fewer options than the current subscriptions for the same (or higher) price.
I’m not all that certain that EQ2 will really suit the model, but I’m sure lots more people will at least give the game a try when the new options go live. And it’s another step in the seemingly unstoppable trend towards switching from subscriptions to cash shop payment options. Or at least adding different payment options.
This all seems very experimental to me at the moment. But the separate servers and unimpressive F2P subscription options mean EQ2 at least has plans to dissuade existing subscribers who play casually from immediately switching over and paying less. (Ideally you don’t want players to say ‘you know, suddenly my $15pcm subscription doesn’t look like such great value, I only play a couple of hours a week …’)
Social Gaming Acquisition Madness – Disney buys Playdom, Gamestop buys Kongregate
Only a few weeks ago, Playdom bought Ralph Koster’s Metaplace. Now they in their turn have been acquired by Disney for the heart-stopping sum of approx $560mill; a little less than that for which the mouse house sold subsidiary Miramax earlier in the month. (note: you may have seen the figure $762mil around the place, that part is actually dependent on Playdom’s performance).
So Disney thinks that social gaming is a better bet than Hollywood, and they may be right. They certainly own a vast number of IPs that could prove fruitful for gaming purposes. But that’s a lot of money for a gaming studio that isn’t right at the top of its field. Or even second. The eMarketer blog has a pithy analysis, wondering whether this will go down in history as one of the notorious acquisitions of the decade. In comparison, EA’s $275mil for Playfish last year looks like a bargain.
US chain gaming retail store Gamestop bought PC casual gaming nexus Kongregate this week also. Kongregate is a great site, home to many great tower defence games, The Elements card game, and doubtless many others I haven’t heard of. They are very upbeat about the news in their blog, unsurprisingly.
But as a non-US person, I can’t imagine that Gamestop has a lot to offer me in terms of things to buy with tokens. This is a general problem with going from a bricks and mortar business into the internet – suddenly you are serving a worldwide population who really don’t care about your US based restaurant/ movie/ netflix rewards. It’s likely they’ll concentrate on the US customers, if driving people to their US outlets is seen as the core of their business.
Note: We see the same trend in twitter with their @earlybird offers. I haven’t seen a single one that would be applicable locally. I really think they should call it @usearlybird or just do internet based offers.
Zynga also have evidently decided that the mere 500 million Facebook users is insufficient of a user base and is exploring new opportunities with google, and also in Japan. They also annoyed players this week by shutting down one of their games, with no reason. (I assume the reason is insufficient profit but these games can’t cost all that much to run …)
In any case, with Disney switching from films into social gaming, Warner Brothers recent acquisition of Turbine, Gamestop looking to online social gaming rather than retail … there is a trend here.
Valve (with Steam) and Blizzard (with battle.net) must be laughing.
Warhammer Forums move to Bioware
Speaking of which, the Bioware social network has recently absorbed the official Warhammer Online forums. I love that if you get to the language option screen on the Bioware forum, they use the Canadian flag to represent English. I’m sure the Quebecois are thrilled to bits with that.
None of the blogs I read had much to say about this, I’m not sure anyone was actually fond enough of the Official Warhammer Forums to care. Besides, it isn’t as if they are going away.
In other Bioware news, Greg Zeschuk has decided that his previous figure of 1 million SWTOR players wasn’t enough. Now he says the sales target of all future releases is 10 million units if they are to be considered major hits.
I’m not entirely sure what to say about this. Over the lifetime of a very successful game, 10 million sales is viable. Or maybe he’s just inhaled too much of the Brighton sea air …
Starcraft 2 is live and on air
Starcraft 2 launched this week, and players and reviewers alike seem pretty happy with it. The press were not allowed to review the single player campaign before launch so I imagine there have been a lot of gaming hours poured into the thing. Kotaku report that someone finished the single player campaign in 16 hours.
Gossip Gamer has a cool visual guide to show the difference between SC1 and SC2. And meanwhile, I saved the Norad II in SC1 – go me!
Some guest posts on the way next week
This is not really news but I’m away for a few days next week so you’ll see some guest posts on the blog here. I think you guys will love them, actually.