Gaming News:Zynga as Farmvillains, Medal of Honor needs to sell 3 mill to get sequel, Move not a pre-order product, LOTRO goes F2P

OK, taking a brief break from Recettear to write up some news.  (RPS found it as addictive as I am, but I’m not really sure I’d be so fast to pin ‘game of the year’ accolades on a roguelike with an economic sim attached, however engagingly executed.)

It strikes me this week that gaming ‘news’ that makes the rounds is just as likely to be reactions to some strongly worded opinion piece (as per this week’s wave of excitement about yet another article noting that Zynga made a reputation from copying game ideas) as actual news.

Zynga as Farmvillains

The SF Weekly article that got everyone going this week includes some prize quotes from ex-Zynga employees.

“I don’t fucking want innovation,” the ex-employee recalls Pincus saying. “You’re not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.”

This isn’t really news, as anyone who had ever compared Farm Town to Farmville can attest, and it isn’t illegal either – game mechanics aren’t really copyrightable per se.

CEOs in general prefer to gain a reputation as evil than as incompetent, and since Zynga actually makes more profit than Facebook, I imagine Mark Pincus is laughing all the way to the bank. And of course, now they’re busy buying up more innovative companies and probably will be keener to open up new markets for gamers who don’t actually like Farmville. Who knows?

What’s more interesting is the assumption that social gaming on facebook is a waning phenomenon. I’m not entirely sure how much of this is wishful thinking.

And whether you like Zynga games or not, journalists are reluctant to give much credit to developers or companies who do a really good job of polishing an existing design and selling it to a new crowd. It’s rarely just as simple as copying. The more evil things that Zynga did were to do with pushing dodgy or even fraudulent ‘free’  offers on people, and spamming the known universe with farmville and wants-to-be-viral marketing spam.

If you find yourself playing a F2P game and are annoyed at all the in-game adverts, inducements to recruit friends, or other anti-immersive popups, blame Zynga et al for bringing the levels of success enjoyed by these forms of sales to people’s attention. (Meanwhile I’ll be playing Recettear.)

Sell 3 million or go home for Medal of Honor

In a brief look into the mindset of gaming executives. the Medal of Honor executive producer this week said that if the game doesn’t sell at least 3 million copies, there won’t be a sequel.

This is just another indication of how the gaming industry is taking its lead from Hollywood.

Maybe Steve Jobs was right about iDevices owning 50% of the US gaming market …

Venturebeat has some numbers in on which devices Americans choose to play mobile games. And they claim that Apple is chasing hard on Nintendo’s heels in that department.

There’s a point where you have to take these figures with a pinch of salt, because people don’t necessarily play the same sorts of games on a DS as they would on an iPhone. It’s the same logic which says that minesweeper is the most popular PC game around the world. It may technically be true, but it’s all in the interpretation.

In any case, a larger gaming market should be a good thing for everyone, right? I also wonder how well the iPhones will be holding on vs Android in a year or so. Yes, people love their iDevices but do they really care whether it’s Apple under the hood as long as they have a nice shiny gadget with friendly UI (as many of the more recent Android devices do) to play with? Or at that point, do other factors come into play?

Paypal freezes indie developers account

Having mentioned Minecraft last week, it’s sad to report that the developer has had his paypal account frozen.

Hopefully it will just be that they weren’t expecting the sort of economic activity that comes with coding up a breakout indie hit game and when that’s sorted out and proven, they’ll release the cash. But paypal has a poor reputation, and if they are still allowing payments to go into the frozen account, that’s bad practice for any bank.

But if I were him, I’d be getting a lawyer.

LOTRO goes F2P (US Only)

Lord of the Rings Online, Turbine’s AAA MMO, has opened the doors to free to pay/ freemium players for the first time. It hasn’t been without some teething troubles – the usual queues and lag as masses of extra players hop over to check out the new free shinies.

Back in Europe, F2P launch has been delayed until at least the end of the month. I don’t have much to add on this except that it’s disappointing but better not to launch if the code or infrastructure isn’t ready.

Sony gearing up to go head to head with Microsoft over Move

Sony have been busy setting expectations this week about the forthcoming launch of the PS3 Move.

According to an interview with MCV this week, they have deliberately avoided a big, expensive wave of hype prior to next week’s launch. Instead, they’re looking for an ‘evergreen seller’ with the advertising set to ramp up after the device is available on shelves. In fact, their retail promotional tour in the UK is mostly heading for big supermarkets and not specialist games shops.

I thought that was an interesting, and probably wise, angle compared to the crazy hype campaigns that kick in for software launches.

And VP Marketing from the US Sony campaign agree that it’s not a huge budget endeavour. They can’t outspend Microsoft and won’t try.

Is crossplayer the fusion of single player and multiplayer?

This was an article on The Escapist that caught my eye, discussing where the lines are drawn between single player games, multiplayer online, and story driven.

Coming from an MMO perspective, I find myself puzzled because in games like WoW et al, that problem has been solved (for some value of solved). Feel like soloing? Fine, go solo. Feel like a battleground? Sure, go queue for one of those.

But this is a different approach, and one more akin to monsterplay in LOTRO, where you might not know in advance whether you are fighting NPCs or actual players. So there is the possibility for any of the AIs to be taken over and controlled by a real opponent.

I’m not really convinced about how fun that’s going to be. But it’s an interesting read.

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