29 January 2012

It's the Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeews!

It's that time of week again, so let's recap some of the big news to hit the MMO world in the past week.  We're going to go with four stories this week as one of these slipped in at the very last second last week and I didn't talk about it then.  So we'll start off with that one.

Senior Producer on Diablo 3 Leaves Blizzard

This one dropped late last weekend and so I didn't have time to get it in on that post, but this is obviously big news.  Steve Parker took to his Twitter to announce that he was leaving Blizzard and Diablo 3.  This at the same time as major revisions are still being made to D3 currently in its closed beta phase.  The "conspiracy theories" immediately began to fly about him being pushed out by "higher ups" at Activision-Blizzard, executives wanting to "dumb down" the game, etc.  Frankly I'm not sure how you "dumb down" a dungeon crawler.  They aren't exactly highly intellectual games to begin with.  Of course, neither are most MMO's (unless your name is EVE or Star Trek: Online,) but for some people that's where the fun is.

It is always big news when a senior figure steps away from a game, especially a high profile game from a high profile publisher.  But personally, I wouldn't look too deeply into this one.  It sounds like both parties left on good terms, and I'm guessing Parker is just looking for his next opportunity, or already has one lined up.  You typically don't get far in this industry (or any other for that matter) by burning bridges and leaving enemies behind you.  So unless I hear differently, I'm just going to assume that Parker thought he had accomplished all he could with D3 and Blizzard, and is moving on to other things. 

No BlizzCon in 2012 

For all those who were planning to stay up all hours of the night so they could get in the virtual line to purchase BlizzCon tickets, I have bad news... there will be no BlizzCon in 2012.  Citing all their big releases scheduled for this year, Blizzard announced that they would not be holding their usual annual convention for the first time since 2007.  I can definitely see why they would be busy.  They have releases scheduled for all three of their major franchises this year; Heart of the Swarm for Starcraft, Mists of Pandaria for Warcraft, and the aforementioned Diablo 3.  And on top of all that you have the still mysterious Project Titan MMO.  So yeah, I can see how they will be a little busy.

That said, I am curious how they plan to generate interest and show off their products without a BlizzCon.  Traditionally Blizzard takes the "Apple approach" and avoids the major industry trade shows in favor of displaying their products at BlizzCon where they have the show all to themselves.  Will we see an increased Blizzard presence at E3 this year?  Is there some other venue where they can show off their stuff?  They are still holding what they are calling the "Battle.net World Championship" and so there might be a bit of "advertising" going on there.  And let's be honest, Blizzard doesn't exactly need to hype their own stuff.  Plenty of people are already excited for these games.  But it does make one wonder a bit.

NCSoft Sues to Prevent TERA Launch 

This story may or may not qualify as "big news" depending on your level of interest in the upcoming TERA MMO.  NCSoft, a major MMO publisher in both Asia and Western markets, has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the launch of TERA in the US and Europe.  They already sought a similar injunction in Korea and while they did receive some damages, they could not prevent the release of the game itself.  So now they are trying again to prevent its broader release.  In essence, NCSoft is arguing that the creators of TERA stole the assets the game is based on from NCSoft and their work on what was to be Lineage 3TERA's Korean creators, Bluehole Studios, was founded by former NCSoft employees, so the accusation itself is not outside the realm of possibility.

If you are a fan of TERA and looking forward to it, this is obviously big news because it could postpone the game indefinitely until the legal situation is resolved.  And if the Interplay/Bethesda showdown proved anything, it is that these battles can drag out a long time and be very contentious.  Not having any prior knowledge of this case, I cannot speculate on which way I think it will go or how long it might take to resolve.  I'm guessing that En Masse (the US/EU publisher for the game) can successfully argue that a court ordered delay would cause them significant economic damages and so they will be allowed to launch while the litigation is pending.  Then if NCSoft ultimately wins, they can be paid back after the fact.  But that's just my guess.

Guild Wars 2 will Launch in 2012... no really... we mean it this time! 

This game was beginning to approach Duke Nukem Forever territory in terms of being delayed, but ArenaNet came out this week and confirmed that Guild Wars 2 WILL in fact launch in 2012.   There was much rejoicing from almost every corner of the MMO blogosphere as many industry followers are expecting this game to redefine or save the genre itself.  And I have to ask at this point, why does GW2 get a "pass" on being delayed over, and over, and over again while Star Wars: The Old Republic got crapped on every time it got pushed back?  GW2 has been "in the pipe" far longer and still hasn't seen the light of day, yet no one really seems to get on ArenaNet's case for it. 

In any case, we will finally see this year whether this game will be the "savior" that many are saying that it will be.  Yes I am a bit harsh on this one, but it is not because I don't want it to be successful.  The original Guild Wars is how I got started in MMO's and I am all for another healthy contender in the marketplace.  But frankly I find all the expectations around this game to be too much.  The higher the expectations go, the bigger the letdown is going to be when it fails to meet them.  And I hate to break it to you, but it IS going to fail to meet them fully.  No game can possibly live up to what GW2 is being built into by its most ardent supporters.  They would really do themselves, and the game itself, a favor by tempering their expectations somewhat.

Did I miss a story that was big to you?  Disagree with my point of view?  Let me know, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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