Good morning Internet denizens. I just managed to crawl myself out of bed so this post is up a little late. Sleep however, is a good thing. Some interesting stories came out this week, and I'm planning some larger posts based on a few of the issues that came up. But I didn't want to skip my usual news rundown. So here we go, the big stories of the week.
Free-to-Play is Inevitable?
Much was made of the news that trickled out that EA/Bioware was considering a free-to-play conversion for Star Wars: The Old Republic at some point in the future. But then Kotaku published this interview with EA COO Peter Moore. In it he discusses the future of video gaming in general, and specifically how games are paid for and financed. He suggests that microtransactions will make their way into every game, and that every game will essentially be paid for by the few who purchase these add-ons while the majority play for free. The interviewer asks if Moore sees all games adopting this model and this was his reply:
"I think there's an inevitability that happens five years from now, 10
years from now, that, let's call it the client, to use the term, [is
I would highly recommend reading the entire article and interview. It is not only relevant from the perspective of MMO's, but anyone who follows the gaming industry in general. I am preparing a more in-depth post for later in the week on the concept of what exactly "free-to-play" means, both in this context and for MMO's. So I am going to refrain from more specific commentary here. But really, do yourself a favor and read the interview. Love EA or hate them, they are big players in the market and the direction they take will send ripples through the whole industry.
Thank You for your Purchase of Diablo 3, Wait Please...
Speaking of big players in the industry, Blizzard was back in the news for a less than flattering reason as this story broke regarding digital purchases of Diablo 3. It would seem that Blizzard is having issues with less than scrupulous individuals using hacked and stolen credit cards to purchase copies of the game. In response to this, Blizzard implemented a policy in which players must wait up to three days after purchasing the game to play the full version. Until this authorization takes place, the player is restricted to a "trial" version of the game where they are limited to the first Act, a level cap, and cannot access the auction house.
I'm of two minds on this issue. The first is that Blizzard is trying to protect itself, and its customers against fraud. When it comes to this, I am very much in the camp of "better safe than sorry." I don't mind a company being somewhat overzealous if it means protecting my finances and identity. Somewhat related to this, I can say that when I made my purchase of the lifetime subscription of The Secret World, my financial institution flagged the purchase as "potentially fraudulent" and I had to authorize to them personally. I did not mind doing this as I knew they were looking out for me.
On the other hand, this is a slightly different set of circumstances. The money has already changed hands. Blizzard already has your money, so why do you have to wait to use the product that you paid for? Some people also say this reflects poorly on Blizzard's decision to have an essentially single-player game be so heavily dependent on Internet connectivity. While that is still a controversial issue, I don't consider it part of this problem. It certainly isn't an elegant solution, but I think Blizzard's intentions are good in this case.
Schilling Shut Out
The news about the bankruptcy and shut down of 38 Studios is sad and unfortunate, and has been commented on both in this blog and in dozens of other places on the 'Net. But this past week, founder and former baseball player Curt Schilling gave an interview to Boston radio station WEEI where he shed some light on his financial exposure and a bit more of "his side of the story." In it he states that the money he earned while playing baseball is essentially gone. Much of his personal savings was invested in the company and he says that "life will be different now." He also reiterates his criticism of Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, claiming that he was close to securing private financing to keep the studio afloat, but negative comments from the governor scared off potential investors.
While on the one hand it is difficult to feel sorry for a millionaire when so many of us are going through our own financial struggles, and it is true that Schilling's outspoken nature makes him even less likeable to many average folks, I still say there are no winners here. I think Mr. Schilling really was passionate about what he was trying to do with 38 Studios. I think he is somewhat of a kid at heart and wanted to use the money and fame he accumulated as a baseball player to fulfill a dream of creating video games. Unfortunately his financial and technical acumen did not match his athletic ability or his dreams. So while I don't think anyone will cry over Mr. Schilling's lost personal fortune or the "hardship" he will endure because of it, I think we can all lament the loss of the studio itself, the lives that were impacted, and the games we will never get a chance to play.