November 2011

Mark Pincus Grateful For Continued Existence Of Bobby Kotick


Bobby Kotick shows the class, grace and market acumen for which he is so justly renowned, when commenting on an imminent competitor for his corporation’s cash cow:

“We’ve been in business with Lucas for a long time and the economics will always accrue to the benefit of Lucas, so I don’t really understand how the economics work for Electronic Arts.”

He said that he does not think The Old Republic will steal users from WoW, adding, “If you look at the history of the people investing in an MMO and achieving success, it’s a small number.”

Yes, and clearly the largest game company on the planet, funding what is most likely the most expensive game project in history, would never qualify for that small number.

Oh Bobby, don’t ever change.

Prognosticamation 2011

Every year I make crazy predictions that fail miserably.  A little less then a year after that I review them so you can see my humility as someone who can’t predict industry trends at all.

Here’s how I did last year.

[The Old Republic] will ship in 2011. It has to.

I was right! Barrrrrrreeeeeellllly.

The biggest event, and the one that will shape 2011 in terms of MMO development, will be, of course, the Old Republic.

I was wrong, unless you think 2011’s MMO development experience is shaped in its final week. 2012 is the year of the Old Republic (and for what it’s worth, from everything I hear it’s going to be a pretty monster hit barring last minute infrastructure/bug stupidity), not 2011.


By the way, this made pretty much my entire slate of predictions inoperative, since they (correctly, I think) noted that the MMO industry is basically waiting on the Old Republic to ship and, well, it hasn’t yet.

2011 is the year of WoW: Not WoW.

Pretty much. WoW did take a back seat, and shed a million customers – that in any other company would have been cause for bodies falling out of high windows, and for Blizzard is still essentially a bookkeeping error. Blizzard did announce a new expansion, and as expected it will be released in 2012, not 2011. But mostly it was time for a lot of other games to ship. How did they do?


DC ONLINE: went free to play in short order RIFT: the most successful new release of 2011, and the most WoW Not WoW WORLD OF TANKS: started free to play, made tons of money PLANETSIDE NEXT: not yet released TERA: not yet released GUILD WARS 2: not yet released NEVERWINTER: not yet released, being restructured FAXION: released, then cancelled shortly thereafter JUMPGATE EVOLUTION: most likely did not survive the collapse of NetDevil THE AGENCY: cancelled THE SECRET WORLD: not yet released GODS AND HEROES: yes, it released, no, you probably didn’t notice

Unless you’re Scott Hartsman or some crazy Belarusian guy, that’s a whole lotta ouch. But how did other subscription MMOs do?

EVERQUEST 2: went free to play CITY OF HEROES: went free to play LINEAGE 2: went free to play AGE OF CONAN: went free to play STAR TREK ONLINE: went free to play FINAL FANTASY 14: still involuntarily free to play EVE: attempted suicide by CEO, layoffs, trying to come back STAR WARS GALAXIES: cancelled LEGO ONLINE: cancelled WARHAMMER ONLINE: still exists, releasing a free-to-play arena MOBA version AION: still here, kinda! FINAL FANTASY 11: Quick! Look over there! EVERQUEST: *whistling* ULTIMA ONLINE: yep! don’t mind us! DARK AGE OF CAMELOT: feelin’ spry! don’t look this direction plz

So, if your MMO of choice was a subscription game, it was either: (a) World of Warcraft, (b) Rift, (c) free-to-play, (d) cancelled, (e) assaulted by crazy lutefisk-wielding Icelandic people, or (f) so old no one remembered the server was on.

I’d say I get a bye on all predictions, because the market kinda went bloop. Yes, bloop. That’s the technical term.

Bobby Kotick Still Insanely Grateful At Continued Existence And Business Practices Of Mark Pincus

In case earlier stories about the Facebook game maker didn’t turn Mark Pincus into enough of a moustache-twirling villain from a silent movie, this Wall Street Journal story should finish the job adeptly.

Citing industry sources, The Wall Street Journal reported today that Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, along with his top executives, decided last year as they were preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) that they had given out too much stock to employees. But rather than accept that reality, the executives reportedly tried a different tactic: demand employees give back not-yet-vested stock or face termination.


In order to determine which employees would be asked to give stock back, Pincus and his executives tried to pinpoint workers whose contributions to Zynga–in the execs’ eyes–didn’t necessarily justify the potential cash windfall they could receive when the company went public, the Journal claims.

Or on the other hand, maybe Pincus was doing his guys a solid by, uh, taking away their options.

But this isn’t Major League Baseball, where the Boston Red Sox are stuck paying Carl Crawford $20 million per year even if he proves no better than a backup. It’s a non-unionized startup, where the CEO is well within his rights to simply fire an under-performing employee (and recover unvested options). In fact, that’s what happens at most companies. The difference at Zynga is that Pincus seems intent on retaining talent, even if that talent either didn’t live up to initial expectations or didn’t adequately match up to the changing needs of a fast-growing company.

Yeah, I don’t think so.


Everquest II Going Free To Play, Again, They Mean It This Time

News here – instead of subscriber servers and a free-to-play “Everquest II Extended” server, the entire game is going free-to-play.

Last year, we created a successful, but separate, “free to play” service for EQII called “EverQuest II: Extended” (EQ2X). However, now that all servers are becoming free-to-play, we are combining both services together and EverQuest II (including the EQ2X servers) will operate as a single game with a single membership structure.


The new membership structure for EverQuest II is simpler and easier to understand than the one we used previously, and we’ve adjusted the model so that Gold members in EverQuest II will get everything that current EQII subscribers do currently.