I think we will look back on 2019 as the Year of the Rise of the Player.
- There were several things that happened in the world of video games this year. In no particular order, and without links since they are easy to google:
- The Failed announcement of Diablo: Immortals as a mobile game at Blizzcon. The jeerz from the crowd was loud and emphatic.
- The failure of the Anthem release and the player outcry that followed.
- The continuing slip of World of Warcraft from the top of the stack of games folks want to play.
- The announcement of ArcheAge Unchained as a separate but equal pay once to play release in response to the overwhelming panning of ArcheAge as “Pay to Win”.
- The universal dislike for Loot Boxes, both by the players and by governments around the world who have called these out for what they are, gambling which is made available to minors. While some countries do not classify these as technically “Gambling” due to a technicality in the wording of the laws, most folks see the hidden, and very small odds, real monetary costs, and designed in addictive nature of these schemes as predatory on the players who have large amounts to purchase the games or pay subscriptions for the games.
Youtube, Twitch, Reddit, Twitter and other venues are full of reactions by commentator / players who voice their repeated loud analysis of these and other issues in the gaming industry.
I see a trend here. These new media / social platforms have mobilized player reactions as never before so that some companies are forced to listen. Blizzard has developed and released Vanilla Wow, which releases in a few days, and it remains to see what happens over the next few months. Blizzard has taken heat over the features or lack of interesting content in Battle for Azeroth, and have made changes in response to that feedback. EA/ Bioware has waffled in response to the Failure of Anthem, but Bioware has changed its relationship with EA in significant ways, probably in response to those issues. Activision has taken a lot of heat after laying folks off and cancelling Esports for some games while at the same time making record profits.
Not surprisingly, the “Computer Literate” video game player community is very skilled at using computer social media platforms to talk with each other and to game developers and publishers about their concerns. These voices are becoming increasingly loud and strident when the companies’ reactions are mishandled.
ArcheAge : Re-Monitized
For me this announcement of ArcheAge : Unchained is an unusual departure from what I would have expected. The outcry against “Pay to Win” has been so loud over the past few years, not only toward ArcheAge, but to games in general, that this publisher has decided to make a second copy of the game.
We don’t yet have all the details, but the announcement is telling us that:
- There will be a second set of servers with no connection to the old servers, and no migration of characters, accounts or items between the current servers and the new ones.
- The new game servers will require a One-Time payment to play the game. We don’t know what that amount will be. The new game will remove the “Pay to Win” items from the store. This constitutes a new “Business Model” for these servers of the ArcheAge game. The new servers will not have a required or optional subscription.
- The current ArcheAge game is “Free to Play” with an in-game shop, for Cosmetic as well as “Pay to Win” Game Enhancing items. The current servers have an Optional “Patron” subscription that provides game play benefits – aka “Pay to Win”.
- Both the game creator XLGames, and the NA Publisher Trion Worlds [ I don’t know about other regions. ] are on board and will be hosting these servers simultaneously. I find it quite surprising that Trion would be signed up to host the old and the new business model servers.
- Both sets of servers will have the same content and gameplay, and moving forward will both receive the same updates for new content and gameplay.
I look forward seeing the details as they roll out this fall. This seems like a departure from other reactions to Player Criticism. I’ve seen other games “Change the Business Model” usually from Subscription to “Free to Play” or “Buy once to Play”, but I have never seen both business models exist at the same time.
“May we live in interesting times.”