Saturday, January 25, 2014

Weekly Roundup - 2014 Week 4

Lots of numbers to wrap your head around this week with Free-to-Play revenue statistics for 2013 and Xbox One December sales figures both coming out. In both cases, the news is pretty clear that the gaming industry is doing well. Also this week, some supposedly sordid details about a Microsoft advertising scheme, the Elder Scrolls Online gets an M rating from the ESRB, and Titanfall says 'no' to microtransactions.

Free to Play is Big Money
As reported on numerous sites, Superdata Research compiled and released figures for free-to-play game revenue (ie. microtransaction revenue) for 2013 and the results are pretty impressive. The top game, Crossfire, a title that is mostly played in Korea, nearly broke a billion USD in revenue. The top 10 revenue earners contain some pretty big names including The Old Republic (139 million) proving that the switch to a F2P model has been fairly successful for them. Notably, these figures do not include additional revenue for subscriptions. I'm glad to see that companies have another avenue to make money but have to present my usual gripes against malicious pay-to-win schemes.

What's in a number? Xbox One sales
Microsoft issued sales figures for the Xbox One through December. Depending on how you crunch them, it appears that approximately 900 thousand units went unsold. In a clarifying statement, Microsoft downplayed this number suggesting that the unsold units are due to the realities of manufacturing supply chains. I'm inclined to believe Microsoft here and prefer to interpret the data such that pretty much every Xbox One on shelves was purchased. In any case, Sony will be releasing their data come February and it should be interesting to get our first side by side comparison of the next generation console sales.

Microsoft Bribery
Details of a Microsoft/Machinima promotion to pay YouTubers 3 USD per 1000 views of videos promoting the Xbox One surfaced. While this kind of promotion is fairly standard, a clause prohibiting users to indicate that they were engaging in promotion was curious. Indeed, most such promotions actually require users to indicate that they have been paid rather than vice versa. The spin in gaming circles is that Microsoft is a greedy corporation bribing people to sell their product. Personally, I don't think it's a big deal as I generally expect anyone saying only positive things about a product to be on someones payroll... unless they are talking about the Humble Bundle, that thing plain rocks!

Elder Scrolls Online
As the Elder Scrolls Online approaches launch in early April, Bethesda submitted the game for certification to the ESRB. Coming back with a 'Mature' rating, the publisher stated that they did not agree with the outcome but would not challenge it either. I'm actually fairly glad to hear this as it means that the game is not compromising to meet a larger audience. Also, the full voice cast for the game was released and features some pretty big names including Bill Nighy, John Cleese, and Kate Beckinsale. Obviously the budget is pretty high for this game but whether this translates into a quality product remains to be seen. At least one thing is certain, the voicing will be great!

Titanfall Microtransactions - Nope!
Recent shooters have offered players the ability to pay a bit to get a boost in game. While most of the time anything paid for can be unlocked through other means, it usually entails faster progression. Respawn Entertainment announced that they will eschew such a model and prefer to have all progression earned through actual gameplay. Even though this isn't huge news, I like it nonetheless as it indicates that Respawn is listening to the demands of gamers who, on average, oppose such schemes.