Animal Crossing: The Argument For Microtransactions

This piece was made in response to Pretty Good Gaming’s video on the new Animal Crossing. 

After it’s initial announcement in April 2016 and almost a year of delays, Nintendo has belatedly announced what is hopefully the final launch-window for their mobile Animal Crossing game.

Unlike what some believe to be its exorbitantly priced counterpart, Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is coming to mobile devices, by the end of November, at no upfront cost to players.

Animal Crossing once caused an uproar for gating players by simply forcing them to wait; in New Leaf, if you wanted Cyrus to customize your furniture you’d have to wait 42 [real time] hours for it to be completed. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp adds a frictionless way for impatient players to expedite the customization of their furniture while paying for the development of the application and its updates. Unlike other games, which have to mold game mechanics with microtransactions in mind, Animal Crossing took an organic gameplay feature and decided to monetize it.

Now some might not see the difference between this and other microtransactions. In free to play MMOs like Dauntless the money you pay, as part of a “Founders Pack” exponentially increases the loot you get from monsters, letting you spend more time in the city and less time repetitively battling the same bosses.  (Dauntless has removed microtransactions from their game and is considering a normal pay-to-play, one-time purchase model.) In Animal Crossing you’re having a timer removed: both give you the ability to make time inconsequential. But my argument is that the developers were not forced by their higher-ups to alter a major mechanic of the game just to institute a transaction – it was a part of the gameplay that has been integral since the beginning of the franchise – and they finally gave gamers an option to make that process frictionless; something that many impatient people would have been paying since’s Animal Crossing’s inception if given the opportunity.

This is the way that in-game purchases should be implemented. A company should make you want to throw money at them because you’re enjoying their game so much, and not make you feel like you need to pay them, out of fear that you’re missing out on portions of a game you’ve already paid for. There should be no badgering or constant reminders that other people are spending money on things that you don’t have, and gamers should not be pressured by subtle or overt signs that there is more content behind a paywall.

Those arguing the game should be like Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, should know that Nintendo felt it was a disappointment, with Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima saying that revenue “did not meet our expectations.” And that although, a month after its launch 90 million users had downloaded the game, only 3% of them purchased it. In the time Nintendo’s pay-to-play game earned $30 million in gross revenue, Pokemon Go’s free to play with in-app purchase model had earned Niantic $200 million. As someone who’d prefer to pay for an app one time than be nickeled and dimed to access its best features, I never thought I’d be arguing for in-app purchases. But after taking a look at the numbers, I can’t think of a studio that’s come up with a better compromise.

@WASDmeta

This is part one (and a draft) of a series I’m writing about consumerism in video games; both their price and the value they hold for us. 

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BLUEHOLE, INC. ANNOUNCES THE FORMATION OF PUBG CORP. FOR PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – September 29, 2017 – Bluehole, Inc., announced today a change to its organizational structure with the formation of PUBG Corp., a subsidiary focused entirely on the development and global business opportunities for PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG).

Gang-Seok Kim, the CEO of Bluehole, Inc., has appointed Chang Han Kim as the Chief Executive Officer and Woonghee Cho as the Chief Operating Officer for PUBG Corp. Chang Han Kim led the development of PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, previously working as Vice President and Executive Producer for Bluehole, Inc. Woonghee Cho, who previously served as the CEO of Maui Games and as Head of Business Development for Neowiz, will focus on accelerating overall business development and managing global operations for PUBG.

Download the PUBG Corp. logo HEREhttps://spaces.hightail.com/receive/Rk6fqKTOqc

“Given PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS global success, we want to ensure that we have the operational efficiency that is required to support the game globally,” said Chang Han Kim, CEO, PUBG Corp. “This new structure allows us to be nimble as we look towards the expansion of strategic business opportunities that include the game’s potential in the esports sector and the growth of PUBG as a true global IP franchise.”

As part of its international expansion, PUBG Corp. has recently established an office in the United States and is preparing to do the same in Europe and Japan. This expansion will allow for more centralized points of contact for players around the world, ensuring that development for PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS continues to be global in nature.


PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS has sold more than thirteen million copies and has surpassed the all-time record for the most concurrent users (CCUs) on Steam with over 1.5 million active players in the game at a given time.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS drops players on a realistic 8 x 8 km island with visuals that showcase Unreal Engine 4’s capabilities. Starting with nothing, gamers must fight to locate weapons, vehicles and supplies as they strive to be the lone survivor.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is now available on Steam Early Access and is launching exclusively on Xbox One as part of the Xbox Game Preview program in late 2017, with the final version launching in early 2018 across the Xbox One family of devices.

To learn more about PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, please visit www.playbattlegrounds.com , ‘Like’ it on Facebook, and follow its development on Twitter @PUBATTLEGROUNDS for all the latest updates and news from the team.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS – Not Just a Game. This is Battle Royale.

# # #

ABOUT BLUEHOLE
Founded in 2007 and based in Korea, Bluehole, Inc. is the developer of the popular action MMORPG, TERA, which has attracted over 25 million registered users worldwide. TERA is live in seven different territories including North America, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Europe and Russia and has reached the #1 spot on Steam’s MMORPG charts. Having achieved high standards and worldwide recognition for its online roleplaying games, the studio has also expanded into the mobile gaming market. Bluehole’s first non-MMO title, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, has sold more than thirteen million units since its Early Access launch on March 23, 2017.PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is fully developed and published by Bluehole worldwide. For more information, visit www.bluehole.net/en .

PUBG v. Fortnite

Early Friday morning Chang Han Kim, the Vice President and Executive Producer of Bluehole Inc., developers of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, released a statement regarding the similarities between their game and Fortnite’s new F2P battle royale game mode.

pubg__3__1

We’ve had an ongoing relationship with Epic Games throughout PUBG’s development as they are the creators of UE4, the engine we licensed for the game. After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.

We have also noticed that Epic Games references PUBG in the promotion of Fortnite to their community and in communications with the press, this was never discussed with us and we don’t feel that it’s right. The PUBG community has and continues to provide evidence of the many similarities as we contemplate further action.

Some, siding with V.P. Chang Han Kim, are arguing that many of the game’s core mechanics have been ripped off – that its blatant theft and there need to be ramifications – while others are taking a more intellectual perspective.

The birth of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was not a stand-alone incident, simply the most noticeable outgrowth of a culmination of events. Years before Bluehole’s development of PUBG, PlayerUnknown made his name creating an Arma Mod dubbed “King of the Hill,” in which players would scrounge the map for weapons and armor, while battling to be the last one alive on the battlefield. PlayerUnknown, whose real name is Brendan Green, said he got the idea from watching a Japanese movie called Battle Royale (2000).

It was years later, that H1Z1 created their version – carrying the moniker King of the Kill – that “battle royale” officially became its own game mode, with thousands leaving the original game to spend more time in this new standalone offshoot. A migration so massive that the publisher Daybreak Studios, made plans for it to be available on systems other than the original PC. It was then that South Korean game publisher, Bluehole Studios reached out to PlayerUnknown, inviting him to become creative director and help them create a full game; battle royale the way he envisioned it.

Now, there’s no way for us to know how many copies of PUBG sold before Epic Games decided to add the battle royale game mode to Fortnite but it seems that Bluehole has forgotten their success’s origin. Their game is simply the current zenith of the battle royale game mode, and if it weren’t for the various incarnations that came before it, it’s unlikely their game would have had the mindshare to even garnish half of their 10 million sales.

dims

Fornite’s Battle Royal Mode that goes F2P tomorrow, September 26th is simply the next step in battle royale’s evolution. Their game does take a lot from PUBG, even using the game’s name in their marketing materials, but Epic Games adds its own flair by keeping the building mechanics from Fortnite’s primary game mode. Is the game mode remarkably similar to the source material, yes. But the ability to build a fort and protect yourself, in a game where the primary goal is to survive, provides a spin on the game that no prior iterations have attempted and I think it’s a great addition to Fortnite. The creation of Fortnite Battle Royale is not theft, there is no “further action” to be taken here. It is simply the next game in the line of the battle royale lineage, and the possible birth of a genre.

@WASDmeta

Clarifying Nintendo Switch “Nindie” Exclusives

  • Super Meatboy Forever – Cross Platform (Including iOS and Android)
  • Shovel Knight ‘King of Cards’ – Cross Platform (Including Amazon FireTV)
  • Mom Hid My Game – Switch and 3DS, previously sold as “Hidden my game by mom – escape room” on iOS and Android
  • Golf Story – Nintendo Switch Exclusive
  • Floor Kids – Nintendo Switch Exclusive
  • Wulverblade – Nintendo Switch, Steam and other consoles soon to follow.
  • Poly Bridge – SteamiOS and Nintendo Switch
  • Kentucky Route Zero TV Edition – XboxSteam, PS4, Nintendo Switch
  • Earth Atlantis – Nintendo Switch, TBA: iOS and Steam
  • Next Up Hero – Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4
  • SteamWorld Dig 2 – Nintendo Switch September 21. Steam and PS4 a few days later
  • Mulaka – Cross Platform
  • Yono and the Celestial Elephants – Steam, and Nintendo Switch October 12, 2017
  • Dragon Marked for Death – Nintendo Switch
  • Battle Chef Brigade – Steam and Nintendo Switch Holiday 2017, PS4 2018
  • Morphies Law – Nintendo Switch first, then PC
  • Sausage Sports Club – Steam and Nintendo Switch Holiday 2017
  • Light Fingers – Cross Platform
  • Nine Parchments – Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

@WASDmeta

Escape From Tarkov – GDC 2017

While at GDC 2017, we will introduce a new game mechanic/faction for the highly anticipated MMO/FPS. Previously seen only in videos, Battlestate will be showcasing gameplay based on a special faction within the game called the Scavs.

Scavs are marauders who remained in the city of Tarkov after the government lockdown in order to seize property left behind by citizens, while also fighting any forces attempting to restore law and order in the city. The Scavs will be a playable faction and will cause plenty of trouble for those playing as Operatives of the two Escape from Tarkov PMC factions (USEC and BEAR).

Soon, players will be able to enter Escape from Tarkov raids as the renegade Scavs – and upon doing so,  they will be assigned a random player name, equipment, and weapons. The Scavs can group up in packs of up to four players. If a Scav player survives the raid, they will be able to move collected loot into the stash of their main character. The opportunity to play as Scav will be limited in frequency, so it’s best to jump into the Scav role while you can!

“Playing as a Scav is like playing the game without rules, one where the players can experience quite different gameplay with a focus on reckless abandon,” commented Nikita Buyanov, COO of Battlestate Games and Project Lead, Escape From Tarkov. “The Scav player is spawned together with AI Scavs. Scav tactics change up the overall style of raid gameplay, and in most cases, complicating the lives of BEAR and USEC players, while also fighting amongst themselves.”

After GDC 2017, Scav gameplay will be added to the upcoming closed beta version.

tl;dr
– Scavs enter the game with a random player name, equipment, and weapons. If they survive the raid they can move the loot they acquired in the raid to their main character.
– Scavs can group up, with up to four people in a group.
– Are only available once an hour, or by paying in-game currency.
– Are in opposition of the BEAR and USEC PMC’s but can also fight within their own faction (Scavs appear as AI to other human players.)
– After GDC 2017, Scav gameplay will be added to the upcoming closed beta version.

What’s the point? You no longer have to go into a match with bare fists or risk your best gear. You can go in with a generic character and generic weapons, and anything you loot in that raid becomes yours to keep. If you end up with nothing, there’s no loss – none of your main character’s items are forfeited.

 

@GuanxiGaming

Does Zelda’s Paid DLC Betray Iwata’s Promise? [DRAFT]

One of the many staples of Nintendo, when compared to the other “big three” was its insistence on being a provider of offline systems. They never really suffered for this decision, because they knew their audience. With children and families being their primary market, at least in the West, parents didn’t mind that their kids didn’t have access to other people on the internet – and why becomes clear the second you get on voice chat with either a Playstation or an Xbox. With no need for online play, and in a time where post-release patches weren’t possible with the console’s current infrastructure, Nintendo had no pressure to be online. But as consoles became more broadly connected to the internet, and kids sought to play with their friends sans voice chat, Nintendo had to adapt.

Skip ahead a few years. Nintendo, with their first fully Internet-capable device in hand, was suddenly bombarded with questions as to whether they would conform to the new Paid DLC paradigm. Having to answer not only to inquiring customers and game journalists but, Nintendo’s shareholders, Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata finally opened up.

In a Third Quarter Conference call (2012) Iwata explained “we cannot, and should not, ask our consumers to embrace the situation where they are required to make excessive payments. Doing such things might be good for short-term profit, but it will not serve our mid-term and long-term business developments.” He then went on to say, in an interview with Kotaku that they would not be a company that released an unfinished game to later add the completed content in DLC. That “when the player has exhausted what’s in an existing piece of software when there are no more challenges, and there is nothing more they can do…” then that is when Nintendo can offer up something, simply as further motivation to come back and enjoy the game world they loved so much. Satoru Iwata was clear that only AFTER a game was entirely complete, would they even consider adding something to their game. Adding, again, that they as a company would never “create a full game and then say, ‘let’s hold this back for DLC.'”

Almost a year after that 2012 conference call with investors Fire Emblem: Awakening was released, and six months after that it was the first Nintendo game to ever have Paid DLC. It was a move that Nintendo made tactfully and with full cognizance of what they were doing. Nintendo knows what they’re good at, and one of the leading things being their first party offerings. No one could claim that their first party franchises sold consoles as well as Nintendo’s did, and Nintendo knew their audience well enough to surmise that they could sell them nostalgia in a bottle. (Un)fortunately, nothing evoked those feelings and the memories that came with them like playing the character all over again as if for the first time.

By selling characters (along with other things) as DLC President Iwata was not going against his own words, and Nintendo continued with that legacy well after his passing. But some might say that that legacy ended yesterday; well this is what all of my pontificating has led up to.

Both the press release and the linked video, by Eiji Aonuma, have one central theme: them guaranteeing the DLC was created solely to add more activities to an incredibly expansive world. With players quickly engaging with and finishing, the central quests in this new playground, they wanted to give players more things to do. And they made sure to reiterate it to get the point across. The first paragraph of the press release reads:

While the main game offers players an engrossing quest that will keep them entertained for hours, as well as the freedom to explore the vast Hyrule at their own pace, the game world provides a rich canvas that offers the opportunity for additional adventures. As a result, the first-ever downloadable content for the main-line Legend of Zelda series is in development…

The second and consequential paragraph goes on to talk about the things that will be included in the DLC. They then finish off the press release by jumping back to the topic of the first paragraph: punctuating the claim “rich canvas + additional content” with Nintendo developer Eiji Aonuma saying:

The world of Hyrule, which we created for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is so large and vibrant that we wanted to offer more for players to experience within it…With this new Expansion Pass, we hope that fans will play, explore and enjoy the game even more.

With two people vehemently telling us the same thing, its hard to ascertain if what they’re trying to communicate is sincere. Its as if this DLC was something they genuinely wanted to do, while also showing continued respect towards the late President and CEO Satoru Iwata. It just so happens that they did it in a way that seemed more awkward than a genuine assurance.

When reading the press release again, through the eyes of an excited Zelda fan, I finally saw what the true fans did. When you are excited about a new release, whether or not you have to spend money is – at the moment – besides the point, you are happy there is more of the game to be played, you want to know what’s so special about it and why it’s worth your $20. But as I read with that feeling of excitement it was instantly apparent that the tone of the press release did not match the level of energy I was experiencing. A game that I’ve always enjoyed playing, that I regret to see the credits roll – has just announced that their game will not only be bigger than any game before it, but they’re expanding it even further. But the two gentlemen making the announcement are speaking to me as if they’re reading the weather. There is no excitement in their voice; there is no flare in the presentation. THM (can I use your full name?) said it was as if they’d just come up with the idea, and were presenting it for their shareholders, and not their fans.

The second paragraph of the press release lists the things in the Expansion Pass as if it’s the outline of a paper that you’ve yet to do the research for. The information is there, but it’s stripped bare bones, there is no emotion or not hint at what it might be. A company has decided to tell me that I should pay $20 extra before I can even get my hands on the initial game, but they have yet to say why I should spend that money, or why I should be interested. I am not saying that the ones announcing this Expansion Pass should be cheerleaders, but if one is going to persuade me to spend my money, they can at least try and convince me it’s going to be a worthwhile experience.

tl;dr
– Iwata said they would never be the company that chose not to complete a game upon shipping simply so they could later release the finished product as downloadable content ‘DLC.’ 
– Tuesday’s announcement had many fans upset that Nintendo had strayed far from one of their tenets and was suddenly reaching into EA’s textbook and borrowing a lesson or two on “milking your audience for max cash.”
– By selling the characters as DLC instead of narrative content, they’ve managed to keep their principles along the lines of Iwata’s promise.
– Said they were only adding additional content to an already huge game. “The world is so large and vibrant that we wanted to offer more for players to experience within it… we hope fans will play, explore, and enjoy even more.”
Audience’s response to the press release: The announcement lacked any and all emotion, interest in the announcement itself, or any pertinent information about the Expansion Pass other than the date and the dollar amount. “Were they trying to pitch it to their players, or their shareholders?”

screenshot_20170214-132043

Satoru Iwata on Paid DLC referenced Stephen Totilo @ Kotaku’s piece Nintendo Chief: Mario Is Part Of Gamers’ DNA

I also owe a thank you to hamptonthemonkey for aiding me with some fact checking and Rocky1138 for reminding me why I have a few more grammar classes to take before they hand me my degree.


UPDATE: On last week’s episode of IGN’s Nintendo Podcast Nintendo’s Senior Product Marketing Manager Bill Trinen weighed in on the public’s response to the announced Zelda DLC:

It was tough, because we actually had a lot of debate in terms of do we announce it, how do we announce it. I think one of the things that’s unique about the way Nintendo develops games is when we’re working on a game, and certainly just knowing the history of Nintendo games, you guys know that it’s essentially we use every last minute to make the game as good as we possibly can, and really what that means is that the dev team was working on the main game, finished the main game, and as they’re starting to get to the very end and wrap it up, really they said, ‘You know we’ve made this massive world of Hyrule, we’ve spent a long time building it. It would be a waste to just make one game and have that be it.’ We want people to be able to enjoy exploring this world, and so they started thinking about, ‘Well, if we were going to do DLC, what would we do, how would we do it?’ And you can see that in the fact that it’s not… the DLC is not launching the day after the game or the week after. It’s coming out several months later in the form of the first pack and then several months after that in the form of the second pack. And that’s because the content is in development.

And so I think from my perspective, obviously if we were able to share more details, that would have been easier, but I think if you look to the example of something like a Mario Kart-type of a DLC approach, really what the goal is is let’s give people the option to purchase it when they’re at the store buying the game and give them something to look forward to, and kind of let them know there’s more to come in this world. And if you’re a Zelda fan buying Nintendo Switch at launch and really you’re buying it for Zelda, I mean how happy are you to know that hey, I’m going to be able to play more Zelda in this world again later this year.

 

@WASDmeta

How Valve Saved Steam From Its Crisis of Confidence

Valve created Steam Greenlight as a way for developers to present their product to the world in the easiest way possible. Indie (independent) developers, with usually low budgets, would pay a $100 “hosting” fee and then can share screenshots, videos, and snippets of their game for people to vote on. Valve’s algorithms along with the gaming public’s voting choices allowed some great studios to come to prominence and some excellent games were produced.  But at the same time Valve realized their system was under manipulation, and the outcry of defunct backings burned brighter on shopper’s minds than the praises of the good ones.  If a game met Valve’s application requirements the developer would post their game on the site, players would vote for it, or not, and eventually, it would be seen by one of Valve’s ten curators.  If the project was “Greenlit” the game would show up on Valve’s store, Steam, and players would be able to buy it.

With Steam Direct Valve is hoping to streamline this process. Steam Greenlight was Valve’s way of publishing through democracy, but with over 12 million concurrent players a day, it is impossible for Valve’s ten person team to vet all the games that have been voted on. With Steam Direct Valve would collect a litany of information:

We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account.

in order to verify they’re a real business before proceeding any further. Then devs or studios would pay a fee, which has yet to be decided upon, for each game they wanted to post to Steam. With that fee being recoupable once sales were made.

Valve wants to make sure Steam’s shoppers are not only happy with the products they’re offered but are secure about their purchase decision before they hit that “Purchase” button, and I think Steam Direct is the best way to do this.

Steam Direct’s initial screening process, requiring tax and business documentation would make it more difficult for anyone with nefarious plans to steal the backer’s money or promote a product that does not deliver what it promises. The cash up front / fee is just another layer of consumer protection. Yes, it would be harder for game developers to enter the pipeline, but that’s the point. Genuine developers and studios, with the knowledge that their game is real and will be completed, are assured they will get their money back when the game sells – and the store is not inundated with scam artists or people that never intend to finish their game as promised.

It puts both parties at ease by creating a place in which customers and producers feel confident that the store will publish only quality products and people’s time and money will not be taken. Devs will no longer be worried that no one will invest in them because they or the dev next door might be illegitimate. Or be concerned about having to fight past half-finished and poorly made games so people can easily find them. Customers will no longer have to go through the tedium of looking through thousands of games on Greenlight to vote on, wondering which games will ever see the light of day and which ones carry malware.

This might not be Valve’s final iteration of their indie digital distribution platform, but each step they take provides developers better opportunities to shine and gets us closer to that final platform. With VR on the horizon, Valve has a massive opportunity to disrupt the digital media space. And by keeping consumer confidence high and continuing to aid the growth of up-and-coming developers, they’re only positioning themselves to succeed.

tl;dr
– After a couple of missteps and five years of rollercoaster success, Steam Greenlight has been put to rest.
– Pointed to the nearly unregulated volume of submissions, a sub-optimized submission process, and customer dissatisfaction as key factors.
– Wanted to create a more secure connection between the two parties, making it easier for studios to publish directly, and a streamlined shopping experience for gamers.
– In Spring 2017 Steam Direct will replace Greenlight, implement a quicker but more thorough screening process for devs, and provide the gamers with a shopping environment that is easier to navigate.
– With these new changes, Steam is cutting dead weight and cleaning up the process of self-publishing. Let’s see how it turns out.