The Elder Scrolls Online Will Have a Monthly Subscription Fee of $14.99/€12.99/£8.99

The Elder Scrolls Online

The PlayStation 4 is set to have a few F2P titles on November 15th/29th, but when The Elder Scrolls Online launches next year for the system, it will have a monthly subscription fee, rather than being free-to-play.

Matt Firor, Game Director on TESO, confirmed this news to GameStar, saying, “Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.”

Going into specific costs, the first 30 days of online play after you purchase the game will be absolutely free, with a monthly charge of $14.99/€12.99/£8.99 after that. Discounts on multiple months are expected, and you’ll be able to buy game time cards, along with numerous other payment options.

Talking about how the console versions of The Elder Scrolls Online will have the same “graphics, engine, content, etc,” Firor also let it be known that they’re already working on post-launch content for the game (quest lines, skills, zones, dungeons). Timing is still being finalized, but they are planning on updating the game every 4-6 weeks with new content.

Looking at 2014, we can expect to hear PS4 beta news early in the year, and on the topic of PC and console versions being released the same day, Matt said, “This is something else we’ll talk more about early next year as we finalize our launch schedule.”



EverQuest Next to kick off “Emergent Era” of MMOs

SOE president John Smedley says “our players can actually make better stuff than us,” entire company moving toward emergent content.Everquest Next


Four years after development on EverQuest Next began, Sony Online Entertainment finally showed it off today at its SOE Live fan fest event in Las Vegas. With an emphasis on player-created content and an open-ended gameplay experience, SOE president John Smedley sees the game as the launching point for a new “Emergent Era” in MMO games.

“We’re not just making the next MMO,” Smedley told GamesIndustry International. “We’re really inventing an entirely new genre within online gaming and we’re moving our entire company toward the concept of emergent content. Everquest Next is sort of the culmination of this concept of emergent gameplay where players are basically playing a large simulation, a large sandbox, and they’re making content themselves. And they’re part of this content ecosystem where players can sell or buy from one another, or from us. We’re basically taking the game and we’re stretching it in completely new ways with this emergent gameplay idea.”

On the content creation front, SOE will launch the free-to-play EverQuest Next Landmark this winter. A building tool with an MMO’s social functionality, Landmark will let players work together to create their own structures (and sometime post-launch, other types of content as well) using resources collected from persistent worlds. Those creations will then be considered for inclusion in the full version of EverQuest Next, and SOE developers will give users guidance on what structures they most need during development. Ultimately, Landmark is expected to help address the problem of MMO game users consuming content faster than developers can actually create it.

John Smedley

“You’re not going to Disneyland. The equivalent is we drove you to Africa in the middle of the biggest wild animal preserve there is and handed you a jeep and a gun, and said have fun.”

John Smedley

Smedley acknowledged the idea for user-created content originally came from Valve, but SOE is looking to build on the idea by being the first company to bring it to MMOs in a smooth-working manner, making it easy for players to be a part of the creation community. SOE has already dabbled in user-made content with its Player Studio program, which lets gamers create in-game items for titles like EverQuest, and receive a share of 40 percent of revenues it brings in if it’s included in the SOE Marketplace.

“We’ve learned that great content really does sell, and our players can actually make better stuff than us,” Smedley said of the Player Studio program. “So our goal here is to set it up so our players can make money just like we can with this ecosystem we want to build. What we’ve learned is that it really does work.”

Beyond involving players in building the EverQuest Next world, SOE’s sandbox approach to the game experience should also sidestep the common MMO pitfall of players racing through scripted content too quickly. Smedley said the established MMO formula amounts to a guided theme park experience, but SOE is aiming at something very different with EverQuest Next.

“You’re not going to Disneyland,” Smedley said. “The equivalent is we drove you to Africa in the middle of the biggest wild animal preserve there is and handed you a jeep and a gun, and said have fun. That’s the difference, Disneyland versus that. We’re making that.”

SOE has no announced release window for EverQuest Next.



Game industry finds a foothold in St. Louis

Asian fans of League of Legends, one of the world’s most popular online games, probably have no idea that their play is being monitored in a 10th-floor office in Clayton.

Riot Games expands Clayton office

They probably don’t care, either. All they want to know is that the game works and that it regularly presents them with new characters and new challenges. And that’s the job of the 40 people who work here for Riot Games, the Santa Monica, Calif., company that created League of Legends.

The St. Louis area isn’t known as a hotbed of video game development, but the industry has developed a mini-hub here.

Riot arrived in 2011. Graphite Lab, which develops children’s games for brand-name companies such as Disney and Hasbro, has been here since 2009 and now has nine employees in its Maryland Heights studio.

Other industry players range from Simutronics, a 27-year-old studio with 30 employees in Maryland Heights, to startups such as Butterscotch Shenanigans, which is just releasing its second game.

In part, the game industry here is a byproduct of the mobile-computing revolution. By creating app stores where any developer can sell — or give away — a game, Apple and Google have democratized the industry.

“The development budgets for these games also are significantly lower, which means the high cost of production is no longer a barrier to entry,” says Walt Scacchi, research director at the University of California-Irvine Center for Computer Games and Virtual Worlds.

That’s exactly what Samuel and Seth Coster, co-founders of Butterscotch Shenanigans, are figuring. They released their second game, Quadropus Rampage, for Android devices last week and say it will be available in the Apple store this week.

Samuel Coster says the brothers’ development costs are “phenomenally low. You have to eat, you have to pay rent, and literally for Seth and me those are the only expenses we have.”

Scacchi says the game industry remains highly concentrated in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, but he’s seeing more activity in non-traditional places such as St. Louis. “I think we’ll see that kind of growth continuing,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to grow a local game industry than to move into the South of Market area in San Francisco where you have to compete with Google and Zynga and Facebook for talent.”

Some game companies have found plenty of talent in St. Louis, while others say it’s a challenge. Scott Gelb, Riot Games’ vice president for technology, says the availability of engineers is a big reason for the firm’s rapid growth here.

Gelb works in Santa Monica, but he’s a former St. Louisan and was an advocate for expanding here. “I saw that a lot of St. Louis developers were really passionate about what they were doing, but there weren’t a lot of startup-type environments for them to work in,” he said.

Graphite Lab, which has a Play-Doh alphabet game coming out soon for Hasbro, is part of a company that also operates in Springfield, Mo., and Austin, Texas. Matt Raithel, Graphite’s studio director, says he’s found “a growing pipeline” of talent here.

Simutronics founder David Whatley, however, doesn’t think the area talent pool is deep enough. “The schools here have great programs if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, but if you want to be a computer game developer, it’s a wasteland,” he said.

Area educators should pay attention to his words. If they turn out graduates with the creative and technical skills that games require, Whatley and others say, a growing industry is eager to hire them.



Perfect World suffers in the wait for new games

Revenue, profits and players all down in Q1 as online firm concentrates on pipeline

Perfect World suffers in the wait for new games

A lack of new games and content saw Perfect World’s business slow down on all fronts in the first quarter.

In the three-month period ended March 31, 2013, Perfect World’s revenue was RMB624.5 million ($102m/£68m), slightly down from RMB718.5 million in the prior year quarter. Net profit was RMB131 million ($21.4m/£14.1m), a more precipitous year-on-year decline from RMB209.8 million.

The steep drop in profits was due in no small part to higher levels of expenditure on R&D as the company attempts to address a similarly sharp decline in player numbers: Perfect World’s aggregate concurrent users have fallen from 804,000 in Q1 last year to around 554,000.

“During the quarter, we continued to primarily focus on developing new content for our portfolio and pipeline and slow down promotional activities,” said Perfect World CEO Robert Xiao in a statement. “As we expected, the overall performance of our existing games in the first quarter was softer, but we are pleased with the recent progress we have made in our portfolio and pipeline development.”

Perfect World has several major launches planned for this year: Cryptic Studios’ Neverwinter in North America and Europe, and Swordsman Online and Dota 2 in mainland China.



Rift goes free-to-play

Trion Worlds opens up entirety of 2011 MMORPG for non-paying gamers starting next month


Another MMORPG will make the switch from subscriptions to a free-to-play format next month. Trion Worlds today announced its first game, the fantasy MMORPG Rift, will go free-to-play starting June 12.

At the same time the switch is made, Trion will launch a new content update and open up an expanded in-game store where players can purchase items and services with real-world money. As a nod to those who already paid for the game, existing subscribers and those who purchased copies of Rift will be able to have more characters on their accounts, as well as other perks. Trion will continue to offer subscriptions that allow players to progress in the game faster, and has said it will roll out a loyalty program to reward its veteran players.

“We have been listening to feedback from our players and watching the continuously developing MMO community, and are now ready to launch Rift as a premium free-to-play experience,” said Rift creative director Bill Fisher.

Like the rest of the industry, Trion Worlds appears to be moving away from the subscription model entirely. Last month it released Defiance for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, with an upfront charge but no subscription required for online play. Its upcoming shooter Warface and real-time strategy game End of Nations will both be free-to-play from launch.