EA Tightens its Belt as Electronic Bioarts Stares into the Abyss
Bioware this week denied that there has been a drop-off in player participation in their struggling MMORPG The Old Republic, even as they indicated an imminent merging of servers and moved to provide players with an additional free month of game subscription. Many are suggesting that The Old Republic‘s population has probably peaked at 1.7 million payers, and is set to decline from here on out. Bioware contends that The Old Republic has been a success for EA, and that a stagnating player-base is merely the result of players gaming exclusively during off-peak times; what speaks louder however, is talk of EA laying off anywhere between five hundred and a thousand employees due to the disappointing sales performance of The Old Republic and Battlefield 3.
If this turn of events was not dramatic enough South Korean MMO publisher Nexon, the publisher of Maple Story, is allegedly looking at launching a takeover bid against EA, an unlikely albeit delicious prospect. News of a possible takeover caused EA’s stock, which had been languishing at a fifty-two week low, to shoot up by 8.1% to $16.23 per share. While things may be looking a tad grim for EA, they will no doubt be looking to turn things around today with the launch of their flagship MMORPG, The Old Republic, into thirty-eight additional countries, including the lucrative markets of Afghanistan and Yemen. Somewhere right now Bobby Kotick is wearing a smile that would not look out of place on a cat.
Another Headless Moral Panic For the Sheep of Gaming
“In an article published by the Atlantic earlier this month, writer Taylor Clark posited that ‘video games, with very few exceptions, are dumb’ “, writes Jason Schreier with the bristling faux outrage which lends itself to the witless rabble rousing that Kotaku readers have come to prefer. To wit the latest carcass to be swarmed by the Gawker owned tabloid gaming rag, Kotaku, is the latest moral panic engendered in the gaming public due to the fact that some journalist somewhere said some mean things about gaming. This savage blow to the integrity of gaming has been enough to compel the ironically named Brainy Gamer site to collate a large database of “smart” games, the purpose of which is to refute the harsh insinuations of one Mr. Taylor Clark. To elicit such a hysterical response the article penned by Clark must have been very harsh indeed one would have to figure – well, as it turns out that is simply not the case.
Taylor Clark’s article The Most Dangerous Gamer may be rife with hyperbole, but a slander piece it is not. Rather it is an article chronicling the rise of auteur game designer par arrogance Jonathan blow, even as it looks to the potential of the interactive medium while bemoaning the toilet that is commercial gaming. In fact much of the article reads like Jonathan Blow speaking through the tips of Clark’s fingers, whilst having his message garbled somewhat by being filtered through the generalisations and exaggerations of a journalist who is ignorant of the subject about which he speaks. Much of the criticism levelled by the Clark’s article toward the gaming industry appears to closely mirror Blow’s own art-centric gaming prejudices, making him a much more likely candidate for gamer ire – but then that would spoil the ‘us versus them’ narrative of the story.
All of this is irrelevant however, as what does it really matter that a non-gamer should see artistic merit in the medium? Watching gamers start petitions and build databases in order to refute the slings and barbs of an indifferent media is rather like seeing a grown man tackle a toddler after being called a big poopy head – this more than anything else reflects very poorly on the video gaming industry and culture. It is futile, as reams of evidence can be gathered and presented without the naysayers ever possessing the faculties sufficient to weigh it on its merits and concede the point to butthurt gamers. More importantly it indicates an extreme lack of confidence on the part of gamers toward their recreation of choice, which really serves to cast doubt on their contention that gaming is a serious pursuit; so perhaps Jonathan Blow makes a good point afterall.
XBox Live Receives a Substantial Update in the Form of More Advertisements
Experts recommend that gamers should spend fifteen minutes of every hour taking a break, and so keen is Microsoft to enact this recommendation that they have become the envy of hyperbolic health professionals everywhere by moving to impose even more advertising upon the users of their paid online service, to ensure that they are given adequate time to take a break from their gaming. For gamer’s $60 annual subscription they can expect to gain access to adverts running between fifteen and thirty seconds a piece embedded in many popular XBox 360 applications.
In an interview with Gamasutra Microsoft’s Ross Honey stated “With the growth of XBox Live, advertisers no longer have to choose between digital and TV advertising – we’re offering the impact of TV and the interactivity and addressability of digital in one platform. As more and more industry leaders like ESPN work with us to help monetize their content on XBox Live, TV media buyers win with the ability to extend their standard TV spots to this highly engaged consumer audience.” Microsoft wins, advertiser wins, everybody wins!
It is genuinely heartening to see that Microsoft are so in tune with their users, by which one means advertisers. All one can say is that with all this great high quality content on offer it is good to see that Sony have managed to remain somewhat competitive by offering their comparatively meagre online services completely free of charge.