Editor’s Note: This is the GameSentral Rewind, a daily recap of the top gaming headlines.
Wildstar going free-to-play this fall
Wildstar, NCSoft’s sci-fi MMO, is going free-to-play later this year, according to the publisher.
“The only real way to grow the game and get more people into the game is by getting rid of the box cost and the monthly subscription.”
-Mike Donatelli, Wildstar product director
“We have always considered Wildstar to be a AAA game. We’re continuing to release AAA content. That is not going to change one iota as we move free-to-play.
“All dungeons, new zones, new shiphand missions, new adventures — none of those things will be inaccessible. All of it will always be accessible to all of our players.”
-Chad Moore, Wildstar creative director
To do this and maintain a business, developer Carbaine Studios will add two new currencies to the game. First, there is NCoin, a real money transaction currency that can be used to purchase “convenience and cosmetic items,” like mounts, costumes, and potions giving the player an increased rate of experience gain for a set amount of time, according to Donatelli.
“The most important thing to call out is that we’re not going to sell power. That was a team-wide declaration. We had some ideas that we cut just because a few members of the team thought it could be constructed as selling power. We are real serious about not selling power.”
- Mike Donatelli
There will also be omni-bits that players earn alongside gold. Most of the items purchasable with NCoin will also be available to purchase with omni-bits.
“For players that just want to play and spend their time, they can get almost all the same things s players who buy NCoin. Philosophically, we don’t want there to be something those players can’t get.”
Carbine will also be introducing a “signature membership” to replace its current monthly subscription, which opens up new bonuses for players who continue to pay a monthly fee.
“We wanted to make sure that in this transition we didn’t do things that were painful, like you can’t sprint now. You can do all the things you could when you had a subscription for free. We just added a whole bunch of things on top of that, additional things that you get from being a member.”
Players who have maintained a subscription from Wildstar’s 2014 launch to this fall will recive an exclusive new mount. Those who subscribe this summer will get a companion pet, special housing item, title, and four months of Signature membership at no additional cost.
Longer players who have been subscribed — regardless of the current of Signature system — will receive more loyalty points, which can be redeemed for special prizes. Non-subscribers will also be able to get these gifts, according to Donatelli.
The free-to-play-enabling update will also include a lot of new content like revamped tutorials, a complete player stats and itemization overhaul, and a tweaked dungeon progress to make a smoother difficulty ramp-up.
“The dungeon content in our game has always been well-reviewed and well-received, because it’s very unique and challenging in its own way. But after listening to players and looking at the actual analytics, we saw players were getting into dungeons and wanting to play them, but they weren’t being as successful at the beginning, which drove some players to not try them again.”
Endgame dungeons will have the same difficulty level as Wildstar’s hardcore fans, according to Moore, but it will build to that level of challenge more gradually throughout the leveling process.
“We’re going free-to-play in the fall. We’re in no rush to do it. We’re going to do it right, or we’re not going to do it at all. That’s why we’re announcing it now. We could have just waited like everyone else does and pulled a switch and said, ‘Surprise!’ But we want to get it on the public test realm. We want to test it. We want players to give us feedback so we can make it better for them.
“Literally our plan is to drive millions of players into the game. That’s the best part.”
Twitch bans adult-only games
Twitch will no longer allow AO (adults-only)-rated games to be streamed on its platform.
“Simply put, AO games are not welcome on Twitch.
“Previously, we made game-specific decisions about which games would and would not be available for broadcast — sometimes due to overly sexual content, sometimes due to gratuitous violence. This is unsustainable and unclear, generating only further confusion among Twitch broadcasters. We would like to make this policy as transparent as possible.”
-Twitch, in a blog post
The Amazon-owned company explicitly named Manhunt 2, Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy: Director’s Cut and upcoming mass shooter game Hatred as games that will be banned due to its AO rating.
Games with Gold
Microsoft will continuing offering Xbox Live Gold subscribers three free games and one game extension in this month’s Games with Gold, according to the company.
Double Fine Productions’ Massive Chalice, which launches today for Linux, Mac, Windows, and Xbox One, will be free for Gold subscribers all month long.
Cherry Pop Games’ Pool Nation FX is also free yet again after being offered free in both April and May. It too is available all month long.
Xbox 360-owning Gold subscribers can download Avalanche Studios’ Just Cause 2 until June 15. During the second half of the month, Eidos Montreal’s Thief will be available free.
Oculus Rift will cost $1,500 “all-in” without your own gaming PC
Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe stated that the Oculus Rift will cost around $1,500 at Re/code’s Code Conference, but there’s a big but here.
“We are looking at an all-in price, if you have to go out and actually need to buy a new computer and you’re going to buy the Rift … at most you should be in that $1,500 range.”
- Brendan Iribe, Oculus CEO
Over time, Iribe would like to drop the price below $1,000. Keep in mind that this would be from scratch with no gaming PC or equipment at all.
PS4 first-party lineup “a little sparse,” 2015 “year of investment: CEO
The upcoming first-party lineup for the PlayStation 4 is “a little sparse,” according to Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House, but the company is investing in other ways to bolster the system’s appeal and maintain its momentum.
During an investor presentation in Tokyo, House mentioned the PS4’s 20 million-strong install base and touched on Sony’s current-generation platform strategy. The company plans to build upon its network services, according to House, like the high-margin PlayStation Plus subscription service and PlayStation Vue television service, like virtual reality hardware Project Morpheus.
This year’s lineup of games made by Sony Computer Entertainment’s internal studios was somewhat thin, according to House, but the company has plans to keep console sales moving, pointing to next year’s Uncharted 4 PS4 launch.
“This year, maintaining our competitive advantage on the console really principally comes down to a few key elements. We are working very hard to continue very strong support from third-party publishers and developers. Our first-party lineup is a little sparse this year, so I think this places greater emphasis on getting good third party support. Obviously, there is an advantage there because of our market share and momentum.”
Sony continues to pursue platform exclusives, according to House, but cautioned that those are increasingly difficult to secure. The company will invest in other business areas as well.
“I would characterize 2015 as the beginning of a harvest period for the PlayStation 4. The beginning of a harvest period. That being said, we are also undertaking to invest for the future. And 2015 will also be a year of investment.
“We will continue to invest in the re-architecture of the network platform that underpins our services. The goal here is greater stability, reduced maintenance time, and greater user satisfaction. We will look to invest in building PlayStation Vue, because we think it has high potential to be a brand new mass market opportunity for our platforms.”
Based on response to PlayStation original content like television show Powers, according to House, it will invest in that segment further.
“Now that we know that we have the confidence that these are motivating to our user base.”
Sony will also “invest strongly” in Project Morpheus, the VR add-on for PS4 “as we look to build a brand new business for the future,” according to House. Project Morpheus is expected to come in the first half of 2016.
Aliens: Colonial Marines lawsuit loses class status, Gearbox dropped from suit
The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Gearbox Software and Sega, claiming the developer falsely advertised Aliens: Colonial Marines with unrepresentative trade show demonstrations, have agreed to drop Gearbox from the suit, according to court documents obtained by Polygon.
The judge in the case also ruled that the suit, which still stands against publisher Sega, is no longer a class action and will only be representative of the two original gamers who filed the suit through law firm Edelson in California’s Northern District in April 2013.
The plantiffs now have until June 3 to tell the court how they intend to proceed against Sega, according to the document.
Konami not giving up on consoles, PC
Konami has apologized to fans for causing anxiety on its games and how they do business in a letter sent to Polygon.
“The aim of this reform has been to guarantee that, in the quickly-changing digital entertainment industry where new game designs and platforms constantly alter the market environment, we can accurately observe new customer demands and market trends, and apply our long-established technology and know how quickly and effectively with a range of targeted responses. The reorganization process has entailed repositioning our production studios, shifting our game development to a more centralized production division system. Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain director Hideo Kojima and his team members are hard at work in the new production division system, bringing the game ever closer to completion.
“We are aware that the conjecture surrounding our recent changes has prompted a great deal of anxiety, for which we apologize.”
-Konami, in a letter
Konami “strongly felt that mobile decices would soon become the major game platforms, and that our business would depend on running an ‘operation-driven’ model that would allow us to stay abrest of changing customer usage trends and swiftly evolve our games to suit them,” according to executive producer for a 2010 Konami mobile game Hideki Hayakawa.
In terms of arcade, console, and card games, the company needed to get away from just making the game, but also creating add-on content.
“Our aim is to continue to build up a comprehensive portfolio of console, arcade, and card game titles for each IP while also making the best possible use of the mobile devices that accompany our customers in their daily life, thus expanding the limits of entertainment and appealing to more and more customers.
“The role of the mobile platform will be to connect people with their games across various devices, and so the methods and presentation employed in distributing information on mobile devices will be critical.”
- Hideki Hayakawa
A new centralized production division system was introduced on March 16, according to Hayakawa.
“With the new structure, we will also be making clear distinctions between management and creative roles. Until now, in addition to game development duties, our creators were handling a wide range of responsibilities including managerial roles. This can be a helpful approach when a studio concentrates on progressively specializing in a specific style of product, but we have found that a sudden market shift can render that specialization invalid and leave the studio unable to keep up.”
In the past, according to Hayakawa, Konami struggled to quickly react to market shifts.
“Based on these lessons, we have changed our approach to instead have managerial staff thoroughly focus on strategy and how their individual skills can be best applied, with that strategy then being executed together with the creative staff.”
“Regarding the release of Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, we have been overwhelmed by the outporuing of support from fans in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and elsewhere worldwide who are eagerly awaiting the game’s much anticipated September 1 launch. To this end, the development team is diligently working together to ensure those high expectations are answered in full.
“We would also like to take this opportunity to state that the Metal Gear and Silent Hill series, both beloved by countless fans around the path these future titles will take. Konami will continue to embrace the challenge of creating entertainment content via different platforms; across not only mobile platforms, but for home consoles, arcade units, and cards, to meet the changing needs of the times.”