[Blaugust Day 6]
It has been yet another Blizzard Investor Report in which Hearthstone metrics have been bundled or otherwise obscured, but this latest report added a few more variables with which to solve for X.
One of the juicier parts was this bit (provided by TheStreet):
Note that this quarter was an important inflection point for Blizzard. In spite of World of Warcraft subscriber declines, which were more concentrated in the East and partly affected by the success of Diablo III in China, Blizzard grew its Q2 revenues 29% year over year at constant FX.
This performance was driven by the strong performances of Diablo, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm, which in Q2 made up the majority of Blizzard revenues. The franchise diversification inside Blizzard is happening rapidly, and even more importantly, the aggregate Blizzard community is healthy and growing.
- Destiny, Hearthstone, & Heroes of the Storm: >70M players & >$1.25B non-GAAP* revenues, LTD
- Destiny: >20 million registered players have played about 100 hours each since launch
- Diablo III has sold-through over 30 million units to date globally
- Hearthstone: Key engagement metrics nearly doubled year over year, largely on account of the new content/platforms.
- Overall Q2 net revenue GAAP = $1.044 billion, non-GAAP = $759 million.
- WoW specific GAAP revenue for Q2 = $221 million; non-GAAP $157 million.
- Asia Pacific net revenue for entire company: GAAP $105 million, non-GAAP $131 million.
- Blizzard specific revenue for Q2: $385 million.
That last data point was not specific in whether it was GAAP or non-GAAP, but I’m assuming it is the latter as otherwise WoW couldn’t be less than half of the Blizzard total, which is what was stated in in the investor report. So here are a few of rudimentary calculations we can draw:
- Blizzard’s non-WoW revenue for Q2 = $228 million (385 – 157).
- Hearthstone + Heroes of the Storm registered players = ~50 million
- Hearthstone = 30+ million registered players as of 6/5/15.
- Ergo, Heroes of the Storm has ~20 million registered players (70 = 20 + 30 + X).
- Destiny + Hearthstone brought in $850 million in 2014.
- The Q1 2015 report (PDF) stated Destiny + Hearthstone had $1 billion non-GAAP revenue LTD.
- Destiny + Hearthstone + Heroes of the Storm = ~$250 million combined in Q2 (1.25b – 1b).
- Diablo 3 sold 20 million copies as of August 2014. Thus sold another 10 million copies in last year.
So… yeah. Still feels like we’re missing too much information to draw any major conclusions.
That said, we can deduce that Hearthstone made less than $250 million in Q2, and less than $150 million in Q1. How much less remains to be seen. Also, while a lot of noise was made about the (F2P!) success of Diablo 3 in China, it bears mentioning that all franchises in both Activision and Blizzard (including WoW) totaled $131 million in revenue in China. In other words, it isn’t as though Chinese Diablo 3 is going to claim the lion’s share of the non-WoW pie.
As always, if you see an error or otherwise have put enough skill points in Language (Economics) to make better sense of the Investor Report numbers, by all means correct me in the comments below. If I had to guess, I’d peg Hearthstone at around $75-$100 million per quarter.
In the last three days I have spent probably around 8-10 hours playing ME3’s multiplayer. My conclusion? Bioware might be onto something.
At its core, the ME3 multiplayer consists of ~11 rounds of 4-player co-op, Horde-style survival across six maps taken from the single-player game itself. Every third wave is what I’d call a “cash round,” in which you get a specific objective: King of the Hill, Kill 4 specific mobs, or Activate 4 Nodes. Completing those cash rounds successfully earns you credits whereas all the other rounds awards XP. During the final extraction wave, you have to be in the evac area by the end of the mission timer in order to get the highest point score bonus (e.g. XP).
The first thing I would say is this: the multiplayer is fun. It probably goes without saying, but if you enjoy the combat in any of the three Mass Effect games, you will enjoy it here too. You shoot from cover, you gain XP, level up, decide which weapons/mods to outfit your character with and so on.
Other bloggers have mentioned the similarities between the gear situation and Magic: the Gathering… and it’s true. There are three tiers of gear packs – 5k, 20k, and 60k credits – and each pack has 5 random “cards” that represent either one-use consumables (Medi-gel, extra ammo, missile launcher), new weapons (or upgrades to already found weapons), weapon mods, new races for a class, or class XP (which raises the baseline level of new characters of that class). The mid-line Veteran Pack comes with 1 Uncommon item or better, while the Spectre Pack has a guaranteed Rare “or better” (whatever that means).
I am not a huge fan of companies putting literal gambling in even their F2P offerings, mainly based on my Magic Online experience. I played the physical form of M:tG for nearly a decade already, but after a particularly bad night of Magic Online wherein I realized I paid $60+ on a series of Booster Drafts, I deleted the game off my hard-drive and went and bought WoW the next day.¹
That got me thinking though… how different is that really from random loot in MMOs? Could, in fact, Bioware turn Mass Effect into an MMO without much effort at all?
Most of the set pieces are already in place.
Check, check, and check.
Originally, I found the ME2 pivot towards Biotic/Tech power spam (6 second cooldown Biotic Charge, what?) to be disconcerting. I suppose it doesn’t make any less sense than Omni-Tools materializing out of thin air or the titular mass effect, erm, effect in general. By the time I was halfway through ME3, the dynamism of power use was a core part of the entertaining gameplay.
You could even go so far as to imagine the Trinity system existing within the game realm, without too much of a stretch. Unlike Star Wars, it seems intuitively viable to heal people with Tech (Medi-Gel) or even Biotics, or perhaps simply refreshing their shielding with either. Or we could (perhaps preferably) see them go the purported Guild Wars 2 route and have shared role responsibilities – anyone can rez any downed member in the ME3 multiplayer, for example.
Mass Effect has them all in spades.
There are six races in multiplayer already, all with their own sort of racial-esque abilities, motivations, politics; we can imagine Batarians, Geth, Vorcha, or even Protheans being added to that count. I am not a fan of two-faction systems, so I would be overjoyed to see a situation wherein there are no “red vs blue” factions period, but rather players fighting for specific (mercenary?) movements of their choice. Did you choose Krogan and your friend choose Geth? No problem!
Indeed, without spoiling anything, the time period following the events of ME3 would be perfect, perfect for this kind of integrated gameplay. As Mass Effect players, we are already used to mission-based activities spread throughout the galaxy, taking orders from quest-givers, and so on and so forth. Expansions could come in the form of dormant² Relays or new star systems being discovered without breaking any suspension of disbelief.
As far as enemies go, while the main three – Geth, Cerberus, Reapers – have been… explored to various degrees, again, the time period following ME3 will undoubtedly be a fairly chaotic place. And remember, we got along perfectly fine in ME1 without having the geth be the only bad guys. There is no reason why pockets of resistance couldn’t spring up, pirates, mercenary groups, terrorist cells, or even the Salarian STG (or Spectres!) could decide they need to achieve X or Y goal, in opposition to your orders.
Shepard made galactic peace possible. It is up to us to maintain it.©
Whether Bioware makes itemization deeper or keeps it fairly level, the fact is that it already exists. Shepard can wear 6-7 different helmets with different stats, independent of what kind of leg armor he/she has. “Tier sets” exist. There are dozens of different guns, upgrades, and weapon mods. It has been established that new item technologies can be researched and produced, all in the same universe in which “Fabrication Rights Management (FRM)” technology can keep certain items unique (e.g. effectively soulbound).
Now, I have a hard time imagining that chasing
+5 Flaming Shotgun M-23 Katana V upgrades would sustain any sort of ME:O endgame the same way fantasy MMOs can get away with it. But sort of assumes there is necessarily an endgame gear grind at all. Which leads me to…
MMO Structure/Themepark vs Sandbox
I am going to suggest Synthesis here.
Is it possible to have a sandbox in the themepark? I have no idea. But as I was glancing at the Galaxy At War map, I could not help but notice how the southern portions were labeled as Earth Systems Alliance Space, Inner Council Space, Outer Council Space. Meanwhile the northern portions were the Attican Traverse and the Terminus Systems. So… perhaps Terminus = nul-sec? Hell, we can already imagine fighting over bases, planets, and star systems in the Mass Effect universe right? Meanwhile, the people who want missions from High Command can get them while following a proto-typical MMO/ME storyline.
It does occur to me that, in many ways, SWTOR has already laid claim to this particular niche. Voice acting, the dialog wheel, everyone having their own spaceship, and so on. But I believe, in retrospect, that Mass Effect Online would have been a much better fit; with SWTOR, too many mechanics were shoehorned into the MMO mold. The odds of Bioware eating up their own market-share with such a thematically similar product is basically zero, of course.
Something is going to happen with the franchise, though, and I can’t wait to see what that is.
P.S. Apparently Massively beat me to the punch by a day.
P.P.S. Then there is this.
¹ My entire opposition to MMOs up to that point had been “I refuse to keep paying for a game I already bought.” That $60 lasted me about 3 hours in Magic Online, but would have been four months in WoW.
² Shh… it could happen.
This news is technically more than a week old, but there was a blue post made by Zarhym that really struck me as… well, read for yourself:
Having said all that, yesterday we discussed low-population and faction-imbalanced realms with our developers. They have some pretty bold and spectacular plans for addressing this in anticipation of implementing some of the features we plan to in Mists. I just don’t have a lot of information to share with you at this stage of programming and development.
My first reaction is in the title: bold and spectacular… server mergers? Assuming that is not what they are doing, well, what are they doing? What could they be doing?
I believe it was in a recent episode of The Instance that the hosts were talking about the concept of moving towards a server-less solution, or perhaps more accurately a “dynamic server” solution. We can imagine that instead of always logging onto Auchindoun or Earthen Ring or wherever, you simply log into a server. Once that server starts to fill towards capacity, people will start logging into a new server. This essentially eliminates low-pop and/or faction imbalanced servers entirely, aside from very last server booted up.
There are several obvious downsides to such a method. First, everything will be like LFD for servers; the likelihood of you making friends “in the wild” is severely diminished since you probably won’t ever see them again. A possible counter-measure would be to weight the system so that you are nearly guaranteed to be placed in the same “server” as people on your Friends List. Think that DK was a pretty cool guy when you were doing dailies? Add him to Friends, maybe see him again. What happens, though, if your Friends List network splits off to different servers based on their Friends Lists? Even if you make it possible to change servers through the UI or whatever, other issues crop up. For example, how will the AH be handled? One mega-AH, ruled by botters?
Aside from the dynamic server idea, I had the thought about simply moving towards LFR-ifying everything – not with queues, but with phasing. Imagine the following: you’re on a low-pop ghost town (i.e. Auchindoun), and you walk into Westfall for some alt questing. Instead of the place simply being dead, it is fairly vibrant… with people from other low-pop servers. Instead of an empty Auchindoun Westfall and an empty Dragonmaw Westfall, there is a kind of meta-Westfall that both servers share. Their AHs would remain separate, their Stormwinds would remain separate, their Tol Barads would remain separate, but any kind of dead zone would be shared. If a bunch of people congregated in Westfall for some reason, the servers could simply phase out the other side.
Or maybe “bold and spectacular plans” is simply LFD scenarios, or LFR Tol Barads.
All I know is that low-pop and/or imbalanced realms is a huge, systemic problem in two-faction games. In my four years, I never played on anything other than low-pop realms; any time I heard excitement over Sunwell-esque unlocking of vendors or world raid bosses or WG/TB-based PvP objectives, I always rolled my eyes. Those things do not work on Auchindoun, nor on many other servers. Fundamentally, you and I may as well be playing entirely different games.
If Mists is really focused on getting people out of cities and back into the world, Blizzard is going to have a big problem in low-pop realms when everyone is outside and they still can’t see each other.