This Just In, We're All Doomed

Nice market you have there, I'll take that now.

A new market forecast from a global research firm puts the global MMO market at $8 billion this year, thanks largely to growth in China and Korea. Gamasutra, which unlike me could apparently afford the $2000 to read it, notes:

the MMORPG industry can be essentially considered as two regions, with Blizzard Entertainment dominating the “slowly growing” Western market, and publishers such as Shanda, Netease, Nexon, and NCsoft driving most of the MMORPG market’s growth in Asia.

Strategy Analytics believes MMORPGs in the Western market are showing signs of a slowdown due to competition with console video games and the rising popularity of social games. It also says that the traditional subscription model in many Western MMORPGs has “lost traction and growth momentum.”

It goes on to assert that future growth in the Western market will be spurred on by Asian companies entering the US market, because, you know, that never happened before.

"You, Sir, Are A Terrible Client"

I can maek art nao.

Jon Jones (whom I used to work with/heckle) takes apart a clueless article on how to hire exploit new artists, point by point.

This is HYSTERICAL to me. Have you considered that you have problems with artist turnover because 1) You hire only inexperienced, naive people you disrespect and underpay, and 2) You’re a really crappy manager that they want to escape from as quickly as they can?

Earth Eternal May Not Be That Eternal

Grumbles the Cow, after being laid off, set the barn on fire.

Another new MMO doesn’t make it out the door, as Earth Eternal, a browser-based free to play MMO involving animals NOT FURRIES SHUT UP YOU, which had been in open beta since last October, sent out a letter no one likes writing.

I had to lay off all of our staff except for two people (one of which is me) on Friday, and it’s likely that by this time next week neither of us will be with Sparkplay any more either. The simple fact is that we’ve run out of money.

Matt Mihaly, Sparkplay’s soon-to-be-ex-CEO, went on to say that Earth Eternal itself was up for sale as of right… now.

We’re putting it up for auction today and are reasonably confident that someone will buy it and keep it running. There is, however, the chance that nobody will want to take on the cost of running it. If that happens, Earth Eternal will go down when our internet and hosting provider pulls the plug for non-payment. It’s hard to tell when that could happen, but it’ll certainly be here at least another week, at minimum.

So, yeah, remember how I’m always going on about how MMOs needed to be lean, innovative, and closely targeted to avoid the thundering hooves of the WoW juggernaut? Earth Eternal was pretty much all of the above. How much of their collapse is due to the still-very-much-in-recession-thank-you economy, and how much because online gamers are saying with their dollars, yeah, we actually don’t want to play anything that isn’t World of Warcraft? Both answers are more than a little troubling.

Law And Order: Special ERP Unit

In the World of Warcraft, sexually based erotic roleplaying (ERP) is considered especially heinous. On the Moon Guard server, the dedicated game masters who investigate these vicious terms of service violations are members of an elite squad known as the Special ERP Unit.

These are their stories.

After the break, more with Law and Order: SEU and this week’s special guest, Britney Spears as Lauranthalassasaa Half-Vampire!

But now, a word from our sponsor.

Xfire Acquired By Former IGE Execs, Neglects To Keep People Who Made Xfire

Message that was sent globally to all logged-in Xfire users this afternoon (courtesy Geldonyetich in the comments on an earlier story):

Xfire was bought by new owners today. Most of the team that has built Xfire over the last six years is leaving. We enjoyed working for you for the last 127 releases and wish we could stay to create the next 127. Good bye, good luck, and game on. — The Xfire Team

Message that was on the Xfire web site shortly afterward:

That would presumably be Chris Kirmse, founder and lead engineer behind Xfire.

After a while, that notice was finally replaced with news on the new owners, namely Titan Platform, soon to rename itself XfireTitan’s team includes several IGE veterans, including John Maffei, who stewarded the ZAM media network’s divorce from IGE, Dave Christensen, who was with SOE briefly after his IGE tenure (a move which I yelled about incoherently) and Brock Pierce, IGE’s founder, who threatened to sue me until I posted a picture of a kitten.

TechCrunch, unlike the rest of us, actually committed acts of journalism and talked to some of the folks involved.

We’ve just confirmed with Titan Gaming CEO John Maffei that they have acquired Xfire – the deal was signed just a couple of hours ago – but have not been able to pin down the exact purchase price.

Given the timing, it looks like Chris Kirmse and whomever walked out the door with him waited until the deal was signed and then publically did everything but tell his userbase to go install Raptr now — which would lead one to think that this was not the happiest of acquisitions. In any event, one suspects that Maffei is far happier to talk to a website covering new media acquisitions than gaming journalists who might actually ask about prior experiences.

So, yeah, this is going to be AWESOME!

Kotick Can't Seem To Pay Anyone, Really

When you're worth half a billion dollars, it's never a bad day to stop sniffing glue.

Bobby Kotick loses lawsuit over refusing to pay legal fees for a sexual harassment suit.

In his ruling the arbitrator described Kotick’s approach to the Madvig case as a “scorched earth defense” and cited numerous statements allegedly made by the Activision CEO during his dispute with the former flight attendant.

Describing a May 2007 meeting with Abu-Assal and Cove’s chief financial officer, the arbitrator wrote that “Mr. Kotick wanted to destroy the other side and not to pay Ms. Madvig anything…. Mr. Kotick realized this was not a good business proposition, but said ‘that he was worth one-half billion dollars and he didn’t mind spending some of it on attorneys’ fees.’”

Apparently, he then decided later that yes, he did actually mind.

In September 2007, Glaser and Kotick discussed what he and Gordon, who were paying the legal bills, owed the law firm, according to a court filing. The next month, Kotick sent a check for $200,000 along with a letter that said it was full settlement of the firm’s fees and costs. Glaser disagreed, claiming that the total owed was slightly more than $1 million.

Kotick also displays some of his previously noted ethics and charm.

At a settlement negotiation with Madvig and her attorneys later that month, as described by the arbitrator, “Mr. Kotick said ‘he would not be extorted and that he would ruin the Plaintiff and her attorney and see to it that Ms. Madvig would never work again.’”

(hat tip: @leighalexander)