Jumat, 24 Februari 2012

After mega-merger, what lies ahead for PH online gaming industry?

The local online gaming community has undergone tectonic shifts recently following the merger of two of the fiercest rivals in the local online gaming scene: Level Up! Games and IP E-Games.

Last week, IP E-Games Ventures Inc. (E-Games) announced that it would be selling off its game publishing business to rival Level Up! Inc. (LUI), in a deal that involves both equity and cash, although the amount for the transaction has yet to be specified.

E-Games is a wholly owned subsidiary of IP Ventures Group Corp. (IPVG), a Filipino-owned technology conglomerate that has quickly been diversifying its portfolio in recent years.

Its gaming subsidiary, for one, has been busy gobbling up Internet cafe chains across the country in the past two years in its bid to corner a market that could prove beneficial for its game-publishing business.

To date, the firm operates a 200-branch network of Internet cafe chains nationwide, operating under the brands I.T. Log Park, Station 168, iHooked, Cybr and Netopia.

Recently, however, E-Games announced that it would begin venturing in the food and beverage, entertainment and hospitality businesses, on top of its current portfolio of offerings.

Distraught fans

Very scant details were made available following E-Games’ disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange regarding the sale of its game-publishing business.

Naturally, these left fans and industry analysts alike to speculate about the future of the two major players in the online gaming scene as it moves to operate as a single entity.

But it’s not only the fans and the gamers who were shocked about the merger. Employees, too, were not kept abreast of E-Games’ plans as it begins to shift directions.

“Kahit kaming mga FM (Forum Moderators), gulat na rin kasi di namin naasahan na mangyayari itong merger (Even us (FM) were surprised because we didn’t see this coming),” said one moderator at one of the company’s online message boards.

Fans of E-Games’ Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG), such as Ran Online and Cabal Online, couldn’t help but wonder about the future of their favorite games under a different company.

Questions such as “Will LUI continue supporting our games?” to comments such as “LUI’s customer service is bad” were raised in the message board, although moderators were quick to douse the flames of speculation until an official announcement on the developments is issued by the two companies.

Ramon, an avid fan of the hack-and-slash online game Cabal Online, was as indignant when he told InterAksyon.com that he might eventually give up his gaming addiction now that his favorite game has been sold to another company.

“I’ve played Level Up’s games before, and I don’t like the way they treat their customers,” he said in the vernacular.
“Plus their games have bots, which is why Ragnarok Online is not so fun to play anymore.”

The 23-year-old young professional is referring to in-game bots, which automatically control a player’s character in the game. Bots are used by players to quickly level-up their characters, so that even if they are physically unable to play the game, their characters would still progress in the virtual world.

Ramon, who has been playing MMORPGs since his college days and spends an average of five hours a day exploring the nooks and crannies of Cabal, added that he has been meaning to quit online games and may have finally found a perfect reason in the recent merger.

Ramon echoes the sentiments of most players of the two gaming companies’ offerings, who were equal parts shocked and hopeful that the merger would bring good opportunities for Philippine online gaming fanatics.

A gaming monopoly

According to XMG Global Research Manager Anna Juanillo, the merger brings to life a new monopoly of the local online gaming market, equivalent to the widest gaming pre-paid cards and PIN distribution network in the country.

“This consolidated Philippine gaming venture includes 2010 to 2011 service revenue projections, from IP E-Games, of P261,895,846 to P571,339,742 (an “increase” of 118 percent); while at the same time projecting advertising revenues surging from P35,982,525 to P130,395,371,” Juanillo said in an email interview with InterAksyon.com.

According to the analyst, the merger includes enormous service revenue projections for the joint venture, adding that the new entity could corner the “lion’s share” of advertising revenues in online games later.

“This monopolistic merger may result to the starvation of the other smaller players,” she added, referring to other online gaming publishers, which are operating in the country.

Juanilla further dismissed speculations that the free-to-play business model, which E-Games pioneered in the Philippines, has not worked out too well for the online gaming players, adding that it would still be the “norm in the future.”

“Each new option, whether it is role-play, or gaming, will need to entice the prospective client into ‘trying’ a game out,” the analyst explained.

“Once they have shown a preference to one game over another, the market will quickly dispense with the culls, and proceed to show the user why it will be even ‘more’ profitable/exciting once they enter the pay mode,” she added.

The bigger picture

Even as the future looks bright for the union of the two companies, the bigger picture is starting to look awry for the general desktop-based online gaming industry as preference for mobile MMORPG, Facebook-based games and casual gaming on smartphones begin to chip away on the market share of MMORPGs.

The picture is made even more complex by the current ownership structure of LUI, which is now partly owned by a unit of Chinese Internet service giant Tencent and South African media group Naspers.

Tencent, which owns QQ Instant Messenger, the largest instant-messaging platform in China, bought a 49 percent stake in LUI’s mother company — Level Up! International Holdings Pte. Ltd. (LUIH) — in January, in its bid to expand its online game platform worldwide.

In 2010, Tencent also invested as much as $300 million in Russian-based firm Digital Sky, which is a popularly known backer of social networking site Facebook and the social-network gaming platform Zynga, the makers of such popular casual gaming hit as Farmville and Cityville.

Naspers, meanwhile, used to wholly own LUIH before the sale of stock to Tencent. The Philippine subsidiary, meanwhile, used to be co-owned by ePLDT, a subsidiary of telecoms giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), before it sold its stake in the company to a yet undisclosed investor last year.

Naspers has been on a buying spree of popular online platforms in the Philippines in the past few years, including famous e-commerce platforms such as Sulit.com.ph and the erstwhile social networking site Multiply, where broadcast firm ABS-CBN used to have a stake in.

E-Games, on the other hand, has a standing partnership with the New Media unit of another broadcasting firm, GMA Network Inc., for the game publishing unit X-Play, which publishes online games such as Dance Battle Audition and Band Master.

It is unclear, however, if X-Play is part of the assets that will be transferred to LUI after the merger.

The complex setup of both companies only makes it difficult for users and industry watchers to speculate about the possibilities that the merger will bring to the online gaming scene, although XMG-Global’s Juanillo pointed out that the big players would have to watch their backs for new players and new developments in the local gaming scene.

“It becomes imperative for the big players in this market be ever vigilant; what was the most popular game last year is no guarantee that it will hold the same position this year,” she stressed.

Moreover, in a playing field that is quickly being overcome by new technologies such as smartphones and tablets — which has likewise eroded revenues for makers of gaming consoles and portable gaming devices — the future had just become as muddied as ever for desktop-based MMORPGs in the Philippines.

From The EX-FM's Perspective

About 90% of us former E-Games Forum Moderators (FM) do not see this as a surprise.

We were there when E-Games decided to hoard 2-3 new games all at the same time and keep players anticipating the said games for a year or so, only to disappoint them by closing these only after a few months from release.

We witnessed how bad the company's customer service is. If you find LevelUp's customer service as crappy, wait until you experience E-Games'. If you're not a VIP (a player who spends thousands on their games) or aren't humble enough to suck up to them, you will have a hard time getting their attention..

It has always been about revenue. The community has always been managed through the belief that if they give them in-game and live events, they will shut up about the bad service they are getting.

This is no surprise. Our group speculates that the merge was brought about by the unsatisfactory profit the company has been getting years ago. The former daily sales per game decreased week after week. They closed a lot of the games they have acquired, leaving six titles, which are the high-earning ones, and their latest release, Point Blank.

Apart from this, the Philippine online gaming community has shrunk since the emergence of other gaming options such as Facebook and tablet apps, aside from the old school consoles and handheld gaming devices. Another factor is the continuously increasing number of online games available locally which forcefully disperses the number of players per game, including the international servers which are Pinoy-dominated.

Personally, I still have mixed feelings about this, like E-Games is supposed to stay as E-Games and not get swallowed by its ultimate rival. Yet it has already happened. It's a different feeling when your group bickering comes true.

Credits: http://www.interaksyon.com
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Selasa, 21 Februari 2012

RO2 Starts OBT Today

The 3D much-anticipated game developed in-house and published by Korea-based Gravity - RO2 (Ragnarok Online 2) is going to start its official OBT today. The OBT will also be covered live by Africa TV that is the biggest online game TV station in South Korea.

RO2 will kick off its official OBT at 2:22pm on Feb. 22, 2012 to highlight the figure "2". Africa TV will get prepared for the live coverage in advance. The live coverage will show players the happenings on the first OBT day in real time. Also, a documentary will be televised to give players a clearer view of RO2's growing course.

Additionally, Africa TV will assign sweet reporters to do interviews with RO2's developers, players and director, and will also reveal the beginner's guide, class tutorial and gameplay clip that it created in advance.

Gravity and RO2 have been among the top search targets in South Korea in recent days. Prior to the OBT, RO2 went so far as to see its client downloaded 50,000 times within 3 days, which is undoubtedly indicative of its high popularity.

Credits: MMOsite
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Rabu, 15 Februari 2012

Rusty Hearts: Roselle and Requiem are Live!

After weeks of anticipation the Requiem update is finally here! There’s no time to waste, get a quick summary of what’s new below and hit some dungeons. Be sure to also check out all the sales and promotions running in celebration of the update!

New Playable Avatar/Character- Swing by the Cash Shop and purchase your Roselle Vergerious avatar. Her skills and attacks are based on Frantz and are deadlier than ever.

New Story Dungeons

Opera House- Robust acoustics, perfect sound insulation and throngs of minions, the Opera House is the first dungeon available as you enter the Training Camp and it’ll having you screaming in falsetto. Welcome to Cirque De La Mort, or Circus of Death. The clowns, marionettes and vocalists residing in this abandoned Opera House are no laughing matter. Fight your way through a variety of new foes and encounter the graceful thespian boss, Baron.

Catwalks- Think you’re too sexy for Catwalks? Think again! The Golden Seal team will have to navigate their way through the dangerous wing of the Opera House and encounter Nobleman, Knights, Bishops and more. Don’t think just because you’re traversing the catwalks that you’ll be stuck in the rafters; rumor has it there is a secret underground lair filled with mysterious and gargantuan monsters.

Gallery- As a haven for art connoisseurs the gallery is known for immaculate and awe inspiring masterpieces. Unfortunately you’ll find more than just impressionism, pointillism or cubism in this gallery… Watch out for Eel-lusionists, Templars, Prankers and the egomaniacal dungeon boss, Joker, as you get a massive dose of surrealism.

Ramparts- As a heavily fortified embankment this stone fort stands between you and the fire-breathing bull, Chimera. One does not simply walk in to Ramparts; you will need to brawl your way in to the castle’s stone defenses to defeat Gargoyles, Lion Statues, Grave Keepers and Fallen Wizards.

New Hub World Training Camp- New world location for players to continue the story and gain access to new dungeons and quests.

New Training Dungeons- Join the fight and take on these challenge-based dungeons with special rewards including new equipment and crafting materials.
-Room of Chaos
-Maze Garden
-Forgotten City

New Weapons
New sets of weapons including the powerful new “Bone Weapons” available exclusively in the new “Forgotten City” training dungeon.

New Raid Dungeons

The Altar- The Altar of Margoras is viral cesspool of dark energy created by the Gatekeeper of chaos and destruction. Face enemies from all dungeons as they plot against you in mass. Hordes of enemies will overwhelm you in an exercise of attrition. Assemble your party as you’ll need all the help you can get!

Requiem is now live! Load up Rusty Hearts, patch your game and start slaying enemies!

Credits: http://www.perfectworld.com
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Cabal Episode 8 Patch Notes

After waiting for so long, the official patch notes is finally here! Cabal Episode 8, the game's upcoming patch, is loaded with features that will definitely amaze everyone. This is something that will truly revolutionize the action in one's MMORPG experience.

The Philippine server aims to release the patch by March so everyone better watch out for that!

Brace yourselves because this patch is loaded with new stuff, including the much-awaited Battle Mode 3, the DX dungeon Hazardous Valley, and more Mercenaries!

1. Added Battle Mode 3
A. Story
- Colony association started using powerful alternative energy which far surpasses the 5th force, based on the research journal of Sir Minesta, who had disappeared with a rumor that he sold his soul to the Dark Lord. They made a training course for qualified soldiers to acquire this powerful Battle Mode.
B. Added Skill
- Skill Window >  Special tab > Battle Mode
• Added Battle Mode 3
- Skill Window > Special tab > Battle Mode Skills
• Basic Attack A, Basic Attack B, Fatal Attack I, Fatal Attack II, Fatal Attack III
C. Skill Operation

- 5,000 SP is required for Battle Mode 3 activation
- Basic Attacks connected within 4 seconds will be counted as a combo attack
- Even if Basic Attack misses, Fatal Attack I will be activated if combo attacks count up to 4 times (order of Basic Attack A/B doesn’t matter with Fatal Attack)
- Fatal Attack will activate in the order: Fatal Attack I > Fatal Attack II > Fatal Attack III. It will activate up to the existing stage of Fatal Attack learned by the character
- Fatal Attacks do not MISS
D. Battle Mode 3 skills for each Battle Style
- Skill stats formula: Basic stats + (Raising stats per BSLV up x Battle Mode 3 skill’s level)

E. How to get Battle Mode 3
- Skill books for Battle Mode 3 can be crafted by a collection of Stain Clones, Trance Force and Minesta Craft Stone
- Stain Clones can be gained through quests from Quest Capsules
• Battle Mode 3 introduction quest (Minesta’s Legacy) + Daily Quest + 31ea of Quest Capsule quest
- How to get craft material
- Required craft materials for each stage of Battle Mode 3 on table below
  • Success rate for crafting skill books is 100%
  • Battle Mode 3 Skill books should be trained in order
  • Higher skill of Battle Mode cannot be trained without the previous one
F. Added Quests related to Battle Mode 3
- Battle Mode 3 introduction quest:
- Battle Mode 3 daily quest:
- Quest Capsules of Battle Mode 3 quests:
- Drop location of Minesta Training Books
G. Synergy Effect
-  a Synergy Effect will activate when the correct combo of Basic Attacks was followed
-  All Synergy Effects are maintained for 8 seconds after Fatal Attack I is activated
- 3 Positive effects /6 Negative Effects can stack at a time
- When a same synergy is applied repeatedly, the effect will be amplified as 1.5 times per twice, 2 times per triple
  • cast twice in a row: 1.5times amplification
  • cast thrice in a row: 2 times amplification
  • Both positive and negative effect will be amplified equally
- Synergy Effect for each Battle Style:
2. Added New DX Dungeon 'Hazardous Valley'
A. Narrative
- The source of river which across the dense jungle of Nevareth continent is named as Hazardous Valley, but no one could unearth its exact location after many years. Let's explore the legendary Hazardous Valley, and uncover the truth.
B. Details of Hazardous Valley
• After clearing the dungeon, 2 ~ 4 DPs will be given depending on its difficulty
• Introduction Quest: Celestial Tragedy
• No penalty upon dungeon clear failure
C. Location

• Green Despair (X:21, Y:248)
D. Entry Item
D. Drop Item
3. Added New Item
A. Added New Rings
• Quest of obtaining Killian‟s Ring: ‘Ring Sealed with the Power of Killian’
• The Quest item may be dropped without accepting the very quest, just as the Mergaheph's Ring
• This quest can be accepted and completed only once
• Killian's Ring Craft Recipe:
  1. Craft materials: Mergaheph's Ring 1ea + Black Cat's Tear 1ea
  2. Black Cat‟s Tear: Core Alchemist Soyoung in Fort. Ruina sells it for 50,000,000 Alz
  3. Success rate of Crafting: 100%
• A character can own only own one Killian's Ring, and cannot possess the Mergaheph's Ring at the same time
B. Added Accessory Bracelet
• Prideus' Bracelet is basically character binding, but tradable item may drop rarely
• Three options will be added in random among the nine options below
4. Added 'Change Appearance' system
A. Appearance System- change the appearance of equipment items for a certain period of time
- Changing appearance is applied via Core alchemist NPCs from each town
- The items which have changed appearance become character binding for the same period the appearance change applies
• For example, if a user changes the appearance of an account-binding item with 3 days duration, it becomes character-binding for 3 days. After this period is over, the item gets restored, becoming account-binding again
B. Required items Target Material

- Material used in changing appearance always gets destroyed whether the appearance change succeeds or fails
C. Period of Changing Appearance
-  different success rate and Alz required per each period
D. Restore Appearance
- Users can restore the appearance by the Core alchemist NPCs from each town
- Item becomes restored when the user restore it by NPC or the period is expired
- User should pay the required Alz (NPC shop price of the Material item)
5. Added Achievement and Title system
A. Added achievement system
- Users receive rewards by completing various achievements in the game
- Achievement score and title are rewarded once the user clear achievements
• Several rewards can be rewarded per one achievement
- The mission for achievement appears randomly, after playing the game for 30 minutes (once a day)
B. How to obtain achievement
- Clear each achievement requirement
- Various achievements can be obtained by playing quests, defeating monsters, etc.
• Users can check achievement missions and closed achievements from the Achievement UI
Achievement Information UI:
If users clear the mission of closed achievement, achievement will also open
C. Achievement Link
- Users can link achievements to the chat window by Ctrl + Right mouse clicking from 'Achievement' tab in the Achievement UI, just as linking items
- Closed achievements get opened if user clicks others' achievement link
- Maximum of 7 achievement links may be clicked per day