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09/09/2007 - 09/15/2007

A Huge Week for TeamFortress Junkies

September 13, 2007


Can not wait for TF2. CAN NOT WAIT. Junkies like ME! It's hard to believe it's been more than ten years since the very first TeamFortress -- a modification for the original Quake -- showed us that multiplayer gaming could come alive with specialized roles, teamwork, and tactics. I'll never forget the feeling of awe when I first discovered the sniper rifle or pulled the trigger on the heavy machine gun. It's a real tribute to the balance of the original game that players would play on the same 2fort map -- over and over -- for hours, days, and weeks on end. Just thinking about it right now is making my mouse-hand itch.

After a long dry spell, it's finally a good time to be a TeamFortress fan. Where do I begin? Let's talk about the upcoming TeamFortress 2, part of the Half-Life 2 Orange Box expansion. Get in the mood by Checking out the new Engineer trailer, part of the hysterical series featuring the Heavy Weapons Guy and the Soldier. The next TF is going to be larger than life, that much is certain.

Fortress Forever: BOOYAH.
Get your Fortress fix right now with the new Fortress Forever Half-Life 2 Mod!

Of course the biggest news this week was that people who pre-order the Orange Box can play the TeamFortress 2 beta next week. It's so close, I can smell the detpacks. I can already hear the flags snapping in the wind -- or is that the sound of scouts getting their kneecaps blown off? Look at me! I'm sweating!

But what are we Frantic Fortress Fans going to do this weekend? Take it easy, man. FilePlanet to the rescue. In lieu of a morphine drip and an extended nap, we're happy to premiere the Fortress Forever mod download for Half-Life 2. Fortress Forever sticks to the feel of TeamFortress Classic for the original Half-Life, but it's got the beautiful graphics and funky physics of the Half-Life 2 Source engine, so it's got extra gravy. One of the most eagerly-anticipated mods of the year, FF was created by an entirely independent team who just happens to be composed of die-hard TFC fans. It's even got classic game modes like rescue the VIP. I consider it a must-download.

...are you listening? Download Fortress Forever Now!

      -Fargo
Posted by at 10:28 AM PDT
Edited on: September 13, 2007 10:38 AM PDT
Permalink

Online Games Market Expected to Boom

September 12, 2007


Can not wait for TF2. CAN NOT WAIT. Boom, I tell you! In a recent report quoted here in GameDaily, market research firm Strategy Analytics predicts that the online games market will grow 25% year over year, and that by 2011 it'll make up one third of all game software revenue.

Let's put some real numbers behind that: right now online games account for $4 Billion in revenue. That means downloadable games will be pulling in over $11 billion annually in four years. Those numbers are staggering!

But not really surprising, especially not to you, since you're reading this on a file download site. World of Warcraft alone, for example, has millions of users worldwide, and subscription rates are still strong. Meanwhile, as I blogged about a couple days ago, the casual and micropayment MMO scenes are booming, as are casual single-player game sales. On top of that, add your digital direct sales -- buying games online through our sister-site Direct2Drive or Valve's Steam service. Hold on, I'm not done: downloadable games are proving to be big sellers on both the Wii and Xbox Live Arcade, and Sony is going to be more aggressive in that space as well.

The audience is also growing: Nintendo is making a heroic effort to bring non-gamers into the gaming fold with inexpensive, easy-to-play titles.

On top of all these avenues to download and buy games, you've also got broadband adoption and new markets all over the world. Think about it: if you put a game online, you can sell it anywhere (well, anywhere you can get over the language and currency barriers, but the latter is getting easier all the time.) It's no surprise that online game sales are going to grow. It's a natural fit. In fact, I'd argue it should be the way to buy games. At the rate that digital storage is coming down in cost, I wouldn't be surprised if console systems will soon come with massive hard drives and no reason to grab physical media at all.

It's a brave new world and stuff.

      -Fargo
Posted by at 12:27 PM PDT
Permalink

Advergaming Doesn't Have to Suck

September 11, 2007


Can not wait for TF2. CAN NOT WAIT. When I say "Advergaming," chances are you're rolling your eyes. I don't blame you. The word just sounds dirty. "Look," you're saying, "I don't want to play somebody else's marketing." Advergaming brings to mind visions of trying to play a tetris clone with hamburgers and fries falling from the top of the board underneath a pair of golden arches. I don't blame you for saying, "Not interested."

But, done right, advergaming doesn't have to suck. With the right product (or the right attitude), these can actually be worthwhile games. Games that it just so happens you can play for free. A great example just launched this week in the form of The BMW M3 Challenge Game, a free download.

Vroooooooomm!
Trading paint in my $55,000 sportscar.

The M3 Challenge was developed by Blimey Games, creators of GTR2, which got a solid four-star review from GameSpy. So under the hood of the BMW game (no pun intended) is a solid, serious racing sim. The kind of game you'd pay real money for. No question about it, it is a giant ad for BMW's M series, starting with the drool-inducing opening commercial -- I mean, cinematic. But it's also a terrific hardcore racing experience. BMW doesn't splash advertising all over the game; the company just puts their vehicles on the track and lets the cars do the talking.

This works for everybody. Gamers get a solid racing game for free. And the developers supplement their development budget, earning some quick money that can help make a likely GTR sequel that much cooler. That definitely gets my engines pumping.

Download the BMW M3 Challenge [Free Game]

      -Fargo
Posted by at 10:27 AM PDT
Edited on: September 11, 2007 10:30 AM PDT
Permalink

Forget Big Bucks: the Future of MMOs is Small Bucks

September 10, 2007


Can not wait for TF2. CAN NOT WAIT. Last week the Austin Game Developer's Conference turned up the heat in Texas. Austin, once the home of Origin studios (creator of Ultima Online), has become THE place to live if you want to develop massively multiplayer games. Dozens of studios have sprouted up, which makes the Austin Game Developer's Conference a kind of MMO festival (with great music and good food).

Two trends really lit up the show this year, both of which I've blogged about before. First up, everyone noticed the rapid adoption of casual MMOs, like Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin (see my earlier blog about casual MMOs or my notes when Club Penguin was sold). That trend has been on a slow boil for a while, and everybody there was aware of how important it was.

Maple Story
Maple Story may look dated, but it's a real success story.

Another trend is wider acceptance here in the West of microtransactions as a way of paying for an online game. Again, not new -- but big enough this year that a keynote speaker talked all about it. Minho Kim, Nexon North America's Director of Game Operations, spoke at length about microtransactions. Nexon has been creating online games in Korea since 1994, but here in the West you're probably most familiar with their hit game Maple Story. You can download Maple Story from FilePlanet, where it's part of our Free MMO Club. Maple Story is a 2D platformer RPG, kind of like a massively multiplayer Super Nintendo game -- proof that you don't need 3D-card-devouring state-of-the-art graphics to create a game that people will have a lot of fun with.

Maple Story might not look like much in screenshots, but over a quarter of South Koreans have game accounts set up, it's growing fast in the U.S. and Europe, and the game brings in $16 million dollars (U.S.) every month. That's a success story that's turning heads. Kim explained in his keynote that there are a lot of pitfalls to microtransactions: fraud has to be managed, and hackers can cause huge damage.

But assuming companies can manage these problems, the microtransaction model is great for gamers and game developers. From the gamer's perspective, there's no cost to entry: you just download a free MMO and start playing. You also don't have to worry about subscription fees: you pay money as you play, and the moment you stop playing, you don't have to pay any more. You pay based on how much fun you're having with the game.

From the developer's perspective it's even juicier, because there's no top end. Really hardcore players are free to spend hundreds of dollars a month (or more -- those players are out there!). It ads up.

This business model has already proven itself in Asia, and I guarantee you'll be seeing more of it in the 'States and in Europe in the years to come.

      -Fargo
Posted by at 12:21 PM PDT
Edited on: September 10, 2007 12:25 PM PDT
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