We’re midway through July, and I thought that would make for a perfect time to turn back the clock five years, all the way back to the halcyon days of 2014, when people were mad that Digital Extremes was about to be purchased, Fortnite was just an upcoming game, and people were somehow excited about snow. Seems more like 50 years ago, doesn’t it?
Here are our Top 5 MMOBomb headlines from July 2014, as decided by me. If nothing else, they should serve as a nice – or not-so-nice, depending on your opinions of the games – jaunt down memory lane. See if they stir up any memories in your skull and how your opinions of the news then compared to what you think of it all now.
July 2: Perfect World Entertainment prepares to buy Warframe developer Digital Extremes
“I think any MMO dev with even half a brain between the team wont subject themselves to the cancer that is PWE. That’s just an actual death wish.”
“sounds like warframe is going to end up dying once PWE take over lol”
“Well, shit…It was good as much as it lasted.”
“DOOOO NOOOOTTT WAAAAAAAAAAAAAANTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
As it turned out, the worst didn’t quite come to pass. In October it was announced that Perfect World had acquired just 3% of Digital Extremes, with “Multi-Dynamic Games Group Inc.” acquiring 58%. Now, it’s owned by Leyou Technologies, of which I believe MDGC Inc. was a part of, as a Leyou financial statement refers to Digital Extremes as “58% owned.”
It’s really sad, though, to see how Warframe has completely gone to hell over the last five years. I mean, does anyone still play this pay-to-win garbage any more, now that Perfect World has totally ruined it with its 3% share? Nah, I didn’t think so.
July 8: Hey, look at Fortnite!
It’s been fewer than two years since Fortnite: Battle Royale lit the world on fire, so it’s almost hard to recall that, for the six years prior to that, we were excited about the prospects of Fortnite: non-Battle Royale. In July 2014, we got some rare gameplay footage of Fortnite, and even watching it now, I can recall first seeing it five years ago and marveling at everything it revealed.
Scavenging! Building! Shooting! It’s like Minecraft on [insert name of favorite drug here]! And you know what? You can play that game! Right now! Today!
Sure, it’s not free-to-play yet, after two years in early access/beta/whatever they’re calling it these days. And sure, Battle Royale gets all the attention nowadays. And sure, the inventory system is the worst (or have they fixed that?). And sure, people have … opinions … about the Epic Games Store. But if you can put all that aside, you can play that game that looked so cool for so long.
Or, you know, just hop into another round of Battle Royale.
July 15: A Gigantic announcement
Unlike Fortnite, which was on a slow burn for years, Gigantic came out of basically nowhere. Its big reveal announcement came on July 15, 2014, when Motiga ported journalists (not including yours truly) up to their studio for a grand preview of the game. I got my initial impressions from my old GameBreaker compatriot, “the original” Mike B:
In retrospect, it’s easy to see how a number of poor decisions sank Gigantic. Originally designed for Windows 7, Motiga made the game a Windows 10 exclusive, but that decision came too early and before W10 was fully adopted by PC users. It probably also led to a decent windfall from Microsoft, and Motiga spent that cash a little too freely, as I’ve talked about before.
It might still have had a chance, though, if not for something beyond its control: Overwatch. Blizzard announced its similar-ish team-based shooter a few months after Gigantic and, importantly, brought it to market just a year and a half later, when Gigantic was still struggling with development. Its slow burn resulted in layoffs and a near-death sentence that was narrowly avoided by Motiga’s sale to Perfect World. Unlike with Digital Extremes, this actually happened, even though initial reports were just that PWE would be the publisher for Gigantic.
For me, and I’d wager a few others looking for that kind of game, Overwatch took over that spot in their gaming rotation, and by the time the game actually did launch – on multiple PC OSes, to boot – it was too late. The game shut down one year ago this month, just another casualty of this decade’s online gaming glut.
July 11: H1Z1 gets chilly
“Snow in July” is something you don’t often hear about (unless you live south of the Equator), but for some reason, we got excited about seeing just that in Sony Online Entertainment’s zombie-infested survival game H1Z1. Weather in a survival game seemed like a fantastic addition, and John Smedley also said that PlanetSide 2 would be getting weather, as well, and that “we are going to make it so the elements matter.”
yeah. snow too. also weather is coming to PS2 as well as H1Z1 pic.twitter.com/3LIUJ5ph41
— John Smedley (@j_smedley) June 30, 2014
As I’m already onto the fourth part of this piece, I’m starting to get a lot of “promise unfulfilled” vibes, especially over the last three topics. So let’s just move onto one more topic that we’re probably glad didn’t come to pass:
July 29: John Romero: “Free-to-play has killed a hundred AAA studios”
Legendary game designer John Romero had a dire warning for the future of gaming. Because of free-to-play games and their ease of access, there will soon come a day when nobody will be willing to pay $50 or $60 for a new game. It’s a dark future, where the landscape is cluttered with the corpses of AAA game studios and all that’s left are free-to-play titles – which, thankfully, no longer use “dirty” monetization techniques because everybody does things the “fair way”!
Romero’s comments, especially from his interview with GamesIndustry, seem to be more focused on obvious pay-to-win mechanics, which are all but absent from modern free-to-play games. What we do have are time gates, restrictive inventories, and lots and lots and lots of loot boxes. Would Romero consider those “dirty”? I’m not him, so I won’t speculate.
What’s clear, though, is that AAA gaming isn’t dead, and his other belief that “PC is decimating console” also doesn’t seem to have been justified. Near the end of his interview, he does say that “I can’t see VR as being the next big thing for games” and, five years later, it still isn’t commonplace. “I think we’re still waiting for the holodeck,” the interview concludes; maybe we’ll have that in another five (hundred) years.