August 12, 2010

$1,000+ Loss In EvE Becomes Viral Publicity

by Michael Jamias

One of the biggest news this week was the destruction of more than a $1,000 worth of virtual goods in EvE Online. broke the news that a pilot got shot down while carrying 74 PLEX, which are 30-day time codes worth roughly 22 billion ISK. The valuable cargo got vaporized as a result of the firefight and game forums are feasting on the ensuing drama.

As I lurked the message boards, I noticed that the high-profile kill convinced a slew of non-EvE gamers to try out the space MMO. This is an extremely interesting reaction showing how EvE is the Wild Wild West alternative to the carebear carnivals of World of Warcraft and its ilk.

What’s the motivation behind this thirst for danger? My guess is that more than mimicking the epic kill themselves, these curious gamers simply want a front-row seat to the juicy aftermath. Rumors already suggest that the aggrieved pilot who got blown up–and lost a huge portion of her alliance’s war funds–has ragequit and that the alliance itself is tittering on disbandment.

Even I got the urge to re-activate my long dormant Gallente pilot after several hours of reading the possible ramifications of the PLEX loss. The social fabric of EvE is arguably the closest to real life–and its appeal to thrill-seekers is palpable.

Maybe if more MMOs adopt the player-driven sandbox features and single-shard environment of EvE, then the game’s hold on social realism might loosen. But now all everyone can do is watch EvE lap up the viral publicity it never planned but indirectly fostered within its spacious game parameters.

July 27, 2010

Final Fantasy XIV gets ‘Teen’ rating and street cred from ESRB

by Michael Jamias

As expected, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has slapped on a ‘Teen’ rating for Final Fantasy XIV but the ratings board has also given fans a great selling pitch for their “Jersey Shore”-watching friends.

As seen in the last few sentences of the rating screenshot below, the ESRB cited foul-mouthed dialogue in the new Square Enix MMO that would give Snooki and The Situation a run for their reality TV money.

Kudos to Square Enix for dirtying up their dialogues, which I believe is one of their gambits for attracting new gamers, particularly those who can’t get enough of “Jackass” and Grand Theft Auto. It’s a caveat amid the prancing elves and medieval costumes that “we can be hip and bad ass, too.”

What about the prudes and feminists whose feathers will be ruffled like a continent-crossing chocobo’s? Well, I’m a consequentialist when it comes to the success of any Final Fantasy title, so for me the right amount of subs will make the outrage worth it. (Provided there’s a way to link the use of suggestive language to actual subs–a targeted survey perhaps?)

July 25, 2010

Farewell, One Manga

by Michael Jamias

It’s with a heavy heart but understanding mind that I say farewell to One Manga, the most popular manga scanlation Web site in the world.

The shutdown became unavoidable as “[m]anga publishers have recently changed their stance on manga scanlations and made it clear they no longer approve of it,” according to One Manga administrator Zabi in his final message to fans.

Zabi didn’t say whether the team faced lawsuits or just had a moral change of heart. He merely encouraged fans to Like the One Manga Facebook page as a show of support and, possibly, a point of contact for future projects after the Web site shuts down next week.

Click the pic to enlarge One Manga’s goodbye message:

Despite their popularity, manga scanlations are controversial. Detractors claim they infringe on the copyrights held by original Japanese mangakas who toil away without receiving royalty fees from fan-made scanlations, which in One Manga, can reach millions of hits each month.

Scanlations are also accused of stealing readership from the original paper mangas and contributing to low sales that have forced publishers to lay off staff or shut down completely.

Yet supporters insist scanlations are not illegal. Moreover, they can catapult obscure mangas to fame especially Japanese mangas which have not been translated to English. Several mangas featured in One Manga like Naruto, Bleach and D-Grayman have become global hits.

But how much of this success is due to scanlation fervor? Do scanlations generate considerable sales for actual manga merchandise? Or will the death of One Manga free up the digital competition for Japanese paper mangas?

I pray for the latter because after One Manga goes, it would be cruel for mangakas to find their real enemy was in the mirror after all.

July 1, 2010

A Preemptive Strike

by Michael Jamias

Final Fantasy XIV defies estimates for its launch date and subscription price. The message? It won’t play nic(h)e.

And here I thought Square Enix President Yoichi Wada was just bluffing.

In a surprise announcement today, Square Enix revealed an earlier-than-expected Sept. 30 launch date for its Final Fantasy XIV title as well as an aggressive $12.99 monthly subscription price.

This two-pronged strategy to woo gamers early and cheap backs up Mr. Wada’s overall goal for FFXIV: That it become a mainstream success and solid rival to reigning World of Warcraft.

Solidify Its Player Base

Game sites have long speculated a Christmas launch date for FFXIV, but it seems SE would rather solidify its player base than lose them to other titles during the holiday free-for-all.

I’m thinking here Cataclysm, the upcoming third WoW expansion, which begun its closed beta yesterday. FFXIV will start its own closed beta in a few weeks as well, and the two titles would have been on a parallel testing course culminating in a mall rack showdown.

SE must have foreseen the collision and maneuvered its FFXIV launch a few months ahead, hoping that its virtual population–led by the rabid Japanese–will be happily settled in Hydaelyn once Cataclysm hits.

But there are snags to this plan. Last-minute overhauls are still popping up like last week, when Beta combat was quickened after Alpha testers said battles were too “slow.” It’s now crunch time for SE to bring polish and stability to the game to avoid massive disappointment on Sept. 30.

Undercutting Its Rivals

Aside from using an early bird tactic, SE is undercutting its rivals with a $12.99 monthly subscription rate, which is lower than the prevailing average and almost identical to the current pay scheme for Final Fantasy XI.

FFXI has never raised its subscription rate above $13 since launching eight years ago so observers expected FFXIV, widely seen as the FFXI successor, to mimic the prevailing $14.99 monthly rate set by World of Warcraft, Star Trek Online and other current MMOs.

Granted this $12.99 can still balloon when you purchase more characters and retainers, FFXIV still wins out on the affordability scale when its basic plan is put side-by-side its rivals’. It would be interesting to see how Blizzard and BioWare react. Will they let SE capture the penny-pinching market? Or will they even the playing field by snipping a couple of dollars off their subs?

The turf has been drawn wide. Now let the skirmishes begin!

June 30, 2010

Covering Up Wonder Woman

by Michael Jamias

Take a long last look at Wonder Woman’s shapely legs and arms–they’re being covered up as part of her new storyline in DC Comics.

Shedding her star-spangled swimsuit and cowboy boots (above right), Wonder Woman will now pummel villains in tight black pants, a cropped leather jacket and ringlet gloves (above left).

It’s a costume change that tones down her style closer to the city-prowling Batman than the galaxy-trotting Superman. And I fear it sucked the Wonder out of the Woman.

“She’s been locked into pretty much the exact same outfit since her debut in 1941,” defended J. Michael Straczynski, the writer behind Wonder Woman’s alternative history where she never grew up in Paradise Island and gave license to her edgier new look.

“If you’re going to make a statement about bringing Wonder Woman into the 21st century, you need to be bold and you need to make it visual. I wanted to toughen her up, and give her a modern sensibility,” Straczynski added in an interview with The New York Times.

Artist Jim Lee sure captured the feel of current fashion for this sleek Wonder Woman, but her otherworldly luster is gone. She now looks more apt for girl power street fighting than subduing ultrabaddies with her rodeo-style brusqueness.

Even her wild curly hair has been tamed to a shoulder-length bob, but it could be just this image since Wonder Woman’s 600th anniversary issue–where Diana will debut as an urban crime fighter–still showed her sporting a long mane.

Despite my disapproval, I’m not blind to the commercial perks of this Wonder Woman makeover. She’s now more palatable for movie franchises depicting superheroes living double lives in the modern times (see Batman, Superman and Ironman). More designer clothes, more politically neutral ad campaigns, and less minutes spent explaining her archaic choice for combat wear in the actual movie itself.

My guess is a million-dollar flick is now in the works as A-list actresses line up to play her more accessible look. I’ll be lining up for that movie, for sure, while reminiscing her un-leathered glory in soon-to-be collectible DVDs.

[images from DC Comics via The New York Times and Google;]


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