News Shelf: 10/01/12

Panellists discuss the free-to-play games format at the IDGA Toronto event. (Courtesy IGDA Toronto)

Free-to-play games might not be the devil? A World of Warcraft expansion fails to crack the one-million sales mark? Nintendo plans actual downloadable content for a videogame? It’s bizarro week in the News Shelf. Check outdoors to make sure the leaves on the tree aren’t turning blue.

1)      Nintendo Wii U launch lineup announced

After Nintendo’s info dump for the upcoming Wii U a few weeks ago, the final list of games that will launch on November 18 with the console has been released. Heavy hitters on the list included Nintendo Land, Tekken Tag Tournament (featuring Nintendo character costumes and an insane mushroom mode), and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Notably, New Super Mario Bros. U will launch alongside the Wii U, making it the first Nintendo home console to do so since Super Mario 64 graced the Nintendo 64.

The list released also details the games to launch throughout the rest of November, and the launch window up to and including March, 2013. You can check the entire list here (and a couple dozen other places online, naturally).


2)      Freemium discussed at latest IGDA Toronto meeting

While many of us understand freemium as more ways to squeeze money out of our Facebook accounts for extra items in Bejeweled and other social games, a panel run by the IDGA Toronto chapter Tuesday looked at the wider implications of the free-to-play games model.

At “Dr. Gamelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Freemium,” Fuse Powered Games’ Rob Sandberg said that the free-to-play system gave him more creative freedom when designing his games, including Freedom Force and UFC: Throwdown.

To detractors of the format, he said, “Get over it. We’re not the video game club, we’re the video game industry, you know? We’re here to make money. We’re not saying freemium is going to take over and every piece of entertainment you consume is going to be freemium.”


On the flipside, Capy Games’ Nathan Vella voiced worries that the free-to-play, micro-transaction-focused system tended to create games focused on charging players for incremental content, without a unifying creative vision compared to single-purchase retail games.

“It’s interesting that when free-to-play is discussed, it’s only ever discussed as a business model,” Vella said

3)      WoW Mists of Panderia launches with disappointing sales

World of Warcraft might forever be known as the most important MMORPG ever created, but it’s currently facing relatively tough times. The latest expansion, Mists of Panderia, reportedly sold between 600,000 and 700,000 copies in its first week – down 60 per cent from previous expansions.


Gamesindustry.biz reports that the last WoW expansion, 2010’s Cataclysm, sold 3.3 million copies in its first 24 hours. And while developer Blizzard enjoyed its highest subscriber base that same year at 12 million active players, as of last month it’s cooled down to 9.1 million.

4)      Blizzard looks at free-to-play Starcraft 2 model

Speaking of free-to-play and freemium gaming, it’s possible that one of the biggest online games might take it on. Speaking at a panel at the Valencia eSports Congress, Dustin Browder – lead designer of Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm – said Blizzard is “looking at” turning the multiplayer portion of the game into a free-to-play service.

Browder noted that his team hasn’t quite figured out quite how to do that yet.  “While it might be good fun for me to play against someone with only half the units available to them, that’s not going to be an enjoyable experience for them,” he said according to Gamespot. So Protoss players can breathe easy without anticipating a $0.50 transaction for every Void Ray they requisition in the future.


5)      New Super Mario Bros. 2 first DLC detailed

This normally wouldn’t make the weekly list of news, but it’s the first major DLC announcement for a Nintendo game that I can recall, so here it is. Nintendo announced its first Coin Rush pack for New Super Mario Bros. 2 via terrifying disembodied polygonal Iwata head. Consisting of three Coin Rush gauntlets, the first two will reportedly contain tens of thousands of possible coins to grab, while the third is specially designed for expert players. The preview video’s clip of Mario traversing a level that consists of nothing but bouncing atop Bullet Bills suggests they really aren’t kidding about that last one.

The packs launch in Japan on October 2, each for 200 yen (about $2.50 CAD).