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One Does Not Simply Purchase A Subscription To Mordor

Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online announces plans to go free-to-play this fall.

Today is an important day for LOTRO: we’ve announced that this fall, LOTRO will begin offering a Free-to-Play option! Players will be able to download the game and adventure in Middle-earth for free. With Free-to-Play comes the addition of the LOTRO Store, where players will have immediate in-game access to a wide variety of special items, account services, and convenience items.

Cue message board posts from pundits decrying the doom of the subscription MMO, message board posts from current LOTRO players ‘anticipating’ the flood of new players demanding milk in the Shire, and the head scratching from industry analysts wondering how this relates to the recent Warner Brothers buyout.

As for my take, it seems fairly simple. LOTRO is a game which, while fairly new (about 3 years old), is not likely to generate new subscribers. In addition, a not-insignificant amount of players are lifetime subscribers, whom Turbine will not see any more money from pending a boxed expansion. (Lifetime subscriptions in general are not a good idea for game companies – it’s the classic appeal for short term cash in place of long term income, appealing precisely to the hard core players who are likely to keep a subscription in play over years). Going free-to-play not only brings a new wave of players in who would not have considered a pay-to-play model (see: Dungeons and Dragons Online, Funcom’s experience with Anarchy Online) but also opens the way for cash shop gear that will appeal to all players – including the already-paid-for lifetime subscribers.

The key questions here are two. The first: Is transitioning to a F2P model sufficient to match the revenue that LOTRO’s not insignificant (300k or so?) number of subscribers were still generating? One suspects that DDO’s experience answered that question affirmatively, given Turbine’s now going effectively all-in (minus the venerable and lightly populated Asheron’s Call). The second, which is impossible to answer – does placing all of the company’s bets on F2P ensure enough income to fund future projects for the studio? Or is Turbine relying on cash infusions from their new mothership for that?

We do still live in interesting times.

Facebook Stole $120 From Me

I have two.. no, three of these charges on my bank account today.

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I have never purchased an ad on Facebook.

The “Facebook Ad Manager” for my account supports this.

More worryingly – I have never given Facebook my bank card information. I’ve never purchased anything from a Facebook game, or Facebook credits, or anything else.

So… you know? I’m kinda spooked right now. And the fact that the phone number Facebook has given with the charge leads only to instructions to fill out a web form (which then says “We’ll contact you in 48 hours”) fails to assuage my suspicions.

Update: I’ve had my bank card cancelled since it may well be a case of a stolen CCN… but that seems an awfully odd thing to spend money on.

That’s A Lot Of Paladins

Symantec: 44 million MMO accounts stolen

We recently analyzed a new sample submitted to Symantec and came across a server hosting the credentials of 44 million stolen gaming accounts. What was interesting about this threat wasn’t just the sheer number of stolen accounts, but that the accounts were being validated by a Trojan distributed to compromised computers. Symantec detects this threat as Trojan.Loginck.

This particular database server we uncovered seems very much to be the heart of the operation—part of a distributed password checker aimed at Chinese gaming websites. The stolen login credentials are not just from particular online games, but also include user login accounts associated with sites that host a variety of online games. In both cases the accounts contained in the database have been obtained from other sources, most likely using malware with information-stealing capabilities, such as Infostealer.Gampass.

The article goes on to detail that while the vast majority of these accounts were targeting a Taiwanese MMO company, the researchers discovered 210,000 World of Warcraft accounts, 60,000 Aion accounts, and 2 million PlayNC accounts (which can be used to gain access to Guild Wars, Aion, Lineage 2 and City of Heroes).

The vast majority of RMT fraud I deal with in my day job originates from accounts that are stolen in this manner, usually from China.

(Side note to Symantec: account sales through sites like PlayerAuctions are a TOS/EULA violation for both World of Warcraft and Aion.)

For Republicans, Moderation In The Defense Of Liberty Is No Virtue

Through a lack of filtering (apparently only obscenity is blocked) the GOP has inadvertently created the most awesome community-driven political commentary site of all time.

Require all Muslims in the U.S. to wear ankle bracelet transponders so we know where the terrorists are at all times.

We should administer capital punishment to anyone who has an abortion.

End Child Labor Laws. We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories.

My neighbor has “Sicko” in his Netflix queue. Please arrest him.

Republicans are no strangers to love. They know the rules, and so do I.

We need to ensure that the Republicans never give us up, let us down, run around, or desert us.

I love my country. In a very depraved yet wholly consensual way.

Zynga, Facebook Sign Mutual Nonaggression Pact, UN Observers Deploy To Farmville

Zynga and Facebook step back from the brink of nuclear war (not my words!)

Defusing a tense equivalent of a nuclear standoff in social games, Facebook and Zynga announced today that they have entered into a five-year strategic relationship that ensures mutual support for social gaming on the world’s largest social network.

Under the agreement, Zynga will expand its use of Facebook’s virtual currency known as Facebook Credits. The companies were fighting about that because Facebook wants to make the currency a universal way to pay for virtual goods in apps across Facebook — and because Facebook wants a 30 percent cut of every transaction made with Facebook Credits.

The not-terribly-well-kept secret was that Zynga was preparing to launch a Facebook competitor of their own, Zynga Live, in response to Facebook’s attempt to graft themselves onto Facebook gaming’s monetary stream and Facebook’s ever-escalating privacy violations in the name of progress.

But now everyone loves each other! Hearts and flowers for everyone! (Click Hide to remove hearts and flowers from your feed.)

We Little Known Blog Sites Kind Of Stick Together

Derek Smart, the most effective manager of an MMO ever ever ever, when called on the carpet re: PR plagiarism (in a comment on ‘little known blog site’ Kill Ten Rats):

And yes, those were John’s words at that 2004 fair in New Orleans. Everyone is quick to point the finger, but when push comes to shove, nobody wants to do the actualy work of sourcing corrections. Nice.

John Smedley, talking to ‘little known blog site’ n3rfed:

Um. I’ve never been to New Orleans. That was the one year I missed it for family reasons.

Why yes, no one does want to go to the work of sourcing statements, following up on public pronouncements, or ensuring that what you say is accurate. Except for ‘little known blog sites’. We don’t count. Just ask Smart!

Both F13 and KTR are little read blogs. They are not mainstream media. Hence the distinction. Just because a bunch of fanboys get together to scratch each other’s backs while poking fun at the flavor du jour doesn’t qualify them as a credible source.

You know, given that Derek Smart is overseeing an independently produced MMO with zero marketing, completely and totally dependent on grassroots word of mouth to gain any business whatsoever – one would hope that he didn’t actually antagonize the very opinion-leader MMO commentary sites that drive his own publicity train, feed stories to major news sites like Massively, and in a very direct sense contribute to his bottom line.

Then again, given recent history, Smart probably didn’t actually write that quote above. Mikhail Gorbachev did, while he was in New Orleans advocating violent revolution.