June is almost over. E3 has come and gone, and with it came basically no news about BattleTech, MechWarrior 5, or anything else ‘Mech-related. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t news to report! And now that I’ve got a minute to get caught up, here’s what’s happening in the world of BattleTech video games.
BattleTech Releases Urban Warfare Expansion And The Raven Was OP AF
Urban Warfare is out, and with it comes a bunch of new things including Flashpoints, a new biome, and new ‘Mechs. The Javelin arrived with the 10N and 10F variants, which allows you to boat up on SRM-6s or Medium Lasers, depending on your preference. But the ‘Mech that made the biggest splash was easily the RVN-1X Raven.
Why? ECM was busted, my friends. With a Raven in your lance, every ‘Mech is effectively cloaked until they move or fire. While this seemed like it would only be useful for guarding assault ‘Mechs that move last in the turn order, if you simply reserved your movement until the enemy had gone, it actually just made your lance completely untargetable unless your opponent was already inside the ECM bubble or they used Sensor Lock.
Also, there was a bug in the game that prevented the enemy AI from using Sensor Lock or just charging the Raven as soon as it appeared. This had been noted by many in the BattleTech community as a completely busted mechanic that needed fixing.
Here’s my man Baradul with a pretty good example of what I mean.
See how the enemy AI was basically helpless against the Raven‘s ECM? That bug has since been fixed as of the June 20th 1.6.2 patch. Gone are the days when a single Raven could take down an entire enemy lance single-handedly, and good riddance. Ravens should be fragile balls of copper wiring and heatsinks liable to explode at the slightest provocation.
With Urban Warfare out of the way, all eyes turn to the next expansion, titled Heavy Metal. We already know that Unseen ‘Mechs are lurking in this expansion, although we don’t know which ones. But judging by the name, we’re guessing they’re heavy ‘Mechs like the Marauder, Warhammer, or even the Archer.
Did Microsoft Announce MechAssault At This Year’s E3?
Nope. Guess the rumors were false. Moving on.
MechWarrior Online Might Be Dying
At the end of May, PGI President Russ Bullock went on No Guts No Galaxy TV to provide an update on MechWarrior Online, MechWarrior 5, and Mech_Con. While there was plenty discussed on all three topics (which you can read a summary of here), the big bombshell Bullock dropped happened roughly 17 minutes into the broadcast when he basically just came out and admitted that new ‘Mech packs in MechWarrior Online weren’t paying the bills anymore.
“We have something like 1,000 different ‘Mechs between all the variants and everything. Frankly, it’s a lot,” Bullock said. “It’s been quite a while now--I would suggest maybe even a year-ish--since the last time a ‘Mech really was a good return on investment for us.”
Before May of this year, MechWarrior Online stuck to a schedule which saw the release of a brand new ‘Mech every month. It was the cornerstone of MWO’s monetization model: a new ‘Mech every month to spend money on and keep the game afloat. While this model has seen a lot of rare and esoteric designs finally find their way into a MechWarrior game (where else can you get inside a Vulcan or a Dervish?!), it hasn’t been worth PGI’s time to create these new designs for some time.
If people aren’t buying ‘Mech packs, then MechWarrior Online isn’t generating money. If MWO isn’t generation money, then PGI’s survival now depends entirely on the success of MechWarrior 5. Even when asked point blank on how MWO would make money going forward, Bullock replied: “I think you can put two and two together.”
First, let me say this isn’t exactly a big surprise. MechWarrior Online has been in decline for years. Steamcharts reports an average of 1,122 players in January of 2018. By January 2019, that number had fallen to 818 players. In the last 30 days, that number declined to just 635 players.
You can pick and choose whatever reason you want for MWO’s slide, but ultimately the game is just old. MWO first arrived in open beta in 2012, and very few games last 7 years at all, let alone make enough money to fund the development of a completely new single-player, campaign-based MechWarrior game.
As for all the eggs being put into the MechWarrior 5 basket, that’s how most game studios do it, so why should PGI be any different? They’ll take out a loan or team up with a publisher if things get tight between now and September, but then the game will come out and they’ll be rolling on dough again. Probably.
Also, it should be noted that people are still buying new ‘Mechs, just not in volumes that make it worth PGI’s time to make. To turn that around, PGI will release fewer ‘Mech packs but choose popular designs that haven’t already made it into MechWarrior Online (might I suggest the Crusader, Wraith, or Stone Rhino?)
Bullock said that MechWarrior 5 got an exceptional number of pre-orders given the current climate against pre-ordering anything in PC gaming, so we’ll have to wait and see how this shakes out. MechWarrior 5 is out September 10th, with pre-orders available now (EDIT: actually pre-orders are over! Don’t ask me why, I thought that developers liked getting money).
As for MechWarrior Online, if it does die, well, then it had a good run. It leaves a complicated legacy filled with missteps, but it also brought about an incredible revolution in ‘Mech simulation, phenomenal art design and assets used in other ‘Mech games, and created a community of loyal ‘Mech fans from around the world. You can’t really ask for much more than that.
But before we start singing MechWarrior Online’s dirge, I just want to point out that PGI is still hiring a writer for MWO’s Faction Play, so they’re not planning on closing up shop anytime soon. Heck, I might even apply.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.