There's only so much space for free-to-play games in the market as a whole, and even less space for them under one studio roof.
Paragon, a free-to-play MOBA that Epic released in early access in 2016, and opened up to beta in early 2017, never really set the world on fire. That problem has become exasperated by the competition in the market, including all the players flocking to Epic's other mega-popular game, Fortnite and its Battle Royale mode.
In a surprisingly candid thread on Paragon's subreddit, the developer admitted that development on Paragon has slowed because members of the team have jumped over to Fortnite to help maintain its unprecedented growth. From the post:
However, progress has been slower lately for two reasons: First, the team’s time is split between immediate improvements and longer-term efforts, so there’s less visible progress. Second, a number of Paragon team members jumped onto Fortnite to help sustain the game as it has grown far larger than anything in Epic’s past.
Here inside Epic, we’re talking about the future of Paragon in pretty much the same terms as you’re talking about it. The core challenge is that, of new players who try Paragon, only a small number continue to play regularly after a month. Though Paragon has evolved, no iteration has yet achieved that magical combination of ingredients that make for a sustainable game. (As an aside, the problem isn’t marketing or how to make money with Paragon. We have good ideas that would solve those problems if we can find a way to make Paragon grow.)
Epic seems to be willing to get behind the game, but the lack of players seems to override all else. With Epic reporting that 40 million players have jumped in to Fortnite at this point, presumably projects that aren't hitting engagement numbers are being looked at far more closely. While the post does not outright say it, the long term issue does not appear to be a choice between successful and unsuccessful, it looks like Paragon's options are limited to successful or gone.
Paragon is available on PlayStation 4 and PC, with a major patch that makes significant map changes landing this week.
Blizzard has bet big on the Overwatch League, the competitive Overwatch tournament, and it seems like that bet is paying off. According to GamesIndustry.Biz, Blizzard's esports event won the viewership of ten million people in its opening week.
Although Blizzard has always been moderately involved with esports, the Overwatch League is their biggest push ever, treating it as a sport equal to any other. The ten million number only includes devices tuned into to the various streams, indicating that even more people could have been actually watching.
The most popular match? Dallas Fuel vs Seoul Dynasty, which boasted an audience of 437,000 viewers on the first day, a record which has yet to be beaten.
Blizzard has scheduled the season to continue to June, with the finals in July. Just before the League began, Blizzard and Twitch announced that the streaming service would be the exclusive home of the Overwatch League, though MLG and Blizzard themselves also host streams.
Microsoft has promoted Matt Booty to the position of corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, making him the top executive overseeing Microsoft's video game business under Phil Spencer.
Booty previously served as head of the global teams overseeing Minecraft after Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang and the Minecraft IP. His promotion fills an important seat at Microsoft Studios after previous chief Phil Spencer was promoted to executive vice president overseeing all Microsoft entertainment products on the senior leadership team.
This frees up Spencer to work on a grand strategy for games at Microsoft and tasks Booty with executing on Spencer's vision. This means that Booty oversees the development and publishing of Microsoft's games library for the Xbox and Windows 10 for the foreseeable future. Spencer also wants Booty to expand operations at studios like The Coalition, 343, Rare, Turn 10, and more.
It's been a little while since Spencer's promotion, so hopefully Microsoft and Booty are ready to hit the ground running. Now that the Xbox One X has been launched, Microsoft should get new and stronger messaging about the brand's identity out there, and the best way to do that is to show games.