LotRO Mired In Gloom (And So Is The Market)

moria goat

Last week I was impressed with the LotRO writing. A Moria revamp resulted in more friendly dwarves deep in the murderous murk, and more connecting quest sequences.

Sometimes you get the impression that the devs don’t play their own game, or can’t see the forest for the trees. The revisions reflect the opposite, the perspective of a lot of time actually playing the content.

Strong characters were a dire weak point when I left the game a few years ago, but the current LotRO writers are bringing a good game with the Bingo Boffin quest line for example. If you see a character’s name mentioned frequently in World Chat, you’re probably on the right track.

I was questing with my Lore-Master in Ringlo Vale in Gondor. The characters were actually outstanding, especially Jajax. I hope I see that guy again down the road.

On the other hand, Ringlo Vale was dark, all the time. It’s the “Dawnless Day”, and inexplicably the world has no sunlight. So all last week I was in Moria and Mirkwood with one character, and in endless dark with another character. I logged into my third character hoping for a 50% chance of daytime in Rohan, and it was day, but actually pouring rain.

Over and over you hear people mired in Moria, tired of the dark. Just last night a kinmate expressed enormous relief at emerging from Moria, and another kinmate echoed him. This is on top of LotRO being 50% dark just from the day/night cycles. Sometimes I log out when it’s night, or take a break.

The point is that happy sunlight = happy games. Happy games = happy players. We all know what happy players bring.

LotRO needs a lot more sunlight, and more 100% daytime set areas, instead of 100% dark. I’ve always disagreed with the 50/50 day night cycle for reasons, so this isn’t a revelation. Darkness should be the dark side of the golden ratio, otherwise it isn’t special. It isn’t the deadly underdog.


Gaming Stocks


Last week I discovered a Youtube video game news series by a pro Wall Street analyst. It’s called the “Pachter Factor”. Here are the links from the last couple weeks (I didn’t mean to get the videos themselves – oh well? D:)


To follow the whole series at SIFTD:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFaBUWXO8o4jSfF6PhJOyZA

Pachter likes Zynga and Activision. He says if Zynga’s release of Dawn of Titans game is a success, the stock could double. He says Activision will make a lot more money off of King than people expect.

Pachter likes EA in the near term, noting it has great assets and some phenomenal games coming out. Battlefield is coming out without a lot of competition, for example.

Tuesday was a pivotal day last week. A higher inflation number came in, resulting in a big selloff. Many had written off an interest rate hike in June (including me), but inflation puts it back on the table.

The estimated chance of a rate hike went from 5% to something like 30% midweek, but by the end of the week, analysts were more skeptical. The market held steady.

T.J. Maxx (discount retailer) reported strong earnings on Tuesday, which I was looking for as a signal on Ross (ROST), but the stock went nowhere. It went down on Wednesday instead of up. So I didn’t buy Ross into their earnings on Thursday, even when Walmart also reported very strong earnings.

This was good. Ross ended up flat on its face, the disappointing result of the three.

NVidia (NVDA), Electronic Arts (EA), and Activision-Blizzard (ATVI) all made the CNBC coverage on Tuesday. NVidia was picked as a “final trade” by Guy Adami http://www.cnbc.com/guy-adami/ on Fast Money, and was surging for the rest of the week.

Electronic Arts was called overbought after its earnings surge, and at risk for a reversal, while Blizzard was smashed for over 3% on one day, rejected at its previous peak around $40. Blizzard received another vote of confidence, however, by Paulson & Co., a large hedge fund that reported taking a new stake of 3140000 shares of ATVI last month.

E3 hype hit on Wednesday with Sony announcing its plans for E3, and the stock was up almost 4%. Sony also announced a new beautiful Xperia Ultra smartphone.

Sony also announced a major push into AI (Artificial Intelligence), since they are lagging behind. This is the same AI that’s going to ruin the job market in coming years by replacing humans.

I was watching Yandex very closely this week. It has pulled back, but I noticed it had 19% short interest in April, which means the big move after earnings was in significant part a short covering rally. Volume also seems not particularly high. So I remain wary and watching for a more extended consolidation near the new level.

I was also watching ANET. The stock is surging strongly, more than my other picks last week, and is just about too high for a buying opportunity now.

Overall, the market is lurching forward with huge bearish sentiment, with lots of cash on sidelines. As many have noted, the high P/E ratio of the S&P, with earnings in modest decline, has a lid on the market.

Bulls nonetheless expect an upturn later this year, because that’s what bulls do, while a rate hike is expected to make things more difficult. The U.S. needs to hike, while other countries can still ease, and this is a problem for the U.S., which is has been already been squabbling with China and Japan over the currency issues.

This is so exciting. Yawn. Except wait, every time I abandon the market and don’t pay any attention, I seem to go along with the crowd. When the crowd abandons the market, it tanks, and then there is a buying opportunity. Ideally the market needs to go down to relieve the pressure from inflated P/E ratios (and other things).

So I can’t blink and fall asleep. This kitty must remain on guard in the dark, ready to pounce on any opportunity.


LotRO Welcome Back, And Friday Stock Comments

lotro eregion screenshot

This weekend is an unannounced “Welcome Back Weekend” to LotRO, with a 25% bonus XP to monster kills, quest turn-ins, legendary items, etc. So if you’ve been neglecting your yearning to return to Middle Earth, this weekend is better than many.

I’ve been shocked at the features LotRO has added in the last couple years, things people have always asked for i.e.

  • Cosmetic Weapons and Shield.
  • Emote panel, slot your emotes as skills. A good example of F2P leading to features beneficial for both players and devs (trying to sell emotes.)
  • Beorning.
  • Legendary Items that you actually keep and treasure instead of tossing every few levels.
  • Toggle craft item inscription.
  • More bag space, etc.

I’m also impressed by Turbine’s customer support. They quickly restored my deleted level 88 Rune-Keeper for free (VIP) with a simple GM ticket.

A big part of my re-interest in LotRO is admittedly my Lifetime subscription and pile of TP. If I were paying monthly, that would be a harder choice. My new Warden is level 52 now and exploring Moria.

I need a big kinship on Landroval.

Almost every kin has only 1-2 people playing at any time, and the influx of transfers isn’t assimilated. I’m not going back to the LGBT kin that kicked an LGBT person twice for inactivity, i.e. this kitty. Kitties don’t like kicking.

They look almost dead, anyway, but I’m convinced now that at least one of the LotRO devs is a leading member.


Gaming Stock Analysis


This was a big week for gaming stocks, as Electronic Arts (EA) and NVidia (NVDA) celebrated big upside surprises on the heels of Blizzard’s performance. I remain skeptical about EA, but I’m very happy to have pushed into NVDA last week. NVDA was up 15% today.

So after a year and a half, I think I’ve found a method for investing. Since I only pushed half into both Blizzard and NVidia, I won’t feel so compelled to sell to protect profits if the market turns down, as in January. The problem is higher broker fees for less risk.

This summer could turn ugly for the U.S. market. On the other hand, bearishness is extreme at this point. How long can the selling continue? It depends on how much stock is sitting in “weak hands”. Outflows from hedge funds have been intense in recent months. I’m still sitting in 75% cash, like a lot of people.

I noted the turn in the Yen this week, and Sony’s consequent big bounce up that I mentioned last week (that I was watching for). I was there on the right day to pull the trigger, but trading on currency is silly. That, combined with the perilous look to the U.S. markets, is just too risky.

So I’m probably looking only for big drops between now and September to add any more risk, but at the same time I’m FOMO. I’m afraid to miss out, and here are the stocks I’m afraid to miss out on.

Apple (AAPL): This is a huge topic. Hedge fund monthly reports are already showing massive dumping of Apple shares on the back of Apple’s revenue miss this quarter. Today Apple pushed a 1 billion investment into Uber’s competition in China, Didi Chuxing. I like the idea of buying Apple at the worst possible sentiment, but analysts on CNBC are certain that too much bullishness still exists on Apple, and a final washout hasn’t happened, at least until July quarterly reporting.

Ross Stores (ROST): Ross stores is discount clothing and household wares. It was dragged down, more like pummeled, this week due to a massive meltdown of other clothing sellers with bad earnings. Some analysts downgraded Ross, citing that no clothing store can escape this carnage. Doom! Jim Cramer pointed out tonight on CNBC that the pain of big-name labels is the second-run seller’s gain, and I agree. Also, Ross’ stock chart has a similar consolidation setup right now as NVidia and EA.

Ross reports earnings on 5/19. Is it worth a shot? Well, T.J. Maxx reports on 5/17.

Sprout’s Farmer’s Market (SFM): This stock has been pummeled by downgrades, a revenue miss, and margin pressures on organic foods. I shop at Sprouts every week though, and I feel sure Sprout’s dependence on organic for sales is a little overrated.

Yandex (YNDX): This is the dominant Russian-speaking search engine, and also for Turkey. I own Google and Baidu stock, and I’m interested in Yandex. It had a massive jump on 4/28 due to great numbers, and now it has consolidated.

Arista Networks (ANET): This is a cloud networking solutions company built by brilliant former Cisco employees, with a brilliant female CEO, Jayshree Ullal. Arista is now two years after its IPO in June of 2014, and it finally looks like it’s trying to emerge from under the brutal legal burdens of Cisco lawsuits, legal actions attempting to destroy Arista (and its rebel founders) any way they can. This is really tempting as a “speculative” investment, but the legal issues aren’t entirely resolved yet.

I’ll look at Electronic Arts if they announce a single player campaign for their next Star Wars game. “Bigger and better planets”, or whatever, isn’t going to cut it. Casuals might buy one title, but real fans keep franchises going.

Visits to my blog are at an all-time low. Every time I write an article, I wonder why I still bother. I appreciate the two people who occasionally comment though. Happy weekend and gaming.


On Golf, Gaming Stocks, And Rivendell Hotties

comparison
I’ve drifted away from my inner elf lately, which is partly why I’m roleplaying in LotRO – to regain my elf-sense for my game writing. It’s hard to feel spiritual and connected when mired in material bother.

This week I moved to a new and different part of the valley, closer to the mountains and hiking. It’s a rich city, but I’m not rich. My car is a 19 year-old bird-pooped scrap heap next to the shining BMWs and Lexuses.

There is earthiness here, but also excessive riches. The women at the Sprouts grocery are all thin, fit, and beautiful, except the girls working the registers. It’s like Rivendell, but they employ chubby human grunts.

I even saw a “former playboy bunny” license plate. The plate looked legitimate, like the blonde driving the Mercedes, not a cheap thing from a corner in Las Vegas.

I’m not comfortable with the fusion of hipness with rich. Tolkien elves have an entire package, an Arcadian ideal of nature, beauty, wealth, and arts. That’s a big reason why Landroval (LotRO server) chat hates them.

It’s the nature of rich people to want it all I guess, like the golf courses. This city has four golf courses for 77,000 people. According to Tolkien, golf was invented by hobbits. I assume Tolkien’s hobbits are just another angle on a white, well-to-do world.

I’m not sure whether I like rich people or ghetto people more as human beings, but the rich people won’t kill me or steal from me, and their drugs don’t stink so much.


Gaming Stocks


Thursday night Activision-Blizzard soared 9% on better-than-expected earnings. Of course, I had taken profit at the peak a few weeks ago, but I only missed out on about a dollar per share.

I waited until the midday pullback yesterday (Friday, May 6) and pushed half back in. It was perfect timing, and by the close ATVI was back up almost 9%, and I was up $50.

I also pushed half back into NVidia at the same inflection point, which was also good timing, since they announced new and amazing video cards today.

So my one-day cushions might hold, but since I tend to do the opposite of the right thing, the stock market will likely crash again soon, and nothing escapes that. The main takeaway from selling Blizzard (again) is that I can’t have an uncomfortable, stressful amount of money in an investment.

I can’t hold it, and that makes it a trade. So I need to distinguish between investments and trades, and budget appropriately. This is easy to say when the bleeding is minimal.

Sony was a trade, and accordingly I was all-in up front, and sold immediately when the stock went the wrong way. That was correct, and I’m still watching Sony in a fairly linear decline, wondering if I should try again on a trend reversal.

I think E3 will be big for Sony. Wall Street thinks video games don’t mean that much, i.e. video game revenue is around 20% of total.

The overall market does look like it’s going off a cliff, and that’s the problem. It’s too obvious. Everyone is quoting the “sell in May” advice. Everyone has turned quickly and intensely bearish suddenly, which is actually a bullish signal.

The analysts on CNBC also discussed the issue of short-selling yesterday. The recent bull surge hurt the shorts badly, and they are now too fearful to sell short again. This is also bullish.

The problem remains the Fed and raising interest rates. I personally think Yellen is holding off until after the election, to avoid giving the Republicans any ammunition. Even if not, especially after today’s weaker job numbers, a June rate increase is pretty much off the table.


Video Game Project


I’m going with the literary Seelie and Unseelie Courts in my video game, not Tolkienesque elves. I’m facing a major hurdle right now in terms of effort and time investment, which is creating actual gameplay.

I’ve decided to do a Dungeon-Master style narrator.

I’m not sure if I can manipulate my voice low enough to sound like an old tree, and recruitment of voice overs from friends, family members, or online indie dev sites is exhausting to try to organize. My script needs to be perfect first, anyway.


Love Is In The Air For LotRO

Female Beorning Face Tattoo

This week I re-installed LotRO. LotRO is receiving love from the bloggers this week on the heels of a new update and a ninth anniversary celebration.

When LotRO originally went F2P, I was disgusted at the cash shop tactic takeover of the game and interface. Now it’s the norm (unfortunately) and I hardly even notice.

Last week I was playing Ms. Pacman, the new SEGA release on Steam. I made fourth place on the leaderboards and started thinking: I could be playing an outdated MMO for the millionth time, and it would be more fun, and have a better story.

I had to buy the Beorning class and try it. A few years ago, I argued in the official forums for a tribal race, including face tattoos. Turbine provided them! I love my Beorning. I love her grunting she-bear attitude.

There is a wee deal-breaker: a rage mechanic.  For some reason, this mechanic frustrates me.  I quit trying to play Bear druid in WoW because of this.

So I’m playing a Warden. Today I watched some of the six-hour anniversary livestream from a few days ago, which was entertaining, offering a lot of candid dev interviews.

One highlight was the assertion that we will surely see the gates of Mordor within the next year. At least the black gates.

Another highlight was Edgecase’s emphatic assertion that Burglars were in a bad place, and they were a “high priority”.

I’ve never seen an MMO class more abandoned by the players. There are ten classes in LotRO, and about 1.5% of players are currently playing Burglars at cap at any given time, i.e. two players on Landroval.

This is what happens when you ignore a problem for so long, like updating your server software, which as of yesterday was super glitchy, rubber-bandy, and the worst ever. Today the servers are better, so maybe they fixed some issues.

A few years ago the Turbine organization was crass greed (to me), and now they are more like cute, clever, small-handed hobbits, underdogs. The livestream was nice.

Some players today are only now reaching the original conclusion of pure greed, of course, while others are just now discovering LotRO. For the latter, I’m trying to update my Newbie Guide To LotRO as I go along.  The guide still sees 10-20 views per day.


Gaming Stocks


This last week was a brutal week for corporate earnings in the U.S.. Google, Apple, and Microsoft all fell on their faces.

I sold $MSFT at break-even. I tried to buy Sony at chart support, but was forced out immediately when the Bank of Japan held fast on their policy, causing the Yen to skyrocket, and $SNE to break support.

The dollar is plunging, sending every Uncle Joe piling into spiking gold and silver prices. I rode that for a short while, but good grief people.

High Yen puts pressure on exports and revenue in Yen denomination. I guess. So I might be watching the Yen for another Sony entry point, or I might just forget getting into Sony before E3.

Sony is also now under some pressure as an iPhone sensor supplier, like all iPhone suppliers, after Apple’s disappointment, not to mention the work stoppage for the recent earthquake. So I was thinking buy the bad news, but I was too early. Now it looks like the U.S. markets could roll over, dragging down others with it.

With Sony’s supposed PS4.5, Playstation VR, and Sony’s VR games in the pipeline, which were heralded by the Gamestop CEO as something special, this is looking like Sony’s year to push forward after some recent impressive PS numbers.

Nintendo also mentioned this week a new console-type product for possible spring 2017 release, but that still seems to leave Sony in command of the hardware holidays.


Missing Artifact: Sense Of Accomplishment

Rift Comment

Tonight I was researching a return to Rift. Right away I would want to spend $35 to buy the new Ascended Soul pack, which only contains one soul I want for my mage.

So that’s one skill tree for $35. Trion hasn’t ever broken up the packs, since that would be less moneys.

Speaking of money, I noticed you can also buy artifacts now in Rift. Just click a button and spend your store credits for spin-the-wheel to get an artifact you’re missing. What a deal.

What I’m missing is any desire to hunt artifacts ever again, which has been one of my main activities and enjoyments, and the main reason to have a patron account.

I’m also missing any interest in returning to Rift, which looks like it’s going the same way as LotRO, just throwing shiny things out and trying to hook a few fish. And forcing players to use the cash shop (source of the comment in the image) for things that previously didn’t need a cash shop.

It’s nice they are finally doing something about the poor game engine performance, which sort of doomed them from day one, and made their advertised challenge to WoW into a non-starter. WoW actually looked and ran better at higher FPS than Rift’s lowest settings on my old computer.

This week I’m playing some Saint’s Row 2, but it’s really hard to look at. Last night I played a mini-game where I prostituted myself in the public restroom, getting guys off for money. That’s a new one.

I really like the hispanic voice-over of Rebecca Sanabria for the main character in Saint’s Row 2. I like the respect system. And of course, the playable female main character. F**k you, Rockstar.

I just wish Saint’s Row 2 wasn’t the Morrowind of the Saint’s Row games. While the production values were gorgeous with The Third and IV, the franchise sort of lost its soul. Who wanted an alien invasion and outer space?

Unlike Rift, Saint’s Row was a legitimate rival and contender against the thousand pound gorilla in the genre – the GTA franchise.  Like Rift, questionable creative design leadership squandered the opportunity.


Gaming Stocks


Today I took a 12% profit in Blizzard’s stock with the U.S. stock market perilously close to a record high, and companies reporting dismal results to start off earnings season. I plan to buy Sony at an opportune moment between now and E3, and buy back into Blizzard as soon as it sells off significantly, for any reason.

The GAMR ETF is basically soaring, but so are overall markets, so that doesn’t mean so much. The volume seems to be picking up. When the U.S. market swoons again, I might look into a GAMR long term position, especially if I miss a big up move in Blizzard.

That seems unlikely (which, along with the overall irrationally exuberant market, is the other half of my urge to take profits), but it’s really hard to say how well Blizzard is doing in Asia.

This last quarter was supposedly a stronger, more upbeat quarter in Asia than the one previously. I say “supposedly” because you can’t trust the Chinese government, who just happens to have a huge stake in its own stock market.

Anyway, Blizzard could easily surprise on an Asia basis, and probably will since the kitty is almost always wrong to sell stocks. I don’t really care at the moment. I’m really, really tired. For a few nights, I just want to play a game.


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