Funcom Shifting to Smaller Online Games

Funcom Shifting to Smaller Online Games

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The Secret World's poor sales may be the end of Funcom as we know it.

Despite praise from some quarters, Funcom's The Secret World is a dud. Though over 500,000 players signed up for the game's open beta, only 200,000 consumers have purchased the game since it was released two months ago. Add in the typical subscriber exodus MMOs see following their first month, and Funcom is looking at subscriber numbers way below its expectations. Naturally, it blames Metacritic for the game's poor performance.

The Secret World's commercial failure and the declining revenues from Age of Conan are hitting the Norwegian developer hard. Hard enough to push it out of the traditional MMO business.

Amidst huge staff layoffs, Funcom has announced that it'll now focus on smaller games with shorter development cycles (The Secret World lived in development limbo for nearly 10 years) and less upfront investments. It also wants to create more interactive, player-driven games, and cites examples like League of Legends, World of Tanks, Minecraft. Its first foray into smaller online games will be a free-to-play title on based on LEGO's Minifigures Toys.

The change in direction also comes with more fiscal belt-tightening. Nearly half of the developer's staff have either been laid off or re-purposed, and CEO and president Trond Arne Aas stepped down in July, leaving COO, Ole Schreiener, to take up the position.

Coincidentally, several senior level executives, including Aas, began selling off their shares earlier this month. Shortly after, the company's share price tanked.

In other news: players are still waiting for The Longest Journey 3.

Source: Gamasutra

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In an effort to try to guarantee making their money back, they slapped a hefty price tag, a sub fee, AND an in-game store on the game, and it only just helped secure their demise. It's a shame too, because I do like the premise for the game's story.

Its a very Niche game. its not wow or anything like that. if they can stable it and keep people interested in it. It could do fine. Niche games with less than 1 million subscribers dont mean they are bad. Eve Online. has only 300k+ users. and its been around for years. Secret world just needs to find its place :D

How hard and expensive is it to make The Longest Journey 3. It's a point and click adventure game, it wont take much man power and will sell much better than any of the shitty MMOs coming out.

If you do decide to make The Longest Journey 3 Funcom just don't pull a Bioware and make it an MMO.

Well there goes my hopes for TLJ3.

How about you learn how to make multi-player first?

200,000 must be enough to enter into the Great Big Book of 2012's Most Famous Flops, surely? I mean that is pretty bloody impressive.

Perhaps the answer for them would be to try something other then online games, eh?

knight4light:
Its a very Niche game. its not wow or anything like that. if they can stable it and keep people interested in it. It could do fine. Niche games with less than 1 million subscribers dont mean they are bad. Eve Online. has only 300k+ users. and its been around for years. Secret world just needs to find its place :D

True (although I think it's closer to 500k), but it's 200,000 purchases - not subs. And if they start off that low it's going to drop like a shit in free-fall.

Woodsey:

Perhaps the answer for them would be to try something other then online games, eh?

You mean like the long awaited sequel to a somewhat famous Adventure game series that is the only reason anyone knows what funcom is anymore?
You are INSANE MR.WOODSEY!

(Sorry, I'm still mad)

l3o2828:
Well there goes my hopes for TLJ3.

TLJ2, people. Dreamfall was not TLJ2.

Honestly, I don't know what they thought was going to happen. New paid MMOs with fresh ideas and settings and high profile releases that have been turned to grist under the mill of World of Warcraft now number in the dozens, and have sunk god knows how many companies. I've been depressed about the release of this game for a couple of years now.

llafnwod:

l3o2828:
Well there goes my hopes for TLJ3.

TLJ2, people. Dreamfall was not TLJ2.

I like to think it was TLJ2. Because if Tornquist didn't want to continue April's story then he wouldn't have put her in it.
But then the fans , right?
Well, if he cared about the fans he wouldn't have put THAT ending.

captcha: that's it

Damn right

And another MMO falling to the modern anti-subscription trend.
FF XIV's rerelease is definitely going to tank now, no matter how good it is. People just don't want to subscribe these days, and Square-Enix sure as hell isn't going to go F2P, and even if they did, they won't be able to effectively implement it into the game.

Aaaand another one bites the dust.

Can we get over the whole mmo craze, please? There's nothing wrong with singleplayer games, y'know. Just because WoW is still raking in money like a hideously bloated golden cash cow, doesn't mean that you can do the same. It's only succeeding in doing that these days because it was first in making its special brand of milk mainstream, and people are still addicted to it.

You don't have to have an mmo in your lineup to be successful.

I just wish bethesda would've realized this before they decided to start development on their elder scrolls mmo, a game that I'm sure will end up costing them a metric tonne of money and set back the development of the real next elder scrolls by several years.

lancar:
Aaaand another one bites the dust.

Can we get over the whole mmo craze, please? There's nothing wrong with singleplayer games, y'know. Just because WoW is still raking in money like a hideously bloated golden cash cow, doesn't mean that you can do the same. It's only succeeding in doing that these days because it was first in making its special brand of milk mainstream, and people are still addicted to it.

You don't have to have an mmo in your lineup to be successful.

I just wish bethesda would've realized this before they decided to start development on their elder scrolls mmo, a game that I'm sure will end up costing them a metric tonne of money and set back the development of the real next elder scrolls by several years.

Even though i like TSW and hope it will do better in the future so I can continue to enjoy it, I also entirely agree with this.

There's just too much MMOs nowadays. The novelty has long passed and the devs totally forgot why MMOs were so special in the first place. In the end, I wonder why people still enjoy playing these, why myself enjoy playing these. I realise I enjoy TSW more for it's story, ambiance, writing and deck building than it's mmo aspect really. It could've come out as a single player RPG that it wouldn't make that much of a difference for me. The whole trend of mmos seem to sink more and more towards individualism and personal achievement than what it was used to be, as in a team effort to overcome obstacles and confront other teams and masses of players.

Even Guild Wars 2, which I like, tends towards that. Yeah, there's dynamic events (that are glorified Warhammer Online public quests, by the way, and nothing else) that you kinda have to do with other people, but in the end, do you even care ? Do you really feel rewarded just because the game shoves a bunch of points in your little yellow bar and goes "congratulation !" All I did was that I happened to be here at that moment, stood there and shot my gun a few times without really getting what was happening and moved on. I don't remember any of the people there.

So eh...I wouldn't be against a break of the mmo genre for several years. At least to let everything else sink in and just to make it fresh again

Gotta agree that they totally shot themselves in the foot with the retail price plus sub fee plus in game store model. TSW was never going to be a major title, and by going with an archaic pricing structure that actually both stops interested players from trying the game out (retail fee + sub fees) and scares the hardcore (spectre of in game shop shenanigans) it was never going to really succeed at all. I really don't think it's about the reviews or metacritic score at all.

That said, I hope the game does continue to exist and grow. With an alternate pricing model and continued development, it could make a great niche MMO that exists alongside the big boys.

The MMO plague threatens to kill yet another developer. It seems this was one lethal kool-aid to drink from. From what I hear, TSW would have been much better as a single-player game. It seems the most outstanding traits it has (ambience, story, characters, etc) are better suited to that other genre the have a very strong IP in...and that the same Ragnar Tornquist could have taken the helm of instead of this.

Don't die Funcom, don't die. I like you guys, plus I need to know how the Longest Journey ends.

That's terrible news, but with the competition present in the MMO genre today, and considering the nature of the game itself, it was inevitable that The Secret World would only attract a niche audience.

When are publishers going to realize that there are only two subscription based MMOs with any longevity? F2P is the way to go from here on out with the option for Gold monthly memberships. Eve and WOW are the exceptions, not the rule. I'd play TSW if it was F2P and if I liked it I'd buy some stuff to support it.

This is sad. I would have absolutely played it(as I am now playing Guild Wars 2) if it had been a one-time fee, no subscription game. I may have even bought some in-game items if I liked it as much as I think I would.

Well, this is not a good thing for game development in general, and especially for those of us who committed to Lifetime subscriptions to TSW and have been waiting for the content expansions such as Tokyo as the current game content ends at a cliffhanger.

That said, I have to wonder WTF Funcom expected, or what most MMO companies expect. They all keep making the same basic mistakes in launching games without much in the way of endgame content (which is what keeps people subscribed), and what's more insist on financing them on the relative cheap, yes they cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, but given how established the market is, it takes more than that. You keep tossing out these relatively modest MMOs justified by "well, many MMOs have launched with less" it's not surprising the titans like WoW that have gained far more content keep slapping them down. People keep telling MMO companies that content is king, all the newest technology and such is nice, but hardly nessicary, a consistant art style is more important than say fully voiced cinematics, as WoW demonstrated in how long it's lasted.

I honestly get tired of all of these companies throwing tantrums, firing/laying off employees, and changing what kinds of games are developed due to their own screw ups, it's going to quickly get to the point where there won't be any decent games I want to play anymore, because of an industry that is unwilling to take responsibility for it's actions. In a case like this, the big issue is that where TSW failed was the same place pretty much every other major MMO project has failed. If people keep doing the same bloody things, it's no wonder they keep failing.

To put things into perspective, what has killed pretty much every MMO in the last half a dozen years or so? The endgame. Tons of effort is put into the game and advancement process but then once people max out their characters there is little left keeping them there until more content is created. The usual defense is that "well, WoW (who they are imitating) didn't have much endgame content when it launched" the issue of course being that when WoW launched it wasn't up against anyone that had decent endgame content except maybe Everquest and that was kind of debatable in the quality department. The end result is that when people play through any game in a couple of months tops, there is nothing left keeping them there, so the subscriptions drop off. This is especially pronounced in games with limited amounts of content, truthfully there is a lot to be said for a "quality over quantity" approach but it to be honest it doesn't work all that well for an MMO, basically the less content you have the faster people hit your endgame and if it's lacking they are going to leave. Like many other games TSW tried to scimp on the endgame by basically having their version just be harder versions of the normal 5 man instances, which is something that hasn't worked for other games that have tried the same thing. Heroics in WoW didn't come along until further along in the game's evolution as an addition to what was already a fairly robust endgame.

I'll also say that when it comes to an endgame it's pretty transparent at this point that a big part of what does the damage is the desire to make the games approachable. The thing is that the more approachable things are at the end, the quicker people will complete them, and then move on. Approachability has less to do with difficulty (one thing TSW did try was to ramp the difficulty up) but the amount of time it takes. Even very tricky fights are something that goes quickly once you've mastered the tricks involved. Rather what you need to see is a return of those huge raids of yesterday that not only required figuring out the fights, but also involved getting a LOT Of people together for a prolonged period of time. While people will QQ about it, the bottom line is that if you set it up, people who get to endgame WILL do it, and will invest the time. A single instance like say "Molten Core" or what Everquest was doing with their planar expansion can last a community a LOT longer than a bunch of 5-10 man instances with some gimmicks involved, but which can be completed in a couple hours tops (and honestly in most games now an instance can be done in like 30 minutes, which means people are going to max out the progression quickly). The point here being that the model everyone is imitating "small groups, fast runs" might get a lot of people involved in the content, but it also means all those people are going to be done in a month or so and then you've got noone interested in re-upping subscriptions until more content comes out, and even then it will probably only be until they finish it at the same pace if that's what you continue to cater to.

With all of the same mistakes being made again and again, I feel that companies like Funcom (who is not alone in this, it's just who we're talking about here) are acting like Petulant children in deciding that they are going to radically alter their business plans, joining the legions of developers claiming a perfectly valid type of game is no longer sustainable, when the failures are entirely on them rather than the audience or the genere.

Of course unreasonable expectations for profits enter into it as well, especially for niche games. I think half the problem is that the industry increasingly expects to be wallowing in cash instantly, and wants an MMO to basically be a money printing machine, which is a problem in of itself that goes beyond this. Simply put those in the industry should expect to do a lot of work for a fair profit, like pretty much anyone else, but again that's another issue.

At any rate, did TSW "fail" or simply not make the expected profits? I very much doubt it's losing money. What's more, how is it anyone's fault except for Funcom's when they followed what is obviously a losing strategy that has tanked every game following in WoW's shadow? All of these games that went FTP have one big thing in common: lack of endgame to sustain the player base.

I'll also admit that I'm unusually peeved here largely because I like the idea of the game, and was hoping they understood they were producing a niche product. With the way things sound it doesn't seem likely we're ever going to see the storyline end properly and might not even see expansion into Tokyo and beyond at a substantial level, never mind the monthly content updates we were lead to expect (August's "issue" has already been pushed back to next month). I committed to a lifetime subscription for this one, and to say that I'm irritated is an understatement, especially given Funcom's apparent expectations and response.

At any rate, the trend towards making "smaller, cheaper, games" and the like which everyone, not just Funcom, seems to be pursueing seems to be tantamount to them deciding to produce the kinds of products I generally consider to be crap. When someone mentions their next project is a liscenced lego minifigs game, it hardly has me going "oh boy, I can't wait to spend money on that". It's sort of like the various AAA developers who fail to learn from their mistakes turning towards apps and such... it's not the type of product, or the market that is a problem, it's the development and how they handle things. They decided to go down the wrong path and imitate a failing model. Pretty much no ones's "ultra approachable, small group based, highly cinematic, MMO" has succeeded, attempts to do that have been a graveyard, with the deathblow coming exactly the same way, following the same trends.

While it goes against what a lot of marketing geniuses will say, in trying to imitate the formula, consider the whole picture of that formula. Launch an MMO with 40 man raids at the endgame, 2 or 3 of them, much like WoW did, then see what happens. Sure plenty of people will say "I won't do that" but when it arrives, guess what... they will.

What's more I'll also say that there was a huge advantage to 40 man raids and such that people forget: it made players inherantly more valuable. If you were willing to raid and put the time in you could probably find a spot since people needed attendance. One side effect of small endgame groups, and tiny but gimmick filled instances, is that it's lead to elitism where nobody wants to bother with new players. TSW kind of took this to an extreme where simply put getting your foot in the door at "Nightmare" level is difficult even after a couple of months since nobody wants to bother with anyone who is less than perfect, or isn't already running NMs regularly. While there was some elitism in the days of Molten Core and Blackwing Lair (especially the latter) it was of a less extreme variety. You might drive off the ultra-casuals who aren't willing to put in the time, but those who ARE will continue to re-up their subscriptions. What's more if it can take months for 40 man groups to gear that means you have months to prepare content and spot trends as a developer, as opposed to people blitzing your 5 man content (or just quitting when nobody wants them for ultra-elite 5 man teams, giving up on the whole tier) and then going on to the next game.

Long and rambling, but this is what I think. To me it sounds like Funcom is throwing a tantrum to be honest. The odd thing is that TSW seems like it would be one of the easier games to salvage if they put the effort into it, but with them laying off so many employees it seems like they are definatly going to be slowing any further development or evolution of the game.

On a final note, Funcom seemed to be relying on their cash shop to help make money, selling cosmetic items. As people in beta were pointing out, the character models in TSW needed work to begin with, people were saying from the very beginning they would be unlikely to spend money playing dress up with those models. What's more while I received a decent pile of promotional points from my time in beta, so it hasn't been an issue for me, it occurs to me that asking $10 or so for a single character skin/outfit is a bit much, consider what you can buy with $10. This is a fairly typical price for cash shop MMOs I guess, but understand it also means that comparitively few people are going to pay those prices when it's purely cosmetic items. Unless you want to go "pay to win" by directly selling power (which is always a bad idea) you'd do better to rely on volume sales. Truthfully a lot of the games that seem to be doing rocky on the whole "cash shop" thing (there are plenty of them) seem to miss the needed balance, too many people jump on the top dollar value for what some games are making. Also what an established community will pay for something for someone to stand out, is a bit differant from a game that is just launching and trying to establish a community. Like it or not, there is a huge differance between buying the same kind of cosmetic add on in something that has been going on for years without them like WoW, and buying them for a game that launched a couple of months ago.

Funcom made a sub-par MMO, decided to make two more, and now it's dying. Should've just cut your losses and gotten out of the MMO business... What turned me off of TSW was the ridiculous amounts of crap you could buy before the launch. Not just lifetime subs, but all kinds of cosmetic item packs and such. For a game that wasn't even released yet!

I declare Funcom the biggest pile of wasted potential the industry has ever seen. Anything and everything they do looks awesome on paper, and then they somehow mess it up.

Fun fact: Anarchy Online, Funcom's first MMO (released 2001), has been due to an engine upgrade and a class rebalance patch since 2008. They're yet to be released. It's also run and developed by about 4 people, and I'm not even kidding.

This might be a bit off topic, but they wouldn't be having so much trouble with age of Conan if they knew how to build a fucking F2P system properly. Locking 2/3 of the classes behind a pay wall is fucked up. Not allowing people to earn store credit in-game, is fucked up.

If the did it right, they wouldn't be in such a mess now.

This makes me sad. Not because I particularly like the game or the company but just because its sad to see so much hard work tank and a comapny struggle to find the right market.

fun concept, intriguing story, totally aimed at a market that didn't want it, at a price that the market was already paying for what they wanted to begin with, and no incentive to move house

i weep for the freeform progression system

side note: if your only explanation for your game's downfall is that it's metacritic's fault, then that's an automatic F for your game and you should go back to school

So a subscription fee and a cash store don't make a lot of money?
Who'd have thunk it?

But seriously, you're going up against WoW, with a similar business model, yet without the brand loyalty, and nowhere near the content. What did you think was going to happen?

Darkmantle:
This might be a bit off topic, but they wouldn't be having so much trouble with age of Conan if they knew how to build a fucking F2P system properly. Locking 2/3 of the classes behind a pay wall is fucked up. Not allowing people to earn store credit in-game, is fucked up.

If the did it right, they wouldn't be in such a mess now.

True. Turbine seems to be the king of how to do F2P well, in comparison. The whole ala carte sale of content alongside a sub that just unlocks everything across the board is nifty.

How does City of Heroes do their F2P? That was the other MMO I really liked and used to sub at one point that went F2P since.

lancar:
Aaaand another one bites the dust.

Can we get over the whole mmo craze, please? There's nothing wrong with singleplayer games, y'know. Just because WoW is still raking in money like a hideously bloated golden cash cow, doesn't mean that you can do the same. It's only succeeding in doing that these days because it was first in making its special brand of milk mainstream, and people are still addicted to it.

You don't have to have an mmo in your lineup to be successful.

True, there are A LOT of Mumorpegurs around at the moment. The Secret World looked like a really interesting one that I would have played. Unfortunately, I won't pay subscription fees on my games so I won't be trying.

I suspect it will eventually go free to play. If it does, that is the time I will give it a go. If it doesn't then I will leave them to their poor business decisions.

Toilet:
How hard and expensive is it to make The Longest Journey 3. It's a point and click adventure game, it wont take much man power and will sell much better than any of the shitty MMOs coming out.

If you do decide to make The Longest Journey 3 Funcom just don't pull a Bioware and make it an MMO.

Didn't Tornquist say something about wanting to make TLJ2's follow up into some sort of mmo...? Or am I just remembering it wrongly? I certainly hope that's the case as I want a resolution to the cliffhanger and storyline.

Schadrach:

Darkmantle:
This might be a bit off topic, but they wouldn't be having so much trouble with age of Conan if they knew how to build a fucking F2P system properly. Locking 2/3 of the classes behind a pay wall is fucked up. Not allowing people to earn store credit in-game, is fucked up.

If the did it right, they wouldn't be in such a mess now.

True. Turbine seems to be the king of how to do F2P well, in comparison. The whole ala carte sale of content alongside a sub that just unlocks everything across the board is nifty.

How does City of Heroes do their F2P? That was the other MMO I really liked and used to sub at one point that went F2P since.

The problem AoC F2P has, is that it feels like the developer resents you the whole damn time your not paying. It's way too restricted to be worth playing, and it really turned me back off AoC again. And I play a lot of F2P mmos, so I'm willing to put up the cash if the game grabs me, but this just feels like they are trying to force me to pay by restricting everything.

Also:
City of heroes places some restrictions on their character creation, besides that I don't know very much. I had a trial version a while back (Before it went F2P), so I tried it then, didn't like it very much, just not for me as it were. I booted it up again when it went F2P, and was disappointed I couldn't play my old Chars on a free account something to do with not being able to mix and match powers. Taking that element out really shrinks the amount of customization available.

Darkmantle:

Schadrach:

Darkmantle:
This might be a bit off topic, but they wouldn't be having so much trouble with age of Conan if they knew how to build a fucking F2P system properly. Locking 2/3 of the classes behind a pay wall is fucked up. Not allowing people to earn store credit in-game, is fucked up.

If the did it right, they wouldn't be in such a mess now.

True. Turbine seems to be the king of how to do F2P well, in comparison. The whole ala carte sale of content alongside a sub that just unlocks everything across the board is nifty.

How does City of Heroes do their F2P? That was the other MMO I really liked and used to sub at one point that went F2P since.

The problem AoC F2P has, is that it feels like the developer resents you the whole damn time your not paying. It's way too restricted to be worth playing, and it really turned me back off AoC again. And I play a lot of F2P mmos, so I'm willing to put up the cash if the game grabs me, but this just feels like they are trying to force me to pay by restricting everything.

Also:
City of heroes places some restrictions on their character creation, besides that I don't know very much. I had a trial version a while back (Before it went F2P), so I tried it then, didn't like it very much, just not for me as it were. I booted it up again when it went F2P, and was disappointed I couldn't play my old Chars on a free account something to do with not being able to mix and match powers. Taking that element out really shrinks the amount of customization available.

Huh, I wonder if they do anything like that to premium players (like DDO and LOTRO, they have a better-than-free-but-not-a-sub tier for people who have ever given them money)? I really loved my D^4 (Dark-Dark-Dark Defender) back when I played, but that was pre-F2P.

Hopefully Funcom does a better job of F2Ping TSW than they did AoC, assuming they F2P it. Also they hopefully don't screw their lifetime subs because that would be a dick move.

It's a damn, damn shame. I like Funcom's MMOs, I loved Age of Conan and I'm currently loving The Secret World, it's a seriously awesome game and definitely the best MMO I've ever played (I haven't played GW2 yet).

I strongly belive in this game's future and I don't want to see the game or the company to flop.

Reading all the comments here is depressing.
Funcom totally fucked up with how TSW was sold, and at what price, bad marketing all around, but the game itself needs more love and respect.

While the metascore is lowish, users rate the game way higher, it was at 84 against 71 last time I checked, which means that most players actually dig the game. But when you ask someone who never played the game, he will tell you that it is common knowledge that despite its interesting premise, the game sucks. So yeah, as Funcom pointed, maybe the Metascore, along with Funcom's bad reputation after AoC, did indeed participate in giving the game a reputation of mediocrity it may not deserve.

Ragnar Tornquist really believed (and still does, I hope) in The Secret World. I find it sad to see so many comments here and elsewhere from people who never gave TSW a chance and are just waiting for TLJ 2/3. It's not about the price of the game, not about its quality either, what I read from most self-proclamed TJL fans can be summed up as "I never did and never will give a damn about your MMO dude, just release the game I want already".
So, people, don't worry. When his last baby is dead and buried, and once he gets over it, he may give you the game you seek. You should start praying a little harder for TSW's downfall, so you can get your sequel faster.

I played the trial of the game and I absolutely loved the setting and the story of The Secret World.
It's just that the MMO part of it just weighed it down for me.
If this game had been a polished single player RPG, I'd have bought the shit out of it.

it's a dangerous game to play with MMOs...well for the developers I mean not the players.

well yea the players too lol sometimes

Toilet:
How hard and expensive is it to make The Longest Journey 3. It's a point and click adventure game, it wont take much man power and will sell much better than any of the shitty MMOs coming out.

If you do decide to make The Longest Journey 3 Funcom just don't pull a Bioware and make it an MMO.

Given the whole reason Tim Schafer had to go onto kickstarter and beg for money, I'm willing to bet they can't find a publisher willing to touch TLJ. Which, if that is the reason, really really sucks.

 

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