Funcom: Secret World ‘Has The Tools’ To Go F2P

By Nathan Grayson on September 18th, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

Because shooting tree monsters is an indelible human right - not something that should be hidden behind the heartless wall of commerce.

Do you own any tools? I own some tools. I have a screwdriver, a hammer, a wrench, and a key that doesn’t actually go to anything, so I use it to open cardboard boxes. Apparently, though, Funcom’s utility belt is even more expansive than my formidable arsenal. In fact, if the sadly struggling Secret World developer is to be believed, it even possesses the mythical Free-To-Play Tool. Yes, that’s right. It does exist. Even in Norway.

Funcom CEO Ole Schreiner explained his company’s current stance on a F2P Secret World in an interview with GamesIndustry International.

“The Secret World was developed as a subscription-based game and the decisions made during planning and production was based on that business model. If we had designed The Secret World as a free-to-play offering we would have made some different decisions along the way, for example in terms of how the in-game store works and how our post-launch content plan would play out. We tried leaving our options open during development so that we could launch with a different model should we have decided during development that’s what we wanted, but eventually we did settle on the subscription model and that’s what informed much of the game’s design.”

“That said, we definitely have the tools to turn The Secret World into a free-to-play game – or even hybrid – should we decide to do that somewhere down the line. We did that with Age of Conan with significant success. We all know that trends and expectations in the gaming business, and perhaps particularly the MMO genre, is evolving quickly, and we’re regularly re-evaluating our business model against the changing currents of the marketplace and our own player base as well. Not only in terms of The Secret World, but also our future games.”

However, Schreiner also dropped a couple other interesting tidbits. First off, The Secret World is now apparently profitable. Granted, layoffs were required to make it possible, but for now, Ragnar Tornquist’s brilliant yet often flawed brainchild isn’t hemorrhaging funds or anything like that.

Schreiner also elaborated on Funcom’s plan to shift away from massive productions like Conan and The Secret World. He explained that it’s not necessarily a matter of reducing scope, but rather crafting systems that allow the games to drive themselves – ala EVE Online. “What’s important to keep in mind is that a systems-driven MMO is no less of an MMO than a content-driven one,” he said. “EVE Online is the perfect example of a popular systems-driven MMO that has truly engaged its audience and shown great longevity. A solid systems-driven MMO has the potential to live longer and be an even more engaging experience than a content-driven one.”

Which doesn’t sound all that bad on paper – assuming Funcom can figure out the secret to EVE’s rather singular success. Granted, Funcom also thrives on creating original, highly detailed worlds and putting brainy words in the mouths of the characters that populate them. It’d be a bit of a shame to not leverage that obvious strength. I wish the whole company the best of luck, though. It’s produced some really special things in the past, and it’d be utterly heartbreaking to see that screech to a halt because shifting business models sent the whole operation careening off a cliff.

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39 Comments »

  1. ran93r says:

    I imagine it would be hard to not turn a profit now they have fired everyone but the tea lady.
    Have said before, I would gladly go back to playing as I never finished much of the personal story and I only played templar but it would need to go f2p for me to do that, it’s a good (if not great) game from the story and setting perspective but not one I can justify another subscription on.

    • frightlever says:

      And of course being profitable on a month by month basis is a long way from actually recouping development costs.

      • MarigoldFleur says:

        Not to mention that maintaining that profitability relies on either a non-fluctuating player base or an expanding one, both of which are kinda super rare.

  2. Meat Circus says:

    It’s the Tool of Inevitability.

    I got one of those too. Erm.

  3. The Random One says:

    Wait, are you saying that the MMO with the in-game costume store *gasp* has the tools to go F2P? GEEZ WHAT A COMPLETELY UNFORESEEN TURN OF EVENTS

    I don’t know why devs can’t just be straightforward with us and tell us when we’re paying an advance fee to join a F2P game early. We gamers will pay $60 for something that will cost $40 in a year and $10 during a summer sale just because we literally can’t wait; I see no difference between that and paying $15 for six months for a game that will turn F2P afterwards.

    • Orija says:

      Yea, it’s beginning to seem as if publishers are releasing f2p mmos as subscription-based on purpose to make some extra dough from unsuspecting fans. I think even GW 2 could have gotten away with this.

    • Premium User Badge

      gnodab says:

      Only with the Secret World you had to pay 15$ a month AND 60$ up front…
      I still can not decide whether this was all an evil conspiracy on their part so that they could have a justification to fire everyone involved and make more money once they go F2P, or whether they were just completely delusional or just really, really stupid.

    • Highstorm says:

      Yes. I liked this part: “…we definitely have the tools to turn The Secret World into a free-to-play game – or even hybrid – should we decide to do that somewhere down the line.” Ummm, the game launched as a “hybrid”. And it’s that business model that most turned me off to the game (though I found the gameplay quite boring as well).

      Sadly a friend suckered me in to ponying up. Double sadly, I forgot to cancel my subscription in time and paid for an extra month. But man, seeing that robust cash shop that seemed to contain all of the better looking stuffs, with no way to access it through in-game currency, was a huge slap in the face after I’d already forked over $60 and then a later, accidental $15.

    • Bobtree says:

      Some games are valued by players to be worth $60. That’s independent of whether they can wait or will wait before buying them.

  4. Zepp says:

    Poor Jack-o’-lantern. I liked his quest-line a lot. Quests were quite good (besides 3rd zone of Transylvania which was meh) so I don’t reget buying the game. What killed it for me was *endgame* NM dungeon grind.

    The game is flawed beyond being fixable. Just like WAR.

    • frightlever says:

      I kinda like WAR. If it was ACTUALLY f2p, instead of the endless trial thing, I’d be a lot more interested in going back (ignoring my current GW2 obsession ). The public events in WAR were pretty novel at the time and now everyone does it.

  5. Cold Steel says:

    Maybe it is just a sign that the MMO market is sated.

  6. f1x says:

    I’m more worried about their future plans,

    “A solid systems-driven MMO has the potential to live longer and be an even more engaging experience than a content-driven one.”

    Sounds like a terrible phylosophy, I dont think thats even the core/soul of EVE, looks more like a poor excuse to deliver another half-baked MMO but this time with cheaper developing costs

    • Rahdulf123 says:

      It sounds like a game with infinite amount of player-generated content fostered and encouraged game systems. Of course, whether that works in a themepark MMORPG as opposed to a sandbox one is an entirely different matter.

  7. Valvarexart says:

    I wish RPS would sometimes do more than just copy Gamesindustry articles…

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      It’s almost as if game developers send the same press release to multiple news sites at the same time.

    • airmikee says:

      I wish people with stupid, meaningless, nonsensical complaints would shut the fuck up instead of sharing their retarded opinion.

      • PopeJamal says:

        But, we’ll miss your enlightening posts! I guess we’ll soldner on as best we can…

  8. gschmidl says:

    Yes, Ragnar is certainly a tool. Make TLJ3 already before your company goes under, dammit.

  9. ElvisMZ says:

    I wonder if it’s still viable to make an MMO. I’ve never played one, and I have nothing to back this up, but in my eyes an MMO is a bit like voting; you only pick one of the parties involved and then you basically stick to that for 4 years.

    Aren’t there way too many MMO’s for the amount of people who will actually play them?

    • Shuck says:

      Depends what you mean by MMO, since that can encompass a $150+ million production or a multiplayer game with an inexpensive Flash client (not to mention everything in between). One of those is highly unlikely to be a path to profitability these days.
      It’s true that you don’t really divide up your time between multiple MMOs, because each one tends to be a terminal time-sink. And given that games like WoW have been around so long and built up a huge amount of content, there’s little reason to play a newer, similar (but necessarily smaller) game if you’ve played that.

  10. MeestaNob says:

    I find it astounding that they want to continue to make online games.

    Try making something people want?

    • sinister agent says:

      Knew it couldn’t be just me. Can someone please call Funcom and tell them that MMOs are not the only type of game, and in fact are many people’s least favourite type of game, including some of the people who would have bought The Secret World if it were not an MMO.

      It seems insane to make a game whose greatest strength was its writing and characters, and when it struggles because it’s weak everywhere else, talk about making another game… without the writing and characters.

      Stop making MMOs! The market is glutted and they don’t play to your strengths anyway!

      • Shuck says:

        I’m guessing that the games they were making weren’t selling enough (despite I and apparently everyone else on RPS owning them). The stability of a monthly subscription fee is hard to ignore, especially after you’ve already made the huge investment in creating your own MMO client/server software. It makes subsequent titles a lot more sustainable, especially if you find ways of cutting down development costs (e.g. the system-based games they’re talking about).

  11. aliksy says:

    Played free weekend, was not impressed. Probably wouldn’t even play it if it was free. Wake me if they make some genuinely interesting gameplay that would be well received for a single player game.

  12. Hardmood says:

    i just have to take a look at the screen on top of the news to decide (FOR ME) again that this game has no flair, at least no consistent one.
    cmon casting action in hot pants, with this sort of combat system on top…its disgusting. it kicks the scary lovecraftian mood out of the game in no time. besides all the other flaws.

    btw funcom, what about AGE OF CONAN huh? me: no aoc support, no sw playin! as ez as that.

    oh and btw , no ea ffs.

    • f1x says:

      Actually, the “fashion” part of the game could be nice, in the world of today Secret society “members” as displayed in the game would surely follow some style trends and try to look “cool”
      but the thing is the game fails at that, the clothing is just dull, the models are dull, the faces, the hairstyles, it feels so damn uninspired, like if they were thinking that because of doing a modern setting everything has to be “common” and “normal”
      which is a shame, because the writting and the investigation parts are definitely nice

  13. Freud says:

    We can rebuild it. We have the technology.

  14. revokatt says:

    The Secret World is the best MMO ever to be butchered beyond all hope by its subscription model.

    • Lord Bunnington says:

      agreed. Rift was butchered because it was basically a WoW clone. this was butchered because they insisted that people are going to pay for story. if i wanted to play for story, i would’ve bought a book instead.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        I like to pay for story in games. However, I require the game not be rubbish.

      • f1x says:

        Sorry but Rift as much as it “copied” WoW, it found its own way with the invasions, events and such, and its actually a really well done and enjoyable MMO, lets say, a traditional one as it brought nothing new to the table,
        And its getting an expansion next month so its definitelly succesful, not really butchered

        TSW on the other hand, has brilliant writting wrapped with animations/models from the prehistoric era and a extremelly dull/boring combat system, that could be not a so big problem, but it just promised too much before launching… just like.. Age of Conan (but I actually enjoyed AoC for a while, cant say the same of TSW)

  15. hypercrisis says:

    great, then ill play it

  16. nacrom says:

    Best game I’ve played in five years. Finally a game geared towards adults. A modern, dark setting based on on own worlds mythology. I’m truly baffled by the negative reviews and hate towards the game. I’ll GLADLY continue to pay a monthly fee to play this game. It’s just sad that all the sheep out there waiting on the next Gears of War game don’t support this game.

  17. nacrom says:

    I also wanted to say that as a Steam Member I am annoyed that I see such highly negative “news” items when I launch the game. This is not news. It’s an opinion. And an extremely jaded one at that.