MechWarrior Online’s Made $5m Before It’s Even Out

By John Walker on October 17th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

Kickstarter isn’t the only way to make insane amounts of money without even releasing a game. MechWarrior Online has been having a concerted “pre-order” campaign, and has announced it’s made $5m in the process. The stampy robot fighting game is yet to enter open beta, but despite this it’s accrued those extraordinary sales figures since July. And let’s stress – this is for a free-to-play game.

This is a collaboration between a Canadian start-up, Infinite Game Publishing, and Mechwarrior developers Piranha Games, creating what they called the Mechwarrior Founder’s Program. This was a tiered system that allowed people to purchase in-game currency and bonuses ahead of release – months ahead of release – for a game that ultimately can be played for free. Gamers like spending money.

Of course, there was a slight twist to this: paying meant you got access to the closed beta, so could be enjoying the game a couple of months ahead of the open beta phease, which in an F2P game is basically release. There were three packages – $120, $60 and $30, the lowest price netting you $40 worth of in-game cash, a month-long premium account, some silly tag thing, and the early access in August. You can see why people might have gone for that. At the highest level you got extra mechs, $80 of mechdollars, three months premium and your name in the credits because that’s a thing. So it was essentially investing in advance of release, in order to get access and lots of bonuses once it’s gold.

Of course, they were getting access to an unfinished game, and one Jim found to still be rather scrappy a couple of weeks ago. That’s as it should be, of course – it’s what closed betas are for. But that didn’t seem to put people off.

Clearly $5m sounds an awful lot – and let’s be frank, is an awful lot – but it’s only a small chunk of what they’ll need to make if this is going to be a success. While it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be so candid with their finances after the game’s out and running, it’s definitely a good sign for the attempt to revive the enormously popular stompy-robot franchise. And Infinite Game Publishing say it’s a good portent for their plan to do this two more times with two other indie F2P titles. Says CEO Nick Foster, in full business-gobbledegook speak:

“The success of the Founder’s Program reinforces IGP’s vision to help independent developers build exceptional games with the right economic model for the global marketplace. We are in a unique position to be able to deliver a pipeline of high quality, innovative content for online game players.”

The other two games are MechWarrior Tactics from Roadhouse Interactive and Sins Of A Dark Age from Sins Of A Solar Empire devs, Ironclad.

It all points toward the F2P model still having a lot of money to be squeezed out of it, so long as you can find the right ingredients. And while this isn’t really pre-ordering at all, and they’re silly for calling it that, it also proves that players are willing to invest if they’re confident enough. (It also slightly gets it out of the place where we shout at people for pre-ordering games that might turn out to be shitplops, since it ensured access.) Question is, can it keep it up once people know what in-game payments will actually be worth?

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21 Comments »

  1. Akaichi says:

    I wonder how Red 5 folks are faring with their Firefall founder’s program…

    • devil_92 says:

      From what i can tell they seem to do good enough,you see alot of people riding the founders bike.

  2. Caiman says:

    $5 million seems remarkably high. I mean, Project Eternity with a high profile developer with a long and cherished track record through the publicity of Kickstarter only raised $4 million. I’m surprised that Mechwarrior has such a massive fanbase by comparison. If everyone went for the $120 package that’s over 41,000 purchasers, but of course likely much higher than that because I’d imagine most went for the lower tiers. Anyway, glad to hear of their success, let’s hope the game gets the polish it needs. Oh, and a single-player campaign like MW2 would be nice too. :)

    • MrMud says:

      Well, MWO is something you can actually play right now.

      • PoulWrist says:

        And it’s been several months as opposed to 1.

        • Cinek says:

          And they actually have very precise plan of the game with people actually knowing what they’ll get for money put, unlike in P.E. where it’s just random throwing of the money into god-knows-what god-knows-when. (that said: I supported P.E. as well, and still have no slightest idea when I’ll get access to any playable version of the game not even saying about knowing what this game will be about and how exactly will it play (ps. yep, I did read all of the updates they posted, including lore) ).

    • thebrassthief says:

      The difference is that near-$4 million is going towards the game’s development. Yes, people get the game but I don’t think you can say that they’ve made almost $4 million already off the game.

  3. rocketman71 says:

    So, they don’t have an excuse anymore. We want single player and LAN.

    Now, dammit.

    • Mordsung says:

      It would probably bug a lot of people who paid for MWO for them to use that money to create a single player campaign.

    • innociv says:

      You forget that making money just makes people more greedy, not more charitable.

      They’re not going to go “Hey, we made $5 million, maybe we should have a less terrible business model based around ripping people off like World Of Tanks, and go more than Dota2 route”, they’re going to go “Suckers, I bet we can make 10 times that off these very same people.” and drive away any sane people who might have paid money for their game once they see you HAVE to spent money regularly to keep playing or you’re stuck in a crappy mech.

  4. Hunchback says:

    I would like to use this occasion to thank all the silly people who payed for a F2P game, so that i can properly enjoy it for free – Thank you all, your sacrifice is appreciated ! (srsly)

    • Cinek says:

      Most people paid for re-activating of the Mechwarrior franchise – after all these years ANY half-decent Mechwarrior-series game would have a chance to collect this amount of money :) It’s nothing personal towards MWO or F2P. Fans are just hungry of going back into cockpit :)

      • Arclight says:

        Indeed. Got into beta with the first batch of keys they send out; I bought into founders to support the effort.

        I really want this thing to succeed and be around for a long time.

      • Warped655 says:

        Its funny, I was just recently playing MechAssault 2 on my original Xbox and I see this. I wish they’d port the Xbox MechAssault games to PC. I’ve noticed a lot of old console exclusives getting this done.

  5. Blackfile says:

    It’s great news for the company, but people shouldn’t just give away their money before seeing the final product

    • PatrickSwayze says:

      There were already videos… and what was there was good enough for the fans

    • mondomau says:

      I take it you’re not a fan of kickstarter then?

  6. wodin says:

    Wish the tactics game was single player..oh hum.

  7. jrpatton says:

    Bear in mind that they earned this money while the game was in closed beta, and was thus using the standard economic model of pay to play. So, if anything, this is just a testament to the impatience of gamers.

    Meanwhile, I’ve payed for the legendary founder’s package, and am loving every second of the game.

    http://www.the-bwc.com, we’re recruiting!

  8. oyog says:

    If anyone’s interested MechWarrior4 is available for free from the website MekTek.
    http://www.mektek.net/index.php/home/articles/Mechwarrior4-Mercenaries-Downloads-r1204

    I only just learned about it through the MWO forum and haven’t installed it yet so no idea how well it works.

  9. wodin says:

    Just come across this Kickstarter.. MAV Dark Horizons

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/162475234/dh-mechanized-assault-vehicle