The Secret World has one remaining secret – that it wasn’t the big fat hit it needed to be. Dev Funcom has been making grumbly noises about the Metacritic score being too low, leading to a tumble in their share price, reportedly by as much 84%. It’s almost as if Metacritic is a poisonously artificial benchmark of success and accomplishment, isn’t it? While I raise at least three eyebrows at Funcom claiming their aggregate review score is the major reason for the game struggling, the fact is that the game has failed to meet their sales projections, and that’s bad news for an MMO. Funcom’s chief money-dude has also been talking of lay-offs in the wake of the bad news.
This state-of-play also arises after the 30-day free sub for purchasers of the game expired recently, which is increasingly proving to be a problem for MMOs. (Not that there are many big, sub-based MMOs left to launch, of course). You can’t blame metacritic for a subs drop-off – if the game’s not keeping its players, better reviews wouldn’t change that in the slightest.
Funcom have put out a lengthy but nonetheless grim investor note to try and calm down panicking shareholders – presumably some of them are worried that they’ll only be able to buy two brand new Lexuses this year – by detailing future plans for TSW, money-wise. Its recent Steam launch is part of the recovery plan, as is future content, but they’re also bracing for continuing player drops-offs. At the moment, it’s coming up significantly short compared to Age of Conan’s own mucky launch, but Funcom reckon they might be able to sort out a more stable, faithful long-term playerbase, plus note TSW is cheaper to run than Conan.
I don’t know what to say, really. Like SWTOR, TSW seemed a bit too late in the day, arriving after Moby Subscription had been slain, and I doubt I was alone in being put off by the dry combat (the narrative stuff seemed appealing, but I didn’t want to wade through hours of what, from the beta, wasn’t terribly engaging shooty-bang just to hear the dialogue). Unlike SWTOR, TSW wasn’t slavishly copying the competition and had high aspirations even if couldn’t necessarily realise them, so it’s tragic to see Funcom suffer. Hopefully they can bounce back, and will pour their energies into games that don’t require hundreds of thousands of subscribers to turn a profit.