There will be no "major" expansion content for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III and the studio has turned to other projects, Relic confirmed to us today, despite intentions to the contrary discussed last year. The Games Workshop-themed strategy game was met with a divisive response due to its abandonment of real-time strategy mainstays in favour of more of a hero unit approach, in addition to an overly-formulaic singleplayer campaign.
DOW's active players have slumped in the ten months since release - to the point that there were, over the past 30 days, twice as many people playing the original, 2004 Dawn of War and its expansions as there were last Spring's Dawn of War III.
Relic sent us this statement in response to our questions about the game's future:
"While Dawn of War III has a dedicated player base, it didn’t hit the targets we were expecting at launch, and it hasn’t performed the way we had hoped since. It’s been tough for us as professionals who want to make great games for our players, and for us as people who care a lot about what we do.
When a game underperforms, plans need to change. With Dawn of War III, we simply don’t have the foundation we need to produce major content. We’re working in close partnership with SEGA and Games Workshop to determine the best course of action, while shifting focus to other projects within our portfolio. "
Project lead Phillipe Boulle told PC Gamer last March that "we'll see an expansion of some sort" for DOW3, and that the DOW1/2 trend of expansions which added new factions and campaigns was "definitely something we're going to revisit." The Necrons were teased for DOW3 in a post-credits sequence, but it seems the space-ghouls will not now join the fray.
The current situation for Dawn of War 3 certainly doesn't look good. Steamcharts, which uses Valve’s own APIs to measure the concurrent players in every game sold via Steam, reports that, over the past 30 days, Dawn of War III had an active average player count of 403 at any one time. To put that in context, the 100th most active game on Steam, Space Engineers, had an average of 2,199 players over the past 48 hours.
Then there's case of Soulstorm, the 2008 standalone third expansion for the original Dawn of War, which by itself has 541 concurrent players. When all four versions of the original Dawn of War are added together, the average number of concurrent players over the past month is 870.
When all three versions of 2009's Dawn of War 2 are added together, their 541 also outpaces DOW3’s 403 concurrent players.
For a more contemporary comparison, there’s Total War: Warhammer 2, a game which shares a publisher, a license and to some extent a genre with DOW3. TWW2 boasts an average of 15,700 concurrent players over the past 30 days, again against DOW3's 403.
SteamSpy's educated guesses about sales figures can vary from eerily close to wildly inaccurate depending on who you ask, but for the record, it puts DOW3 at 575,000 sales, against 2.7m for Dawn of War II. Not out and out disastrous, perhaps, but low for a big-name release.
The last update for DOW3 was a set of free unit skins released in November. Outside of that, there has been no DLC whatsoever, which is unusual both for such a multiplayer-centric game and for a Games Workshop-related one. Until this week, its last patches were in October, one of which outright removed DOW 3's unpopular multiplayer unlock system.
All patches stalled from then until this Monday, when a 700MB download was released as a "small but important update to some back-end systems". Though this update adds nothing visible to the game, some players have speculated that it might lay the groundwork for something more meaningful, such as new buildings or the addition of Dawn of War II's popular Last Stand survival mode.
By comparison, stablemate Total Warhammer 2 has seen 4 rounds of DLC since its September launch, alongside a steady stream of patches.
The sense that all was not well with Dawn of War 3 was heightened by the discovery that project lead Phillipe Boulle parted ways in September not just with DOW3, but with Relic as a whole. According to LinkedIn, he is now ‘Senior Narrative Producer’ at Capcom Game Studio Vancouver, which has been making Dead Rising games in partnership with Microsoft since 2010.