The looming face of Ragnar Tørnquist sits atop a message to The Secret World players, in an effort to calm concerns after what are described as "a turbulent couple of weeks". The game, which apparently has only around 200,000 players after its first month, has put developers Funcom in a tough financial position, with rumours of as many as half the staff worldwide being laid off, and their share value falling a massive 84% drop. But T(ALT-0248)rnquist is seeking to assure players that things are still good for the game itself.
Explaining that the game has "a bright future", the project lead goes on to say,
"We're not about to change. We're not going to play it safe. We won't be introducing classes or levels, elves or centaurs, and regardless of the competition, we won't back down from our original vision. We're going to keep doing what we're good at. We'll continue to push the boundaries, and we'll keep reinventing the wheel (quite literally). Five years ago, we set out to revolutionise the genre, and the revolution has just begun."
The piece acknowledges the serious competition Guild Wars 2 is now presenting, and the presumably even more serious challenge WoW's Mists Of Pandaria will present very soon, but describes his game as "a game that's truly original, mature and challenging. A game for gamers."
Funcom plan to stick with the monthly releases of new content, to make sure subscribers are always seeing the game change as they pay (admittedly with a two week delay on the first, after the "restructuring"), as well as responding to feedback, "polishing, fixing and streamlining the game." There's also details about a new 10 person raid for New York in October, new weapons, and improvements to character customisation. And there are big plans for Christmas events, hinting at vampiric abilities being added in, as well as confirmation of the plan to add Tokyo in as a whole new adventure zone next Spring. Ragnar concludes,
"And that's only some of the cool content we have in the pipeline. The Secret World is far from done: in fact, we're just getting started. (Actually, we're pretty far along, but you know what I mean.) This game will continue to grow and evolve in the months and years ahead, and I hope to see you all along for the ride!"
Many have suggested that The Secret World's issues lie in trying to use a subscription model in a free-to-play world, but personally I find that to be a suspicious conclusion. Certain the subscription is far too high at £12 a month - making that a far more agreeable £8 or 9 would I'm sure tempt more people to commit to what we've found to be a fantastic game. (And I can't wait to see all the outlets who slated it for its combat also dishing out the same criticism and low marks for Pandaria when it's released!)
But far more significant would seem to be the entry fee. At £40, here is where a ludicrously big obstacle appears. And yes, here is where the game's being in a world where MMOs now tend to be free to begin playing starts to become extremely awkward. The very last thing you want with a game that profits from ongoing play is a massive entrance charge, and for inexplicable reasons, Funcom have opted for the very highest end of PC game prices. Even at £30 it would be a bit of a push, and it bewilders me that a game that's clearly struggling to get players hasn't already at least halved its price. (The only reasoning I can think of is the belief that if people have already paid so much just to get in, they'll want to continue playing to get their money's worth - but that's deeply spurious logic.)
Edit: Commenter SuffixTreeMonkey (ho boy) points out that the game is currently half price in an Origin sale.
There is, at least, a three-day free trial now. But it would be good to see Funcom thinking a lot more about how to get new people coming in, alongside keeping those they've already got.