Well, I can't say we didn't see this coming, but I'd always really, really hoped some cosmic force would swoop in and reshape reality for the sole purpose of avoiding it. In this bold new world, Ragnar Tornquist would be the brains behind every MMO storyline, and we'd live happily ever after in worlds that couldn't unironically apply the phrase "happily ever after." But alas, The Secret World has had some pretty serious trouble gaining ground, and that's taken a toll. First, layoffs and delays struck in fairly short order, and now Funcom's headed for a very different future than the one it originally planned.
Funcom's Q2 2012 financial report outlined The Secret World's various ups and downs, with the biggest standout being this bit:
"More than 200,000 players have purchased The Secret World and the Company is about to launch several initiatives to acquire more players."
Which, in the grand scheme of MMOs - especially those of the subscription-based variety - is a frighteningly low number. For comparison's sake, Age of Conan reached 700,000 subscribers in its first few months, and I imagine Funcom expected at least as strong of a performance from TSW.
Elsewhere, it also confirmed the rumored 50 percent layoff stat, stating "The Company is currently undergoing large cost cutting measures including reduction of around 50% of its staff in all offices. The company is working towards ensuring that all of the live games as well as the company are cash-flow positive."
I was going to make a joke about the failure to capitalize "Company" a second time and the apparent pink slip treatment of Financial Results Writer Person, but then I just got really, really sad. On the upside, Funcom continues to stress that Secret World's current player base is, if nothing else, very dedicated - though it feels that release date announcements for both Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria sucked away quite a bit of TSW's precious, precious monetary lifeblood.
So then, what's next? Well, in the immediate future, releasing more Secret World issues. But, beyond that, probably don't expect quite as large a helping of "massive" in your "multiplayer online game" next time around.
"Funcom will in the future direct its resources towards smaller, more focused online games... The Company will concentrate its new development on more focused, systems-driven games that have a high degree of community and player interaction. These games require less time and development cost to bring to market."
The report also mentions the upcoming Lego Minifigure possibly-social game in close proximity, and notes that Funcom is "working actively on securing other similar opportunities."
So that's quite the change of pace for the Compa-- ahem, company that fairly infamously delivered dark, sexy exposition by way of a sex position. Granted, the focus on "smaller" games isn't anythin bad. Even before all this financial ugliness, Ragnar told me that he'd "love" to go back to making single-player, story-focused games once his time on TSW is up. Dare we hope for Dreamfall Chapters? I probably shouldn't, given the whole "online" part of the smaller game announcement, but who knows? If nothing else, I'm definitely rooting for all who remain to strain a little sunshine from all this doom and gloom. And we wish our absolute best to those who are losing their jobs - may they quickly find work.