Age Of Conan Bleeds Money, Funcom CFO Quits

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Age Of Conan Bleeds Money, Funcom CFO Quits

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Funcom's chief financial officer has resigned his position after revealing the company took a $23.3 million loss in its fourth quarter, thanks almost entirely to the underperforming Age of Conan.

$22.8 million of Funcom's fourth quarter loss resulted from the "lagging performance of Age of Conan," according to GamesIndustry, despite a year-over-year increase in subscription revenues from $1.2 million $8.7 million. While the MMOG experienced considerable early success with over 700,000 registrations only a few months after its May 2008 release, E24 (translated here) claims the game now has fewer than 100,000 active players. Funcom said that while the game was the third-best-selling PC game in the U.S. behind World of Warcraft and Spore, it was victimized by "shorter average subscription periods than anticipated." Despite that, the company said it was committed to launching the game in new territories as well as "revitalizing Age of Conan in existing core markets."

"Funcom is a company with a substantial potential based on a unique combination of skill sets in a fast growing global market," Funcom CFO Olav Sandnes said after announcing his departure. "I wish [Funcom CEO] Trond Aas and the rest of the organization all the best in realizing the full potential of the company." Sandnes will stay on as CFO until the company can find a permanent replacement, at which time he will leave to "take up a new position in a different industry."

Age of Conan has suffered from difficulties big and small since before its oft-delayed release which led to the termination of Funcom co-founder and Age of Conan Lead Designer Gaute Godager in September 2008. Godager, who also said he planned to pursue a career outside the game industry, expressed his "dissatisfaction" with the game when he left the company. Shortly after, Funcom went ahead with plans to cut the number of servers supporting the game from 49 to just 18.

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The vultures are circling this game... Which would foolishly imply that there was a time there weren't, but you get my point.

Hmmm... the thing that bothers me is that 100,000 subscriptions is a fair bit of money each month, yet that's not nearly enough to keep the game going? 100,000 seems like a good sized community to me. Didn't EVE Online have a small community that slowly grew?

I think Funcom's business plan for Age of Conan was flawed from the beginning if it needs instant success to operate. I really wish that developers would scale back their visions and build things that are attractive, attainable, and maintainable... instead of trying to build the next WoW.

You don't release an unfinished MMO.

Sorry NewbCom but everyone else saw this comming miles away. No matter how hard the suits tell you to release the game by such and such date, if it's not ready it's not ready.

To hell with Conan. I'm worried about what this financial loss means for Dreamfall Chapters. Don't make it a comic book, Ragnar. Don't you dare.

Echolocating:
100,000 seems like a good sized community to me. Didn't EVE Online have a small community that slowly grew?

I think Funcom's business plan for Age of Conan was flawed from the beginning if it needs instant success to operate.

Agreed! Needing $22 MILLION yearly to work is unfeasible, frankly. That should have been a wanting sign early on. Frankly, I hate when its so obvious they where expecting WoW success.

I did have Age of Conan, because I thought it'd be a fun, better MMO than Guildwars, although it turned out it wasn't.

There are MUD's out there that happily survive on low subscriber numbers (1000 or less), purely on donation, or out of the pockets of the owners. Hell, I do coding for one of them! To see them frankly wasting 100,000-subscribers worth of subscription because of awful planning really annoy's me. Its clear that there is possiblies with something like Conan, but they never worked it out right.

Look at the successful MMO's - WoW, Everquest, Eve online - all of them work with what they have, not what they want, and all of these games have a strong community around them, based on the actions (or in Eve's case, specialised lack of action) which is what really spells life or death to a MMO. Community and gameplay, followed by graphics, these are the things that spell if a MMO will live. MUD's are specialised in that they don't really have graphics persay, but they don't need the extra bandwidth to maintain, and then hence can survive on smaller budgets.

Hmmmm I remenber the "AoC will kill WOW!" threads....

Oh well hope Funcom learned its leasson to never release an unfinished game again.

oliveira8:
Hmmmm I remenber the "AoC will kill WOW!" threads....

People really said that? I see... troubling!

SirSchmoopy:
You don't release an unfinished MMO.

Yes... yes you do. No MMO was released finished.

Pity, I had good fun with this game for like a month, and then it became painfully clear they focussed too much on the pretty and too little on the content. Oh well.

I blame WoW for being the end of all it's competition I pray it doesn't happen to Warhammer online because I love that game.

SirSchmoopy:
You don't release an unfinished MMO.

Sorry NewbCom but everyone else saw this comming miles away. No matter how hard the suits tell you to release the game by such and such date, if it's not ready it's not ready.

That's what so funny about them trying to compete with WoW, which is put out by a company that has made "It'll be out when it's ready" their corporate model.

WoW? Millions of players, millions of dollars. AoC? Thousands of players forced onto 18 play servers, and a CFO looking for a new office.

I guess we gamers really do prefer quality over quantity. Attention, movie tie-in studios...

zombiepandaman:
I blame WoW for being the end of all it's competition I pray it doesn't happen to Warhammer online because I love that game.

Well, WoW isn't the end of competition. Other big MMO's do exist, some in the million's range too. However, these guys tried to jump in straight to the millions mark. Realistically, it was doomed to fail by that route. In order to achieve real success, you have to build up smoothly, or release a full product and expand it over time. AoC felt rushed, and not that good a game to begin with. The graphics, to me at least, where abit bland and grim. The gameplay was pretty flat. The story was abit "meh". And on top of all that, the first few hours you where kept in single player limited world mode. Not that helpful.

All in all, AoC was a badly planned and executed project.

EDIT: Oh, and I think Warhammer is safe - depends on how well budgeted it is, and how strong the community is. See how many people left AoC? Weakened communities do that to a game. Warhammer, however, already had a fanbase (Warhammer table top/faction fans), hence the foundation of a community is already there. Conan, not so much.

Poor AoC. I had such high hopes for that game... and really, at its core, it was a fun MMO. But Funcom fucked up one too-many times.

Malygris:

claiming it was victimized by "shorter average subscription periods than anticipated."

Lol...it was 'victimized'? Not because it was buggy, unfinished, failed to deliver on promises or hold general interest from the get go...but they were 'victimized'?

It's like me saying I'm surprised and it's unfair that I got a C- on my Spanish test because I failed to study or open the text book and know my material.

Alone Disciple:

Malygris:

claiming it was victimized by "shorter average subscription periods than anticipated."

Lol...it was 'victimized'? Not because it was buggy, unfinished, failed to deliver on promises or hold general interest from the get go...but they were 'victimized'?

It's like me saying I'm surprised and it's unfair that I got a C- on my Spanish test because I failed to study or open the text book and know my material.

I did think that when I read it. "Victimised". Oh dear, our awful customers refuse to keep paying! Oh woe is us!

God, pull the plug you fools.

i could have sworn they said they were going to shut down this game. Also i to hope this doesn't happen to Warhammer. i mean yes it still has some flaws, but its still fun.

No sequel for Dreamfall then...

:(

That really sucks. Anarchy Online was one hell of a MMORPG (after they fixed the bugs). I loved the sci-fi setting and a big variation from the MMOs that were out at the time. Unfortunately, it is going to be a few years until something can fight against WoW - but by that point, Blizzard will probably have another crazy MMO out.

zombiepandaman:
I blame WoW for being the end of all it's competition I pray it doesn't happen to Warhammer online because I love that game.

Nah, you can't blame WoW for this. I mean, you can, but it is AoC's fault for being a broken pile. should have waited and done things right.

i personally can't wait for DCUO, i hope they are taking note of this.

Is this an example of shooting the messenger? It sounds like the CFO was doing his job keeping tabs of how much money AoC is losing. It's losing money because it requires a hard core rig to run with mediocre game design values and unchallenging play (so I hear... never got it mysefl... was hoping they'd fix it because Conan is cool). How about fire the game designers?

...silly me, I forgot, the Lead Game Designer did leave.

And I really really hope it wasn't Funcom that used the word "victimized." That is so anti-Conan that would explain why the game is "underperforming" right there.

zombiepandaman:
I blame WoW for being the end of all it's competition I pray it doesn't happen to Warhammer online because I love that game.

No, WoW just set a expection that an MMO ought to be good if you first pay $50 for the game, and then $15/month. Making a game like WoW but better is indeed a daunting task, but a good MMO is not an impossible standard.

ironfist86:
Nah, you can't blame WoW for this. I mean, you can, but it is AoC's fault for being a broken pile. should have waited and done things right.

Was it that bad? It had some good reviews. Anarchy Online was a horribly broken mess when it released; probably worse than any MMORPG there has been. In the end though, when they patched it up, it was a very enjoyable game.

Fearzone:
No, WoW just set a expection that an MMO ought to be good if you first pay $50 for the game, and then $15/month. Making a game like WoW but better is indeed a daunting task, but a good MMO is not an impossible standard.

Definitely a daunting task - and you have to pull all of those WoW players away from WoW long enough to get an established fan base. If they go back to WoW, your game is going to be looked at as a "loss". My biggest fear is that an awesome MMORPG will come out that has so many awesome things to do, but it will get overlooked and not pull as many subscriptions as the developer wanted.

I think a big part of the problem with WoW (or at least players going back to it) is that it establishes a high level of nostalgia and attachment to your characters. Players don't want to cancel their WoW account because of the amount of work they have put into it. So when you're playing another MMO (AoC, EQ2, or some other one), and taking some time off from your WoW account, if you get a bit bored you go back to something you had fun with. If you've spent some time away from WoW, you're going to have a good time once again with it - and there's always an expansion pack on the way to add new content to it so that's another draw.

Like I said before, we probably won't see a MMO that can top WoW for 3-4 years - and by then Blizzard will probably have World of Starcraft or something on the edge of release. Blizzard could very well turn out to be the EA Sports of MMO's - and that's a sad thing, because once 1 developer has that foothold it is hard for other wonderful ideas to surface. Imagine if the FPS market was dominated by only Halo. I'm not a Halo fanboy, but I don't dislike it either - but Halo is not the perfect FPS IMO. I enjoy the game, but if I couldn't have my Call of Duty 4, Half-Life 2, Team Fortress, Portal, and so many others (yeah, I'm a hardcore Valve fan)... Man, what experiences we would be missing out on! Imagine if Halo was the only FPS choice we had. That's the way the MMO market is going now because of WoW.

SmugFrog:

ironfist86:
Nah, you can't blame WoW for this. I mean, you can, but it is AoC's fault for being a broken pile. should have waited and done things right.

Was it that bad? It had some good reviews. Anarchy Online was a horribly broken mess when it released; probably worse than any MMORPG there has been. In the end though, when they patched it up, it was a very enjoyable game.

Grey, dishwater graphics; half the features promised unplayable on release; pretty much WoW gameplay just in a grey, grimmer shell; bad design choices, as I mentioned before.

As for Anarchy online, they've never really recovered from that initial "crap period", and subscription remains low. It's an undeserved reputation now, but its stuck in people's minds, it seems.

SmugFrog:

Fearzone:
No, WoW just set a expection that an MMO ought to be good if you first pay $50 for the game, and then $15/month. Making a game like WoW but better is indeed a daunting task, but a good MMO is not an impossible standard.

Definitely a daunting task - and you have to pull all of those WoW players away from WoW long enough to get an established fan base. If they go back to WoW, your game is going to be looked at as a "loss". My biggest fear is that an awesome MMORPG will come out that has so many awesome things to do, but it will get overlooked and not pull as many subscriptions as the developer wanted.

Maybe they could, I don't know, try and do their own thing? Like Eve online has, or now Second Life and Everquest are different?

SmugFrog:

I think a big part of the problem with WoW (or at least players going back to it) is that it establishes a high level of nostalgia and attachment to your characters. Players don't want to cancel their WoW account because of the amount of work they have put into it. So when you're playing another MMO (AoC, EQ2, or some other one), and taking some time off from your WoW account, if you get a bit bored you go back to something you had fun with. If you've spent some time away from WoW, you're going to have a good time once again with it - and there's always an expansion pack on the way to add new content to it so that's another draw.

True...true. It'll certainly take work to ween people off of WoW and onto other MMO's. BUT the thing is, its doable, and frankly, if the competition keep trying to clone WoW, they'll never manage it. Add to that, the expansion packs actually do represent a real increase in the world-size, showing that they are maintaining it well.

I do have to wonder if WoW 2 could exist. After all, it'll have to compete with WoW 1!

SmugFrog:

Like I said before, we probably won't see a MMO that can top WoW for 3-4 years - and by then Blizzard will probably have World of Starcraft or something on the edge of release. Blizzard could very well turn out to be the EA Sports of MMO's - and that's a sad thing, because once 1 developer has that foothold it is hard for other wonderful ideas to surface. Imagine if the FPS market was dominated by only Halo. I'm not a Halo fanboy, but I don't dislike it either - but Halo is not the perfect FPS IMO. I enjoy the game, but if I couldn't have my Call of Duty 4, Half-Life 2, Team Fortress, Portal, and so many others (yeah, I'm a hardcore Valve fan)... Man, what experiences we would be missing out on! Imagine if Halo was the only FPS choice we had. That's the way the MMO market is going now because of WoW.

I can see what you're saying, but there are other, successful MMO's out there, as you mentioned yourself. EVE, Everquest, City of Heros/Villains, etc. Ok, so they've not got the sheer volume of WoW, but it would be mad to assume that ever game could achieve that position.

With a normal game, you normally consider it excellent news if you can shift 1 million units of the game. Age of Conan managed to shift AT LEAST 700,000(!) and yet it's still in trouble. Frankly, they did not plan it well. THIS is the common mistake all these new MMO's are making : trying to take on WoW straight off the bat. Age of Conan, on release, was not all that good. And MMO players aren't known for their patience, see? So, by the time its all fixed, most of them would have returned to WoW and forgotten about AoC.

If a game starts small, like Eve, irons out its bugs, and then grows, using word of mouth/blogs/online magazines (cough the Escapist cough), and shifts with a free trail period, you CAN compete with WoW. But "Fun"com screwed it up. Badly! They thought they could get 10 million subscribers and keep them. That was just idiocy to work from, and they ain't gonna keep their heads above water now.

WoW will survive, even in the current economic difficulties, because they understand the market, and crafted their game according, and now have a comfortable buffer zone. Even if half their subscribers cancelled, they could keep going methinks.

Anywho, if your interested in MMO, MUD, or even just general world design in games, have a looky at "Designing Virtual Worlds" by Richard Bartle. Richard Bartle is the guy who invented MUD, the first ever persistent world game (I think), the forerunner to the MMO. He recently said that he'd close down WoW if he had the power, not because he thinks its bad, but simply because he feels the same way that you do - that it kills off competition and invention. I have read a fair wack of the book and its good reading.

Doug:
See Above -^

Wow, thanks for your thoughts on all of that. I've never tried Eve, and I'm almost afraid too because I don't have time for that level of addiction. But wasn't Eve around before WoW? If that's the case, it is kind of the same effect of those players being attached to what they're doing in that game - even if they tried or still play WoW (which, a few people in my WoW guild did).

I'll have to check out that book.

SmugFrog:

Doug:
See Above -^

Wow, thanks for your thoughts on all of that. I've never tried Eve, and I'm almost afraid too because I don't have time for that level of addiction. But wasn't Eve around before WoW? If that's the case, it is kind of the same effect of those players being attached to what they're doing in that game - even if they tried or still play WoW (which, a few people in my WoW guild did).

I'll have to check out that book.

Oh, I tried Eve, couldn't get into it myself, you might enjoy it, not sure. And I was surprised to see that yes, Eve was out before WoW. Hmmm... I suspect its slower grown might be because of its more specialise game style. And because you can't customize your avatar really - which can be a big draw to some people, especially MMORPG players. But I could be wrong. Either way, Eve is still growing steady, I believe.

Oh, and the learning curve...is apparently rough:

image

I think the problem with Age of Conan is the graphics requirement, right away I lost most of the appeal I had for the game when I saw I could only get around 15 FPS with everything on low, and the game looked hiddeous on low settings.

I have a much better setup with my computer nowadays. I tried to subscribe to Age of Conan again because its a good game, but the fact that they have no Paypal option (or anything besides putting your credit card details directly into their website) put me off. A lot. There is pre-pay subscription cards worth 60 days that you can buy from other websites, but that puts me off too since I don't want to wait ages for it to arrive in the post.

MMORPG's are the downfall of many gaming companies. Shame, so many WoW clones yet despite that, even with the only original content filled MMORPG's they get crushed beneath WoW players saying it's shit.

Solo508:
I think the problem with Age of Conan is the graphics requirement, right away I lost most of the appeal I had for the game when I saw I could only get around 15 FPS with everything on low, and the game looked hiddeous on low settings.

That too. Oh, and it really doesn't look any better with all the options turned to high.

Dommyboy:
MMORPG's are the downfall of many gaming companies. Shame, so many WoW clones yet despite that, even with the only original content filled MMORPG's they get crushed beneath WoW players saying it's shit.

Erm, I'm not quite sure what you meant - you meant the clone's are crap or not crap?

Doug:
AWESOME PICTURE OF PEOPLE ENJOYING EVE

Oh that is just friggin' awesome. I've heard that it is about like that if you really want to be successful at the game. WoW sucked up enough of my time - I would probably enjoy Eve. Anarchy Online was pretty complex, especially in the beginning when there wasn't even a FRIGGIN TUTORIAL area - well there was but it sucked and didn't really tell you jack. Yes, I keep ranting about AO...

Ugh, Funcom has pissed me off to no end. They back shelve a "gasp" original project like The Secret World and throw most of their resources on Conan. When that fails it seems like they don't even have a plan B, which doubly sucks for those of us that were waiting for something actually different than yet another "this IP will be a WoW killer" game.

lornb:
Ugh, Funcom has pissed me off to no end. They back shelve a "gasp" original project like The Secret World and throw most of their resources on Conan. When that fails it seems like they don't even have a plan B, which doubly sucks for those of us that were waiting for something actually different than yet another "this IP will be a WoW killer" game.

*pats* We know. Then they have the front to complain about customer disloyally for sinking of Conan.

zombiepandaman:
I blame WoW for being the end of all it's competition I pray it doesn't happen to Warhammer online because I love that game.

WoW created the huge market in the first place. Before WoW, 100,000 subscriptions was a pretty sweet number.

Ultima Online peaked at 250,000 subscribers. EverQuest peaked around 450,000 subscribers. And these were the giants of their day.

-- Alex

Doug:
Then they have the front to complain about customer disloyally for sinking of Conan.

Actually, they didn't do that. You'll note that the word "victimised" is not part of the quote in the article above (and in the source article, the word "hampered" was used instead -- a much less loaded word, and still not a quote).

In all, it adds up to the CFO saying that they were expecting people to be subscribed for longer than ended up being the case... and that doesn't imply that he's assigning blame -- he's just stating a fact.

It's too bad - my sister and her boyfriend, huge MMO fans, tried this out, but they ended up quitting (even after I got her the strategy guide for her birthday D:)

I plan on playing Champions Online when that comes out. I hope a similar fate doesn't befall it...

Doug:

Dommyboy:
MMORPG's are the downfall of many gaming companies. Shame, so many WoW clones yet despite that, even with the only original content filled MMORPG's they get crushed beneath WoW players saying it's shit.

Erm, I'm not quite sure what you meant - you meant the clone's are crap or not crap?

The clones are crap and the only original MMORPG's (apart from WoW and the like) either fail because they're poorly made or they get trampled under WoW fans saying the new MMORPG is shit.

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