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Funcom shifts to smaller online games after The Secret World setbacks
Funcom shifts to smaller online games after  The Secret World  setbacks
August 28, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Funcom is laying off employees and shifting its focus away from giant, expensive MMO projects, as it tries to recover from the recent disappointing launch for The Secret World.

Though over 500,000 users registered for the subscription title's beta, only 200,000 consumers have purchased The Secret World since the game launched two months ago, which the Norwegian developer admits is below its expectations.

After working on The Secret World on and off for a decade, Funcom says it now wants to make smaller games that require shorter development times and less upfront investments, starting with its upcoming free-to-play title based on LEGO's Minifigures toys (expected development time for the project is 18 months).

The company wants to create more focused gameplay- and player-driven games that are in line with today's market, citing examples like League of Legends, World of Tanks, Minecraft. It also wants to emphasize multi-platform engagement and flexible business models.

Along with this change in direction, Funcom is undergoing large cost reduction initiatives, which has so far included layoffs at its Oslo, Montreal, Durham, and Beijing locations, with around half of the developer's personnel affected. Its CEO and president Trond Arne also stepped down in July.

Funcom intends to continue development on The Secret World and launch several player acquisition initiatives. It's also looking to address the game's issues that annoyed players and reviewers -- the company says the game's 72 Metacritic score has impacted its sales significantly.

In its latest earnings report for the second quarter ending in June, Funcom's sales fell considerably due to declining Age of Conan revenues, from $3.1 million to $2.6 million. The Secret World's marketing and build-up costs also brought down its EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) to -$47.5 million from -$3.5 million.

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matthew diprinzio
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Is this really a surprise? I haven't heard of a successful MMO since before WoW.

Andy Mussell
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From what I've heard, RIFT appears to be on a course to success. Granted, it's a slow build in comparison with many of its competitors - but then that might be the secret.

Joe McGinn
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There are a lot actually ... but not subscription ones, that puts you up directly competing with WoW, and was madness.

Mike Rentas
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Holy crap that's low. I had a feeling they weren't doing great given all the promotions they've been doing, but wow. It's a shame, too, because there's a lot of really great content in the game.

Todd Boyd
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When I found out about their entirely-too-high subscription fee, I promptly left the open beta with no intentions of returning. If it's not as good (or better) than WoW, don't charge like it is.

Philippe Lacroix
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For me that was the cash shop. never with a sub, that just silly...

Michael Ball
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It's a great game, and I don't regret a cent I've spent on it. Despite the bashing of the game going on around some parts of the web, the game still has a solid 8.4 userscore on Metacritic. On top of that, the investor report notes that their retention rate and cash shop rate have been higher than anticipated, and TSW actually has the highest revenue per customer of all their games. Funcom's problem isn't keeping subscribers, it's getting them in the first place.

That says to me that TSW's main issue was less the game itself, but more a severe lack of exposure; few brick-and-mortar stores, if any, were advertising or even stocking it. I had to call several retailers in my area before I found one that had actual disc copies; even then, they were being kept in a back room, and not on the store shelves. A few of the places didn't even know about the game.

Michael Rooney
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What about only being able to convert 50% of their beta testers? I don't think exposure was that great, but if the game were that good it should be able to get more of them in.

I do know a lot of Europeans were very upset for the price they were paying as well. That probably contributed too.

Lance Douglas
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I think this is a shame. I played and enjoyed both Anarchy Online and Age of Conan, but I haven't had a chance to try The Secret World yet. What I've always liked was the way they can create an interesting and mysterious world for the player to get lost in. I've found Anarchy Online to be so intriguing that I keep going back to it every year or two. I understand the economic reason that they are shifting to simpler games, but its unfortunate that they won't be creating the type of immersive experience I've come to expect from them.

Maria Jayne
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I can't believe how hard this tanked, I tested it one weekend and I felt it had some interesting ideas but nothing so interesting I wanted to buy it and then sub monthly....and then pay extra for clothing options.

The puzzle solving had some interesting ideas behind it, I imagine though, most people just wanted to get it done, especialy if they are grouped up. This would have led to the bane of all puzzles in mmos, google. At that point, difficult or convoluted puzzles just become a barrier to playing.

I also found the facebook marketing startegy rather distasteful, I didn't mind that they advertised on facebook, I did mind I was expected to sign up on facebook for the beta testing though. Seemed like the game wasn't aimed at me and they were trying to put me off as often as possible, not really a good stance for an mmo.

The leveless, skill based system and statless clothing are ideas that I would like to see tried again. Sadly, I fear no publisher will touch a game with anything from The Secret World in it, now it's clear they didn't even manage 300k sales.

Jared Psigoda
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Saddening. I found this game incredibly innovative and a real breath of fresh air in the fantasy-dominated MMO market.

ian stansbury
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Probably the best MMO I have played in a long while. Much better than terra, aion, and rift. The nice things about it was the difficulty of some things. With no levels you could pretty easily go to an area u werent ready for. Some of the investigation missions were so hard I had to look them up, been a long while since that happened.

The ability wheel was a lot to make sense of at first. Maybe this turned some people off? I personally love feeling like a noob. It makes the achievements much more enjoyable. The beta did have some issues and many people feel that there shouldn't be any bugs or breaks in a beta. I on the other hand played the beta then went and bought the game. Guild wars 2 coming out probably didn't help either.

If you have been thinking about trying it out I would reccomend it highly