Monday, November 9, 2009

The Financial State Of The Industry

According to Scott Jennings' sources, EA has laid off 40% of Mythic's staff. This group supposedly includes 90% of the folks responsible for the content in Warhammer, with the rumor that the game is being shifted to "maintenance mode" - EA will keep enough folks around to run the servers and collect the subscription fees, but they're apparently done investing more in trying to improve the game.

Three stories down on the Massively news feed, we learn that Cryptic will launch Star Trek Online on February 2nd. It was just three months ago that the studio pushed Champions Online out the door with large portions of the game balancing incomplete, under a very aggressive "quick, get their money before they have the chance to try the game" lifetime preorder promo. To see them launching their other major title under six months later, even if that was the original schedule, makes me suspect that they're somewhat concerned about having cash on hand right now.

That's the economic context in which I haven't had time to blog about anything but business models in the last weekt. In some ways, we've learned something we already knew - that the market has very little patience remaining for games that clearly need significant amounts of work at their paid launch. Unfortunately, things don't get any easier when you raise the average monthly cost to the player via additional transaction fees; that's even more financial incentive for the player to make a snap judgment and pull the plug ASAP.

(Personally, I'm torn on Warhammer. I've always intended to get back to the game someday, and there's a real possibility that it's not going to get any better than it is today. Then again, the pragmatist in me says that it would be a waste to invest time in a title that's looking like it may be gone in a year, when there are half a dozen other games I'm interested in exploring. I'd like to respect Mythic's willingness to think outside the box with their recent campaign reorganization, but it's hard to invest the time in a game whose publisher has left it to die.)

1 comment:

Nelson said...

I played Warhammer for a few months this summer and wrote up some blog comments about it. There's some good stuff in the game, I particularly like how they tried to make world PvP matter. But the game really suffers from poor engineering, serious server lag and bugs. And as you say, there's not much reason to hope now it will get better. But you don't have to make a big decision here; they've got a perpetual free trial now up to level 10. You can get a pretty good look at the engine, class mechanics, and PvP. And have some fun. (Get to about level 5 doing solo PvE, then jump in the PvP).

The whole traditional game industry is suffering under increasingly expensive budgets for games. MMOs are the worst, with double or triple the budget of a standalone title. Personally I'm looking more to independent and Internet-based games for innovation now; it's just too risky to do something new with a $15 million budget.