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No fun for Funcom
The Secret World tops out at 200K-ish

Sometimes the fun of financial reports is what they don't say.

Funcom reported to their shareholders that their recently launched horror game, which I think was very promising -- but a Funcom game -- has topped out at a bit over 200K subscriptions, and they are laying off staff and retrenching.  This is very bad news as they built their own custom game engine for the game, promised ARGs, the game (like SWTOR) is entirely voiced but not only that relies on frequent content releases -- it's all around boding ill for the future of the game from what I can extrapolate out.  

I kind of liked the beta, but did not sub -- largely because I don't trust Funcom to fight their way out of a wet paper bag with much success.  They just don't make good decisions.  Ever since they effectively shelved Anarchy Online, they haven't been able to rub two brain cells together and produce heat.

Funcom IMNSHO fails to produce games that are entertaining to a mass audience in this mass hit-driven MMO market.

And not only that, but they fail to produce sustainable, reliable fun games for an audience that seeks niche entertainment.  (With the questionable exception of AO, which they can't seem to promote or update -- a game with huge potential, and a peer more or less of Everquest...what, you never heard of it?  I understand it has millions of [free and paid] subscribers.

If you can't do one of those two things in a way that doesn't make you look like a monacled money-grubbing git, you can't stay in business.  I really don't understand how they have.  I think they must be really good at talking money out of investors.

IMO, TSW was a wonderful ambitious project -- like an online horror LARP with hundreds of thousands of players.  However, to provide the level of grooming for the player base they were planning to provide with the ARGs and such -- these put a huge load on customer service, if you can imagine -- they would have had to sustain a huge subscription base too.  Similarly to sustain the quality through expansions with the voice talent and such.  They didn't aim low.  

I'm extrapolating that they cut corners in other places as Bioware did in SWTOR, although I'm not sure how many of those were naive -- Funcom at least has scars from previous -- often bad -- MMO launches.

They wrote their own engine to avoid paying the exhorbitant fees the licenses cost for scaling the good game engines for hundreds of thousands of subscribing players -- which is a task pretty much like writng an operating system from scratch, very expensive and complex.  This probably resulted in many of the player complaints regarding the combat system, synch problems, and so on.

People say they put story first, but you need to understand:  story was more within their control.

The game engine is many millions of lines of code, and the best game engines are produced by software engineers who valued as the best in any field -- paid and revered as highly as the best engineers at Microsoft or any operating systems company or database or networking or graphics company in the world -- because a game engine is ALL of those at once, integrated to work on a PC with any idiot's hardware through Direct X or whatever -- it's a modern miracle of entertainment infrastructural software most of you never think about.

SWTOR made one mistake -- they picked an off-brand third party engine (Hero Engine) that limited them badly, probably because they had never made an MMO before and the price structure looked attractive coming into a new market -- and story was more important to them.  If EA had been involved that early in the process, EA would have knocked them up against a wall, Sith style, and ungently corrected their behavior.

Funcom made a different arrogant mistake, they rolled their own.  How hard could it be?  In a subscription model world -- it's very hard.  You have to maintain that huge infrastructure for a dev shop, which  you can't afford to lay off (which they are probably now doing, btw -- or how not?), and you run with it, and you own all your own choices and mistakes and all the work of maintenance.

Herp derp.  Time to pay the piper and all the pocket's got is a bit of lint.

report on MMORPG with much spew in comments to wade through that:

Full investor report PDF on Funcom's site if you want to wade through that:

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