Posts Tagged ‘Age of Conan’

Age of Conan goes free-to-play. At least for the first 20 levels. For now.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Norwegian games developer Funcom has recently announced that they’ve opened up their MMORPG Age of Conan Hyborian Adventures as a free-to-play game, with caveats, of course. Players that download the client, register, and start playing what Funcom calls a ‘trial’ between now and January 1st, 2010 won’t have to pay a dime. At least not for the first 20 levels, which includes the Island of Tortage, the game’s first starting area. After which point, Funcom is banking on players enjoying the experience so much that they’ll be willing to fork over some cash for the subscription service.

“Our original seven day trial has been very successful so far,” says Morten Larssen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Funcom. “But with the holiday season coming up this is the perfect time to shake up our trial offer a bit and try out something new. So everyone who downloads the trial before January 1st will be able to play the first part of the game for free, forever. We are confident that many of those taking advantage of this offer will choose to become permanent players, allowing them to experience all of what the game has to offer including all the additions and improvements introduced since launch.”

Ok, not a bad promo. Unless of course, you look at the less than stellar performance Age of Conan has seen since it’s launch. While Funcom bills the title as a “smash hit in retail,” looking at some of AoC’s past ‘achievements’ reveals a slightly different story. Remember, AoC is the same title that saw half of it’s servers shut down at the very beginning of the year. Only a few months later, Funcom’s financial report revealed that AoC was clearly not living up to the company’s expectations. Funcom then moved on to giving away virtual goods as a way to draw in more players, as well as initiating the ‘free trial’ program Larssen’s statement refers to. To top it all off, all of this Age of Conan activity has been taking place post Funcom announcing that they’ve got not one, but two free-to-play titles in the works.

Again, with the talk of free-to-plays in development, combined with the proverbial flogging of the dead horse – calling a play from the Turbine handbook doesn’t seem too far off. Remember Turbine’s flailing Dungeons and Dragons Online? Almost banished to the depths of obscurity, Turbine made the move to convert DDO to a full fledged free-to-play, and has seem massive interest, action, and associated sales and revenue arriving via the in-game shop. Now if I were a betting man….I’d be playing an all in on 2010 seeing Funcom do the very same with Age of Conan Hyborian Adventures.


Funcom lands grant to develop free-to-play snowboard title

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

As odd as it may sound, Norwegian games developer Funcom has recently been bestowed with a $260,000 (NOK 1.5 million) grant to develop an online winter sports title. Awarded by the Norsk Filminstitutt to develop On the Edge of the World, the grant aims to raise awareness and promote Norwegian winter sports. First on tap – snowboarding.

According to the Norsk Filminstitutt’s site (in Norwegian), the title will be a free-to-play game, playable on both Mac and PC, and has a projected prototype delivery date of December 31, 2010. And while snowboarding will be the first focus of On the Edge of the World, the Filminstitutt indeally wants a highly modular platform whereby various Norwegian winter sports can be represented (Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, etc.). With a projected total development cost of around $1 million, this influx of $260k means that the Norsk Filminstitutt’s grant will cover over a quarter of the development costs. Something the struggling Funcom could certainly use.

Slated to be directed by experience Funcom employee Jørgen Tharaldsen (Product Director for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures), On the Edge of the World should also have cross media features that should be able to translate to film, television and the sports featured in the game.

As we’ve seen over the past year, Funcom, the one time heavily into massive games with their associated payment options, is, be it it’s own choice or not, slowly morphing into a free-to-play development studio. Back in May, buried amidst a ‘things are looking better….really…they are” report about the state of Age of Conan, Funcom slipped in that they’re also working on two separate free-to-play titles, each aimed at a unique demographic. Fast forward nine months, and they’re not working on another free-to-play? And this time with a grant from the Norwegian government?

Which brings to mind another issue. Wasn’t Funcom the developer that recently let 20 percent of it’s staff members go, while encouraging those remaining to move to it’s Quebec, Canada studios? Does that now mean those 20 percent might have their job back? Does that mean that the Norwegian government is literally trying to buy Funcom into staying in Norway? And with an annual loss of $34 million in 2008, can Funcom actually deliver?


Funcom to layoff almost a quarter of workforce

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

In an extremely short and sweet announcement on the Funcom corporate site, the news was announced that the company will be eliminating 20 percent of their overall workforce with, “headcount reductions or forced leave, mostly in the Company’s Norwegian subsidiary.”

funcomThese layoffs are expected to delay the what once had great promise and potential subscription MMO, The Secret World. However, and perhaps a now demonstrated shift in company philosophy and business model, Funcom has stated the development of the company’s first free-to-play MMO will continue, with an expected limited beta release during Q4. Likewise, the company will continue to develop the Age of Conan expansion pack, as well as the title’s Korean release.

After starting with much fanfare, Funcom’s main bread-and-butter MMO age of Conan has seen a rocky road to say the least. With waning interest, the Norwegian developer was forced to close over half the AoC servers. However, back in late May of this year, Funcom released a financial report that indicated an increase in in-game activity, and that the new customers/month ratio was on the rise. On the other side of the coin, this same financial report was the first indication that Funcom was getting on board with the free-to-play model, to be supported through in-game advertising and/or microtransactions, or a hybrid of both, and pointed at different age segments. So what gives? Has Conan seen another dramatic dip in interest? So significant a dip that the company is now forced to trim 20 percent of the workforce?

The game developer currently employs 300 people, and is expected to shift a majority of the remaining workforce to Canada in order to take advantage of lower salaries. Specifically offered in Quebec, employers receive a 37.5 percent reimbursement incentive from the Canadian Government. This move could halve the company’s operating expenses. Those that will remain with Funcom and miss the layoff round have already received offers of relocation packages, encouraging skilled workers to make the move to Canada.

Funcom’s 2008 financials showed a loss of approximately $34 million, owing largely to the money pit that is becoming Age of Conan, while this year shows a $1.2 million operating loss, which seems to be roughly in-line with expectations.


DDO sets a date, and Age of Conan goes free-to-play (sorta)

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Two exciting announcements came to light yesterday, Turbine’s anticipated re-working of Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) set a launch date, and Funcom’s Age of Conan is trying to reawaken slumbering former players with a free-to-play offer.

DDO Unlimited

Turbine gave the official announcement yesterday, setting August 6th as the ‘we’re open for business’ date. VIP folks, those paying an optional monthly subscription, will be able to get their dungeonmaster on two days before the non-paying peeps, with a green light on August 4th.

As a free-to-play revival of the somewhat dead former subscription only MMO, the game will be supported primarily through microtransactions. We’ve run through the DDO store pricing and options here.

This relaunch isn’t your standard fair either, with a boatload of new content arriving on Eberron shores shortly. Players will have access to a new character class, Favored Soul – a monk/priest/cleric type hybrid. New adventure packs, level cap, and an improved combat system are all on tap.

“The DDO Unlimited Beta has been a huge success and we want to thank all of our players who have participated to help us make this the best free-to-play game on the market. On August 6th we are going to change what it means to be free-to-play with the most immersive, action-packed and full-featured MMO that provides players with a choice in how they play and pay for the game,” says DDO Unlimited executive producer Fernando Paiz.

Age of Conan

Oh Conan. What can we say about you that hasn’t already been said? Starting back at the beginning of the year, Funcom’s Age of Conan more than halved the number of servers supporting the title from 49 to 18. A few months later in March, the Funcom financial report saw Age of Conan coming up short, both on revenues and player expectations. Fast forward one month, and Funcom is now offering a free trial program as well as tossing in a few virtual goodies to sweeten the deal.

Another three short months later, it looks like Conan is falling back to some of his old tricks, by now offering inactive players two free-to-play weeks, should they decide to come back and see what’s changed.

“For anyone with an inactive account who ever thought about giving it another try, this is your chance,” says Morten Larssen, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Funcom. “After the hugely successful launch last year we immediately started working on updates that would make the game better and provide more content for players, and that is what we have been doing this past year. With the most recent update just out the door, this is the time to ask players to come back and see the results!”

“It has been quite a journey for the entire team getting to where we are today,” says Game Director on ‘Age of Conan’ Craig Morrison. “I think that players have always seen the great potential in ‘Age of Conan’ and we have put a lot of effort into realizing that potential. The game has improved tremendously since launch and we look forward to having players come back and seeing the changes for themselves!”

The free-to-play campaign being offered to closed account players is valid only between July 8th and July 22nd. Funcom’s offer comes on the heels of a new expansion announcement, as well as bug fixes and client updates.


Funcom’s Age of Conan looking better, and talk of not one but TWO upcoming free-to-plays

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Things are starting to look up for the Norwegian publisher and developer.  After being dragged through the mud regarding their lack of interest in Conan and server closures, the company initiated a free trial marketing program that looks to have helped stop the leaks.  In addition, the companies’ latest financial report talks about not one, but two upcoming free-to-play titles, with a nod to the fact that we should expect more where that came from.

Age of Conan

age-of-conanThe report states that the number of new customers/month has been on the steady increase, and is significantly higher in 2009 than in late 2008.  Funcom also points to the early trial marketing as a key contributor.  Maybe everyone’s reached their level 80(s) in WoW?  Funcom also reports that in-game activity levels are significantly higher than in previous periods, with a solid, stable customer base Jan-May 2009.

As with any major MMO, most customers anticipate, if not expect major updates and enhancements to their current game.  Funcom acknowledges this and has plenty of goodies in store for dedicated Conan fans with a major change and improvement to the overall RPG system, as well as expanded guild and social features.

Conan as also celebrating his official one year on the market birthday, and will be rewarding players in-game.

“We are very pleased to see that more players are experiencing ‘Age of Conan’,” says VP of Sales and Marketing at Funcom, Morten Larssen. “The team has been working diligently on improving the game since launch, with several major updates that in addition to improving technology and client stability, also have added hours of more content, new gameplay features, and more. The fact that we are now also seeing longer average subscription periods is a testament to the fact that ‘Age of Conan’ is just getting better and better, and with the launch of the recent trial campaign there has never been a better time to check out the game than now!”


picture-1The Funcom report is the first mention of not one, but two free-to-play titles that Funcom has in the works (or at least that I’ve heard about).  Are the Norwegians biting off more than they can chew, or moreover, self saturating their own market?  Not really, as evidenced by the report, one of the free-to-plays will be browser based, while the other is being developed as a Java based MMO.

The Java based MMO is being aimed at a “Young demographic” (think CampFU, Club Penguin, etc.), has a 17 person team working day and night on it, and is currently conducting focus testing and game play tweaking with a vertical slice due this summer.

The browser based MMO in comparison will be targeted at the “Gamer demographic”, and the 14 person team is currently developing the MMO technology with a combat milestone due this summer.

picture-2And now, if that wasn’t enough to get the free-to-play crowd jazzed, Funcom also chucks in one extra header and four bullet points:

  • Casual MMOs in Funcom
  • Synergies on technology and competence
  • Smaller budgets and faster development
  • Business models with combination of microtransactions, subscriptions and advertising

They also go on to highlight growing market trends including utilizing Facebook as a gaming platform, the growth of free-to-play database games like Travian, Gameforge etc., and the continued growth of casual online games

Do with that what you will, but the way I’m reading that is – hang on to your hats folks, ‘cause we gotta whole lot more in the free-to-play/microtransaction stable, and we’ll be letting the horses out soon.

So while I’ll admit, perhaps my own coverage of Conan’s pending demise may (note the italics?) have been a bit harsh, it looks like Funcom has taken the punches, learned from their mistakes, and are charging ahead.


Free-to-play Runes of Magic expanding

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Building on their tremendous success over the past three weeks, Frogster’s free-to-play hit Runes of Magic is delivering on their promises, and already delivering their first new content and expansion update.

runesofmagicAimed primarily at level 45-50 players, the available as of yesterday content expansion takes place in the high level zone of ‘Ravenfell’.  This new series of quests now ups Runes of Magic’s quest count to 1,600, enough to keep any player engaged for quite some time.  The new expansion isn’t just focusing on high level players either.  Mid-level players can expect to be greeted with a new dungeon ‘Ruins of the Ice Dwarf Kingdom’ that finds them in the forgotten fortress of the Ice Dwarves.  And it’s not all about Dungeons and Leveling as Frogster has also tossed in a tasty mini-game treat via their ‘Wind Runner Races’.  Level 35+heroes have also received a host of new Elite skills with will further expand their dual class abilities.  And last but certainly not least, new comers to Runes of Magic can experience a reworked tutorial that is meant to ease new players into not only the game, but the entire online role-play game genre.

While there’s been plenty of praise for the ‘free WoW’ title from Frogster, of the complaints that I’ve seen, a number of them center around translation issues, resulting in a classic ‘All your base are belong to us’ scenario.  Apparently the folks at Frogster are reading the same, and presumably more, and have also addressed a number of these issues in the new expansion.  The new patch is slated to optimize localization of areas, items and quest texts.

Echoing complaints and suggestions that Funcom’s Age of Conan was experiencing last summer, a sizable portion of Runes of Magic players have already reach high levels with their characters and are in need of new/further content.  Perhaps learning from this lesson, Frogster has done a remarkable job of not only listening but delivering on their previous promises to regularly update and introduce new content into the game.  Something tells me they’ve probably had some of this content sitting on a shelf ready to go, but there is most certainly reactionary components in this update as well, and to that, I say ‘Kudos’ Frogster.

“This content update meets the wishes of our players by further expanding the high level area.” commented Runes of Magic PR Manager, Philipp Senkbeil

This new content update naturally seamlessly integrates with currently existing content, including the high level instance, the ‘Kalin Shrine’.  Indicating that they have no plans on stopping additional content rollout, Frogster even took this release opportunity to tease a new dungeon currently in the works, ‘Treasure Trove’.  I can only speculate, but something tells me this particular dungeon should be filled with oodles and oodles of juicy Runes of Magic fun…and rewards!


Funcom and Turbine give away virtual goods

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Earlier this week, both Funcom and Turbine started giving away virtual goods within Age of Conan and Asheron’s Call and Dungeons & Dragons Online, respectively.  Funcom hopes to draw new players in and lure back former players with free trials and exclusive virtual items.  Turbine, however is on another path, with their virtual goods giveaway being a bit more of the ‘D’oh!  Our bad – here’s some free stuff’ variety.

Funcom – Age of Conan

aocYesterday marked the kickoff of a new Funcom initiative.  Watching player numbers decline, Funcom’s not about to let their investment simply slip away, and they’ve now opened a free trial program.  This trial lets new users try out the game for 7 days at no cost.  Since Funcom’s announcement of shrinking server populations, the company desperately needs to draw in new players as well as retain current ones.  To this end, Funcom is going 1up on the free trial, and now sweetening the deal with tossing a few virtual goods in Conan’s backpack. and, Funcom partner sites, are now holding the keys (literally) to these new AoC freebies.  Both sites were issued 20,000 trial keys, one lot to be used for North American gamers, and the other for European gamers.  These are the promo keys needed to obtain the three unique virtual items.  These items are designed to allow for easier and faster early gameplay.  Items include:

  • Totem of Origins – designed to allow players to teleport back to their home city from anywhere in the world after level 20
  • Bag of Holding – an über backpack designed to increase users’ overall inventory space
  • Enruned Kosalan Ring – increases all damage dealt by the wearer

Note: these items are available ONLY through the and keys.  A free trial version of AoC is of course available directly from the Funcom site, but alas, no free stuff.  And if three free virtual goods weren’t enough to get players interested, Funcom is also tossing in the family truckster and roof rack as a bonus if a trial is converted to a fully paid version.  What I mean by that is Funcom is giving new paying customers a Snow Mammoth mount (family truckster) and a Mammoth Bag (roof rack) that are designed to further speed up early to mid level playing.  What’s interesting to note is that these potentially five free virtual goods are not simply cosmetic upgrades, but items that will significantly improve player’s performance and speed through the game.

This raises two interesting points.  First being, I clearly remember Funcom’s AoC presentation at last years Games Convention in Leipzig where they told press members that they’re really struggling with end game content.  Has this end game content been significantly improved (and better yet, tested on a massive scale)?  It would appear so, as Funcom is obviously making a push to move new players through early stages quite quickly and on board to take on the darkest of dungeons.  The second question raised is whether or not Funcom is testing the microtransactions waters with AoC?  Remember, they’ve got at least two free-to-play titles in the works that we know about.  Could Funcom even be considering opening AoC up to an in-game item mall, or do they want to stick to the tried and true method of subscriptions, all the while working on free-to-play in the back room?

Turbine – Asheron’s Call and Dungeons & Dragons Online

pc-dungeondragons-online-stormreach_boxServer migration is never an easy task.  Especially when you’re running an MMO which sees literally no down time what so ever.  So when Turbine recently migrated servers for both Asheron’s Call and Dungeons & Dragons Online things weren’t exactly what you’d call ‘Smooth’.  The migration resulted in a significant amount of downtime, and as is standard industry practice with server downtime, Turbine extended all subscriptions by one day.  But the folks in Mass. didn’t stop there.  Turbine stepped up to the plate and started handing out the virtual goodies to eager MMO players.

This coming weekend all Asheron’s Call and D&D Online players will receive a +25% XP bonus as well as an increased rare item drop rate of virtual goods.  But wait….the Turbine goodness doesn’t stop here, as they’ve managed to turn a faux pas into a virtual goods teaser.  All users of D&D Online with active accounts during the downtime will receive a special in-game item when the next major patch is released later this summer.

Nice guys eh?  Well of course, but what’s more is that by giving away ‘free’ virtual goods within a game, Turbine is giving a ‘behind the curtain’ nod at the real-world financial value of in-game virtual items.  As with all goods and services, naturally distributing a large amount of one particular item immediately decreases it’s value of worth, but to the average player, the ‘Oooo.  Neat!’ factor far outweighs the ‘Aw man, it’s not worth as much anymore, ‘cause everybody has one’ factor.

Turbine has already clearly indicated that they’re interested in microtransactions, hiring a microtransactions manager.  Additionally, yesterday’s rumor mill was in full effect with reports that LotR was more or less ‘ready to go’ to be ported to a console experience (specifically the XboX 360) but had hit a snag as Turbine would like to feature the title as a free-to-play with microtransaction options, causing Gold vs. Silver XboX subscription headaches.

While perhaps not the best of circumstances to introduce players to virtual goods (and the associated advantages and downright cool factor), both Turbine and Funcom are using difficult situations to their advantage.  Both companies have free-to-play/microtransaction based projects in the works – so why not wet the appetites of their current customers through targeted promotions?  Brilliant folks.  Simply brilliant.

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Funcom eyes free-to-play as Age of Conan comes up short

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Late last week, Funcom released their financial report and presentation for Q4 2008.  While there’s plenty of info about Age of Conan not living up to expectations (see below), there is a silver lining to be found in the Sturm und Drang.  In the report, Funcom revealed that they have two, count ‘em; Two free-to-play titles in the works.  Both are MMORPG’s that will monetize via a combination of microtransactions, in-game advertising, and subscriptions.  Both are yet-to-be-named, but one is a Java based MMO aimed at a youth market, while the other is a browser-based MMO targeting a more general, all encompassing market.  Funcom’s Java product has a team of 17 dedicated devs., and the browser based MMO gets 14 of Funcom’s brilliant minds.  These numbers sound good, but – to put things in perspective, Funcom’s upcoming subscription (only) based title; The Secret World has a dedicated team of 80.  Am I on the only one raising the ‘what?’ flag?

royal-failAnd now for the bad news: Age of Conan – fail.  Most of Funcom’s report focuses on how AoC has not lived up to previous hype, and how this will affect Funcom’s future.  Their Q4 gross revenue topped out around $8.7M, which was in fact within the expected parameters of between $8-10M, but obviously, board members were hoping closer to 10 than 8.  In comparison, Q2 saw $12.2M line the coffers, while Q3 really brought home the bacon with $18M.  And while it’s true that Q4 revenues represent a $7.5M increase YOY from 2007, most of this was generated by Age of Conan players’ subscription fees.  Whether or not these players remain or return to play is yet to be seen.

Funcom notes in the report that subscription retention rates were lower than expected.  One key factor was players’ dissatisfaction with the game.  They claim that retention rates are stabilizing and that player activity is on the rise, but are “uncertain” about future usage levels, and how the product will be able to successfully attract new players moving forward.

Given that Funcom recently pulled the plug on over half of Age of Conan’s servers, one can only wonder what metrics they’re using to justify ‘increased player activity’?  Sure, if you remove half the available options, any activity is going to look like increased activity.  And lest we forget, in late 2008 Age of Conan director Gaute Godgar called it a day with Conan, citing his dissatisfaction with the title’s quality.  And to add just a bit more icing to the cake, Funcom’s CFO Olav Sandnes resigned after a $23.3M loss (what was that about following the money?).

While Age of Conan may have been the third best selling PC title of 2008 (World of Warcraft and Spore took the top two spots, respectively), DFC Intelligence reports that Age of Conan put less coinage in the bank than Warhammer Online and Lord of The Rings.  And now for the kicker: AoC was out-earned by several free-to-play, microtransaction-based titles including Runescape, Maple Story, and Club Penguin.

Funcom’s now investing in two free-to-play’s after what come might consider a disastrous year.  Coincidence?  I think not.  The report says that both of Funcom’s free-to-play’s are expected to be in beta status by Q4 2009.  While they did not disclose details as to when development had started on these projects, 9 months to turn out 2 free-to-play, microtransaction driven titles with just 31 people involved?  Sounds like a rush job to me.  Remember, Funcom’s upcoming subscription based title; The Secret World has a team of 80 concentrating on it.  One might think that after devoting so much time and development work to a title that’s delivered ‘Meh’ performance, wouldn’t it be time for Funcom to take a second, look in the mirror (and the balance sheets) and refocus their efforts on products that can really make an ROI?

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Free-to-play Maple Story ranks among top moneymaking MMO’s of 2008.

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

DFC Intelligence is gearing up to publish a comprehensive study of MMO worlds next month, according to GigaOm.  Wagner James Au got a special preview of the report and shares some initial estimates.

DFC’s David Cole says that the 2008 numbers are on the “very conservative” side, indicating that the 2008 numbers are still being crunched, and more exact numbers will be reflected in the February 16th reports.  “We indicate ranges because these numbers are estimates for 2008 based on where we think these products will end up,” said Cole.  And while the numbers are still being tallied, Cole estimates that the rankings should stay more or less the same, with “maybe a slot here or there” changing.

And while it shouldn’t come as a shock that the Blizzard powerhouse World of Warcraft takes the number one spot, Cole believes that if viewed from a pure profit margin, WoW wouldn’t be taking home the gold.  Asian MMO’s, which are traditionally developed at far lower budgets, have a much higher profit margin.  “Profit margin on Asian games is incredibly high,” says Cole, noting that Asian MMOs charge on or around 5-6 cents per hour with prepaid usage cards, a business model that has yet to proliferate the western gaming market.

What’s interesting to note in this projected report is the high ranking of Nexon’s free-to-play Maple Story (supported by microtransactions, prepaid cards, and international licensing), and the catalogue of Shanda’s games (Virtual item sales, prepaid cards, and freemium subscriptions).

1. World of Warcraft, launched 2004
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG; client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Monthly subscription, retails sales, prepaid cards (in Asia)
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $500 million-plus

2. Fantasy Westward Journey, launched 2004
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG, client install with 2.5D graphics
Revenue sources: Prepaid cards
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

3. Maple Story, launched 2003
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG for kids, client install with 2D graphics
Revenue sources: Microtransactions, prepaid cards, international licensing
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

4. Shanda (company, includes Legend of Mir and World of Legend series), launched 2003
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG, client install with 2.5 graphics
Revenue sources: Prepaid cards, virtual item sales, freemium subscriptions
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

5. Lineage I and Lineage II , launched 1998 and 2003
Genre/Platform: Asian MMORPG, client install with 2.5 graphics (Lineage) and 3D graphics (Lineage II)
Revenue sources: Subscription, prepaid cards
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $150-$500 million

6. Runescape
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG for kids, web-based with 2.5D graphics
Revenue sources: Premium subscription, prepaid cards, real-world advertising
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

7. Club Penguin, launched 2006
Genre/Platform: Virtual world for kids, web-based 2.5D graphics
Revenue sources: Premium subscriptions, prepaid game cards
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

8. Lord of the Ring Online
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG, client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Subscription, retail sales
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

9. Warhammer Online
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG, client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Subscription, retail sales
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

10. Age of Conan
Genre/Platform: Western MMORPG, client install with 3D graphics
Revenue sources: Subscription, retail sales
DFC estimated 2008 revenue: $50-$150 million

Wagner continues his conversation with Cole around the most popular, in terms of active players, MMO of 2008.  To answer this question, we’ve got to go even a bit further out on the speculation branch, but Cole points out that Fantasy Westward Journey registered 2-3 million concurrent players back in August.  And although Warcraft likes to beat it’s own drum regarding their estimated 11 million+ players, “You’re lucky to get 5-10 percent [of them] playing at the same time,” says Cole.  Minho Kim, developer of Maple Story said in December that the title has 87+ million registrations, but wouldn’t comment on how many of these registered users were/are active monthly users.  Joost van Dreunen from DFC’ estimates the number to be more in the 13 – 17.4 million regular Maple Story players, roughly 15-20 percent of Kim’s estimation.

Cole admits that this year’s list looks remarkably similar to the 2007 list with Conan and Warhammer being released in 2008.  And while only 2 of the top 10 contain some type of microtransaction support, I’d estimate that this list might look very different one year from now with a number of highly anticipated (think Free Realms and Battlefield Heroes) free-to-plays coming online in ’09.


Funcom’s Age of Conan servers to be halved

Thursday, January 15th, 2009
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

Funcom has just announced their list of planned server merges, with over half falling by the wayside.  Of the current 49 servers in action, post mergers, funcom’s MMO Age of Conan will be reduced to only 18.

While European servers will see the least drastic of the changes, with 12 servers remaining open due to the language variety (Age of Conan is currently available in English, French, German, and Spanish), the North American and Oceanic regions will be hardest hit.  The current 24 servers operating in these areas will be reduced to six, with only one PvP, and two PvE servers remaining open in the United States.  Each of the 3 servers will combine populations of the six or seven currently operating servers.

Funcom tested this move last week, with a successful merger of the Oceanic servers, and is expected to roll out the US and European mergers this week.

This is a significant point in it’s own right, as this is the first quasi-indication from funcom on how AoC’s numbers have dwindled since launch.  The silver lining in this cloud is that dedicated fans, and even those that may be new to the game will see a much increased server population, thus leading to much player-to-player interactions, and naturally a boosted in-game economy (man, I can’t WAIT to see prices on the Auction House explode).

Funcom says that they’re pushing forward with the high level and end game content (a comment we heard directly from funcom representatives at the Leipzig GC), as well as the first expansion pack.

In some ways I’m a bit taken back by this, in other ways, not.  Funcom’s Age of Conan made a lot of noise prior to the launch, won Voodoo Extreme’s MMORPG of the year 2008, and who could forget Keaira’s playboy appearance?  I personally have only spent a few days with Age of Conan, but found the gameplay and graphics to be stellar.  As noted above, I did hear it directly from funcom reps that the biggest problem they’d experienced with the AoC community were complaints about not enough end-game/epic materials and dungeons.  The last I knew, they were working on this content last summer, but weren’t giving out any definitive dates as to when the content would be released.  Another fact to consider is AoC/funcom’s timing.  When AoC was first released, we knew that Blizzard was rapidly moving forward with the WotLK, but hadn’t given any indications to it’s release date.  Funcom nailed the AoC release date; in so much as WoW players (myself included) had cleared a number of heroic dungeons, collected their purples, and were, well, to be quite honest, a bit bored.  Age of Conan fit the bill and filled the void.  Given the massive numbers that Blizzard is yet again reaching with Lich King success, could many others like me have simply moved AoC down the list again?

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