I ended up canceling my Age of Conan subscription today.
When I did, I was directed to the usual cancellation page that firstly offered a drop down list offering a number of canned reasons, and then to a page with an edit box where I was asked to go into a little more detail.
To paraphrase myself, I simply said that I was unsubscribing because the game was buggy and was released too early. I thought about adding that I wasn’t inclined to pay full tote to beta test the game, but didn’t want to be churlish.
So as of today, I have fifteen days left in my account. I might pop in once or twice before that time expires, but given that I’ve got a couple of other things on the go at the moment…
One of the unique experiences of any MMORPG are the official forums. Originally, perhaps somewhat naively, I expected that a mature game might have more mature forum posters. Boy! Was I wrong about that one. I would never have thought that any forums could be worse than the World of Warcraft forums, but the Age of Conan take the cake.
Essentially unmoderated, the bulk of the threads seem to fall into one of two main categories. These are "Why Age of Conan is great" and "Why Age of Conan sucks." The Age of Conan is great mob tend to consist of the fanboi element and their argument contain the logic that not only is the game great, but it is better than all others, that no other game was as good at launch, and we should not expect it to be so. They believe Age of Conan will be around for a long time.
The Age of Conan sucks mob appear to be the disgruntled players who are sick of bugs, but who also expect the world on a silver platter, that everything should be working as intended, and that the game should have five years of highly polished content at release. They also expect that Age of Conan will go the way of Asheron’s Call 2, and Auto Attack and join the MMO Deadpool as soon as Warhammer Online comes out.
While I’m not what you could remotely consider a Fanboi, I tend to side with the first group when it comes to Age of Conan’s future. I don’t think that Age of Conan is going to go for a swim in the deadpool in the next few years but will, after getting over their early release blues, build up to a solid long term game. What follows are my reasons for this view.
- They’ve sold over 700,000 copies of the game. Funcom have been a bit loose with their sales stats since launch. Press releases stating they’ve shipped over a million copies are nice, but that doesn’t indicate how many were actually sold. Funcom have just recently announced that they have have 700,000 accounts. While that doesn’t also indicate how many will go on past the first month, it does figure into actual box sales. At 60ish US dollars a box, that’s a gross revenue at store front of 42 million dollars. (How much Funcom actually gets of that is another story.) That’s more than enough to pay the bills for a long while.
- Provided they resolve the issues, players can always resubscribe. There’s two aspects of sales: Getting a customer, and keeping the customer. The fact is Funcom have managed to convince 700,000 customers to part with their money to buy an Age of Conan box. There’s no doubt that they are losing some of those customers now, and some of those have been lost permanently. But… each one of those departing customers has already done the hard part, they’ve spent the money and now own an account. It’s a lot easier to come back later when all you have to do is reactivate your subscription.
- Funcom are good at marketing to their old customers. They’ve had a lot of experience with that sort of marketing with Anarchy Online. Of all the games that I no longer play, it’s Anarchy Online that I get marketing from the most. Funcom are not shy about putting out the special offers, and free game time to old players. Once they’ve sorted out Age of Conan you can bet they’ll start emailing canceled account holders with offers to lure them back in.
- Age of Conan is an IP with a lot of potential. It’s clear even from the current state of the game that there is a huge amount of potential for fun and adventure. As I’ve said before the Tortage experience is one of the best newbie area experiences I’ve had. Get the rest of the game like this and players will come back in droves.
- People still want a MMORPG in the mature niche. And Age of Conan fills this desire. As far as I know, there aren’t many MMOs out there that do that, and there’s not that many in the pipeline either, at least not for the next few years as far as I can tell. When AoC is polished up, that alone will bring subscribers back.
- Funcom is an established player in the MMORPG market. Though that doesn’t preclude them from stuffing the whole thing up (just look at Turbine and Asheron’s Call 2) it also means that they have been there and done that. The fact of the matter is that they brought Anarchy Online through one of the most infamously bad launches in MMO history and into success. AO has just celebrated its seventh birthday and is regarded as one of the great MMO games. Given this history, I doubt Funcom will just give up on AoC.
Given Funcoms track record, I don’t see Age of Conan fading into the sunset any time soon. I suspect the reality will be somewhere between great success and failure and that around 2015 we will be receiving press releases from Funcom announcing the seventh anniversary of Age of Conan.
What do you think; will Age of Conan have a long and successful run, or a short and ignominious life?