Yesterday was one of those days. I started writing about cash shop behavior being a symptom of the over-saturated MMORPG market and a couple of stories pop up that seem tailor made to illustrate that assertion.
The first, and closest to my interest, was the cancellation of EverQuest Next. No new Norrath for us as Daybreak continues to sort itself out of its SOE history.
And then there was the death of WildStar.
Okay, no closure was actually announced. What was announced was:
Earlier this morning, Carbine Studios completed a reorganization of its operating structure. Moving forward, the studio will focus on operating and updating WildStar as a live game in the US and Europe. As part of this change, the studio has canceled its plans to bring WildStar to China.
Unfortunately, as a result of these changes, we’ve had to reduce staff. These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title, to the cancellation of work to bring WildStar to China, and to the overall performance of WildStar since launch in 2014.
These kinds of decisions are exceptionally difficult. The talented and passionate professionals who are impacted by these cuts have been valuable team members and respected colleagues. We wish everyone well for the future and will be providing severance and employment search assistance.
As for WildStar, we remain committed to the game. Over the next few weeks and months we will deliver a significant update to the game, kick off a variety of community events, and continue our work on new content that we will talk more about in the near future.
-Omeed, NCSOFT Director of Community and Social
- Cancellation of plans to bring the game to China
- 40% of the current staff, 70 people, laid off (per Polygon)
- Cheerful outlook about carrying on and delivering new content
That is sad for those affected by the layoff. I hope they are able to bounce back with new positions soon.
If you are a fan of the game it is easy to spin this into something positive. The game is still going. Most of the staff is still there. New content is coming. And look, the NCsoft 2015 financial report says that WildStar revenues are up since the free to play conversion!
Unfortunately, I am not sure how well grounded that view really is. Even without that Polygon article and its rumors of more layoffs and a sunset plan, or that analyst’s gloomy outlook, this seems like more of a last chance, and a daunting one at that.
Yes, revenue was up with the conversion to free in Q4. However, that up is really only relative to how far down it was before. The boost is nowhere near the previous peak and it barely gets the game within spitting distance of the revenue level for City of Heroes, $2.9 million, when NCsoft shut them down. And look how its revenue stacks up against the other NCsoft titles. GuildWars 2’s cash shop in any quarter you care to choose looks to have had more revenue that WildStar’s total revenue on that chart.
The game simply needs more people playing and buying things in the cash shop, but in this market that seems extremely unlikely to happen, especially with no new market to help.
Every game gets a bump when it goes free to play, but once that fades, and it always fades, what is left to make it a choice in a market crowded with very similar alternatives?
The thing is, there isn’t really anything wrong with WildStar so far as I can tell. I haven’t played it myself, but my reading about it seems to indicate that It is well put together and has its high points. It just didn’t really bring anything new to the table that would make it stand out, that would make it feel different from all the other WoW derivative MMORPGs out there.
Which is somewhat ironic, considering that Carbine Studios was founded by 17 former members of the original World of Warcraft development team back in 2005 with the stated intention to, “…do anything but WoW.”
Is there anything out there that might save WildStar?