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Doom Averted (?)

About two weeks ago, I warned that the financial numbers weren’t looking too hot for Wildstar. Today’s news is that Wildstar is going Free-to-Play. This Fall. Which I’m assuming means that NCSoft is going to give Carbine a chance to bail the submerged vessel out a bit longer before pulling the plug, to mix metaphors.

I would say I am not particularly optimistic that Wildstar will get a second life from the F2P transition, but now that I think about it, MMOs shutting down is more rare than you think. TERA is still around. People are still playing RIFT. Hell, you can go download Age of Conan off of Steam right now, and when was the last time you even heard of that game? The City of Heroes episode sort of underlines NCSoft’s view on profitability, but the status quo seems to heavily lean towards zombie MMOs.

As for me, I shan’t be returning to Nexus. I have read about the inroads the devs (those who remain anyway) have made in terms of smoothing out the hardcore cupcake edges, and that’s great. Unfortunately, I had a much more fundamental problem with the game, as described a year ago:

And that’s when I realized that I don’t really like my Medic. Not just healing, which is a total clusterfuck, but… all of it. I enjoy the concept of the class, and even the sort of niche it occupies as an AoE healer. But guys, there is a profound sense of deadening when you realize how utterly shallow the combat system is. I get why Carbine did things this way – the only way the bullet-hell gameplay works is by reducing everything down to 5 buttons – but it puts enormous pressure on those few abilities to be fun to press. This isn’t like WoW where you can go Arcane or Frost if you dislike the Fire rotation. Every (DPS) class is basically a Ret paladin. Enjoy.

There are a lot of things you can dislike about an MMO and still play anyway. You know, raiding instead of PvP, or vice versa. When you don’t like pushing the buttons though… well, you’re going to be doing that quite a bit. Or not, in my case.

Good luck, Wildstar. Something tells me you’re going to need it.

Hope You Don’t Like Wildstar

If you are a fan of Wildstar, well, you might want to soak it in while it lasts:

Someone stood in the fire.

Not that that’s statistically likely.

The above graph is from NCSoft’s Q12015 report, which you can read here. Supposedly, “sales” does refer to all revenue brought in by a game through every channel, not just box sales. Reddit user “yeahreally2” summarizes as follows:

Company-wide sales are down 20% from the last quarter of 2014 from 235 billion won ($215 million USD) to 188 billion won ($172 million USD). Net income is down 43% from last quarter from 62 billion won to 35 billion won. NCsoft notes that income was high in the 4th quarter of last year “due to year-end promotions”. While NCsoft’s sales beat the forecast from Daewoo Securities (179 billion won), its operating profit and net income did not.

Guild Wars 2 performed slightly better in this quarter than last, probably boosted by the expansion hype exceeding Daewoo’s forecast by 3 billion won. Wildstar’s sales declined from 5.5 billion won ($5 million USD) in the previous quarter to 2.5 billion won ($2.3 million USD) in Q1. This is a 50% decrease in sales from the previous quarter, and is only slightly better than Daewoo’s projection of 2 billion won ($1.8 million USD).

I suppose it should not be particularly surprising given all the layoffs last October, but still… damn.

By the way, this was what the quarterly report looked like for City of Heroes at the end:

Uh oh.

Uh oh.

In other words, City of Heroes was making 2,855… units to Wildstar’s current 2,593 units. And NCSoft axed CoH the following quarter. So if Wildstar makes it to its own one-year anniversary, it will be quite the birthday present from NCSoft.

I enjoyed the graphics of Wildstar, the housing, the general tone, and the hoverboards. I was even playing with friends there for a little bit. Trouble was that the gameplay wasn’t all that fun. More involved than WoW? Sure. Also more exhausting, especially when every mob in the world has a telegraph you need to circle-strafe out of. Plus, I got stuck playing a class I didn’t actually find all that fun.

Hmm. Where have I heard that before?

Huge Layoffs for Wildstar

Uh-oh.

In a statement provided to Polygon by NCSoft, the layoffs were described as part of “a restructuring of key operations with [NCSoft] West.” The publisher says it is devoted to its core massively multiplayer franchises — Aion, Wildstar, Lineage, and Guild Wars — but it also plans to expand into mobile and tablet products.

According to the statement, there were “staff reductions” across all of NCSoft’s western branches except for Guild Wars developer ArenaNet.

A source speaking to Polygon who wished to remain unnamed said that Carbine was especially hard-hit by the layoffs. The studio reportedly lost over 60 members of its team of a few hundred. Our source says the layoffs included Carbine employees across all levels, not just entry level or less senior staff.

Although I let my Wildstar subscription lapse after the first month (I had one extra free month via in-game gold), I left /r/Wildstar subscription active on Reddit just to keep an eye on things. For the last few months I thought it might be good to track down just how many developers were leaving Carbine, but it didn’t seem especially pertinent considering I did not know their relative “value” or impact to the game. Given the news of this heavy cut, I decided to go ahead and post what I could find:

  • Jeremy Gaffney (President of Carbine | Aug 26)
  • Hugh Shelton (Class Lead | Sept 23)
  • Stephan Frost (Design Producer | Sept 30)
  • Matt Mocarski (Art Director | Oct 14)
  • Bitwise (Lead Client Engineer | Oct 23)
  • Rob Hess (Dungeon and Raid designer | Oct 23)
  • Ryan Moore (Senior World Artist | Oct 23)

Some of these people left for personal reasons, some got better offers, some were hit with layoffs. To an extent, this is pretty “normal” in the game industry anyway. No doubt some of those people have been working on Wildstar for 5+ years.

At the same time… yikes.

Too soon? Too soon.

Too soon? Too soon.