It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that free-to-play is the future of MMOs. Hell, you don't even need a normal, fully clothed person for that little hop-step of mental gymnastics. Case in point: Even colossal, loincloth-clad barbarians are doing it now. Following in the footsteps of Champions Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest II, and pretty much every other MMO not named “World of Warcraft,” Age of Conan is casting aside its mandatory subscription fee.
You know, when you think about it, Conan the Barbarian is kind of like Santa Claus. He’s offering free gifts to everyone from mid-to-late December and… er, actually, we’ve got nothing. Well, aside from some “sleigh” and “slay” puns, but no one wants to hear those. Anyway, the blood-spattered MMO is offering an “unlimited” free trial, but – despite what the dictionary says about the word “unlimited” – there are a couple of strings attached.
“This trial allows you to play all of the content on Tortage Island - for as long as you want at no cost whatsoever. Please note that a trial account has some limitations to avoid 'spam' and 'gold farmers': you cannot trade with others, use in-game mail, public chat channels and you cannot post on the forums,” says the game’s website.
In addition, sign-ups are out as soon as 2010 is in, so it’s a limited time offer. So hop to it right now, unless you hate copious amounts of gore, scantily clad women, and everything else that America stands for.
Funcom’s quite used to cutting things. After all, Conan and his loin-clothed cohorts typically sport more pointy weaponry than clothing. Even so, we can’t imagine the developer’s recent announcement that it’s axing jobs right and left was an easy one to make.
“Funcom N.V has initiated a program of cost reductions, reductions in head count and use of forced leave (permittering) to better align the Company's operations to the current marketplace. Around 20 % of the staff of the Company will be affected by headcount reductions or forced leave, mostly in the Company's Norwegian subsidiary,” read the announcement.
In addition, the developer’s next massively multiplayer opus, The Secret World, will remain a secret for a little while longer, as its development has been “extended some months.”
Best of luck to all those affected by the lay-offs. We hear those MMO-majiggers are all the rage with the kids these days, so hopefully, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
Comparing Age of Conan’s dark, blood-splattered fantasy world to those of its competitors is like comparing night to day, so we suppose it’s only fitting that we can’t really see a light at the end of this tunnel.
Age of Conan developer Funcom recently announced its relocation to the pointy edge of a quickly crumbling cliff (artist’s depiction here) – reporting that it lost $23.3 million during its fourth quarter of 2008. The culprit: Age of Conan’s free-falling subscription numbers, which now sit at a mere 100,000 after reaching an all-time high of 700,000.
On top of that, Funcom CFO Olav Sandnes decided to risk a dip in the economy’s increasingly choppy waters rather than continue with Funcom, announcing his resignation with all the optimism he could muster.
"Funcom is a company with a substantial potential based on a unique combination of skill sets in a fast growing global market. I wish Trond Aas and the rest of the organization all the best in realizing the full potential of the company," he said.
When an MMO begins to feel its bones a creakin', and decides it's time to curl up and die from natural causes (read: WoW), one of the first phenomena an outside observer will witness is the server merge. Generally a result of sudden population deflations from formerly-packed games, when servers collide, the game in question has probably seen better days. Age of Conan, sadly, is one such game.
"I can today confirm that we are actively working on an approach to merge servers, both in Europe and North America," announced AoC director Craig Morrison. "It's important for us to ensure the best gameplay experience for you all, and more healthy populations on each and every server will make sure we maintain healthy communities for the game in the future."
But AoC's troubles don't end there. Funcom, the loincloth-tacular MMO's publisher, may soon be dressing like its scantily clad (but undeniably manly) hero. As of now, Funcom's stock is sitting at a two-year low -- trading for a mere $5.
So, moral of the story? Never, ever prefix your game's title with "Age of..."
If not for the fact that I was able to actually make physical contact with David Hayter at this year's Capcom E3 press conference, it would've been a total letdown. The whole thing was just a giant shill for Capcom's Lost Planet film, and its reception was nearly as icy cold as the movie/game's setting. But in between cracking big, corporate grins and repeatedly uttering the Japanese equivalent of "So awesome," the Capcom big-wigs dropped a tiny bomb. See, as it turns out, Lost Planet had popped from Capcom's collective womb with a ticket to Hollywood in hand. The game was born to be a film.
As we've seen with movies like Doom and Resident Evil, and games like Guitar Hero, media convergence is inevitable. United we stand; divided, we make less money. And that just won't do. However, whereas other instances of convergence have taken two (or more) disparate media forms and none-too-subtly mashed them together -- casualties be damned -- Lost Planet, if all goes according to plan, will straddle the line between games and film. Instead of removing what makes the game special -- effectively neutering it with a rusty knife -- Lost Planet: The Movie has the potential to usher in an era of game-themed movies not unlike what we're seeing with comic books right now.
But is that what we want? Last I checked, comic book fans were a tiny niche, nearly fit for a somber, "Don't let these beautiful creatures die" commercial from the World Wildlife Fund. Yeah, I'm not sure comics are the greatest role model. Plus, do we really want cherished characters having their in-game appearances altered just so they can more aptly fit their roles as movie characters (See Nick Fury, among others)?*
So, are you ready for some top-notch game-to-movie conversions, or would you rather our hobby stick to the small screen, interactive and proud?
Today's Roundup features a big-name title that's already being preened for stardom, and wouldn't you know it, Electronic Arts is the, er, preener. Inside, you'll also find Rockstar decrying the hardcore/casual divide, a top-15 list of Olympic proportions, and massive success from a WoW competitor. Hurdle past the break for more.
Our help was needed—again. Such is the fate of a hero. In the world of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures all manner of fishermen, pirates, merchants, guards, beer wenches, and assorted ne’er-do wells require assistance. This motley cast of characters imbues the game with a vibrant sense of life; we just wish that they showed even a bit of initiative and took care of some of their own problems. We were tasked with passing along loads of messages in order to drive the story forward, but in truth, we quickly lost interest in the game’s narrative, as it simply took away from the game’s finest achievement: its fighting system.
Only a couple of days until Blizzard's big announcement, and I'm sure you're squirming in your seat with unbridled excitement. It's a shame, then, that nothing's really happened concerning that story since yesterday. Wait! Don't go! Someone designed Pokemon in the Spore Creature Creator. That's cool, right? Jump past the break to read more about the creatively-named Sporemon as well as news of much more significance.