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Of coarse I could only speculate on this ( opinion ). But in my six years of playing most every mmo, and seeing how many are released shallow with many never even trying to evolve into a better game. Seeing many broken promises from Pre-marketing.
Using SOE for the best example with their Everquest 2, they seem to only advertise with each and every expansion pack as if the game is brand new. And also speculating that SOE never really gave a rats butt about retention of players, as long as they kept there few hundred hard core players for appearances, they make the real money on box sales.....I can't help but think most all the money is in Box sales of an mmo and subscriptions are only a byproduct of making some more money.
Obviously a few games like WoW, EvE and LOTRO and maybe a few more are the exception to the rule. Adding that several years ago, back in the earlier days it my have been an equal pay off. But now it seems to me that more and more developers are taking the EQ2 approach.
Many below this OP will try and give financial figures trying to prove me wrong BUT that is only speculation too....I'm sorry, but companies can fug numbers, hide figures, maybe not to the IRS but from the public.
I think the BIG MONEY IS IN BOX SALES, subs are just extra cash made with a very small crew of designers and a few phone tech support.......Buy our box please !
People may only think an mmo failed !!!!!!