Ars is a good aggregator of digital news and quite objective in their reporting IMO. Think of it as a more indepth Engadget. The initial impression from Ars foreshadows many negative reviews of the game at release. It's beautiful but combat seems lackluster.
Moreover Funcom 2012 Quarter 2 Investor presentations gives a glimpse into the business minds at Funcom and why they might have potentially miscontrued and misused outdated metrics to gauge game interest.
This doesn't matter. Ever since WoW lost it's luster people have been actively searching for the next big thing. Having a large beta userbase doesn't necessarily translate into active subscriptions. I think this is an outdate metric that cannot accurately measure retention. Look at SW:TOR for the second example.
AoC garnered a lot of interest but Funcom dropped the ball when it came to keeping players interested. TSW seems slightly better but the same issues are popping up again. This seems more like a trend in which Funcom is blind to the game's faults due to perceived interest and enthusiasm.
This doesn't matter. If they have not played the game, everything is pure hype. A great idea for a movie does not necessarily translate into a great motion picture.
- "Through beta surveys Funcom has gotten broad feedback....feedback is very positive...over 80% beta testers stated they would buy game." "But it may be that postively inclined players are more likely to reply to surveys."
Unrepresentative testers may have given them skewed statistics. Or, according to multiple players on forums, initial gameplay is fun but later gameplay and especially end-game aren't as polished. People in the beta have based their opinions on the most complete/polished areas and not the end-game content that determines the longevity of most MMORPGs.
Lastly if we look at Xfire statistics we can see a general trend in the player population which, unsurprisingly, correlates and corroborates peoples' experiences posted on both the official and non-official forums. The small sample size of xfire users playing TSW can be used to extropolate the general population numbers of the game. The same statistical manipulations are done when a 200 people phone call survey can be extrapolated to determine the general voting trends of a district +/- margins of error.
One can see playtime is high at release which gradually diminishes. Based on that trend it was in Funcom's best interest to put on a free weekend to try to reverse the decline. But although the free weekend did enable a lot of people to try the game, the general trend continues. There is no reason to put on a free weekend when the last free-play time was less than 6 weeks prior, other than to reverse declining sales, subscription numbers, and waning interest. Once you release a new game, you've got to capitalize on the first wave as successive waves will always be less dramatic.
Lastly I'll attempt a little fuzzy math to try to guesstimate the current TSW subscription population.
Xfire Stats for WoW = 11,382 players per day
SW:TOR = 1,416
TSW = 542
The current number of WoW worldwide is at 9.1 million subscribers as of Aug 2012, of which they stated most losses were from Asia.
Based on http://mmodata.blogspot.com/
's 2010 data, I'll guesstimate the current NA/Europe WoW numbers are around 4.9 million out of the total 9.1 million. I'll also assume that most Asian WoW players will not be using Xfire, thereby eliminating them from the calculation.
4,900,000/11,382 = 430.5 players are represented by one xfire user.
Given this SW:TOR = 1,416 x 430.5 = 609,594 SW:TOR users.
We know SW:TOR has dipped below 1 million, but they have not given us the exact number. However we also know they stated in their earnings report that they were well above 500,000. So 600,000 is probably in the ballpark. Looking at the graphs from MMOData we might infer that general MMORPG numbers seem to logarithimcally increase upwards at release, then gradual tapering decline after an apex point. Based on that observation one can infer that SW:TOR West is hovering around 600-700k subscriptions, which is in the ballpark figure mentioned above. If another point was drawn on their graph for mid 2012, it would probably hover around these numbers. A more accruate estimate would be a line of best fit through multiple data points.
TSW = 542 x 430.5 = 233,331. This could be a good reflection of the actual number of players playing. If you look back at Funcom's Q2 2012 Presentation you can see they wanted 490k subscribers but were prepared for a lackluster launch similar to AoC's. The AoC scenario outlined states 280k average subscriptions with a profit margin of 43%.
Yet the game is falling short even on that predictor. Moreover the only relatively postive review of TSW comes from MMORPG which also just so happens to have an ingame item you can redeem.
Additionally the reviewer, Suzie_Ford, calls the game "The Magum Opus" of Funcom but has seemingly scant posts related to the game in his/her post history. If you truely enjoyed the game as much as you say you do, wouldn't you contribute to its community more? Considering the website is used by enthusiasts from all over to research potential games I'd like to see more posts from him/her.
In conclusion I think TSW is not meeting Funcom's expectations. People are rightfully upset because the game is not polished. It seems the game was released due to Funcom's unrealiable indicators of game interest; they thought the retention rate would be much higher than it actually is. The game will be patched and fixed, however it may be too late to regenerate interest in the game. Spending more time in development rather than releasing might have garnered a larger and more stable subscription base. Regardless Funcom is still making a profit even if subscriptions drop below 200k. I suspect as much as Funcom wanted to avoid a repeat of the AoC imbroglio, it'll still happen, and that would be a sign that the company has certain habits it needs to break out of if it wants to avoid another future repeat with their next MMORPG.