MMO News Wrap-Up

Several exciting and noteworthy events occurred in the world of MMO gaming this week. Follow me, dear reader, through the week’s big announcements, rumours and revelations which involve Age of Conan, The Secret World, World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online and Stargate Worlds.

I can’t help feeling sorry for poor old Funcom; When we spoke to Erling Ellingsen, Funcom’s director of communications, earlier this week, he was very positive about the company’s new studio in Montreal, which has now been fully established. We talked about Funcom’s plans, and he confirmed that new staff will be hired for the Canadian studio in the next 18 months to work alongside the staff that have already been relocted there, as stated weeks ago when news of the move was announced. All good so far, but the next day Funcom’s Q3 financial report came out to reveal that Age of Conan, which did actually gain subscribers after its summer re-evaluation period, lost them again when two new MMOs were launched later on. I can only assume those MMOs were Aion and Champions Online.

AoC just can’t seem to get a break, and its certainly not through lack of effort on Funcom’s part. So many changes have been made since the, admittedly bad, launch, not to mention all the new content and features that have been added over the last few months, including the long-awaited Veteran System.

Something else that emerged in the financial report was news that, in Funcom’s opinion, player expectations for the upcoming MMO ‘The Secret World’ are higher than they were for Age of Conan in the same stage of development. Remembering all the excitement surrounding AoC before launch, that’s a very good sign for TSW. I must admit, the game looks very interesting indeed. Funcom has the benefit of hindsight now too when it comes to launching an MMO and what players want/expect, so I’ll be surprised, no – pretty disgusted, if the company manges to get this new game wrong.

Speaking of getting it wrong, I took a look at Warhammer Online on Monday and pointed out the reasons I feel Mythic failed in delivering the WoW-killing MMO it wanted. A mixture of bad judgement and unlucky timing lead to a 300k userbase, almost half of the minimum number the company was aiming for. So much potential, but was it wise to go up against World of Warcraft when the game still has such a hold over the fantasy MMO community?

That community was, dare I say, a little disappointed at the weekend when it transpired that the annual Blizzard convention, BlizzCon, was not being held in Las Vegas as reports last week suggested. The most annoying part of it is it could have been, but thanks to an over-keen member of staff at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, those chances have been scuppered. Apparently, Blizzard and those in charge of the LVCC discussed the possibility of holding the event in Vegas and a hold was placed on the dates mentioned, but the hold was changed to a confirmed booking in error, leading to the dates being published by the LVCC.

I can’t help wondering if Blizzard intended to have the event in Vegas but, due to the leak, cancelled it. This summer, details of WoW’s next expansion, Cataclysm, were all over the net before it was officially announced, taking the shine off the grand unveiling at BlizzCon in August, where developers admitted they were mighty cheesed off about being pipped to the post. The news of a Las Vegas BlizzCon coming out before it was meant to must’ve stung, if that’s what was intended.

{PAGE TITLE=MMO News Wrap-Up Page 2}One thing that Blizzard did manage to keep quiet in advance was a new TV advert featuring Mr T that’s showing this week in North America. He’s joined up with the WoW developers once again, this time sporting a Murloc T-Shirt, to promote a new in-game item, a ‘Mohawk Grenade’ that transforms characters into a Mr T look-alike. For some reason, players in the US have this item in the game already, those of us in Europe and Korea have to wait until next Tuesday – another example of the frustrating delay that anyone on non-US servers is subjected to when many new things are introduced. How long does it take to translate “I Pitty the Fooo” into the various European languages and Korean for god’s sake?

Moving on, it looks like the Stargate MMO is back on track, temporarily at least. News on the development of Stargate Worlds, which has seen many ups and downs over the course of its development, was recently put on hold until more funding could be secured. Many, including myself, feared this would be the last we saw of SGW but, happily, developers updated fans on the progress of the game this week and released some brand new screenshots. Apparently there’s some exciting news on the way too, so we contacted Cheyenne Mountain’s director of marketing, Jeremy Taylor, to see what he had to say about the change in fortune. Taylor told us that the company still needs funding to get the game to the “finish line” but that production has never completely stopped, and that a good group of developers are working on the title.

The game, like many MMOs in development, has an army of supporters at this stage. The franchise is a strong one, and its unique in-depth lore lends itself well to a new MMO. It’s fresh, something the MMO genre is gagging for. I just hope someone with the necessary cash helps CME out, and that the game lives up to its potential. Hopefully we’ll find out what this exciting news is next week.

On the topic of exciting news, there’s been some nice new info regarding Star Trek Online in the last few days. Some pictures and info on ship bridges were released, showing off some impressive views of the inside of a starship. The actual box art was also finally revealed, which displays the rather swish new uniform for Starfleet characters. Cryptic released a video showing space combat and explaining combat tactics, which is the first time we’ve has a really good look at the ships in action. And finally, the open beta dates have been announced! Following news of the release date last week, fans had been left guessing when the open beta might kick off, but now it’s been confirmed that a limited number of keys will be up for grabs, allowing players to test the game for a period of two weeks from 12 January.

Star Trek Online is another game that has a huge fanbase, with the potential to do very well. Like Funcom and TSW, Cryptic Studios also has the benefit of hindsight when it comes to the launch thanks to the recent release of Champions Online. My only concern is that the population won’t be very balanced. I know plenty of people that can’t wait to zip up their Starfleet jumpsuit and hop into their very own Enterprise, but not so many keen to try out the Klingon gameplay. However, time will tell.

That’s all for now folks, check back here at IncGamers throughout the week for all the latest big MMO news, and look out for the podcast later today, where we discuss all the last week’s news for all platforms and genres.

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