Funcom has come out and issued a public statement over the The Secret World, acknowledging that it has not hit the revenue goals that the company set. Reviews in particular were singled out as being damaging for the game, leading to lower than expected audience, monetization and customer retention and dropping Funcom's share price as a result.
"Following the launch of The Secret World on the 3rd of July 2012, Funcom's share price has decreased significantly," reads a Funcom note to investors. "The company attributes this mostly to the aggregate review score, the 'Metascore', for the game at Metacritic together with other public sources for tracking the performance of games.”
“While there are very positive reviews, there are as well mixed or average reviews from various press outlets, giving an aggregated score for The Secret World of 72 out of 100, which is to be considered low, and not in line with the positive feedback received during the beta phases from both press and players. Funcom is of course disappointed with achieving such a Metascore,” the company noted. "A game like The Secret World, which is not based on a well-known brand, is normally dependent on positive press reviews to achieve successful initial sales, in addition - but not limited - to other factors like word of mouth."
The Secret World had been in development for several years and was a major investment by Funcom. The developer is now reevaluating its expectations and is looking to push the game onto new distribution channels like Steam.
"The effect of all these initiatives together with other factors impacting sales are difficult to predict, but based on the available early data, one scenario is that sales for the first 12 months following launch will be less than half of what was presented in the 'Conan-like' scenario," the report continues. "It should be noted that the sales amount in the 'Conan-like' scenario is significantly higher than for the game Age of Conan, due to the assumption of better retention implemented in the scenario. Also it should be noted that the company has significantly lower operational cost for The Secret World than what was the case for Age of Conan. As less initial sales than expected is considered an indicator of impairment, the company is currently evaluating the need for recognizing an impairment loss for the game in the profit and loss statement."
Still, Funcom is looking at the bright side for the short term and has plans for the near term. "Funcom is pleased to see that gamer satisfaction is high, with user score of 8.4 out of 10 and higher on www.metacritic.com and other sites like mmorpg.com. This is in line with the beta surveys and beta players' feedback that the company received prior to launch,” the company noted. “The company considers this a positive indicator of high customer satisfaction, and a solid foundation to build on the positive and engaged community Funcom has established with The Secret World.”
"First indication of churn is more positive than for Age of Conan, and the in-game store is performing as expected. The add-on packs are performing better than expected. Also higher than expected sales are going directly through the online download stores like EA's Origin and Funcom's own storefront, generating more profitable sales for the company. A possible scenario going forward is that the game will sell less than both of the two above mentioned scenarios the first 12 months following launch, but with high customer satisfaction, it will generate a more stable subscriber base than the game Age of Conan. Over time, this will enable Funcom to retain more customers and generate higher revenue,” concluded the company's note.