In Business Model, Microsoft, News, Video Game Genres

No New Content For Age of Empires Online

age-of-empires-online-box-LJAN. 4, 2013 • Gas Powered Games and Microsoft Game Studios will no longer be adding new content to Age of Empires Online. The game will still receive full customer and community support, but no new features or civilizations will be added beyond the six existing playable races. The MMO launched in August 2011 with a free-to-try business model that required purchases to access upper tier content. The model was shifted last June to full free-to-play where all content could be accessed via gameplay rewards, or by user purchases.

Impact: By all accounts, Age of Empires Online launched with insufficient content and missing features. In retrospect, this is easy to understand. While the quality of the content present in the game at launch was objectively seen as very high quality, that content was also time consuming and expensive to create. That reality translated into a situation where consumers were asked to pay a high price, compared to other MMOs, to access insufficient existing premium content, as well as future premium content that was perceived as slow to arrive. Add in the normal amount of bugs and unforeseen problems present with every MMO release, and the net result was a hemorrhaging of players after launch. Many bug fixes and refinements were made by a major update last March, which also added a major new civilization to play, as well as new distribution via Steam. Yet as our own data tracking shows, that update resulted in only a small uptick in players. Similarly, the shift to full free-to-play did not seem to impress or draw in a large number of new or returning players either.

DFC Intelligence PC Game Meter

DFC Intelligence PC Game Meter

The lesson here is that you can deliver the core of a high-quality MMO at launch at your own peril. Online gamers today are a fickle lot, and tend to have little patience. If new high-quality content does not arrive regularly and relatively bug-free, you can quickly lose your audience. In this case, AoEO found itself with a small user base that was difficult to monetize. Even the shift in business model six months later was obviously not enough to raise revenue sufficiently to pay for the additional expensive content the game requires. The result was this community announcement admitting that the team: “can no longer afford to keep creating it.” Perhaps AoEO’s RTS game mechanics can keep enough players coming and paying to sustain operational costs. But in normal circumstances, it is incredibly difficult to hold onto advanced MMO players with no new content arriving. In addition, many players of the game perceive AoEO’s PvP features to be unfinished, and may now further perceive that PvP in the game will never be finished – leaving them little incentive to stick around long-term.

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