APRIL 14, 2014 • When CCP Games acquired Atlanta-based White Wolf Publishing late in 2006 a Vampire MMO based on the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG series was already in the planning stages. Although production on World of Darkness was intended to start in the 2008-2009 timeframe, the title never exited pre-production and has now been officially cancelled. A year ago CCP showed off video of animations running on the game engine and said that 70 staffers were working on the project. With the cancellation 56 employees have been laid off, with the others offered positions attached to games in the EVE Online universe. In a statement, CCP chief executive Hilmar Petursson said efforts to make World of Darkness a reality were, “falling regretfully short.”
Impact: A lot has changed in the games industry since World of Darkness was announced. Operating an MMO is often a brutal business where costs to produce and service the game are high. When World of Darkness was conceived the industry was high on the success of World of Warcraft, but executives soon discovered that consumers had a finite limit to the number of MMOs they were willing to pay subscriptions for. As major initiatives such as the SIMs Online and Age of Conan faltered, other MMO projects in production were cancelled. Since 2010 the emergence of the free-to-play model has caused a complete rethinking of MMO monetization, with almost all publishers shifting their subscription services to F2P, as in Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. MMOs sustained primarily by subscriptions are rare animals with World of Warcraft and CCP’s EVE Online remaining the notable holdovers. Scarcer still are completely new subscription MMOs such as the recently released Elder Scrolls Online. Given that World of Darkness aspired to be an MMO vampire simulator, we can see plenty of opportunity for cosmetic virtual item sales to consumers attracted to gothic themes not catered to by other titles in the genre. Whether there would be enough of such players to sustain a subscription service is harder to say. Regardless, World of Darkness never got to a development stage where game design could point one direction or another. In 2011 staff assigned to the project was cut significantly with those remaining concentrating on building tools and technology. If World of Darkness was not ready to enter production after nearly eight years of pre-production, then pulling the plug was likely the best decision.