You load 300k subs, and whaddaya get?

… another year older and deeper in debt.

Electronic Arts (EA) announced yesterday that Warhammer Online had 300k active subscriptions at the end of last year. This was actually one of the high points of their earnings call.

They lost $641mil over the third quarter of last year, a huge increase over the year before. They’re closing down 12 offices (making approx 1100 people redundant, and are cutting down the number of games in their portfolio to 50 for 2010.

All of this is severe, and it gets worse. Three of the big name games scheduled for this year have also been delayed (hope no one was holding their breath waiting for Sims 3 or Dragon Age). If you’re bleeding cash, the only reason for delaying extra income flow from a new game is because you have no choice. Either those games are behind schedule, they can’t make their schedule because of the loss of resources/ job cuts, or there are other reasons to think that there is more profit from delaying than from putting them out on time.

So what does 300k subs mean for Warhammer

300k subscriptions is a healthy number for an MMO. If it seems disappointing now, it is because the hype machine was in overdrive last year. And also, no one really knew what to expect — we simply hadn’t much experience of seeing how a AAA MMO would go up against Warcraft. LOTRO and Conan were arguably different types of proposition.

I think the future for WAR is rosy. Mythic have dealt promptly with any issues arising, they were quick to offer server merges when it was needed and have been active with entertaining events and new content for existing subscribers.

The proof is in the pudding though, and we won’t know until May how many people who initially took out a 6 month subscription will be staying with it.

By far the biggest issues the game has in my opinion are technical ones. They need those large battles to be stable and accessible since they’re the big selling point. They could really use a larger server size too.

Balance and content are good to go. Not perfect, but not a red flag either. They can be tweaked as long as players are having fun in the meantime.  But for all that, it deserves to be successful, and the core of the game is sound. I said this back in my beta review and it’s still true.

Three hundred thousand is a solid number of players. It’s a solid income stream for Mythic/ EA. It’s definitely not a failure in any terms other than the overhyped ones. Eurogamer.net reckon that it’s enough to guarantee the game’s future, and they have a chat scheduled tomorrow with Paul Barnett in which the question is bound to come up.

And right now, Electronic Arts could probably use all the guaranteed income streams and  non-failures that it can get.

So what have the other bloggers been saying?

Wizards and Wenches has a null reaction.

Tobold discusses the attrition rate and why the early estimates were so high

Syp@Waaagh analyses what the numbers mean to him

Reroller also ponders whether players should be worried

Syncaine@Hardcore Casual is initially disappointed in the numbers, but argues that they are solid.

I haven’t written about it in my blog (because one post a day on financials is enough 🙂 ) but I’ll link to it anyway!

The Links that came in from the cold

Gamespy have a whole week of WAR articles going on at the moment, discussing their experiences in the beta. They describe a keep siege on page 19 which sounds like good fun. Sigh, if I was a journalist, I’d have tried Order and Destruction. Only one of them has tried an Order character so far! Come on guys!!

Games Radar meanwhile, tickles our fancy with a look at some of the dungeons in the game. As Destruction, naturally.

Paul Barnett discusses his talk at Develop Online on his blog and expands on what he meant with the metaphors of burning heretics.

MMORPG.com posts a video interview with Jeff Skalski (Features Producer) done at Comic-Con about the game’s capital cities.

We extend the big welcome to more WAR bloggers – OMGompers, Zizlak’s Travel Diary and Tome of Ignorance.

And speaking of bloggers, there’s a new community called Blog Warhammer. It’s for people (like us) who blog about Warhammer and people who like to read the blogs to discuss ideas. Or just read Regis’ own intro to the site.

The Brainy Gamer thinks that the XBox360 seems masculine and the PS3 feminine. Actually I think most of the female demographic is hanging out with Nintendo.

Speaking of which, Flower Sun and Rain is coming out in Europe for the DS this autumn. I will console myself with this thought while the rest of the world plays the Road to War ;P

And more on another upcoming game that is sounding pretty good, Bioware confirms that dragons will be in Dragon Age.

Every time one of our games gets reviewed we hear people saying “Why don’t you go make another ‘Baldur’s Gate’ game again.” So we said, “Okay, that’s it. Now we’re doing it. Enjoy.”

Knights Templar threaten to sue the Pope. No this isn’t in a game, it’s true!

The Guardian asks Why do we have to die in games?

Describing itself as a Productive Collaborative Game, SFZero has goals of play which include meeting new people, exploring the city, and participating in non-consumer leisure activities. It’s based in San Francisco but apparently you can also play if you don’t live there.

And in US Election zaniness, John McCain offers his wife to a raunchy pageant. Again, this isn’t in a game, it’s true!

And Paris Hilton takes a turn on the hustings too.