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!

EA expects..

“Warhammer Online [will be] a strong entry in the MMORPG space…No, I don’t think it’s going to rival WoW, but no one would ever predict that. But it is a strong game that will … get our returns for us. We’re proud of it.”

So says Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello at the William Blair & Company’s investor meeting yesterday. It’s good to see them manage expectations a little, but I hope it does more than get them their returns!

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