Funcom: Poor Metacritc damaged Secret World performance

Developer making "cost-adjustment initiatives" as MMO underperforms

Funcom, developer and publisher of The Secret World, has acknowledged the game's poor performance - indicating that a lower than expected Metacritic rating has adversely affected revenues.

The game's averaged review score is 72 per cent, significantly lower than Funcom expected following largely positive feedback from beta testers and early previews. Since launching on July 3, 2012, The Secret World has been under-performing in terms of audience, monetisation and customer retention, with the company share price falling rapidly as a result.

In an investor note, Funcom has cited the importance of a high Metacritic to a new IP as a key factor in this lower-than-expected result.

"Following the launch of The Secret World on the 3rd of July 2012, Funcom's share price has decreased significantly," the note reads. "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.

"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."

Previous financial targets for the title have been missed by significant margins, forcing the company to re-evaluate its expectations.

In response, Funcom is attempting to open new distribution channels via Steam and focus on improving areas highlighted as in need of attention by users and reviews.

"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."

Despite the apparently bleak picture, Funcom is confident that the title can be turned to profit, which is pressingly necessary after the rocky performance of the company's previous Age of Conan.

"Funcom is pleased to see that gamer satisfaction is high, with user score of 8.4 out of 10 and higher on and other sites like This is in line with the beta surveys and beta players' feedback that the company received prior to launch. 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."

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Latest comments (19)

Raphael Honore Localization Assistant Manager, Blizzard Entertainment Europe5 years ago
Really stating the obvious here but... TSW is a good product that would have monetized fairly well if it had adopted a freemium model from day one. The statements issued by Funcom are not indicating that they understand what needs to be done. This game is begging for a LOTRO-like freemium model - free to download, then full access to all adventure zones for a *reasonable* sub (sub price is a bit steep, especially for British players) or quest packs sold in the cash shop. What can compensate for not getting positive press reviews? Make sure everyone try your game! Do away with subscription model before you have to lay off more than CS staff and enter a spiral in which less and less staff is available to pump out new content on a regular basis.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Raphael Honore on 13th August 2012 1:50pm

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Frederic Eichinger Web Developer 5 years ago
Three things strike me as odd here.

1.) Please, for the love of god, stop pretending a MC score of 72 was low. Primarily this is due to the fact that scores in general are insanely high, but also ... Why on Earth does anyone still use MC to begin with? It has done more harm than good anyway.

2.) One question I always love to ask when a company blames reviews: Might it be possible that the game simply isn't as good - be it due to a not-so-good business model or actual mechanical flaws? There has to be some reason for the ratings after all. I get the drift of saying "Alright, with better reviews, we'd have gotten more revenue." That's fine. But that changes nothing to the fact that those are indeed genuine reviews.

3.) Could we separate share price and revenue generated by the game, please? It's one thing to say the shareholders are twitchy due to the review score - which is a reasonable reaction - and going out and blaming the reviewers for the game generating not as much revenue as expected.
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Pier Castonguay Programmer 5 years ago
Personally, I check a YouTube gameplay video to determine if the game looks good or not. I went, saw that it was a WoW-style gameplay clone so I didn't even go further as to look the Metacritic score.
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Show all comments (19)
Naseer Alkhouri Store Manager, Electronic Arts5 years ago
Metacritic shouldn't be the power factor we make it out to be.

It's just an aggregation site which doesn't even balance review scores properly ran by one single individual (last time I read about it anyway). MC shouldn't cost industry jobs, affect bonuses, close studios or be a hiring requirement.
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Hendrik Ruhe Project Manager, Freaks 4U Gaming5 years ago
I have to admit that I'm a person which likes to check at metacritics for the general reviews. Not as the main deciding factor but as one part of it. I can understand that it has such a high impact on a company but it makes it even harder to be a player in this market - especially when you want to produce something quite expensive.
I don't see a way in changing this behavior.
For me there are just so many games which get released week for week - I want an overview which gives me a first
hint which game is worth checking out further on youtube and other sites. And metacritics is just that.
71 is indeed already a low score for a game which wants to be commercially successful nowadays.

With movies you can still make a crappy movie but when you have Adam Sandler in it people watch it anyway ^^ and it is only about less than 10€ you pay for it. AAA-Games are just different. Make a crappy choise - lost 70€ (for a console game)
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises5 years ago
If you want higher review scores, you should either make a better game or buy A LOT of advertising space on the review sites. Lots of awful games get a 9.0 to 10 from the major game sites.
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Kevin Patterson musician 5 years ago
I played the game for several days when they had the free weekend. Graphically this is a truly beautiful game if you have the hardware to play it. However, the game is a hardcore MMO, it's not friendly at all to the casual players. I got the gist of it fairly quickly but the interface is actually confusing and not very streamlined. It differs quite a bit from the modern MMO's and doesn't hold your hand much, which is a questionable decision as casual players will be turned off by it. The initial videos after I created my Templar character were lame, it really didn't get me into the character much. I felt underwhelmed by the opening.. I felt that was a missed opportunity.
I didn't get to see a ton of the game, I spent most of my time in Kingsmouth, and reached somewhere between level 7 to 10.
I didn't care for the quest system, It wasn't easy to find all the quest givers, and a bunch would let you do them over and over after so much time elapsed, I didn't care for that. I prefer to do a quest once, get a new quest, and finally exhaust quests from that particular NPC.
The feeling of the game was that it's an amazing idea but the execution could have been better. I was hoping that after playing I would desire to buy the game and play, but instead I felt like I want to play someday, but I'll wait till the price comes down or it becomes free to play. I hate to say it but Funcom shouldn't have expected huge subscriptions, they didn't make a game that was easily accessible or geared to casual or female players. The game harkens back to the days of Anarchy Online in that I had to figure out the interface and gameplay before I could enjoy the game, rather than log in and it be immediately familiar.

I commend them for making a game with such beauty and creative ideas, but the game should have been so much better. I felt Conan was far more accessible at the beginning. I still feel the first 20 levels of Conan were some of the best MMO level design I have ever played, but once you get out of Tortage the game went downhill and became just another MMO.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kevin Patterson on 13th August 2012 7:25pm

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Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext5 years ago
The simple answer is that people didn't like the game. This was reflected in the game reviews, and then compiled on MetaCritic. I always surprised that people blame bad reviews for lack of success... rather than blame the issues that cause the bad reviews. TSW is a good game... but not a great game. It could have been better, and if they were to go through the poor reviews they could easily determine the common factors. With those known, and understood, they could make the changes needed to make the game better... and in doing so help the game to be successful...
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
I still think it would have been better as a solo or co-op plat action/RPG in the Ultimate Alliance.Dark Alliance/Champions of Norrath Vein. Put out one game, release DLC updates ever few weeks or other month, collect them all in a GOTY edition if the game did well.

Freemium is only a business model anyway, kids - a game that's good, but not great (Metacritic ranking aside) should find an audience in more ways than the MMO space, which is turning into a deathtrap for these expensive projects that end up forgotten with nothing to show once they go offline down the road.
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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada5 years ago
I don't understand why Funcom still gets backing to do MMOs after both Anarchy Online and Age of Conan. Secret World was a cool idea,but an odd fit for an MMO, and done by a company with a poor track record.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 5 years ago
I find Metacritic incredibly useful for getting a quick overview of the reviews for a game, as well as a starting point for reading individual reviews. The score really isn't so important, but it usually seems to be fairly in line with the general impression I come out with after looking at the summaries and reading a few reviews.

And I think that, rather than blaming the Metacritic score or the reviews, "The game not being good enough damaged initial performance" would be more accurate, unless there really is something wrong with all those reviewers.

While even as a player I'm not a big fan of the fremium model, I wonder about about the large initial barrier in Funcom's current model. Even before the mystery monthly subscription price that is still unknown to me after a few minutes of searching, they want me to shell out 50 euros to get started on the game, or even just to have a look at it, since there's no demo. Presumably this large initial investment is intended to keep me committed for at least a while once I've started, but the net effect in my case is to make me look at the game, think it's interesting to me, and then decide that it's too expensive to try.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 14th August 2012 2:06am

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago
It's a fact that people tends to depend too much into ratings in general. It's hard to avoid, but you always must try to play something you like in the end, not caring about anything else.

If a game allows you to have fun, then it has already succeeded. My point at least...
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Few sensible MMO's go freemium from day one, its like taking a big wad of cash you can get for your game for release and throwing it down the drain when all you get in return is exactly what you would have got anyhow under freemium which your still free to get later, and some people (ie gamers) avoid freemium like the plague wherever possible, not everyone is entirely fooled by the word free justifying you paying 2-3x or more much each month vs subscription or face grinds that make korean mmo's look easy by comparison which lets face it is why companies do freemium its not out of the goodness of the publisher's heart's thats for sure, and if your to poor to buy a game to try for a month, you obviously should stick to the freemium grind fest, personally If I see a game I like I'll buy it, plenty of games I wont try because I'm not interested in, and if anyone with enough money is to pikey to fork out for a game because the word free dazzles them into thinking their getting something for nothing should remember a old saying, check their bank balance carefully to cover another old saying, and/or they weren't sufficiently interested in the game in the first place.

Anarchy Online was and is quite successfull it just needs a graphics update which is underway and is one of the most feature complete mmo's around, Age of Conan however did not go to well not because the gameplay itself was bad but because it ran out of gameplay at release by the time you hit lvl 35, making the rest of the slog to 80 very grindy and the 80+ experience boring, and despite a couple of expansion packs since, they need allot more content still to tempt many back in, preferably regular monthly or weekly content updates

TSW is thusfar a truly different mmo and the dogey reviews are wrong as a general rule, problems out of proportion, quotes of mentioning things that aren't true about the game have even been quoted from reviewer's even on here on here doubt a single reviewer left the island so only experienced a tiny fraction of the game to boot, alas TSW is different to WoW and so its not going to be everyone's cup of tea and like all new MMO's it has its minor issues but generally speaking if you like using your brain as oppose to being spoonfed the game is for you and frankly if you miss the spoon theres plenty to keep you happy in that department to but the single best thing thusfar about the future of the game is the intention of monthly content updates which is the kind of thing SWTOR and Age of Conan lacked which really could have led to long-term retention.

The only couple real issue's of any consequence with the game is the combat itself is no more interesting then WoW, but its no less interesting either, but after all the other differences between Wow type mmo's and tsw one may be forgiven to be expecting that to change to but rather than risk both a different game type and gameplay they've kept wow style combat, despite changing up the way abilties and classes work, and it just works its not as exciting as say a totally new combat system but new gameplay and new class system and new combat may have been to much to ask for and to risky in companies eyes to shoot for, otherwise the PvP is a little bland and grindy atm, fun the first few times for anyone but it gets grindy after a while thats due to the lack of pvp environments but monthly updates promise to fix that soon enough.

So one may suspect the main problems with attracting people may be former age of conan players may not be willing to trust funcom again with another mmo certainly not at release, and of course Guildwars 2 looming on the horizon which many mmo players have been interested in for some time, I hope with regular content updates tsw may maintain a reasonable subscriber numbers and perhaps increase them in future, as I genuinely enjoy the unique game-play it has to offer.
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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent5 years ago
"Funcom: Poor Metacritc believed to be excellent Secret World performance scapegoat"
It reviewed well, and there are other factors here. Metacritic matters a lot less than publishers think.
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Raphael Honore Localization Assistant Manager, Blizzard Entertainment Europe5 years ago

But more and more AAA MMOs are going to be *free-to-play* from day 1, not even freemium, whether you like it or not. If the market is globally going in this direction, it's because most think that the "big wad of cash" they're throwing away at first means more money for them later, and I tend to agree. Some products are charging me 3 times what I'd pay if I was playing a sub-based MMO, well I simply don't play them, unless I really feel like supporting the company behind said products. Most freemium games I've played are using this model in a pretty reasonable way - LOTRO and Fallen Earth come to mind. Like yourself, I really like what Funcom is trying to do with TSW, but it's simply not going to be around for long if they stick to this model, it's pretty clear already.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Raphael Honore on 14th August 2012 2:28pm

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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
This is a game I would have wanted to play had it been on other platforms other than PC. Meta critic didnt hurt it as many reviews spoke well of this game and the trailers and footage showed me a game I would have liked to play. Its a shame many of these MMO's come out for PC. i would like to give a few of them a shot.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
It's kind of a sad reality these days, but any developer/publisher has to be aware of how their game will test on Metacritic, and what that really just means is that they need to have a good idea of how many positive reviews they will have and how it will be generally received. Acting surprised at the level of reviews that TSW got shouldn't happen in 2012.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
Here mr horse, that there in front of you is called a cart.

The game didn't "fail" because it had a low metacritic. It failed because it was poor enough that it didn't get a better metacritic.
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Olivier Pallaruelo Web journalist - Cinema & Head of the Video Games Column, AlloCiné5 years ago
Metacritic is the Cancer of the videogames industry. Period.
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