Funcom is a world-leading independent developer and publisher of MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games. Yet there seems to be trouble ahead, mainly caused by disappointing performance.
Founded in 1993, Oslo-based MMO developer Funcom has since its conception developed and published over 25 game titles across several genres and gaming platforms. The company is spread out across offices in Norway, Canada, and the US, and has since its start collected over 20 years worth of experience. One of the reasons for Funcom’s success is the development of a MMO engine called ‘DreamWorld’. This engine gives the developers the flexibility and power needed to create some of the most advanced virtual worlds on the market.
Funcom has most recently developed LEGO Minifigures Online, an online game based on Lego’s Minifigures brand. However, due to bad sales performance, the studio is now forced to review their strategic options. As a consequence hereof, and despite only recently re-launching the game as a premium title, the company has now announced that it is seeking interested parties for a discussions about a possible investment, acquisition, merger, or any other available options.
Lego Minifigures Online was originally launched last year as a free-to-play PC game, but already then, it didn’t perform well with the intended audience, and Funcom quickly realized that their monetization model disturbed the gaming experience and thus made the game less fun.
Funcom’s reaction was to give the game a makeover and re-release in June 2015, labeled as a pay-to-play multi-platform game.
With the Free-To-Play model, there is a fine line not to be stepped over. The whole concept of Free-To-Play is based on the idea that the player is immersed in the game in such a way that they don’t mind paying small amounts of money to unlock previously locked or time limited content.
However, if not done correctly, that strategy might very easily backfire. If the structure and backbone of a game seems to have been engineered with micro-transactions in mind, it can easily ruin the entire game, as it might break the immersiveness of the game. An organic approach is very much a must-have, so the players won’t mind the Pay-to-play-more boxes when prompted.
As for Funcom, it turned out that the game simply wasn’t selling the way they had expected, and after reviewing their internal revenue forecasts, they found that the PC sales were their main issue.
PC players have a different approach to games. Besides the specs of a game, it is a must that the game takes you on an immersive journey. Otherwise, the players just won’t spend time or money on it.
On the other end of the spectrum are the mobile players, who tend to enjoy smaller doses of intertaintment, so immersion might not play the same role there. This is also reflected in Lego Minifigures Online on the iOS platform, where the amount of sales were on a more positive note due to Apple Stores launch week, combined with the target group’s approach to the game.
In the end, however, the sales on mobile devices still wasn’t enough to make up for the low PC sales, and action had to be taken. The expression ‘When it rains, it pours’ might have been said during the meetings at Funcom, because to make matters worse, Funcom has debt coming due in June 2016 too.
It is expected that the company may not be able make it in time with its creditors, and is expected to make a deal in the near future.