The lead designer of The Secret World says the game took too many risks to be a commercial success.
The Secret World bombed pretty badly, selling just 200,000 copies and dragging Funcom's share price down from $17.70 in early July to around $2.00 today. Reviews have been "mixed," as they say, but our own Paul Goodman gave it a very solid 4/5 review and the general consensus is that it's a pretty solid game. So what went wrong?
A big part of the problem, in the opinion of lead designer Martin Bruusgaard, is that the game deviated too far from conventional MMO norms. "I think we probably should've gone for something that was maybe a bit more familiar," he told Penny Arcade. "No classes, no levels, different weapons, and you have the skills. Yes we have quests, but some of the quests are weird, where you look up on the browser to get the solution... it's all familiar, but with a twist, and I don't think we should've twisted that many things."
"I have to stress I really like the game the way it is now, but if I'm thinking about making the game a more commercial success, I think we should've gone more commercial," he said. "This may be a radical thing to say, but I think it would have helped if we actually had levels in the game. I'm sort of ashamed to say it, but I think that might've made things feel more familiar when it comes to players tracking their own progression and telling how strong they are, and knowing where to go. I think people got lost because they don't have this number telling them how strong they are."
He acknowledged that competition from other MMOs and potentially inadequate marketing contributed to The Secret World's failure, but concluded that game makers must ultimately put commercial considerations ahead of artistic aspirations if they want their games to be successful. "I think it's very, very few cases where you can sit down and make the game that you really want to do, and it turns out to be a success," he said. "Unfortunately I think that in order to be a success in today's market, you need to make the game a bit more commercial."
Bruusgaard, along with just about everyone else in Funcom's Oslo office, was put on "forced leave" after the launch of The Secret World, and has since left the company.
Source: Penny Arcade Report