And here’s what I found.
Wildstar To Shut Down, Carbine Studios Will Close
Carbine Studios will close its doors and Wildstar Online will shut down, according to an announcement released today by NCSoft. Kotaku broke the story, noting that the layoffs at Carbine will include 50 people and comes after at least two projects failed to gain traction with the studio’s parent company and publisher.
NCSoft stated to Kotaku,
“WildStar players who have spent money within the game will be refunded purchases from July 1, 2018 until the payment system is shut off. We are also in the process of identifying the teams that will be doing the work to bring WildStar to a close. These decisions are very difficult to make and we are in the midst of shifting as many of our teammates as possible into other roles within the organization.”
NCSoft’s reluctance to shut down Wildstar came off as confusing, despite effectively ending major content support and refusing to even acknowledge the title by name in its quarterly earnings reports. There have not been any concrete details released as of yet on when Wildstar will sunset its servers.
As of this article, the official Wildstar website has not posted an announcement related to this news.
NCSoft Q4 2016: Wildstar Disappears From Report
NCSoft has released their fourth quarter financial statements and the news is quite positive. Compared to the same period last year, sales rose 20% with operating profit up 36% over the same period, thanks to strong performance from major IPs and strong launches in the mobile market. The report notes that sales have hit a historic high thanks to geographical expansion and new business models.
Over on the game’s front, Lineage 1 continues to impress with a 42% increase in sales over last year, an insane jump for an MMO that is going on nineteen years old. Another title to see solid annual growth was Blade & Soul, which continues to be popular as it rolls out worldwide. Lineage II saw a fair amount of growth while Guild Wars 2 continues to rock steadily as it awaits a new expansion pack. The other category contains Lineage Red Knights, whose successful rollout boosted the category by 97%.
One game you may note as missing from the sales breakdown is Wildstar. It isn’t there. It appears that the game’s sales have dropped enough that it is no longer worth listing as a product separate from the “other” category.
(Source: NCSoft Finance)
NCSoft’s Q3 Finances Are Here: Wildstar, Wildstar, Wildstar
NCSoft’s latest quarterly reports are here, and that means it’s time to speculate on the future of City of Heroes, or Wildstar depending on what year you live in. Financially, NCSoft did pretty well in the third quarter, with sales up 11% over last year, profit up 29%, pre-tax income up 22%, and net income up 56%. As I said last year, the third quarter is the one where sales generally drop as developers run less promotions and everything is gearing up toward a higher fourth quarter. If the fourth quarter does worse than the third, you’re in bad shape. In consideration of the normal drop off from Q3 to Q4 coupled with some of the events that took place last quarter, I find it unlikely that anyone at the NCSoft offices are running around with their heads on fire.
So let’s talk about game performance, since NCSoft is virtually the only major publisher to post this kind of specific data. Lineage, while it did see a drop in income this quarter, continues to grow year over year as does Blade & Soul (although quarterly sales have been dropping). Lineage 2 showed the strongest growth for the quarter, while Guild Wars 2 continues to slump in sales following the fervor over its first expansion launch.
Now it’s time to talk about Wildstar. It sounds like a broken record at this point, but Wildstar has hit its lowest point in sales. Wildstar’s previous low was $1.13 million USD back before the free to play launch. Right now the game sits at approximately $940,000.
NCSoft CFO Yoon Jae-soo discussed NCSoft’s titles and their futures. Lineage, currently enjoying major success, is expected to continue rising in sales with a growth trajectory and a fourth quarter increase driven by new servers launched last year. Lineage 2, meanwhile, is showing a stable upward trend and is expected to perform better in 2016 compared to 2015. Blade & Soul is performing soundly with stable performance in both regions and is expected to show stable growth going into next year. As for Guild Wars 2, Arenanet continues development on a second expansion pack which will give a boost in sales.
Over on the Lineage Eternal side, signups are now open for the closed beta…in Korea. When asked about their development strategy, Yoon Jae-soo responded that NCSoft’s strategy with Lineage Eternal involves lowering system requirements so that the game can function on a variety of systems while making it “less challenging and less difficult” for new players who aren’t as familiar with the game. As for Lineage M, a mobile port of Lineage, the team expects to have something to show in the first quarter while not anticipating much in the way of migration from Lineage players.
Continued coverage of NCSoft’s finances will resume with NCSoft’s Q4 release in February.
[Video] Welcome To Wildstar
NCSoft has released a brand new Welcome to Wildstar video. The video doesn’t reveal anything new, but it does introduce the basics of the game to prospective gamers. The narrator seems to have had a fun time recording it.
NCSoft: All Key IPs Showed Stable Sales Last Quarter
NCSoft has released their second quarter results and the news is good, even for those of you who play Wildstar. The Korean developer published a 28% boost in operating profit over last year with a 27% bump in pre-tax income and a 56% increase in net income. US and EU shares of NCSofts revenues plummeted, shedding a third of its value while Japan grew slightly as did Taiwan. According to NCSoft’s reports, while Blade & Soul grew heavily year over year thanks to its launch in the west, recent performance has seen a drop in royalties coming from the Chinese division.
On the game’s front, Lineage continues to sell more than virtually every other game in NCSoft’s library combined, with Aion and Guild Wars 2 taking a hit. Guild Wars 2, you can see, is suffering heavily from a content drought and subsequently saw its revenues fall flat over the past quarter. Based on the success of Heart of Thorns, it makes sense for Arenanet to adopt a strategy similar to World of Warcraft, living off of gem and microtransaction sales with small updates filling the gap between large, probably as-close-to-annual-as-they-can-get big expansion releases. The goal, according to NCSoft, is to decrease the amount of time between expansion releases to keep momentum up, however no further details have been discussed.
Aion, meanwhile, is performing fine. It may seem like a bad hit from the outside, but NCSoft has stated its expectations put the game within the 17 to 20 billion Won range, the game merely performed on the lower end of expectations. No one in the NCSoft offices is running around with their hair on fire over this news, however the game does have a major update coming that they expect will bring in increased revenue in the fourth quarter.
Wildstar, meanwhile, grew thanks to a launch on Steam introducing the free to play MMO to thousands of new eyes. Peak players fell off after the first month with a peak of 2,700 in July compared to 5,200 in June. Wildstar’s long term performance following its free to play revival and Steam launch will have to be observed, but it would be bad business for anyone at NCSoft to anticipate sales higher than 3 billion Won ($2.7 million USD) per quarter. Now that the team has a more realistic idea on where the game’s cash ceiling is, they can budget appropriately and NCSoft can figure out where they want to go with the IP.
Nexon’s upcoming list of releases includes Lineage Eternal as well as numerous mobile games including several based off of the Lineage franchise, increasing marketing costs and naturally boosting revenues. When asked about the release of Lineage Eternal, NCSoft’s response was…some information. According to the investor call, development is on schedule however there isn’t any concrete information on the closed beta. The team believes that the most effective timing would be around the holiday break period, so Korean gamers should mark their calendars for late November. The game is presently in the polishing stage.
Blade & Soul Mobile did not perform as well as anticipated.
Incidentally, NCSoft completely glossed over Wildstar in discussing each game’s performance in the investor call, lumping it in with the “other” category. Make of that what you will. Lineage Revolution is expected to have a November launch.
(Source: NCSoft, NCSoft investor call)
Wildstar Finds New Life On Steam
Wildstar has been on Steam for nearly a month, and it looks like the population has remained pretty stable since the initial launch day. While the game doesn’t look like it’ll be topping any sales records, it looks like Steam has introduced new life to the previously waning MMO.
In its first month on Steam, Wildstar peaked at five thousand players. As the chart shows, it’s been pretty stable since then with an average of 1.5 thousand concurrent users and a daily peak of about three thousand. Concurrent users predictably rise and drop over the course of each day, with the low points in activity during overnight periods in the west.
The community seems mostly pleased, with 77% positive reviews on Steam.
Wildstar Soundtrack Coming
If you’ve ever played Wildstar and really wanted to get your hands on the soundtrack, this news is for you. Carbine Studios and NCSoft have announced that, thanks to a partnership with Sumthing Else Music Works, the official soundtrack for Wildstar will be hitting digital stores beginning later this month. The soundtrack will be released in waves, with Volume 1 out May 31st.
Sumthing Else Music Works is the industry leader in licensing and distributing video game soundtracks. Their list of partners is massive and includes well known franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Far Cry, and Hitman.
Composer Jeff Kurtenacker (Pirates of the Burning Sea) fuses musical elements together that bring space adventure to life. Using synthesizers, a wide array of guitars, and a 75-piece Los Angeles orchestra, Kurtenacker’s approach to theWildStar universe is highly thematic, creating memorable and exciting music that engages players throughout their MMO experience.
You can pre-order the soundtrack and check out what else SEMW has to offer at their official website.
Wildstar Dropping NCoin, Picking Up Protobucks
Hot off the heels of NCSoft’s first quarter finances, Carbine Studios has announced that Wildstar is dropping NCoin as its currency of choice for real-world purchases. Beginning May 18th, players will no longer purchase NCoin for Wildstar, nor will your wallet share between NCSoft’s games. Instead, you’ll need to purchase the game-specific currency available at the same rate, except now in its own segregated system.
According to the post, costs of items will remain the same, however the new currency will allow Carbine to introduce bonus tiers. Buy $10 or more in currency and receive bonus Protobucks. For players with NCoin already in their accounts, they have until June 15th in order to convert any NCoin to Protobucks or they will no longer be usable. Bonus Protobucks will be distributed June 22nd based on how much is converted.
One important note is that once NCoin have been converted to Protobucks, they cannot be changed back.
NCSoft Sales Boom, Wildstar Flounders In Q1
NCSoft has officially released their first quarter financial documents, and there is plenty to be happy about (providing you are not a developer on or player of Wildstar). Sales hit a boom with a 28% increase over the same time last year while profits over the same period jumped 70%. Pre-tax income flew up 67% while net income soared to a grandiose 86% increase.
Much of the increase is thanks to Blade & Soul, driven by the US/EU launch the title is now NCSoft’s second highest grossing product below the original Lineage. US/EU sales jumped 136% over last year thanks primarily to Blade & Soul while the title also grew revenues in China by 15%.
Aion saw a small boost in sales while Guild Wars 2, Lineage II, and Wildstar all saw a loss of revenue. The boost in profit is even more amazing when put alongside an increase in labor costs, box and merchandise production.
And now the bad news: Wildstar’s sales have officially dropped to its lowest point, 1,282 KRW in MN or $1.09 million approximately USD. The game’s income is, at this point in time, virtually negligible for NCSoft as a company, and the switch to free to play has clearly just delayed the inevitable. With the cancellation of Wildstar’s Chinese launch and the allegation by Polygon that NCSoft confirmed the game’s imminent closure at the last round of layoffs, both fans and the developers should start prepping their resumes if they haven’t already.
I want to put this into perspective for the “Wildstar is fine” comments that will show up here and in reference to this article on other websites. NCSoft’s revenues for Q1 came to 204,848 KRW in MN, that is 204.8 billion Won. Wildstar made up 1.282 billion of that, or 0.6258% of the total revenue. The three month period in the report runs from January to March, a period that has 91 days. 91 days translates to 2,184 hours.
Wildstar was worth 13.66 hours of NCSoft’s time over the last three months. It is worth less than half of City of Heroes (2,855) at the time NCSoft shut down Paragon Studios and fired the team with barely any warning. Just a fraction more than Guild Wars (1,277) was when NCSoft halted development. Increasingly less than Tabula Rasa (2,007) when it was delisted and the servers were shut down.
It’s over, folks.