Death or Rebirth?
It’s been a tough few weeks for WildStar watchers. Disappointing news from financial analysts, combined with a shortage of news from the studio itself, and players are becoming concerned. Despite nebulous updates in the pipe and a China launch planned for later this year, doubts are being raised about Carbine’s long-term future.
And yet, it’s clear that WildStar has its fans. It remains my own go-to MMO, and that’s also the case for a significant number of others. How that translates into dollars earned, and whether it’s enough to keep the game running, is not yet clear.
Which is why, in this week’s column, I’ll be taking a closer look at the news. Is the scenario as bleak as it seems, or are green shoots beginning to emerge?
Predicting Grey Skies
Much of the gloom circulates around a Financial Earnings Forecast by KDB Daewoo Securities, the largest investment bank in Korea. It makes grim reading, predicting that WildStar’s earnings will hit zero in the final quarter of 2016. The resident armchair pundits over on our forums are citing this as clear evidence that Carbine’s effort is heading to the same chopping block as Tabula Rasa and City of Heroes, and don’t expect it to survive into 2017.
However, there are two key elements that we don’t know the impact of, and which might not have been included in the forecast. One is the free-to-play transition: it’s not yet known if this has resulted in an earnings boost for Carbine, and we’ll know once the Q4 Earnings Report is published some time in February. The second is that we have little information about how the closed beta is doing in China, following a delayed start on January 6 this year. The forecast also predicts a downward trend for Blade & Soul, despite launching in the US and Europe this week, which appears contradictory.
What the forecast does make clear is that WildStar is living on borrowed time. The free-to-play launch encountered significant issues for the first week, requiring emergency hotfixes and new servers to bring it under control, and it may be that the Forecast anticipates retention problems as a result. Either way, if the Earnings Report shows that the business model change made no impact, and the China beta doesn’t come back with promising results, the naysayers may end up being right.
The Relentless Hunger
On the one hand, there’s a chorus of doomcriers that are almost demanding WildStar’s demise. But on the other, there’s a contingent of players that are hungry for new content. Unfortunately, despite assurances that it’s on the way, players are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of news. Over on the official forums, Community Manager Deirdre Hollis added that the studio is eager to share more, but that it would be unlikely to happen in the next two weeks. She additionally cited that the free-to-play update took a significant amount of resources, and that there’s more still to do.
Which means that, apart from a minor update earlier this week, players will have been consuming the same content since the free-to-play transition in September last year. Yes, we’ve also seen the introduction of seasonal holiday events, new temporary events, and the start of PvP Season 2, but there’s a clamouring cry for new meaty content that we can sink our teeth into. New story, new dungeons, new raids – they’re all on our wishlists. It also means that the previously assured quarterly cadence is now in jeopardy.
While on the subject of PvP, it’s also clear that WildStar has a significant PvP bot problem, particularly in Walatiki Temple. Although it seems to come in waves, players can easily be in the minority. Carbine does seem to be issuing bans on a regular basis, but the studio appears to be reliant on player reports in order to detect and ban, rather than having anything automated in place.
Direction of Travel
Right now, it feels as if WildStar is in limbo. For me, and other players like me who log into and enjoy Nexus every week, it’s difficult to judge which way the game is heading. Despite the good times we’re having, there’s a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the future, and it feels like that won’t go away until the Earnings Report is released sometime next month.
Even so, NCSoft’s reputation with wielding the axe on underperforming MMOs means there’s a lingering question: if not now, then when? All of that will likely depend on what the news brings over the next few weeks and months.