NCsoft 4Q 2016 financials: Record sales, WildStar's fate, Lineage Eternal launch

On the surface, fourth quarter 2016 financials for MMORPG giant NCsoft look solid. Yesterday, the company released its investor report, highlighting hefty year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter growth in sales and operating profit, both setting records for the studio.

Among NCsoft's chief games, Lineage as always drives performance, significantly so this quarter, but Lineage II, Aion, Blade and Soul, and Guild Wars 2 held more or less steady over their previous quarters too, though Aion and GW2 are down year-over-year.

Of note, WildStar's performance is no longer being reported separately, so we can no longer track its downward trends; it's now bundled unceremoniously into "other sales" -- not a good sign, but presumably better than the alternative.

During the investor call, the company reported that Master X Master is expected to launch here by summer, while the global open beta and launch for Lineage Eternal will follow a Korean beta this year. MMO Culture notes that NCsoft's North American division is plotting a simultaneous mobile launch of Lineage Eternal. Work on four other mobile MMOs -- Blade & Soul Mobile, Lineage M, and Aion Legions -- continues, with the former two suffering delays.

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97 Comments on "NCsoft 4Q 2016 financials: Record sales, WildStar's fate, Lineage Eternal launch"

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Castagere Shaikura

GW2 was slowly going down hill and HOT didn't help it either. Talk about a game that lost its direction. Wildstar is just hanging on by a thread. I really think the plug will be pulled on it soon. GW2 had so much promise at launch and they just screwed it up badly. They should have stuck to the lie they made up at launch and it would be doing better. Everyone i knew that played mmo's tried it at launch and quit it once they got a character to max level.

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drzaius

Poor Wildstar...a game that on paper should have gelled with my tastes but didn't. Not a flame or troll or declaration of death post, but my heart goes out to those dev's that poured everything they could into that game. The news regarding it is seldom ever what I'd consider 'good'.

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Steven Williams

Whenever I get the urge to play Wildstar, I remember the time and buckets of money I wasted playing Shin Megami Tensei: IMAGINE Online. Low playerbase desperate for new players and new content, relying solely on the hope that things will turn around. Eventually the game disappeared from AeriaGames' front page, the community staff suffered cuts, and the game was sold to Atlus Online (the MMO publisher equivalent of the River Styx). Once Atlus Online's MMO publishing branch was shut down, no one wanted to buy the rights and the game faded from existence. Eventually, the original game shut down in Japan.

I don't think it's unreasonable to be wary about putting time and money into games that are in Wildstar's position.

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Totakeke

If they do pull the plug on Wildstar, I really hope they continue it in some fashion. Maybe give it to Dark Horse Comics and make a series with it. It has such a great setting and I would really hate to see it go to waste.

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Suikoden

Hopefully this means Blade and Soul continues to get attention. You don't see too many articles about it (not nearly as much compared to Guild Wars), but other than Lineage it's the only one trending growth.

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Cypher

I really wish I could get back into GW2, I still have fond memories of launch week and months of happy gaming (and still have thousands of gems still in the game!)... I actually can't remember why i stopped playing it!
I've heard so much negativity about HoT, can anyone who left and came back confirm if it's worth a buy? Think I still have a toon just below the original level cap.

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Father Xmas

Roughly flat is better than plummeting. The major drop YoY was due to last 4th quarter was when the expansion was released.

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Greaterdivinity

Holy ouch.

GW2 continuing to drop in revenue, especially during Q4, is very concerning. Given that they've finally hit their stride with living story updates, it makes me wonder if much of the community that supported the game throughout the living story of classic has left. Because between the considerably lower launch sales and the considerable decline in post-launch sustained revenue, things are not looking too rosy for them right now. Extremely curious to see how they're going to try to "reset" things with the next expansion now, which should be coming through quickly given the continued decline of their quarterly revenue. It's such a shame to see, because they were performing so well pre-HoT, even during the long content droughts : (

Can't say I really find the results too surprising though, I still think HoT overall has been a pretty piss-poor expansion to what was an absolutely incredible game. I'd have thought that restarting the LS would have stabilized things, but apparently that's not the case.

And WildStar...yeah, I fear that game isn't too long for the world. Hopefully I'm wrong, but the fact that it's been folded into "other" indicates that revenue is still dropping for the game, which is not good in the slightest.

At least NCsoft is doing well overall, which bodes will for their library as a whole.

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Dug From The Earth

I think its largely due to all the players that would care about gw2's story, have long given up on the game. They arent in the game to enjoy it, nor do they feel or trust that its worth coming back for.

I for one gave GW2 way more second chances than I should have, and its doubtful id go back again. After than HoT expansion, there is no way they could get me to buy another one.

Anet cant seem to find a middle ground between appeasing their current players, and appeasing NEW players (both new and returning)

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Sally Bowls

In regards to http://massivelyop.com/2017/01/05/rumor-ncsoft-might-be-working-on-aion-2/

In the conference call, NCSoft said

And for Aion Legions of War, actually, the soft launch would be something that we are scheduling for the second quarter of this year and we are planning to launch this game first in the US and Europe as you have mentioned and that would probably take place in the third quarter.

Is the A2 rumor just Aion Legions of War or something else?

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Greaterdivinity

https://trademarks.justia.com/870/86/aion-legions-of-87086619.html

Seems like this is just a mobile game, especially with references to a "soft launch" (common in mobile to test games in smaller markets before their global/larger regional launch).

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Sally Bowls

Derp, of course. TY. NCSoft is even having two different mobile B&S games from different dev teams; At least there are a lot of MMO-related games in their push into mobile.

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Bryan Correll

Maybe there are some serious behind the doors negotiations on selling Wildstar.* I'm not sure who would buy it unless the folks at Carbine are able to get some backing to go independent with it. It might even be able to turn things around. But as long as it's an NCSoft property the game simply isn't going to be able to attract new players because of the perception that it's next for the chopping block.
* There were such negotiations going on with Paragon Studios trying to buy CoH that Matt "Positron" Miller et al. hoped would be successful right up until the closure was announced.

kofteburger
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kofteburger

Daybreak of course.

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Sally Bowls

In the best of all possible worlds, Bree wins a lottery and buys up SSG, Funcom, DBG, Trion-deved (not published), Wildstar and GW2 for the MMO equivalent of the "Island of Misfit Toys." I included GW2 not because it was doing poorly but it does not seem to fit that well with NCSoft.

In the worst of all possible worlds, which looks a lot like this one, any of the above except GW2 which survive end up at DBG.

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Bryan Correll

Well....one of my 2017 predictions in the comment-system-that-was involved Bree quitting MOP to found Elf Butt Games.

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David Bresson

It's too bad - after all the work Carbine has put in since launch, it's a very good game.

On a different note, I think I'd be more interested in trying out Aion if the NCsoft folks in the states had a hand in it - but I get the sense that here in the US their office handles Wildstar, B&S, and MxM. I think NCsoft Europe handles Aion for both Western regions? Does anyone know if this is correct or why it is? I generally like the community folks handling the games here in the US.

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Veldan

European Aion hasn't been handled by NCsoft since it went F2P in 2012 or so. Gameforge is running it.

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David Bresson

Yeah, that's right, I forgot about that - my bad. Any idea why NCsoft NA isn't involved at all, though?

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imayb1

Several years ago, NCSoft decided to split the regions for Aion.

AionNA was then restricted and told not to set seige times too conveniently for EU folks because that competed with AionEU. (There were other restrictions regarding real currency, too.)

GameForge was pretty roundly hated-upon for their monetization and handling of AionEU compared to AionNA. EU also has a heavier translation burden since they do ENG, GER, FRA; which typically delays their updates compared to NA. Some of that hatred is better now, but a lot of EU folks still play NA servers.

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Esoteric Coyote

As much as I enjoy GW2, this has not been a great year for the game in my book. Inflation seems to have hit the game hard, coupled with a few questionable changes, I just lost interest. After an exotic set ended up costing about 120g just in leather, I said "nope". Without cheap leather, I couldn't try exotic builds in WvW anymore. Most of the new gear stats are annoying to unlock and require a silly amount of mats compared to their vanilla stats, and most of the new runes(which can't be sold on the ah) are so potent they're near required for most builds. And then what happens if you spend all that time and gold crafting that exotic set to just find out the build doesn't work as well as you thought? And finally, WvW isn't as fun as I remember, maybe it's just gotten stale or maybe it's the pirate ship type tactics because the burst can be so damn high.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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rafael12104

Classic Schlag. Lol. Good stuff.

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zoward

Am I to understand the post's image to mean that NCSoft is taking a bath on Wildstar?

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rafael12104

You know, it's a bit of a Bizzaro world, this MMORPG world. So, NCsoft a known villain for it's cancellation of CoH, keeps Wildstar going against all odds and business considerations.

Meanwhile, over at Daybreak....

comment image?stmp=1344011375

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Veldan

lol that image, I'm saving that

Reader

It amazes me anyone thought Wildstar was going to be good.

Its a goofy, kiddy WoW clone.

kofteburger
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kofteburger

Nothing's wrong with being Warcraft in Space!
It did wonder for Starcraft.

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Totakeke

You and the six other poor folks are idiots if that's what you think Wildstar is.

I mean, what exactly makes it a WoW clone?

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Jack Pipsam

I thought the CGI trailer was amazing and the art-style did have me very interested.

But then I just kinda turned sour on NCSoft and heard the devs bang on forever about going back to a hardcore version of WoW I never knew so I kinda zoned out of launch then I heard nobody played it.

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Melissa McDonald

I've always though the tuff little bunny character was the chief appeal of the whole entire game.

Reader

Perhaps the style didnt match the gameplay.

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Schmidt.Capela

One of the hardest games from an era where games were harder than now...

Battletoads

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Buchi Buci

Oh look, "it's a WoW clone" comment

Reader

Oh look, its a WoW clone.

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Drainage

It is good, in my opinion. The combat certainly isn't clonish. WildStar's art style is different. Appearance options and housing are vastly superior. Blizzard didn't create the fixed quest. Actually, this game was being marketed to the hardcore, that was the problem. It is insanely difficult to recover with a new IP that misunderstands the real customer base, versus the testing forum tryhards.

It is a wonderful, quirky and beautiful experience, IMHO.

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rafael12104

Hmm. Ok. Well, I don't see the chart comparison of sales between regions which has always been interesting. I wonder if they are no longer providing it? I'll have to check and see.

Wildstar. Seriously. A miracle. At this point, I have to say, I think they are keeping it alive for strategic reasons. What those reasons maybe? Your guess is as good as mine.

I think it bodes well though that they are dumping it in with "Other sales". Wildstar numbers can be diluted with all the other little profit centers and revenue generators. At least will not stick out like a sore thumb.

NCsoft gets great milage out of their old games, I'll give them that.

I don't care for their dive into mobile. I think it is going to be an over saturated market, and profits will be lower than expected.

On the other hand, I think Master X Master is going to be a big success. From what I've seen of it including game play by MJ, and the addition of more PvE elements, it looks like a lot of fun. I think MxM will appeal to a wide cross section of players.

borghive
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borghive

The combat in Wildstar was a huge turn off for me, it was the main reason I couldn't get into the game. I suppose this was the case for many others.

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Tandor

I never even got to try the combat, the look of the game was enough to put me off. It just looked too childish, and the original claim by its fanboys that it was going to thrash ESO was too funny.

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Sorrior Draconus

Honestly short of a ffxiv moment I doubt wildstar will do much better. Simple way imo is to shut it down and bring it back refined and better made. Lore wise could be an emergency protocol or planetary wipe abd recreation so it is a brand new nexus. Maybe the ancient builder race returns(been ages forgot their name)

Honestly that or go single player somehow.

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Manastu Utakata

It's not "other sales"...it's "alternative sales!" >.>

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Drainage

Transparency is transparent.

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rafael12104

All sales are treated equal. Lol. Even Wildstar sales!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Ooooh

Xephyr
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Xephyr

Wow they aren't even publishing stats for Wildstar now, that can't be good? I hope they can turn it around, but it's looking very dark, especially since they completely botched the steam release.

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TheDonDude

This may sound sarcastic but genuinely isn't meant to be: kudos to NcSoft for not killing a struggling game.

I, uh, hope this comment didn't come back to bite me.

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Sally Bowls

IMO, they deserve the kudos even if they cancel it tomorrow. IMO, if Wildstar had been canceled anytime in the last year, I don't think most people would have been surprised or could argue strongly that it was a travesty of justice.
GL to fans and employees.

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rafael12104

Yup. They are bending over backwards as a business. That is why I think there as an endgame here we don't see.

Either way NCsoft deserves recognition for this. And when it finally happens, the day WS is finally gets put down like "old yeller", NCsoft will be the scapegoat. That's just the way it is.

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Sray

I've lately hotten the notion that Wildstar's lack of success has NC's upper management just stunned, which explains why it's still hanging around. I've seen it before: I was store level management back when McDonald's rolled out the Arch Deluxe, and long after the burger's failure was apparent to everyone else, we were still getting directives to push sales on it: upper management simply refused to accept that this wasn't a success. Seems to me that the guys at the top are just too flabbergasted to conceive of this title being a failure, so they just keep it going despite the continued downward revenue spiral.

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Jeff Lewis

I liked the Arch Deluxe :'(

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deekay_plus

ayways like i've said before i think wildstar being open still is purely pr to fight against the consumer perception that ncsoft kill their mmo's too fast and easily. but the clock is definitely ticking and midnight is getting closer every day.

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Sray

I find that unlikely: we're talking about spending millions on keeping a game running to fight a perception held by a few thousand Western gamers like us who whine about this stuff on Reddit and MOP.
And I find that the perception also is short-sighted and wrong-headed: much like people who bitch about Fox cancelling genre shows, they tend to forget that they also greenlit and funded these games to begin with; they wanted this to succeed as much as or even more than the fans did. But there is no point at throwing good money after bad; and fans are always the last to see the writing on the wall.

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Melissa McDonald

Game companies are going to learn the hard way that pandering to the vocal PvP minority is a good way to go out of business. Pandering to the loyal carebears with great cosmetics and a safe PvE / dueling world is how you make bank. But it will take more bleeding and more failure before they learn this lesson. just my opinion. YMMV.

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Totakeke

It's funny that you mentioned those things because Wildstar has basically had all those things with the addition of pretty great PVP while people were still complaining about WoD being garbage.

I mean, there was a transmog system in place before Blizzard bothered with theirs. Attunement requirements were drastically lowered. Introductions to minor dungeons that are soloable.

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Vunak

I'd say there is a lot of money in the PvP focus of MMO's as can be seen with Crowfall, Camelot and StarCitizen and how much money they have raised with just an idea of a PvP MMO. People want it, they just want it done correctly.

Not to mention Wildstar was billed as a hardcore raiding game, not a hardcore PvP game. The first crowd to leave was the PvP crowd because Wildstar stopped supporting them before the game even released.

The PvP crowd was a lot happier with the games base mechanics than the PvE crowd was. The PvP crowd wanted the initial gearing and rating changes to be made so people could actually play with friends and they wanted the botting to be dealt with. Its hard to have a decent PvP environment/competitive experience when half your team is composed of bots. The rating changes and gearing changes were made months later, much to late. The botting was never addressed.

The PvE crowd stayed around until they realized that having attunements and things like that just wasn't as fun as they remember.

Lets not forget that gearing in the game was abysmal with the runeing system being super convoluted and stats being really confusing to read.

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Droniac

@205 , why are you lumping Star Citizen in that list?

It's not entirely a MMO. The bulk of their initial funding was for the singleplayer campaign, which was initially the focus of their crowdfunding.

The design of its MMO aspect is certainly not PvP focused. Chris Roberts mentioned at GamesCom last year that they're aiming for 90% AI vs 10% human interaction, even if you're looking for PvP. And literally everything they have planned out for the persistent universe in the foreseeable future is solely expanding on PvE content and mechanics.

Don't confuse the current state of development (PvP-centric, because it's easier to build, iterate on and maintain) for the end goal. Those are miles apart.

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deekay_plus

wildstar stopped pandering to hardcore pvp types before it stopped pandering to (hardcore raider) pve types.

there is no more world pvp servers and aside from some tuning of gold rewards from bg's and pvp point bonus events they haven't paid much time to pvp for a long time now.

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Totakeke

Which is kind of sad since PVP is actually pretty fun in that game.

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Schmidt.Capela

PvP needs critical mass, a minimum number of players willing to duke it out, otherwise it simply dies out.

Wildstar likely lost enough PvP players that it couldn't reach that critical mass anymore, at which point trying to bolster the PvP gameplay would be mostly wasted money.

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deekay_plus

hey i loved the arch deluxe. dat tangy sauce was soooo good.

purplecopper
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purplecopper

"Other Sales"?

Fucking, ouch.

antheriel
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antheriel

Really interesting that Aion outperforms GW2. I had the sense that Aion was about to be put out to pasture, while GW2 was going fairly strong.

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Sally Bowls

IMO, I don't see the "GW2 was going fairly strong" impression. A less-than-great HoT launch and each of the last three quarters have GW2's revenue being the lowest it has been in the history of the game.

Xephyr
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Xephyr

Aion is popular in the east, but not in the west. GW2 is popular in the west but not in the east.

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Totakeke

Once you go Shugo, you never go back. kekekekekek.

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deekay_plus

aion doesn't do amazing in NA or EU, idk how it compares to gw2 here, but it's been a mainstay on korean online game charts since launch there and their market is increasingly uninterested in mmorpg type games going by said charts (pretty much ncsoft or gtfo and bns didn't do well at launch either until they reworked it alot a couple months after launch in korea).

generally korea is NCsoft's largest market and the word on the street is their games are also fairly popular in russia. but russians seem to love korean mmo's in general given how aggressive their publishers are at licensing the big hype ones asap often getting them before more western audiences.

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CloakingDonkey .

oh boy "Other Sales"? That is not a good thing... I'm getting a bad feeling that I was right with my prediction =(

It's interesting to see how little GW2 is actually bringing in compared to Aion and Blade&Soul. Even the expac sales seem to have been a bit of a flop.

I always get nervous when NCSoft titles seem to be not doing so well =/

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Emmanuel Carabott

Gw2 didnt do stellar well last year no doubt but it still generated $67M not exactly a small amount anyone would be happy to do without is it? NCsoft isnt irrational, they're not shutting down a game thats generating a profit (pretty sure they got no where close to that in costs). Now it will be interesting to see what happens with the next expansion, they got some new players with the free to play release of the core game, if they play their cards right those new players might be tempted to buy the new expansion, it may also entice old players too.

We'll have to wait and see but personally I am not worried.

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CloakingDonkey .

They've shut down plenty of games that generated a profit still. Remember they run several multi million player games... to them profit is different than, say, Daybreak.

i.e. they constantly think "hmm could this dev team be used to make more money if we shut this game down?"

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7BitBrian

Expansions sales aren't even covered here. They are in the 2015 financials when HoT Launched.

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CloakingDonkey .

well Q4 2015 is listed... and not looking particularly impressive for post expansion launch.

Xephyr
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Xephyr

The expansion sales WERE a flop that arenanet could have easily avoided by charging $40 instead of $50 for the expansion like everyone else does.

I don't believe it's in any danger however, anet will probably announce the next expansion pack this spring/summer and (hopefully) be a bit smarter about pricing and marketing this time. Smaller yearly $20 expansions that launch inbetween living story seasons may be the way to go.

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Cypher

"not a good sign, but presumably better than the alternative."

Or could it simply be a prelude to the alternative?...

Chukii

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deekay_plus

lineage eternal ETAs are becoming akin to year of linux on teh desktop memes. :D

as far as wildstar goes not surprising it probably continues to decline. what's surprising is the paper shuffle in stead of straight up closure - historically unprecedented for ncsoft with poorer performing titles afaik, maybe they did something like this with dungeon runners or exteel?

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James Crow

really hope for good news about WildStar because Others its too close to the MMOGrave

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Noel

This is just uninformed, oddball conjecture on my part, but a positive way I can look at the obfuscation is that, in the context of an earnings calls, not calling out WildStar specifically relieves NCSoft of the need to underscore the game's performance, and closes out inquiries from investors along the lines of, 'why aren't you shutting it down yet?'

So, one could construe the evasion as a way to give more WildStar chances. (I've not formed an opinion on whether doing so is a good or bad thing.)

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Melissa McDonald

Wow Guild Wars 2's revenue has halved from what it was a year before. I didn't realize that game was losing ground so quickly.

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7BitBrian

What you're seeing is Expansion sales numbers then then the normal cash shop numbers after that. This is actually normal and while they are down slightly over last year it actually tracks pretty even for them.

They'll get another huge spike in numbers when they release the next expansion. This is what happens when you're a B2P and not a P2P game. It's expected and GW2 is still NC Soft's biggest money maker in the west, accounting for something like 60% of their NA sales.

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Bryan Turner

GW2 angered a lot of casuals that enjoyed the easy going zergs from the Core game, it didn't help that they had a really long content drought only peppered with Raid releases which created a toxic subset of the community, WvWvW was on life support for awhile. Even if LWS3 is a return to form I still believe the following year period that started with the Expansion drove a lot of people away.

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deekay_plus

i remember at HOT launch there was a jokey video about how overtuned the new zones were and how comon death was and the comment section was filled with telling her to stop being a zerker gear wearing scrublord and GIT GUD.

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Tulerezzer

Those high points are right after the expac release. Then it looks like numbers evened back out?
Not saying I know, just that this is what it looks like.

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deekay_plus

customer reaction to the expack is increasingly impossible to deny. it sold just 500k~ launch copies assuming no gems were sold in the same quarter (unlikely) and generally their continued development of the game appear to be falling flat as revenues continue to decline quarter after quarter.

have a couple guildies that got back into it and enjoying it but i don't think they're far enough into it to where they've gotten to what loyal players have been progressively rejecting since the expack dropped however long ago.

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Drainage

GW2 crapped all over their core use base and the manifesto of the game.

Raids. Blech.

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Skai R

I wonder if NCsoft is trying to sell it off to another company?

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deekay_plus

who would buy it tho? and what would the nature of the sale be? would carbine in it's current form survive more or less? or would we see a studio closure and sale of IP and user data?

which as far as i know NCsoft selling failed titles has never been in their play book.

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Bryan Turner

Maybe Derek Smart will buy it.

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