The Daily Grind: Which MMO studio’s finances worry you the most right now?

During this week’s MOP podcast, Justin and I remarked on Funcom’s spectacular 2017 financial showing, particularly in light of the fact that its numbers were so poor back in 2015 that it was asking creditors to defer its debts. Most of us didn’t really think the company would make it through way back then, but here we are — it came up with some hits just in time.

That got me thinking about other MMO companies and how they’ve fared. Trion, for example, just faced down a seemingly malicious and misleading rumor that it was in financial trouble. Daybreak was once in such dire straits that it was sold to an investment company and downsized considerably in terms of staffing and new game production, though now it seems H1Z1 is keeping it all afloat.

Consider the whole field of studios we watch around here: Which MMO studio’s finances worry you the most right now?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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91 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Which MMO studio’s finances worry you the most right now?"

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wakkander

I’d be curious as to the health of Standing Stone Games. Lotro and DDO are long in the tooth, and in as far as I am aware they have no new projects in the hopper.

What kind of longevity can the new company have if it exists entirely off the waning days of two mmos, which while both good in their own ways, have their glory days long past them. I mean I suppose they could exist for a long time if they handle things wisely, but carefully managing a descent isn’t exactly a winning formula in the long run.

I suppose to a degree it doesn’t matter, the talent that made DDO, and AC are likely long gone in their entirety from the studio. Still, at the very least a DDO2 would be nice, refine some of the best parts of that game, namely the quest/dungeon design (Add in some better randomization, make the quests more repeatable. Branching paths, random trap placement, alternate puzzles, etc.) Clean up the honestly patchwork class system that has elements of 3.5 and 4e along with their own liberties. Maybe add some more player choice into the storylines, and put it in an open world.

I could also add in countless other wishlist items, like an AI director that could mix and match story pieces, and randomly generated dungeons to create unique experiences. Tools for player created modules with a level of curation that actually works, and actually offers powerful enough tools to make it worthwhile for long time DM’s like myself to actually want to use them.

Man, now I’m bummed none of that will never happen, and now I’ve managed to go way off topic with this tangent, so per the original question… SSG, maybe?

Reader
Sally Bowls

“they could exist for a long time if they handle things wisely, but carefully managing a descent isn’t exactly a winning formula in the long run.”

But carefully managing a descent is really about the best they can do. They – like DBG EQx – aren’t generating the profits to do anything dramatic/large nor do they have the resources to do something new. And, like Funcom/DBg if they did scrape up some resources, they would be spent on a Conan Exiles/H1Z1, not an MMO.

A long and smooth glide path is about the best we can hope for. Sic transit gloria mundi

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DrSteinman

Daybreak. They’re going to die because they seem to be the most mismanaged publisher/dev in the business outside of WB. Questionable business decisions and a seeming determination to run their IP’s into the dirt on top of competition overtaking them (cough)PUBG(cough) and I see them in real trouble this time in 2018.

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enamel

The idea that DBG is doing anything other than rolling in the pile of cash that comes with cancelling an expensive project (EQN/Landmark) and at the same time selling 7mil copies of a game on Steam is hilarious.

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Isarii

I think this is going to be an unusual answer, but I’m a little worried about how Guild Wars 2 is doing. Even though the game has been getting better and better and the new expansion looks awesome (and will be sure to provide a short term boost to earnings), it’s been on a bit of a downward trend for awhile now that I find worrisome.

Now obviously I don’t think this is like, say, Carbine, where your worry is of the “they could shutter the doors any day now” variety, but I am worried that they’re going to start to push the bounds of acceptable monetization and that the game could suffer as a result. Black Lion Chests have been fairly inoffensive until recently, as they’ve now added two non-tradeable lockbox exclusive skins to them. Not the end of the world by any means, but it could be a sign that they’re feeling the pressure to ease into more insidious monetization practices.

Possibly a lot of worry over nothing though.

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Sally Bowls

For me, my GW2 concern is NCSoft related. GW2 won’t be getting fewer resources because it is performing worse than WoW. GW2 will get fewer resources because it is performing worse than mobile and B&S. Nothing fatal; I would prefer if it weren’t Western MMOs that had to go on a diet.

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Owen Wells

Also remember NCsoft has a proven history of canning western focused RPGs, such as City of Heroes, to support its eastern market projects.

Nathaniel Downes
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Nathaniel Downes

Idea Fabrik, who recently switched from a game engine maker to MMO studio with the purchase of The Repopulation. They’ve been in poor shape for years, with Hero Engine never really catching on to the same level as other game engines like Unity, Lumberyard or Unreal have. Now they’ve taken on the costs of running an MMO, with release still looking to be awhile out. It’s an awful risk for them.

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Hirku

aen.jpg
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Sray

This is how a free market is supposed to work:

1viyw0.jpg
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starbuck1771

The Meme would have been better if it was Ali instead of a B-list actor (Yes I know that’s from Rocky IV) that is still alive that keeps on going and going like the Energizer Bunny. :P

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wakkander

Except then the Rocky IV reference of “If he dies, he dies” wouldn’t make sense.

Richard de Leon III
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Kickstarter Donor
Richard de Leon III

For me it’s cryptic, I dont know how much longer they can ride on STO and NW success. I really do wish they had some extra funds to help CO a little at least. There simply isnt enough superhero mmos out there for my tastes.

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Kickstarter Donor
Louie

I’m sure they’ll see a nice boost whenever their Magic MMO comes out.

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Dug From The Earth

Funcom… for like the last 10 years in a row.

A close second would be Carbine Studios (wildstar)

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Worries me? Probably none, I don’t think any of the studios I’m really invested in are in a rough spot right now, thankfully.

But should be worried about? It’s too early on a Friday to go through a list of developers and try to remember where they all appear to stand financially right now, I need more coffee for that -_-

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
squidgod2000

Kinda worried about DBG—not because I care about the company, but because I’d hate for the MMO world to lose the Everquest IP.

Fuck Trion, their ArcheAge monetization, their cash shop raid gear and their fucking lockboxes.

Funcom seems to be headed in the right direction. Hoping for Age of Conan 2.0 at some point in the future, might consider playing an AoC 1.5 (ala, Secret World Legends).

Perfect World seems to be doing fine, though I don’t like their style of games.

CCP is probably in some trouble. Eve is stable, but pretty much every other game they’ve tried to make has crashed and burned (or never even made it that far). Is Legion (or whatever they’re calling it now) still a thing? I’m not too optimistic about that one.

CIG is going to have to release an actual product pretty soon. Kudos to them for keeping the hype train alive, but the bits and pieces (and tech demos) they’ve been dribbling out just don’t cut it.

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Owen Wells

I’m honestly not that worried about CCP, while yes WOD never got off the ground and in the end DUST was a failure both Valkyrie and Gunjack have done very well in their respective niches and Project Legion has at least had a promising start.

Richard de Leon III
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Kickstarter Donor
Richard de Leon III

Good point, I figured DBG is making just enough to keep their current crop sustained. I do think DCUO is making them a ton of money imho, with it being the only superhero mmo on either pc or console being updated on a regular basis.

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Reht

Yeah, heard from a former Dev that DCUO is their most profitable game and that the studio is doing a lot better (financially speaking) post DBG re-org than it has in years – that doesn’t mean it’s setting the world on fire though.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Wow, some people have strong feelings here, they wish to see companies closed, what about people who work in these companies? a little bit of sympathy won’t hurt.

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Brother Maynard

Why would there be any sympathy? They have none for you. It’s business, not a school trip. Especially these days when people prove to game studios again and again that they can do anything they want to their customers.

It’s not like they’re innocent hostages or something, held against their will. Remember, the crap the studios produce is thought up by people working there, not by some abstract companies…

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Sympathy for people, i asked about people who work there, the nameless programmers, designers and others who maintain the game, the companis can die, i would not care, but i feel sorry for people who will lose their job, is this hard to understand?

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Brother Maynard

No, it’s not hard to understand, it’s just very naive.

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Pedge Jameson

Get a room.
Don’t name it after me..wait don’t make it look like my avatar.

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Kickstarter Donor
squidgod2000

I’d like to see them working for better companies.

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Armsbend

I’d like to see them loaded up into a C-130, flown to Liberia and parachuted down without a passport or any identification.

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Kickstarter Donor
thalendor

You do realize, whatever it is that your beef with these companies is, be it monetization, changes to your favorite game, or whatever, that most of the people working there probably had little or no input on that decision, right?

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Armsbend

Let’s not blame anyone ever then. Because the poor coders making our cash shops and match 3s need to eat.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

You are truly a horrible person.

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Armsbend

A lifetime of work has gone into it.
C 130
Liberia
Jungle Survival

Game idea in here somewhere.

Richard de Leon III
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Kickstarter Donor
Richard de Leon III

Sounds like PUBattlegrounds >.<

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Jay Power

Really? Uh, none of them. It’s none of my business. I play games.

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Rheem Octuris

I actually am looking forward to the inevitable Daybreak sunset.

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Alex Malone

I’m not worried about any of them really.

If they are a company that already has games released, then their financial situation will have an extremely strong correlation to their games. If they’re good games, they’ll earn money and be in a good situation. If they’re bad games, they’ll be in a worse situation. That is how a free and open market should work.

So, whilst I used to love LotRO and have many friends who still do, if SSG go down it is because Turbine/SSG were unable to improve the game enough to continue to generate sufficient money for their business. It sucks for those who still play it, but at the same time it opens up the market for newer games and releases the IP for another attempt.

That said, this is an easy thing for me to say. I’m not currently playing any MMOs and haven’t in quite a while due to lack of quality games. It has also been my experience that MMOs are made steadily worse over time, so I’m very much in favour of older MMOs being killed off. I feel that developers should just be more upfront about it – launch the game, update it, build expansions etc, but the instant that the game drops below a certain threshold, lower the subscription price and put it on lifesupport. Stop throwing dev time at a game that can no longer justify it, and instead invest that time in new projects.

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Shiro Madoushi

Trion Worlds and Daybreak Games would be at the top of my list for companies struggling financially right now.

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Patreon Donor
Schlag Sweetleaf

Overpowered Media Group, LLC. How are you doing? Maybe a state of the union address from the BREE-E.O. would be helpful in allaying any backer concerns.

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Utakata

Did you mean to post that over here?

Meta: Twitch’s SUBtember promo helps Massively OP stream!

…though that seems to be a new promotional thingy via Twitch than anythingy. o.O

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Patreon Donor
Schlag Sweetleaf

No Uta. I was hoping to hear from the powers that be on the state of MO. My concerns may be unwarranted but this is the closest thing to a MMO that I play at the moment and I would like to know that all is well;)

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BalsBigBrother

You might be better off sending in a question like this to the podcast. They have answered such things in the past on there which has then prompted a post on the site similar to what you are asking for :-)

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Utakata

I assume they’re are doing okay. Not sure what happened to their writers list, as the “Credits” seem to contain a million and 1 names. Perhaps they’re planning out on RNG’ing the entire works of Shakespeare or something. But I see no indication they’re going South on their creditors either. o.O

…sometime no news is good news. :)

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Utakata

“Just try clicking ‘About’ itself as opposed menu items underneath, Uta.”

Oh, there it is!!! It’s magic! <3

…and thank you, Ms. Bree. /bows

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Arktouros

I don’t worry about company’s finances. If a company dies and/or the games associated with it die so be it. Doesn’t matter if I’m playing it or not, that’s how business works. There is an endless field of games to keep amused in so if any shut down so be it there’s plenty of other things to go spend my time on.

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Kickstarter Donor
thalendor

To the extent that I worry, it’s about the smaller studios with games still in development but no current revenue streams (outside of crowdfunding or early access), such as Visionary Realms, Portalarium, City State Entertainment, and other similar companies. I’m not a business major, but I imagine that’s got to be one of the most precarious states for a business to exist in, yet for the most part those seem to be the only companies (in the West anyway) working to develop new MMOs.

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A Dad Supreme

I still don’t believe what Hartsman has said about Trion being in good shape, although it doesn’t matter since I don’t work for the company nor have seen their books.

But when a company says in response to a “seemingly malicious and misleading rumor that it was in financial trouble” by having Hartsman say “everything’s fine” and then promptly shuts down eight servers of a game they highly hyped and are partners in, that doesn’t seem healthy.

I mean, this is the headline Massively posted: http://massivelyop.com/2017/09/07/archeage-goes-offline-for-two-days-for-massive-server-merges-land-rush-scheduled-for-friday/… not posted by some malicious rumor rag.

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Armsbend

So the two companies you mentioned – Daybreak and Trion. Worry about? I actively root for their demise – just as I would any bad company. We need more industry signals that bad developers should not only not be rewarded – but they face ruination because of it.

The attitude of, “what will happen to their jobs” for companies that attempt to scheme us every single day has got to go.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

nevermind how fluid rank and file game dev jobs are anyways. and how easily those people will find new work elsewhere. once you’re in the industry you may not have good job security at one single company (to the point that buying a house is a no go for most industry workers) but you are pretty much guaranteed to not stay unemployed unless you wish to be so.

the problem is guys like hartsman and gershowicz failing upwards constantly from shitshow game project and predatory company to the next. we see that constantly and strangling innovation and doubling down on the same old design cliches to the point it’s pretty much killed the genre.

it’s less about the company – and more about the odl boys club of rockstar lead devs in this industry that have killed it so they can draw a paycheque while being creatively bankrupt.

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A Dad Supreme

“the problem is guys like hartsman and gershowicz failing upwards constantly from shitshow game project and predatory company to the next. “
==================

I think a lot of devs-turned-executive adopted the rap artist mentality.

For years rappers made the records while people who couldn’t rap or play music made millions off of their work, paying them pennies on the album until finally, a few rappers decided to start their own labels and make all the money.

Devs usually toil away in obscurity except for a few and those few that didn’t decided to take it to the next (CEO) level realizing that like a brokerage house, they make money whether or not the company loses money or the customer is happy because of the golden parachutes they have.

I think they figured out it’s better to not make games but to hire others to make them, and they just flit from company to company lending a ‘famous’ name.

Sometimes you get the feeling that when two former devs that are now CEOs get together in a room, you can’t help but think they are laughing out loud that they actually MADE games for that many years before wising up.

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

I worry about the Mordor, Inc. I mean, Standing Stone.

Because I love LOTRO, but I hated the pricing on Mordor. MORE PLEASE, but cheaper!

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Melissa McDonald

Standing Stone. LOTRO is too precious to lose.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Cloud Imperium Games. Yea, they collected almost 160 mil, but it very well might be not enough for such ambitious game. Chris told that their plan is to launch SQ42 to raise money for PU. But SQ42 was delayed so many times and still unlikely to be released in 2018. Its my biggest worry because I really want Star Citizen to become reality and a game we all dreamed of.

Im also worried about CCP. EVE’s population fell quite abit compared to its peak. For now I think they are fine, but there could be troubles if pop continues to decline.

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Patreon Donor
Veldan

Like wratts and deekay, I’ll have to go with CIG. Even with the crazy amount of money they’ve raised, their way of getting money is not sustainable. They have hundreds (400+ IIRC) of employees now and their product does not seem to get into a releaseable state anytime soon.

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Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
agemyth 😩

Blizzard.

Just kidding. I sometimes think about Ankama (Wakfu and Dofus makers) and feel bad that I don’t play and pay money for Wakfu.

I want to see Project Gorgon meet something resembling a “1.0” kind of game, but I don’t see how they make a sustainable income with that endeavor.

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Kickstarter Donor
Pandalulz

I don’t even play Wakfu or Dofus, but I like the cartoons. It’s a fun animation style and really interesting world they’ve built.

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Zen Dadaist

Funcom. I worry they won’t be wise with their sudden influx of cash and when it drops they’ll be in another bad spot. I’ve always thought of FC as having very talented creativity, and abysmal business management.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Watch ‘Season 2′ be next to nothing as they pour the money into a couple failed projects again. Good ol’ Funcom!

Polyanna
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Loyal Patron
Polyanna

None of them. The games I play or care about (ESO, STO, WoW, maybe someday, and SWTOR) seem well funded enough for the foreseeable future.

Even SWTOR, despite some serious missteps by Bioware and declining population seems to be scraping by well enough for now that it is not under any serious threat of a shutdown any time soon, and the current management team have made some strong positive changes recently in their approach to the game that are reassuring for its long term prospects.

The games that seem to be under a dark cloud all are ones that I am not playing and have no plans to play for reasons besides their financial prospects (although in most cases there is a pretty clear link between those other reasons and any supposed fiscal distress).

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Loopy

I don’t want Wildstar to die. That is all.

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Armsbend

I think it’s surprised us all a little with regular updates and by staying alive. I hope it makes money for the people who enjoy it.

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Oleg Chebeneev

me too

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i don’t want it to die either but with it’s one foot in the grave state it’s hard to motivate myself to invest time or money into it at this point.

i have a friend that has expressed interest in playing with me again but she doesn’t know what there is to do now and i’m not sure i cba to look into it for the two of us.

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Bryan Correll

I’d say if you’re interested in playing go for it. Wildstar may have one foot in the grave, but that foot has been in said grave for several years already. I’ve come to the conclusion that NCSoft has finally decided that as long as the game isn’t flat out losing money they’ll let it keep running hoping to shake the image of the company as an MMO killer.

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Eduardo da Fonseca

Wildstar is only alive because of the bad publicity ncsoft got after killing city of heroes. But don’t be naive with them, they already removed from investors spreadsheets on balances. Sooner or later they will pull the plug. If MxM shows any decay they will pull wildstar with the excuse that they will concentrate on their new games. That was what they did with city of heroes that was slightly profitable at the time.

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Utakata

…and don’t forget anyone who wants to play it, rolling pink Aurins and Chua’s are a must! <3

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Kickstarter Donor
Pandalulz

The Chua animations are still SOOOO GOOOOOOOOD!!! and I haven’t played in forever.

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Armsbend

That’s my impression. And the thing seems to be getting decent, robust updates. Every new player they get helps it!

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

yeah i think so too, but idk. motivation is lacking for both me and my friend with some interest.

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Utakata

Save for Carbine (WildStar) which seem to be still chugging along, none of the games I am playing currently and /or still hold interest in seem to be in danger of going South on its creditors.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

CIG with their runaway spending reliant on a liabilities heavy funding model while being unable to deliver milestones in a timely manner and an ever further away release date with ever growing concerns that they’ve largely obtained the only customer base they will ever have.

and carbine but i’m not so much concerned as figure they’ll be written off by ncsoft any minute now. but that feeling has been going on at least a year now so…

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wratts

I will say, just from an accounting perspective I doubt that contributions get recorded as debt liabilities. My guess would be the cash offset is a “goodwill” line or something similar. I’m sure they’ve borrowed plenty in addition, so your point is likely still true

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

idk they are literally selling a product for that revenue. if they accounted it any different they could get in serious legal trouble.

i’m sure some kickstarter companies do that tho and convince themselves it’s legit donations. but it really isn’t no matter the mental gymnastics on kickstarter’s marketting materials (to both users and companies).

but CIG is way past that point and literally calls them ship sales etc. i mean some fanboys have jumped off the deep end on calling it anything but, but that’s beyond what CIG has done for a long time.

so for every “product” (read: ship, ship package) they’d be still liable for delivering those products to consumers. and therefore on teh balance sheet under liabilities.

that being said, i would wager that CIG has a liberal definition of what they consider product delivered. in teh now scrubbed escapist article CR responded to it by claiming most of the advertised game except sq42 was delivered already. i mean we both know that’s utter bullshit and a quick glance at the kickstarter page and other marketting materials tells that lie easily and quickly without a doubt. but that’s the kind of operating thought at CIG on their business end.

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wratts

Yeah, I’ll bet their disclaimers have them well insulated. People are buying concept art and CIG’s “best effort” to deliver

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

idk how well such disclaimers would hold up in court if they got sued by backers. so far they seem unwilling to find out.

quark1020
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quark1020

Mostly none. The only ones that concern me are the indie studios and how they manage their crowdfunding money. Even though I never donate money for game ideas and I never have a stake in it, I’m still a busybody who likes to be morally outraged at other people for making mistakes :P

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Kickstarter Donor
Tobasco da Gama

Standing Stone is bound to be low on cash after buying itself out from Turbine, and I have a feeling that their attempts to recoup that cash by delaying LOTRO Point purchases for Mordor and the High Elf has backfired on them.

Other than SSG, I don’t think there are any studios in or close to financial trouble that I actually care about.

gelfred
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gelfred

Standing Stone maybe, not sure how well their freedom is working for them. We will probably know next year.

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wratts

CIG, given that it seems to be running on voluntary contributions for a product that shows no signs of approaching a truly marketable state

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Oleg Chebeneev

They had it in marketable state 4 years ago. And im not sure what you mean by voluntary contributions. They have over 400 full time employees and many more provide them outsource assets. I never heard about them relying on volunteers.

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Armsbend

I think by ‘voluntary contributions’ he means the game could possibly (?) fold if all of the citizens stopped buying ships that dont really exist yet before the game releases.

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wratts

Yep, Armsbend’s got it. Thought that was too obvious to justify a response

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Armsbend

The term ‘voluntary contributions’ was new to SC discussions I think. I like it. It has the ring that one day they won’t be voluntary any longer :)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

came here to say this.

also their liabilities must be insane.

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BalsBigBrother

Non, to me that is a complete waste of time. Me worrying about how long a game will last or how well funded an mmo studio isn’t going to do anything other than possibly give me an anxiety that I will have no solution to. If they fold then they fold it will happen to pretty much every studio eventually given enough time.

The best thing I can do for any mmo studio and for my own peace of mind is to just concentrate on playing the games I enjoy for as long as I am able. This is a hobby for me not a business deal so I focus on what I want from it as a hobby and that is the fun.

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Armsbend

As I age I try to worry less and less about things I have no control over. BBB for World President.

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Melissa McDonald

Hobby? INFIDEL! :)

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GoJammit

Star Citizen is the only one I have any concern for, and that’s mostly because of all the people who pretend to know what they are talking about.

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Tridus

Carbine is the obvious answer, given that NCSoft can decide to pull the plug at pretty much any time and it wouldn’t be a surprise.

wpDiscuz