GW2: 1st Quarter NCsoft Earnings Call

And this is the reason we had 30 days of item sales in March.

The good news is that it has rather solidly and effectively masked the quote unquote “not as expected performance of HoT” – meaning presumably that other than the initial surge, few people were convinced or tempted to buy the expansion later in the following quarter. I figure that means the GW2 veterans picked it up the first quarter it launched, but subsequently, casual players of GW2 or hardcore players from other games were -not- tempted into following suit.

It’s good that the strength of the gem store and gem to gold currency exchange is such that it can provide a Hail Mary last resort to save an ailing quarter. Cos the last thing we need is NCsoft feeling that their investors are asking too many questions about why this title exists in their portfolio, while showing insignificant profit.

I admit to being very curious as to the lesson they apparently learned. 

Is it that they shouldn’t crank difficulty across the board too high, or try to institute too much grind in order to encourage retention?

Or over-focus on the hardcore subset at the expense of leaving the other subsets feeling unheard? Or focus overmuch on Achievers, while forgetting the other subtypes that also play their game?

Maybe they’ve decided that promising the moon in their marketing and under-delivering is a sure way of shooting themselves in the foot, a la O’Brien’s new resolution to deliver actual tangible results for players to judge?

Or that by opening up developer communication channels and inviting civil player discussion and feedback, they might be able to stave off much of the knee-jerk controversy and backlash that follows any sudden surprise change a vocal enough group of players -really- don’t like?

Is it that they’ve decided too concentrated maps and focused metas are no good and they should focus on quantity and more spread out maps like core Tyria?

Is it that they should cater to the seemingly unending call for more 5 man group content at an easy to moderate difficulty level not too far removed from present day dungeons and fractals?

(Mind you, I don’t personally agree with all of the above, especially the latter two, beyond the desire to have more oldstyle exploration and discovery and lore in the maps, but they seem to be somewhat common sentiments.)

Or maybe they took home a completely bizarre unimaginable-to-me lesson learned instead. Like, “raids were the most well-received and regularly played feature of Heart of Thorns! Let’s not bother making open world maps and make our next expansion a whole boxful of raids!”

Who knows.

Hopefully we’ll see more stability in the second quarter and decent enough gem store revenue post-mea culpa patch to take us to Living Story 3, presumably arriving in the 3rd quarter.

Time will tell as to what that lesson learned was.

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10 thoughts on “GW2: 1st Quarter NCsoft Earnings Call

  1. bhagpuss says:

    They surely couldn’t go further down the raiding cul-de-sac, could they? An expansion that core-focused on raiding would be the end of the game as a major contender in the MMO market.

    My sense is that we’ll see a pulling back to pre-launch values. Mike O’Brien absolutely did not need to reference the uber-controversial “Manifesto” when he took over the reins but he chose to do so. I read that as highly significant. Plus everything he’s done since taking over has pulled the game back in that direction.

    I like the big, whole-map meta events but I think they need to use them more sparingly. An expansion with just four zones in which every one is a meta is just too much. It alienated a whole sector of the playerbase and not a small sector at that. I would hope for a six-map expansion with no more than three of those maps being full meta design.

    It does now seem unequivocally clear that, whatever spin they chose to allow him to save face, Colin Johanson was given the option to jump before he was pushed. His entire three year tenure has been chaotic and ineffective. We are we are because of a seemingly endless series of hamfisted design decisions, incoherent and ill-considered lurches in direction and above all a deep and abiding unwillingness to communicate reasons for anything. I’d be very wary of investing emotionally in any MMO he has his hands on after this.

    Isn’t it about time they at least announced the name and theme of the second expansion? With nothing in the open yet I am assuming we won’t actually see it until 2017. Let’s hope that’s Spring not Autumn.

    • Aspeon says:

      My guess for expansion 2 is that they’ll do what they did for HoT: Living Story 3 will make it clear which dragon we’re going after and end with a cliffhanger that ties into the expansion announce. Hopefully it doesn’t take nine months from there to release it. (I think that was part of what led to overhyping things, such a long period where they couldn’t do anything but dribble out a little more info every week.)

      If I had to pull dates from a hat, PAX West for the announcement, something to drum up interest for preorders during the holiday season like making HoT free to play, and then expansion release in the spring.

  2. Andy F says:

    I wonder if HoT will have more of a “long tail”-style growth, since the whole of the free GW2 base game still has a ton of stuff to do – HoT could be more like a “I’ll get round to it eventually” kind of thing rather than a “must have this right now”.

    • Jeromai says:

      Considering it’s commonly viewed as “all endgame content,” it may very well be so.

      If they’re smart and want to sell many boxes of the next expansion, they should do player housing, aka the ability to decorate and customise your home instance, with crafted items as well as achievement items. Throw in a new race, one more round of elite specs for every class, 2-6 fractals, one more raid consisting of three raid wings (even though it burns me to say the last) and whatever open world map and story episodes they can put together.

      Badabing, instant cash.

      • Karinshastha says:

        Player housing would make money hand over fist in the gem shop, drive the economy, highlight player creativity in unprecedented ways (within Tyria), etc. WildStar earns a fraction of what GW2 does and one could argue that its best-designed asset is player housing.

        • bhagpuss says:

          Housing would be wonderful. Given the focus on appearances and character customization that GW2 has always had it just seems crazy that they didn’t make fully customizeable housing a part of the income stream from the start. The official line on it has always been very negative, though. I’d like to think that could change with the new leadership (even though the Leader is actually the same person!) but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  3. Gaia Hunter says:

    GW2 had spring sales in March since the first March it was out, although shared inventory slots is a heavy hitter.

    It still is the 6th highest Quarter in GW2 history and the second highest 1Q (behind 1Q13 and beating 1Q14 and 1Q15).

    Revenue Bn KWR
    3Q12 45841 2 Release Quarter
    4Q12 119013 1 most of the release sales
    1Q13 36382 4
    2Q13 28899 7
    3Q13 24481 9
    4Q13 33556 5
    1Q14 25142 8
    2Q14 22214 11
    3Q14 19686 14
    4Q14 19272 15
    1Q15 20026 13
    2Q15 22470 10
    3Q15 20669 12
    4Q15 37331 3 HoT release
    1Q16 30557 6

    It also might point to HoT not being as bad as people paint it for player retention.

    Although I have to say I appreciate this current direction towards the wishes of the “casual players” instead of the wishes of the “hardcore players” and/or “big guild players”.

    • Jeromai says:

      Imo, there’s nothing really wrong with HoT objectively, beyond the last story episodes feeling a little rushed in some peoples’ eyes (not me) and the very last episode being a traumatizing mess of barely playable glitching, making ‘hard mode’ even scarier than it ought to be. (Very much me.)

      They did, however, skew up the difficulty and grind too high while being stingy as hell on rewards. They kinda forgot the lesson of Orr. (I never had problems with Orr, honestly, but many people did -not- like going there before it got toned down.)

      Then they further shot themselves in the foot by throwing down a heavyhanded dungeon nerf at the same time they were trying to build hype for a mew expansion. Talk about mixed messages and an unhappy vocal group having nothing to do but complain on social media. ;p

      Chak gerent nerf was the first ‘lesson learned’ so to speak, and the last patch did address most of the pain points and replace them with more rewards. Hell, they even threw in the ‘level booster’ that people expect from a WoW expansion, and gave it a unique its-GW2-we-gotta-innovate-and-go-one-further spin. So HoT has indeed smoothed out some and may start to play its intended function now.

  4. Ben Collyer says:

    Could just be me but once the gloss wears off the expansion I still see 90% of people in WvW… I realise not everyone is a fan, but its the only repeatable content I see people at after the initial “its new” phase. Reward tracks were a good idea and finally brought regular wvw gaming up to a reasonable reward level (if you want more than fun of course).

    Raids were obviously a mistake in a game pitched at all the people who liked the game because it wasn’t all about raids.

    Not sure the game will make expansion 2.

  5. fireflyry says:

    I still spend most of my time in core leveling alts. Pretty hopeful the next expac will recognize that many release day players still prefer the core maps and mechanics to the HoT content, at relase more so, and hopefully release more of the same.

    It was never broke, still not sure why they tried to fix it.

    Colin tried something different but by most accounts it’s been a bit of a flop, no surprise he “left” shortly afterwards, and it’s great to see the game slowly returning to it’s roots and the idealology that seperated it from other games in what is an over-saturated genre.

    Even the Black Desert players are coming back, at least in my Guild, after the shock that a Korean made MMORPG is pretty much like the movie “The Never-Ending Story” if the word “story” was to be replaced with “grind”.

    Anet learnt a hard lesson BUT at least they reacted and changed the game accordingly. I’m hopeful for the future and hopefully another expac that adheres to the quality and style of the core game.

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