Azuriel has a good post on the disappointing sales of The Secret World. To sum up, The Secret World sold somewhere between 50k and 250k boxes, probably closer to 100k. The game did not meet Funcom's (relatively modest, in my opinion) expectations. Funcom is looking at laying off 10% of its workforce in response.
This is unfortunate, because The Secret World is a good game, with several innovations. I've purchased it, and am subscribed, though I'm working through it very slowly. I've only finished the first zone, but am enjoying it greatly.
Funcom is blaming low scores on Metacritic, citing the disparity between the professional reviewer scores and the user scores. First, I do think the reviewer scores are a little low. TSW has a 72, while TERA has a 77, and The Old Republic has an 85. In that context, I do think TSW's score is lower than it should be. Funcom probably did not hand out enough
However, I do think the high user scores are primarily coming from selection bias. The Secret World is a niche game, and those people who went out and purchased it are probably very happy with their purchase.
I think the real problem with TSW is that their target niche turned out to be too small. Like other game companies before them, Funcom made the mistake of listening to the MMO pundits and blogosphere. Thus they made a game which the literati love, but no one else bought.
According to Azuriel's research, 1.5 million people tried TSW in beta. That's about a 10% conversion rate. 90% of the people who tried the game didn't think it was for them.
I wonder if this information can explain an observation regarding factions that was puzzling me.
In beta, the dominant faction by far was the Illuminati ("Sex, Drugs and Rockefeller"). Like, there was no contest at all. It seemed that everyone was playing Illuminati.
In live, the dominant faction by far is the Templars ("Deliverance From Evil"). The last few times I've played, they hold almost every PvP objective, even though it's a three-faction game.
I was at a bit of loss to explain the switch. Now, I wonder if the type of people who were attracted to the Illuminati were the same type of people who were not attracted by the game. While people who chose the Templars were the type of people predisposed to like The Secret World. Almost all the TSW bloggers I've seen have been strongly Templar.
I think it would be really interesting to see the faction retention numbers from beta, if they exist. Was retention equal among all factions, or was faction choice in beta a good predictor of whether or not one would purchase the game?