Microsoft on What Went Wrong with Age of Empires Online
Age of Empires is a great IP and when Microsoft released the MMO version in August 2011, many players played it. But Age of Empires Online turned out to be unsuccessful because of the poor business model it used at launch. Today at GDC, Executive Producer Kevin Perry looked back the original F2P model of the game and explained how they fixed it.
In the speech titled F2P The Wrong Way, Perry listed several things that Age of Empires Online did wrong at the beginning such as limited content, no Skirmish mode, gear based PvP which led to pay-to-win, grindy gameplay and so on. The fix was not an easy task, according to Perry, parts of the problems were easy to deal with but some were difficult to fix. What we see now is a game that has a totally different F2P model. Microsoft has dropped the price point and players can get Empire points by playing the game and they can earn everything in the game without spending a cent. The Skirmish mode was added, along with new civilizations. What’s more, the game was released on Steam in March 2012.
One interesting thing about Age of Empires Online is that the developer has stopped adding new content for the game. Perry explained the decision today. He showed a graph of the game’s population and said AoEO has a steady community from the very beginning. Although the steam release boosted the population significantly, the overall playbase remained very steady even the game adopted a new business model and released new content updates. Thus, the developer decided to focus on maintaining the game instead of updating it.
Perry said a game can recover from disastrous and he stated that keeping players engaged is the key to success. “Don’t be afraid of change,” he said at the end of the speech.