The first phase of Age of Conan’s life as an MMO is winding down; successfully, I’m happy to say. Sales are very strong, players seem to be mostly having a fabulous time, reviews are favorable and sometimes glowing, the game and its servers are stable and serious problems are uncommon, and immediate post-launch support has been good.
So now we move on to phase 2: the post-launch period, which will last for the next few months, and which will be definitively over when either Wrath of the Lich King or Warhammer: Age of Reckoning releases. A lot of questions are going to be answered during this period: Will initially strong numbers hold up over the first six months of release? Does Age of Conan have a chance to actually grow after its launch instead of shrink? How well will the middle and upper-level content that many players are only now starting to get into hold up, and what level of post-launch content expansion can we expect? At what point, if ever, will the game start to live up to its label of ‘mature’? How exactly will Jack Thompson try to tie Age of Conan to all of society’s ills?
MMOs are not like other games in that they change over time, sometimes very dramatically. Indeed, subscription MMOs must evolve, or players are going to get bored and quit before very long. Sometimes this change manifests as growth, as in EVE, and sometimes it’s a disaster as in SWG and the New Game Experience. The game we have today is most certainly not the game we’ll have in May of 2010, and chances are very good that some significant changes will take place even by the time October or November rolls around. Will these be positive or negative changes? So far Funcom has confounded the naysayers and vastly exceeded most reasonable expectations. Will they continue to do so? What kind of game will Age of Conan fans be playing in 6 or 12 months?
A successful launch is a great thing, and I for one am enjoying being involved in Age of Conan from the word ‘go,’ as it were. But the launch itself, although it’s certainly encouraging, cannot answer any of these questions (although we could probably concoct something plausible in the case of Jackal Thompson.) And it’s those answers that will determine the game’s level of long-term success. So we’re back to wait and see, but at least this time around we have something fun to play while we wait.