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THQ:  Warhammer 40K  MMO Doesn't Need A Million Subscribers
THQ: Warhammer 40K MMO Doesn't Need A Million Subscribers Exclusive
May 5, 2010 | By Kris Graft

As THQ managed a successful turnaround for its most recent fiscal year, the company is keeping a close eye on development costs going forward.

In a Gamasutra-attended conference call after THQ's quarterly results, the publisher said that a relatively low initial investment in the upcoming Warhammer 40,000 MMO means that the game can reach breakeven more easily, as the low-cost Metro 2033 turned profit.

Currently, THQ-owned Vigil Games is working on a Warhammer 40,000 MMO, a title that THQ CEO Brian Farrell said on the company's most recent financial results call is coming along nicely. And with a low initial investment, Farrell said that subscriber figures don't have to be huge in order for the game to be a success.

"One of the reasons that we think our costs are under control here is because we think we're building this game right," Farrell explained. The exec said that the game will initially cost on the high-end of a non-MMO triple-A retail game.

"We started with a very small and experienced MMO team who gave us the very wise advice to prove out all the technology and world-building tools before you start adding to the team and really ramping up all of the content that an MMO requires. That's why we think our budget is going to be very competitive."

Farrell stopped short of offering the subscriber numbers that would create a break-even for the MMO, but said: "You can imagine that given the fact that we have a lower initial investment than some of our competitors talk about... we don't need the kind of subscriber levels that people throw around, like a million subscribers, to make a lot of money on this title. If we get anywhere near that level, we'll be making a lot of money."

The CEO also said that THQ is happy with the new property Metro 2033, a post-apocalyptic game based on the works of Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The game was developed by Kiev, Ukraine's 4A Games, which was founded by former members of the Stalker development team.

"We've always said that we had very modest expectations on [Metro 2033], but that it had very low development costs on that high-quality title," Farrell said. "It's a very profitable title for us. We like that model going forward, of getting that level of quality and still having a very low breakeven on the title, where even if we only get pretty modest levels of sales, we're still making good money."

Farrell said that a lot of sales were done through PC, with about two-thirds of total sales coming from Europe, and the rest in North America. The game also released on Xbox 360.

The CEO also said that games for Xbox 360's Project Natal are "much lower [cost] in general" to develop, although the company is watching the market closely to see how it will price casual Natal and PlayStation Move games at retail.

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Juan Del Rio
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They might not need 1 million subscribers, but they sure as heck going to get them. THQ's work has been top notch and I look forward to dropping everything I'm playing for the 40k MMO.

Andre Gagne
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Many other MMOs don't need 1 million to turn profit. EVE has ~300,000; I've heard that number thrown around for a lot of other games too.

Tom Newman
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I think the problem many MMOs fail is that their subscriber expectations are way too high. Hope this one succeeds - I've been a fan of the 40K universe for a long time!

Tiago Costa
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The problem in MMO's is World of warcraft and greedy people thinking they can emulate the same game in a different setting (or the same sometimes) and get away with 10 million subscribers.

Remember that even blizzard, in their best expectations were thinking in a 300,000 subscriber base, then the world exploded onto them.

Ben Rice
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"Remember that even blizzard, in their best expectations were thinking in a 300,000 subscriber base, then the world exploded onto them."

You could almost say it exploded... cataclysmically.

Juan Del Rio
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[eye's bulging in expectation of E3 coverage]

Doug Poston
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I will probably get 1 million subscribers on the name alone. The big question is how many will it have 3 months from launch? 3 years?

But if it lives up to half the expectations of 40K fans (myself included), it could be the biggest Western market MMO ever. :)