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I remember when Warhammer Online came out last September. It was the greatest thing to ever hit the PC MMO world, and World of Warcraft was not long for this world. At least, that's what everybody was saying then. After a very successful few weeks in retail, WAR sales started to dwindle down, and now, nobody but the 300,000 current subscribers care about it. 300,000 usually isn't anything to balk at, but considering that WAR had been in development for several years, and it sold 1.2 million copies, it's pretty scary.
Due to the dwindling populations, Mythic Entertainment and EA have now shut down 63 worldwide servers, according to an article on TheGameReviews.com, bringing their active servers down to 15. For those keeping track at home, that's about one-fifth, or twenty percent of what it used to be. And that doesn't even guarantee that these servers are full. First Age of Conan closes almost all their servers, and now WAR, it's a dark day for any MMO not called World of Warcraft.
I'd be really interested to see how much money is involved with keeping an MMO up and running. If each of the 300K subscribers is paying $15 a month to keep playing, that's $4.5 million dollars, per month. Of course, that's the gross dollar amount, but even if it ended up being only $3 million, that's nothing to balk at. However, these numbers mean nothing to us until we realize how much is being spent to keep WAR up and running. Not only do they have server fees, but they have employee wages to add into the mix. Mythic did just lay off a bunch of QA people, however...
Even though it's still making more money than I can imagine, maybe Warhammer Online is in trouble. More populated servers are always a good thing, seeing as how they're the main draw of an MMO, but firing your QA team and then shutting down 80% of your servers can't ever be a good sign. If they don't do something drastic to bring in more players, not just keep the ones they have, they'll be going the way of Tabula Rasa before the end of the year. Mythic's giving away a free 10-day trial on their site, maybe you'll find some enjoyment out of it.
I've e-mailed EA to get their take on the server closure, and ask what they're doing to attract new players, but I have yet to hear back from them. Stay tuned to Blend Games to see if they respond.