Yesterday morning CCP announced news that surprised no one, but shocked us all – World of Darkness has been officially cancelled. I suppose the timing was for the best, as far as I am concerned; while I had not yet written a Hobo Gamer article on WoD, the game sat near the top of my most anticipated games. If you’re looking for a hardcore sandbox MMO, who better to develop it than CCP, right? That’s what we all thought, anyway. For many fans, the wound was salted by some convincing screenshots like the one above being leaked, and damn if they didn’t look good. As this news follows on the heels of rumors of the Atlanta office being near shut down and a $21 million write-off of capitalized R&D as unusable on CCP’s financial statements, it brings to an end much uncertainty about the game’s future, or lack thereof. It’s always sad to see a game you were interested in come to a close, especially one which was aborted before seeing the light of day. My heart goes out to World of Darkness team who are now looking for work, as well as the dedicated fan communities who find themselves looking for a new home.
Shuttering the World of Darkness project marks an interesting move for CCP, and one I fear may mark the end of them as a company. CCP now has all of their eggs in one proverbial basket, EVE, and that basket is aging quickly. While projects peripherally related to EVE such as Dust 514 and Valkyrie do exist, so far those have not shown themselves to be successful at reinvigorating the aging franchise. EVE is a niche game, and it’s a damn good one. However, it’s an old game with harsh barriers to entry that make it very difficult to attract new players, and as you would expect, its already meager subscription numbers have been falling as veterans exit the game. CCP needs a new franchise, and it bodes ill for them to abandon the one they were already developing.
Popular wisdom on comment boards has formed that CCP chose the correct course in cancelling the project due to the massive amount of development time which has already been spent working on the game and their inability to produce an acceptable product, but this violates one of the principle rules of management 101 – sunk costs should never be considered when making future decisions. The reasoning is simple, if not immediately intuitive. If CCP has spent $50 million on World of Darkness already, that’s money that they will never be able to recover regardless of whether or not they scrap the project. Now let’s say CCP has to spend another $50 million to create a working version of the game, with projected revenue of $70 million when adjusted for net present value. While this would put the project at an overall loss of $30 million, it would create net income of $20 million on future expenditures, and thus should still be undertaken at this point in time, even if from the beginning it wasn’t a good investment. Note that this also has the effect of turning a $50 million loss into $30 million for the project as a whole; as long as more money can be made than future expenses are required, you should continue with a project regardless of how much has been spent in the past. That all said, I would assume that a company like CCP is aware of basic management decision making principles and cancelled the game for other reasons; this was purely for the comment section “experts”.
While no longer available as a future MMO home, I included this send-off for World of Darkness in my Hobo Gamer series simply because before its cancellation, it ranked highly on the list of MMOs I wished to play. As disappointing as this is, CCP is still one of the few companies with a proven ability to create a true virtual world, and if they choose to work to create a new IP to carry the company once EVE‘s time has past, I hope to be there to enjoy it. As I said in my Black Desert post, the game I really want to play is EVE on the ground – and who better to develop that then creators of EVE themselves. Let’s hope they get it right next time.