It hasn’t been a good year for MMO developers Funcom. In the wake of poor sales of The Secret World it has been forced to cut staff and reflect on just what its future direction is. In many ways The Secret World will stand as the game that proved subscription MMOs not made by Blizzard are dead.
That isn’t to say that The Secret World is a bad game. Far from it in fact. It offers a refreshing spin on the themepark MMO, with a modern day settings and the truly delicious premise of everything from Zombies to Norse Mythology to Lovecraftian horror being real. Its classless nature can be a bit confusing at times, especially as the game is designed around wielding two weapons with complimentary abilities, and this writer in particular is still annoyed at the way in which one’s first major storyline choice is handled. But it is still a pretty fun game, one we spent a chunk of time with.
Funcom has been hinting lately that it has the tools in place to take the game free to play, but it is still pushing for both sales and subscribers. One may argue that a week in which Borderlands 2 and Torchlight 2 arrive to try and drag loot hungry PC gamers away from Guild Wars 2 (while simultaneously diverting attention from next week’s Pandocalypse) is not the time to be pushing out a free trial, but Funcom has gone ahead anyway.
The new free trial of The Secret World comes with an interesting twist, designed to encourage players to check out more of the game. Not only is the three day trial unlimited in what content you can access, but once you complete 30 quests your trial will be extended by two more days. Not only that but Funcom will credit the trial account with 1200 points to spend in its cash store, which is roughly $10 worth of credit and should be enough to buy your character a snazzy outfit or title.
As an added bonus, those who complete the first dungeon, The Polaris, will receive the Screaming Demon ring. This was initially a preorder bonus for the game, and gives handy boosts to both stats and XP early on in your adventure through Kingsmouth.
This comes just after the delayed launch of the second content update for the game, Digging Deeper, which adds a group finder tool to make dungeon crawling a bit easier than it was before. It is encouraging to see regular content still flowing despite the layoffs at Funcom (although to be fair both updates have been delayed slightly). But we still wonder whether it will be enough to reverse the trend and push sales for the MMO, or whether it will take a complete shift to free to play to bump up player numbers.