Funcom has admitted The Secret World has performed poorly, pointing the finger at aggregate review site Metacritic.
Metacritic averages all review scores, and has been used by the industry for some time to gauge a game’s critical reception.
The Secret World, an MMO dreamed up by The Longest Journey creator Ragnar Tornquist, recieved a combined score of 72 – much lower than had been expected by Funcom.
Funcom told investors today that this is the cause of lower than expected revenues, player retention, and the company’s poor stock performance.
"While there are very positive reviews, there are as well mixed or average reviews from various press outlets, giving an aggregated score for The Secret World of 72 out of 100, which is to be considered low, and not in line with the positive feedback received during the beta phases from both press and players," said the investor update.
"A game like The Secret World, which is not based on a well-known brand, is normally dependent on positive press reviews to achieve successful initial sales, in addition – but not limited – to other factors like word of mouth."
The Secret World has recieved very good customer ratings, and in this category Metacritic has awarded the site an 8.4 out of 10.
Even so, the aggregate score which draws the most attention, and Funcom suggests one possible outcome is that sales for the first 12 months after launch will be less than half what was anticipated in the "Conan-like" scenario initially forecast by the company.
Metacritic has drawn a great deal of criticism from the industry, and is controversially used by many publishers to assign developer bonuses and contract renewals.
There may, however, be other reasons the MMO did not perform to expectations.
Though the game includes purchasable virtual goods, it still uses a traditional subscription model, and also requires an initial purchase.
Subscription MMOs have, on the whole, been suffering from competition with free-to-play games, and BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic – released only this year – has recently recieved a free to play option.
Whatever the cause, it is no longer a secret that one of the most highly anticipated MMOs in recent years is something of a financial dissapiontment to Funcom, which has announced the game will now be distributed via Steam in an attempt to attract a wider audience.