Blizzard’s cancellation of Titan after seven years of development, a project that had at its peak upwards of 100 team members, was an “excruciating” decision, Mike Morhaime said yesterday. And no small part of that must have been due to the massive investment that the developer made in its now dead MMO.
Analysts told GamesIndustry.biz that the cost of development might have been as high as $50 million, or possibly more. That’s not a drop in the ocean, even for a company that has a game with over 6 million subscribers and some of the best selling titles in the industry.
“Development costs for Titan may have amounted to tens of millions, perhaps $50 million or more,” said independent analyst Billy Pidgeon. “This is not an unusual event, however. Blizzard has cancelled several games in various stages of development in the past. Costs for unreleased games can be significant, but launching substandard games can harm the reputation of a successful publisher such as Blizzard. Expenses for development can be considered R&D, and benefits can include invaluable training, IP and technology that can be applied to other games.”
In the seven years since it was first unofficially announced, MMOs and the industry in general have gone through some massive, sweeping changes. The subscription model is mostly dead apart from a few exceptions, and even World of Warcraft has seen a massive dip in subscribers. Free-to-play is the new norm, and it’s one that Blizzard has embraced with Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Even Starcraft II has dabbled with that realm.
DFC Intelligence’s David Cole believes that Blizzard had to pull the plug, despite the huge investment, due to the significant shift in direction that’s happened in online gaming.
“They realized that unless a big MMO is out-of-this-world unbelievable it won’t work in today’s market where it competes against a bunch of low cost options. If they felt that it just wasn’t getting to that point it makes sense to cut your losses,” he explained. “Also, you see games like League of Legends and their own Hearthstone which are doing very well on a much lower budget.”