Age of Empires Online content was too expensive to produce, too sparse for players

Age of Empires Online spent a little more than a year before development was halted and much of the team laid off. In retrospect, Microsoft Studios executive producer Kevin Perry says the business and production models were flawed from the outset.

At a GDC Europe 2013 presentation reported by Polygon, Perry said it didn't launch with "enough stuff" and was missing key features like the popular Skirmish mode. On top of that, he said it was a mistake to soft-launch the game, since it was based on a popular franchise and "you only get word-of-mouth once."

What hurt the game the worst, though, was the business model. Perry said that the $20 price point for content was too high for casual players to jump in, and that it only launched with $75 worth of purchasable content on the whole. That meant that whales--big spenders that free-to-play games usually rely on to foot most of the bill--had a de facto spending cap. A subsequent price reduction to $10 for content sent a message that "the content isn't worth very much," said Perry.

"Existing players had finished everything we had to offer, at least everything they wanted to play that we had to offer, and wanted a deeper experience," Perry said. "They wanted more polish, more content. I came, unfortunately, to the real realization that I was treating the wrong wound. The business model, that needed to be fixed, wasn't the big problem; the production model was the big problem. The content itself was too expensive to create."