The lead designer of Company of Heroes 2 spills the beans on why THQ axed Relic’s free-to-play RTS.
As much as we’re pumped about the impending release of Company of Heroes 2, there’s still a voice in the back of our heads that occasionally perks up and enquires, “Whatever happened to Company of Heroes Online?”
Relic Entertainment’s big free-to-play RTS experiment went into open beta in September 2010 to great fanfare from both journalists and gamers alike, but in March 2011 THQ elected to close the service with only a terse statement to players thanking them for their “continued support and feedback.”
So what exactly happened? We recently caught up with Company of Heroes 2′s lead designer Jason Lee to ask exactly that.
“I worked on Company of Heroes Online and that pretty much came from something that I wanted at that time along with our other multiplayer designer, because we both came from a professional Starcraft background and we wanted to see if we could take this series there. We went to [multiple] WCGs (World Cyber Games) and we talked to professionals to see if they would be interested in playing [the series], but the general feedback was that gameplay was too unpredictable,” he told us.
We asked what it was like to work on the Company of Heroes Online team when word came from THQ that they were cancelling the game, and Lee told us it “sucked” and explained that “there’s still people on the team that wish we could do something more with it.”
“Company of Heroes Online was doing pretty well actually, but it was just the timing. At that time THQ wasn’t ready for a free-to-play model. They didn’t know how to calculate revenue outcomes because they were only used to selling boxed products.”
Now Relic Entertainment is owned wholesale by SEGA, a publisher who is very much experienced in the free-to-play market with fully fledged MMORPGs like Phantasy Star Online 2 and browser games like Godsrule: War of Mortals in their stable, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that Company of Heroes Online may return in the future, albeit in a different form.
That said, in many ways Company of Heroes 2 online’s infastructure and multiplayer gameplay is heavily influenced by its now defunct online-only predecessor. Gamers only need to look towards the implementation of the new Commander system, detailed post-match interface and the fully fledged replay system for proof of that.
We recently put Relic’s highly anticipated RTS sequel through its paces and you can read our thoughts on that experience in the latest issue of FirstLook, embedded below:
To find out the latest prices and pre-order bonuses available for Company of Heroes 2, check out PreOrder-IQ.com.
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