I actually had to do a spot of Googling to find out if the Age of Conan MMO was still kicking; it’s been fours years since we last talked about it, which was shortly after it went free-to-play in a bid to keep the lights on. A successful bid, as it turns out, and not only are lights still on, but more fantasy barbarism is on the way: Not more Age of Conan necessarily, but more Conan videogames.
Funcom, the studio behind Age of Conan, has signed a deal with pleasingly-named Conan Properties to be the “preferred partner” for all videogames based on the Conan the Barbarian brand. The blend of business-speak and Conan the Barbarian—who knew he was still a brand?—is amusing, but it’s also interesting because Age of Conan was neither an out-of-the-gate hit nor a slowly-building sleeper: The average US player count for Age of Conan: Unchained on Steam hasn’t been over 100 for almost two years, and is currently languishing in the mid-30s. That’s even worse than Evolve. (It’s doing slightly better in the EU.)
Nonetheless, Funcom plans to announce three new Conan games next year, with the first to be revealed in 2016. “Conan the Barbarian is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest and most recognizable fantasy heroes, and as game developers, working with such a character and being able to draw from the fantastically detailed world of Hyboria is nothing short of a dream come true,” Funcom CEO Rui Casais said.
By all appearances, the Conan universe is an ideal setting for a dark, gritty fantasy videogame—not too far from a less-refined Witcher, really. And despite the failure of AoC to set the MMO world on fire, Conan Properties CEO Fredrik Malmberg expressed confidence in the studio, saying it “has shown they are more than capable of managing the rich heritage of Conan and to breathe new life into the world of Hyboria.” It strikes me as kind of a strange sentiment, given that it’s been so long since since Funcom has done anything noteworthy (or anything at all, really) with the property, but who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us.