Age of Empires Online has shifted into stagnation and decline -- and done so intentionally. So why did Microsoft Studios decide to all but abandon the future of this game? In short, the title launched with far too little content, a bad business model, and couldn't crank out the goods fast enough to retain an audience. This resulted in a sharp drop-off from 100,000 players to 15,000 in a few months.
Executive Producer Kevin Perry criticized the game's launch at GDC Europe, pointing at its skimpy features (including only two civilizations at launch) and bad public perception: "You don't get a soft launch for a branded title. Players come there for your brand. You only get word-of-mouth once. Whenever we got new players, they always came in with the overhead, 'but I heard this game sucks.' That hill was extremely difficult to climb."
Even after tinkering with the game's cost, adding in more content, and figuring out ways to allow players to spend more money, the company ultimately realized that the players were mostly demanding new content which couldn't be generated to make a profit. "The content itself was too expensive to create," Perry admitted. "We did do a lot of things right, but they weren't enough to actually save the game."