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 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 a new Conan game 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.
Update: The report originally stated that Funcom intends to announce three new Conan games in 2016. Three new titles are expected to be revealed, but only the first has been confirmed as a Conan game.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.