The CEO and Founder of Sandbox Interactive, the team behind Albion Online left the company back in April and is now working for HelloFresh in Germany as the Director of Product Development. Stefan Wiezorek started his new job back in May without any public messages saying he would be departing the studio he helped to build. This, of course, raises a lot of questions as usually announcements are made when such a high position is emptied. It isn’t immediately clear on Linkedin who has taken over the CEO position. However, a post on Reddit has revealed that Albion Online Game Director Robin Henkys has taken over the role. Talking further on Reddit it was said that they didn’t go public with this information because there are users who would actively use it to discredit the game. This was also the reason they decided to stop releasing player numbers.
This comes as there has been a lot of concern recently about the state of the game. According to SteamDB, the population of Steam players is in massive decline since it released on Steam in May, 2018. According to the site, at its peak Albion Online had 2,829 Steam players and today it is down to 741. That’s a significant decline in such a short amount of time. SteamCharts shows very similar numbers for concurrent players. Meanwhile, Sandbox Interactive is saying that player numbers are fine. It should be pointed out that Albion Online’s client released first and is where the vast majority of players are. So they aren’t included in those Steam numbers, but there was a consistent decline in users when Sandbox Interactive was still releasing information related to player count.
In the past, you could look at the rankings for every person who had played that week. This meant that the players constantly had an accurate and precise count of how many people were playing Albion Online. However, it was also a disaster for player numbers as people could watch the population decline week after week, snowballing until…at least according to Reddit posts, the population dropped 90%. It was at that point Sandbox Interactive capped the number of rankings that would appear to include just the top 10,000. This change happened six months ago, long before the game was ever introduced to Steam. So there is no way to know what an accurate player count currently is.
On Steam Albion Online has received mixed reviews. Currently, 68% of the 622 reviews are positive. Many of the negative reviews point out that the game is laggy as well as being a grind that just isn’t fun to play. There are also a number of people who accuse the game of being pay-to-win. Positive reviews point out that there are a huge variety of things for you to do in the game, including ganking players in PvP; who doesn’t love to do that from time to time? The sandbox nature seems to be the biggest draw of the game, no need to do quests or follow a main story. If you want to spend your life working with hide, you can do that. They are very straightforward and accepting of the grind in the game and suggest that if you don’t like to grind it isn’t your kind of game.
On Metacritic, it has a Metascore of 72 based on 8 critical reviews of the game. The highest two are scores of 80 and those are from MMORPG.com and Game Revolution. The lowest score of 60 was given by three sites: DarkStation, Merlin’in Kazani, and The Overpowered Noobs. User Score is at 4.6 based on 85 ratings, and 8 of those reviews are a perfect 10 while 29 of them give a rating of 0.
Albion Online hasn’t had it easy. In August it suffered crippling DDOS attacks after it took action against gold sellers in the game. Sandbox Interactive was even blackmailed and served ransom demands! This issue plagued the game for several weeks before it was over. At one point in time emergency teleports had to be added to the main hub because too many people were trying to get in it at once and the entire area is surrounded by PvP maps. All in all, too many people is a good problem to have! In January the development team suffered a round of layoffs. During beta testing, the dev team increased to over 50 people and the layoff saw that number reduced to 31 with additional support from freelancers. This sort of thing is common right after an MMO releases as they brought on more people to get the game out the door and it doesn’t represent anything except the normal development cycle. However, there were many people attempting to claim otherwise.
There is actually a collection of people who go out of their way to make their displeasure about the things Sandbox Interactive does known. They can often be found wherever Albion Online is being talked about calling the developers liars and accusing them of moderating any negative comments about the studio or the game. They claim that the official subreddit for Albion Online is moderated by Sandbox Interactive employees who abuse their moderation powers. To combat this they made a subreddit of their own, which managed to get 79 followers in 7 months. The last post on the subreddit was made a month ago. One of the moderators of that subreddit seems to post about Albion Online on the MMORPG subreddit several times a day.
What should be the takeaway from all of this? Yes, Sandbox Interactive’s CEO left and yes, the game’s numbers on Steam aren’t amazing. That only tells a small portion of the story. Yes, Albion Online is unapologetically a grindy game and thus not for everyone. Albion Online has also had a hard time since it launched and is working with a small, indie team. If you’re interested in trying out Albion Online and deciding for yourself if it’s a game you want to play head over to the official subreddit where you can find trial keys that give you 7 days of gameplay.