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Postby Vyrosama » Thu Nov 08, 2007 10:29 pm

This all stems from reading Jon's link to an article about how the creators made EveOnline. I love reading game postmortems and how indy game devs rise to success starting from little to nothing.


Anway, this got me thinking about how MMOs are doing nowadays. The gaming market is now heavily saturated with MMOs. How do they survive? How many subscriptions are needed before you are positive and growing? I did a little digging and found something on subscriptions.

According to this website and the article, Eve-Online started with 800 subscriptions and now has an average subscription base of close to 175k subscriptions. Based on it's monthly subscription rate...that's a monthly revenue of 2.6million dollars....seems very lucrative.....and don't get me started with the 8~9+ million subscription base of World of Warcraft....

But the subscription based MMO isn't the only business model out there. Out of Korea, spawned the concept of an "item mall". Basically it's free to play the game but in order to customize your character's abilities/appearance/unlock extra gaming have purchase these small 'trinkets' for $1-2 a piece. Then there's the free to play with ads, or buy the game and free to play online (classic example would be diablo 1~2).

With all these various business models, it's hard to tell whether an MMO is doing sublime or subliminal solely on subscription base. And it's also hard to know if this website is accurately collecting subscription information to begin with! But regardless of all these unknown factors, it still makes me wonder how much effort and more importantly is it worth it to create a game like WoW.

More come.....
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Postby Jonathan » Thu Nov 08, 2007 11:45 pm

Something like A Tale in the Desert, which started out as two guys in a garage and continues to this day to be two guys in a garage, are extremely profitable with 2000 subs. On the flip side, the Ultima Online dev team was just fired, EA having decided that there was not enough return on investment in keeping programmers on the project.

I think MMOG devs are all secretly (or not so secretly) hoping to hit the jackpot with 200k or more subs. Few ever do. Eve is the only one I can think of that didn't start out as a AAA title.

Clearly a lot of games without pay per month models are trying to conflate accounts with paid subscriptions. Second Life is the most obvious example to me. But Dofus and Dungeon Runners are similar, as are a lot of "casual" MMOGs which don't really qualify as RPGs (think stuff marketed to tweens).

Guild Wars has not touched off a revolution in the boxed game vs. subscription model, despite having down reasonably well (at least they came out with a ton of expansions). If anything, things are going the opposite way with Hellgate: London having a subscription fee despite being a Diablo-type online experience.

A better number to compare popularity of online games with different payment models is uniques per week or uniques per month. Basically, how many people actually played your game in the past week? Presumably most people paying monthly fees don't pay the fee but fail to play the game, whereas I haven't logged in to Second Life for years despite having sent them $10 for an account. Unfortunately, devs don't release their uniques per week because that tends to be realistic instead of overhyped.

Another interesting metric is total number of hours spent playing the game in the past month over all players. This is a measure of how interesting or sticky the game is.
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Postby Dave » Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:04 am

We'll see how Blizzard does with Starcraft 2, and how they plan on matching WoW's financials. Which they probably won't/can't until the Starcraft MMO.
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Postby Jonathan » Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:48 pm

I agree. The lure of money hats is too powerful, despite the fact that MMOs have a lousy success rate. Hell, I'd be extremely surprised to see World of Starcraft numbers up in the WoW range, much less some other lesser brand developed by some other lesser dev house.
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