On MMO’s recent numbers

I’m the first to say Xfire numbers are unreliable. If you look at Eve-Online the game had a HUGE increase of active players during the holiday, that now seems dying down. This coincides to when they reactivated all canceled accounts for a period of time, so it may explain the surge of activity.

But the “real” numbers looked almost unaffected by that. Look at these graphs. These measure the activity in the same way of Xfire, only of all the players instead of a smaller sample. It is weird that the huge activity increase that Xfire showed is only very slightly reflected in the other graph. The recent weeks also aren’t showing the same consistent dip on Xfire. How can this be explained? Maybe they had a special promotion through Xfire that rigged those results, maybe some bug on the client or database.

In any case Eve-Online seems to have stalled during the last year, maybe reaching its full potential within the constraint of game design that sure isn’t made to be appealing to the large public (along with basic flaws that they simply decided to not address). Now it is slightly growing again, but probably as result of momentary situation related to promotions or launch of expansions. They have already another in the works where they rewrite for the 10th time the tutorials (hint: it’s gameplay that should be reworked, not the tutorial text).

Hard numbers: currently Eve-Online has 250k subs. Putting it head to head with DAoC at its peak.

Now lets see Warhammer. No real numbers to see, beside it vanishing from forums discussions and relevance overall. Xfire is all we have. Not meaningful or reliable, but reasonable. The game is relatively stable, slightly dropping as players burn out. We don’t have real subs numbers, not even projections. Sure is that we won’t have them as EA is likely not too pleased to the point of publicizing them. MJ public “target” was at least 500k, but from other interviews it was quite obvious that his and EA target potential started from 1M going up (or better, a target to reach. didn’t mean to have 1M in 1 month).

Warhammer doesn’t likely have 1M now, I doubt it has 500k. I doubt it has 400k. From Xfire and general reception it is likely that by now its success is set. Meaning that I doubt it will see a relevant increase or even a sudden relevant decrease. It is whatever it is. We can only guess that number, but we know that to sway it now it will take some “extreme triggers” that it is not realistic to expect (especially from Mythic’s righteous game design).

On Warhammer potential subscribers I’ve said a whole lot of different things. Now I’ll explain so people won’t accuse me of writing all kind of things to the different forums and then only link those that were right (I’m not one who wants to win arguments when in fault). When Mythic decided to sell out to EA, I said that Warhammer would have never surpassed DAoC at its peak. 250-260k then. This was as a reaction to the sellout. I explained that I thought it was a bad move. Mythic needed money to be more “secure”, so they went with EA that was working like a guarantee and put them out of troubles. My point was that this transition also had negative aspects to not underestimate. One of them is that if you get much more money to make the product, then this product also HAS TO be much more successful. So if Mythic could be successful by reaching a certain target, with EA’s acquisition that target would become much, much bigger. It’s like as if going from 1 to 10 Mythic didn’t want to go through all the steps, but make a big leap and find itself at 10. I’m against those sort of things.

This year, in August, I got the occasion to try Warhammer. I was surprised, found a game much better than how I was expecting. Good execution, good artistic talent and direction, overall well done and strong in potential. Under these conditions and in a moment favorable for MMO market (no matter what you are going to argue), I thought that the potential subscriptions would climb from my own first “blind” guess. So I wrote on F13 that I expected it to be between 250-500k, with the potential for more if they solved some basic problems (irony: look two posts down and there’s another revelatory in retrospective question).

Well, not too shabby for a prediction. Four months later Warhammer didn’t solve those basic problems, but made them worse in some cases. As I wrote in various occasion I don’t think the game moved in a positive direction, but actually did a number of counterproductive and wrong moves. Pretty obvious that all the potential I saw wasn’t and isn’t going to be realized. The game’s real performance seems rather close to my view.

Today, it is a meaningful thing to notice Eve-Online is probably going to be more successful than Warhammer. We won’t know when exactly since we don’t have numbers. But it is happening.

It is also an obvious defeat for all those who thought EA’s marketing power was enough to attract the big numbers.

About showing numbers and naysayers: this will never affect the market in a relevant way. Sure, forum warriors use numbers all the time to prove validity of their opinion (I did it here), but they do not influence results. If there’s a site who shows a chart of a game population going down the game won’t continue to go down because of that chart. The numbers are consequences, not causes. So: fire all marketers, hire competent game designers with eyes that can see.

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