Guild Wars hits 3M (boxes) and patches Most Requested feature

What a perfect occasion to write about something I left behind. My notes and comments on NCSoft seasonal reports.

Fourth article in a series.

The .zip file with the original pdf document can be downloaded here.

Summary:
– Lineage I&II and CoH stable
– Guild Wars doing “okay”
– Dungeon Runners still not here
– Tabula Rasa not in sight

But let’s start from Guild Wars. I was going to archive the press release when I noticed this part:

Reconnect After Disconnect — One of the most player-requested features comes to Guild Wars! If a player gets dropped from the game due to a connection problem, and that player can reconnect within ten minutes, the player’s character will be relocated to the spot of disconnection. If the character was performing an action, such as casting a spell or auto-attacking a target, that character will complete the action as if still connected. If a player is in a group when disconnected, the other members of the party will be notified about the player’s connection problems.

WOOOOOT!

At last! It’s since I played for the first time in beta that I ask for that. Finally my first complaint got resolved and I’m happy. Good work.

The press release was to announce they sold 3 Millions of boxes:

December 13, 2006 (BELLEVUE, WA) — Fueled by sales of the hit game Guild Wars NightfallTM, the latest release in the award-winning Guild Wars® franchise, sales for one of the world’s leading subscription-free online roleplaying games have surpassed three million units worldwide in a little more than a year and a half.

Notes:
– That’s the cumulative number of all three expansions. That would mean: Prophecies + Factions + Nightfall = 3M
– As of September 06 they were at 2.4M, so Nightfall has sold around 500k till now (roughly).

Raw numbers:

Lineage
1,355,970 subs worldwide (-43,939)
9,727 in the US (+42)

Lineage II
1,116,927 subs worldwide (-22,001)
94,000 in US + EU (+10,779)

City of Heroes
172,420 subs worldwide (that is US + EU only) (+1,420)

There’s not the need to go in detail for each as the situation seems stable in all three cases. I’m quite surprised that CoH is holding that well. This year it didn’t have the help of the release of a major expansion as it happened a year ago with CoV. Since its release CoH sat at around 170k and aside the highs and lows it’s still holding surprisingly well, especially for a game whose development cycle I consider particularly lacking. As it is happening to CCP also Cryptic is now busy with the development of a brand new game (for Marvel) so I’m quite sure CoH will be left progressively behind as their efforts concentrate more on the “new”. It will be interesting how the game will perform in the next months. For now it is doing much better than how I would have “predicted”.

There’s also a positive note:

We are revising up our guidance for year 2006 to 339 billion Won on the top line from 330 billion Won and 39 billion Won in operating profit from 20 billion Won.

The primary reasons for the increase in profits are: (i) better-than-expected sales for the world’s leading MMORPG franchise Lineage, Lineage II, and City of Heroes/Villains, (ii) decrease in major costs such as payroll and advertising, and (iii) the one-time write-off of Auto Assault-related expenses in Q2, which amounted to roughly 11.2 billion Won.

It’s actually odd because as written above the two Lineages are holding well, but they hardly seem doing “better than expected”, so there must be something going on behind the scenes that I cannot find with this superficial glance.

For retrospective it’s also worth going back to the beginning of the year and give a better look at that “performance”:

First report of the year: earnings guidance 353 billion Won, down from 396 – operating profit 50 billion Won, down from 66
Second report : earnings guidance 330 billion Won, down from 353 – operating profit 20 billion Won, down from 50
Third (and last: earning guidance 339 billion Won, up from 330 – operating profit 39 billion Won, up from 20

In 2005 the sales were 338 billion Won and profit much higher, 76 billion Won (-49%).

The drop in the second report was due to not so good results of Guild Wars and the Auto Assault write off.

From the second report:

In North America and Europe, NCsoft will launch multiplayer online games such as Dungeon Runners in Q4, 2006, followed by Exteel and Soccer Fury.

Tabula Rasa will enter a limited closed beta testing stage during the second half of 2006.

A bit behind the schedules. I wonder how far Tabula Rasa is from release. Maybe May 07?

With Nightfall out I’m now waiting for the first reports about Guild Wars spring’s expansion. It will be interesting to see in which direction they will go. The game needs a “shift”, something that can rise some hype.

Eve-Online at 150k

It was confirmed on the boards, so I take the occasion to report it.

Eve-Online had 145k this November (it was at 142k at the beginning of September, so it’s sitting more or less on the same level) and it’s fair to assume that it gained at least another 10k with the release of the latest patch/expansion.

The number of concurrent players seem to confirm this as they hit another record this Sunday, bordering 33k online at the same time.

I was also trying to compare Eve numbers with City of Heroes numbers to see if I could find a pattern in common, as it’s another game we have detailed statistics about. But I noticed that CoH has a very odd and irregular behaviour with the subs/concurrent user peak ratio. Maybe I’ll comment about this later.

Eve-Online IS still growing

Yesterday Eve-Online had more than 30k players active online (30.538).

Active subscribers are currently at 142k.

I wish I could say the same about DAoC.

In the meantime I’m waiting CCP to actually develop and show something. They patched recently but it was just a whole lot of work on the backend in preparation for Kali (performance improvements are always great, though). I was expecting that patch to come for the end of July, instead it arrived for the end of August. Still no mention when we’ll finally see something done. What about the Battleplan?

I cannot avoid to think to Mythic everytime. They are like one the negative image of the other. Eve-Online has a great direction, a growing, dedicated team, but still cannot manage to develop things at an acceptable pace and respect deadlines (but, despite this, the growth of players is rewarding them even if development is super slow). Instead DAoC has a bad direction, a costantly shrinking dev team and ambition to “feed” Warhammer, but they always respect deadlines (but the players feel directly that the project is just being left behind and are trickling off).

When is Kali One coming, you ask? I’d like to see it in the end of September, but Dragon still needs maintenance on TQ, so we can’t assign as many resources over to the final push of Kali One as we wanted.

The communication through the dev blogs is excellent, though. Thanks a lot. That’s the VERY BEST communication I’ve seen in this industry so far.

If someone from CCP passes here: could we have a “dev tracker” page with links to dev posts on the forums? That would be nice.

P.S.
That blog from Tuxford about fleet battles is great (you can still see in the dev blog with the title “post vacation thoughts”). Good ideas as well. Reduce the range of ships, formation flight, AoE weapons and directional defences. All great. The problem is to get them in the game in the foreseeable future. Should I remind you that formation flight was promised for release? ;p

Usually the large battles are completely ignored in game design and nothing is made to make them more fun and interesting.

WoW still growing?

Raph does SirBruce and found another investor presentation from Vivendi.

Or maybe not. In fact it the same I already commented, but I was somewhat fooled and went analyzing again the whole thing.

Here is some extrapolated data/best guesses I taken out from the graph, comparing it with the other official sources.

March 05 – 1.4 western [graph] – 550 eu – 850 na [March 17 press release, 500k eu – 800k us]
June 05 – 1.8 (+4) western [graph] – 850 (+3) eu – 950 na (+1)
September 05 – 2 (+2) western (+2) [graph] – 900 eu (+0.5) – 1.1 na (+1.5) [August 30 press release, 1M us]
December 05 – 2.4 (+4) western [graph] – 950 (+0.5) eu 1.4 na (+3)
March 06 – 2.7 (+3) western [graph] – 1.1 (+1.5) eu – 1.6 na (+2) [January 19 press release, 1M eu]

March 05 to 06 – (+1.3M) western – (+ 550) eu – (+750) us
March 05 to 06 – (+4M?) eastern
March 05 to 06 – (+5M) worldwide

However the graph seems a bit imprecise. If we follow the progress of the official press releases this is what we have:

March 17: 1.5M worldwide
June 14: 2M worldwide
August 30: 4M worldwide
November 8: 4.5M worldwide
December 20: 5M worldwide
January 19: 5.5 worldwide
February 28: 6M worldwide
May 10: 6.5M worldwide

The substantial jump between June and August is because of the launch in China. If we follow just the data coming from the press releases this is how the graph would look:

The red line is the progression shown on the graph, the blue line the progress shown through the press releases. They are similar but I guess they tried to make the graph and the progression look more uniform.

In November they launched in Taiwan. Now my suspect is that the graph was slightly rigged to show better numbers for the western market and impress the investors. I believe that the curve is flatter than that and that the ratio could be more unbalanced toward the eastern market if we consider all the elements.

Let’s have a glance at the future. The trend of the red curve is rather stable, so it’s possible to extend it ideally. Well, if nothing changes we would see the subscriptions climbing at above 8 million just by the end of September. But, hey, it IS September and no other press releases arrived from Blizzard. No 7M worldwide being surpassed. If we also take into consideration the last quarters +2 or +3 on the NA market we would also have the subscriptions for NA dangerously near or above 2M. While if we take the progression from March to September of the last year we would have instead a +2.5, putting the NA subscribers at around 1.8/1.9M *right now*.

If that’s true it would be a safe bet saying that the NA subscribers will climb above 2M BEFORE the launch of the expansion. Again, I doubt it. We’ll see if I’m wrong but I’m not so sure that the NA subscribers are even above 1.5M. That would disprove the data we have now, though. But that’s my suspect.

I’ll wait to see if there will be new announces about our market in the next few months that disproves my theories.


Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the NA market to show that kind of growth between the summer of the last year and now. I thought that the european market would have surpassed it at some point. Instead, if the data on that graph is correct, not only it is still smaller than the NA one, but also growing more slowly. While my estimate gave the NA players at around 1.3M right now, nearly at zero growth. Instead the game is still growing.

It would be interesting to see the results of the 2Q and 3Q 2006 on that graph as it is much more interesting to see how things are going right now that the game is launched in every major region, with the expansion still months away.

I agree with what Raph wrote here:

Given that curve, we can see that WoW likely has not yet stopped growing. It has a tremendous amount of headroom in Asia, and maybe another couple of quarters worth of growth in the West. It looks to me like WoW will crest around 3.5m in the West. Asia is anyone’s guess; the curve can be severely “kinked” by the appearance of a major competitor, and Asia is more likely to create one of those than the West, in my estimation.

With the difference that I think that a major competitor could appear in Asia, but affecting exclusively asian players as I don’t have even an ounce of faith that one of those mmorpgs in development such as Huxley, Sun and all those new titles popping up every day is going to draw much attention in our market.

But hey, there’s Warhammer. It plugs right in a kind of gameplay that is completely screward in WoW: the PvP. So it could become a better answer to a demand coming from the players. DAoC in the last years has been more popular in europe than in NA. WoW demonstrated that the european market is at least as big as the NA one, you just need the right offer. Moreover it seems to me that european players are much more inclined toward a PvP game and the Warhammer brand has always been stronger here.

Ideally Mythic *could* be Blizzard’s most serious competitor.

NCSoft – Q2 2006 report

Third article in a series, this time also F13 gave a quick glance at NCSoft subs numbers and financial results.

The .zip file with the original pdf document can be downloaded here.

To begin with, the official words about the results and their plans for the near future:

We have reduced our previous earnings guidance to 330 billion Won from 353 billion Won on the top line and to 20 billion Won from 50 billion Won in operating profit. While Lineage franchise sales remained steady, this revision in guidance reflects Auto Assault’s poor sales performance and lowered Guild Wars sales projection as compared with our previous forecast.

Guild Wars Nightfall, the third and latest campaign in the Guild Wars franchise will launch globally in the second half of 2006.

In North America and Europe, NCsoft will launch multiplayer online games such as Dungeon Runners in Q4, 2006, followed by Exteel and Soccer Fury.

Tabula Rasa will enter a limited closed beta testing stage during the second half of 2006.

Summary:

– Unsurprising bad sales for Auto Assault (as SirBruce anticipated)
– Not so good as expected sales for Guild Wars recent standalone expansion
– Dungeon Runners out before the end of the year
– Tabula Rasa still not near release (as anticipated)

There are so many numbers in these reports that it’s not so easy to draw conclusions but Auto Assault is actually the main reason why they reported a net loss. F13 says that the net loss was of ~US$230,000, while there would have been a net income of ~US$12.8 million without the Auto Assault write off. Oddly enough 1 million Korean Won is about the same of 1 million dollars.

The subs numbers are something I can digest better. Extrapolated data:

Lineage
1,399,909 subs worldwide
9,685 in the US

There was a huge drop of 800k in the first quarter of this year. The negative trend continues but not as bad as it was, the game loses only another 100k or so in the last three months. F13 says the subs are decreasing but still better than how they were a year ago, but from what I see this isn’t true. Exactly one year ago Lineage exceeded 1.8M of active subs. So 400k more than what it has right now. To notice that in December of the last year it had more than 2.2 millions. It basically lost 1 million in six months. In the US the game is stable around those 9k.

Lineage II
1,138,928 subs worldwide
83,221 in US + EU

The game lost 200k from December to March, now it loses another 200k from March to June. During the last year this game lost half of the players it had in Korea and now the numbers don’t look anymore all that crazy as they were. It was holding well because of the launch in China, but even there it went from 700k to 200k in the span of a year. Even in this case I don’t see how the claim on F13 is correct since the game had more than 1.8 millions during the same period of the last year, that’s 700k less, not more. It’s also interesting to notice that in Korea the highest concurrent users peak has remained relaitively constant, even if the game went from 1 million of subs to 500k.

City of Heroes
171,000 subs worldwide (that is US + EU only)

The game loses 1k. There was a rumor again coming from F13 saying that the subs fell to just something more than 100k. I didn’t bite the leaf and it looks like my guess was correct, the game is holding well for the moment. After the release of City of Villains it lost something and that’s probably even the trend for the future. The game doesn’t seem to have a very good stickiness and the players need a motivation to continue to invest on this game. I didn’t see any announcements about a future expansion or new developments, so I suspect the game will start to leak subs at an increased rate if they don’t find ways to rise the interest again (and the patch cycles are abysmally slow).

Auto Assault
?

Uhm.. No subs numbers for this game. NCSoft considered it a failure and I think noone is surprised. Till we don’t have any better source I’ll stick with that 10k guess.

Guild Wars
2M boxes sold worldwide.

That number is almost all about the US+EU market since the game didn’t sell much in the other countries. After seeing the last expansion constantly on top of the charts I was expecting to see the total number of boxes sold at around 2.5 millions, instead it looks like it sold only 400k or less. I still think the game is doing rather well and proportionately to its “worth”, overall. I’ll write some more about this below.


General considerations: there’s one aspect in what F13 wrote that is correct, while the subs in Korea for Lineage and Lineage 2 dropped consistently, it looks like the “sales” remained quite constant. So here I really don’t know what to say since I have no clue about how things work and how it can be possible. The game doesn’t look that popular anymore but it seems that NCSoft still gains from it. The two games together represent still 70% of NCSoft total income (of which, 55% just in Korea).

Now what I’m noticing with some very rough math is that 40% of Lineage 1&2 subs (1 million of subs) is coming from countries not listed in their region graph:

By region, Korea stood at 55% of total net sales, North America at 18%, Europe 11%, Japan 9%, and royalties accounted for 7%.

This is what NCSoft is cashing, right? If this is true it basically means that 40% of those subs only consist in 7% of the net sales, which tells a lot about how much money is actually coming back from those countries. Apply this reasoning to WoW and all those millions of subscriptions coming from China and you can see how the success of the game needs to be recalibrated (and we already knew how cheap is playing games in those countries).

I mean, the net sales for both of those games in Korea are 47 billion Won, only 0.2 billion Won are coming from other games. But 40% of what we consider subscribers for those games aren’t directly property of NCSoft but come in the form of Royalties. Well, these royalties only bring in their pockets 5.7 billion Won. So those 40% of subs only bring a “real” 12% income.

About Guild Wars. As I wrote above I think the success of the game is proportionate to its worth, even if I was expecting this last expansion to sell more. Now the point is that the expectations of both Arena.net and NCSoft were consistently more optimistic. I don’t know if I read all these numbers correctly but Arena.net still operates at a loss. Despite the latest sales it still loses more than one million won this year (and I really don’t know how to read the charts, are those numbers cumulative between 2Q 06 and 1Q 06 or they need to be summed?). If we look at what happened before we see that it lost 11 billion Won in 2004 and another 4 billion Won in 2005 (even here, it’s 15 billion total or the chart is progressive?). When exactly are they expecting to see profits instead of losses?

They surely have a great technology but it’s still unlikely that Guild Wars will see an increase of sales (if I read those charts correctly). Each expansion will likely sell less than the one before just because the game and technology they sell is still essentially the same, but still sold at full price. I still think that the game IS successful. It is one of the few at the top of the charts and sold more than two millions of boxes. Now the point is to consider if the business model they tried was viable or not, because, again, the game performed rather well.

At the same time the “operating profit”, that is the net sales less the operating costs is still positive everywhere. So Arena.net is leaking money or not?

Payroll costs in overseas consolidated subsidiaries were 9.1 billion Won, up 7% QoQ. This is due primarily to staff increases at the company’s ArenaNet studio in NA.

Total headcount for NCsoft and its subsidiaries was down 1% QoQ.

In North America, revenue increased thanks to the successful Q206 launch of Guild Wars Factions.

A mystery.

I also wonder were are counted the costs of Tabula Rasa development.

Of those 330 billion Won they are “predicting” for the end of the year, only 110 they have collected in this half. So they expect to reach 220 (100% increase) in the next six months? How? The only two games coming out are Dungeon Runners and the new expansion for Guild Wars.

CoX and Auto Assault subs

SirBruce on Q23 about the subscription numbers of CoX and Auto Assault, related to yesterday’s layoff news:

The rumor reported on f13 is just flat out wrong. An unnamed source close to the games in question has indicated to me that CoH is at about 160K right now, and that AA is over “a little higher” than 10K.

I’m reporting this because it makes sense.

You can see my report for Q1 06. CoX had around 180k by the end of March, it’s just not possible that it lost 40% of the subscribers in a couple of months. Not even with a total revamp gone completely wrong.

About Auto Assault, well, they were just clueless if they were expecting something else.

Plus some infos about Guild Wars that were known:

Guild Wars sold 1.5 million of it’s initial game, and about 500K so far for the expansion. It certainly doesn’t have 2 million active players. Even if everyone buys the expansion, you’re still not going to make anyway NEAR the money would would have with an MMO. I mean, an MMO is basically like selling a .5 – 1.0 boxes per month per subscriber. You just can’t compete with that revenue stream with a non-sub title unless your MMO does really poorly.

Guild Wars was an experiment, and although it’s sold well for a PC game title, it’s not produced anywhere near the MMO levels of revenue NCSoft wanted. The idea was to see if 5-10x as many people would play an almost-MMO as a non-MMO, if there was no monthly fee. Answer: No.

Not really agree with his analysis, though. Guild Wars isn’t a mmorpg that could have gathered millions of paying subscribers and, in fact, I believe that the 1.5 – 2 million boxes sold ARE 4-5x the number of active subscribers it could have brought along (if not less).

Even here it wasn’t smart to expect much more. If they were.

NCSoft – Subscription numbers for Q1 2006 (and more)

(previous report)

This last report arrived much earlier than expected. We have already the results updated to the end of March 06.

The .zip file with the original pdf document can be downloaded here.

Before going in detail I underline the fact that Tabula Rasa may not be ready for this year and get delayed again. My comment: they say “conservative asssumption”, I say “it’s pretty sure”. Along with Vanguard this is another game that seems to fear the public but sooner or later they’ll have to face it. And then we’ll see how quickly all the hype will melt. You can hide only for so long. Both Garriott and McQuaid are victims of their own success.

Here are the three pages mirrored with the detailed numbers for every game:
Detailed report for Lineage
Detailed report for Lineage II
Detailed report for City of Heroes and Guild Wars

Extrapolated data:

Lineage
1,497,297 subs worldwide
9.759 in the US

These numbers are rather shocking and I even find hard to believe them. In four months L1 lost nearly 800k, all of them in Korea. There must be a logic explanation because the profit didn’t budge (see below) and the highest concurrent user peak doesn’t mirror the loss. The number of subscriptions in NA instead looks constant, with a negligible +700 subs in the last four months. Constant also the performance of the game in the other territories (+40k in China).

Lineage II
1,302,340 subs worldwide
89,337 in US + EU

L2 loses another 200k in these last four months, again the loss is all localized in Korea. And again without a significant change in the highest concurrent user peak. The game lost 50k in China (looks like they moved on L1) and is up 13k in EU+US. Notice the trend: subs down in Korea and up in the western market. Things are really odd. 90k in our market is truly surprising for a game like L2. In particular so long after release. It is also possible that this is due to a major update that drew the attention of some players. It looks like it worked better for the western market than the Korean one. Two scenarios (about Korea’s reaction): the players are pissed off by the changes (or) the competition is becoming so strong that it just wasn’t enough.

City of Heroes
182,858 subs worldwide (which is US + EU only)

This seems to hold rather well (-12k) considering there were zero updates in the last months. Development is slow but the retention seems decent. My idea is that the game has a very high churn but still appeals to new players and many former subscribers often return for some fun. I see it as a game with “loose ties” but where former players gladly return for some familiar fun.

Guild Wars
Roughly 1,5M boxes sold in US + EU, which is the great majority of the market.

Not much to comment here. The game seems to do fairly well and it will be interesting to see the sales of the recently released expansion. I’m relly curious about why the game wasn’t accepted at all in Korea. You would expect products to be more or less popular, but the difference is just too huge to be seen as just “different taste and preference”.

General considerations: recently NCSoft released a pretentious press release stating that Lineage 2 “reached more than 14-million customers”. We already know that these are opened accounts and not active subscribers. Looking at the negative trends I underlined above I think it was used as damage control. I don’t know the situation of the market in Korea but it looks like the competition is getting more rabid and NCSoft doesn’t seem to have an easy life. The loss in both L1 and L2 could be the result of this increasing competition and Blizzard’s counterattack (archived since it risked to vanish from the internet). Interesting because Blizzard is pushing to impose the monthly fee as the standard even in Korea. It’s also interesting to notice that the highest concurrent user peaks for both L1 and L2 aren’t so huge. Right now WoW outperforms both by a wide margin in both NA and EU. At the matter of facts it looks like the Korean market needs to be downsized from the fancy image we got of it along these years. It’s still huge and more varied, but there are different trends going on that must be understood and that make it appear much better than how it actually is.

Some other facts extrapolated from their “Result Explanation”:

For the quarter ending March 31, 2006, consolidated net sales declined to 78 billion Won, down 19% QoQ. Operating profit was 8.7 billion Won, down 57% QoQ and pretax profit was 10.1 billion Won, a decrease of 56% QoQ.

Now I’m not a market analyst so it’s kind of hard to interpret these numbers correctly, but I’ll add some more quotes that I find interesting:

Sales Mix by Geography

By region, Korea stood at 63% of total net sales, North America at 15%, Europe 5%, Japan 10%, and royalties accounted for 7%.

For Q4 2005 it was 51% Korea and 27% NA. It’s interesting how the penetration in Europe is really small, despite WoW demonstrated that there’s a potential market bigger than the one in NA.

Online Game Sales Mix by Games

Breaking out sales by product showed Lineage, Lineage II, City of Heroes/Villains, and Guild Wars at 42%, 40%, 9%, and 9% respectively in online game sales.

Consolidated Lineage sales were 30 billion Won, up 1% QoQ.
Lineage sales in Korea were 28.3 billion Won, up 2% QoQ.
Lineage sales in overseas consolidated subsidiaries (North America and Japan) were 1.8 billion Won, a decrease of 300 million Won.

Consolidated Lineage II sales were 29.1 billion Won, down 4% QoQ.
Lineage II sales in Korea were 20.7 billion Won, with little change QoQ.
Lineage II sales in overseas consolidated subsidiaries were 8.4 billion Won, a decrease of 1.1 billion Won.

Consolidated City of Heroes/Villains franchise sales were 6.5 billion Won, down 58% QoQ due to decreases in box sales for City of Villains in North America and Europe.
In Korea, City of Hero officially launched on March 22.

Guild Wars sales were 6.3 billion Won, down 57% QoQ.
These decreases came primarily from a decline in box sales QoQ in North America and Europe and the disappearance of additional revenue recognized in 4Q ’05 from changes in the revenue recognition method.
Guild Wars officially launched on January 27 in Japan.

Exteel officially launched on January 25 in Korea.

In Korea, operating profit was 10 billion Won, with little change QoQ.

In North America and Europe, operating profit turned to red. The primary reason for this loss was a decline in box sales for City of Villains and Guild Wars.

In Japan, operating profit was 3.3 billion Won, a result from the continued strong Lineage franchise sales and Guild Wars official launch.

And more juicy tidbits, with a (possible) interesting announce:

As we did not have any major product launch in 1Q ’06, our financial results for the quarter have weakened QoQ. However, these results are not materially different from what we originally anticipated.

However, we have reduced our previous earnings guidance to 353 billion Won from 396 billion Won on the top line and to 50 billion Won from 66 billion Won in operating profit.

This reflects the possibility that Auto Assault and City of Heroes/Villains could miss ‘06 sales targets. In addition, we take a conservative assumption that Tabula Rasa will not officially launch in 2006. We also carefully concluded that it would take more time to fully establish our casual games business in Korea.

NCsoft has been working hard to consistently deliver a portfolio of high quality, globally competitive game titles. Blockbuster projects such as Tabula Rasa, Aion and Lineage III along with unannounced titles from the company’s Orange County, California studio, and the recently announced 3rd party studio, Spacetime from Austin, Texas are in full swing with quality game developers. In addition, we are diversifying our portfolio with games in newer genres, such as Soccer Fury, Dungeon Runners as well as a number of titles being developed in Korea that are yet to be announced.

NCsoft has for the past couple of years been focusing on building a network of development and publishing organizations in key markets around the world. Rather than being bound by short term results, NCsoft has been focusing on executing our strategy of creating a network of best-of-breed local development talents around the world that outputs a steady pipeline of contents onto a global publishing infrastructure.

NCsoft is well underway for completing this infrastructure by the end of 2006. As part of this effort, NCsoft plans to integrate all of its services including account management, billing, and authentication by the end of 2006 in Korea. That will be followed with the adoption of a unified integration plan for all NCsoft services across the globe. This platform will create enormous value for not only for NCsoft customers but for the developers around the world as well. Ultimately, NCsoft believes that building this unified global online platform will enhance its leadership position in the global online game space.

NCsoft believes that 2007 will be the year that all these efforts will bear fruit.

By the way, things are rather confusing here about who is doing what. See image and previous speculations.

They have huge ambitions there, with huge risks. I’ve already written my opinion about this portfolio strategy, but it will be interesting to see the impact it will have on copycats like SOE.

They are going to inflate the market in an unprecedented way. I don’t think it’s a wrong assumption to say that what will prevail will be the quality, and not the number of titles. But one thing is sure: the market is going to becoming more and more chaotic and disorienting.

SirBruce is still alive

And he has somewhat updated his charts even if he still displays old data or really bad guesses that aren’t really that useful to interpret the situation.

Let’s see if I can review the “scores” better:

World of Warcraft is given at 4.5 millions when we know that it should be above six. At least till The9 doesn’t blow up in China.

Lineage I & II have obsolete or wrong data, I have the most recent numbers in my last report.

City of Heroes/Villain is also at 190k instead of the old 150k on the chart.

Final Fantasy XI doesn’t release numbers since early 05 (I’m waiting for the new census, hopefully/probably after ToA’s launch) but the game seems holding well in Japan, while not so well in the USA. My guess is that it has probably lost 100-150k and it should be currently at roughly 500k.
EDIT: we got a recent press-release with the launch of the game on the Xbox360:
“more than 500,000 players, and 1.7 million characters”

SOE’s numbers aren’t anymore reliable in any way after the mess they did with the Station pass. EQ Classic at 400k (still) is a myth that noone even remotely believes but SirBruce. EQ2‘s subscribers, even if maybe rising slightly in the last months, should be still less than 250k (but at least more stable than any other SOE’s title) and SWG is probably closer to 100k than it is to 200k.

Dark Age of Camelot doesn’t have updated numbers and I doubt Mythic will release something. But it should be surfing the 150k wave. With a not-so-encouraging trend, though.

Eve-Online is given below 80k. Old data. The last number I saw was roughly two weeks ago and it was 114k. It is possible they are losing some, but they should be able to retain the 100k at least till the next significant update (and a lot will depend on it).

What’s left? Other mmorpgs are bread crumbs or odd models that it is not useful to compare. Not relevant to my eyes and to the number game.

NCSoft – Subscription numbers for Q4 2005

NCSoft finally released a detailed report for the previous year. You can get the zipped .pdf directly from here.

These are the three pages you may find more interesting:
Detailed report for Lineage
Detailed report for Lineage II
Detailed report for City of Heroes and Guild Wars

This is the data I extrapolated:

Lineage
2,293,227 subs worldwide
9,059 in US

Lineage II
1,525,497 subs worldwide
76,435 in US + EU

City of Heroes
194,000 subs worldwide (which is US + EU only)

Oddly enough it seems that Lineage gained a huge number of subscribers, in particular in Korea and at the loss of Lineage 2 that goes down from 2+ millions worldwide. Like if they got swapped. With China also contibuting to the loss of L2. Lineage instead gains 400k just in Korea and in the last three months of the year.

City of Heroes has gained nearly 50K in the last three months of 2005 and probably thanks to the release of City of Villains. Looking at the general trend it seems the game suffered heavily WoW’s release (it was down to 124k) but continued to grow steadily from there.

I also notice that in Korea the number of concurrent users compared with the total subscription is *extremely low*. When Lineage was above 2 millions subs the highest daily peak was barely above 130k. The subscriptions are roughly FIFTEEN TIMES the number of the daily peak. In the US that daily peak would correspond on average to 500-700k subs max. Definitely not anything like two millions, and consider that in Korea they don’t even have all the different timezones that keep the US players way more spread over the hours. In China this is even crazier, the total number of subscriptions could go up to TWENTY TIMES the number of the daily peak.

Considering City of Heroes, the highest daily peak is also very low (23k for 190k subs) if you compare it with the numbers coming from DAoC (roughly around 30k for something like 160-180k subs) or Eve (22k for 100k subs).

It is even more odd if you compare those numbers with those from Lineage 2. With only 76k of subs the daily peak goes up to 28k. Only 1/3 of the CoH subscribers logs in during a day, compared to the 60% of L2 subscribers logging in during a day. It’s like looking at two extremes…

Impressive also the numbers of Guild Wars. In Korea it failed completely but it got nearly 1,300k accounts activated in the western market (US+EU).