Eve-Online surpasses Warhammer

I guess it’s worth pointing out.

Yesterday was EA financial conference and this time there is no mention of Warhammer subscription numbers in the official report. Probably because subs numbers don’t look all that awesome (if you trust x-fire, the game is steadily but slowly losing activity, that considering various factors would lead me to guess the sub number at 280k in the most optimistic case).

From other sources it was repeated the 300k number for the end of March. I don’t consider this reliable but it’s an hint that either they are where they were in December, or under but still around that number. If the numbers were higher you can bet Mythic and Mark Jacobs would be all over the forums boasting better results, instead there’s absolute silence.

So I’ll be optimistic despite all hints of numbers being lower, and say Warhammer is at 300k.

What is instead proven is that Eve-Online has 300k confirmed now.

In January Eve had 250k. Warhammer 300k. Four months later Eve gained another 50k, Warhammer is either there stalling, or losing behind the scenes.

The surpass happened.

Because, you know, after a few years every game is stale and ready to be replaced. Or so they say. I wonder where Eve will be in another year. And I wonder where Warhammer will be.

What’s up with EA? EDIT: Warhammer 300k

This is not about Warhammer, but since it was mentioned in early December on the forums I’ve been keeping an eye to the financial charts.

It was mentioned in December (and on a bunch of business sites) because the chart had a new dip, but if you look at how it was going along the year you can notice that the crisis started in September (yeah, Warhammer again, but it’s likely a coincidence and more a problem of world crisis).

Today I think is the day of their earnings conference. I have really no idea on how to read these charts as I know little to nothing about economy, but the chart today reached a new low and is under 15 (whatever 15 means).

STOCK PERFORMANCE: Shares of the Redwood City, Calif.-based company tumbled nearly 57 percent during the quarter to finish at $16.04. In Monday morning trading, the stock hit a new year low of $14.78.

I guess the next few hours will be important? Maybe investors are waiting to see what happens with the conference.

About Warhammer:

EA’s earnings call is in a few weeks and after that, there will be a lot more clarity about our numbers.

First reports already in:

Warhammer® Online: Age of Reckoning®, an MMO from EA’s Mythic Entertainment studio, ended the quarter with over 300K paying subscribers in North America and Europe.

This means 300k as December 31 2008.

Indeed. And flawless victory.

EDIT: Mark Jacobs only comment at this time:

Because not everything that I hoped to talk about was in the earnings call (they had other things to talk about obviously), I’m waiting on guidance from corporate to see if I can add a few additional bit of information that weren’t contained in the call before I write a longer post than this.

Apparently he’s pissed because EA didn’t spin the numbers enough to make them look better.

EDIT2: Comments from EA:

And while we expect to benefit in the future from increased sales from these franchises, generally games with a two on them sell better and do sell with a lower R&D budget.

drive our content direct-to-consumer. This is a strategic initiative that is very important for the long term. In FY09, we made $150 million online investment with limited associated revenue. In FY10, all significant online spending, except for the LucasArts BioWare Star Wars MMO, will be generating positive income. These investments are working. We expect over $500 million in direct-to-digital revenue in fiscal year ’10.

And also for fiscal ’10, we are going to get a full year of Warhammer subscription revenue. We talked about the fact that we are already at 300,000 subs. That is a very ratable and more predictable business, and so that is new for FY10 compared to fiscal ‘09.

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.

Warhammer has 600k subs

Accordingly to Mark Jacobs, with some approximation, the current “active” subscription numbers should be somewhere around 600k.

This is the logic:

Our retention rate is higher than 70% based on current data. DAoC was indeed 72% in North America. WAR’s number is higher and remains higher than DAoC since billing began. I’m quite happy with WAR’s numbers as they are exactly what I expected they would be.

800k is the number of registered accounts accordingly to EA (see the recent financial report).

75% is my guesstimate on retention rate, since Mark Jacobs states here that it’s higher than the 72% of DAoC.

75% of 800k is 600k.

Imho, the number will drop. By how much will depend on too many variables. The game is supposed to grow for a few months, this is what Mark Jacobs expects. But with WotLK release it will have an hard time. From January onward a lot will depend on the quality of the games, but I doubt Warhammer is going to improve. Mythic is already working to add more scenarios.

Unrelated, from Q23:

I heard that the layoffs started hitting Mythic today. Just three so far.

Warhammer DID NOT reach 800k subs

There’s a lot of confusion on the forums (and Gamespot) about EA fiscal report and Warhammer subscription numbers.

Specifically the part that gets quoted the most:

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, an MMO from EA’s Mythic Entertainment studio, sold 1.2 million copies in the quarter – with over 800 thousand current players.

The confusion is about two aspects. The first is whether 800k are real active, uncanceled accounts, or just registered accounts. The second is whether the number is as of 30 October, the day the report was compiled, or 30 September, the end of the second quarter that is subject of the report.

The first aspect is rather obvious if you just read the title of the PDF:

As you can see, it clearly states “Registered Users” and not active subscriptions.

The second can be inferred by looking at the other two press releases.

September 26

in the first week since launch over 500,000 new players have registered

October 10

today announced that 750,000 players have registered

Now, if the Fiscal report was limited to the 30 September then we would have a time paradox since Warhammer had 500k registered accounts as of 26 September, then 800k as of 30 September and finally 750k as of 10 October.

Obviously the 800k is to be put later than the last press release and probably closer to the day the fiscal report was compiled, so the end of October.

But there’s also another point to consider: gold sellers.

Let’s subtract from the 800k all those fake accounts that gold sellers made. 13k are just those that Mythic caught and banned. I expect the total number to be much, much higher.

If the CD-key system was cracked then they can create unlimited accounts, and so the number of active accounts is not in any way indicative of the success of the game.

Moral of the story: we need to wait for active subscriptions to see how successful the game is (my guess is that they are south of 500k and that they’ll have a very hard time passing that number, with WotLK release in a couple of weeks).

CCP/Eve headcount

As recent as last week:

We’ve never been shy about letting the community know approximations of the number of active subscriptions (approaching 170k), trial accounts (about 22k), peak concurrent users (34,420), staff (201), etc. Information like that is normally mentioned on the forums or in news items, so it may be hard to spot. Most of the forum regulars see the numbers and will generally pass the information along to those that ask.

Just the renovation of all the 3D models in EVE (not including the graphics engine) is about 80 people.

EVE is still growing rapidly, we’re about 2000 short of 170.000 paying subscribers. Not counting EVE China or trials.

Reaching 160K at christmas, Jan and Feb were slow, now going on 170K. That’s paying subscribers.

They seem now bigger than Mythic. But I guess it depends on what you consider “staff”.

Of those 201, 150 are working on Eve. The rest? I don’t know, but CCP is working on different projects.

And about this specific gripe, they also have something interesting to say:

player: There used to be a time when the only thing CCP thought about, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, every individual at CCP ever thought about was EVE. This was the core group of developers that made EVE, that launched EVE, that imbued EVE with life. This core group of developers is now sundered both in their minds and at thier company.

Oveur: The new MMO is being made in Atlanta to prevent this from happening. A new team is being built there to prevent this from happening.

I drink the Kool-Aid, the fact that the WoD game is being built elsewhere wipes most of my concerns. Good work.

NCSoft – Q4 2006 report

Fifth article in a series! A couple of weeks ago NCSoft release their quarterly reports about subscription numbers and financial status.

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


– Tabula Rasa close to beta and to be released in second half of 2007.
– Guild Wars skips the “spring” expansion, only one expansion to be released near the end of the year.
– Lineage 2 breaking 100k subs in the western market.
– CoH/CoV falling back to 150k.
– “All pass” service in the works (one monthly fee for all games).

Raw numbers:

1,408,170 subs worldwide (+52,200)
11,953 in the US (+2,226)

Lineage II
1,036,303 subs worldwide (-80,624)
105,039 in US + EU (+11,039)

City of Heroes
154,953 subs worldwide (that is US + EU only) (-17,467)

Guild Wars
3,122,000 boxes sold (+675,000)

Lineage is doing pretty well and currently has 400k more than its sequel. This should give a hint to all those mmorpg companies that continue to abandon their games to build stupid sequels that cannot even top the original. I repeat: in this genre sequels are stupid for a long list of reasons, and this is valid even for the “disguised” sequels, not just for those games sharing the exact same name. Anyway, Lineage seems stable or slightly growing everywhere and I also noticed the “personal accounts” are rising. Someone knows how much Koreans pay monthly?

Lineage 2 instead is like Lineage in reverse (sales went up 2% for Lineage and down 2% for Lineage 2), while one is stable but slightly growing, the other is slightly declining and losing subscriptions in a consolidated downward trend. The only point of notice is that the game is becoming successful in the western market and now has more than 100k. I’m impressed. I don’t know from where these players are coming (maybe the consequence of NCSoft aggressively countering the “free shards”?) and I DEFINITELY cannot understand what players like in this game. Maybe the lust for PvP make people digest all sort of crap. I wonder what could happen if there was in the market a vaguely decent PvP game.

CoH is losing a sensible number of subscriptions but I saw that coming. The development stalled as the staff was moved to other projects. I read that they released a new patch recently, so the subscriptions may slightly rise in the next quarter, but I doubt this game has an interesting, bright future. As for the binomial DAoC/Warhammer, only one can survive between CoH/CoV and the Marvel-branded title in the works. The game is on a (albeit long) countdown and will likely sink over time as its appeal fades (obviously that’s not something they are going to admit).

Consolidated City of Heroes/Villains franchise sales were 5.5 billion Won, down 26% QoQ due to a decrease in user base.

Not much to say about Guild Wars. In the last report I wrote that the Nightfall release made them sell another 500k and reach 3M total, so the number was already updated. It seems holding rather well. The real interesting thing is that they seem to have discarded the plan of one expansion every six months as only one is planned for this year and to be released around the release of Nightfall a year ago (October). I wonder if this is still a viable business choice.

Overall from a superficial glance at other numbers it seems that the only market sensibly growing is the European one (+68%). While the profit for the full year 06 is down a -43% over the 05. Sales are stable, while costs went up (also because of Auto Assault trainwreck).

It’s interesting to see their previsions for 2007. They expect Lineage 2 to go up by a 12%, CoH and Guild Wars to lose 15% and between a +969% and +1313% for “other” games. This last number is actually believable and even conservative as they are launching new stuff this year (Aion in Korea and Dungeon Runners and Tabula Rasa in the western market).

For 2007 business goals, NCsoft is anticipating sales to be between 358 billion Won and 367 billion Won, a 6% to 8% increase from the previous year. Operating profit is expected to be between 42 billion Won, with little change YoY and 49 billion Won, a 13% increase year over year. This guidance reflects Tabula Rasa, Aion, and several casual games officially launching within year 2007.

NCsoft’s total investment in product development (Live update cost + new game development cost) grew to approximately 90 billion Won last year from 25 billion Won in 2003. In 2007, this investment is expected to grow to 108billion Won, a 18% increase from the previous year. This strong commitment in product development reflects NCsoft’s strategy to build a strong portfolio of products to keep up with growth in online game market, that is expected to grow 30% a year.

NCsoft has built a development system to introduce at least one blockbuster MMO games and several casual online games a year. To do this, NCsoft spent 64 billion Won for new game development in 2006. This amount will grow to 80 billion Won in 2007.

I hope some of those go to Lum ;)

Tabula Rasa and Aion will officially launch in the second half of 2007, meaning that sales contribution from these products will be limited to some extent. However, games launches have certain costs associated with them, such as the purchase of game servers, the hiring game masters, and marking expenses. For these reasons, profit margin in 2007 could be lower than our mid-term target margin 20%.

In North America & Europe, Exteel, a mech shooter game and Dungeon Runners, a multiplayer action role-playing game, will officially launch in the first half of 2007. These multiplayer games will be free to download and play at the basic levels of gameplay. Additional contents will be available for a fee (in-game item sales and membership packages).

Tabula Rasa, a highly anticipated MMO, will enter a closed beta testing stage soon and will officially launch in the second half of 2007. Also an additional update to the Guild Wars franchise will go live in the second half of 2007.

As I’m against RMT I don’t like what they are doing with Exteel and Dungeon Runners. As I wrote in the past I’m willingly to pay for content, but not pay for items or other unjustified smoke and mirrors.

Finally, they also announced an “all pass” monthly subscription working along the lines of SOE one. So you can play all NCSoft games while paying one unified monthly fee, but I guess you still have to purchase the single games and eventual expansions. We’ll see if NCSoft will be able to provide a better deal.

Eve-Online quote-play

In a recent comment I wrote that I don’t like much Eve’s current direction. I’m done commenting game design so I won’t go in detail, but here some meaningful quotes.

The first comes from a dev blog and demonstrates I wasn’t so wrong:

Invention was supposed to be the revolutionary feature of Revelations and should have changed the entire science and industry genre as we know it, with the potential side effect that could change the biggest part of the player economy; Tech 2.

However, the effect that invention was supposed to bring has not yet been seen.

Only a couple players had managed to build an interface.

Then we can pass to give a look at Eve current development schedule. For reference you can use the previous battleplan and the E3 news.

The biggest disappointment to me is that the main feature of Kali seems completely GONE from their plans. Not delayed, gone. They used to describe the whole expansion as:

The upcoming expansion to EVE Online—codenamed Kali—will introduce an innovative Advanced Reactive Content System (ARCS), in which the political landscape and physical borders of nation-states within the game can be altered dynamically through the collective outcome of player actions, thus directly controlling the game universe destiny and resulting storyline.

This was in the form of “Factional Warfare” that I described throughly, analyzed in design potential and praised as one of the most interesting thing ever.


In their dev blogs there aren’t anymore references to Factional Warfare. The Kali patch isn’t anymore named Kali, but “Revelations”. And the three chunks (Spetember 06, December 06 and April 07) once again delayed. Oveur:

The engine itself is a bit different, depending on whether you are talking about our optimizations to our DX7/9 engine or the optional Vista engine – or the actual combination of both which is the big package. Currently, the big bada-boom is in Revelations 3 at the end of the year.

“End of the year” almost surely meaning you won’t see anything till 2008 and later. Another full year delay on top of the year delay on their 2006 plans.

Don’t mock me when I think of Vaporware when they talk about walking on stations with models turning their head dynamically toward noise to simulate human behaviours. From a dev blog:

This brings us to an area of computer graphics called dynamic avatar human-to-human interaction. It tries to apply knowledge derived from years of research of human body language into the actions of computer generated avatars, so that their behavior mimics human behavior without the user or NPC controller micro-managing every little twitch of the body or glance of the eyes.

This is one of the areas that we intend to research and apply to our animation system.

V – A – P – O – R – W – A – R – E

But I was writing about Factional Warfare. You would think that CCP has OODLES of time if they waste it on this kind of TOTALLY USELESS (and very, very pretentious) shit. Oveur says that Revelation 3 at the end of 2007 will be the engine upgrade to Vista. So Factional Warfare is for Revelation 2? From a dev blog:

Following Revelations 1.4, we’ll be refocusing our efforts on Revelations 2. It was covered at fanfest, that we have the hots for warfare in Revelations 2 on all levels. But what does warfare & the increased emphasis on improving current content rather than adding new stuff really mean?

So “Warfare”. No more “Factional”? Why? Just playing with names? Not adding more “new stuff”?

Uhm, no. It looks like the “increased emphasis on improving current content” means that the “Factional” is gone. Or at least that’s what I understand when they describe the new “Warfare” without the “Factional”:

We want to improve the goalsetting in warfare, by improving and adding options to player buildable infrastructure. This means improving Starbases, Outposts, Stations and Sovereignty. However, Warfare also needs something to fight with, so we want more tactical and strategic components there.

As you can imagine, this isn’t only for the people shooting, this creates goals for everyone, a fighter can’t survive without his industrial backbone. The industrialists must build the infrastructure and the merchants are there to supply the essentials you can’t acquire yourself. It’s all interconnected.

Then they go commenting fleet combat changes. Uhm, that’s a blatant U-turn. Factional Warfare was about everything but combat.

The orginal Factional Warfare was NOTHING about big ass fleet combat and uber guild PVP. It was instead a “bridge” between casual players and those big corps. It was a way to make the NPC empires an active part of the game. The kind of work that Eve needs from a very long time. See the quote above about the “Advanced Reactive Content System”. Or the bottom level of the Factional Warfare right from their own description:

The initial idea is that players can elect to take on missions as mercenaries – in which case the reward will be mainly monetary – or as enlisted soldiers, where they will be rewarded with increased standings and discounted ships and equipment. With the contract system in place alongside it, FW can be something individuals or even alliances can sign up to, with contracts for single missions or for the duration of a long-term campaign.

Whether through trade, bounty hunting, resource allocation or even combat, FW is entwined with the very EVEness of Eve itself. It is where the rich background of Eve will come to life.

This is all gone. Now “Warfare” just means a patch that will affect fleet combat. It’s a combat mechanic patch. Nothing about the original plan. Not even close. It’s a completely different direction.

Which couldn’t be put more clearly:

all Warfare improvements in Revelations 2 are aiming for the same thing. Even though it’s improving current features, it’s encouraging gameplay which not only is more fun and easier to jump into, it’s also good for the general performance of EVE.

Time to backfire on CCP? Is this the result of TomB replacing Lekjart as Lead Designer? Quoting myself at that time:

Of course these are all early claims with no substance. Yet. But mmorpgs are long term projects and the shit that happens *today* is crucial for tomorrow. When everyone will have already forgot what happened and what brought the change of pace.

Of course all these delays also mean that CCP staff is so idle and bored that they decided to keep themselves busy by working on a new MMO.

And to conclude, subscriptions news that you can compare with my previous report:

less than 20% of the EVE community have 2 or more subscriptions. The other 80+% are single account users.

We have just over 156k subscriptions and an average of 15k active trial accounts as of the reported metrics at the beginning of the month. There were 34,420 players logged in on Tranquility Sunday afternoon.

Sir Bruce, the owner of mmogchart.com is a great guy.

WoW pre-exp launch: 8M worldwide, 2M in the US

Reporting this because they give us relevant infos:

more than 2 million players in North America, more than 1.5 million players in Europe, and more than 3.5 million players in China.

My previous considerations were both right and wrong:

if nothing changes we would see the subscriptions climbing at above 8 million just by the end of September.

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.

An average of the two and we are there.

What I can see now is that the growth is still rather constant. This would mean that by the end of 2007 WoW would reach 10M worldwide, but this without counting the effect of the expansion (and the competition, but I don’t think there are any real competitors yet).

It’s possible that the expansion alone will give the game another 1M in our market (US+EU) easily. That 1/3-1/4 growth is what I would expect. We’ll see.

Also interesting to consider that both US and EU market seem to grow at a similar pace. About half a million every year.

August 2005 – 1M in the US
January 2006 – 1M in the EU (with US probably at 1.5)
January 2007 – 2M in the US, 1.5M in the EU

Those being official numbers.

My suspect here is that the growth slowed down during the 2006. But the imminent launch of the expansion already gave these numbers a boost. The 2M in NA would already include some returning players that are getting ready for the expansion launch. So the point is: how many more subscribers, beside those already back, the expansion will bring to the game?