Game talkWow reaches 9 million

 Posted by (Visited 4961 times)  Game talk
Jul 242007
 

Gamasutra – World of Warcraft Hits 9 Million Subscribers

And yes, they mean actual players (a lot of people seem to think that WoW’s numbers are “registered user” figures, but they’re not).

  24 Responses to “Wow reaches 9 million”

  1. Before the disgust and various agreeing with Richard Bartle occurs, I think everyone needs to consider that WoW is now starting to age, and there will eventually (and gradually) be a dispersal of these nine million players to other online worlds.

    Even if Blizzard came out with a WoW2 or StarCraft Online (or both and another one, since they can afford it), they can’t have 100% retention. They might get 9 million in WoW2 and 9 million in StarCraft Online: Revenge of the Zergs, but those are just more people being sucked into the universe of online worlds that will eventually hemorrhage. That’s an amount of general consumers being brought into online gaming that it’s possible no other company could even hope for. At least at this point.

    So before you start hating, or before you start wishing death destruction and cocacola spills upon Blizzard’s datacenters, remember that they’re bringing people in like nobody else can.. and if you shut off World of Warcraft in one motion, those people would all be looking to directly replace WoW in the next game they tried, and they’d be invariably dissapointed. It’s better to let them sour on their current MMO and then watch as they prod along discontented to the next online world, replacing their old habit with it and possibly viewing it through rose coloured glasses out of spite, or to entice their friends over.

    I’m positive today.

  2. The figures do include those who accessed from internet cafes (Internet Game Room players) within the last 30 days, so those people who persist in doing a straight multiplication to come up with revenues (usually in preface to complaining about content from the live team) are off base.

    They also specifically exclude free promotional subscriptions, so they’re understating slightly the actual current use to only count people who have paid something for the privilige.

  3. Is that 9 million unique credit cards, then?

    Considering the mega-industry that is selling gold to WoW players, I’d be hesitant to call all 9 million “actual players” until we see some verifiable data from an independent Blizzard auditor.

  4. Raph -

    Did this match with your growth predictions? Will they hit 10 million? It would be interesting to know the geographic breakdown. From the Gamasutra article, it seems some portion of this is coming from new, localized releases as opposed to continued organic growth in existing markets.

  5. Well, love them or hate them, you have to admire Blizzard. No other game has opened up the industry for other games like WoW has. It really doesn’t matter how long it lasts, or how many subscriptions they retain over the years, they did it first. You just have to admire them, at least a little for that.

  6. … they did it first.

    What did they do first?

  7. Likely there are some regional variations. Blizzard don’t give regional data, as they did when they announced 8 million. Ergo, that split isn’t good news. Or am I reading too much into this?

    There’s a fair bit of evidence that WoW “western” servers have recovered from a slight dip a couple of months ago: Warcraft Realms shows the first signs of recovery. You can also look at Alexa or Complete data for the main WoW English websites (official and popular database sites) – as inaccurate as the precise numbers are, the trends are worth something, and they are all heading upwards. Generally Europe is growing faster than North America.

    But it is hard to find a net extra million players in those patterns.

    If the growth really is in Asia, 10 million is highly likely shortly after they release the Burning Crusade in China – China alone represented 3.5 million in January. That would also explain a reluctance to publish regional figures, since the revenue from the average Chinese player will be somewhat less than the average American or European. A more players equals less cash situation, that might not play well with investors.

    Likely tens of millions have played WoW at some point by now – although I’m guessing at rates of player turnover. Given the inherent churn of online games, surely the extent to which one online game has infiltrated society should be the headline?

  8. You just have to admire them, at least a little for that.

    The game isn’t that bad either. ;D

  9. A more players equals less cash situation, that might not play well with investors.

    This is a silly question, but: do they have to worry about pleasing investors when reporting numbers given their success?

  10. This is a silly question, but: do they have to worry about pleasing investors when reporting numbers given their success?

    Given that they are part of Vivendi, I’d say right now convincing investors not to dump their shares is priority 1.

  11. Time Howgego wrote:
    But it is hard to find a net extra million players in those patterns.

    Interesting data, but I’ll point out a potential flaw with this conclusion. As TBC becomes “old news”, people will be playing less. So, some new subscribers could have started as the people that raced through the expansion content got bored and stopped logging on so frequently. Unlikely, but possible; it’s also a bad sign if the expansion that took a year was consumed in only a few months like that.

    Ola Fosheim Grøstad wrote:
    [D]o they have to worry about pleasing investors when reporting numbers given their success?

    Well, Blizzard is a division of Vivendi Games, part of a larger company that has share holders. You can’t just rest on your laurels as a public company, you have to show growth or the shareholders get cranky.

    Beyond that, you have to deal with the psychology of players. People are starting to get restless about WoW, and while you still have the ardent defenders, you’re starting to see more people taking shots at it. The sharks are circling, and they’re looking for blood. One way to head that off is to continue saying that you’re growing by leaps and bounds, especially if you’re reaching numbers few other games have ever even claimed.

    By writing these press releases, Blizzard is maintaining the perception that WoW is popular and just getting more popular. Most news sites, such as Gamasutra as Raph links above, are only going to pick up on the main number. So, the majority of people will see that WoW now has more subscribers than ever (ignoring regional growth), so it still must be super-popular still.

    It’s not an outright lie, but still a bit of trickery, IMHO. As I’ve said, it’s unlikely that any western MMO game will have equal success in China, where Blizzard gets most of their subscribers from. Now that I’ve worked with a Chinese developer, I even more firmly believe this statement. So, reporting worldwide figures is a bit a red herring.

    My thoughts.

  12. Ola – Vivendi Games is still the small change on the bottom of Vivendi’s accounts. About 5% of revenue, but contributes around 10% of earnings. It is rather profitable, although perhaps not as profitable as one might expect given Wow’s “success”: Earnings appear to be only about a third of revenue. I have no idea how development costs are factored in, nor the extent to which non-WoW activities are dragging the numbers down.

    The problem is this: Dig into the linked slides and you’ll find that a 30-hour game card costs the equivalent of $2 in China. By way of comparison, the same card in Korea is $15. Comparison with the western box plus subscription models are tricky, but it’s a fair bet that the average Chinese player yields only a fifth of the revenue a westerner would. Yet out of this reduced revenue the game still has to be developed and operated.

    So in crude financial terms one Chinese customer is not worth the same as one American customer. Headline totals must be read with caution.

  13. On the other other hand, WoW in China is operated by The9, who have to provide customer support, servers, marketing, game cards, etc.

    Blizzard just has to cash checks.

    And keep an eye on The9.

    This makes China’s numbers less relevant on one hand, but it may be very profitable.

  14. Just a thought, but I let my subscription continue for like 4 months after I stopped playing before one day I finally went ahead and hit the cancel button on WoW. I let the subscription linger mainly because of the thought that maybe I’d come back and pick it up again and do things differently and it would all be much better this time. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t going to happen (side note, since I know someone will wonder, my decision to leave WoW had to do with social climate more than gameplay, although gameplay was a factor. If anyone’s really curious, mail me and ask.) Anyway, once I’d finally given up on the idea that I was going to start playing WoW again – about 4 months after I actually stopped playing – then I hit the cancel button.

    I have to wonder how many others do the same, not just with WoW but with all subscription-based games. It seems to me like it should almost be the sort of thing you can predict – like you should be able to predict your 6-month subscriber retention projections based on your monthly unique logon numbers somehow. Which might possibly be why SOE for so long tried to do an EQ expansion every six months, because they were trying to beat that curve and keep players from hitting the cancel button. It seems a bit cynical to look at it that way, but if other players are approaching a cancellation the same way I did, then I can definitely see the graphs in my head and hear the producers in the boardroom meetings saying “what can we do to get these folks to start playing again before they cancel their subs?”

    Just a thought.

  15. I have to wonder how many others do the same, not just with WoW but with all subscription-based games. It seems to me like it should almost be the sort of thing you can predict

    It is indeed something you can predict. Although not logging in during a given month is the single biggest predictor of a cancellation in the next month. :)

  16. Ah… Thanks for the link Tim, it was interesting.

  17. David (Talaen) said:
    Just a thought, but I let my subscription continue for like 4 months after I stopped playing before one day I finally went ahead and hit the cancel button on WoW. I let the subscription linger mainly because of the thought that maybe I’d come back and pick it up again and do things differently and it would all be much better this time. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t going to happen (side note, since I know someone will wonder, my decision to leave WoW had to do with social climate more than gameplay, although gameplay was a factor. If anyone’s really curious, mail me and ask.) Anyway, once I’d finally given up on the idea that I was going to start playing WoW again – about 4 months after I actually stopped playing – then I hit the cancel button.

    I think there’s a clue in here how a game can dictate play style, despite the players motives and desires. WoW is a treadmill. You can’t change that. You might be able to play differently, but you do so while watching other players around you move on to “bigger things”. In the end, almost all players start playing it the way they made it.

    So the question is, can a game be made to direct players to other play styles? Like maybe roleplaying? I think developers (as a whole, and probably under a bit of stress) have given up on that idea almost as soon as it popped up with it’s first problem. (But RPing isn’t the “thee’s and thou’s”, it’s just playing the character in the game world as if you’re there.)

    Cafeteria food is so much easier to serve.

  18. I just wonder how many players out there are treading water just waiting for something new to come along.

    I know a good portion of my guild is playing WoW right now for one simple reason – there is really nothing else out there. Many jumped to try Vanguard and just came right back. Others weren’t playing any MMOs and came back more for the guild’s social aspect than the game itself. And others just stuck around because they knew the rest of us would be back lol.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of a hit that 9 million number takes when Warhammer, Age of Conan and some other big title MMOs come out.

    If one of them is a quality title could it take a huge chunk of WoW’s numbers?

    Are they different enough titles to draw people out from under the WoW security blanket?

    Interesting times coming.

  19. I still don’t believe these figures, if they had 9 million ‘paid’ subscribers, they would have to supply 450 blades, what are the names of all these servers?

  20. Well I saw a first today…on my way into work I saw a bumber sticker that said “I’d rather be playing WOW”. You can check that guy off as one of those nine million.

  21. 222 servers in the USA
    235 servers in Europe

    457 right there, and that doesn’t count China, which is bigger than either, nor other Asian countries.

  22. One thing worth noting when tracking servers:

    Blizzard upgraded their server clusters prior to TBC, and — as I understand it — raised the number of simultaneous users by a good amount. If we assume that, say, 3500 logins because 4000 (I think it was considerably larger a jump), that alone nets enough space for 250,000 new players among the 450-odd US/Eur servers. If we use the 25% peak usuage rate, that’s really room for another million players right there.

    It wasn’t really quite that nice — at least a quarter of the old servers were running new hardware already, for instance.

    But if you’re just going by server count, it’s worth keeping in mind that Blizzard not only added a large number of realms prior to TBC, but “enlarged” a significant number of their older servers.

    I’m not surprised that they have slack capacity at this point.

  23. I’ve given up on new for the most part. There’s so much change right now in the MMO space that a new “version” of the MMO that we know and understand is probably very unlikely. With Web 2.0 (What a useless term) being thrown around like it is 1995 and the big media companies getting in the game its almost as if you can’t come to the investor with a 10 – 15 mil project because it’s not “big” enough. Everyone in the industry seems to have their heads so far up in the sky, that it reminds me of the dot.com bust a few years back. Games are growing 40% – 50% year over year. Eventually that bubble will burst and major games will be left hanging with $100M development costs.

    Only a couple years ago would you make good money on a 70k – 100k subs. Now investors don’t want that. They want You Tube numbers or it doesn’t get made. I think that’s a mistake but then again I’m not in the industry because I refuse to get up off the idea that a smaller more tightly knit community based MMO would do well. By smaller I mean 70k to 100k subs on a single VW. Call it the WoW factor. Everyone sees a billion dollar empire and now suddenly the multi million dollar generating games are not good enough. But WoW did bring at least 8 million gamers into the genre so it can’t be all bad right?

  24. [...] policy. Failing to do so will lead to internet access suspension for the operators. Lastly, via Raph the World of Warcraft has gained more popularity reaching the 9 million subscribers milestone. The [...]

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