Daily Archives: May 6, 2015

Draenor Tourism Season is Over, WoW Back Down to 7.1 Million Subscribers

Blizzard Entertainment had the largest Q1 online player community in its history, up a double digit percentage year over year despite no major launches in the quarter. As expected and consistent with our experience following prior expansions, we saw a decline in the World of Warcraft subscriber number. Subscribers ended the quarter at 7.1 million. World of Warcraft’s revenue performance at constant FX has been more stable, driven by continued strong uptake on value added services, and price increases in select regions, which partially offset subscriber declines, particularly in the East. World of Warcraft remains the No.1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world.

Activision-Blizzard Earnings Report for Q1 2015

The East is always letting World of Warcraft down.  What is it they want over there?

Well, we knew subscriptions would go up when Warlords of Draenor shipped, though perhaps how early the number went up was a bit of a surprise.  And it lasted through the end of 2014 as expected.  The real question was how long the bad guys in Draenor could hold the 10 million subscriber number.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

How can you leave these guys?

The answer is, apparently, less than six months.

Not that 7.1 million subscribers is anything to balk at.  That is still a player base any four current MMOs could divide amongst themselves and each feel like a huge success.  (And that same subscriber drop would kill any competitor.)  But this is World of Warcraft and forever will that “more than 12 million” number dominate its destiny.

Of course, the money is still coming in hand over fist, though the strong dollar looks like it will be an issue.

Given the weakening of foreign currencies versus the U.S. dollar, the company’s 2015 international revenues and earnings are expected to be translated at lower rates than in 2014. This impacts the company’s 2015 outlook as compared to 2014 actual results given approximately 50% of the company’s revenues, and a higher percentage of profits, are generated outside the U.S.

So you have to have to wonder if the game will continue its “expansion about every two years” trajectory as subscribers bleed off during the between times.  I won’t even say “the dead period” as there still seems to be a lot to do and more is coming up.  But for some people, the leveling game is all she wrote, and those were a quick ten levels.

The report mentioned other irons that Blizzard has in the fire.

Blizzard's slide from the deck

Blizzard’s slide from the deck

There was also a bit in there specifically about the WoW Token being launched.  Though that might keep some gold-rich subscribers in the game longer, it isn’t any sort of revenue machine like the base subscription.

So are we going to see an expansion sooner this time around?  Or will there just be more content released before the next box shows up?

Twelve Years a Clone

EVE Online turns twelve years old today, which is a ripe old age for an MMO.  By the time a decade rolls by for a lot of games in the MMO genre they have often been superseded by a sequel (Guild Wars), have become niche interests for a nostalgic few (Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot), have been put into maintenance-only mode (Asheron’s Call), have become a small fan supported project to tinker with (Meridian 59, Saga of Ryzom), or have been just shut down outright (do I need a list?).

I remember a time when the idea of closing down an MMO seemed strange.  I’ve since been cured of that delusion.

And even many of those that have avoided completely falling off of the mainstream of MMOs for more than a decade feel their age.  EverQuest, which turned 16 back in March, is still a viable money maker for Daybreak, but it really feels old when you play.  Meanwhile, the big ten year anniversary plan for World of Warcraft, the undisputed leader of the MMO free world (or something), was to try to recapture 2007 by returning to Draenor.

Yeah, when you bring in a BILLION dollars of revenue annually, you tend to be shy about making radical changes to game play.  Even with all they have done the game still feels mostly like it did back in 2005 when I first started playing.  The details have changed, but the look and feel remains.

And then there is EVE Online, which still feels like it is finding its way to something, still bringing the game forward to what it should be, still making mistakes and then fixing them… though the fixing part is relatively new.  CCP itself views almost the first nine years of the game as the preliminaries to what they are trying to do now.

The Phases of CCP

The Phases of CCP – Mistakes made, but the jury is still out on lessons learned I think…

I wasn’t there for the early, early days of the game.  No beta, no crude early graphics for me.

The iconic Rifter hasn't changed much

The iconic Rifter hasn’t changed much, the UI though…

I first heard about EVE Online back when the first bloom of EverQuest II had faded and we faced the first great exodus from our guild.  People who left… and who bothered to leave a forwarding address… were mostly headed either off to World of Warcraft or back to EverQuest.  But one old TorilMUD player, whose name escapes me now, said he was off to a game called EVE Online.  That was the first time I had heard the game mentioned.  He said something about spaceships, but I never followed up on it.  I was still committed to EQII, the game having not hit its low point for me yet.

EVE Online did not come up again in my world until more than a year later, when I started listening to the VirginWorlds podcast.  Brent (who I just saw in EVE Online on Monday night, so he lives still and might even be MMO-ing as well) mentioned EVE Online and its unique nature, problems, and challenges frequently, as did Ryan and Gary from the Massively Online Gamer podcast. (And Ryan ended up working for CCP at one point, so we just keep closing the loop here.)

That talk got me to actually try the game, which looked like this when I started in August 2006.  Witness me foundering in the long gone tutorial of the day.  And then my first post-tutorial mission was “Worlds Collide!”  Not really viable in an Ibis.  But I persisted… for a while.

EVE as I found it

EVE as I found it… I meant to upload the one with the UI on…

The game didn’t stick for more than a few months.  I left… and then like so many EVE players, I came back and did something different.  Then I got bored with that and left again.  Then I came back and found something else.  What to do in EVE Online is a pretty open question.  There is a myriad of different paths and you can mix and match or alter any of them to fit your mood.

And the paths can be very different.  Rixx Javix and I both theoretically fly in harms way in potentially hostile space expecting to get shot at on the far side of every gate.  But his game is bizarro world different than mine.  For example, he goes on about warp core stabilizers all the time and those aren’t even a thing in my world, while my fear of warp disruption bubbles doesn’t play into his low sec view of the game.

Sometimes these different aspects of the game can be hilarious.  I have seen long time, hardcore null sec vets get nervous flying into empire space.  They don’t know the rules.  Being in high sec with all those damn neutrals makes a null vet very nervous.   Plus you can’t just shoot people without consequence.

And here, at the twelve year mark, long after most viable MMOs seem to have plateaued and hit a formula that keeps its core happy and subscribed… regular content heavy expansions, with more levels, more dungeons, more raids, more shiny things… CCP is proposing radical changes to the way things work in my part of space.

Going through a phase

Heading to Phase 2

I poured out twelve hundred words yesterday about how I have to pack up and move a bunch of crap across a couple regions because the updates coming next month are going to change how the world works in null sec.  If I had been writing about doing that much lifting and carrying in a game like WoW, I probably would have been annoyed.  But moving crap is part of EVE, as I said at the top of that post, and if you cannot accept that is part of what makes the game what it is… well, it might not be for you.

But beyond just accepting that as the way things are in New Eden, I am actually excited about what it portends.  When the next update drops, it will be a new world in null sec… a new, chaotic, probably broken, likely full of exploits new world… but a new world none the less, which will bring its own forms of excitement and comedy and bitching and drudgery.  CCP will be both praised and cursed, often in the same breath.  Then we’ll all figure it out, the most egregious problems will be addressed, and a new dynamic will be born.

EVE Online is a strange mix of the traditional MMO values, which is often heavy on nostalgia and incremental improvements and N+1 changes, and its own sort of chaotic ability to shake things up, piss people off, and still keep going.

So here we are at year twelve and CCP is still… well… figuring things out, for lack of a better phrase.  And, as happens on these occasions, CCP has some gifts for those currently subscribed, something that always makes a few people angry.

CCP maps out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain

CCP maps out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain, then triggers them

The implants that CCP is giving out, which I won’t use because my ship will get blown up, I will get podded, and I will lose them, apparently crashed the market and I who needs another jacket… unless you’re some sort of space roleplay dress up freak.  Who is that over the top?  Hrmm… Amarr Victor I guess.

So happy twelfth birthday to New Eden.  Things have changed a lot over the years.

Rifter and Harpy in warp

More recent Rifter and Harpy hulls warping off

I look forward to seeing how the game continues to evolve.