Category Archives: SuperData Research

SuperData Shows Borderlands 3 Success and WoW Holding On

SuperData Research has their digital revenue numbers out for September.

SuperData Research Top 10 – September 2019

On the PC end of the chart September saw another disruption of what was the solid top five titles for a stretch.  The fourteen year old Dungeon Fighter Online held on to the top position.  SuperData even had a tidbit about it on Twitter this month.

Some DFO info

Last month World of Warcraft, buoyed by the WoW Classic launch, jumped up into third place behind League of Legends.  This month the newly launched Borderlands 3 drove straight up into the second spot ahead of the now decade old LoL.

World of Warcraft fell down to sixth position, putting it ahead of World of Tanks and Dota 2.

Fortnite, which had been one of the top five regulars fell to ninth position.  Still, making the top ten means you’re still something.  Competitor PUBG isn’t on the list.  And in tenth place Roblox held on from last month.  Hearthstone, which had the ninth slot last month on a new expansion launch fell off the list for September.

In the console column new releases NBA 2K20, FIFA 20, and Borderlands 3 secured the top three slots.  Perennial member of the list, GTA V, grabbed the fourth spot.  Fortnite, which was in the top spot in August fell down to seventh for September.

And on the mobile end of the chart Fate/Grand Order, which has lingered on and off the list for a while jumped from third into first place.  That pushed Pokemon Go down into second place while perennial chart member Candy Crush Saga stayed in fifth position.

So it is time to compare those charts with NPD’s September sales ranking.  As always, NPD is US only, combines PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales.

  1. NBA 2K20
  2. Borderlands 3
  3. FIFA 20
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening*
  5. Madden NFL 20
  6. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
  7. Gears 5^
  8. Code Vein
  9. NHL 20
  10. Mario Kart 8*

* Digital sales not included
^ PC digital sales not included

Certainly the top three were expected, though it is interesting to see that with combined sales that Borderlands 3 landed in between NBA 2K20 and FIFA 20.  Nintendo fell off a bit.  Last month five of the ten titles on the list were for the Switch, indicating how much that platform still depends on physical sales.  This month only two Switch titles made the chart.

Gears 5 and Code Vein did not make the SuperData chart.  I knew about Gears 5, another entry in the Gears of War franchise, but I had to look up Code Vein.

NPD’s social impressions list had World of Warcraft at the top of the list, basking in that WoW Classic glow, followed by League of Legends, CS:GO, Fortnite, and GTA VDota 2 dropped off the list from last month while CS:GO jumped in.

Other items from the SuperData report:

  • Worldwide digital spending declines 1% to $8.9 billion in September. Total spend on console and PC declined 17% and 3% year-over-year respectively, despite a slew of new launches. This more than offset a 6% increase on mobile, which increased its share of the total market to 59% this month.
  • NBA2K and FIFA’s latest releases were slow out of the gate. In-game spending for the NBA2K franchise grew only 6% in September, while the FIFA franchise declined slightly year-over-year due to an unfavorable comparison against World Cup after-effects last year. This compares to last September, where the two franchises saw combined in-game spending growth of 24%.
  • Fortnite hits lowest point since launch just before “Fortnite Chapter 2“. We estimate Fortnite revenue across all platforms declined 43% month-over-month in September, marking the worst performing month of revenue since November 2017.
  • Fate/Grand Order receives a huge boost from China. Fate/Grand Order catapulted into the top spot on our mobile rankings this month with $246 million in revenue, up significantly from $131 million in August and $98 million last September, with the majority of the revenue increase coming from China.
  • Borderlands 3 marks another solid release for 2K Games. Borderlands 3 sold an estimated 3.3 million digital units across console and PC in September. The average selling price per unit came in at an above-average $69 due to Deluxe Edition sales.

SuperData says WoW Classic Driving Subscription Growth

You need this.  You don’t think you do, but you do.

-Me, to J. Allen Brack

SuperData Research is out with its monthly digital revenue chart, so we get to see how things did in August.

SuperData Research Top 10 – August 2019

And August has a few things to note when it comes to the PC side of the chart.

For openers, Dungeon Fighter Online held on to the top spot again this month, keeping League of Legends at bay.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds fell off the list, having surged back last month due to a price cut for the game.

Replacing PUBG was Hearthstone, which had the Saviors of Uldum expansion go live in early August.  Twelve expansions and still able to make the chart.

But the big item was World of Warcraft, which had fallen off the list completely for a few months this year before returning to seventh position.  It jumped up into third place for August, breaking through the solid wall that has been the top six games for most of 2019.

The reason for the jump was specifically called out in a bullet point in the report:

  • WoW Classic drives a huge jump in subscribers. World of Warcraft subscription revenue grew an estimated 223% in August compared to July. Despite this, total revenue was still lower than the Battle for Azeroth expansion last August.

I am sure the total revenue comment has some retail loyalist, sullen that half their guild ditched BFA for the nostalgia ride, happily pointing at that as proof that WoW Classic is all that big of a deal.

Here is the thing.  A year ago BFA had box sales to bolster total revenue.  WoW Classic was free to subscribers.  So that isn’t exactly a bragging point.  And the fact that WoW Classic was able to boost subscriptions by that much is something of an indictment of BFA’s popularity, or lack thereof.

I’ve said that BlizzCon is going to be interesting in light of the success of WoW Classic, but now the Q3 financial reports will be something to watch as well.  Something else to tune into in November.

In the center, Fortnite recaptured the top of the chart again, sending Grand Theft Auto V and its casino gambit down to third place.  Still, respect for the aging game and its ability to hold on.

It also marks a month when Nintendo, which still depends heavily on the physical retail channel, has three Switch exclusive  titles in the top ten, with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2.0, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate all accounted for.

And on the mobile end of the chart Pokemon Go took the top spot, which also earned it a specific mention in the notes:

  • Pokémon GO rises to the top spot on mobile. Pokémon GO generated $176 million in August, marking its highest point since peaking in 2016. Outperformance was partly driven by a flurry of in-game events as Niantic capitalized on what is typically the game’s strongest month.

Candy Crush Saga stayed on the chart, but fell two spots, landing in fifth position for August.

Meanwhile, the comparison list from NPD of August sales is also available.  They show the following:

  1. Madden NFL 20
  2. Minecraft
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses*
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Super Mario Maker 2*
  7. Mario Kart 8*
  8. Mortal Kombat 11
  9. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
  10. Astral Chain*

* No digital sales included in ranking.

NPD is US numbers and focused on retail, with some digital sales included.  So oriented, we see five titles for the Nintendo Switch in the top ten.  They also mention in the notes attached to their Speedrun newsletter that the Nintendo Switch was the best selling console in August as well as for 2019 overall.

Also up there was Minecraft, which was in fifth position last month.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions DOTA 2 led the pack, followed by League of Legends, Fortnite, World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto V.

Other items from the SuperData report:

  • Mobile grows share of total worldwide spending. Consumers spent $8.9 billion digitally worldwide in August across console, PC and mobile, up 2% from last year. Mobile, which was the fastest-growing segment, made up 62% of the total compared to 57% last August.
  • Madden NFL 20 console digital sales come in slightly below last year’s launch. When accounting for early pre-order launch dates, which split sales across July and August this year, Madden NFL 20 console digital units declined 6% compared to Madden NFL 19 through the end of August.
  • NBA 2K in-game spending growth slows ahead of upcoming launch. We estimate NBA 2K franchise in-game spending grew 39% year-over-year, a comparatively weak showing compared to the first seven months of 2019 where sales grew at an average rate of 91%. However, we note that August tends to be a seasonally low point for the franchise.

SuperData July Numbers Show a Resurgent Grand Theft Auto V

The numbers are out from SuperData Research for July 2019 digital revenue, so it is time once again to look at their lists.

SuperData Research Top 10 – July 2019

On the PC end of the chart the list of titles was a bit stagnant.  Nine out of ten titles listed there in June were still there in July.  There was a little shakeup as Dungeon Fighter Online took the top spot from League of Legends.  That was shocking the first time it happened, but now they swap every few months, so seems pretty normal.

Six of last month’s titles remained in exactly the same position, including World of Warcraft in seventh place, behind World of Tanks.  We will have to see if the launch of WoW Classic pushes the Blizzard title up the list some when the August numbers come out next month.

The one new entry was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which returned to the list in ninth place, replacing FIFA Onilne 3.  As noted below, PUBG saw a price cut which juiced sales in July.

In the console column Grand Theft Auto V jumped back to the top spot with the release of the Diamond Casino update for the online version of the game.  Having purchased GTA V during the Steam Summer Sale, I received several email notes about the casino, so they were pushing that hard… and successfully it seems.

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII moved up from third to second place in July, while the new release, Fire Emblem: Three House fell into third place, leaving last month’s number one, Fortnite, down in fourth.

At the mobile end of the chart, Honour of Kings remained on top, with Pokemon Go holding on to second place.  Candy Crush Saga, my other benchmark, moved up one spot to third place, taking it from Clash of Clans, which dropped down to seventh position.

Overall Supdata said that worldwide spending was up with this bullet point.

  • Strong mobile growth drives a 5% increase in worldwide spending. Consumers spent $9.02 billion on digital games across console, PC and mobile in July, up from $8.56 billion in the same month last year. Mobile revenue grew 14%, offsetting declines on PC and console, with the latter being dragged by a 50% drop in free-to-play spending.

But when they tweeted a chart to support that, I wasn’t all that convinced.

Digital Spending July 2019 vs July 2019

It feels like if you’re going to claim that mobile is pulling the segment up, you ought to go with a chart that doesn’t show mobile taking a smaller slice of the pie while the PC slice is growing.

I realize that this chart does not necessarily invalidate their statement, it just feels like goofy optics to support the assertion being made.  “Mobile is growing!” he said, waving around a chart that showed PC and Consoles were growing.

Meanwhile, the comparison list from NPD of July sales is also available.  They show the following:

  1. Madden NFL 20
  2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses*
  3. Super Mario Maker 2*
  4. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order*
  5. Minecraft
  6. Grand Theft Auto V
  7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  8. Mortal Kombat 11
  9. Mario Kart 8*
  10. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*

*No digital data

As usual, it is different from SuperData because the NPD data is US only, combines PC and consoles, includes traditional retail (which favors console sales), and does not include digital sales where noted.

Given all of that, I think the relative position Madden NFL 20 is interesting.  It is primarily a US focused title, but I would probably say the same for NBA 2K19, and it was higher up for SuperData but didn’t make the cut for NPD.

Also, look how much Nintendo still depends on the normal retail channel.

And so it goes, another month of numbers.  Additional notes from the SuperData post:

Grand Theft Auto Online‘s Casino update leads to a huge uptick. We estimate Grand Theft Auto Online made $69 million across console and PC in July following the anticipated “Diamond Casino” update, marking one of the best sales months for the game since launch and the first month of double-digit year-over-year growth since August 2018.

Apex Legends Season 2 sales falls short of Season 1 levels. Apex Legends generated $37 million across console and PC in July, more than double what it made in June but only roughly half of what Season 1 earned in March.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a solid launchFire Emblem sold 800,000 digital units on Switch in July, making it the best digital launch in franchise history.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds gets a price cut and sells another million units. We estimate PUBG sold 1.1 million units on PC with an average selling price of roughly $18, though sales are still down significantly from last year.

FIFA Mobile Soccer faces a tough comparison against 2018’s World Cup. Despite being one of EA’s most reliable sources of growth on mobile since launching in 2016, FIFA Mobile has hit a rough patch this summer, with revenue declining over 50% year-over-year in each of the past three months.

SuperData June Numbers see the Return of WoW

As we near the end of July SuperData Research has their monthly digital revenue chart for June available, so it is time to take a look at that.

SuperData Research Top 10 – June 2019

On the PC end of the chart some things stayed the same when compared to April and May.  Basically the top five titles remained in the same order.  The “LDFCF” remains solid.  Repetition is dull though, so the interesting part is slots 6-10.

World of Tanks, which seems to live in the 6-8 range, popped up one place to 6th as sales of Total War: Subsided.

In 7th position we have the return of World of Warcraft… or World of Warcraft West… what ever that means in the reporting sense.

WoW had gone missing from the chart in April and May, helping to cement speculation that the Battle for Azeroth expansion had been less than a success with the player base.  Even from where I sit it is hard to deny that mistakes were made.  But for June it is back.

Was that because the long awaited 8.2 patch and the ability to unlock flying in the expansion had finally arrived?  Did the approach of WoW Classic and the load tests get people to re-up?  Or did Blizz fiddle the numbers in April and May so that other titles from its stable would get attention?  One notable thing about those two charts is that WoW went away and Hearthstone appeared one month and Overwatch the next.  Blizz controls the data that is released on revenues, so this could have been an attempt to show they are not still just a one product company.  Or maybe not.

In 8th place if newcomer FIFA Online 3, followed by perennial bottom of the list contender DOTA 2, and Roblox, which pops onto the list every now and then, taking 10th place.

And, to quickly summarize, Fortnite and FIFA 19 maintained their spots at the top of the console chart, with GTA V continuing to place mid-pack (expect it to pop next month with the new casino update for online), while Pokemon Go, with anniversary celebrations kicking off in June, made it to 2nd on the Mobile end, up from 7th, while Candy Crush Saga fell from 2nd last month to 4th in June.

Basically I want to get back to PC topics and bring up an Overwatch revenue tweet from SuperData earlier this week that gave us the revenue build up for the game over its three years since launch.

Overwatch in-game spending

Leaving aside box sales, which I am sure followed the usual pattern of an early spike followed by a low rumble afterwards, Overwatch has successfully crossed the billion dollar mark.  That is a hell of an achievement.  It is interesting to see the PC side lead the console side by what looks like a ratio of 3 to 1.  I wonder if that also happens to represent the breakout of the player base.

But I am also reminded that WoW had multiple consecutive billion dollar revenue years over its life and, were Blizz to break out the numbers, I would bet that it is still good for more than half that much revenue during an expansion year and not a ton less for an off year.  The subscription model is still pretty good when you can make it work.  Or, if you don’t want to go that route, you might need to sell champions like League of Legends, which still surpasses a billion annually selling those and skins.

Again, Overwatch is a big success, but you can kind of see why it only makes the SuperData chart on rare occasions.  It stands among giants.

On to other things… like the NPD chart for June.  As always, the NPD chart combines PC and console titles, covers US domestic sales only, and is both retail and digital, but both categories are not available for everything on the list, as noted below.

  1. Super Mario Maker 2*
  2. Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled
  3. Mortal Kombat 11
  4. Grand Theft Auto V
  5. Minecraft
  6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  7. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  8. NBA 2K19
  9. Mario Kart 8*
  10. Days Gone

*No digital data

The thing to note this month is how bizarrely different the two sets of charts are.   We can discount the digital titles that NPD does not appear to be getting data from, which is pretty much the entire PC column.   The only overlap is GTA V, NBA 2K19, and Days Gone, all like from console sales, and they aren’t even ranked in the same order.

Meanwhile, SuperData is clearly not getting data from Nintendo or, if they are, then digital sales are not as big on the Switch as they are on other consoles.  But the Switch is definitely on its own plane of existence.  Maybe they’re what is keeping GameStop alive these days.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions League of Legends fell off the list completely, with the top spot taken over by Fortnite, followed by Grand Theft Auto V.  The rest of the list included CS:GO, Overwatch, and MinecraftDOTA 2 also fell off the list this month.  Social media impressions do not correspond to sales, but are a measure of how much hype and talk games are getting on the various social media services.

Finally, news items included with the SuperData monthly report:

  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has one of the best launches in genre history. We estimate Crash Team Racing sold 552,000 digital units worldwide in June despite launching late into the month, marking the second-best launch month of any racing game on console, behind Ubisoft’s The Crew 2 in 2018. Digital sales were likely boosted by the above-average download rates seen so far this year but also point to the sustained popularity of the Crash Bandicoot IP.
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege‘s player base is as strong as ever. June was Rainbow Six‘s best month for Monthly Active Users and sixth-best month for in-game spending on the back of the Operation Phantom Sight update, despite the title being well into its fourth year. Total in-game revenue rose to $36.8 million across console and PC in June, an increase of 50% from May and 9% from June of last year.
  • Overwatch surpasses $1 billion from in-game spending. Blizzard’s MOBA shooter became the 64th game on either console, PC or mobile to generate over $1 billion from in-game content alone. Overwatch is also Activision Blizzard’s sixth IP to hit this mark, after World of WarcraftCall of DutyDestinyCandy Crush and Hearthstone.
  • Publishers are experimenting more with steep discounts. As the free-to-play business model continues to take mindshare in the industry, publishers seem more open to significantly lowering unit prices for catalogue AAA franchises in order to expand the player base. EA’s Sims 4 and Take-Two’s NBA2K19, two franchises that benefit immensely from add-on content purchases, both saw huge spikes in unit sales after prices were brought down below $5.

SuperData Sees Overwatch Appear and Fortnite Hang On

It is the last weekday of the month and I am finally getting to the SuperData chart.  It is one of those posts that isn’t time sensitive, so long as I get it in during the month the chart drops, but there hasn’t been a lot of room for extra posts this week.  I had four posts on Tuesday.  I never do four posts in a single day.

Anyway, my digression aside, they dropped their chart for May so let’s take a look.

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2019

On the PC side of the chart the top five remain in place.  “LDFCF” was the ordering last month as well.

After that bloc, we have Total War: Three Kingdoms, the latest entry in the Total War series.  That launched near the end of the month, but saw enough sales… mostly on Steam I would guess… to make it up to sixth place.

That pushed World of Tanks and The Division 2 both down one spot, to seventh and eighth places respectively.

While World of Warcraft remains absent, and Hearthstone‘s fling in April was cut short, May saw Overwatch pop up into ninth place.  I do not pay enough attention to Overwatch to be able to explain why.

Finally, there was DOTA 2, one of the titles perennially fighting for that last spot.

In the center, Fortnite returned to the top of the console chart, displacing Mortal Kombat 11, which fell to third place.  The FIFA, MLB, and NBA titles held on, while Grand Theft Auto V returned to the top ten after dropping off for the first time in ages back in April.

And in mobile, Honour of Kings remained securely on top with Perfect World staying in second.  Candy Crush Saga popped up to third place and Pokemon Go remained in seventh.

SuperData also posted a chart to Twitter indicating that, year over year, digital spending was down in May.

May 2018 vs 2019

And, if you want to know where battle royale players spend their money, they posted a chart about that too.

For comparison, NPD also has their top ten revenue chart out for May as well.  Their list is:

  1. Mortal Kombat 11
  2. Days Gone
  3. Total War: Three Kingdoms
  4. Rage 2*
  5. Grand Theft Auto V
  6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  7. Red Dead Redemption II
  8. MLB 19: The Show
  9. Minecraft
  10. NBA 2K19

*No digital data

As usual, the NPD data covers both physical sales as well as some digital numbers from participating publishers, and only covers the US.

There is, as expect, much overlap despite the different data sets.  The most interesting item on the list for me is Minecraft.  It is one of the best selling games ever, but never cracks the SuperData chart because I am sure Mojang/Microsoft simply don’t share that data.  But something got it on the NPD chart.  I am just not sure what.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions League of Legends returned to the top, followed by usual suspects of Fortnie, Grand Theft Auto V, DOTA 2 and CS:GO. Hearthstone was on the list last month, supplanting DOTA 2,

Finally, the notes from the SuperData post for May:

  • Worldwide digital game spending dips on every platform. Consumers spent $8.7 billion digitally on games across console, PC and mobile in May, down 4% from the same month last year. This was driven by a 6% decline in Mobile, which continues to be a larger contributor than console and PC combined. The drop off in Fortnite also continues to drag both console and PC.
  • Fortnite gets a boost from Season 9 but is still far off from its peak. Fortnite made $203 million across console, PC and mobile, up significantly from April but down 38% from May 2018. Console continues to contribute the largest share of players and revenue.
  • FIFA Ultimate Team revenue declines year-over-year. We estimate that FIFA in-game spending generated $93 million across console and PC in May, down from the same month last year, partly due to a tough comparison against the initial strength of the World Cup mode last May. However, we note that World Cup performance weakened over time and will likely lead to more favorable comparisons in the coming months.
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms breaks one million units at launch. Sega’s latest strategy game led the top rankings on PC this month with $62 million in digital revenue.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds quietly continues to sell millions of units. We estimate that PUBG has sold 4.7 million digital units across PC and console year-to-date through May, maintaining its position as one of the best selling shooter titles on any platform despite losing much of the spotlight to EA’s Apex Legends and Fortnite.

Is New Player Retention Fixable in EVE Online

At EVE North CCP dropped some tidbits of information on us.  They’re going to rework the Vexor Navy Issue.  Pirate faction implant changes are coming.  And the new UI pointer feature has reached meme status with the undock button.

[Addendum: Nosy Gamer has a better summary of things CCP brought up at EVE North]

Things you see in local in Tribute a lot

I think it is great that how to use the new UI pointer feature was the second most created UI pointer, but this is also a good tool for helping people new to the game.

There was also a slide about new player retention that looked pretty grim.

How many new players log back in as time passes

Hilmar previously assured us that EVE Online was still getting plenty of new players… or new accounts created in any case…  seeing about 10K such every week in the game.  They just don’t stick around.

This is not a particularly new bit of information.  We saw a similar chart back at EVE Fanfest in 2014, a little over five years back, which laid out what happens with new players.

New Player Trajectory – May 2014

That chart actually looks better, but ignores a big chunk of new players as it only counts those who opted to pay the then mandatory subscription fee.  Of those who stepped up to that level, half left after their first subscription period ran out, 40% ran down the solo mission path and left once they had essentially leveled up their Ravens to do level 4 missions, and 10% found a home and stuck with the game.  When those who didn’t bother to subscribe were included, these three groups were a much smaller percentage of the pie.

Of course, when this sort of information comes up people immediately assail CCP for having a bad new player experience, an unintuitive UI, and a horrible and unhelpful player base that abuses newbies.  Somebody will eventually claim that Goons are ganking new players on the undock of the tutorial or some similar fantasy.

And CCP has tried to address this retention issue pretty much constantly throughout my tenure in New Eden.  The horrible tutorial that I went through in 2006, which was a motivator to start this blog, has been revamped half a dozen times since then, but things haven’t really changed.

The EVE North chart starts off with half the people who register not even logging into the game.  I guess you cannot blame the NPE or the UI or Goons for that.  Probably bots doing that I guess.

Of the 10K that make it into the game, by the 30 day mark less than 500 are still logging in.  That is just about 4.4% given the numbers on the chart.  That seems like a horrible retention rate.  How can that seem to be anything else?  At least to you and I and any other outsider.

But knocking around in the back of my head for some time has been the question of context.  I dislike numbers and statistics without context.  4.4% seems bad, but without being able to compare it to other MMORPGs it is difficult to say whether it really is bad.

Unfortunately, most game developers are not as forthcoming as CCP.  Almost nobody gets out in front of the players and gives us as much information as CCP does.  Can you imagine Blizzard or EA or NCsoft doing this?  So CCP tells us something and we assume the information for the rest of the industry, guessing that it must be better than this.

So I decided to poke around to see if I could find any information about this, prodded by a comment on Twitter than linked to something akin to what I was looking for.  However, that wasn’t the meat I wanted.

Fortunately, somebody has done some work on this front.  As it turns out SuperData Research did a study titled Understanding Free-to-Play MMO Retention.  This seemed quite relevant, since there is no subscription barrier to playing EVE Online any more.

The study looks into player retention and compares players who jump on the game at launch versus those who come in after the game has been established.  People who join as soon as it goes live have higher retention rate.  Those who come in later don’t stay, though after some time goes by that gets a bit better because new players after the two year mark tend to come more by word-of-mouth, and thus likely have friends that play, a significant factor in retention.

Of those who show up late to the party… and given its recent Sweet 16 birthday party, anybody showing up to EVE Online now has missed quite a few parties… only 2% of those who register and log into the game will still be around 30 days later.

While EVE Online‘s retention after the first day is much lower than what SuperData reported… 40% of the word of mouth crowed logs in after the first day while only 28% of CCP’s sample did… but with 4.4% retention at the 30 day mark EVE Online is doing pretty well compared to the study where post-launch players peaked at 3% and settled down to 2% even with word of mouth.

Which is not to say that EVE Online doesn’t have problems and couldn’t do better.  The game has some pretty big factors working against it.  But the angry player insults about CCP being exceptionally bad/stupid/ignorant/greedy seem to be, at best, off base.  And anybody who shouts “marketing” needs to just shut up.  The company seems to be in the same boat as other MMOs, and revamping the new player experience yet again probably isn’t going to change that in a drastic way.

Short of teaching people how to form social bonds in their game, a key factor in retention (I don’t think a How to Find Friends video quite cuts it, but nice try I guess), I am not sure there is any easy answer to getting people to stick with the game, mostly because people don’t seem to stick around with most MMOs they try.

Raph Koster wrote a piece earlier this year about various methods that can be applied to user retention.  There are probably a few suggestions in that worth pursing, though CCP is already on to some of them.

Friday Bullet Points – Comings and Goings

Another Friday and there are some bits of news wandering around the net that I want to mention, but really don’t want to get into a whole post about.  So off we go.

  • Google Stadia

Google’s game streaming subscription service, Google Stadia, got a November launch date.  Just in time for Christmas, as they say.

The Founder’s Edition will run you $129 to get in and $9.99 a month thereafter.  For that you get a controller, a dongle that hooks up to your TV, some “free” games thrown your way regularly, and support for up to 4K video.  A Standard Edition is listed, but won’t be available until next year.  The Standard Edition won’t have a monthly fee, but will only support up video up to 1080p.

There is a list of games that will be available at launch, though some items on the list are TBD.  You, of course, have to buy the games and those purchases are locked to Google’s platform.  But you can play them on your Google Pixel phone as well.

I have zero interest in this, so this might be the only time I mention it unless something goes horribly wrong or Google shuts it down.  But what are the odds of that?

  • Google Play Tightens Up

Meanwhile, in another department at Google, those in charge of the Google Play store have decided that maybe the whole “anything goes” strategy there isn’t working out. (Steam, are you listening?)  The Google Play Store policies are being revised and targets include hate speech and sexual content.  They are also requiring that titles with loot boxes disclose the odds of obtaining any particular item and they are instituting a minimum functionality metric for apps.  While sexuality and hate speech are squishy topics, not easily defined, posting odds and requiring that stuff works sound good to me.

  • Esports is a Money Pit

Kotaku has an article up reviewing esports and the companies that drive them.  For all the talk of audience numbers (which turn out to be wildly inflated, that headline about League of Legends out performing the SuperBowl was largely because Twitch had the stream on the front page and counted everybody who landed there for any amount of time as a viewer), it seems that esports, even for the biggest names like Riot and League of Legends, is a money losing proposition.  Expect more leagues to close down.

  • Millennials Buy More Games

SuperData Research released a free report which you can download at their site about consumer spending patterns on video games.  Or you can read a summary of it over at Venture Beat.   The big headline carrying the report is that millennials, who are now young adults with jobs and careers and such, spend more money on them than older generations.  Who would have guessed?  Millennials spend more and prefer mobile as a platform.

  • Baldur’s Gate III

There was some excitement as it was announced that a Baldur’s Gate III was in development. That got people a lot more worked up than I expect they ought to be.  The original Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II were classics developed by BioWare, but that was back at the turn of the century.  Remasters of both titles have been released on Steam, and somebody even did an additional expansion for the Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition remaster.

But all of that is more than a few steps away from some new team taking a crack at the franchise 20 years later.  This new game is likely to be very different… it might not have the isometric point of view… and maybe it should be.  But part of the reason it is getting announced now is because it will be on Google Stadia, which means it will have to support console controls, and I have not had a lot of good experiences with PC games that have their UI constrained by the need to be used solely with a controller.  I have the remasters.  If I want to relive the late 90s, I can do that just fine already.

  • Whatever That Blizzard Game Was

It slipped out that Blizzard cancelled an in-development FPS based on the StarCraft franchise in order to focus more on Diablo IV and Overwatch 2.

But rather than headlines about Overwatch 2 or Diablo IV confirmed, there was a bunch of wailing and gnashing of teeth about Blizzard and mindless pining for a game that never was.  Cancelling development on something in progress before it launches is a pretty normal thing in mature companies with multiple product lines.  Hell, it should be seen as a normal thing for Blizzard.  Remember Titan?  How far back was StarCraft: Ghost?

I think that this stems from companies in the gaming industry, small studio start-ups that have everything invested in a single title, being our mental image of how video games are made.  There are plenty of “ship or die” stories out there.  But that doesn’t apply to companies like Blizzard.  Meanwhile, if Blizzard doesn’t think the game is worth pursuing, pinning all your game play fantasies on it just because you like the idea of it sounds like a futile effort.  So if you’re doing that you should probably start a blog.