Category Archives: World of Warcraft

SuperData Research says PUBG Passed WoW for August

As the month of September rolls to a close it is time to see what has changed on SuperData Research’s digital revenue charts for August.

SuperData Research Top 10 – August 2017

On the PC side of the house League of Legends remains nailed to the top of the chart while Dungeon Fighter Online and Fantasy Westward Journey Online II swapped spots since last month and Crossfire remained in its 4th place position.

New to fifth place this month is the ever exploding PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which passed World of Warcraft, pushing it down into sixth place.

After that World of Tanks stayed in place, Overwatch moved up a spot, DOTA 2 fell from eighth to tenth, and CS:GO climbed back onto the chart, pushing ROBLOX back off the list.

At the other end of the chart the only mobile games I pay attention to remained solid, with Candy Crush Saga holding onto ninth place again while Pokemon Go jumped up from seventh to fifth position.

Other notes from the SuperData blog post, consolidated to reduce redundancy:

  • The worldwide digital video games market grew 11% year-over-year in August to $7.9B. The premium PC segment shrank 10% year-over-year, despite PUBG’s breakout success, due to tough comparisons against No Man’s Sky release, World of Warcraft: Legion expansion launch, and Overwatch’s first event and new map last year. Social and pay-to-play MMO segments continue to decline at a rate of 4% and 25% respectively. Console and mobile grew 11% and 13%, respectively. The free-to-play MMO market was the big winner this month, growing 28% year-over-year, as more publishers and developers adopt this business model.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds continues to dominate PC game sales, despite still being in Steam Early Access. PUBG is the number 1 premium PC game for the 3rd month in a row and has overtaken World of Warcraft on the total PC games list for the first time. Total life-to-date sales close to 9 million units through August
  • Hearthstone hits all-time revenue peak with Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. Blizzard’s CCG reached a new high this month. This marks a 15% increase over their previous peak.
  • Overwatch PC monthly active users reach new highs due to successive updates. On the back of a string of updates that introduced a new character, two new game modes, and the return of the “Summer Games” event, Overwatch recorded its highest MAU yet.
  • Madden NFL 18 sells over 220,000 digital units at launch. Sales were up compared to last year’s launch month units for Madden NFL 17. We also estimate modest additional content growth on the back of new in-game DLC packs available this year.

Missions and Content on Demand

Friday night at about 10pm I was sitting in front of my computer and really feeling the desire to resubscribe to World of Warcraft.  My wife and daughter had gone to bed early, it was quiet in the house, the air was cool in something of the usual mid-September tease of the coming of autumn, and I was really in the mood for the sort of easily guided, always something to do, nature of Azeroth.  I might have even had enough gold for a WoW Token, though they have gone up quite a bit of late.  If I did that I could just jump back into the game.

Ah 2015! WoW Tokens prices are now about 170K Gold

That is the way it is with WoW.  You can log in and just do something.  And, more importantly, you can log in a do something yourself.  Being able to solo is one of the key attributes of the game… perhaps THE key attribute sustaining its ongoing success.  For all the talk of the Blizzard name, the Warcraft setting, the low system requirements, the stylized graphics, I think being able to just log on and potter away on your own might be the biggest thing in retaining its player base.

A lot of us old timers pine for the glory days of early EverQuest, becoming practically fetishistic about the forced grouping and harsh nature of the game.  But even at its nadir in the dark days of garrison boredom during the Warlords of Draenor era, WoW was still pulling in an order of magnitude more subscribers than EverQuest did at its absolute peak.  And with good reason.  Mixed in with all those “good old days” memories of Norrath are the recollections of evenings wasted trying to get something going, not being able to find a group, waiting for a spawn camp to be available, or just traveling across the world to group up with friends only to take so damn long that everybody was done for the night by the time you arrived.

You can even do the traditional group things solo thanks to Dungeon/Raid Finder.  Well, solo-ish.  You get grouped up, thrown into an instance, and everybody still has to do their job.  So there is always something to do, and usually something you can do right away with a limited amount of time.

So when sitting, stuck for a game to play, it isn’t hard to see why WoW springs to mind unbidden.

And, as I sat there pondering Azeroth I did not even consider New Eden.

The problem is that many of the things that make EVE Online challenging, interesting, dynamic, and what not also conspire against it being, for lack of a better word, convenient.  World of Warcraft is, most of the time, very convenient.  I recall getting to Desolace back in the day being a long run, but even that sort of thing has been smoothed out.

I have said in the past, only half-jokingly, that before you do anything in EVE Online you usually have to do two or three other things first.  At least I am past the point where I need to train a skill to do something new on my main.  That only took a decade.  But even trained up I was a bit stuck.  On Friday night my jump clone was still on cool down and I was in a clone with implants in a station so I couldn’t jump, couldn’t swap to a clean clone, and couldn’t self-destruct without wasting some implants.

But that really didn’t matter.  While I was in an out-of-the way location, there were no fleets going up and I was just in the mood to “do” something and not travel somewhere on the off chance that maybe I might find something to do.  Something besides running anomalies, which I tend to when I don’t really want to “do” anything.

I do get an occasinal screen shot out of anoms…

Which brings us back to missions.  I could have logged in the Alpha clone alt I used for the last few events in The Agency cycle and run a few missions.  Missions are one of those things you can do on demand, at least once you have yourself setup, which leads us back to the whole thing about new players going down the mission path until they are able to run level four missions, at which point they leave the game.

To recap, missions are the closest thing EVE Online has to the theme park, WoW-esque, PvE experience in that they:

There isn’t much else in the game that hits those three buttons.  Even mining, the beloved pastime of those doing something in another window, isn’t as reliable as you might assume.  Belts get mined out, anomalies take time to respawn, and on a rare day somebody might even try to interfere with you just to see if you’re awake.

Covering those three things seem to me to be something of a baseline to cater to a casual player base.  And EVE Online fails on the first one eventually because the progression is only temporary.  Once you, as they say, “level up your Raven” and can run level 4 missions safely, there is no more progress to be made.  There is no story tying the missions together, there are no other stories to follow.  The cold darkness of the space sandbox, where content is random and fleeting is what remains.  The occasional highs are offset by long periods of quiet routine.

Which is why EVE Online is never my only game.  In the end, I am far far further down the casual spectrum than you might suspect.  There are things to do and sometimes I feel inclined to log on and do them.  But more often my tales from New Eden start with a mention that a ping went out over Jabber for a fleet op.  That is something that works for the space tourist in me.  Somebody else has found something interesting and I log in to go along for the ride.  I’ll do my part as something of a combat reservist that shows up when called to support the people who find the content.

But as a game that provides content on demand… and those other two things… EVE isn’t very good.  As has been said many times over, you need to find your own path in the game, you have to discover what is out there that will keep you engaged.  EVE Online pretty much dares you to like it.

It is never going to be a home for casual theme park MMO players.

Anyway, that is the last of my three part exploration of PvE in EVE Online.

I’m still thinking about resubscribing to WoW, though on Friday night I managed to distract myself by picking one of the many unplayed games out of my Steam library to try.  I spent a couple of hours with Sniper Elite V2, which I think was a freebie on Steam at some point in the past as part of a promotion.

And Potshot has mentioned Medieval Engineers as a possibility.  But it seems likely that there will be more Azeroth in my future.

SuperData Research Shows DOTA 2 Down, WoW and PUBG Up for July

SuperData Research is back with their numbers for the July digital video game market.

SuperData Research Top 10 – July 2017

On the PC side of the chart the same top four remain, but Crossfire dropped down to 4th place from second.  After that World of Warcraft moved up to 5th position, with PlayerUnknown’s Battleground in 6th, and World of Tanks in 7th as DOTA 2 slipped down three slots since June.  Meanwhile Overwatch and ROBLOX swapped their spots in 9th and 10th place.

On the mobile side of things, the one year anniversary celebrations put Pokemon Go back on the top ten list, while Candy Crush Saga dropped a spot but stayed on the list.

Other items from SuperData’s monthly update:

  • Console leads U.S. digital growth.  July’s year-over-year growth was underpinned by a 20% rise in console digital revenue and an 18% increase in free-to-play MMO revenue.
  • Pokemon GO enjoyed a summer bump with their anniversary event.
    Pokemon GO had its strongest month of the year so far growing month-over-month. However, this is still down from the $150+ million generated last July when the game launched.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds sold another 1.6 million digital units in July. The gaming video content darling continued its rise, with 4.9 million monthly active users in July.
  • Grand Theft Auto V stands strong for another month. Through its microtransactions model, GTA Online grew significantly year-over-year for the month of July across console and PC. It did not outperform its record-breaking numbers in June.
  • Roblox hits record high MAU on PC. Roblox continues its upward trajectory with a sequential-month gain in monthly active users. On the other hand, monthly revenue appears to have temporarily leveled off due to a slight drop in both conversion and ARPPU.

In Search of the Thousand Dollar Video Game

Last night Keen saw fit to retweet this gem, which is the sort of statement than makes me shake my head in dismay.

There it is again, the false comparison between lattes and video games, with a game dev angry that people are not paying enough for his product.  Even the go-to comic from The Oatmeal to cover this is more than five years old now. (Clicking on the image will bring you to the full comic, complete with the coffee comparison.)

The comedic exaggeration of the concept

The argument here, salted with jealousy, seems to be that all luxury goods are equal, so your baseline for deciding where to spend you money should be solely factored on the value one gets in return.  In that world, the fleeting experience of a latte pales in comparison with the many hours of enjoyment a video game can bring.

Except, of course, that is specious at best and more akin to complete bullshit for most people.

The buying decision for a latte is never formulated as “What is the best value for my money today?”  In my experience the situation is more akin to, “I NEED coffee NOW!”

I don’t actually drink coffee, so I might not be the best person to make that assessment, but that is what it looks like from the outside.  I have seen developers get panicked and upset when they mislay their coffee mug and I am keenly aware how often we have to stop at Starbucks so my wife can get her favorite coffee beverage. (She prefers a “soy caramel macchiato,” which might as well be a magic incantation so far as I am concerned.)

Anyway, video games likely never come into the buying decision.  The latte experience is so different and so removed from video games that comparing the two is… well… I already used the words “specious” and “bullshit” didn’t I?  That.

So whining about people buying lattes instead of your video games is just a self-serving attempt to blame other people, including your customers, for your own problems in a cheap attempt to milk some guilt out of them.

And what are your problems if you’re a video game developer?  I think a lot of that has been covered elsewhere.  But then there is the video game market itself.

The video game market is overloaded with choices, most of which are uninspired imitations or direct knock-offs of worn-out concepts we’ve seen many times before hidden behind a series of horrible user interfaces that defy people to actually find the gems in the huge steaming stack of dung that is the video game market.

Imagine if Starbucks was run like Steam.

You’d have thousands of different lattes, each with a name that might or might not relate to what was actually in them, vaguely described, with mashed-up references to sub-genres of coffee drinks.  You would have to order them from a computer screen where you could only see 20 or so at a time.  Oh, and some of them aren’t compatible with your coffee cup, while others say they might be, but probably require you to upgrade your cup in order to enjoy them fully.

How is that for an analogy?  Let’s push it even further.

You can… slowly… look at latte reviews, but some of the positive ones are from people who were given a free latte, while some of the negative ones involve aspects outside of the latte experience.

Meanwhile, every previous latte you ever ordered from Starbucks is still available to you.  You can look in your latte library and see them all.  There are some in there you really liked, but probably a lot more that you barely even took a sip from.  Sure, you might be a bit tired of the ones you like, but they are reliable, certainly more palatable than most of your attempts to find a fresh new latte.

Oh, and then there is the Starbucks Summer Latte Sale and the Starbucks Winter Latte Sale, during which many lattes are marked down from 25-to-75%.  If you aren’t dying for that specific latte right now, you can wait and it will probably be cheaper.  Seems like a good idea, unless all of your friends are simply raving about some new latte.  You’ll buy that one right away.

I’m tempted to bring GameStop into the picture and examine the situation where you can return your latte for credit on a new latte, but I think I have pushed the envelope of absurdity far enough to make the point that comparing video games and lattes is an argument for the dim, desperate, or drunk.

While I too scoff at people putting down five bucks for a latte, connecting that to video game sales seems ludicrous.

Instead, they are a form of entertainment.  Video games are fun, not food.

As such, they compete with other forms of entertainment.  Here, the original tweet claims the entertainment value for video games should be $20 an hour.

That would make video games a pretty expensive form of entertainment.  My immediately to-hand similar comparisons:

  • Movies – $20-25 per person for 90-180 minutes of entertainment, including popcorn and a drink.
  • Books – $12 for a paperback, $30 for a new release hardback, 4+ hours of entertainment
  • Audiobook – Varies, but I just wrote about an $18 book that is more than 7 hours of entertainment
  • TV – Even being gouged by Comcast, probably close to a dollar an hour as much as our TV is on
  • Netflix – $12/month, used enough to be under a dollar an hour
  • On Demand – HD movie, 90-180 minutes, anywhere from $4-12, whole family can watch

At $20 an hour, the value proposition for video games doesn’t look so hot.  When you’re argument is undercut by Comcast, you’re on the wrong side of history.

Which is not to say I do not see the entertainment value in video games.  My Steam library runneth over, my history with them goes back more than 40 years, and I write a video game blog for Pete’s sake.  I love video games.

But if you think playing the bitter game dev, shaking your fist at your customers (and potential customers) and blaming them for not giving you what you feel you deserve, I have to say that you’re not doing yourself any favors.

And, after all of that, I have to admit that I did find a video game that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people have paid over $1,000 to play.

It is called World of Warcraft.

I know I have spent more than that much, counting the base game, the expansions, subscription fees, and the occasional cash shop item.  Blizzard was just smart enough to not ask for all the money up front.

Of course, the Gods of Irony must be paid their due.  This shining example of a video game that many, many people are willing to spend that much money on… is the sort of game he disdains in a subsequent tweet.

So most gamers just give up and keep playing League of Legends or World of Warcraft and forget about trying to find anything new.

There is the problem.  It isn’t that we’re not willing to spend that much money on a video game.  It is that we’re not willing to spend that much money on the “right” video game.

I think somebody in the comments on the corrupt developer post made the music comparison.  A lot of people want to get into music, be a rock star, and live the lifestyle.  But there is only so much room at the top.  Likewise, in the video game business you get a few really successful games, and a few devs rich enough to afford to become space tourists, while the rest labor on, never achieving fame or fortune.

Anyway, cranky rant over.  I’ve been down this path before, more than once.  It is a pet peeve of mine.  Keen posted about this as well in his more optimistic tone.  You might prefer that.  I’m just too jaded to buy this sort of blame shifting.

SuperData Research Says Pokemon Go is Back but not in the Top Ten

The SuperData Research numbers are out for June 2017.

SuperData Research Top 10 – June 2017

On the PC side of the chart, the top six entries remained the same compared to the May chartWorld of Warcraft is still listed as a single entry rather than being broken out East/West.

Further down the list, World of Tanks was down a slot, losing seventh place to the hot new awkwardly named kid on the block, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.  Likewise, Overwatch lost ground, dropping to tenth position, being overtaken by comparatively long in the tooth title ROBLOX.  The miracles of massive online games I guess.

Dropping from the PC top ten were Counter Strike: Global Offensive and New Westward Journey Online II.

At the other end, while SuperData noted in the text accompanying the chart that Pokemon Go saw a significant boost in June due to the gym and raid update, it was not enough to get the game back on the list.   Candy Crush Saga, which returned to the list last month dropped from seventh to eighth place, but somehow hangs on in the top ten revenue list after all these years.

SuperData Recombines WoW Again for May Chart

The SuperData Research Top Ten chart for May 2017 is out.

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2017

The decision as to whether or not to split World of Warcraft into East/West or represent it as a single unit has swung back again.  Last month they were split, this month combined again.

The combined WoW number still dropped a notch, falling from 5th to 6th place, while Overwatch moved up a slot to 8th place on the PC chart.  The top four spots on the PC chart remain unchanged, while DOTA 2 landed on the charts in the 5th spot.  It was last seen on the chart back in February, where it was holding the 10th position… or 9th position when the chart was refactored to combine WoW yet again.

World of Tanks remains behind WoW for yet another month… though I do wonder where it would stand with WoW split into two.

Meanwhile, I am left wondering what the difference between Fantasy Westward Journey Online II and New Westward Journey Online II.  I suppose one might just be the original Fantasy Westward Journey.  SuperData needs to fix their shit I think.

On the mobile chart Pokemon Go dropped off the list for the first time since launch.  The game just deployed a revamp of gyms and added gym raids, so we shall see if that is enough to get it back on the list next month.  That Candy Crush Saga returned to the list should give them hope.

Other items from the SuperData report:

U.S. digital slows down but still shows year-over-year growth. U.S. digital revenue is up from April 2016 but down from March 2017. Free-to-play MMO, console and mobile all had high-single-digit revenue growth, more than offsetting slight declines in social and premium PC revenue.

U.S. digital revenue up year-over-year. Gamers spent over $1 billion across all platforms in May, up from April, during what is typically a lackluster point in the year. Growth came primarily from mobile revenue.

Overwatch shows continued growth. Overwatch digital revenues are up from April but down from May 2016, when it launched. Additional Content revenue hit a new high in May on the back of a one-year anniversary event.

Injustice 2 has a solid launch on consoles. We estimate Injustice 2 sold almost 500k digital units on console in May after launching mid-month. This puts it at number four in the top 10 console rankings this month in terms of digital revenue.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 gets another DLC release.  Black Ops 3 grew month-over-month and beating out Infinite Warfare. The jump, which vaulted the game past Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, came from the PS4 release of the “Zombie Chronicles” DLC.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds has another big month.  PUBG had another solid sales month in May with 791,000 units sold, bringing life to date digital sales above 2 million units through May. June looks to be another massive month for the game.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege breaks into console top 10 for the first time since January 2016, thanks to the continued “Year Two” support from Ubisoft.

SuperData Splits WoW into East and West Again

As the end of a month approaches SuperData Research publishes their digital market top ten lists for the previous month on their blog, so here are the stacks from April.

SuperData Research Top 10 – April 2017

This month sees World of Warcraft split out into East and West on the PC list.  This arrangement  first showed up on their January chart.  It was initially on their February chart, but the chart was revised to combine East and West later.  The March chart saw the single combined WoW on the list.  And here we are in April with East and West split out once again.

There is a temptation to ask SuperData to make up their mind.  But, as I have noted before, an analyst firm like SuperData requires the cooperation of the companies they study if they want access to raw data… data they can slice and dice and package to sell to investment managers and such.  That gives the company leverage, so I am going to say that if WoW is split into East and West, or combined into a single enter, it is because somebody at Activision-Blizzard wants it that way.  And I follow the changes just to see if they’ll tell me which way the wind is blowing.

Anyway, for this month League of Legends continues its reign at the top of the PC list, followed by three Chinese titles, then WoW West.  That seems to indicate either a boost in fortune for WoW outside of China, or a fall in the fortunes of World of Tanks, which dropped to sixth place.

Behind that is a new title on the list, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a $30 early access game on Steam that more than a million players pain in for and which might be bad news for H1Z1: King of the Kill as it seems to be targetting the same audience with a survival battle royal theme.

Then there is WoW East followed by Overwatch, which overtook its nemsis CS:GO after falling behind it the previous month.

Dropping off the list from last time is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands and Lineage.

On the mobile side of the house, Pokemon Go held on to 8th place again this month.

The notes for the month talk up Overwatch’s MAUs, which confirms to me that Activision-Blizzard is pushing their agenda.  A jump up the revenue list would have been more impressive.  Other notes from the post include:

  • U.S. digital slows down but still shows year-over-year growth. U.S. digital revenue is up from April 2016 but down from March 2017. Free-to-play MMO, console and mobile all had high-single-digit revenue growth, more than offsetting slight declines in social and premium PC revenue.
  • PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds tops this month’s premium PC digital revenue despite being in Early Access and breaks into the top 10 PC overall list with titans like League of Legends.  While still in Early Access, made an estimated $34 million in gross digital revenue in April.
  • March’s new releases, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, experienced sharp declines in digital revenue in April, possibly due to mediocre reviews.
  • Hearthstone mobile fully recovers from February, one of its worst months ever in terms of digital revenue, on the back of its latest expansion “Journey to Un’Goro”.
  • EA dominates the top console rankings. FIFA 17 and Battlefield 1 were the top grossing console titles in April. FIFA 17 digital revenue jumped double-digits y/y, a large portion of which came from Ultimate Team. Battlefield 1 was down slightly from March but still showed strong traction for the recent DLC “They Shall Not Pass”.
  • Grand Theft Auto V benefits from a new online update. GTA V digital revenue is up from last year. This was primarily driven by an uptick in GTA V Online micro-transaction revenue on the back of the “Tiny Racers” update, which was a unique throwback to retro, top-down, racing games.

Finally, in a post earlier this month, SuperData mentioned that  the Chinese giant Tencent Holdings, which counts Riot, developer of League of Legends, in its portfolio, might be looking to license Daybreak’s H1Z1: King of the Kill.  The quote from the May 2nd post:

Sources show that Tencent WeGame is surveying users’ intention if H1Z1 is to be moved to a “non-Steam platform,” leading to the discussion around whether the company has decided to publish H1Z1 on its newly rebranded WeGame platform. The game’s launch of a China-limited patch, altering police cars to cabs and blood to black fluid, are also considered signs of DayBreak prepping the game for officially entering China.

The source of the information is a web site in Chinese, so I’ll take their word for it since Google translate barely helped make the statement clearer.  The news, should it come to pass, could be a big bonus for Daybreak.