Tag Archives: MMO Subscriptions

Activision Blizzard Making More Money, WoW over 10 Million Subscribers Still

The Activision Blizzard results for the fourth quarter of 2014 were announced yesterday and, to probably nobody’s surprise, the combined companies reported making huge amounts of money.

ActiBlizz450What with Destiny still selling well, the latest Call of Duty installment somewhere out there, a World of Warcraft expansion, and Hearthstone apparently worthy of repeated mentions, the money was pouring in.

Actual footage of Bobby Kotick and Mike Morhaime during the call

Actual footage of Mike Morhaime and Bobby Kotick during the call

You can find summaries of the announcements around the web, or you can go to the Activision investor relations site to see the full financial report and the presentations.

Of course, I am more interested in Blizzard around here than the Call of Duty Activision side of the house.  The Blizzard slide shows about what we would expect.  Best annual revenues ever.  More registered users.  More good stuff coming.

Blizzard slide from the presentation deck

Blizzard slide from the presentation deck

Still, there is a point there that will be seen by some as losing by not winning enough.  Only 10 million subscribers?

I know, it says “over” 10 million, but if it was over, say, 10.5 million, they would have said over 10.5 million.  Past behavior indicates that.

And 10 million was the number they gave back in November after the expansion finally came out.  That only got us up to the Mists of Pandaria peak.  With the history of the game, anything less than 12 million will be failure in the eyes of some.

But at least this chart hasn't changed!

But at least this chart hasn’t changed!  Lich King, Best King!

Of course, that dissatisfaction with not getting back to the peak subscriber number ignores the scale of WoW’s subscriber base.  The jump from 7.4 million subscribers to over 10 million at the launch of Warlords of Draenor… 2.6 million subscribers… how many other popular MMOs would we have to stack up before we hit 2.6 million subscribers?  Not just registered users or those tagging along for free, but people who signed up to pay that $15 a month?  And what about that 10 million number?

The churn of users just coming and going since the expansion launched would probably kill some games.  You can sure as shit bet if EverQuest II had 10 million subscribers… or 7.4 million… or even 2.6 million… Smed would be telling the PlayStation people what to do rather than being sold into bondage.

World of Warcraft remains the outlier that distorts the scale when we talking about MMOs.  Comparing it to other things just doesn’t work, because even down from its peak it is still too big.

Anyway, that is the big news from Blizzard.  All money, all the time.

Oh… and one more thing.  StarCraft II – Legacy of the Void.  The mention of it being the “Final” expansion to the StarCraft II series stands out for me.  Maybe they said that back at BlizzCon and I missed it, but seeing that word “Final” on the financial presentation makes it stand out for me.

So what will the RTS team at Blizzard be doing when they have wrapped that up?

Should we read anything into the fact that the RTS team appears to be playing around with the Warcraft III assets?

Further Mutterings about MMO Revenue Models

A few years back, at the height of the housing boom, we decided to move.  We listed our house at the market price for our neighborhood, and the first day on the market we got an offer for roughly 60% of what we were asking.  Somebody sensed, as we all were beginning to at that point, that the bubble was going to burst soon, and wanted to know if we were desperate.

We were not, and actually sold the house for what we were asking a couple weeks later.  But there was no possibility that we were going to come to an arrangement with the person who made that first offer.  Their offer was so insultingly low that it made it completely unlikely to be able to negotiate any deal at all.

We have a garage sale at least once a year.  Often we have two, one in the spring and one in the fall.  Just the process of finding stuff to sell helps us keep the house clear of clutter, so that our home, with the exception of my office and my daughter’s room, feels clean, open, and spacious.

We tend to put out all manner of things on the driveway for sale.  I often have a pile of books that have made it into the category of “won’t read again” out on a table.  At one garage sale I had done a big purge and had 40+ paperbacks lined up, with the asking price was 25 cents each.  Cheap enough that anybody with an interest would pick them up, and it wouldn’t kill me if I decided to give a couple away to any kid who looked like they wanted to read one.  And, as always, quantity discounts are available.

A woman, who rolled up in an expensive car, offered me a dollar for all of the books, and then started gathering them up like it was a done deal.  A dollar turned out to be exactly the right price to start a fight.

In the cold logic of hindsight, it was just an offer I could freely reject.

In the reality and emotion of the moment, it was insulting.  I started with “no” and worked my way up to using them for kindling before I would sell her one at full cover price.  Her offer stayed at a dollar throughout, leavened with sneers and insults.  But we could have stopped after our first pass through offer and rejection, as no deal was possible after that point.  I cannot imagine she thought her negotiation technique was going to be effective.  It is always interesting to meet people who are worse at interpersonal relationships than I am.

What did those two little stories have to do with anything?  We’ll get to that.  First, a foundation of words needs to be built.

With the announcement that Rift is moving from the once traditional monthly subscription model to a cash shop driven free to play model, there have been the usual range of reactions, from feelings that no good will come of this to expressions of joy at the demise of yet another monthly subscription barrier to entry.  Some people really hate the subscription idea.

My own response is somewhere in between.

Good things will come of this change.  I know that.

More people will play Rift.  It won’t make it suddenly popular with people who wouldn’t play a fantasy MMORPG in the first place.  But people who wouldn’t otherwise commit to $15 a month will want to play.

An annoying amount of words, and some irrelevant pictures, after the cut:

Continue reading

Quote of the Day – Worlds and Race Tracks

You can’t live on a race track. Races tracks are for racing. You go around a few times and quit.  Why subscribe to that?

Edward Castronova, The Decline of Worlds

Ever the virtual world visionary, Professor Castronova, in the post linked above, takes a quick look at how he feels being a “world” might affect which revenue models people are willing to accept, with Star Wars: The Old Republic and EVE Online trotted out as examples.

I think this ties into another quote from him:

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

That probably works both with the subscription model as well as the in-game economy.  And it certainly applies to elf, Minmatar, and Twi’lek alike.

Do you think that the “worldliness” of an MMO impacts what revenue model will work for it?

Does this play into the “three monther” issue?

It Is September and My Subscriptions Will Soon Lapse, Should I Care?

Due to a quirk of timing, my three current, active, recurring online gaming subscriptions will all lapse in the next ten days.

Those subscriptions are:

I have a habit of subscribing in 3 month increments and then quitting a game just after the billing date passes, leading to a long lag time between cancellation and the actual end date for access.  I always start a game with an optimistic point of view.

Certainly, subscribing to EVE for 3 months based on Incarna was an act of the purist optimism.  I could have saved my money and gotten about 95% of the entertainment just watching the fireworks that ensued.  But I felt I had to be there.

SOE was the combination of getting back into EverQuest II and running around in EverQuest on the Fippy Darkpaw server.  EQII lead to quick burn-out with our guild leveling effort.  The EQ adventures were fun, and I keep thinking I want to go back, but somehow it always ends up being the 4th item on a list where I can only manage the first three.  Even now I am tempted to keep the subscription on the off chance I *might* find some time to play EQ.  But the rational part of my brain knows that there is really little chance of that happening.

And then there is World of Warcraft, which I could of sworn I cancelled back in April, but which billed me again in June and, well, there you are.  Here I was telling people I was part of the 600,000 departing players and I wasn’t.  Well I will be soon.  I saved that cancellation confirmation email just in case.

And so all of my recurring subscriptions will be gone.  Even my daughter became bored with WoW, Animal Jam, and her brief fling with Free Realms on the Mac.  Instead she now seems intent on devouring every bit of Warriors literature.  So her subscriptions as well have all lapsed.

If I had achieved that state say, five years ago, it pretty much would have meant NOT playing any MMOs.

But today?

Well, Lord of the Rings Online is an oddity, in that I have a lifetime subscription, so technically that has not lapsed, what with the game still being up and me still being alive. (Lifetime meaning their lifetime or mine.)

But the free to play options are pretty broad at this point.  Even if I did not have a lifetime subscription to LOTRO, I could still be playing it.  Likewise, because we focused on the EQII Extended server for our Norrath experience, I can still go back and play there as well.

And the options available now that do not required a credit card are wide and varied.  I have spent a good chunk of time with World of Tanks and Need for Speed World, neither of which require anything beyond account creation and a client download.

I think back to the early days of EverQuest, when there was some anxiety about thing like whether your characters would be saved if you unsubscribed from the game.  There were, if I recall right, a couple of subscription MMOs that did just that.  But now you would have to be insane to consider deleting characters, given how many players return to a game at various intervals.

In a way, EverQuest and EVE Online are hold-outs from a different time, each being available only as part of a recurring subscription plan.  Even World of Warcraft has an unlimited trial these days.  I wonder when Rift will go that route?

The world has changed, as it has a habit of doing.

Where once if I had said my subscriptions had all lapsed, I would be playing no MMOs, now it just narrows the field of choice a bit.

John Smedley on the Expectations You Can Have With a Monthly Subscription Fee

The monthly subscription fee means players can expect a lot of new content from us. And I say a lot — I really mean that. This is something that we feel obligated to the players, because they are paying monthly sub fee…”

From this DCUO post over at Massively.

I’m just going to let that hang there, something of a quote for truth thing.

It will give me something to check back on in a few months.

I’m sure nobody would disagree with that as SOE’s position on the subject.

Considering My Path Forward With EQII Extended

I have to decide tomorrow what I should do about EverQuest II Extended.  My 30 days of Station Access expires and I am not really keen to renew it.  I got to poke around in EverQuest and EverQuest II Live, where nostalgia lay.

But I spent most of my time in EverQuest II Extended, which was fun because the world actually has people in it…  people below level 50 who aren’t obviously alts being leveled up.

I had enough fun that EQIIx could very well be my “other” game.  I can generally play two MMOs at a time, swapping between them.

World of Warcraft is obviously going to be one of them, what with the expansion and the instance group reforming yet again in Azeroth.  And while I figured that Lord of the Rings Online would be the secondary game, we did have a good run with it over the summer and I could probably let it rest for a while.  After all, I am a lifetime subscriber, so it will wait.

So I might stick with EQIIx for a while.  But that leads to the subscription options… and there are a few.

Now, of course, there is a downside.  I often have fun with the 1-40 levels.  I have a lot of characters in various games who got to 40 or so, who were then were replaced with a fresh new alt… or with a new game altogether.  So I am uncertain how “sticky” the game will be for me.

That is compounded by the fact that I have yet to bump into anybody I know.  There is no guild of old friends or acquaintances, no pals looking to form any sort of regular group, just a bunch of strangers so far.

Granted, lots of them.

And I am sure many of them are very nice.  And while I have grouped up a few times, I do tend to shy away from guilds that have such low standards that they would actually invite me.  At least sight unseen.

With all that in mind I am going to put up a poll (we all love polls, right?) and ask for opinions.

For those that aren’t up to speed on the various options, here is the membership grid yet again.

The account level matrix

The only thing missing from the grid is Station Access, which gives you a Gold level membership, but also allows you to play other SOE games.   however, it comes at double the price of a Gold membership, so you really had better be playing two or more SOE games if you go that route.  (And I’m not sure if I would get free vampires in EQII Live and EQIIx if I kept Station Access.)

In Defense of the New EQII Subscription Plan

Total rip off. 1/3 the price for 1/10 of the access? That’s horrendous.

-Dave, in a comment on my post about the new EQII subscription plan

Not that I am picking on Dave, but he does succinctly state what people seem to be objecting to when it comes to SOE’s new subscription plan for EverQuest II, the EQII Passport.

Sethial, in another comment on that post, calculated out that the cost per day of a normal subscription is 50 cents while with this new plan it is $1.66.  Again, a seeming blow against this offering.

Certainly, looking at in a raw numbers way as above, this subscription plan does not seem like a good deal.

So I want to approach this via analogy.

Okay, stop groaning!  This will be a pretty apt analogy, not some sparkle pony bizzaro world dream analogy.

I used to have a cell phone for which I paid $35 a month.

For that $35 a month, which included all taxes, fees, and whatnot, I got 1000 minutes of air time.  So the cost per minute of air time was 3.5 cents.  This was also in the days before minutes rolled over, so when the billing cycle was up, any unused minutes went away.

I gave up that cell phone and its plan for a pre-paid cell phone that charges me 25 cents a minute for calls.  That is a little over seven times the cost per minute of my old plan.

The problem for me was, in looking over my phone bills for a six month period of time, I was using about seven minutes of air time a month.  Seven minutes.

So my calls on the old phone were actually costing me five dollars per minute.

The pre-paid phone was clearly a better deal for somebody like me who is almost always seated within reasonable proximity of a land line telephone.

And so, while I am sure there are people out there who log on to EverQuest II every single day and who, thus, are really paying 50 cents a day for their play time, I am equally as sure that there are people out there who only log on a few days a month and who are probably effectively paying, per day, something very close to this new plan.

The price per day measure is interesting, but only works out if you’re using every single day, the way that first cell phone plan would have only worked out for me if I was using a lot more minutes than I was.

An all-you-can-eat plan isn’t a good deal if you’re not hungry or on a diet.  One size, and I speak as somebody who is 6’3″ tall when he stands up straight, rarely ever fits all.

That said, I still find the “three consecutive days” clause to be a deal-killer for me.  Perhaps if I was in a group that could coordinate and have a monthly EQII weekend it might tempt me.  But for general use, the consecutive days just axes the appeal.  I’d like to see somebody from SOE explain why they chose that particular restriction.

Still, as I said, I am glad that SOE is offering something new, and I am sure that somebody out there who will read about this new plan and think it is right for them.