Thursday, October 16, 2008

Warhammer's numbers in the face of WotLK

Just how much will the the release of Wraith of the Lich King effect Warhammer's subscription numbers? Well if you follow the press releases then you know that Mythic just recently announced 750,000 accounts registered for their game. That's around the same number Age of Conan announced after three months. I have to give kudus to Mythic for getting those numbers within the first month of release though now the competition gets tough. World of Warcraft is the better PvE game and you can expect any raid and dungeon fans to probably migrate back during the upcoming month. Still no one really knows just how many of the current Warhammer players prefer the path of PvE content.

There have already been recent claims from Paul Sams the COO of Blizzard that half of the players who left for Warhammer have come back. This is probably true, but it's not as bad as it sounds. A lot of the current players in Warhammer are probably players who quit World of Warcraft quite awhile ago or came from other games. The numbers Paul Sams is quoting is probably just the accounts that were closed in mid-September. I sincerely doubt that all those 750,000 accounts were all people who recently quit World of Warcraft. You also have to count in the trend of World of Warcraft expansions attracting back players who have been absent from the game for quite awhile. As we have seen the WoW expansions usually only have enough content to keep people interested in the game for about 4 months, but they tend to take two years to develop. This results in a lot of people who come back to the game around expansion time.

So in a worst case scenario where everyone playing Warhammer came from World of Warcraft and half of them have now returned. Warhammer would still have 375,000 players.

A more accurate scenario of Warhammer's numbers are probably

300,000 players who didn't come directly from WoW
450,000 players who came from Wow
750,000 players

If half the players who came from WoW have returned then that would mean that 225,000 players have come back to the world of Azeroth. But since the WoW expansions generally attract a lot of returning players who have stopped playing the game, I would predict a portion of those returning players are not actually coming back from Warhammer. Now if World of Warcraft didn't have an expansion coming out then I would say most of those returning players would be coming back from Warhammer. Also you have to count in the players like me who are probably going to play both games for awhile. Just because someone decided to re-open their WoW account doesn't mean they are canceling their Warhammer one. This is probably a small number of players, but it could still account for 25-75k players.

In the end I would expect the active subscription numbers for Warhammer to grow, especially considering how effective they have been at patching. Age of Conan had a horrible patch history and often broke more things then they fixed. This was probably a key factor in Funcom not being able to hold onto the massive number of people who tried out their game. In the case of Warhammer, you don't have to worry about developer incompetence driving away players. Warhammer is really only competing with the content in World of Warcraft. And while I've seen some impressive things in the WotLK expansion, I haven't seen anything that would cause a mass exodus. In the end I expect Warhammer to hold onto at least 500,000 subscribers throughout the month of December and then continue to grow as people start finishing the content of WotLK.


Anonymous said...

To be really fair to Mythic, they listed their numbers as account signups for Warhammer.

Funcom's numbers were based on boxes shipped, of which it turned out only about half of them sold, they didn't get close to the 750,000 subscriptions that was originally assumed.

Blizzard's numbers aren't even numbers, because the half isn't actually half of the people who left. It's half of the people who actually filled out their departure forms and stated Warhammer as their reason for leaving.

I for one, never bothered filling that stuff out and I imagine that 75% of the people who do are likely to have stronger ties to return. Of course, I'm pulling that number out of thin air, much like Rob Pardo did. =P

I'm not a gigantic Mythic fan, but I definitely respect that the number they gave was a cold hard fact. That's pretty rare in this industry.

Anonymous said...

You are correct about many of the WAR players not being "recent cancellations" from WoW. Many, many of us quit playing WoW months (in some cases over a year) ago.

And Rog's point about the survey is right - not everyone bothers to answer it.

To me the "tell" is this: it's been a long time now since Blizzard could announce a new high in sub numbers. This means their numbers are either steady or dropping. Anecdotally, what I saw before I quit was that numbers were dropping in the US market: many of my friends quit between the summer of 2007 and 2008. Server pop was down on both the servers I played on. Raiding guilds were having a terrible time getting people to raid post-BC, when before at level 60, there were waiting lists to get into raids.

A lot of people leveled to 70, did a little raiding, and said "to heck with this grind" and left.

Although I raided several nights a week for years in WoW, I was also an avid PvPer. PvP is so much better in WAR. I'll never go back to WoW for any PvP at all; if I ever do buy Lich King, it will be to experience the quests and level to 80, and then I'll immediately cancel the account again. I have no interest in doing the end game raiding/rep grinds ever again.

Rochmoninoff said...

I hope that Warhammer is a long term success. I'm a WoW player and have no intention of ever moving over but Blizzard needs competition. Blizzard operating in a vacuum can only lead to a steady decline in quality.

WoW is in a pre-expansion flux state. Lots of guilds falling apart because there's no point in raiding right now.
(My guild is being bombarded with join requests because we're still active.)
I'm sure this is a major source of numbers drift for WoW. But this will go away in a month and Blizz wills start reporting growth again - bank on it!

I want both games to grow and compete. They'll both be better for it.

Too bad about AoC. Mismanaged by the developer. Over the top buzz from the fanbois. It could have been a contender.

The MMO market needs to have more than one success story. If Blizzard is all there is (or Mythic if they displace WoW) then the market is closed to developers. Creativity is stifled. And the necessary churn which puts games on shelves and new PCs on people's desks is lamed.

So go go Mythic, go go Blizzard.
A blessing on both your houses.

Anonymous said...

I still play WoW. I'm in Mount Hyjal right now facing Archimonde. But the wife and I both got Warhammer accounts and we like it. Today in Nordenwatch she wanted to get even with a certain sorcress that killed her. "Let's get her." We didn't but it was fun watching the wife want to get even. We both play WoW and Warhammer and don't plan on changing things.

Anonymous said...

I'm really hoping these numbers are true, I just read about AoC massive lay-off with their staff, and tabula rasa completely giving up the ghost and closing down start of next year. Giving the fact that these games have not been out for long it's a scary thing.
I am a new WAR player, I quit WoW primary because of the players several months ago(I got sick to death with how the community accepts/encourages so many people with god complexes/acting like there gods gift to humanity) and i will say this about it; better story line, better community, and significantly better pvp. The PvE at the moment is lacking by quite a bit, and several aspects of it feel unpolished (trade skills), yet its a new game, and with the rapid major patching going ('new' class that they cut on realise out today) on, I hope it doesn't stall long enough for people to start leaving