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An Analysis of MMOG

Subscription Growth
Bruce Sterling Woodcock
MMOG Analyst
MMOGCHART.COM
Who is this guy?
• 1988 – Began playing Internet multiplayer games,
primarily MUDs and TinyMUDs
• 1990 – Briefly ran TinyMUD Classic and Islandia
• 1997 – Began playing MMOGs (Ultima Online)
• 2000 – Angel investor in Playnet, Inc. makers of
World War II Online
• 2002 – Began tracking MMOG subscriptions
• Today – Independent MMOG analyst, consultant,
and writer, MMOGCHART.COM
• No formal training in business, financial, or market
analysis.
Types of Market Research
• Primary Research (NPD, DFCI, comScore, etc.)
(also known as field research) involves the
collection of data that does not already exist.
This can be done through surveys, interviews,
focus groups, field tests, or observation.

• Secondary Research (MMOGCHART.COM)


(also known as desk research) involves the
summary, collation, and/or synthesis of existing
information compiled from other sources.
The first subscription chart (almost)
Where do you get your numbers?
• Press releases (EA, Sony, Mythic, Blizzard)
• Public financial documents (NCSoft, Vivendi)
• News articles (magazines, newspapers)
• Other public statements (conferences,
message boards, etc.)
• Direct disclosure (Ankama, CCP, CipSoft)
• Anonymous sources (most everything else)
• Data points are rated for reliability
MMOG Active Subscriptions
200,000+

11,000,000

10,500,000

10,000,000

9,500,000

9,000,000

8,500,000

8,000,000

7,500,000
Total Current Subscriptions

7,000,000 Ultima Online


Lineage
6,500,000 EverQuest
Dark Age of Camelot
6,000,000
RuneScape

5,500,000 Final Fantasy XI


EVE Online
5,000,000 Star Wars Galaxies
Lineage II
4,500,000
Dofus

4,000,000 EverQuest II
World of Warcraft
3,500,000 The Lord of the Rings Online

3,000,000

2,500,000

2,000,000

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
MMOG Active Subscriptions
70,000 - 700,000
700,000

650,000

600,000

550,000

500,000 Ultima Online


EverQuest
Total Current Subscriptions

Asheron's Call
450,000
Dark Age of Camelot
Tibia

400,000 Final Fantasy XI


The Sims Online
EVE Online
350,000 Toontown Online
Second Life
Star Wars Galaxies
300,000
City of Heroes / Villains
Dofus
250,000 EverQuest II
Dungeons & Dragons Online
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
200,000 The Lord of the Rings Online
Tabula Rasa

150,000

100,000

50,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
MMOG Active Subscriptions
0 - 120,000
120,000

110,000

The Realm Online

100,000 Asheron's Call


Anarchy Online
World War II Online
Majestic
90,000
Motor City Online
Earth & Beyond
Neocron
80,000
Total Current Subscriptions

Asheron's Call 2
The Sims Online
There
70,000
A Tale in the Desert
EverQuest Online Adventures
Shadowbane
60,000
Mankind
PlanetSide
Toontown Online
50,000 Second Life
Sphere
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates
40,000 Horizons
Era of Eidolon
Neocron 2
30,000 The Matrix Online
Dungeons & Dragons Online
Auto Assault
20,000 Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Pirates of the Caribbean Online
Pirates of the Burning Sea
10,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Total MMOG Active Subscriptions

17,000,000 R² = 0.9871

16,000,000

15,000,000

14,000,000

13,000,000

12,000,000
Total Current Subsciptions

11,000,000

10,000,000

9,000,000

8,000,000

7,000,000

6,000,000

5,000,000

4,000,000

3,000,000

2,000,000

1,000,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Total MMOG Active Subscriptions - Absolute Contribution Pirates of the Burning Sea
Tabula Rasa
Pirates of the Caribbean Online
17,000,000 The Lord of the Rings Online
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

16,000,000 Auto Assault


Dungeons & Dragons Online
The Matrix Online
15,000,000
World of Warcraft
EverQuest II
14,000,000 Neocron 2
Dofus

13,000,000 City of Heroes / Villains


Era of Eidolon
Horizons
12,000,000
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates
Sphere
Total Current Subscriptions

11,000,000 Lineage II
Star Wars Galaxies
10,000,000 Second Life
Toontown Online
PlanetSide
9,000,000
EVE Online
Mankind
8,000,000 Shadowbane
EverQuest Online Adventures
7,000,000 A Tale in the Desert
There

6,000,000 The Sims Online


Asheron's Call 2
Neocron
5,000,000 Earth & Beyond
Final Fantasy XI
4,000,000 RuneScape
Tibia

3,000,000 Motor City Online


Dark Age of Camelot
Majestic
2,000,000
World War II Online
Anarchy Online
1,000,000 Asheron's Call
EverQuest

0 Lineage
Ultima Online
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
The Realm Online
Total MMOG Active Subscriptions - Relative Contribution Pirates of the Burning Sea
Tabula Rasa
Pirates of the Caribbean Online
100% The Lord of the Rings Online
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Auto Assault
Dungeons & Dragons Online
90% The Matrix Online
World of Warcraft
EverQuest II
Neocron 2
80% Dofus
Percentage of Total Current Subscription Base

City of Heroes / Villains


Era of Eidolon
Horizons
70% Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates
Sphere
Lineage II
Star Wars Galaxies
60% Second Life
Toontown Online
PlanetSide
EVE Online
50%
Mankind
Shadowbane
EverQuest Online Adventures
A Tale in the Desert
40%
There
The Sims Online
Asheron's Call 2
Neocron
30%
Earth & Beyond
Final Fantasy XI
RuneScape
Tibia
20%
Motor City Online
Dark Age of Camelot
Majestic
World War II Online
10%
Anarchy Online
Asheron's Call
EverQuest
Lineage
0%
Ultima Online
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 The Realm Online
MMOG Subscriptions Market Share - April 2008

City of Heroes / Villains Tibia All Others


0.8% 0.6% 5.4%
The Lord of the Rings Online
0.9%
EverQuest
1.1%

EverQuest II
1.2%
EVE Online
1.5%

Dofus
2.8%

Final Fantasy XI
3.1%

Lineage II
6.2%

Lineage
6.5%

RuneScape
7.4%

World of Warcraft
62.4%
MMOG Subscriptions Market Share By Genre - April 2008

Social / Puzzle / Other


1.9%
Combat Simulation / FPS
0.2%

Sci-FI / Superhero RPG


3.7%

Fantasy RPG
94.2%
So…
That’s all very cool, Bruce, but do all these fancy
charts actually tell us anything useful?
Total MMOG Active Subscriptions - Projected

32,000,000
R² = 0.9871
30,000,000

28,000,000

26,000,000

24,000,000

22,000,000
Total Current Subsciptions

20,000,000

18,000,000

16,000,000

14,000,000

12,000,000

10,000,000

8,000,000

6,000,000

4,000,000

2,000,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Yearly Subscription Growth - 12 month trailing average
70.0%

60.0%

50.0%

40.0%

30.0%

20.0%

10.0%

0.0%
Jan-02 May-02 Sep-02 Jan-03 May-03 Sep-03 Jan-04 May-04 Sep-04 Jan-05 May-05 Sep-05 Jan-06 May-06 Sep-06 Jan-07 May-07 Sep-07 Jan-08
MMOG Active Subscriptions
World of Warcraft
12,000,000

11,000,000

10,000,000

9,000,000
Total Active Subscriptions

8,000,000

7,000,000

6,000,000

5,000,000

4,000,000

3,000,000

2,000,000

1,000,000

0
Oct-04 Jan-05 Apr-05 Jul-05 Oct-05 Jan-06 Apr-06 Jul-06 Oct-06 Jan-07 Apr-07 Jul-07 Oct-07 Jan-08 Apr-08

World of Warcraft (North America) World of Warcraft (Europe) World of Warcraft (Asia) World of Warcraft (Worldwide)
MMOG Active Subscriptions
Traditional Retail Launch
700,000

650,000

600,000

550,000

500,000 Ultima Online


Total Current Subscriptions

450,000 EverQuest

Asheron's Call
400,000
Dark Age of Camelot
350,000
Final Fantasy XI

300,000 Star Wars Galaxies

City of Heroes /
250,000 Villains
EverQuest II
200,000
Dungeons & Dragons
Online
150,000

100,000

50,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
MMOG Active Subscriptions
Digital Distribution
700,000

650,000

600,000

550,000

500,000
Tibia
Total Current Subscriptions

RuneScape
450,000
EVE Online
400,000 Second Life
Dofus
350,000

300,000

250,000

200,000

150,000

100,000

50,000

0
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Broad Conclusions
• The MMOG subscription market continues to grow; 16M+
now, 20M+ in 2009 (pred. 2006), 30M+ in 2012 (new)
• World of Warcraft to peak at 11M – 12M by 2010 (new)
• Most retail-launched MMOGs have an initial growth phase
during the first year, followed by 1 – 3 years of a more
stable, “mature” subscription base, and then a noticeably
and often sharp decline. (This is similar to a log-normal fit.)
• MMOGs that rely on digital distribution show a much
slower, organic growth over time.
• New markets grow subscriptions, but expansions packs
mostly cover churn and provide a retail presence.
• A recovery from poor launch is unlikely.
• The market is overwhelmingly dominated by fantasy-based
RPG games.
• Much more detailed analysis is possible.
Other metrics besides monthly
subscriptions
• Daily Average Concurrent Users (ACU) and Peak
Concurrent Users (PCU)
• Average weekly/monthly uniques
• Average revenue per user (ARPU) – ARPU/hour
• Neilsen Ratings? Arbitron?
• Evolving business models – free to play,
microtransactions, advertising, “velvet rope”
access, etc. make direct comparisons of those
MMOGs to subscription-based MMOGs difficult.
• Good overview of this topic at
http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/06/01/measuring-mmos/
Benefits of Transparency
• Improves your company’s ability to make good
business decisions. (Of course, it helps your
competition, too!)
• Stimulates new financial investment in the
marketplace.
• Makes everyone use the same industry standards.
• Counters disinformation.
• Increases company exposure and increases
consumer awareness (esp. for smaller companies).
• Provides greater choice to the consumers.
Proposal
• We need an MMO version of the Audit Bureau of
Circulations.
• Established in 1914, the ABC is a non-profit forum
of magazine publishers, newspaper publishers,
advertising agencies, and advertisers. The group
provides credible, verified information critical to
the industry by conducting independent, third-
party audits of print circulation, readership and
web site activity.
• Why can’t we do this?