Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Recently Second Life hit the 1 million registrations mark. But according to Terra Nova the number of peak concurrent users is just below 10,000. The high number of registrations is due to registration being free. Presumably a lot of people try Second Life once, and never come back. The ratio of "subscribers" to active users during peak time is 100 to 1 for Second Life.
Now I don't have really good data on the peak concurrent users of World of Warcraft. The number is only reported for China, where peak concurrent users for WoW just hit 630,000, out of 5 million "subscribers". As the total number of subscribers of WoW is now 7.5 million, I'd estimate the total peak concurrent user number for WoW to be 1 million. But even if we take a much more conservative estimate of 750,000, the ratio of subscribers to active users during peak time is 10 to 1 for World of Warcraft. When WoW came out in the USA, during the holiday season of 2005, it had 600,000 subscribers and 200,000 peak concurrent users, a ratio of 3 to 1, but of course we can expect the enthusiasm to have gone down since then.
So why is a World of Warcraft subscriber at least 10 times more likely to be found actually playing the game than a Second Life subscriber? Is that proof that WoW is highly addictive, while Second Life is a non-addictive MMORPG?
I think the answer is much simpler, the business model is different. If you pay for a monthly subscription, it doesn't make much sense not to play. If the subscription is free, you only play when you really want to. Second Life has less than 30,000 paying customers, the landowners. The ratio of paying customers to paying peak users is probably much better than 100 to 1.
But whether we call it addiction or we call it by any other name, it is also likely that World of Warcraft is more "attractive" than Second Life. Given both an WoW account and a SL account for free, most gamers would end up playing World of Warcraft and more or less ignore Second Life. While people (including me) love to complain about the shortcomings of World of Warcraft, it isn't as if Second Life wouldn't have its troubles. The BBC reports SL problems with self-replicating worms, server outages, and copybots. And among people frequenting virtual worlds, MMOs like World of Warcraft with a large game component have consistently been more popular than MMOs like Second Life, which offer more of a world to hang out, and less of a game.