Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Why WAR can't have 10 million subscribers

The discussion on the current World of Warcraft world event, where the zombie infestation allows players to inconvenience other players for a short time, and that causes a huge outcry of "I quit", reminded me why WAR can't have 10 million subscribers. How well would someone who can't support having to wait 5 minutes for a flight master to respawn react to being shut out of his capitol city for *days*, following a successful capture?

By definition PvP always inconveniences another player. At the very least by you winning and him losing, thus him getting less points than you. Any form of "impact" PvP, where one side can capture keeps or cities, prevents the other side from using those keeps or cities. And of course if you are in a PvP area, or PvP is on all the time, you can be killed. A large number of players simply can't stand being inconvenienced by other players in any way. They even go mental if another player accidentally pulls a mob they considered to be "theirs", or if some hunter rolls need on the weapon they think should have been reserved for their class. How do you want to get that sort of player into a PvP-centric MMO?
True, very true. Many players see the MMO world from their point of view without good data on how the virtual worlds are really populated. Less than 20% of the playerbase want a PvP ventric game...over 80% want PvE...
Teut, that's why I keep thinking that MMOs really aren't designed for the "mainstream". PvE is almost always better in an offline game with optional multiplayer. MMOs as a genre are built around harnessing the potential in PvP of some sort.
Thats a werid comment. Of course mmos are designed for the mainstream (10 million is pretty mainstream isnt it?) and pve in mmos is all about working together as a team against the computer, not against other players. I never do pvp, dont like it too much, but mmo Pv is an absolute blast.
A key question that I haven't seen properly answered is: Is WAR attracting new players to MMOS or is it just cannibalising other games. If WAR is attracting brand new players then the MMO industry may still be growing and WAR might be able to get 10 million or 100 million brand new players. If WAR is only leaching players from other games then the MMO industry may already have peaked and the best a new game can do is try to steal from the limited pool who are already playing.
My only answer for such i-quitters would be: do so. Play a game you enjoy more! They would not cancel their sub for even a day.
I am not sure if WoW is casual or not, but it appeals to casuals a lot more than WAR oder Guildwars. The entry barrier is key here and WoW does nicely by running on older systems and starting off at level 1 with merely 3 buttons for fun.

10 million sounds a lot put pales compared to casual MMO's. Check out for their userbase ... 240 million pets created, 2-3 average per user, thats 80 million+ users right there. Of course its a different audience, but hey they do have PvP :p
War's most likely just cannibalizing other MMO's - or in the case of many that I know - simply siphoning off another 14.95 from the bank account while the player decides where his virtual self will permanently "live". There are sure to be a handful of adopters that are attracted to the game based on the brand and its PnP and table-top lineage, but I'd count those few and far in-between. WoW has a leg up here as so many folks have sooo much time devoted to the game. When the time comes to fish or cut bait I think many will end up either dropping *both* MMOs or simply migrating back to WoW...after all - they have patch 3.02 and WOTLK to look forward to soon.

Back to the original question though - I don't think you can push a PvE centric player into "enjoying" PvP. You can dress it up - you can put PvE elements into it but at the heart of PvP there's a nasty basement dweller just waiting to use his /teabag macro on you. While I thought the mass zombie swarms and flight master / quest giver griefing were brilliant - I know there's someone else out there with less free time on their hands that's absolutely livid about the whole thing.

Simply put - you can't make everyone happy.
Hit the nail on the head with that one, Tobold.
Indeed it seems that most players want what has already been coined as Massive Single player Online Game.
Blizzard is becoming Microsoft: every computer geek can find a million flaws with Windows, but it still is the best option for the average user.
I don't agree.
People tend to get bothered by this zombie invasion, because it is new. If Blizzard had had these kind of events for some time player were used to it and even ask for it in other MMOs.

However - WoW is indeed like Windows.
After end game they offer several things to do that don't really have any connection. The players are even asking to remove the connections.
Many players want PvP items to be even more different than PvE items than they already are.

Me, personally, I am sad that Blizzard is ripping the game (the world) apart to make it as diverse as the players who play it. It will certainly be a cash cow that way .. but it will have as many fans as Bill Gates has - none.
There is a general misconception here that WAR *wants* or even *expects* anywhere near 10 million users. WAR is a niche, PvP-oriented MMO, and has been since it was first conceived. The funny thing is, if they achieve 3-4 million susbscribers, as did Guild Wars, I betcha they'd consider that a massive success. Something to consider.
Nick -- you really think WAR doesn't WANT 10 million players? Seriously? If they could have it they totally would. Anyone who rejects that kind of money or says they don't want it should just go close down their business immediately.
WAR clearly planned on 700 players playing the game. Each would pay the monthly fee for 56 years and the whole thing would have been a huge success. The fact they have ALREADY broken a thousand players only goes to show how much of a cash cow it's going to be and how better it is than WoW.
Sooo you're saying that Wow-players are a bunch of carebears...?
@anonymous #3, it seems weird, but look at how WoW is played. PvE is either solo or in small groups. Raids are usually guild endeavors. The multiplayer PvE just doesn't require the "massive" bit of the MMO acronym. You could make the game be an offline solo game with optional multiplayer PvE via a grouping interface, and lose very little of how the game is played. This is especially true in raids, where the game play is instanced.

Really, how many players in endgame raids do their raiding with PUGs? Sure, some lower level dungeons can be tackled with LFG results, but the much-vaunted and focused on raiding endgame is a highly scheduled affair. Why not take the game offline, have people gather via a lobby mechanism, and then play in their own little instance?

Yes, you lose the "online persistent world" bit, but what does that do, either? There's the auction house, which could again be an online component in a mostly offline game. The rest is PUGs (which hardcore players, the target audience, claim to hate), and PvP. Look at all those players who are fussy about this Zombie event. Most complaints are based on the idea that they don't want to play the PvP, and don't want to be interrupted.

My point is that the core WoW gameplay isn't really an MMO experience. WoW has a lot of people playing effectively solo or predetermined group games (with small scale groups of max 40 players). There's little truly massive about it, except that a lot of people are playing effectively parallel games, never interacting beyond raids or the Auction House.

There's nothing really wrong with that. It's just that ostensibly, the whole point of an MMO is to play with many other players. That isn't what's happening. WAR's RvR game is a bit closer to making the "massive multiplayer" bit relevant. PvP is stronger in WAR. As Tobold rightly points out, that's not really what all those PvE players want. I believe WAR to be closer to what an MMO really is designed for, as a genre. That's why I say that the "mainstream", those millions of WoW PvE players who don't want PvP, really don't want MMOs at all. They want single player games with optional multiplayer. They play WoW because it's a fun game, no doubt, but the way they play isn't really playing an MMO.

Look at the WoW census; most players are on PvE servers. They don't want the random ganking and stupid shenanigans that PvP allows. They want to grind out their quests in peace and go raid with their guilds. There's nothing all that different in that mindset from playing Diablo with friends online, and playing alone when they aren't there.
Agreed, Tesh. That way was chosen by Blizzard very carefully, when they removed all incentives to do outside PvP. The technical problems of creating a good MMO are still massive! WoW, as well as WAR, is not able to allow more than a few hundred players (actually not even 100) to look at each other at the same time. Our computers are unable to display it - that's another problem. Finally the gameplay mechanics are missing. The world is not interactive and the common outside PvP where one player jumps the other is usually no fun for anybody without some more gameplay mechanics - rules.

Right now MMOs are a very complex login screen for a multiplayer game - but who knows what the future will bring ?
Oh, certainly, I'm not saying it's an accident. It's just that Blizzard has sold the notion that WoW is incredible, when it's really little more than a solo game with a multiplayer client. That they get people to subscribe to that service at $15 a month is nothing short of marketing genius.

MMOs can be so much more than WoW, but the true potential lies more in WAR's PvP mindset than WoW's PvE. I'm just pointing out that the MMO potential of PvP and RvR isn't something that the mainstream wants, as evidenced by the way WoW plays as a PvE game. That's why WAR (or any other MMO trying to hit the potential of the genre) will never get the same numbers as WoW; the audience is different.
I think what Nick meant was not that Mythic wouldn't like some Blizzard-style "wheelbarrows of cash", but that WAR wasn't designed with the idea of out-WoWing WoW... it was designed as a solid niche game for those who love goal-oriented PvP (and those who love the Warhammer setting).

So what Mythic will consider a success really has nothing to do with WoW's sub-numbers.
A few points. Firstly, while the WAR RvR mindset might be great. But right now it is certainly not. Secondly No marketing genius was necessary. I don't mind if it is single player game, a multiplayer game or Tetris. If I play agame for several hours every week for over three years I have no problem to spend a multitue for what I spend on WoW. In "Spend time per euro" WoW is cheaper than any computer game *ever* created.
Lastly WAR was designed to beat WoW. No question about that. Problem is just once again that Mythic did not have the money to finish it. Everybody who is 40 right now, knows that it is *far* from finished.
When an objective is captured by his enemy, does the PvP player see that as an "incovenience"?

No, he sees that as an "opportunity". An opportunity to fight more of his opponent in one place, an objective to take back, strategies to try out and so on.

Therein is the difference between the PvP and the PvE player.
Anonymous, if WoW were sold as a single player offline game with optional multiplayer, like it plays (like Diablo 2 with, your "cost per hour played" would be a great deal cheaper than any subscription model could ever be. The very minimal value that WoW provides over the Diablo 2 model is disproportionately priced at $15/month.
Agreed, there are Blizzard games that are cheaper in "cost per hour". However, they also offer *a lot* less fun than WoW - at least for the majority of the people. Otherwise 10 mio people would play Diablo .. or even more - after all it is cheaper.

WoW is updated very often - compared to other games. A lot of content is added every year. The balance is constantly watched and rules adjusted. One should not forget that.
I think it's preparing to fail to make blanket statements about game genres like this. It will depend on how fun, appealing and exciting a new game is whether it gets 10 million players, it's not inherent in the format.

If the game rocked and all your friends played it would you play a game that occasionally inconveniences you while making up for it in other ways? Of course you would.

The success of WoW is largely related to creating a feeling among most players that they are winners, superior to other players. It does this in two ways: 1) by offering multiple different paths to success so that players take different routes and can see other people less far along their own chosen route and infer that they are worse players. Thus a level 19 twink, a arena champion gladiatior, a raider and a warsong gulch kill farmer can all believe they are better than the other 3 players because they judge success solipsistically. And 2) mudflation (people feel successful because they have uber items that only top players used to be able to get).

This is one formula for success and as you correctly point out not possible in an impact pvp game. But Chess is a perfectly successful game that does not rely on convincing both players that they were better than the other guy.

But the reason WAR won't hit 10 million subscribers is because it's not enjoyable enough, you've played WAR and you're going back to WOW for WotLK, Tobold. Had the game been fantastic fun you wouldn't be doing that, nor would anyone else and undecided people would be drawn to the clearly better game.

Kudos for WAR though for being the strongest challenger to WOW yet. They've done really well. But you can't judge impact pvp as a genre as if WAR is the pinnacle of all that is possible, it's clearly not
Well of course WAR won't get 10 million, the WoW 10 million is mostly made up of Chinese players who shouldn't be counted in the same way as North American or European players because they provide FAR less profit. Comparing Chinese subscribers to North American or Euro ones is like comparing numbers of people involved in free games and games you have to pay for.

Now will WAR get as many subscribers in North America and Europe as WoW, now THAT's a good question.
wait... explain the chinese subscribers shouldn't count thing again? how? why?
Chinese players don't subscribe, they pay per hour and are limited by 3 hours per day. Also they pay much less than we do. So financially you need to count them differently, from a playerbase point of view you can count them fully
At least one should consider that WAR for example is not available in china.
So for a fair comparison you should only count the WAR players in europe/north america and compare this number to the WoW players in these regions. In that case WAR should have something like 750k subsribers and WoW should have something along the lines of 3-4mio. A lot of these subscriptions, however, belong to the same person who plays both games or is still decinding on what to continue to play. So, one should wait a little bit before comparing the numbers. 13.11. probably isn't a very good date for a comparision, either.
I think the question you should be asking yourself as a player is, "Why do I care whether or not [insert game] has many millions of subscribers". What really matters from a gameplay and social perspective is the concentration of players that I have access to, i.e. on my particular server.

It's easy to provide the same experience that a game with 10 million subs does with "only" 1 million subs, say.
Only in the short run. In the long run a company will put much more money into a 10mio game than into 1mio game. That also affects your Server with 10,000 players.
I completely agree that there's no way that WAR will reach 10 million subscribers. But I do believe that there *is* a market for a PvP centric MMORPG.

@Teut - where'd you get your 80% PvE vs 20% PvP numbers? I'm not saying you're wrong, but would like verification of how you came up with the number.
Some Interesting Views.

Although @ the guy who was saying WoW, or any MMO to date, is played like a single player game with a multiplayer element - I think you are overlooking one major thing - Validation. No way would these guys play End game Raids if they weren't going to be able to Stand around in their T6 in the middle of Shatt for example. Its the validation from other players, recognising their achievements, that is what they are really getting out of playing the game. If someone gets promoted at work (ignoring financial benefits - none of us play WoW for that), do you think it's their new role that provides more satisfaction, or the way the percieve their peers will think about them?
Just an idea.

Despite a valiant effort by WAR, it will be a long time until WoW is toppled, as already commented above, that sheer amount of time INVESTED by the playerbase is a significant barrier to entry - mainly because it is a barrier to exit for the subscribers. People want to protect/grow their investment.
The true number of subs are 4.4 million, not 10 million. In my opinion, I hope Mythic doesn't have over a million ( although they're a business, and want that ). I like WAR's adult-oriented community like LOTRO. I'd rather deal with mature people in a small game, than deal with children in a large game. Mythic is a great company, and I don't want to see them become greedy and corrupted like Blizzard. Mythic tends to care more about their playerbase than WoW. I certainly respect that.
Back over the summer EA/Mythic said they wanted 250,000 subscribers. They've tripled that according to the last numbers I saw. A success by any measure.

When someone said above it is a mistake to think WAR wants 10 million subscribers, what they mean is that it is a mistake to think they have to get anywhere near that to be successful.

Truth is, they don't have to be anywhere near where they already are now to be successful (given their latest subscriber numbers they're pulling in over $11 million per month).

I don't think people need to concern themselves over the numbers. Play what is fun. For me, that's WAR and not WoW. For others it is the opposite. So what?
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