Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 15, 2011
 
Time to peak

Just to annoy Klepsacovic, my third post for the day. :)

Raph Koster once wrote a post on the development of subscription numbers for MMORPGs. He says that all subscription number curves are the same: A growth to peak, then a slow decline.

Thus I'd agree with Ardwulf that the 20% drop of Rift player numbers does not mean, as some doomsayers claimed, a drop to 50% by next month.

Nevertheless I have to observe that while Raph might be right that the shape of the curve is always the same, it is remarkable by how much the timescale changed. It is totally possible that World of Warcraft has peaked by now, and is declining. But WoW sure as hell didn't reach that peak in the first month.

Syncaine is going to blame the "WoW tourists" for that. But isn't the problem rather that the new games are too similar to WoW and other previous games, so they don't hold the attention of players for very long?
Comments:
I'm not so sure that shape of the curves has to be the way it has been in the past.

If you make a game like Rift it is nearly impossible to not get a lot of players from WoW who just check it out. Some dump in sub numbers might therefore be inevitable.

That does not necessarily mean that Rift is going to die. It may not be a revolution of the genre and it is actually pretty much more of the same, even with rifts. But it is still a polished MMORPG that had a very good jump-start.

If the rift developers start to focus on the world and not on the raids, they might even push Blizzard quite a lot. Trying to make better scripted raids than Blizzard, however is a trap and will get Rift killed quite quickly.
 
I think it's simply that WoW is a freak event.

If every publisher judged the success of its latest author against J.K. Rowling, no-one would ever get a second novel published.

Good enough is good enough and we should stop over-analyzing.
 
World of Tanks just started :P

It's much more innovative then WoW or Rift
 
In the MMO world, it's fun to play the "sink or swim" game every time a new title launches.

But if you take a step back, it appears that there is enough of a market to sustain 'failures' after the first year.

Contrast LOTRO and EvE with WAR and APB (v1).
 
'But WoW sure as hell didn't reach that peak in the first month.'

In terms of hours played, which is what the statistics under discussion about measure, it almost certainly did.

And what is the corresponding figures since catalcysm release?
 
"But isn't the problem rather that the new games are too similar to WoW and other previous games, so they don't hold the attention of players for very long?"

Not necessarily, the community and people you play with is a big factor imho. Much of the time, we see people go back to WoW not because they miss the game, but their guild and online player friends.

New games can suffer very much from this "Social Gravity". Had I not got into a good guild in Rift, with people I already know from WoW, my enjoyment would have sufferred a lot. As it is, I'm having as much fun in Rift as I ever had in WoW, and that is partly down to it being a polished and competent game, but mostly because of the community that I belong to.
 
In terms of hours played, which is what the statistics under discussion about measure, it almost certainly did.

Sorry, I don't understand that remark at all. WoW's subscription number peak happened years after release, so how can that be the same as Rift peaking in less than a month, even if you adjust for hours played?

I think it's simply that WoW is a freak event.

Have a look a the subscription number curve for Everquest. EQ also took years to peak. So WoW isn't a freak event, but representative of how games' subscription numbers *used* to evolve until a few years ago.
 
I think the big difference is WOW sucked whole guilds from Everquest. The result was in the early days if you joined a server a few guilds had moved too a culture was already there.
When you move with all your friends or a big guild you probably aren't going to look back.

But when you try a new game alone and your friends all stay behind, eventually you want to go back and interact with them.

Rift will do fine but it obviously wasn't good enough to suck whole groups of friends or guilds enmasse into the game. Thus a significant number will go back to thier friends who aren't leaving all the virtual stuff they "own" behind.
 
Do I think the that the games are too similar and that is the problem? No.

I think "WoW-tourist" implies that they have no intention of going past the first free month. If I go to Europe for a month and come home, does it mean the U.S. is better than Europe? Or is it because, as a "tourist", I never had any intention of staying there anyway, I was just going to check it out?
 
If I go to Europe for a month and come home, does it mean the U.S. is better than Europe?

The question is by how much Europe would have to be better than the U.S. for you to decide at the end of that month to rather stay and apply for residency than to go back home. If life is rather similar in both places, then it is more likely that you go back where your friends and family are. If the place you visit is radically different and better, then you are more tempted to stay. Which is why people from Mexico "visiting" the U.S.A. rarely go home, but people visiting from Britain usually do.
 
I don't think a 1-month peak is necessarily the ultimate peak. Maybe Rift will in the long term take the standard shape, but with a preliminary spike related to the circumstances of its launch, i.e. poaching a lot of players from the disappointing Cataclysm.
 
'people from Mexico "visiting" the U.S.A. rarely go home, but people visiting from Britain usually do.'

That's nothing to do with nicer, the benefits system in Britain pays anything with a pulse
 
People "visiting" the U.S. from Mexico rarely go home because their intent was not to visit. Intent as well as pre-formed opinions play a big part of this. It seems you wish to assume that the majority of these people weren't "tourists", but were actually looking for another home. I don't believe that's the case, just from reading the chat on my shard. There was plenty of chatter that showed many people were there for the free month only and played with no intentions of staying.

I can say I have been on the other side of the fence. I started LotRO because my husband asked me to play with him and I assumed it would be short-lived. I played 5 months and went back to WoW. Six months later I started playing LotRO. So if people do come to this who are currently "tourists", I don't think it would be instantly. I think it would be after a period of time away from Rift - an "absence makes the heart grow fonder" type of situation possibly. Same for if I was in EU for a month and decided to move. It would probably be for missing certain things after I had been "home" for a time.
 
Sam - Rift has seen a lot of guilds moving their entire shop over. I am in one. Our WoW guild still exists. They tell me a few people log on from time to time, but its effectively dead. I know quite a few guilds who did the same.
 
Here is the original linkage from Ardwulf's observations on the Rift loss directly from my blog.
Rift in decline?
I note "Right now, the MMO market is flooded with good titles (and yes, some pretty bad ones), but the fact remains; you want to play an MMO, you have some choice now."
This is the true measure of todays MMO genre.

The curve has changed now as so many more titles exists to take a players enjoyment. No matter the style of gameplay (PvE, PvP) or IP/world (Warhammer, Conan, Lord of the Rings), all are vying for that market share.

If we were back in the WoW launch days and lets say Rift launched 3-6 months later...the curvature and sustainability would be different.

20% loss due to a gaming services notation in an MMO's first 30 days is indicative of nothing but normal market movement for 2011.

Elementalistly
Lowered Expectations: Market Measuring for Goofing Off
 
Yeah, I think Raph's model has failed to pan out a couple times now, unless we assume that the gradual "rise to peak" happens entirely within the first month. The last several big releases have done nothing but decline after initial sales.

The environment in which such games evolve post-launch is different now, though; there's a big pool of potential players entrenched in existing titles but tired of them to some varying degree. These will naturally tend to jump on a new release, and many of them will drift back to their old game in a month or three. The set of such players is, I suspect, enough to swamp the kind of evolution Raph was talking about; if these games released in a vacuum he'd probably still be right.
 
WoW's subscription number peak happened years after release, so how can that be the same as Rift peaking in less than a month, even if you adjust for hours played?

To help you understand, I'll do that adjustment for hours played. Release week hardcore player plays 14 hours a day every day, with some overnight sessions. Causal player plays 2-3 hours most every night.

No way that drops only 20% after a month, dropping _to_ 20% of the time is more likely. Hardcore is doing a raid or expert every night (2-3 hours), casual one or two sessions a week. Sound plausible?

So a drop of 20% in hours played naturally corresponds to an increase of perhaps 40-50% in subscriptions.

Whatever the exact numbers, unless there is some big sampling error in the XFire data, there is no way that Rift has hit a subscription peak yet.
 
I'll be interested then to see if enough of them have moved to start dragging the masses with them.

I'd love to see both games be successful at the same time. That would be the best outcome for the players.
 
@soru: Ah, it seems my confusion was stemming from you quoting a phrase of mine that had nothing to do with your argument, making it look like you didn't believe that WoW hadn't peaked in a month.

In fact now I understand that you just think that Rift hasn't peaked yet, because the activity numbers don't necessarily reflect subscription numbers. Fair enough argument, although I have trouble believing in the guy who plays 14 hours a day for a few weeks, and then drops down to 3 hours. What is he doing with the remaining 11 hours?

Then again, I very much respect the opinion of Tipa, and her Rift after one month review sounds believable to me.
 
I'd love to see both games be successful at the same time. That would be the best outcome for the players.

I'd prefer SWTOR being successful as well as WoW and Rift at the same time. Otherwise all future MMORPGs will be fantasy themed.
 
I still don't think World of Warcraft has peaked. I believe that peak will happen within a year after the release of the Warcraft movie in a few years.

If the movie is successful enough to produce one or more good sequels, then the game may not reach peak for several more years.

I believe Blizzard has some mind-blowing ideas for the franchise in development -- ideas that may not satisfy the "disgruntled veterans," but ideas that will bring even more new MMORPG players into the fold.
 
Ah, it seems my confusion was stemming from you quoting a phrase of mine that had nothing to do with your argument, making it look like you didn't believe that WoW hadn't peaked in a month.

You still don't get it - WoW did peak, on the graph being talked about, within a month of release. It's just that the smallness of the dip meant, as we can tell by subsequently-released numbers, an increase in subscriptions.

I have trouble believing in the guy who plays 14 hours a day for a few weeks, and then drops down to 3 hours

Maybe so, though it matches my experience. In any you agree that in order for you to be right about Rift subscriptions peaking already, it would be necessary that most of those players were still playing 11+ hours a day every day? In that kind of time, you could do every T2 dungeon once, probably all the level 50 dailies, half a dozen battlegrounds and still have a few hours for farming trade-skill stuff.
 
On a slightly related subject: Is it true that the majority of players in Rift are already at the level cap?
 
I'd prefer SWTOR being successful as well as WoW and Rift at the same time. Otherwise all future MMORPGs will be fantasy themed.

From your lips to the MMO god's ears, Tobold. I've been dying for a good, PvE focused MMO for years. I'm far from a Star Wars fan boy, but I'm really hoping SW:TOR can pump life into the sci-fi end of the MMO genre.
 
Ack, should have said "PvE focused sci-fi themed MMO." My kingdom for an edit button. :P
 
@Tobold

"On a slightly related subject: Is it true that the majority of players in Rift are already at the level cap?"

My whole guild (not large...about 11 or 12) are not...not a one.

It's in how ya play it..

I play on average 30 hours a week...give or take depending on if I am smacking some heads and getting my drink on.
 
On a slightly related subject: Is it true that the majority of players in Rift are already at the level cap?
I don't know if I'd say the "majority", but many are level 50, yes. 15-20 hours per week over the past 6 weeks will get you level cap no problem.
 
So about 100 hours to level cap in Rift. At the time WoW came out, time to level cap was still 500 hours, although it's shorter now. I wonder how time to level cap correlates to time to peak subscriber numbers.
 
You still don't understand the tourist term, and I'm pretty tired of explaining it. Hell, someone already tried in this thread and you STILL don't get it.

As for peaking, the game changed when you added one outlier (WoW) that then floods any new release in the first month, with most leaving regardless of the game. That screws up any short-term analysis of growth, as the WoW-inspired number is overwhelming.

Rift love/hate aside, I think we can all agree it's a better game than WAR, right? Yet both WAR and Rift have a similar first month pattern (decline). Why? WoW.

Now in the long term (6 months+), the pattern for the two games is going to look a little different, and it's after the WoW-wave passes that we can see a games quality reflect the numbers.

Oh, and EVE blows up Raph's analysis, but then EVE blows up most things.
 
500? I started WoW some months after release and it took me about 13 days /played to lvl 60. I remember this very cleary and while I wanted to get to max level, I wasn't exactly rushing or even effiecient.

13 days are more like 300-350 hours.
 
My time to cap was something like 4 days played, so 100 hours sounds about right. Faster cap = faster peak, but rapid content delivery should stem that for most.

There is a lot of pressure for the current event to deliver in phase 2 and 3, along with the next one they have planned. They stated the next event is more dynamic/better than the current one, which was basically a system test. We will see.

10 man dungeons in 2-3 months (tops) is also pretty important IMO.

So far at least, Trion is keeping up, and so long as they do, numbers will stabilize and slowly grow.
 
I think you should not and can't compare the "pikes" of WOW and Rift.
They are more than five years apart and the "gaming" community is mildly said very different, not to mention the trends in "the gaming industry" these days...
 
Yes, you can pick up all those users on the first day.

And no, Eve doesn't blow up the curve -- it's just greatly stretched out.

This isn't just my model... it's a classic market acceptance diffusion model.

I do think that the network effect of returning to a dominant product is a huge factor here.
 
I'm really interested if the curves are adversely affected by games with recurring subscription costs.

I know that I've read more and more that the average player won't support more than one subscription at a time and this might be what influences people to go from a new game back to the old, but I'm curious if this has any weight.
 
BTW, business school teaches about the product life cycle and one can google for the generic curve.

There was a book decades ago called "future shock" that talked about everything speeding up.

I also think MMOs have something that complicates the life cycle.

30 day free trial - The number of free trial players, on the way up or down, is not as significant as the paying subscribers. A half million Aion beta users does not give that much insight into the final Aion subscription numbers.

MMO investment - the least commitment is from someone who has not paid anything for the game; someone who has spent $60 has more commitment, someone who spent $60 and then grinded 400 dailies just in the last expansion has even more commitment.

So all products have a decay; But I submit that older MMOs, e.g. WoW, should decay less than newer ones. Or that a two year old Rift will decay closer to WoW than a one month Rift. It doesn't explain everything; it might not explain most, but I argue it is a factor.

/QQ Of course product life cycle curves do not fully explain Cataclysm
 
Still think WoW mostly stumbled in at just the right time and place. I.E. when everyone was getting broadband. It's sort of like Avatar. Sure, it's not really a good movie. But it made a shitload of money simply by being at the right place and the right time. It wasn't the first 3d movie. It wasn't the first good 3d movie. It just took full advantage of the technology before anyone else.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Raphs comments are about subscription numbers, not hours played.

Fair enough argument, although I have trouble believing in the guy who plays 14 hours a day for a few weeks, and then drops down to 3 hours. What is he doing with the remaining 11 hours?

Hours played have reduced BY 20%, not TO 20%. The 14 hour a day player is now playing 11 hours. And as someone else said, he's probably spending the other 3 on World of Tanks.
 
The activity graphs at warcraftrealms.com definitely show a RIFT effect. There was a large slide down when RIFT released, but the last few weeks have been about flat. I credit this to a fraction of players coming back to WoW after spending all their time on RIFT at the opening, superimposed on a steady downward drift of WoW activity.

I wonder how RIFT has affected lower tier MMOs, like LOTRO, and if they have shown a similar rebound effect.
 
The "dropping to 20%" was soru's argument. He think that subscription numbers have gone up by 40% while play time has gone down by 80%, leading to an overall dip in activity. I don't really buy that.
 
For some time by now, the european WoW forums have highly-rated "I quit" posts. Highly-rated means in the top 10!

Have a look at this or this one.

What's different is that these posts are so very high rated. The vast majority of contributors agree! Most of them in an intelligent manner.
 
@Tobold

Have a look a the subscription number curve for Everquest. EQ also took years to peak. So WoW isn't a freak event, but representative of how games' subscription numbers *used* to evolve until a few years ago.

Are you simply measuring success here, or just peak numbers? Blizzard is now claiming to have 12M players. Is there any doubt that we will see 13M? 14M, or more? I certainly think it's time that Bloggers accept the fact that the player pool for online games is not finite.
 
Quoting Tobold...Fair enough argument, although I have trouble believing in the guy who plays 14 hours a day for a few weeks, and then drops down to 3 hours. What is he doing with the remaining 11 hours?

*Raises hand.* I'm that guy. I'm in a guild filled with people like this (some even more so than me). I think a lot of adult "hardcore" MMO players behave this way, actually. We have lives so there are only so many vacation days/sick days/spouse hall passes we can cash in in a year before we need to return to a sane playing schedule. This is normal - when the game comes out everyone crams as much playtime as possible, and then after a while your activity level subsides to a sustainable level, you start to try to get more than 5 hours of sleep a night, etc.

I'm still very active in Rift but my activity level has definitely dropped off by at least half. I ran out of vacation days, and there are so many Rift-filled weekends my SO/social life can take.

We do know Trion is still moving plenty of boxes - Rift is #3 and #4 on Amazon's PC game bestseller list right now, and the Collector's SKU is actually moving up on the list.
I suspect Rift active accounts could even be growing slightly, but ultimately it's impossible to tell unless Trion releases data. The 20% drop in activity level really tells us very little about how the actual subscription numbers are moving.
 
When i started playing WoW back in late 2006 (september) i reached level 70 around either marts-april may'ish with aprox 25-27 days logged on my druid i remember clearly
 
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