Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 02, 2012
SWTOR claims 1.7 million subscribers, Rift goes Free2Start

In yesterday's investor's earnings call, Electronic Arts said they sold over 2 million copies of Star Wars: The Old Republic, and had 1.7 million subscribers. I'm not quite sure at what moment in time exactly they counted those subscribers, but if they really only lost 15% of their players after the free month, that would have been quite a success. Nevertheless I would say that we'd better wait for the next earnings call in 3 months to get a more solid idea of the longevity of SWTOR.

Trion on the other hand announced that you can now play the first 20 levels of Rift for free, in a version called Rift Lite. Which is an exact copy of what Blizzard offers for World of Warcraft. I'd love to see some official subscription numbers, but with all the latest news about Rift being about server merges and price reductions, I get the feeling that they aren't doing so well. It is likely that they lost a number of "anything-but-WoW" players to SWTOR.
They're claiming most of the 1.7m are now actual subscribers beyond the free 30 days. That's actually pretty impressive, although I wonder how many of these will stick with the game after 3 months and leveling a few alts. I guess it depends on the amount of new content they provide.

It's also noteworthy that they sold almost a million copies using their overpriced Origin platform - that's pretty much pure revenue.

But of course, doom and gloom - Tortanic is a sinking disaster, blah blah blah.
I think some of those 1.7 million will have bought their copies after launch (maybe from word of mouth from friends) and still be in the first month.

I am a bit suspicious of the lack of physical stock at launch, that will be one of the factors that pushed people towards direct download.
I think the 1.7m refers to the fact that you couldn't play your free month without entering a sub - a fact which I got quite cross about:
"But of course, doom and gloom - Tortanic is a sinking disaster, blah blah blah."

Exactly what annoys me. The official forums are crazy, BW should seriously consider shutting them down as I have never seen so much negativity about what IMO is a fantastic game, thats now objectively doing very well.

Of course in 3 months time people like Tobold will be saying "let's see how it looks after 6 months" etc etc. Let's quit on the damn negativity and look at some positives. Even leaving aside the storylines/VA, I personally believe the classes, balance, combat and PvP are all much better and more enjoyable in TOR currently than at any stage in WoW. This is coming from a 6 year WoW player.
Let's see some positivity somewhere on the internet!
This is a statement up-to 31st of December ONLY. Therefore, remember, that at the point, because players were forced to set up a subscription service to actually play the game, this will include a large number of players still in the first month, and before they come to that crunch decision time (probably for most people around the 20-25th of Jan) of whether to re-subscribe. Given that to play the game, (even despite a free month!) you had to set up a subscription then, these figures really give us nearly nothing in terms of information beyond the fact that SWTOR shifted 2 million units.

You cannot, from the press release, really draw any meaningful conclusions regarding first month conversion rates.
people like Tobold will be saying

Would you care to explain? I don't think I expressed any overly negative opinion about SWTOR. It is a fun game, and had a good launch. As somebody who likes to think about the theory of games, I am very much interested in the question whether a story-based game can work beyond the point where the story ends. Thus I am carefully watching how the subscription numbers evolve. How can you construe that as unfair negativity?

Especially if Metaresearchboi is right and the date of counting the 1.7 million subscribers in the 31st of December, where everybody still was on their free month. This is exactly while I put a reservation about the time of counting in my original post, because that completely changes what the numbers mean in terms of longevity.

Having said that, of course SWTOR is the second biggest MMORPG in the West, after WoW. And that is quite an achievement.
If you actually read the report - it states the numbers were taken some time the first week *after* the first 30 days.

These aren't the people who quit.

That'd be some of the 300k that were bought and not in the sub number I'd imagine.
I wonder how the date December 31st got mixed into the information about sales and active subscriptions. The original press release - which can be found under - does at no point mention that date. It refers to a point about six weeks after launch, i.e. February 1st. This is the reference for sales and subscriptions.

Furthermore, from Tobold's link it becomes clear that the subscriptions are mostly paying customers:
"Q: Are these 1.7 subscribers paying?
A: Active subscribers means anyone paying or in their trial period. Most of those 1.7m are paying at this point"
Note that they are specifically distinguishing the free trial period from paying subscribers, so there is no confounding due to the fact that you need to set up subscriptions info without being billed when registering.

Of course, now some people will still say this is too vague, since they are saying MOST are paying. Nevertheless, MOST are at least 50%. And since these are all figures released through official press communication, investors will hold EA accountable for them. It's unlikely they will risk misinformation in that regard, especially since they were downrated in January.

Probably, the date of December 31st got intertwined with these figures since EA also released earnings reports for Q3 2011. However, hard facts in these are reported for September 31st, not for December 31st.
I canceled my Rift sub the other day. It's a 6-monther and won't run out until the beginning of April, though, so I'm sure Trion will count me as a subscriber until then.

I'm enjoying SWTOR, and theyr'e squashing bugs fairly rapidly with their updates, so the game's decent to begin with and getting better. I can see myself leveling up each of the 8 classes to get all the stories.

That said, I'm not real big on endlessly repeating dungeons at level cap for tokens or whatever, so once I hit 50 on any given character I probably won't play it much after that. This has held true in any MMO where I've capped out characters -- once capped, I play them a little bit, but then they tend to fall by the wayside.

As a result, I'm quite certain that once I've seen the 8 stories that SWTOR will also fall by the wayside for me.
Im glad that the numbers reflect my own excitement and happiness with the game. I had no interest in it up until a week or two before launch when I preordered it and felt it would be the next big thing and game to play, which is just how I started on wow.

After seven years of wow I was burnt out but tor has not only made me fall in love with the genre again, but more of my friends and family are playing this than ever. All of them who played wow over the years are in tor and more. I've tried almost every mmo. Before during and after wow, and I was not a bioware or star wars fanboy but I am truely sold on the quality of tor. I have been 50 for several weeks and still very interested - for many endgame is fun, as you remember the rush to level cap in wow. Level cap is just as fun or even more, but bioware finally solved the problem of how to make leveling fun.

I actually feel like theirs a huge number of things to do: raiding is tuned at normal mode so I am bringing first time mmo players and able to teach them and clear raids. Warzones at 50 are fun and competitive with close strategic matches. Hard mode flashpoints vary in difficulty and offer raid quality gear. Heroics, dailies, high end crafting, world bosses, datacrons... all that has kept me busy without starting an alt!

Im on a rppvp server and to my surprise have been able to make a guild and grow it to over 100 members by just recruiting mature adult players, most are in their mid 20s through mid 40s. My guild is based on respect so we outright forbid racism, sexism, homophobia, and other sadly common behaviours among other guilds. With no battlegroups or server and faction transfers, the community is close knit and people get to know each other and make new friends through pvp and flashpoints.

The majority of players I encounter are enthusiastic about the game, which has exceeded my expectations and contiunes to surprise me. Oh, if anyone is curious about the mythical "mature guild" of rp,pve,raiding, tell me what you think of: links to the swtor forum about it :)
Ironically enough, I'm a paying subscriber that isn't actually playing, but for a completely different reason.

I bought the game shortly after I ordered a new laptop online. I played it a tiny amount on my current laptop, but the reason I ordered a new laptop in the first place (at least one of the reasons) was that my current laptop is inadequate, and was having overheating issues. SWTOR is essentially unplayable on it.

It ended up taking 3 weeks to get my laptop, and when I shutdown even running firefox! Turns out there was something wrong with the heatsink on the GPU or the thermal compound or something. I wasn't going to void the warranty to try and fix it myself so I had to RMA it.

So I sit here still without the means even after my first payment fired off for the game. This has been a complete nightmare. The laptop company has been very nice and understanding but my goodness, I ordered the laptop on December 22nd and still have not been able to use it.

Yes, that *version* of the press release is pretty misleading isn't it.

The press release you *should* be looking at is the one they filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and free avialable on their website here:

In that version it is utterly clear that the press release is, to quote based on "preliminary financial results for its third fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2011"

The, rather misleading, stripped down, version on the Star War's website very much omits that key detail.

Purposefully? You decide.
The free 20 levels in WoW is actually pretty popular from what I've heard, but more for the veteran players than new players. These characters can be made into twinks with quest rewards, random dungeon rewards, tradeskills, and BoA items from honor points.

These players may let their subscription expire, but they are still actively logging in with their free account. When a major content patch is released, they are more likely to re-subscribe. Rift will over time probably enjoy some more low level activity as well as slightly more subscriptions.
The Rift Lite/WoW F2P model is the only choice for sub based games to have a low barrier of entry. I'm sure Rift started work on this once WoW's version went live.

I was certainly concerned SW:TOR would be a neutron bomb for the mid-sized mmorpgs...LotRO, Rift, Aion primarily...but I've been pleasantly surprised to see quite a few folks come back to Rift after some time in TOR.

Many players prefer a fantasy setting with an open world...groups of 30-40 on horseback riding across the plains to face a giant adversary. TOR does many things well, but not so much that. I would say the reports of the mid-sized mmorpg's demise are premature :)

Good research, but that one is even less misleading. Of course, the financial results are preliminary for the quarter that ended Dec 31st, as is stated in the very first sentence.

However, if you read a little further, you will find the following:
"Star Wars®: The Old Republic™ has generated 1.7 million active subscribers and sold through more than 2 million units in a little over one month."
Obviously, a little over a month cannot relate to Dec 31st, since the game was only out about 10 days by then, including early access.

Whether or not it was a good idea mixing information beyond Dec 31st in that release is open for discussion though.
I guess the question will be how close they are to profitability.

Of course no one can even agree on how much they spent, so it seems impossible.

It seems clear to me though that, at the very least, they will make the game profitable. Even with large losses there is enough of an impact that the game will pay for itself. It won't be a failure, though I suppose the real goal isn't making more than cost but making more than cost+market rates for the investor's money over the course of development.

And you all wanted to believe those no name analysts and their "rating"?

This is what I love about business. It's all just opinion until you post the earnings. Then after the C call it's just fact.

These numbers mean that entire dev cost will be recouped in about 4-5 months... AND as a bonus if the subs go up (and I would bet they will) we are talking about 2.5 million subs by summer.

So by back of the napkin analysis you will have a game making 40 mill every month top line (about 20ish net). A run rate that easily supports at least ONE more expansion in 13... Oh Goody!

Yeah this Wow MMO clone idea it'll never catch on. No future at all nothing to see here...
swtor is off to a great start i hope bioware releases alot of content regularly now.
well.. way back then, when they had their free weekend for your friend offer.. I have tried Rift.. and it didn't grab me nearly enough to actualy pay money for it, but now that its free to start, I thought maybe give it another try... except when I try to retrieve my old password, they tell me they don't have my e-mail on record... but when I try to set up a new account? they tell me my e-mail is already in use... oh well, there goes my second attempt at RIFT. as for subscription numbers and SWTOR and general forums? sadly they even put WoW forums to shame.. but they don't seem to be illustrating the feelings of people actually playing the game.. just like WoW forums. and bioware seems to be tackling issues pretty damned fast, all the while blizzard manages to screw up a patch after 7 years of maintaining the game.. we'll see what happens later, but honestly? I'm not to worried.
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