Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
What is the market size of MMORPGs?

MMO Data hasn't compiled subscription numbers since the end of 2013, but showed that the sum of all subscribers for all MMORPGs peaked in 2011 and declined since then. I wonder if anybody has more recent data on that. While I hear that Final Fantasy XIV is doing well, the best information I can find about it's subscription numbers are speculations on Reddit claiming 750k players. So if World of Warcraft is losing 1.5 million players in a quarter, I don't see how that is compensated by anything else. We might be at the lowest overall number of subscribers for MMORPGs ever.

This doesn't count Free2Play games, and due to several high-profile games having switched (e.g. SWTOR) or being in the process of switching (e.g. Wildstar), the number of *players* of MMORPGs might actually be on a very different trend than the number of *subscribers*. On the other hand I'm not seeing much indications that there is a big boom in player numbers for Free2Play MMORPGs either. For example the response to the announcement of the Guild Wars 2 expansion was everything but enthusiastic.

I'm seeing a lot of talk about other genres instead: Card games appear to be kind of hot, between Hearthstone and Magic Duels. MOBAs report huge player numbers, and they might be a more direct competition to MMORPGs, having a larger overlap of features. Games like Destiny and other online shooters equally offer gameplay in virtual worlds populated by lots of other players, and the line separating them from MMORPGs is getting thinner. Meanwhile MMORPGs appear to be stuck in "let's announce an expansion with more of the same" mode, with very little hope of the genre being revolutionized by innovation anytime soon.

So I consider it possible that the MMORPG genre as a whole is declining in player numbers. I just would really like to have some more solid data on this, instead of a bunch of anecdotal evidence.

In April, to explain/justify the declining EVE subs, there was an article on linking to a SuperData report showing "an 18% drop in global revenue from pay-to-play MMOs over this two year period. "

Of course, the irony is that, while I believe in the decline of # for MMOs in general and sub MMOs in particular, the first of this year was clearly an upswing in MMO subs.

Wildstar and TESO and 14ARR had subs in January, had 0 prior to launch
WoW started this year with 10M subs after the 3M jump.
It is hard to see this as a new peak, but it certainly is a local maximum.

EA has said within the last year that they get a million SWTOR players a month, ofc which is very different than a million subs. Someone got the CCP financials and I think we can safely assume that EVE is the bulk of their revenue.

1) In spite of the zealots on fan sites, graphs of "the MMO industry" and WoW are not going to be that different, especially prior to the last 6 months.

2) All these discussing I presume have an implicit "in the West" qualifier. If China is not the biggest games market now, it soon will be. Arithmetic of the size and growth of developing countries would seem to dictate that the number of MMO players worldwide is growing even if that growth can't come close to keeping pace with MOBAs or mobile. The number of first-world bittervets complaining about casuals, WoW, and WoW clones is declining in numbers but not in volume.

I think the big spike with WoD shows the large and growing gap between the potential MMORPG players and the current players. And I think this is a pretty good indicator of the quality of the current offerings in that market. I would still probably list MMORPGs as one of my favorite genres, even though I'm not playing one right now, and hadn't played one for several years before WoD. But the other genres I like have plenty of games out right now that interest me, and the MMORPG genre just doesn't.

P.S.: I haven't heard from the open-PvP crowd in a while. This year is littered with games that were supposed to be great, that didn't share the problems that previous open-PvP games had (production quality, glaring balance issues, rampant bugs). I don't see any successes yet. What happened?
Oh lord.

First, the Chinese players aren't subscribers the way every other country is. The definition has been intentionally fucked with to make WoW look more popular than it really is. I've been arguing that for years on this blog, so I'll spare you all from round 10 of that debate.

And shit yeah it's a declining market. WoW is like a big shady tree that blocks the sun from any new MMOS from growing. And it is in decline in its own right.

It's also a time sucking, low work to fun ratio genre. In an environment where phone games, Rocket League, and stuff like that is blowing up, MMO's are the opposite of everything that is successful in todays market. MMOs were never really as big a deal as MMO genre proponents like to think, but even they have to admit it's a niche, like turned based strategy games, at this point.
Every other game that has players in China (e.g. EVE Online) is also counting them. Isn't it kind of racist to say that a Chinese player doesn't count with regards to popularity? I don't think they are easier to please. And they pay a similar amount of money to play if you calculate it a purchase power parity, that is they are spending a similar percentage of their income on the game as an American does.

And I really prefer a "low work to fun ratio" to the opposite, high work to fun ratio. ;)
A player that is worth $1.50 a month or so doesn't belong in the same category as players paying $15/mo.

Also they lack the basic definition of a subscriber. They bought a certain amount of time. It doesn't renew. They have to go buy more time if they want to continue to play. Do I subscribe to milk? I subscribe to cable, since I'd have to take action to NOT pay for the next month.

Change the term to player and I would be ok. That would be accurate. But they aren't subscribers. And that doesn't have to with where they are from.
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