Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 11, 2008
Guess how many copies WAR will sell

Via Book of Grudges I found this interesting tidbit of information Mythic revealed the Warhammer Alliance forums: To go from closed beta to release, Mythic is adding 9 million Euros ($13.5 million) worth of server equipment to a new datacentre. And that is just for Europe! Big business, indeed, compared to most single-player games. Now I have no idea how many players fit on 9 million Euro worth of servers. But if I take the retail price of the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning box, deduce an estimate of the cost to actually make that box, and then divide 9 million by that number, I come up with something in excess of a quarter of a million. WAR would need to sell a quarter of a million copies in Europe just to pay for the servers. Of course that is a gross simplification, as it doesn't take into account monthly fees, nor development cost, nor operating cost. But it shows the order of magnitude Mythic is shooting for.

And as predictions are a fun way to get egg on one's face, here is mine: Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will sell over 1 million copies worldwide before the end of 2008. Note how I'm hedging my bet by just stating a lower limit, because the upper limit will be a lot harder to guess. I'm guessing the lower limit using parameters like the total size of the market, number of beta applications, and the boredom index of the average WoW player. The upper limit will depend a lot on early word of mouth, which depends on how smooth the release goes, and MMORPG releases are anything but safe bets. But just to increase the chance of looking silly by predicting something totally wrong, I'd say the upper limit is under 2 million copies sold worldwide before the end of this year. So, provided that Mythic ever lets us know their number, I'll post around end of 2008 whether my prediction of between 1 and 2 million copies sold worldwide was correct. Copies sold, not subscribers, because there will be some interference in subscription numbers due to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion release of World of Warcraft. And press releases more often cite copies sold, not subscribers.

So here is your chance to upstage me: Make a better guess than mine. Either if you think that my lower limit is too high, or upper limit too low, by guessing a number or range of numbers outside my range. Or, if you think that I am broadly right, by guessing a much smaller range. How many copies do you think WAR will sell by the end of 2008?
I think this is dead on. I know at least 5 guys in my old WoW circles that will be leaving WoW for WAR based on all the good stuff they are hearing about it.

Another good measurement is to look at how many retail boxes that AoC sold. Without debating that WAR is a better game than AoC (which it is ;p) you can guess that War has a great chance to do at least as good in retail box sales at launch. If AoC did 700k in sales, WAR will definitely surpass that as it has enjoyed a much longer hype cycle than AoC did.

I would be cash that they do a minimum of a million boxes sold. Then, when the majority of the populous stays with WAR and doesn't leave after the 1st free month, they'll really start to see the profits roll in...exactly the opposite of what happened to Failcom.
* gets out crystal ball *

OK - I'll risk making a fool of myself. I got Vanguard about right, but then I'd had the benefit of playing the beta. I'm doing WAR blind.

1 million box sales in the first 6 months.

3 million sales by the time the population peaks (about 9 months in).

Decline to around 500K subs within 18 months as people get bored with RvR.
Tobolds guess looks about right. I think WAR will sell more then AoC in the first few months (so till end 2008, if promised release date is kept). Mainly due to a much more genre-suitable IP, more hype potential and favorable beta exposure. (you have to admit though, FC did one hell of a job maximizing hype in just a few weeks prior to launch; that part of the operation was excellent).

Initial sales, Im guessing twice the amount of AoC, so 1.5 million sold till end 2008. Upper limit: 4 million units sold. Long term subscriber base: just around 2 million. So yeah, i expect this game to be a very big, not a wow *killer*, but a extremely serious contender.

This guess was made without beta knowledge btw..:)
I reckon it'll shift a good one n' a quarter million copies by the end of 2008 with a peak of around 2.5 million within 6 months

I reckon that'll drop off pretty rapidly though - looking at around a stable 1 million subscribers in 12 months time.

Reason I say that is because RvR isn't for everyone and where as the hype for the first 6 months will be pretty big, going by how well planned Mythic is, it's only going to keep a third+ of it's number when people realise it's not WoW and thus not for them.
1.5 million copies

based upon number of beta-wannabe's and double it.
I'm counting on 1.4m sold at peak by end of year for the US/Europe/Australia markets.

What I'm not sure about is how well their marketing or plans are for Asia if any, that's really the key if you want to boost your subscription numbers even close to WoW. Then probably see subs settle down to slightly below 900k after normal churn and WotLK.
Put me down for 1.5M copies sold at year's end.
I predict somewhere near 400k copies sold, as after such failures as AoC and the rest of the mmos that got released the past one-three years, costumers would probably like to keep it safe and wait a couple of weeks for the bugs and design flaws to knock on press' door. AoC hyped a lot, delivered a bit good, than failed utterly. WAR has a bit of the same flavour for me. Looks good for a couple of days, but it is not something I'd pay to play. I'll patiently wait for Darkfall. If that turns rotten, I might not play anything, or casually subscribe back to wow. I have some horde characters to level groupped with my girlfriend.
Put me in for 3 million copies within 3 months of release, at least 1 million within first 2 weeks.
Based on AOC sales, I think WAR will do 2x - 3x as many. So whatever AOC is at, 1 million or a little less, I would look for 2 - 3 million in WAR.

I say this because I know a lot more WoW players who are talking about WAR (myself included) than I ever saw talking about AOC.

Launching WAR in the deadzone prior to WoTLK is also a brilliant move that will surely payoff.

I'm also gussing WoW will tack on another million or two over the next year though. :)
I'm going to guess 1.5 million by the end of 2008. Can't forget that that includes the holiday season, and WAR will still be new enough to pick up sales then.
I've seen reports that over 800,000 people signed up for the closed War beta, and if those numbers are correct, then War looks to achieve brisk sales out of the gate.

One thing I find interesting is that WOTLK aside, there isnt a really big MMO title on the horizon for at least a year, so it will have a nice window of oppurtunity(without competition) for quite some time.

But not knowing how well the "casual WoW gamer" is going to react to the RvR perpetual type of conflict in War, I'm going to also hedge and predict a conservative 1 to 1.5 million units sold by years end.
It may turn out similar to the Wii, where they undercut demand by not providing enough supply. However it is a lot easier to print cd's and put them in cardboard boxes then it is to make more Wii consoles so they could probably ramp supply back up pretty fast to match demand, In which case it might be a good idea to buy some Mythic stock right now.. :P
That $13.5 million is a less risky investment than it appears. If I was a business manager looking at the problem, I would ask the question slightly differently: How many concurrent subscribers would we need for four years in order to pay off this investment?

At $15 per month, that’s $180 per year or $720 for the four years. $13.5 million divided by $720 is 18,750 subscribers. In other words, if you can hold about 20K subscribers a month on those servers for four years (assumption: the expected life of those servers) then you will have paid for the capital investment. Obviously, this will be higher with maintenance fees and such, but my point is that while $13.5 million seems like a big number – it actually is a fairly safe investment.

FYI – I don’t know how much money that EA invested into WAR, but I thought I read a $50 million number somewhere. If I add $26 million to that number to cover servers in both North America and Europe, that’s $76 million invested. Following the same logic as above, that’s about 100,000 concurrent subscribers needed over four years.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that I didn’t mention the retail sales from selling the actual box. At $50 retail, they will be making a ton of money just on the box sales if they can get the rest of their expenses covered in the subscription fees. SO – from the Mythic perspective, you can easily make the case that 100K-150K subscribers for 4+ years is a success. However, I think they are shooting for upwards of 500K subscribers over four years and hopeful of over a million subscribers.
Maybe 1 million by year's end. Expect word to catch on and sales to surge before Christmas.

Tobold, have you considered something --

It has been said WAR will not kill WoW. But if it does well at release and gains momentum, do you think it could seriously hurt WotLK?

WAR, the WotLK-killer!?
I think Tobold and most of the commenters are being too optimistic. Like most hardcore gamers, you're making the mistake of assuming that your own tastes are more universal than they really are.

WAR is too PvP-oriented to appeal to the masses of casual gamers that made WOW a success. I'm not sure about the relationship between box sales and subscriptions, but I'd happily bet that WAR will never reach one million subscriptions.
Like most hardcore gamers, you're making the mistake of assuming that your own tastes are more universal than they really are.

If my tastes were more universal, there would be no PvP whatsoever in MMORPGs. I think PvP doesn't mix well with character development. It is because I think that many people think different than me that I predict over a million.
I went to Games Workshop's Los Angeles convention a couple of years ago. It was pretty big. GW and their Warhammer & 40K line are surprisingly popular.

Ever since Shadow of the Horned Rat, Da Fanboyz have been waiting for a PC game that can truly bring the WH world to life, and now they're getting one they can actually set foot into.

Having played against some of the WH fanatics I would say if you value your sanity, do not choose Chaos. There are proponents of both sides, but the foaming at the mouth brats are the ones who love the mutating forces of Chaos. Most of the kiddies may have chosen Alliance in WoW to play a female Night Elf (ZOMG! Sexxorz FTW!) but I predict those same immature brats will forsake Order and choose Chaos.

During the last few months (year or so) Blizzard have focused on PvP so much I think they've actually created a demand for a more PvP/RvR-oriented game, and WHO (or is it WAR?) is going to deliver the goods.

WHO absolutely must beat Wrath to the punch if they want to make the numbers, and if Blizzard can manage it, they will make damn sure they release Wrath within the last couple of weeks of WHO's introductory period. "Yeah, WHO wasn't bad, but my intro period is about to expire and Wrath is out now! See you in Northrend!"

I predict WHO will break the 2-million mark before Wrath comes out, possibly going as high as 3 million, but if they don't deliver an almost rock-solid product from release then Wrath will pull maybe half those gamers back to WoW.
maximum 3 million.
1 million first week, 2 million total by end of year. Where it goes from there depends on their content support.
This is death buy a thousand cuts.


Tobold's right. People will play Lich King, max out, and rotate through other MMO until the next expansion is released.
I think Tobold's numbers are pretty close given his set of assumptions, but I think we can actually get a bit more precise estimate of the minimum number of copies sold.

Let's look to the past, shall way?
(numbers taken from

Everquest, a PvE heav game, came out in mid-1999. Approximately two years later, they were the gold standard for MMOs and had a total of just over 400,000 subscribers.

DAOC, an RvR centric game, came out in the end of 2001, when the Everquest people were getting antsy. In less than 6 months, they had reached 250,000 subscribers, or about 63% of EQ's subscriber base.

WOW TBC, a PvE game with PvP elements, came out in January 2007. As of this post, it has a current subscriber base of between 10 Million and 11 Million.

WAR, an RvR centric game with some PvE elements, will come out in September 2008, as the WoW people are getting antsy.

Given that:
1.) WAR looks to be a much more solid game than DAOC was (+WAR)
2.) TBC fatigue is incredibly high, and WOTLK won't come out until probably November (+WAR)
3.) People don't hate Blizzard with a burning passion like they did Verant (-WAR)

I think it is very reasonable to expect WAR to peak at 33% of WOW's subscriber base, or between 3-4 Million people. In three months, it will sell at least half that amount of boxes. (1.5-2 Million boxes moved by December at the minimum.)

So 3 month minimum: 1.5-2 Million boxes.
3 month maximum: 3-4 Million boxes.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that the WAR marketing team knows what the hell they are marketing...

Assuming they do I'd say this, first month they top 2 mil, second month they dive down to 1.5, two years in they peak at 3.5 mil, from there they tail off for a good four years.

I'll probably be entirely wrong, but hey, thought I'd throw it out there.
People in Asia won't like WAR because it's not Hell-bent on 100-level grinding, but the Gold Farmers will be there. Considering about 600,000 of AoC's subscriber base are gold farmers I'll say that WAR will get 1.6 million subscribers.
My assumptions:
The hype train for WAR was far greater than AoC.

WAR has created a more effective marketing campaign prelaunch than Blizzard did prelaunch in the Western nations.

About 30% of WoWs playerbase are bored enough with their game to switch but will check out WoTLK regardless of what happens.

WAR is the sequel to DAOC without the cultural baggage


War will reach a million boxes sold within 3 weeks.

WAR at worst won't get 15% of their subscribers from launch to resubscribe after their second month of subscrpitions.

In between that time war will have a net gain of 100k subscribers each month until december where it will surge to more than double that amount.

Sales will surge again in January above October/November but less than December. War will constantly gain more subscribers than it loses until its first expansion.

Won't make any predicitions beyond that point because expansions set a different tone compared to first launch.

If it takes ~7 months to get the next expansion then WAR will have about more than 1.6 million players in Western nations.

In asia WAR will actually do well in Korea and China. In fact I expect WAR to beat out WoW in both countries in the long run but its sales growth will differ than the West in two ways.

The sales growth will be less steep when comparing on a month by month basis because DAOC wasn't promoted in the East so the sequel factor doesn't count. (I might end up being partially wrong here if news reports of EA's marketing team making insinuations they are the successor to WoW and as a result a psuedo sequel to WoW are true)

The sales growth will be healthier by maintaining an upward trend far longer than the Western sales. China's growing middle class will ensure that upward trend.

Whenever WAR in Asia releases it should be within the first 6 months and the hype built in the West will carry over.

WAR in Asia after a 7 month period will reach about 3.5 million subscribers.
Between Mythic's previous MMO and the Warhammer IP name being involved it's going to move lots of copies. I would guess 1.5 - 2 million over the first few months.
I am expecting that WAR will sell between 500K and 1 million at the most. I really doubt that there will be more than that.
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