We Have “A Lot” of Players

Building off of yesterday’s post, along with a decline in subscriptions and purchasing Candy Crush for a bazillion dollars, Blizzard will no longer be releasing subscription numbers. As you can imagine, this sends some people into a fit about hiding failure, etc. Personally, I have to ask whether or not it matters.

WoW has a lot of subscribers. Whether you go from 5 million to 10 million, the effect on a player’s “quality of life” in-game is next to nothing. The way in which they’ve phased all of the servers together and how we all seem to play with people on all servers anyway, I stopped caring. When you reach this many people it doesn’t matter. If they dropped below 1 million, and less than half of that were NA, then we can talk.

The real issue here isn’t “hiding failure” or anything like that. It’s about business metrics. Blizzard doesn’t want to focus on subscription numbers because they are obviously looking to monetize their products differently. We’re seeing a transition to revenue per player — an emphasis on money first.

Businesses measure success of a game differently than the players. I measure a game’s success based on an overall fun factor, how long it lasts, how immersed in the game I feel, quality of mechanics, 3 monther status, etc., etc., the list goes on. Suffice it to say, I can look at a game and think it sucks and failed miserably, but the business behind the game can think it was a wild success. That’s the Candy Crush model. They release dozens and dozens of fire cracker games that flash in the pan and generate revenue and go away or not. Did they make money? If so, can they rinse and repeat? That’s all that matters.

So in the end the consumer will see a decline in the style of game we enjoy in order to satisfy the metrics now being measured differently. The result of this transition has far graver consequences than hiding a failing WoW. It signals yet another step toward focusing on the money rather than the games.

  • Major studios such as blizzard have been focused on money for a long time now. After all, they are a public company whose main purpose is to increase value for shareholders.

    This emphasis on profit and the crazy costs to develop MMOs is one reason why there is nothing out there that appeals in regards to MMOs. The old model is likely unsustainable. ENOUGH people no longer are willing to play the same game for months to justify the enormous costs to develop said game; unless there are other significant forms of monetization. So the shift is on to different forms of monetization. Probably bad for people like us who enjoyed the old school games, but it is what it is. The freemium and micro-trasaction model is here to stay, until another more profitable form can be proven to take its place.

    This is a main reason the games I have enjoyed most the last couple of years are not MMOs. The type of MMO I enjoy has an unsustainable model.

    It’s ok. I enjoyed Minecraft, Terraria, Diablo, Rust, etc. And I now know not to jump into any new MMOs. I too have evolved with the changing marketplace.

  • I think the change in business metrics is simply an attempt to obfuscate the financial performance of the franchise. They do it with all their other big franchises. Destiny’s box sales merged with Hearthstone revenue. Hearthstone indicators tied to engagement. All meaningless statistics really.

    The thing that can impact their approach to gaming is the King purchase not the change in business metrics. And it does not mean they are more money focused now. If WoW remains on the sub model, subscriber numbers ARE the key metric for monetizing the game. The only way player revenue per head matters is if they plan to change WoW’s monetization model. If that happens then yes, expect changes to gameplay like garrisons a la Candy Crush. Until then, it is simply an attempt to hide financial information.

  • Meh, maybe they don’t want to talk about subscriptions anymore because they are going to turn around and make WoW Free to Play starting Blizzcon. That bomb would melt the blog-o-sphere.

  • It’s simply this. Phones are the future of everything. PC & laptop sales are actually declining, and even an older geezer like me only boots up his home computer for a few hours on the weekend.

    Anybody else noticing some bad trends here that might hurt mmorpg games, games that are a little difficult to “raid” on a phone?

    But it goes way beyond games. I can’t pass a person at work, and there are 7k of them, not looking at their phone. We aren’t that far away from when they take your blood pressure and temperature and call an ambulance before you know you are sick.

    So candy crush is just a phone play. I’m not sure if it’s a smart one, seems a little dated, but better than being left out of the future. And we thought mmorpgs were dying before. They just aren’t playable on phones.

  • Subscription numbers were the be-all end-all when that was the only way to make money from a game. Now with cash shops there’s big bucks to be made from selling cosmetic gear, pets, mounts, race changes, and the like. I play a fair bit of FFXIV and it’s insane how much people use Fantasia there to race change. Even if subscriptions decline nowadays, if games retain folks that really get into these things, they’ll still do well for themselves.

  • Mmos are now marketed like traditional games, that doesn’t mean the subscription model doesn’t work or that the store driven does. It is unfortunately viable to create a 3 monther, get as much as possible from the early adopters and then leave the game in maintenance mode.

    As Keen said, it is more a matter of rinse and repeat strategy than trying to find a sustainable model for individual titles. The investors are the focus, not the games/studios/players.

    I can’t imagine WoW going f2p. From the few reports I came accross, their cosmetic store only represents 20-30% of the game’s revenue. F2p only makes sense when the switch would allow to multiply the playerbase by 8. Can WoW really get 40M players? I doubt it and I would say that Blizzard would be shooting themselves in the foot. But then again, the mother company just spent billions on candycrush… Anything can happen.

    Back to Keen’s post, I don’t think they are trying to hide failure. WoW is still printing money, but they do love double dipping. WoW gets paid a subscription, which pays development, then in addition makes player pay a second time for expansions and has a cosmetic store. It makes sense for them to view revenue per player as an important factor since 1 year of subscription is worth less than 3 months + expac + cosmetic + account services.

    And as a side effect, no longer publishing subscriber numbers may stabilize the playerbase. The perception that an mmo is dying can become a self fulfiling prophecy. If average yearly revenue per player increases then WoW shows increased success and better perception despite having more peaks and valleys in subscribers.

  • It is a complete spin on the success or failure of their company for the investors. Declining subs sounds bad so they will not talk about it. Rather they will only talk about other stats they make it sound better. Investors are watching two things, are you making money right now and is the business model sustainable so you will be making more money tomorrow. Showing declining sub numbers does not show them that it is sustainable so instead let’s try and talk about different numbers. Just saying we are profitable is not enough and you definitely cannot say we will still be turning a profti tomorrow but just not as much of a profit.