So if you did not pick up on the fact that yesterday’s post was a long-winded setup to tell you that EVE is the best MMO ever, you are either new here or not paying attention. Also if you are someone who likes to dismiss EVE because it’s a niche MMO in a genre full of mass-market MMOs, this should prove educational.
Let’s cover the niche part first though, since it’s pretty easy. WoW is an outlier with millions of subs, so I’m going to put it aside for now. Yes, EVE is niche compared to WoW, but based on that logic GW2 selling 2m boxes is also niche because 12m subs > 2m boxes. Same goes for SW:TOR, LotRO (who had a lovely “come play with millions of others” ad campaign pre-release. How’s that working out for ya?), or… actually any MMO not called WoW in the NA/EU (silly Asia).
So WoW aside, how do the 400k subs (I know I know, it’s just one guy with 400k accounts, and he buys PLEX in-game so even he is not paying anything, but let’s pretend for a moment that somehow magically those 400k subs still somehow count as 400k x $15 per month for the sake of CCP’s revenue) stack up to everyone else? Well no one has 1m subs, so now we are talking thousands rather than millions.
A whole slew of ‘mass market’ MMOs are now F2P because not enough people found them worth $15 a month. SW:TOR, which will soon join the F2P fail-ranks because it could not keep its 500k or bust target, cost more money than any MMO before it, and EAWare famously stated that if you are not spending $300m, you can’t compete with WoW. I guess if you DO spend $300m+, you can’t compete with EVE either. In fairness to EAWare EVE probably cost somewhere close to 300m to develop as well. Well 300m Yen anyway.
GW2 just launched and rewrote the whole MMO formula, including that nagging issue of having to pay to keep playing, because really, who likes paying when you can get the exact same thing for free? Not surprisingly GW2 sold fewer copies than Skyrim though, another “buy the box and play forever” fantasy title. To be fair, Skyrim is in the more mass-market sandbox genre, while GW2 has to carry the heavy burden of being a themepark. Also the NPCs in Skyrim are more helpful and less likely to go poof after a month, and the dynamic events don’t repeat as often. Both games do feature loot piñata dragons, meh combat, and nice visuals. I’ll be kind and not compare the main storylines.
Rift is still a sub-based MMO, and it’s a mass-market themepark. It has fewer subs than ‘niche’ EVE if various data sources are to be believed, and somehow if Trion retained half a mil subs I think we’d here about it. Plus get back to me when Rift has 400k subs at its ten year anniversary. Hey only about 8 years to go, but to be fair when EVE launched it had way fewer subs too, so maybe Rift will grow much like EVE has. Maybe. That said, out of the last few years, Rift is the only major MMO to actually stay a sub-based MMO for a year+, so it would not be totally unreasonable to call it the most successful launch since… WoW?
So I ask, what ‘mass-market’ MMO are people talking about when stating EVE’s 400k subs is ‘niche’? I thought we got over the whole “WoW or bust” thing in 2007? Or are people really still thinking the ‘MMO market’ is 12m strong, and surely the NEXT title is going to hit that mark? Because if you do I’m sure EAWare has a spot for you on the team! Or maybe Funcom. Or Mythic. Wait is Mythic still a thing? No, why, what happened? Didn’t they have that huge surefire IP and mass-market MMO that was going to crush WoW? (I hate you whiteshades.)
And once you realize that 400k subs is not niche, but near the top of the not-WoW market, you can reasonably set expectations for design and market size if you are actually aiming to design a game that is intended to be played beyond the first month. You know, an MMO. Or what the old folks called an MMO before Anet came along and ‘fixed’ it for all of us.
Furthermore, if you can’t make $18m in yearly revenue work for you and your dev team (100k subs for a year, and assuming zero box sale money), you are doing it wrong. Probably to the tune of $300m wrong that leads the head doctors to call it quits because people pointed out that you delivered $300m worth of garbage while helping to shut down a game people loved (which may or may not have had more players than SW:TOR currently has actually playing).
But seriously, $18m a year is not peanuts, and I don’t think retaining 100k people for a year is asking for the moon. Hell, maybe would call that hyper-niche and laugh while they go back to their 1m+ subs MMO not called WoW, so it must be easy! And look, if EQ1 got 500k people back when you had to use a rotary dial to login, I’m pretty sure a team of devs can make something today to get 100k. Or 50k and try to survive off $9m in revenue. The horror.
Or you know, keep pumping out those ‘mass market’ MMOs all the kids are talking about. The ones just crushing it in terms of numbers like… WoW. Release in 2004.