300k, has Mythic pulled a Failcom and Flagshipped WAR?

Remember back in the summer of 2008 we were all making WAR subscriber predictions, and we figured they would be in the range of 1-100 million, depending on how high your fanboy rating was? Everyone reasoned that if WoW can get 11 million, WAR can at least get a few million right?

Just like all the other MMOs with a million+ subscribers…

I’ll be up front and say that initially I thought the 300k number was low and disappointing. While WAR had its issues at launch (and a few still persist), in the grand scheme of the MMO world it had a good launch and is a very stable product. Plus personally I’ve had a damn good time with it, as have the regular members of CoW that I play with. Even MMO newbie Aria (my fiancé) enjoys it, and she has a short fuse when it comes to frustration, be it for technical reasons or her witch elf being blown up repeatedly by a bright wizard.

But if we enter the land of make-believe, and pretend WoW does not exist, how does 300k stack up? It’s around LoTRO and EVE numbers, and it beats EQ2, CoH, AoC, ect. Basically, it’s close (if not at) the goal of being #2 in the market, with the perception problem being you are a VERY distant second. I’ve said this many times here and elsewhere, but its worth repeating, if your MMO is budgeted around WoW-like numbers, you are going to fail even if you deliver the baby jesus of the MMO world. The 11 million people playing WoW are not MMO players, and they never will be. The kids/moms/dads/grandmas etc playing WoW won’t make the jump to the next shiny that’s released, and the MMO tourists that WoW has created won’t stick around past a month of ANY new MMO (which may also include Blizzards next MMO btw). We always talk about rose-tinted glasses when we talk about UO or EQ right? 10 million people are wearing WoW-tinted glasses, and those aren’t coming off anytime soon.

Moving beyond the “my MMO has more subs than yours, hahaha!” aspect of 300k, what does that actually mean for WAR’s future? It’s a high enough number to justify WAR’s continued development with a full crew, for one, meaning the game is here to stay. It also means that as WAR improves (and it has a LOT of room for improvement due to its solid fundamentals and the difficulty of getting a PvP-base game ‘right’), that 300k number will go up. The shine of WotLK continues to dull, and if recent CoW member movement is any indication, some of those players will be giving WAR another shot. I think a common thread we saw with WAR early on is people liked the concepts, but too many issues prevented people from fully enjoying the game as a whole. With the release of WotLK, those people had the perfect excuse to move away from WAR and enjoy WoW again, knowing could always give WAR another shot once it has been fixed up. I think we are starting to see the beginning of that process, and with WAR’s full content schedule coming in the next few months, it will give people more and more reasons to give WAR a second look.

One would think being horribly wrong on one prediction would teach you a lesson, but here goes my 2009 prediction: 500k+ by the end of 09, securing the #2 spot without debate. I have faith that Blizzard will continue its snails pace of delivering content, and making WotLK so easy is going to burn them. Along with that, I really believe WAR is 1-2 patches away from getting its end-game where it needs to be to really hook people, and the buzz from a successful city siege will go a long way to raising peoples attention (think EVE tournament or some of the other major stories that draw people in). Fanboy optimism? Of course, I’m a fan of the game after all, and I believe in its design. I think there exists a spot for it in the MMO space, just like DAoC had its spot among EQ1 and company. Mythic just needs to step up to the plate and finally deliver that one set of changes that will finally get T4 RvR where it needs to be, that perfect balance between making a city siege possible, but still rare enough to make it something special.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Age of Conan, Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to 300k, has Mythic pulled a Failcom and Flagshipped WAR?

  1. Drew Shiel says:

    It’s worth noting that we’re at (or, possibly, just after) the post-launch low point. Simple word-of-mouth growth, as happens fairly constantly with EVE, will push those numbers steadily upward.

    To be honest, I’d really prefer that the game launched with minimal hype, and grew steadily, rather than having a Huge Hyped Launch and then ‘dipping’ to this level. But that’s not how the MMO market works at the moment.

  2. Nees says:

    To me the shine of WotLK has dulled a lot already and I gave WAR a second try about a week ago. In my opinion the game still has the same issues I had with it when I tried it the first time:
    – for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I don’t seem to enjoy leveling like I did in WoW
    – PVP is boring imo. The scenario’s seem like a constant zerg and the open pvp is nothing more than running from BO to BO, and if you’re at a keep you either cap it or get stuck at the stairs where defense is at a situational advantage
    – animation are…off. It doesn’t look like I’m actually hitting someone
    – the sound effects are really, really bad. I cannot recognize any ability by it’s sound effect

  3. Ravious says:

    I think you are somewhat correct, but I get the feeling that it won’t really be getting more subscriptions… especially 200k subscriptions. I think that, yes, people will go back to WAR from WoW WotLK or LOTRO MoM or wherever else, but I don’t think the majority of the returning players are going to stay long enough to be considered a sustained subscription. Especially later in the year when new MMOs start dropping again.

    They do have a lot of aces in their pocket, and if they keep up with a great content schedule… well I hope I am proven wrong.

  4. syncaine says:

    Ravious: Yea the prediction assumes the city campaign gets to the point where it ‘works’. Without that I agree it won’t grow much if at all. With it though, I think similar to EVE it will give whole guilds reason to stay together and continue to play. That kind of motivation is very powerful in an MMO.

    Nees: I think all of your reasons are legit, and it sounds like you went back to WAR solo. WAR solo is currently decent to terrible, depending on your server. Leveling, RvR, scenarios, those things are all great with a solid guild/group to play with. People in CoW are really have a good time now that our activity is back up, even though we are still stuck in broken T4.

  5. pitrelli says:

    Let me first off say I enjoy reading the majority of your articles however you seem to have a real chip on your shoulder regarding WoW and blizzard.

    I also dont think you can say 10 million people who play WoW have wow tinted specs. Ok we all know you are a WAR fanboy but come on why the need to attack WoW and its players all the time?

    If you are going to continually compare WoW and WAR then there is only going to be one winner im afraid and its certainly not Warhammer.

    The reason that WAR hasnt retained its player base is nothing to do with WoW. Its down to them failing to deliver what they promised much the same as vanguard and AoC. If they had made WAR all singing and dancing which they stated then players would have renewed their subscriptions.

  6. Wyrmrider says:

    Well, well, it seems it’s VERY hard for new MMO’s to break through the glass ceiling, and I seem to remembers AoC’s numbers as being at 400k when they presented their Q2 report last autum, and that was at a comparable time frame too WARs 300k now.

    Both have probably dropped even more since then, as is evident from the X-fire stats, even though it seems AoC is pulling a turnaround now.

  7. syncaine says:

    I said 10 million, not 11. That one million can be won with good gameplay, and that’s who Mythic or anyone else has to go after. And considering WAR is healthy with 300k, a potential pool of 1 million is a nice market to go after, right?

    But I agree, if WAR had launched in a more perfect state, they would have retained more players, obviously. But lets not confuse that with the MMO tourist crown, who would have left after the first month regardless of the content, so long as it’s not neon with a /dance emote.

    The chip has been well established on this blog :)

  8. Nees says:

    syncaine: You’re right, I did go back solo. All my friends still play…guess. ;) However I did join open groups as much as I could, which made things a bit more enjoyable. Maybe I should try getting to T4 to experience the better parts of the game, but I really can’t put myself to leveling up any more, because I know I won’t enjoy it.

  9. mm says:

    500K by EOY09, eh? Does that factor in a big Asian release, or is that just US/EU numbers?

    People forget that something like 70% of WoW’s subscriptions are from Asia (with poor ROI). If WAR branched out to that market as well, and the subscription ratio paradigm was similar, it’s not unreasonable to think of numbers like:
    500K US/EU
    1200K Asia
    1700K total

    Of course, WAR would do no better with ROI that WoW when it comes to Asia (China in particular).

    People aren’t generally considering the smaller launch market that WAR currently has. Numbers will go up as they branch out.

    For reference, WoW’s launches were:
    Nov. ’04 US
    Feb. ’05 EU
    Jun. ’05 China (where their subs really took off)

    If WAR launched in China in 7 months, that would put them at Apr. 09. I haven’t heard any speculation on that from Mythic.

  10. syncaine says:

    Nees: Yea two of my buddies who quit WAR for WoW did the same thing, played too much solo and got bored. By the time the rest of us caught up to them, they were already gone. Hopefully they collect their epics soon and come back. If you are still up for it, just find a good sized guild and see how that goes. If you are on Monolith, Casualties of WAR is still open, and we have people below T4, plus everyone has alts we like to play.

    MM: No, that’s 500k in the US/EU. WoW has about 4 million players US/EU. I don’t doubt WAR will do well in Asia, they love competitive PvP games (see Lineage and every F2P game), but I’m talking about US/EU players.

  11. Ludo says:

    WAR features the most accessible (fantasy setting) RvR currently available.

    No screen shot or blog post can really extract what’s it like to be standing on a stone wall and looking down at 75+ enemies laying siege to your keep … or a sickening skirmish between two warbands on a narrow elvish bridge that spans hundreds of feet in the air … or sneaking a small party behind an enemy warcamp blockade and then stealing a battle objective right under their nose.

    I can remember an accidental duel I had with a black orc at some remote corner of a scenario … totally unplugged from the scenario’s objectives: we fought for 8 minutes until I made a mistake and he caught me between heals.

    These are just a few gameplay moments that only those that play WAR can really relate to and I know as word gets out that more will join in on the fun.

    Every game has it’s frustrations, bugs, balance issues, and as WAR continues to grow so will it’s subscriber base – this I’m certain.

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  13. Minn says:

    And bear in mind WoW stretches across several regions (US/EU/CN for example), so 11m doesn’t accurately reflect its actual subscription size in the US (assuming that other MMOs target the US as their main audience, to provide a better comparison).

    WoW is losing its shine, but Blizzard seems to be aware of that already, and it seemed like an inevitable mistake that 3.0.8 was not a major content patch (indirectly leading to the implementation flop as well as the continued perception of WoW getting boring).

    3.1 will bring up the hype, players will return. Whether that content is easy, partly depends on how Blizzard handles the patch before it goes live. Generally, if you get to test raid instances for almost a month or two on the PTR I’d half expect you to steamroll whatever you were testing on. The other part depends on our perception – it’s easy to say LOLEASY if the most hardcore guilds clear it within a week, but Blizzard wouldn’t overtune raids just for them, cos their casual playerbase would drown in tears.

  14. Hiryu02 says:

    Let’s not forget that other MMO’s such as Lotro and the City of Heroes/Villains series are NOT considered failures, nor are they considered to be headed towards their demise.

    How many subs do these games have now? 400K? 350K? After how many years? Those kind of numbers are considered decent showings and neither Lotro or CoH is anywhere near their deaths. Why are people jumping on the WAR is doomed wagon? I don’t remember doing this to Lotro.

    I’m a former WoW raider, and since quitting after BC, I’ve had no desire to go back to that. I feel that WAR will be an excellent niche game, with a dedicated following. I’m enjoying myself so far. Like an earlier poster said, the feeling of seeing the sea or red attacking your keep and breaking against the walls is unparalleled.

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  16. Ardwulf says:

    I am inclined to agree with your analysis. 300K, while perhaps disappointing to oblivious fanboys, is a really solid number, and it’s a good place to grow from. 500K by year’s end isn’t impossible.

    That said, it’s going to be a challenge for Mythic. I think the first three months of post-launch development have set an excellent pace with two additional classes and a whole lot of fixes and improvements, but the layoff news (if true) takes a big bite out of their staff.

  17. winter says:

    I just found WAR completely boring. I played the first month hoping it would get better, bought a 2 month card and played maybe 2 weeks of it.

    Nothing in it was compelling… The zones were all so generic and the grind was so utterly soul destroying. The combat wasn’t even interesting, I mean my marauder basically just spammed the same attack over and over again. In the end I set my G15 keyboard up to just consta-spam the attack so I wouldn’t aggravate my RSI.

    PvP was… well a joke. Roots were overpowered, and who in their right mind gives anyone the ability to draw everyone on the oposition team into a small little area where AoE can take them all down in seconds? It is like Mythic learnt nothing from the mez debacle that DAoC was early on.

    Unfortunately I haven’t heard of anything that has improved the situation as yet. I suspect that their numbers will take another dip as the multi month people that haven’t renewed drop off the balance sheet. My prediction is that they will struggle to maintain the 300k this year, but will probably succeed with a 50k movement one way or the other being the margin of error.

  18. winter says:

    Oh and also… lay-offs. QA and now design and dev team. Not really the best way to move forward and grow the user base :-/

  19. Anjin says:

    As long as Mythic follows the examples of CCP or Turbine and stays dedicated to improving the game, I would not be surprised if subscriptions improve over time. EVE and LotRO show it can be done if you’ve got a solid foundation to build on.

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  21. mbp says:


    “The 11 million people playing WoW are not MMO players, and they never will be.”

    That is such a fabulously brave quote Syncaine. It takes balls to dismiss the largest gaming community on the planet. I don’t really agree with you but I love that you threw it out there. Bring on the rapid Fanboy responses please.

    On more serious note – What does an mmo need to do to get a second chance? What do they have to do to rebuild after most of the initial players have left? Lotro got a new growth spurt after releasing an expansion, EQ2 also seems to be attracting new players and of course EVE seems to have discovered some magic sauce that keeps it growing forever. It is just possible that EVE has only 10,000 players with 500 accounts each :).

  22. Nees says:

    syncaine: thanks for the offer :) Though I’ll stick with AoC right now, which I’m enjoying more than WAR, until Darkfall releases (fingers crossed).

  23. syncaine says:

    MBP: Its not that brave, people have been saying that for years now. The MMO market is certainly bigger after WoW than before, but it’s not 11 million big, and any company that thinks so is setting themselves up for failure.

    As for second chances, they just need to turn into the game people wanted. LotRO was too much WoW at release, and since has separated itself and worked on its strengths. It was also a decent game to begin with.

    I think with EVE it’s that it’s by far the most interesting MMO out, and that always sparks new interest. Part of that complex interest is also a tough wall to climb initially, and then a tough path to stay focused, but clearly EVE manages to overcome those hurdles and get people coming back over and over.

  24. PTD says:

    I think you overestimate the number of players who would be or are interested in a RvR/PvP centric game. They are just too frigging hard to get balanced. I loved the RvR in DAoC, but then I got tired of the enormous zerg-bands rolling across the RvR zones. Small scale skirmishes are great fun, they just tend to be all too rare.

    Let’s face it, a lot of the people who love PvP LOVE to be on a winning Zerg.

  25. scribbler says:

    I remember reading a letter in PC gamer which compared WoW to facebook (a social networking site) and i think they were spot on.

    The number 1 reason people play wow is because they have friends who also do.

    about the numbers, 300k is as many people have said a ‘good solid number’ but they set themselves a target of 500k so until they hit that they haven’t succeeded.

    But ‘not succeeded yet’ and ‘have failed’ aren’t the same thing.

    The next time to judge will probably after lotd launches, in this financial climate with more people loosing jobs day after day if they have held onto 300k subs or even grown even just a small number they should consider themselves a subjective success

  26. Mitch says:

    People forget that there were many people who picked up 3 month subscriptions that are not renewing. Those subscriptions ended in January, while these numbers are 2008 numbers.

  27. Dream Lane says:

    Very nice write-up and analysis. I think that your prediction of 500k by the end of ’09 is a bit low however. But then again, I am an extreme optimist :)

  28. Sly says:

    It is now mid July and the subscriber numbers for WAR continue to plummet.

    Great prediction there sport..

  29. Adjudicator says:

    lol @ this prediction. 500K by 2009? What are we at, something like 12 servers now since they just shut down the Spanish and Italian servers?

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