Not to bank on financial writers for solid reporting related to MMOs or anything, but this little blurb I found interesting for one reason: how important are initial sales for an MMO?
Of course they are important, after all if no one buys your game at launch, who cares how great your retention is, right? But five years after release, would you rather be WAR or EVE? EVE sold something like 50k copies at release, WAR sold close to (or over?) a million. We all know how each game is doing right now, and how things are likely to continue. Factor in development costs and all that, and the picture is pretty clear.
Going back to SW, the fact that the game is ‘trending’ high for pre-orders means next to nothing for me as a fan (I’m sure the suits are happy). A monkey could hype and sell SW right now. It’s SW, it’s BioWare, it cost a billion dollars to develop, and EA is throwing another billion to market it. It also helps that the vast majority of people who pre-ordered the game have not played it, and even those who have are playing in the “best case scenario” land of beta. But even if SW sells, say, 1-2 million copies at release, if its retention rate mirrors that of WAR (and I think it will), won’t the game still end up costing EA in the end?
WoW makes Blizzard truckloads of cash not because it sold a ton of copies at release, but because it has had millions paying $15 a month for years, easily recouping all those development costs and sitting pretty in almost (they do still have an intern updating the game occasionally I believe) pure profit land. That’s always been the model for an MMO: high initial cost, ability to make some of it back one day one, then hopefully make it all back and profit after X amount of time has passed. If the vast majority of your players are gone before you hit X, the plan kinda falls apart.
Or is the new MMO model to super-hype a release, get a million or so suckers, err sorry, fans, to buy it at release (for $150 preferably), and consider it a job well done a day/week/month after release? Because from an MMO fans perspective, that’s not what I’m here for, and I have sRPG’s that do a much better job of deliver that kind of content.