State of the MMO genre, 2015 edition

First things first, it’s now 2015, and just like in 2014, 2013, and really since the beginning of time, we still haven’t seen an as-successful F2P MMO as we have sub MMOs (WoW/FFXIV/EVE). Until we do, this isn’t a debate. It’s a simple yes/no situation: Is your MMO really good? It’s using the sub model. Is your MMO not that good? It’s F2P, sub, ‘B2P’, or… who cares your MMO isn’t really good. Maybe by 2016 we will have a single example of a really good, as-successful-as-sub F2P MMO. I wouldn’t hold your breath on it though.

Now, moving past that still-dead horse, let’s take a broader view of the MMO genre as we head deeper into 2015. In my view the MMO genre has gone through four major phases. Note that these phases don’t have a definitive “it started on this day” date, but rather are more of a general ‘around this time’ deal.

Phase one (1997-2002ish) was UO/EQ1/AC; the birth of the genre, when we weren’t sure if this whole ‘virtual worlds’ thing could even work, and being online with thousands of others in one world was something new and awesome. Amazingly all three of the original MMOs (sorry M59, but you weren’t big enough to really count here) were solid and brought something really unique and special to the table. UO had an amazing virtual world and sandbox gameplay, EQ1 was the original themepark (I thought I had written a post about what the genre would be if EQ1 had never been made, but can’t find it now, so maybe I never wrote it…), and AC had weird, interesting systems and character growth, along with the awesome patron ‘guild’ system.

Phase two is WoW and EVE (2003-2007ish). WoW blew up what everyone thought a successful MMO could be, and refined the clunky themepark that was EQ1 into a game a lot of people could actually get into, while (in vanilla/TBC anyway) still retaining the core qualities of an MMO to keep people playing/paying. EVE started very small and very rough, but would go on to show that despite aiming to be super-niche, super-niche done better than anyone else can eventually, and naturally, grow into a mini-monster in the genre. It also showed that, if you do it right, there is no timetable on when your MMO should fade or go into maintenance mode. A good MMO really should be able to go on ‘forever’. This is also the time when a great many MMOs failed for countless reasons; the main one being ‘Making an MMO is really, really f’n hard’.

Phase three is the WoW-clone era, or the dark ages (2007-2011?). Post-WoW blowing up, everyone and their dog started cranking out WoW-clones, each thinking they could either be a ‘WoW killer’ or just casually pick up a few million players because ‘hey, WoW did it so it must not be that hard!’. LotRO, AoC, WAR, Aion, Rift, etc. In addition to getting a bunch of ‘bad’ games, the real crime here is that developers who might have been able to give us something interesting instead wasted time trying to be WoW. The genre (EVE-related stuff aside) didn’t advance forward much, and in terms of new offering things mostly sucked.

Phase four is the ‘F2P, ALL THE WAY’ era (2011-2014, hopefully). After failing to clone WoW, ‘bad’ devs all jumped aboard the good-ship F2P. MMOs that were struggling/dying as sub MMOs (because they were bad games made by bad devs) converted and saw ‘amazing’ revenue immediately after the conversion. We got a lot of press releases stating it, so it must be truth forever and ever! We also saw a bunch of F2P-based MMOs released, because the sub model was outdated and ‘everyone’ was going with the ‘new standard’ of F2P. Then the too-predictable reality kicked in, the one-time boost that was a F2P conversion not only faded, but in many cases faded below even what sub was bringing in, and F2P after F2P MMO was shut down or skeleton crewed. SOE being sent to the slaughter house is, one can only hope, the crowning jewel and definitive statement on just how much of a failure the standard F2P model is for MMOs.

Which brings us to today and the original question; where is the MMO genre? It’s not at the high it was in 2005/6, where everyone was making an MMO because it was perceived as a gold mine. At the same time, we are out of the dark age of cloning WoW blindly. We are also hopefully beyond the state of believing that F2P works, but I suspect there are still more Smeds out there who will put junk out and wonder why it’s not working financially after getting a billion accounts or whatever foolish metric they get mislead by.

In some ways we are in a spot similar to 1999/2000ish times, with three big successful MMOs (WoW, FFXIV, EVE), and a new crop of MMOs on the horizon that has our interest (Camelot Unchained, Star Citizen, Life is Feudal, Pathfinder, to just name a few). But that interest isn’t tainted in believing any of those titles will be ‘WoW Killers’ or dominate the market, nor are the people behind those titles setting such expectations. For perhaps the first time in far too long, devs have a plan to make a game work with 50k subs, which sounds so stupidly simple yet really is a giant leap forward for the genre.

Will some if any of those games work out? Hopefully. They at least have a much better (more than zero) chance than ‘WoW killers’ and F2P MMOs, so that’s a plus. But as always, making an MMO is hard, and even if you get 80% of it right, that 20% wrong can sink you.

Personally I feel better about the genre today than I have in a long, long time, perhaps even as far back as the early 2000s, in large part because I think more than enough devs have finally figured out that the MMO genre is a niche market, and not the mass-market illusion that WoW’s success tricked people into believing. I also don’t think ‘AAA’ levels of spending are needed to make a great MMO. I’m more than fine with playing something that I expect to grow over time, so long as that initial baseline is solid, and again I think at least some devs are finally catching on to this as well. Not only is gameplay king, but sub-AAA production values don’t mean crude sprites and homemade sound effects anymore, it just means I won’t have to hear someone ‘famous’ during a cutscene, or have a CGI intro movie that’s 20 minutes long that I skip every time after the first.

So while the future of the genre isn’t all rainbows, it’s also not as hopeless as it looked in years past. Baby steps are good, and hopefully at least a few of the upcoming games deliver, while the success’ we have today continue to get better (or in WoW’s case, don’t go full ‘accessibility’ on us again and shed almost half the population).

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Age of Conan, Aion, Asheron's Call, Camelot Unchained, EQ2, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Life is Feudal, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, Pathfinder Online, Rift, RMT, Star Citizen, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to State of the MMO genre, 2015 edition

  1. JJ Robinson says:

    Great points Syn. One interesting thing you either forgot to touch on, or are still waiting to see how things shake out, is the whole “early access” phenom.

    I personally believe “early access” is doing great harm to game development and gamers. This will most definitely be the case if some of the larger “early access” and crowdsourced games flop.

    Countering this concern is your focus on niche markets and games.

    • keenandgraev says:

      I lump “early access” in with the F2P/Freemium trash. It’s the latest gimmick in the same overall thread of antics to increase cash flow at the expense of a good product.

      • SynCaine says:

        I don’t lump it into F2P because it doesn’t by-default make your game worse like F2P does. Can early access be abused? Of course, as Smed is awesome at showing us. Can early access be a good thing and work? I think games like Prison Architect are a good example of this, yes. Do we have an MMO example? Only thing that is maybe close is LiF:YO (or whatever the single-player thing is called), and that’s still too early to call.

        • Anti-Stupidity League says:

          Things we’ve all learned today by reading Hardcore Casual: WoW is your really good and Clash of Clans is by-default worse. Because of the monetization, not the actual content of the game itself, of course, because that’s how we roll here.

  2. keenandgraev says:

    Yep, fairly accurate assessment. I would add SWG and DAoC in there somewhere with a slight adjustment to your dates. Overall, accurate.

    • SynCaine says:

      SWG and DAoC are in odd spots. SWG because of the whole NGE thing, being SOE, and because it got shut down somewhat shortly after release compared to other major MMOs. DAoC because it just falls between two eras, and is somewhat of a mix of both (it learned from UO, but wasn’t a true ‘next gen’ MMO like WoW was at release)

  3. kalex716 says:

    You’re still too caught up on the monetization models alone. How about you try and move the discussion along more since its not 2008 anymore as well. I know you don’t think theirs much to talk about, but you might just be dating yourself as well.

    All the games that have failed in the past 10 years, have done so for dozens of reasons, and how they were monetized was only one of them.

    I still would argue that EVE in every meaningful sense, is F2P done right. Sure theirs a bit of a buy in when you start, but if you commit to being an active user, and play the game, and make the most out of your time there, you get someone else to pay for you with plex after a few solid smart months of being a user.

    Completely different than the other way of seeing it traditionally, as whales carrying all the rif raff, but I’m an EVE player, and as long as I play it regularly enough to make market value of a PLEX in isk I haven’t paid for EVE in a long time.

    We should be discussing better monetization models in general, that fit and help the underlying design of the game. The be all catch all of 15 bucks a month isn’t the best on one hand, and a F2P while you hook whales on the other isn’t good enough either.

  4. JJ Robinson says:

    His comments only touched on monetization in the final “era”. And monetization is probably the biggest factor driving development of those games. Therefore, its extremely relevant.

    When developers have to design their games to entice cash shop purchases, you can be damn sure that will have a huge impact on design decisions. And the main point, IMO, is this huge driving force of monetization through cash shops ruins MMOs. It may work great for MOBAs, mobile games, etc. but it has not worked well for MMOs.

  5. Azuriel says:

    Maybe by 2016 we will have a single example of a really good, as-successful-as-sub F2P MMO.

    Just out of curiosity, how would that success be defined? Concurrent players, total revenue, something else?

    • Rohan says:

      Syncaine’s criteria for success: good enough that people will pay a subscription! ;)

    • Anonymous says:

      Steady (at least over 3 years) growth of active players?

    • SynCaine says:

      As the post said, comparable to WoW/FFXIV/EVE in terms of success, be it growing for a decade, earning crazy profits like WoW, or growing steadily and being profitable on a large scale like FFXIV. Just pick one or a mix, at this point I don’t care because no F2P MMO is even remotely close.

      • Azuriel says:

        Right, but your definition makes it impossible given that it will need to demonstrate “years of growth” it won’t have time to present. Nevermind how those games are frequently described as outliers (save FFXIV) everywhere else.

        Why can’t the criteria be, say, as profitable as EVE? Surely that could be considered a success, yeah?

        • SynCaine says:

          So now we are up to 3 outliers, all which just happen to be sub MMOs. Can we maybe get one F2P outliers?

          Also, what F2P MMO is on track to meet ‘years of growth’? What title should we be keeping an eye on that is F2P and amazing?

          But if you want to just limit this to EVE, sure, what F2P MMO has a return-on-investment close to EVE’s?

        • Azuriel says:

          My point was precisely that no F2P game, regardless of its hypothetical quality, would satisfy your time requirement unless it had already came out years ago.

          That being said, apparently Aion is doing better than even GW2. It isn’t a “day-1 F2P” game though, which you have hand-waved away before. Still, it is one of NCSoft’s most profitable games by far.

        • mmojuggler says:

          >what F2P MMO has a return-on-investment close to EVE’s?

          Probably some Asian MMO like Lineage II would come the closest. Or perhaps surpass it, but its hard to tell with your criteria and the general lack of current detailed info by every involved. Even CCP quit posting about EVE’s growing subscriber base in 2012 (was it?).

        • SynCaine says:

          Well guess we can revisit this in 2016, like we just did today, and maybe (nope) someone can bring a F2P example to the table without having to twist and turn as hard as you guys are going.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Even though you don’t like GW2 but a lot of people do and it does seem to be more successful than your sub MMOs except WoW, at least if you measure commercially. So I guess it is a debate, unless you only define successful MMO as MMOs you like.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is incorrect? A buy-to-play model of course is going to have more upfront sales then declining sales until a new expansion. Are you suggesting two different business models are going to have similar revenue stream? How about we compare the total revenue generated? Heck GW2 even generated more revenue than EVE per year without counting the initial box sales.

        • SynCaine says:

          First, more revenue than EVE (assuming that’s true, which I doubt but feel free to provide links) is meaningless when GW2 cost about 100x more than EVE. EVE is and has been profitable for years; has GW2 broken even yet? Revenue is nice and all, but lets talk profit if we want to talk success.

          Second, Anet being forced into releasing an expansion shows that their B2P model doesn’t work from a corporate perspective, even though GW2 sold a crazy amount of boxes. That graph is proof of that, unless now “B2P” means “buy, play, buy again, play, buy again, play, repeat”, which sounds a lot less like “B2P” and more like… some other model.

        • JJ Robinson says:

          GW2 is probably the best example of B2P or subless models that have gathered a decent following. I personally am not a huge fan because its too themeparky for my tastes, but the following is large enough to avoid a full blown cash shop monetization push.

        • mmojuggler says:

          That some other model buying expansions sounds like… the way computer games have been sold for 40+ years, except for EVE which hasn’t charged for expansions.

          If you are splitting that many hairs, why don’t you consider WoW a “subscription-B2P hybrid game”? You have to subscribe to it AND buy the expansions unless you want to only have vanilla release zones, races, and classes. And EVE should really be an “optional subscription” game since plenty of players are happy to brag about how they just PLEX all their accounts by their super mining or trading profits.

          So basically under the “no true scotsman” fallacy of MMO models, only FF:XIV is a TRUE subscription game, unless they introduce a way to earn in-game time credit or charge for expansions.

        • SynCaine says:

          You just went full retard.

          Never go full retard.

        • Click to access ccp_hf_financial_statements_december_31_2013.pdf

          Click to access ccp-hf-financial-statements-june-30-2014.pdf

          EVE Online
          Year – Revenue – Gross Profit – Net Profit
          2012 – 64,436,996 – 60,471,761 – 2,817,593
          2013 – 74,184,353 – 69,846,085 – (29,436,214)
          2014.5 – 35,511,598 – 33,297,226 – (22,752,571)

          Guild Wars 2 (KRW to USD using historical exchange rates per
          Year – Revenue – Unavailable – Unavailable
          2012 – 153,129,120
          2013 – 112,746,736
          2014.5 – 44,856,266

          Still looking for gross/net profit numbers on GW2. I’ll let you know when I find them.

          If we take the $2.6M shoestring budget reported for EVE on Wikipedia (in the absence of sourced material) back in 2000 when development costs were presumably lower, at 100x we’d be looking at $260M in development costs for GW2 which would put it on par with Grand Theft Auto V at $265M in 2013, the most expensive video game ever made prior to Destiny.

          Still working on finding sourced numbers, though. I’ll let you know when I do.

        • SynCaine says:

          Game went up in subs yet revenue (not profit) went down huh? You sure you understand the numbers you wrote?

        • Your comment system becomes flat after a certain level of nesting. My post is a direct response to “First, more revenue than EVE…”

          Click the second CCP official earnings statement and you’ll find that the numbers are for the first half of 2014 (hence, “2014.5”). Double those for projected revenue, etc. for a crude estimate or wait for the official numbers to come out.

        • SynCaine says:

          Yea if I allow too much nesting, it becomes impossible to read.

          Anyway my point with the revenue numbers is they aren’t the gross total of what EVE earned as a sub MMO; it’s the number CCP provides AFTER some tax math to lower it. Because again, subs went up from 2013 to 2014, so how did revenue stay the same?

          It’s the same when you file taxes; your income number isn’t what you actually earned, right? Same deal here.

        • Revenue is top line income. If you meant EBITDA, you should have said EBITDA. Otherwise I’m clearly an idiot for not being able to read your mind when it comes to which magic number you meant by “revenue.” Read the financials and educate me if you can be bothered to go beyond either not looking or skimming.

          You’re the EVE aficionado; you tell me why revenue went down. I don’t give a damn.

        • SynCaine says:

          Like I said, if subs go up, how can revenue go down? The price per player didn’t go down (sub price drop), the ‘box’ price didn’t change. The item store was never a huge factor (and got expanded with ship skins that are used).

          So did money somehow magically go poof?

  7. Anonymous says:

    First, I would like to see where you get the number that GW2 costs 100X more than EVE, the most common pass around number for GW2’s cost seems to be in the range of 80 mil to 100 mil, and the revenue in 2013 from cash shop alone for GW2 is 113.5 million, not to mention the box sales and cash shop revenues for GW2 in 2012 is much higher. And if you want to talk profit, you do realize CCP has a loss of 1 million in 2013 right? (see for CCP annual report for 2013, and you can find GW2’s revenue from NC soft quarter earning reports)

    Second, a “buy to play model” by definition relies on box-sales from expansions and cash shops for revenue. GW1, the first “buy-to-play” MMO, released 4 expansions in the first 2 years. Rather than “being forced”, people were begging ANET to release an expansion. The fact that GW2 can hold on from releasing an expansion for 2 and half years speaks of the success of the game rather than diminishing it like you suggest. It seems to me you need to understand a business model better before you even start bashing it.

    • SynCaine says:

      1m loss in 2013 for CCP; was EVE the only title CCP was working on at that time? Because I seem to recall them investing in a few things at that time (mostly bad things). Plus that’s 2013 for CCP, EVE was released in 2003. What do you think has been happening over those ten years as the game went from 10k subs to 300k+? What do you think the budget was for an indie game in 2002? You think it was anything close to the cost of GW2?

      GW1 wasn’t an MMO, per Anet.

      And GW2 is being forced to release a box expansion (to say nothing of the modifications made to the game and the cash shop since release) by NCSoft. Odd that a dev studio would be forced into anything if their title was doing amazing well, isn’t it? Though my definition of amazingly well in a genre of sustained revenue wouldn’t show a chart where income drops off a cliff, but yea, maybe I just don’t understand business models as well as you appear to.

      But if you really want to twist a model with the tag line “buy the box, play free forever” as really meaning “buy the box, play for a bit, then buy another box, play that for a bit, buy again, repeat. Oh and give us money on the side for fluff+, or we will start adding F2P-trash lockboxes to the shop” as B2P, then we have slightly different takes on what B2P means.

      • Anonymous says:

        Since we don’t have financial info on CCP for 2002, how about we look at 2009 which is the year where CCP mostly focused on EVE (the year where the most extensive expansion released)? That year the revenue for EVE is 55 mil where the profit is only 6 mil, all the rest are spend on development costs. EVE may start as an indie game of 10k players, but you think the development costs just stay there to in order to get 300k players? Without the 2 expansions per year it won’t survive to today.

        I see you are conveniently ignore the point that GW2 generated 113 million revenue from cash shop alone in 2013 (while EVE only had 70 million), and we are not even talking about the huge revenue in 2012 from box sales,while the development cost for GW2 was only estimated at 80-100 million. Your statement that “can GW2 even break even while EVE is making a fortune” seems to be completely ignorant of the financial facts.

        Most GW1 players do consider it as a MMO and the term “buy to play” comes directly from GW1 as it is the first of the models and a major selling point of GW2 is that it follows the same model as GW1. GW2 developers said they are going to rely more on cash shop to generate revenue to slow down the development cycle and however people were always expecting and begging GW2 to release an expansion

        Also I just find your argument somehow a MMO releasing an expansion in 2 and half years is considered as bad completely illogical. WoW released first expansion in 2 years? EvE releases 2 expansions every year. MMO always needs to add content to keep player base. The fact that GW2 can rely on cash shop for two and half years before they decide to release a major expansion (while earning much higher revenue than EVE per year) indicate how successful it has been.

        • SynCaine says:

          CCP wasn’t working on DUST or WoD in 2009? They didn’t have the Atlanta studio open at this time? Pet projects that never saw the light of day (like Valk) didn’t exist?

          Just take a step back and think about it; do you really think CCP, knowing exactly how many players they have playing EVE, and with that number not dropping, would they really keep going if the profit margin for EVE was that razor thin, when they have, for years now, been attempting to expand beyond just EVE? Does that make any sense to you?

          As for GW2, the latest NCSoft quarterly financial statement shows GW2 on similar sales levels to its other games (outside of L1, which has always been the main profit driver). Also note that GW2 wasn’t mentioned as a driver in the top header. Go back one quarter, and note that GW2 was recently launched in China, and during said quarter WildStar eclipsed what GW2 was bringing in during that quarter.

          Long story short, GW2 isn’t a huge factor for NCSoft. It’s a nice little piece (that gets smaller and smaller anytime it doesn’t launch in a new region), but not even the most optimistic view can put it anywhere close to WoW/FFXIV/EVE levels.

          Or to put it this way, NCSoft would gladly trade away GW2 for any of those three, in a heartbeat.

          And not only is GW2 not a F2P MMO, but its also changing/adjusting its original B2P model because that, too, isn’t working out as well as NCSoft expects/wants, despite Anet originally stating and planning to have a “box and fluff-only” shop as the model.

        • Anonymous says:

          You seems to don’t understand the basic finance idea that it is not only the initial development costs that matters but also the continuous developing cost. EVE launched with only 10k players, you think CCP can maintain this player base and grow it without spending considerable development resources at releasing 2 expansion packs per year for EVE? The company is releasing those expansions out of a good heart? It is well known that the majority of the development resources was spent on EVE, for example during Apocrypha expansion, most developers on WoD were pulled to work on EVE.

          The sales of GW2 in China is in royalty not in sales since the game is licensed in China. The revenue from cash shop alone in that quarter is almost equal to the newly launched wildstars. It is perfectly normal for the cash shop sales to decline for a game with 2 and half years life (same thing happens to even game like WoW), that’s why expansion is coming.

          As for your statement that NCsoft would gladly trade GW2 for games like EVE/FFXIV, again it shows you are talking with what you want to believe without looking at any facts. The revenue for GW2 in the first half of 2014 from cash shop alone (without counting royalties from China) is 44 million while CCP only earned a revenue of 34 million with an operation loss of 28 million; FFXIV doesn’t even report its numbers. Have to wonder how you draw your conclusions besides wishful thinking?

          And when does relying on cash shop for 2 and half year before releasing an expansion an indication that “GW2 is forced to” or change business models? Are you implying WoW was “forced” to release expansions and such action change its “subscription model”? Your argument just does not make sense.

        • SynCaine says:

          Of course the operating cost for EVE went up when the game went from 10k to 300k+, but over those 10+ years, CCP grew. What do you think funded that growth? I’ll answer since you really seem lost on this topic; EVE profits. EVE profits allowed a small indie studio to grow to the point where they could purchase White Wolf, where they could make god knows how many versions of WoD (ugh), where they could develop DUST (unfortunately), where they could produce Valk for Oculus, and where they could expand the dev team to the monster it is today. All of that is because of how profitable EVE is. And even today, when CCP has stated they are more fully focused on EVE than ever before, they STILL have Legion and Valk projects going.

          NCSoft would take that over GW2 in a heartbeat, and the fact that you even question that is honestly comical. I’m scared if I used WoW in the example you’d somehow argue NCSoft wouldn’t want that either.

          Also, from the NCSoft report, why do you believe the GW2 number is just cash shop? Have they stopped selling boxes? Is GW2 a F2P game now?

          One last time about the forcing of the expansion; go back to pre-release statements from Anet about GW2. They said they won’t do paid expansions. They made statements about what would be in the cash shop. So either you believe Anet pulled a Smed and lied to everyone for a quick buck (maybe, given the manifesto, but not likely), or NCSoft saw GW2 revenue fall off a cliff (which isn’t what we saw with WoW, or EVE, or FFXIV in year two), and forced Anet to do something about it.

        • scaramanga says:

          If EVE was a huge financial succes, it would be copied a lot more,that is what companies do when something makes big bucks.
          The absence of EVE clones is telling the financial situation.

        • SynCaine says:

          I live in a world where Perpetuum, Elite, and SC exist, just to name a few of the bigger names. There are also a good half-dozen if not more Kickstarter or other such initiatives to games one could call EVE-clones.

        • Anonymous says:

          I see you are trying to change the subject again. Your argument was that GW2 costs 100X EVE to develop (without any numbers to backup) yet I showed you that it takes CCP significant continuous development costs (2 expansions per year and most of its revenue to development) just to achieve the current revenue from EVE, which is still far below GW2’s revenue per year even ignoring its initial year box sales. It is well known most of CCP’s developers are focused on EVE.

          As for your argument of profitability, of course MMO needs to be profitable to continue to expand, I know NCsoft is profitable (CCP is not first half of 2014) and GW2 is still recruiting and ANET studio has expanded significantly since its founding in 2000. To compare cost, CCP has 600 employees while ANET has 250 when it developed GW2 (employee costs counts for the most cost of developing a game). if you want to argue one game is significantly more profitable than the other right now, maybe you should provide some real data instead of just arguing with words?

          As for your statement that “NCSoft would take EVE over GW2 in a heartbeat”, again provide some facts to back you up or you are just doing this wishful thinking argument again? ANET studio has less employees than CCP (proxies for costs) and yet GW2 generates significantly more revenue than EVE (113 million vs 70 million in 2013) right now. Why would NCsoft trade it over again?

          GW2 never said it won’t do an expansion, it said it is considering either release expansion as paid content or through in-game updates (e.g. what EVE is doing). It is known in early 2013 in investment community that GW2 is developing an expansion. Also your argument somehow expansion is a bad thing is just so illogical. Can you even give me one successful MMO that did not release an expansion after 2 and half years? The decision whether an expansion should be paid or free will depends on whether paid product will alienate more players than it will attract or not.

          It is well known box sales will slowly dry up for as the game ages, so I don’t think it is far stretch to say most revenue comes from cash shop in 2013/2014, of course it will still has some box sales.

        • SynCaine says:

          I’m not sure if you are intentionally being dense (the 100x taken as an actual statement and not hyperbole to a point you haven’t rebutted) or not, but this really isn’t going anywhere when you are saying a game supporting 600 devs is worse than a game supporting 250, so I’ll just wrap up with that.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hehe, I see you are trying to avoid logical arguments again. Are you intentionally ignore the part where I sad a game with 600 employees is generating less revenue (70 vs 113 mil) than a game that only has 250 employees?

        • SynCaine says:

          No I just understand that revenue and profit are two different things, one being far more important than the other.

      • Anonymous says:

        You really don’t seem to have much understanding of finance. The game (eve) with more employees (a good proxy of costs) but less revenue than gw2 of course is going to have less profitability…

    • Anonymous says:

      So this is the way you argue when confront with facts? You don’t even seem to understand I am just quoting your 100x statement to point out you need to provide facts to backup your arguments (e.g gw2 costs significantly more than eve).

      If this childish way of arguing is the best you can do when someone give your facts to counter your wishful thinking, I am honestly disappointed…

  8. sleepysam says:

    I’m pretty sure the original GW2 pitch was B2P, and then the cash shop would take care of the content updates. No more boxes. That’s a bit of a change from their original vision for GW2. FWIW.

  9. tsuhelm says:

    I really dig your second to last paragraph, ‘…devs have finally figured out that the MMO genre is a niche market, and not the mass-market illusion…’

    And a well thought out MMO aimed and designed correctly whatever its payment method could be created…sooner rather than later!

    ‘Massive’ multiplayer online games should start thinking ‘SMALL’.

    • SynCaine says:

      They would still be ‘massive’ though. I mean, a normal MMO server holds 10k players or so. A game having one server or a hundred doesn’t make it any more massive when you play on your server (cross-server and out-of-game stuff aside).

      CU is a good example of this. Mark is not just designing the game, but building the business around having 50k subs. Assuming CU isn’t horrible, they will get 50k subs. The players win (they get a good PvP MMO), the devs win (they keep getting paid), the game wins (it has a full dev team working on it). The only people who don’t win are suits/shareholders who would want to see double-digit year-over-year growth or a crazy ROI. Luckily suits aren’t a factor with CU.

  10. Malcolm says:

    To wade back into the finance debate from above…

    EvE cost about less than 10 million to develop, spread over 3 years about 3 years, i.e. 3m a year. Assuming the development of the expansions + running the servers costs approx. the same it costs 3m to keep the lights on for EvE for 1 year (imho this high, especially in 2003). That equates to being profitable at 16k subscribers. Even if you double it EvE only needs 32k subscribers to be profitable. EvE hit those numbers within the first two years of being released.

    Another way of looking at EvE’s success is to consider the basically linear growth in subs from 2003 to 2013, from 0 to 500k and calculate that EvE grossed 450million dollars. Iceland’s corporate tax rate is 20%, so CCP realized (approx) 360million dollars in revenue. Heck even if you assume it costs 10million a year to keep EvE running/develop expansions/pay back initial startup costs (mostly financed through sales of a board game and venture capital) CCP still has 360million -100million= 260million dollars in profit, an average of 26million per year.

    Now, they had losses in 2013 and (iirc) 2012. These losses were entirely (as disclosed in their SEC filings) related to writing off Worlds of Darkness and depreciating code they were no longer using or planning to use. Writing off Worlds of Darkness is a real loss, the EvE code related losses are tax lawyer tricks for decreasing tax liability by pretending that there is some value in code you’re not going to use anymore. Many, many actually profitable (in terms of making money) companies consistently jigger the numbers to claim losses to reduce tax liability.

    The simple fact is that CCP has made a buttload of money off of EvE and managed to blow it on useless side projects. This is a successful game company, at the end of the day they have a profit generating center allowing them the freedom to explore other ideas. Any other reading of history is mistaken.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually the costs of maintaining and develop EVE is much higher than you expected. In 2007, EVE has a revenue of 32 million and yet an operating profit of only 4 million (see 2008 annual report for year 2007). If you check EVE website, in 2007 there’s no dust, and internal development of WoD only just begin and we know that CCP pulls wod developers to work on EVE all the time.

      The cost of developing and maintaining a game of 10k subscribers may only be 10 million (interested in knowing where you get the number). However to develop and grow the game to support 100k subscribers by 2006 takes significantly more resources than the original 10 million cost.

  11. Malcolm says:

    Actually internal development of WoD started in 2006, with full scale production in 2007.

  12. Pingback: MMO subscription models | MMO Juggler

  13. John says:

    Why you go into so much trouble with numbers and statistics and profits to find out if a game is successful…it is really very very simple.

    A subscription game that has 500k subs, means that 500k people have fun, or they think the game is fun enough to pay a subscription for it.

    A F2P game that have 500k players, does not mean that 500k players pay for it. The majority of players are just hippies who jump from 1 f2p to the other. And the game is f2p because not enough people found it fun enough to worth their money.

    Game A is better than and more successful than Game B, if more players find Game A fun enough to worth their money. Just because there are whales that want to cheat their way through the game using their real money, and by that they increase the numbers of the game, does not make Game B successful.

  14. Anonymous says:

    We’ve gone over this before. EQ wasn’t a theme park :)

  15. j3w3l says:

    Good article and I have to agree in a lot of points. I’m also hopefully for the interest consider how much the focus of development has shifted away from the wow clones

    I believe Maplestory is the most profitable ftp mmo yeh, i believe i saw the numbers somewhere but can’t back that up. Lineage is definitely up there.

    Also, considering the design would you consider CoC an mmo?Large scale multi-player environment with a lot of players battling. If so then it’s rather sad that it would probably be the most profitable haha

    • j3w3l says:

      supposed to say industry instead of interest.. grrrrrr

    • SynCaine says:

      Don’t consider CoC an MMO, but if it was it would rival WoW in revenue I believe.

      Lineage and Maple I don’t count since the majority of income is from Asia, and Asia is just so different in terms of what they like and what games are successful, with little carryover (L1 is still one of the biggest MMOs in Asia, it was a non-factor in the EU/NA, for example.)

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