Sunday, March 11, 2012

Version 3.8 thoughts and comments

Version 3.8 is only a small update, mainly to add the revised datapoint for Star Wars The Old Republic.

I will also talk about Runescape and Second Life, which I didn't mention in my v3.7 thoughts and comments.

About Star Wars The Old Republic

While I thought I would not get any new SWTOR numbers any time soon, I was mistaken, we got some new numbers, although not very exact ones, so I was not not completely wrong either :)

I get my new info from the 2012 Wedbush Conference, here are the comments from EA. I will quote the parts we are interested in :

Star Wars, this is an area that I think has got a lot of people anxious. I've heard from investors today saying that we must have 800,000 subscribers. I heard 600,000 yesterday. So what I think a lot of people have misunderstood is we said we had 1.7 million subscribers on the last call, which was about a month ago. What that was about was the fact that only about – just about half that number had triggered through their 30-day point and become active subscribers, our definition of recurring subscribers.

We had about half that total still in the 30-day trial period, but they're subscribers because that first month is including with a package good. What I said a month ago was, just over half. I can now confirm for you today that the vast majority of the 1.7 is now triggered through that point and they're recurring subscribers.

I am not giving you my fiscal 2013 guidance, but it is very clear on the surface that some of the craziness that was out there in terms of misunderstanding [ph] this is that I can (10:04) clear up today. It's a very strong entry. We still have a lot of future in front of us. We're two months into the launch, a lot more to go, but 1.7 million, vast majority now, are recurring subscribers.

And here, for reference the quote from the quarterly conference call on February 1 :

Let me offer some metrics on purchase and subscription that will help you understand thisbusiness. As John stated, we have sold through two million units of the game since December. We currently have a little over 1.7 million active subscribers. The rest have either not started playing yet or have opted out.

So the vast majority of the 1,7m resubscribed, now we have to determine what that vast majority is :p, 80%, 90% maybe? If I lay this info next to the Xfire numbers and server load I can come up with a pretty close estimate, and that is what I did in v3.8, where the number is revised upwards.

After the initial rush, there was a steep decline in activity, but overall SWTOR manages to keep a sizable chunk of players subscribed.
I have to conclude that SWTOR is a bit more stable than I initially estimated and many players keep paying while not playing or playing a lot less.

I will keep a close eye on the game, there is still a large untapped potential in Asia, where they were off to a reasonable start in the Asia pacific region with 3 heavy loaded servers.

Lastly, I consider the game stabilized now, if the server loads and Xfire metrics drop even more, and no new official numbers are released, the charts will reflect the decline, I will wait until April before making any attempts on a new estimate.

About Runescape

It may look that Runescape lost a lot of subscribers, and they did, but there are 2 important factors you should take into consideration :

First of all with the migration from Runescape Classic to Runescape 2 there may have been some players lost, my listing does not differentiate between the two. Nowadays Runescape 2 is just called Runescape and Runescape Classis is pretty much closed down.

Secondly, and more important, the war against bots, macroers and other cheaters increased to unbelievable heights.
In 2009 Thousands got banned, but that was peanuts compared to the 9,2 million banned accounts in 2011. 9,2 million, I think that must be the largest anti cheater operation in history.

I applaud Jagex for fighting the good fight.

About Second Life

Well they did it, they stopped giving out their quarterly reports. Now it is not that big of a deal anymore since they basically stripped all the useful numbers out of the report over the years.
Tateru Nino has a good article on it here.
IMHO Linden Labs and Second Life are not doing great, otherwise they would keep publishing the reports. But the decline did not start today, as was already apparent by their stagnating numbers tipping into a decline.

I do hope the PCU numbers will stay published, so we still have some kind of an idea how the game ( or metaverse ) is doing.

Added all the relevant quotes on SWTOR from the 2012 Wedbush Conference, in addition to the one I already posted.


  1. According to your own definition, a subscriber is someone who either made a $1 or more payment to play for the month, or someone who is in his first month. I don't understand why you refuse the 1.7m data point.

    1. Yes, when in the first month I accept them as subscribers, that is why the second datapoint, the one from January, is 1,7m.

      But for the third datapoint, in March, we have passed the point where the majority of the players could decide to resubscribe or not, and part of them have chosen not too.

    2. I think you're operating on a fundamental misreading of the transcript. If you'd continued reading a paragraph or two past the line you quoted:

      "We're two months into the launch, a lot more to go, but 1.7 million, vast
      majority now, are recurring subscribers."

      That reads as 1.7 Million Active Accounts, ~80-90% of which are paying monthly fees, the rest are on their first month. Are you changing your definition of subscriber mid stream?

    3. I think it is a judgement call, I don't interpret it as you do.

      And based on the other metrics I think my interpretation is more plausible.

      BTW, the second datapoint was from February, so on February I have 1,7m, not on January as I mistakenly said.

      The last datapoint is my estimate for March.

  2. I'm still wondering if applying Xfire metrics to SWTOR makes sense. From all I've been reading, its player base seems mostly to consist of single-player biodrones or SW nerds, who obviously have no need for Xfire.

    Really interested in your findings. Thanks.

    1. Well the Xfire metrics speak for themselves, at some point they were close to WoW Xfire metrics.

      At the ├╣moment SWTOR is ranked second, after WoW, with over 4300 players, I think that is a nice sample to base trends on.

      EVE Online for example has around 1100 players on Xfire and WoW got over 16000 players.

    2. You don't consider people who use Xfire to be a self selecting population? Those that are drawn to Xfire tend to consume many games and jump from game to game, so they look to a service like Xfire to keep in contact with frieds.

      In reality you're looking at a sub-group of a game's subscriber population who (in all possibility) are statistically more likely to "finish" with a game and move on.

    3. It is a valid point you make, altho if you look at games like WoW and EVE, the Xfire metrics are nicely in line with the official published numbers.

      So I believe the Xfire numbers are pretty close to the average MMORPG player, and because of the sample size, more valid than most opinion polls for like elections and such.

  3. I've got the opposite question of thundersteele: why do you accept the 1.7 MM number given in the Feb 1 quarterly earnings? In the Mar 8 interview they clarify the Feb 1 number (just before the "vast majority" line). The CEO says that the the Feb 1 1.7 MM number had "just about half" paying (with the other half still in the free trial, see the Q&A section later and the question that starts with "Just on the subs for Star Wars").

    tl;dr shouldn't the Feb 1 number of 1.7 MM really be .85 MM because only .85 MM paid/committed to paying?

    (Thanks for doing all this work - you're doing a great job!)

    1. Because he works on this definition of subscriber

      4. Subscription definition :
      Subscription based MMORPG's are tagged with SS
      MMORPG subscriptions must meet one of the following requirements to be allowed on the subscription based charts :
      - Susbcribers who have paid a subscription fee of minimal $1 per month.
      - Players who have an active prepaid card of minimal $1 per month.
      - Players who have purchased an mmorpg and are within their free month of access.
      - Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days, if there is a revenue of $1 or more per subscriber per month.
      - Players who purchased virtual items or ingame currency for $1 or more per month.

    2. That is correct, most if not all MMORPG companies include the first month in their subscription number, so I have no choice but to include it as well.

  4. Well I decided to revise the datapoint for SWTOR March upwards, it is online right now, if you dont see it, try to refresh.

    It is not at 1,7m, because even if Xfire is not right, it can't be that wrong. Same goes for server load. That and the quotes from EA are not that transparent imho.

    We will have to wait and see what the future brings. If EA would provide me with clear datapoints, like Blizzard and CCP, then it would have been quite a bit easier.

    1. I think your newest estimate is much more reasonable. I do data analysis and forecasting for a living and SWTOR happens to be the game I'm paying attention to at this time. With that said, I've been giving it extra scruitiny. I don't agree with many analsysts who project 2M subs by June, but your initial estimates seemed out there.

      If I were going to try to model an MMO's subs based on X-fire trends I would likely try to include assumptions about release frenzy, holidays, gradual decline of Avg. Hours Played/day (people play less often at max level), content patches, and more.

      It would be really interesting to see if you could train a Neural Net to produce a reasonable relationship between the two.

    2. Just to clarify, when I use Xfire metrics, I use daily players, not minutes or hours played.

      I always use peak days and times ( mainly sunday evening ), and follow up each week. I also take note of expansions.

    3. Yeah, you mentioned that in another thread. What I was trying to point out was that as Average Hours/day per player declined you would also see a decline of players/day with no necessary decline of active accounts.

      When you look at how the game is set up, as someone is leveling to 50 (and gearing out in pre-raid gear) they're likely to play as many hours as they can fit in because there is plenty of content to consume.

      Eventually they'll reach a barrier where they're limited by raid lockouts (if they raid) and/or dailies and weeklies. They likely won't be playing as often or for as long as they did. So as the population of a server swings from "Leveling" to "End Game" you'll see declines of both of the aforementioned metrics even with stable subscriber population.

      So what you would want to do is to find out the Avg # Hours played per player and see how that has changed over time so that you can normalize # of Players per day.


    Article came out today and it hints that there may be another announcement coming soon, which I would assume would be a positive announcement. Indications from those on the development team have been firmly in the "growing" category as opposed to the "holding stable" category. Of course you would expect them to put the usual rosey spin on anything that could reflect poorly on their game

  6. That's not what it means. A 'call' in this specific instance is the official financial statement report.

    The last call was 1.7 million on 12/31/2011.

    The next call is on 03/31/2012.

    Majority = 1/2 + 1. There is no definition of 'vast majority.' But if 40% quit, the re-subs will be 60/40 = 150% of quitters. That could be easilty construed as a 'vast majority.'

    And remembering that approximately 20% of the base is on a 60-day time-card because that's how they had to activate thier accounts, only 80% were even eligible for quitting.

    There's a LOT of bullshit coming out of EA right now. There are NO official numbers coming out of EA right now. You're 1.2 million number is probably pretty good. Maybe a little high.

    We won't really know until the June 30, 2012 call though. Then most of the overly-optimistic early-adopters will have flushed through the system.

    1. I'm not really seeing any evidencial basis for your claims. Official numbers don't HAVE to come from the financial statements, but they often do. It is pretty clear that as of the end of February Bioware is claiming to be holding somehwere around 1.7 million.

      But I guess, as they say, haters gonna hate.

    2. Do you have anything but smug contrarian bullshit to offer? EA has an INVESTOR RELATIONS PAGE. I suggest you famialiarize yourself with it. I certainly have. You can find it by googling "EA INVENSTOR RELATIONS."

      There has been one number and one number only given. 1.7 million subscriptions as of 12/31/2011 (on 1.76 million sales). This was in the 02/01/2012 press release with the 3Q financial report. The press release also cited the 01/31/2012 sales as 2 million but (tellingly in my opinion) did not give 01/31/2012 subscription numbers.

      The press-release Joystiq cited in their article to say the game stablizied at 1.7 million did not contain any subscription numbers and dealt solely with ME3. Rather, the write-up was an off the cuff, non-defined term -- vast majority renewed -- passed on by a fourth-rate 'journalist' working for a second-rate gaming site.

      That's all. Those are the facts. No matter how much you or anyone else wants to make up different facts.

      Now, I suspect the reason this moronic crap got passed on as fact is because these Joystiq "journalists" don't have a clue. After all, they're just a bunch of barely-educated fanboys. THey're certainly not accountants, financial service people or economists who might actually ask an intelligent financial question and understandn the answer. They're certainly, in this area, not up the kind of reporting we'd get as the WSJ, Forbes or Business Week, where a financial markets journalist would have asked for the REAL NUMBERS and tried to get a FOLLOW UP instead of repeating some off-the-cuff, non-defined number.

      Now, just to let you know, Ibe's number is probably too high. He over-corrected his first number of 1.2 million which was, when made, probably correct.

      Like him, I like to know these things. After all, I was a CPA for decades and forecasts and projections and the related were part of what I did. So, in trying to figure what's happening with SWTOR, I follow the server traffic and XFIRE users. For a game that sold 2.2 million copies to date, there is about half the XFIRE discreet sessions and a HUGE deacrease in server traffic from the 1.7 million copie sold stage.

      So, basic rule: You don't lose 50% of the unique XFIRE users in two months while increasing the base units sold 500K unless there is a major problem with retention. Even with the free-trial weekend, users peaked at under 4700 at PEAK Saturday gaming.

      That's a LONG WAY DOWN from the peak running around 8200. And, remember, there are 500K more boxes in that pool...

      8200/1700000 is .48%

      4700/2200000 is .21%

      That's a huge decline in session ratios in a statistically signficant population. Or, in short, despite a larger install base, the play base is declining rapidly. The ratios just highlight how fast the decline is...

      As for me, I was actually here for Guild Wars. I was going to ask if Ibe has sources on active accounts. I'm getting ready to head back onto GW2 and wanted to explain to a friend what kind of player-base she could expect over the next few years. I was going to use GW1 as a reference point.

      But hey, enjoy your denial. I don't care. The game isn't going away. I'm only curious to peg the bottom.

    3. Hey

      just wanted to add that your post got spam tagged, when I was looking to block posting on the main pages ( like the Accuracy and Definition pages ) I found your post and released it.

      I will block all posting except on the "Version thoughts and comments" articles, and dump the spam filter cause it failed twice already.

      This way I can do spam filtering manually and keep all the discussions concentrated.

  7. One of the reasons why I revised the number up is because they sold 3,5 million boxes now, so even if they have a low retention rate past the 2 months period, they get a good influx of new players.

    This won't last of course, but for now it is part of the story.

    1. 3,5 millions? Like ME3? Where did you find that number?

    2. I don't have the link handy right now, but it looks like the source messed up and used the Mass Effect sales for SWTOR.

      My mistake, but no harm done, the supposedly 3,5 million copies sold was only an incentive, it was not part of the estimate in itself.

  8. You track Guild Wars active accounts? I'm looking for the number. I have a friend. She, and possibly her husband, are interested in Guild Wars 2. But they've lived through a number of "hot MMO crashes" and don't want to just jump in.

    I told her that GW sold about 6.5 million copies over its life. But I don't know the active account profile.

  9. I don't track Guild Wars active accounts, because when I started tracking active accounts I had no historical data. Maybe I can try finding the needed information.

    However from Xfire trends I can tell you that Guild Wars is pretty healthy so many years after release.

  10. Should add World of Tanks on your stats. Its well over 1 million accs.


    check this info

  12. Thanks for the info, however World of Tanks does not meet the requirements to be considered an MMORPG, you can read the definition here :

    Correct me if I am wrong, but WoT has a lobby/chatroom based front with small multiplayer games of maximum 30 players, therefore it is not considered an MMORPG, but a multiplayer online game like Diablo II.

  13. Yes you are right. Its more like a Multiplayer FPS but with tanks. But still the numbers are quite impressive. And they are definetly taking alot of people from the MMORPGs out there.