|Rank||Prev Week||Game||Score||Hours Played|
|1||1||World of Warcraft||54.8||91,328|
|2||2||Star Wars: The Old Republic||21.6||35,943|
|4||6||Lord of the Rings Online||2.8||4,697|
|6||3||Star Trek Online||2.7||4,505|
|9||9||Need For Speed World||2.2||3,596|
Why the overall decline in hours played from last week? Last week was a down week for the hours played in the twelve most popular MMORPGs on Xfire. The overall decline of 5.6% was lead by four games that saw over a 10% drop in playtime from the previous week: Star Trek Online (-20.7%), Star Wars: The Old Republic (-14.4%), Maple Story (-12.5%) and Aion (-10.9%). Those 4 games accounted for 82% of the overall decrease in time played. Why?
Server stability issues hurt - Maple Story continued its decline from its 2012 high of 5,616 hours played on 15 January following issues that began after a game update on 18 January. These issues required a rollback on 27 January back to a restore point on 24 January. That was bad enough, but due to continuing issues Nexon made additional offers of free items to players on 30 January, 1 February and 3 February. As CCP found out last year, the financial situation can get bad when the veteran players become disgruntled. Maple Story apparently is facing its own problems with hackers, exploiters and bugged content. CCP took months to recover and wound up laying off 20% of its workforce as financial issues forced the Icelandic company to scale back its ambitious plans. Maple Story is in free fall, seeing a drop of almost 50% in the past month.
The new internet spaceship smell is gone - Star Trek Online led the decline in percentage terms this week as the game hit the one-month mark as a free-to-play game. The popularity surged to a peak on 5 February when Cryptic celebrated the two-year anniversary of the opening of the servers by giving away free stuff. The peak was short lived and players are moving on to greener pastures.
Converting from subscription to free-to-play - The Korean MMORPG Aion is in the process of converting from a subscription based game in the West to a F2P game. Not only is the game changing payment models, it is also changing publishers. NCSoft will hand over the running of the game to Gameforge, publishers of Wizard 101 and this week's #7 ranked game Metin 2. This does pose some short-term problems for the game as some players don't like playing in F2P games. A bigger issue may be the actual transfer of accounts between NCSoft and Gameforge. Are players comfortable with the process? And will new players hold off on subscribing until the changeover is complete? The wait may be over as closed beta finished yesterday. So while the numbers are down now, expect a surge from Aion in the very near future.
The fourth pillar is crumbling - I can explain what is occurring in the first three games fairly easily, but what can I say about Star Wars: The Old Republic? This week's 14.4% decline in time played is just part of a larger decline of 49.1% in time played since 15 January. 15 January is a significant date as it is the last date that everyone who had purchased SW:TOR counted as a subscriber. Starting on 20 January people could decline to subscribe. If the Xfire numbers are representative of the entire player base, EA and Bioware are in danger of not having the 1 million subscribers they feel they need to be successful.
Why is SW:TOR having the huge drop-off? Don't blame WoW tourists. Since 15 January World of Warcraft has seen a drop of 13% in hours played. If I had to guess, the emphasis on the story, which I really liked when I played, isn't enough to keep people playing the game multiple times through.