Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Digital Dozen: 28 February 2012

The rankings of the top twelve MMORPGs as determined by the players of the Xfire community from play on Sunday, 26 February 2012.  For more details about the methodology, click here.

Rank Prev Week Game ScoreHours Played
11World of Warcraft 53.5 76,671
22Star Wars: The Old Republic20.228,968
38Guild Wars3.65,091
43Eve Online 3.55,075
54Lord of the Rings Online3.14,385
76Star Trek Online3.04,280
87Metin 22.43,414
910APB: Reloaded2.13,065
109Need For Speed World2.02,858
1112Maple Story1.92,684
Total MMORPG hours played Sunday: 187,919

Another week, another decline in the total number of hours played in MMORPGs with a drop of 12.1% overall.  Of the top 12 games, only Guild Wars saw an increase in play among Xfire members as it jumped 5 spots to take the number 3 spot, edging out Eve OnlineEve almost bucked the trend, seeing a drop of only 0.6% in playtime.  The biggest drops in play were Need For Speed World (20.5%), Star Wars: The Old Republic (19.4%), Rift (17.6%), Metin 2 (17.5%) and World of Warcraft (16%).  Those 5 games accounted for 91% of the decline in MMO game play.

MMOData.net - One reason I put this feature together is the lack of data on subscriptions in MMORPGs.  When things go well, game companies are always eager to tout the numbers.  When things go bad?  Well, the numbers start going away.  Even a company like CCP, known for its openness, stopped the publication last year of the Eve Online Quarterly Economic Newsletter that published subscription numbers every three months.

One of the main sources of information for subscription numbers is MMOData.net.  Since December 2009 the site has attempted to track MMORPG popularity.  MMOData.net's definition is a bit different than the one I use.
  • The game should have the capability to support at least 500 concurrent users on a single shard.
  • The game must include a graphical common area where players can interact with one another inside of the persistent game world. This excludes lobby and chat room based interaction.
  • Combining point 1 and 2 : There must be a graphical common area where in theory 500 players can come together and interact with one another.
  • The game must make use of persistent characters or avatars. This means that you should be able to log in after logging out and find your character or avatar as advanced as you left them (or more).
  • The game must contain some form of advancement.
I believe this definition leaves out games like Guild Wars, this week's #3 game.

Right now MMOData.net has current data for 8 games.  Ranking the games gives a bit of perspective to the Xfire numbers.
  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Aion
  3. Star Wars: The Old Republic
  4. Runescape
  5. Eve Online
  6. Lord of the Rings Online
  7. Rift
  8. Perpetuum
Looking at the list, two games are not in the Digital Dozen.  Runescape, published by the U.K. company Jagex, is a free-to-play game not very popular with the Xfire crowd.  Perpetuum, the robot science-fiction game, tries to emulate Eve Online and publishing their numbers is one way to do so.  Aion is an interesting game when looking at the Xfire rankings.  Aion is a huge Korean game but the numbers for Xfire are mainly for western players.  Even then, Aion frequently makes the #3 or #4 slot in the rankings.  How Aion's upcoming switch to F2P in the West will affect the rankings is something to watch over the next few months.

One interesting item is the ranking of Rift.  The ranking for Rift was lowered to just below the numbers for Lord of the Rings Online and the accuracy of the numbers coming from Trion was lowered from grade B to grade C.  In the Xfire rankings Rift usually holds the bottom spot in the Digital Dozen while LotRO stays in the top half.  Looking back to January, LotRO seems to have at least 50% more playtime by Xfire players than Rift every Sunday.  Are fudging the numbers the sign of decline for a game?  If so, then watching MMOData is a good way to tell when that is happening.

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