Thursday, November 20, 2014

The WoW Effect?

Yesterday, in the wake of the launch of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft had once again surpassed the 10 million subscription mark.  Last month, Blizzard announced that WoW "only" had 7.4 million subscriptions on 30 September, an increase of 800 thousand from the end of the second quarter.  Basically, in six weeks, WoW increased its subscription numbers by at least 35%, or 2.6 million.  Wow!

That many gamers heading back to Azeroth has to have an effect on other games.  According to the Xfire numbers gathered on Sunday, free-to-play games were hit much harder than subscription games.  The only exception was Final Fantasy XIV, but that game is experiencing DDoS attacks, so the Square Enix product isn't as affected by the new expansion as a quick glance at the raw numbers may suggest.

Of course, due to the decline in the Xfire community over the past two years, the Xfire numbers may not necessarily reflect reality.  The only one of the top games that I know of that provides hard numbers is EVE Online.  CCP launched its Phoebe patch for EVE on 4 November to glowing reviews.  Yet, despite reports of increased combat, especially that involving capital-class ships by the smaller player organizations, the weekly average concurrent user number dropped 3.5%, from 26,513 down to 25,579. 

Still, that low of a drop was possibly caused by other factors like expiring offers, so I looked for some other data.  The price of PLEX was very interesting.  On 12 November, the day before the launch of Warlords of Draenor, the average price of a PLEX sold in EVE Online's main trade hub of Jita was 876,150,000 ISK.  Yesterday, the price had risen 11.5% to 977,219.999.99 ISK.  As a basis of comparison, from 30 September to 31 October, the price of PLEX only rose 7.4%.  Interestingly enough, the volume traded Wednesday over Wednesday increased from 2,028 to 2,823, which usually indicates players coming back into EVE looking to subscribe using PLEX.  But yet, the ACU fell.

Another theory for the increase in the volume of PLEX traded is speculation.  Due to the rapid increase in price, I expect the EVE Central Bank to conduct a market intervention soon.  Yet, would the price have increased so quickly if players were spending their money on WoW instead of buying PLEX to convert to ISK?  I'm not so sure.

Of course, the numbers in EVE could just reinforce the fact that subscription games that have a solid IP and strong player groups like guilds, corporations, or free companies will stand up to the challenges provides by new games or expansion from the giant in the industry.  I also think that explains why game studios still want to try to produce subscription and not free-to-play games.  The stability of the games is more dependent on the decisions made by the studios and less on outside forces.  I think everyone wants to determine their own future.


  1. Plex prices skyrocketing... sorely tempted to buy 2-4 plex and sell them on the market for an instant couple of billion isk.
    Or to finally pay up for a character transfer and delete my least skilled characters to reduce the number of accounts I have because plexing an accoutn is getting ever more expensive.

  2. My unsubscribed alt(s) got an email offering 10 days of free gameplay. I used it to liquidate their assets and grap some skillpoints. After the 10 days expired they went back to sleep. Several other players did pretty much the same. No hard numbers to tell whether this influenced the ACU or not.
    Eve Central Bank already intervented: "PLEX prices through the roof!" was an advertisment you could find in your launcher asking you to buy PLEX for $, doesn't felt like CCP was annoyed by the price level (and why would they?).

    A blog related idea: What if several ISK sellers shut down their farming (botting) alts because they can't compete with the current PLEX level? As I am typing this... I do have 2 ISBoxers with 15+ accounts on my watchlist, havn't seen much activity by them since PLEX jumped over 850M.
    I really love those PLEX prices as I've learned how to survive with an single account (which I don't plex).

  3. I posted a while ago about why the ACU number might be increasingly unreliable: One thing Phoebe brought is the relatively unlimited skill queue, which means less logging in for most players. I personally have put in +3 months of training on a few characters and have since not logged in to them since Phoebe, whereas before I would have had to log in 4-5 times each (and may have extended the play time as well). PLEX going up 100-200m though, that's got to be a big one for a lot of players, maybe reason enough to close an alt account or two for the time being. It might be useful to also look at the new player numbers since Phoebe and see if that matches the general ACU as well

  4. I may need to keep track of the price of RMT ISK on Player Auctions for the Q1 next year and do a year-over-year comparison.

  5. i stopped playing eve because i dont want to pay for a game that other players play for free.

  6. I stopped at the 600 mark of plex. Realising that additional spent playing to purchase plex is actually wasted time. Plus some the industry changed invalidated the need of side characters. Happy to have just the single subscribed account. Even ignored the ten days hype.

  7. Hey Nosy,

    Here's a comparison point for you from Raptr. Looking at the weekly Top Games Being Played list, WoW has tripled the hours LoL has amassed over the last week. That is frankly amazing. Dragon Age: Inquisition is at #13 and Assassin's Creed: Unity is at #15 for comparison with other recently released titles. EVE Online which was at #37 when I did my Raptr update post has dropped one position to #38. I'll be interested to see which of the games habitually in the Raptr Top 20 take a hit from the WoW effect. However, we're still three weeks from any official Raptr post on the subject.

  8. re the common belief "The stability of the games is more dependent on the decisions made by the studios and less on outside forces"

    EVE has a loyal and stable base. But as to monetization, I just don't see how sub games like WoW or F14 or Wildstar have a significant advantage in predicting their Q1 revenue than sub-optional games like SWTOR and Lotro. (IMO, sub games selling 6 and 12 month subs would help their predictability.) Even WoW, with a sub, varied by 35% in six weeks. I don't think anyone would have been that surprised if it had been 25% or 45%.

  9. I got some feedback from Wilhelm. Apparently both Xfire and Raptr counted the time spent in queues waiting to log in as time spent playing the game. As Blizzard fixes things, expect the WoW hours to decrease.

    Then again, it's nice to see more evidence that EVE is riding the launch out pretty well. Now if the game will just start jumping positions in Raptr like it has in Xfire, where it's hovering around 20-21 now.