The PC Gaming Alliance announced today that they had released their “State of the PC Gaming Industry in 2008” report. Being the PC gaming fan that I am, I gave it a read and wanted to pass on some of the more interesting MMO-related facts to everyone here:
Readers may or may not be surprised to learn that MMOs lead the pack in terms of both revenue and profits. This isn’t particularly surprising when one takes into account the top markets that the PCGA folks talk about. The first, and in a category of its own, is World of Warcraft. With revenue that the report clocks in at over $1 Billion annually, it’s hard to argue that Blizzard’s juggernaught is anything other than the forerunner in the business. The other major contributing factor that the report mentions are “several Asian MMOGs” that are generating over $100 million a year.
The report, while placing WoW firmly on the top of the pile, also gives a nod to a number of other games that have “carved out a steady user base of consumers that pay $10-$15 a month.” EVE Online, EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan and Warhammer Online were given specific mention. I’m honestly not sure what the report’s criteria was for a “steady user base”, as that list reads more like the answer to the question: “Name six MMOs other than World of Warcraft”. Still, on the whole the report points to a vibrant and living landscape.
I was a little bit surprised to see Warhammer Online and Age of Conan held up in the report as indicators that “the overall MMOG industry shows
that large-ticket titles, backed by a sufficient marketing budget, can do well, and maintain growth in the overall market.”
I think this statement was made on the basis of combined sales that the report puts at over 1 million units sold at retail for the games. The report, which of course, ended with 2008, was not yet aware of the reported 300,000 subscriber number from EA which indicated the opposite: That while a large number of units were sold, growth and even retention, are a little bit harder to come by. That’s not to say that either game won’t / isn’t growing at this point, but the MMOG market may be slightly less optimistic than the report suggests.
Interesting to note here as well, that the report credits the availability of game cards at well-known retailers like 7-11 and Target along with the rise of F2P games with items shops as two of the big trends of 2008.
The report makes specific note of the fact that MMOs are raising the bar when it comes to the demands that they put on a user’s system.
In hardware terms, the report also talks about the genre’s almost total residence on PC gaming systems as opposed to consoles:
While online networks might be moving in a direction that could accommodate MMOs, the report theorizes that it is the life span of the consoles themselves that is preventing MMO makers from bringing their games over. The report theorizes that because an average console’s lifespan is about five years, and the average top tier MMO lifespan is significantly longer than that, makes console development a “very risky proposition”.
While this is the first time that I have read this particular argument regarding MMOs and consoles, I can honestly say that it sounds like it might at least be a contributing factor. Perhaps a larger factor though are the frequent updates that take place over the life of any MMO and the limited hard drive space on consoles, or any number of other theories that have been bandied about over the years.
Overall, in terms of MMOs and their relation to the rest of the video game industry, our genre is coming out smelling like a rose. Whether it’s because of giants like World of Warcraft, the accessibility of free-to-play item shop based MMOs, digital distribution, the fact that a box price and monthly fee increase revenue or any number of other reasons, I think that reactionary thoughts that “the MMO industry is dying” may have to be put aside, at least for another year.
Please, head over to the PCGA website and check out the rest of the report!