Ever since they first showed up as advertisers here at MMORPG.com, we've been getting complaints about PlaySpan. Those complaints come under the mistaken impression that the company is a gold farming outlet. They aren't. What they are, is a company that works hand in hand with game publishers to offer items that are already for sale by that company. EVE Online, for example, offers only their 30 Day Starter pack, while Atlantica Online offers in-game gold coins (the kind that is used in their item mall). Essentially, PlaySpan is just another way to get your hands on game-sanctioned products.
I don't say this as a defense of the service, and I don't say it as a shot in the arm for F2P games. Your own personal opinion on the topic is yours. The reason that I bring this up is actually because the company has released some numbers today that I found particularly interesting and thought you might too. Not only is it interesting because it's so rare to get any kind of solid number out of any company even remotely related to MMOs these days, but also because is gives us an interesting cross section of who is using an international service like this one.
While the press release doesn't make explicit mention, I assume by the figures that have been churned out that PlaySpan is a service offered to a Western audience.
Of all of the western countries, I would have assumed that the United States would have accounted for the greatest number of customers for a service like this, but it turns out that America's going to have to take a back seat on that one, accounting for only 22% of the company's overall customer base, with Germany taking the top spot at 29%.
Don't start feeling too left out yet though. Americans may not have it in sheer numbers, but they make up for it with spending power, making up a whopping 42% of the company's revenue.
Almost conversely though, Americans don't spend the most individually, with Australia taking that particular honor, spending $24.38 while Americans trail them at $22.76 on average.
In the end, these numbers don't tell us anything solid about the overall state of MMOs in terms of what people are spending. The only thing they tell us for sure is that, of the unknown number of people who use the PlaySpan, this is how the numbers break down.
That isn't to say that there isn't any value in the numbers at all. First of all, they can be fun to look at and ponder. And second of all, they can be considered when you're looking at larger trends. Do these numbers provide concrete proof, for example, that Americans as a whole spend almost 20% more on these kinds of items than anyone else in the world? No, but it does go at least some distance towards suggesting it.
We see this phenomenon time and time again after the launch of an MMO in terms of XFire numbers. For those who may not know, XFire is a program that at least claims to measure game populations through a number of means including the tracking of its members. Inevitably whenever a new game launches, after the first few days someone will point to a dropping XFire score and call it: "Proof that Game X is failing". This always incites a near riot on the forums as users debate the merits of this particular program in determining a game's success or failure.
As is the case with these PlaySpan numbers in relation to the overall numbers surrounding the sale of item mall goods, XFire numbers are great if used in context. If you're pointing at XFire and screaming PROOF! At the top of your lungs, you're not as right as you'd like to be, but if you're arguing that the numbers are worthless you're not doing well in the way of correctness either.
The bottom line is that you shouldn't take any third-party (or even first-party) numbers as the whole truth, nor should you dismiss them wholesale. The picture that they offer is incomplete, but at least it's something.
Now for anyone whose curiosity is getting the better of them, here are the rest of the numbers released by PlaySpan:
The Top 5 Countries by Revenue Percentage:
The Top 5 Countries by Customer Percentage: