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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Warhammer: A 65% Approval Rating?

Posted by Daedren Friday October 24 2008 at 10:08AM
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I’m partial to throwing out the famous words of Mark Twain even before we start: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” My limited premonition has allowed me to see the future comments on this: “Oh, look at this guy now - what the hell is he, a MMO market analyst? Who the hell is this guy? DIE YOU FRENCH BASTARD!” All valid points. I don’t claim that this is official or by any means accurate. It’s just my take, in my limited research, on how Warhammer is doing so far. The hype for the game has died down, and the bigger/better/newer upcomings of things like Wrath of the Undead Treadmill and Bioware’s Better-not-suck Star Wars MMO have been busy stealing the show.

First, I’ll start with my usual disclaimer: the following information expressed is my opinion. It is based upon non-standard and quite frankly rather piecemeal, shoddy and otherwise unreliable statistics that are only a very small fraction of the applicable targeted audience. The statistics for my conclusions are based on forum polls at Warhammer Alliance and the VN Boards, reader responses to my articles on r1ft.com, Massively and MMORPG.com - or, to put it more eloquently - the worse place on the internets to find objective information.

I’ve been a bit torn (yes, torn) over how to feel about Warhammer Online. One part of me wants it to fail miserably and be cast down with the other scrubs like Vanguard, Tabula Rasa and Age of Conan. Why? Because of it’s lack of creativity and ingenuity. (and yes, I know that this is just plain unhealthy thinking) Another part of me, though - the more mature and rational part - wants Warhammer to succeed. It’s a PVP oriented game, after all, and failure could spell doom for future companies/investors looking to pour their time and money into PVP focused games. I consider myself a nice guy, anyway, and it’s just hard to wish doom and gloom on anyone, even the uncreative jackasses that spew crap into the MMO industry.

One thing that surprised me in my “Inevitable “Meh” of Warhammer Online” piece was the agreement I got. I had expected the vehement fanboys to arrive in mass and collectively lynch me for not having the same opinion as them. Some did, but a good portion of other readers felt the similar to how I did, or at least could sympathize with my views. So, I took a few minutes and did an amateur research on what people from around the Warhammer community thought of their game after one month of playing. What I determined was that:

About 65% of people are happy enough with the game to pay for another month.

Roughly 25% of the people are not going to pay for another month.

And the remaining 10% are on the fence, undecided what they will do.

With these statistics, it’s good to keep in mind a few things:

  • They are taken from Warhammer fansites, forums, or MMO news sites
  • People that have stopped playing the game would be less likely to respond
  • The game could also be so awesome that the players don’t have the time nor inclination to look at forums.

(Source articles/forum polls are here: Warhammer Alliance Poll 1, Poll 2, VN Boards Poll 1, Poll 2, r1ft 1, Massively 1)

(FINE PRINT: In regards to references, it's been said, possibly inaccurately, that the VN Boards are generally thought to be more "pro Warhammer" and fanboyish who intend to address most of their posts to someone at Mythic, while Warhammer Alliance has gained a slightly unsavory reputation for harboring a good amount of negativity towards the game. Mark Jacobs posts frequently on the VN boards. His posts are usually followed by about 85% of the people trying to fellatiate him digitally, with a sane 15% actually trying to say something objective and without balls in their mouth. This, along with a guestimation that a good portion of ex-Warhammer players would not visit these sites again, led me to my conclusion of a 65% rating. That guess is about as stable Funcom's financial situation.)

I'm not sure what the margin of error should be, but any way you cut it, roughly 1/3 or 1/4 of Warhammer Online's customer base could be not resubbing or thinking about not resubbing. The last official word from Mythic had 750,000 people buying the game. So, if this research is accurate, almost 200,000 of initial buyers of Warhammer Online could be hanging up their boots after the first month. Or, in strict money terms, over 2 BAZILLION dollars a month. Er, 2.5 million $USD per month, sorry.

More importantly - what does this mean in today's market?  Would a 25% player first impression cut rate be higher or lower than other MMO’s like Age of Conan, WoW or LOTRO? Your guess is as good as mine. Initial player retention might be far less important than long term player growth, like in World of Warcraft - which started with under 1 million subscribers (according to

THIS

) and has now grown to over 10 Million, or about 2 million if you exclude bot and farming accounts from ninja countries. The question then would be: Does Warhammer have what it takes to make a substantial player growth in the coming years?

In my amateur opinion, I would say no. The difference between now and 2004 is that the MMO genre has a lot more to choose from. The competition in the field has increased by about 300%, or even more when talking about strictly fantasy MMO’s. Warcraft undeniably took a lot of players in from other genres and overall, the MMO industry has expanded significantly because of it. On the other hand, Mythic has catered to the already existing customers of other MMO games (mainly) and hasn’t drawn many into the scene. They’re focused on trying to draw away players instead of generate new ones. This was a fundamental marketing flaw that you really can’t do much about, I’m afraid. So, while Paul Barnett put his money on 3 million subscribers in the future, I’d put mine on hovering around 1 million at most. In the end, though, I could just be plain wrong.

It’ll be curious to see how this affects PVP/RVR based games in the future. I think most will agree that the genre did need - hell, it still needs - more PVP focused games to play. (Hello Darkfall, yes, I know you’re there. Look, about last night…) Let’s hope that just because Warhammer hasn’t generated an enormous player base, other investors and game studios will shy away from creating PVP oriented games.

So, what’s everyone else think? Is this “approval rating” healthy, unhealthy, or just a bunch of crap? How do you think it will do in the long run?

Original article here.