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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

Warhammer Online vs. Age of Conan: One Quarter Out, WAR Leads In Race to the Bottom

Posted by UnSub Tuesday February 3 2009 at 10:56PM
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EA has just announced the subscription figures for Warhammer Online (WAR) one quarter post-launch. In the midst of news about financial losses, people getting pink skips and titles being cancelled came the news that WAR has 300 000 paying subscribers at the end of December 2008, roughly 3 months after launch.

This is a huge decline. The original EA reports trumpeted that 1.5 million WAR boxes were sold to retailers. On the back of this, 1.2 million boxes were sold to players of whom 800 000 activated accounts. In three months it has gone from 800 000 active subscribers to 300 000 subscribers (and who the heck knows what is going on with the 400 000 boxes bought but not activated). Comparing launch to December 2008, WAR has seen active subscription numbers decline by 62.5%.

Woah. Mark Jacobs promises he'll say something about those numbers if he's allowed to but it would have to be an epic amount of spin. We live in hope.

Now, let's compare these figures to Age of Conan (AoC), the other hugely disappointing MMO launched last year. Over 1 million boxes were shipped to retailers (the total number over the first quarter post launch was 1.2 million) of which 800 000 were purchased. Around 700 000 AoC accounts were activated at launch but again, at roughly a quarter of a year post-launch, active subscription numbers were 415 000. Comparing launch to about August 2008, this is a decline of active subscriber numbers of about 59.3%.

For both titles, retention rates obviously suck for the first three months of their existence. However, WAR's suck a bit more off a higher number of activated accounts and also because more was spent developing WAR than AoC.

hurtster writes:

I agree with lumping both games into the same basic category.  However, if you were really up to date on all the "facts", you would know that AOC stated in the following quarterly report that they overestimated the numbers in that report you mentioned above.   I am inclined to believe that EA actually has a little over 300,000.  But no one believes that AOC reported accurate numbers in that report (including themselves).  In fact, they go out of their way to "not" report numbers, or admit later that they were wrong in the previously reported numbers. 

Not a reflection on the games, but AOC does not report accurate subscription numbers.

Wed Feb 04 2009 12:57AM Report
RudedawgCDN writes:

In any kind of business model - if you wish to "thrive" you have to continually innovate.

WAR and AoC do neither.

Until a game comes along and TRULY redfines things this will continue to happen. The majority of people will play for a few months and then move to the "next" game. 

Me - personally I've been playing mmo's for 10 years - pretty sick and tired of doing the same old same...

Wed Feb 04 2009 1:08AM Report
Aruvia writes:

While in theory you are correct that there must be inovation, in the MMORPG market inovation is not what has gotten the greatest success.  From MUDS and single player RPGs to Ultima Onlin to Everquest etc.. ther have been some great evelutionary steps that brought success, however, the unarguably most successful game, WoW, was not truely inovative and was not even really evolutionary it was more of a refinment of the things its predisessors  had already proven successful.  both of the games discussed here did take some unique approches to many things which unfortunately were not enough to truely compete with the incumbent. although in the scheme of things though the are not up there with the wow subscriber numbers 300,000 is not an epic fail. they have enough to survive and thier subs will likely stablize and likely even grow some over the years.  as for jumping from game to game (I do often) It seems this is the minority of players as Wows numbers have not really seen a significant decline which meens that majority playing it are not moving to the next game. Its hard to say what will break that and will be interesting to see when it happens, will it be some great inovation (like Wii controllers) or will it be someone who further refines the tried and true high fantasy, the true clone that does everything just a little bit better.

Wed Feb 04 2009 5:39AM Report
UnSub writes:

Hurtster: If you can provide me with a link to that info then I'm happy to include it. Having read through the 2nd and 3rd quarter 2008 reports I couldn't see any information that indicated they'd adjusted their player numbers. I've seen the 400k number for the first week, but that went up to 700k or so by the end of the month.

If Funcom lied about such numbers, then they've very likely broken laws tied to financial statements that are placed on the stock exchange.

Wed Feb 04 2009 7:39AM Report
sfraden writes:

Yeah, not finding your information anywhere.  SInce I play WAR, I have not yet seen a decline, therefore based on my own observation and your lack of proveable information, I defer that you are full of shit.

Wed Feb 04 2009 8:14AM Report
dominia writes:

Honestly I don't think you're comparing apples to apples here. In August AoC had no competition - Wrath wasn't out, MoM wasn't out, SO wasn't out and Eve hadn't released Quantum Rise.

I generally try to refrain from becoming any particular game apologist, but WAR did relatively well considering this holiday season was a gauntlet for expansions to commercially successful Mmorpgs.

Wed Feb 04 2009 8:40AM Report
sfraden writes:

I will update that the linked site in your blog DOES mention that 'EA said thay have about 300k subs for warhammer'  BUt that is just an indirect reference to something that EA possibly said.  I can find nothing on the EA sites, EA corp sites or news releases by EA that mentions this figure, or any reference to subs at all.  Therefor the site that is claiming EA said this cannot backup what it is saying.

"Just because its on a web page does not mean its true"


Wed Feb 04 2009 9:32AM Report
UnSub writes:

WAR has over 300k players and Mythic has just announced a raft of layoffs, including senior people designed core parts of WAR (e.g. the Tome of Knowledge).

Gamasutra is pretty well respected in terms of reporting.

Thu Feb 05 2009 12:29AM Report
hurtster writes:

I wish that I had saved the links for that info.  I read it many times while surfing thru the AOC forums.

As for AOC and breaking any laws of our stock exchange, that is not a concern.  They are traded on the OSLO exchange.  It is a common misconception that the current AOC stock numbers are in dollars.  Those stocks numbers are in NOK.  Different rules for different exchanges.  If they were posting as an American company (and other Western countries) then they would be forced to be more accurate as penalties would be applicable.

My comments are not a reflection of the gameplay.

Thu Feb 05 2009 3:29AM Report
Cursedsei writes:

I do have to agree with Dominia. While AoC was released way back in May when the expansions for the larger games were rumors, alphas, or the like, Warhammer Online had to deal with the looming release of not one, not two, but several expansions releasing for major MMOs. People bought Warhammer, played for a month, then bam! Lich King's coming home, the 3.0.2 patch is released and people come back to see the changes, work on what achievements they can, and finally enter Northrend. As for LoTR, Eve, and the like, I don't play those games (tried one or two), so I don't know how that was handled.

One thing I have taken notice of though, is that Mythic seems to be more up-front about things than Funcom was with AoC. Even moreso than Blizzard as they just released a new arena system in the middle of S5 (Horrible mistake), and just to rub salt in the wound, the system is screwing everyone over in the name of "Stopping Wintrading and pointselling". You win a match? You lose points. You lose a match? You lose a hell of a lot of points. You win a match and are lucky? You gain 2, then lose 27 in the next. Yet no announcement was made. Hell, as of late, their patches have brought nothing but trouble and bugs.

As for Mythic, they were upfront about cutting classes and cities. Then, they are releasing an expansion, not an update, but an expansion for free "thats what its labeled at least". They have released every class they cut (Except for the dwarven hammerer, but they replaced him with the crazier slayer). I'll admit that what they are adding isn't quite "Northrend", but still.

Sat Feb 07 2009 10:23PM Report
UnSub writes:

I can agree that both titles launched in different times. However, the fact that a completely new MMO was unable to hold players for more than 90 days against expansion packs is of concern.

Of course, Mythic could have chosen to move their launch until after WoW launched, but obviously someone at Mythic thought they'd be able to weather that particular storm. That didn't happen, however.

Sun Feb 08 2009 8:33AM Report
Greygon writes:


While I agree that innovation is important, I know I and most of the people that I game with would be perfectly happy if a company would just make a game that took the best things from the games that are out there and combined them into one game.  Sure, innovate where you can, but give me the best PvE system out there, the best PvP system out there, the best crafting and auctioning systems out there, the best Guild management system out there, etc. and I would be a very happy camper.  Everyone wants to see the genre grow and evolve, but I personally think it would grow and evolve more if you had a game that didn't screw around with what we already know works and then built on that.


Mon Mar 02 2009 4:14PM Report
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Wed Feb 29 2012 6:23AM Report writes:
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