My turn: Warhammer Sales Predictions

I saw Syncaine take a stab at this, and he got the idea from Tobold. I’m well-versed in talking out me arse, so I’ll make a Warhammer subscriber prediction as well.

First, I’m going to take WoW’s number, around 10 million subscribers, and chop 6 million off the top. That’s my approximation of the number of non-US and non-European WoW subscribers. Well over half of WoW’s subscriptions come from outside those markets. Since I think WAR will mainly appeal to US and European gamers, I’ll say 4 million subscribers is the theoretical maximum Mythic could achieve.

Naturally, that assumes 4 million players drop WoW for WAR, and that’s obviously not happening. However, there are people playing other games that might give WAR a try, and there are people who have stopped playing WoW that are going to play WAR. I’ll pick a number out of me arse and say Mythic might attract attention from 2 million gamers…actually, that sounds high. That’s fully 50% of what Blizzard’s managed to do in the US and Europe, and that sounds optimistic to me, especially since WAR is focused more on RvR. True, RvR is not PvP, I’ve been banging that drum like crazy, but I don’t expect everyone to enjoy RvR even if they understand my points from a theoretical perspective.

I’ll drop to 1.6 million interested players. Not all of them will buy at once. I think we’ll see a little more than AoC numbers for launch and the rest of 2008…let’s say, 1 million users. Not all of them will keep playing after the first month. Naturally, there will be people who find it isn’t for them, they’ll return to WoW, or their other MMO homes.

Given WAR’s RvR-based nature, I don’t see as much future growth in WAR as we saw in WoW. It’ll be more difficult to join the game later and have the same game experience. I can see WAR selling another 600k copies in 2009, maybe into 2010. That puts me around the 1.6 million copies sold, and I’d guess the actual subscriber rate will be lower. 50% of that would be tremendous for Mythic…if they could get a million subs, I think they’d be thrilled. I’m expecting it to be lower, though. I’ll say that, given how much the potential market has grown since DAoC launched, they could expect to triple their DAoC subscriber peak, and get about 750k monthly subscribers for WAR. I don’t think it’ll last as long as WoW has peaked, though, and I’d suspect that number to drop closer to 500-600k for WAR over time.

And I think that’d be a huge success for Mythic. They’ll never get close to WoW numbers, just because it’s not going to appeal to the Chinese and Korean market the way WoW does. Plus, it’s an RvR-centric game.

Remind me in a year how wrong I am, lol.

20 Responses

  1. I’m guessing higher myself, given how even aoc, which didn’t nearly have the hype, pulled in 1mil boxes in first couple months. And given this game is introducing rvr to a totally new audience (250k daoc accts but still a large majority of daoc subscribers had 2 accounts min so they could rvr effectively ::raises finger to mythic::) I can see word of mouth bringing subscribers into the 4mil number by end of 2009.

  2. No MMO will get WoW like numbers without the Asian market. Win them over and you have a license to print money basically.

  3. The problem with Tobold’s little meme is that he appears to have done a good job sitting right on top of the most reasonable guess; 1-2 million copies sold in 2008. Given AoC’s 750K and Warhammer’s more organized hype, 1 million seems to be a given. I’m not sure that I’d agree that the ceiling for Warhammer is 2 million (remember, many WoW players don’t actually like raiding), but it would take impressive pace (even compared to WoW) for them to exceed that by the end of 2008.

    Also, not everyone who picks up Warhammer will be coming straight out of WoW’s current subscribers. Remember, WoW’s 10 million (or whatever it is right now) is CURRENT paying subscribers, not total copies sold. There’s a huge potential market of people who no longer play WoW (indeed, Blizzard seems to be targeting them more than existing players with their content development plans). Likewise, a game like DAoC that peaked at 250K subscriptions actually had significantly more than 250K total players over its lifespan who might now be in the market for Warhammer.

    On top of that, Mythic’s timing couldn’t be better in that they are likely to have two months to court existing WoW players before Blizzard’s expansion is ready (I’m in the Wrath beta now, and it’s in good shape, but not launch in the next two months shape). The real X-Factor is how much people actually like the game. Sure, it’s easier to count boxes sold, but the real box sales will come if you sell the game to a million former WoW players and they all tell their friends that it’s a good game.

    @br3ntbr0: The Chinese market is huge, but they’re paying literally pennies on the dollar. Blizzard is fine with this because it’s money they wouldn’t get otherwise ($15/month is insanely more than most Chinese players can, or would be willing to, pay), but it’s the North American and EU markets that pay full price.

  4. remember a large portion of WoW’s subscription numbers come from Gold farmers and if WAR can cut those people out of the game, they’ll also cut down on their sales numbers. A sad fact but still a fact.

  5. @ coppertopper – i can’t believe I forgot buff bot accounts! You’re right, of course.

    @ Green – Yeah, Tobold staked out a huge, logical range, didn’t he? That’s fine, he did it first :) I went a little low, partially because I’m aware of my own enthusiasm possibly inflating my expectations, and partially because no MMO other than WoW has even topped a million subs in the US market. I’m quite prepared to be on the low side, but I didn’t want to pick higher than Tobold. That seemed TOO optimistic. And what’s the fun of saying “Yeah, I agree with Tobold”?

    @Oakstout – Has Mythic talked about trying to cut farmers out of the loop somehow? I haven’t seen any MMO do that effectlvely yet, I don’t think?

  6. One little problem with your math. WoW CURRENTLY has about 4 million people paying for an account in the US/EU. WoW came out in 2004, in those 4 years, how many people have played WoW and quit? How many have already quit WoW in anticipation of WAR?

    To say the market caps out at 4 million because that is the CURRENT size of WoW is crazy. The churn rate for WoW is huge, and who is to say the churn rate for WAR won’t be lower? RvR is a hell of a lot more casual to pick up and play than the raiding game after all.

    A very best case scenario, what if half the people who have EVER tried WoW try WAR? My guess is that number must be around 10 million, if not higher. That’s 5 million right there, playing for at least one month. Again, best case, but still.

    The MMO market is huge right now, bigger than even the 4 million or so WoW subs. A good game can have a massive snowball effect on consumers and skyrocket their sub numbers, just like WoW did in 2004-05.

  7. I don’t disagree, Syncaine. You’re right that there are a lot more people out there than the currently subscribed number. The number could clearly go higher, but I’m not sure an RvR-focused MMO is the game to do it. However! I freely admitted I pulled numbers from my arse :) I’d be the least surprised person around if I was wrong.

    I tend to think Tobold’s in the right sales/subscriber range, but his number was the official Vegas over/under line, I’d have to bet the under.

    And that’s another important piece of information about me. I lose…a lot…when I gamble. So I really don’t gamble, and betting against MY bet is a good way to make yourself some cash :)

    Time will tell! I’m just enjoying the prognostication.

  8. I’d have to see some kind of data (and I’m not sure how you’d collect it) to back up the suggestion that WAR has more hype going in than AoC did. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m not taking it on faith that you’re right, either.

    I think Conan is more recognizable than Warhammer to a lot of people thanks to the Governator playing him in the movies. And AoC generated a lot of hype off the fact that it included nipples.

    Of course around HERE the Warhammer hype is way higher than the AoC hype was, but I dunno if that’s true across the gamingverse.

    I also wonder how much of the audience got burned by AoC and might not jump at Warhammer at launch. That might hurt War’s initial sales.

    On the other hand, a lot more people have computers that can run War decently (compared to AoC).

    I think Warhammer is going to do well over the long haul. I think the folks psyched for it are more ‘core gamers’ that the boob-chasing AoC folks. :)

    My biggest fear is that it won’t generate crazy high numbers at launch, and t3h interwebz will seize on that to start idiotic rumors about the game ‘failing’ which in turn could scare away prospective buyers.

    On a related noted, according to NPD, of the top 10 PC games sold in the week ending August 2nd, 3 were World of Warcraft related. WOW Battlechest, WoW, and Burning Crusade came in at #3, 5 & 9 respectively.

    I can’t believe there’re still gamers who don’t already own WOW. We should be glad of this though. WOW is a great ‘gateway drug’ into MMO gaming. New WOW players might be future WAR players.

  9. I can certainly imagine you being correct, Pete. I hope you’re right! I know I’m certainly more hyped for WAR than I’ve been for any other MMO for a long time.

    Still, no other US MMO has ever broken a million subs. No PvP-centric MMO has ever stabilized over, what, 300k? Eve Online? AoC started off strong, but I don’t know how many numbers they’ll have at the end of their first year.

    WAR certainly has the potential to go beyond all those other games. I’d be surprised if it didn’t…but I’ll be even more surprised if it ever gets to 2 million subs.

    But yeah, I kinda picked low just to carve out my own place in the WAR subscriber pool :)

  10. I am so not getting into maths and numbers, I guess we’ll just see. I hope they do well enough that they’re not in trouble, and not so well that it becomes faceless!

  11. So? Even 500-600k is a massive success for Mythic.

    The key question here is: Is it enough for EA?

    I for one sincerely wish that Warhammer Online never, ever reach the subscriptions numbers and popularity of WoW!

    Simply because we have seen over the years that big numbers = reduced quality. It’s being proven over and over and over and over again in WoW. With each addon, with each patch it’s being proven again and again and again.

    I only wish that Mystic stay true to their concept and focus on PvP/RvR with some mixed PvE elements.

    I hope they DO NOT get the idea to make this game appeal to a wider spectrum of consumers. Like WoW do.

    Less is more!

  12. Don, exactly what I said at the conclusion of my piece :) “I’d suspect that number to drop closer to 500-600k for WAR over time. And I think that’d be a huge success for Mythic.”

    You do make a good point about EA, though. I have to wonder what the expectations are over there. Mark Jacobs has said all along they’d never reach WoW numbers, so I’m sure he’s giving EA a more realistic number. I hope EA is listening.

    I also agree with you in hoping that Mythic doesn’t compromise their design to make the game appealing to everyone, but lacking cohesion. From what I’ve seen in the beta, I don’t think you have to be concerned about that :) They have a pretty specific RvR axe to grind, and I think they’re going to be successful. And successful on their terms, just like you said.

  13. And what’s the fun of saying “Yeah, I agree with Tobold”?

    Probably more fun to me than to you. ;)

  14. Haha! Who are you, my wife?

  15. Too many people think WAR won’t do well in Asia.

    From what I see WAR should actually perform better than WoW ever did in Asia.

    WAR is more of a demanding team oriented game than WoW. WAR will have a strong appeal considering how demanding teamwork is a large factor in the more popular asian MMOs like Lineage and ZTOnline. The average small guild is like 5 times larger than small guilds for America and Europe.

    WAR is more focused towards pvp than WoW. Asian players love pvp oriented games.

    China’s middle class continues to grow. China is the main reason Blizzard catapaulted to 8 million subs in a matter of months. THe Chinese like to experiment with things that are popular in Western countries just to be hip.(tongue firmly pressed in cheek) WAR being a fresh game that has a passing resemblence to another popular Western import will work in WAR’s favor.

    I’ll refrain comments on WARs marketing campaign because I don’t know enough about it to say if it is better than WoW’s past campaign in Asia.

    The only thing WoW has going for it over WAR is that WoW has imagery and themes that resonate more with Asian tastes.

  16. How soon do you think they will move into Asia? One year? two? Lotro just barely launched in Korea I think and hasn’t touched China. Wow took a year and half or so to do so. Hmmm

  17. WAR will not crack 1 million subscribers for at least a year.

    WoW has a zillion intangibles that no other game has, and they have families and grandmas among their subscribers. They won’t leave WoW, and you are very unlikely to find another game able to obtain those types of customers.

    -Cambios
    Blogging about Online Gaming and Virtual Worlds:
    http://www.muckbeast.com

  18. Maybe I’m also talking out of my ass, but I was under the impression that Asian MMOs tend to favor pvp a bit more extensively than WoW. Could be wrong, but I remember hearing about how Asian guilds took group pvp very seriously. And frankly, since 60% of Wow subscribers are over there, how is it that there are no top Asian guilds out there? Not a single one of the top ten, according to bosskillers… and they make up 60% of the market. What are they up to over there that they can’t field a top guild?

    And how many of those accounts are owned by gold farming ops? How many American accounts are owned by gold farming operations? How many accounts are owned by a single person? My guess is that the number of people actually playing Warcraft are much less than subscriber numbers would indicate.

    Very complicated questions, and while I’m not trying to argue that Warhammer is going to dominate WoW, I think it will end up doing better than you think. WoW is a creaky old beast, beset by compromises and aged software. It’s ripe to get knocked off its horse a little bit, and maybe I’m crazy but I don’t think the vast majority of players really like raiding as much as WoW’s success would indicate. They like the IDEA of raiding, but don’t like the time consumption, dealing with lazy players, having to grind money to buy mats, and all the stuff that makes raiding a PITA. They would like to like PVP, but BGs are a sorry joke, and arenas are another PITA to get together around a raiding schedule.

    If War turns down the grind a bit, and gives players the chance to develop their characters at their own pace and schedule without permanently and totally gimping themselves vs. players with more time on their hands, with fun activities, you’ve got a very strong challenger. Which it sounds like it does.

  19. Toxic, all excellent points. I definitely agree that subscription numbers are complicated, and the reasons people play are complicated.

    I’m fully prepared to be wrong :) I just had to pick a number somwhere. I’d be happy if I’m way low! It’d be great to see another super-successful MMO out there, maybe it would encourage more developers to follow WoW and WAR.

  20. I would say that WAR subscriber no is still uncertain in near future like how WoW does before. No one knows!
    I remember i don’t actually bother about the no of subscribers even when it hits 6Millions. So we’ll have to see in the near future for WAR potentials.
    I have tried the closed and OB, currently was playing in an oceanic server and always was on MAX population.
    From wht i have seen inside, i seen a big guild from korea lol. SO i reckon it must have hit koreans interest.
    BUT i just hope WAR would be the New Generation Of MMO. CHeers..

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