Monday, November 1, 2010

X-Fire: Charting a Course

It has been a while since I have looked into charting the numbers of X-Fire for the MMO's we love (or love to hate...).
In case you are not aware, I call this the X-Fire game. If anything I think we can see how popular an MMO may be by using X-Fire and these game "results". The "game" part is important to remember, so as always I must deliver this with caveats, as many take issue with these results.

"The results here in no way equal a major scientific fact, and if anything shows a "trend" among gamers on the X-Fire network, who number in the millions, who may play an MMO in the list".

I add this caveat as I am sure some will take offense at these results...specifically fanbois of said games that are doing quite poorly. There are a few shocking results here when we compare them to past numbers.

Like Nielsen ratings on TV, the numbers given are an average of how well a game may be doing based on a specific set of results, or sampling.

Lets look at the Nielsen's. Boxes are placed into homes, and surveys are sent out to get an overall "ad rating" for TV shows based on a set number of viewers. For example, last notation is that "25,000 total American households" (WIKI) have a box. The number of U.S. television households as of 2009 is 114,500,000. So, we can see this percentage is pretty small compared to how many actual TV's are in use. Yet, ad prices and even the success or failure of any given show can be calculated based on this result. X-Fire I feel can work the same way (if major ads were used in these games, or the success or failure of a game was based on how well it did in the "ratings"
The Nielsen system uses a share result which usually helps set advertising prices. Like this share result, I created a system based on using the most popular game at the top of the list, and creating a calculation which helps average how many subs a game may have. That game, of course, is World of Warcraft.
Again, a warning with this. The numbers have changed since that time, and a new calculation needs to be done. So, today I will not do the "sub" calcs. Instead, we will just rate games in popularity based on their X-Fire result.

If you would like more of the history of the X-Fire game, here is an old post (which we will use as a comparison tool for how the games are faring) from March of this year. If you want to play the X-Fire game at home, by all means, head to that post, look at the calculation and see how your MMO is doing.

For now, lets get this started. A lot of games to cover. I will put the games in order of lowest rated (worst in the results) to the best of the bunch.

Champions Online

I really enjoy starting with this one. First up, we recently received the news that Champions Online is going "Free to Play". As I continue doing X-Fire charts, I think once that "switch" takes place, this will jump up in the charts. Next, it sits with my opinion that MMO's that are not "Medieval" fantasy and is not EvE or an FPS (like Halo or CoD), just does not rank well. Another note will be the number of players, as we will see further on. That number is not too bad, just that when they login, they don't stay logged in very long. 
That is sad.
So, out of the games I am charting today, CO sits at the bottom of the barrel.

Everquest 2

This will be the last time I place EQ2 on this chart. 
It seems that there is an issue with X-Fire that when playing EQ2, the times either drop or will not calculate. I blame the klunky game client for this and not X-Fire. The client also has been noted to not add to X-Fire and has to be forced to show up in timings.
Another theme to note here may be that the "old farts" who play EQ2 just see no need for the X-Fire software...but, seeing that EQ2 has a free to play client now, this did not make sense to me. Most younger players will try an MMO if it has a free component.
Unless the game really is not doing that well.
So, instead of starting an overall flame war about this, I will blame the game client, as it has been corroborated that the results just don't work. 
To see this in action, head to that previous X-Fire post and you will see the old results have EQ2 sitting higher at 293 players and #101 on the chart. The game should be much higher than that now...but is not. So, not playing nice means "bye-bye EQ2" from the rankings.

Star Trek Online

Talk about a major drop in the stats since March of this year. Cryptic had put out a press release at the time I did those calcs, stating over 100k players. Now, it looks to be a third of that (maybe a little more now that calcs have to be changed). Overall it IS dropping. 
I will guess that if Champions Online jumps after the F2P IPO, that STO will follow suit. So, good to have this here for reference when the time comes.
I really think it is not expensive for Cryptic to run STO, and it could be profitable at this point...but, until I can do new calcs, I am not even sure how many are playing. 
At least it is not below #100 on the chart, and that to me looks good.

Warhammer Online

I should be shocked at these results, but I am actually not.
Mythic and Warhammer has had a lot of crap happen to it this year, and these results really show how people react to their mess.
From the billing fiasco earlier this year, to the EALouse blog hate, all the way to a total redo for the game coming this year...the game has no sense of direction.
Disappointing to see it cut almost in half since the March results where it had 621 players and was #67 on the chart.
Maybe the RvR packs can bring this game back up? But, I feel the damage is done, and it will not recover much further.

Age of Conan

Where WAR exists on the chart, there is Age of Conan just always a little ahead. Would that have anything to do with a more fleshed out and less buggy PvE playfield?
But, it sure is not far ahead...with 2 more players? LOL Whats important to note here is the minutes played. The jump is pretty big, and shows the AoC players do not mind staying logged in just a little longer.
Funcom has been resting on it's laurels since the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, where they had a hefty lead in the charts. Check out the results from May just before the expansion launch.  WoW. 994 players and Ranking #42.
This goes to show that it is not a good idea to just let your MMO sit and hope the expansion keeps the player occupied. Unless your World of Warcraft that is.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

Still going at a decent clip, especially for a game meant for the casual player, DDO still keeps up. Especially seeing that the game was near death before going Free to Play. As can be seen from the March results as well, DDO has been keeping players running dungeons consistently. Only dropping a hair since those early results.
Nothing else to note here, except, great job Turbine.

Final Fantasy XIV

This one makes me want to laugh. There are several key factors here. First up is just how low on the list this game is, especially seeing it has just launched. Next, how low the "Highest" is. #37?. Look at all the other games in this chart, and you will see that at one time or another they have all been much higher than FFXIV ever got. Sales seemed to be dismal here.
Release your game unfinished, with no idea of what your community wants or cares about and reap the reward of low uptake.
Can this game recover? Maybe when it hits PS3, which will not chart here.
Good Luck Squeenix.

And now the top three I am charting...

The Lord of the Rings Online

Turbine has to be one happy camper. Talk about some great stats. Note the "Highest" result of #9? That was it's BEST EVER rating on the X-Fire charts. All thanks to Free to Play.
Turbine has proven that the Free to Play model can work for a "commercially" released game. And you do not have to be a low quality Asian Grinder to make it work.
Most everyone knows I am not a fan of LOTRO, but I AM a fan of what Turbine does for it's customers. All win there.
Keep it going...oh and take that cash you're making and hire a UI artist who understands DPI and an animator who knows how to use motion capture.


Ah yes. The game so many say failed...yet, X-Fire says different. Now, of note, based on March results, the number of players has dropped, and minutes played is lower. It still is consistently in the top 10 though.
Keep in mind, from all indicators, there has been a loss in the number of people using X-Fire, and this may show a lower result for all games. Time will tell.
This much I can say. Has no one ever wondered why Aion does NOT have a trial? Looking at these results can give us a good reason why.

Guild Wars

This will be the first AND last time I will show Guild Wars, the original on these charts. But, lets get this straight. Guild Wars 2 will be a MAJOR hit. With over 6 million sales alone in GW1, and the curiosity of the current player can it not be. And to top that all off, trying to play with the conventions of the standard MMO like GW1 did, GW2 if even having half of the changes they discuss, I would be remiss in thinking it would have the FFXIV fate.
These numbers also show what happens when you use a Cover charge model of buy in and play for no fee. Also, throw fun and exciting events, like the yearly Halloween extravaganza in GW, you can't lose.
I played during this time, and of note, the number of people wearing "purchased" costumes was huge. Can you imagine how much they made off the "Special" costume packs they sold?
There are very few MMO's that can say they compare to WoW in "subs", and even though GW does not have subs per se, they have the playerbase...eager to game and pay.

Now, I know a lot of games are missing. I realized when I started this endeavor, that it would be large. Especially with so many MMO's out there vying for the players cash. I will look to include some others since I will be dropping two off this list. EvE is one I wish to include down the road (thanks Ardwulf).
I am still working on the calc system now as well. WoW recently announced 12 million players, and as such, the percentages for X-Fire need a redo. Hopefully I can include that next round.
I will always watch Sunday numbers, as it is the highest listed day for MMO play times, so I will try and do these each Monday (wish me luck)

Any questions, let me know. For now...Enjoy!



Longasc said...

My impression of GW2 is that they go a lot of steps back to bring a million of people stuck in the WoW MUD to the GW future. ;) Yeah, a lot of people seem unable to let go of their bad old MMO habits and expectations shaped by DIKU style games.

STO: I assume they improved instance creation, as I see more players in the sector instances than a few months ago. But I am afraid the "newbie" sectors are emptier than ever, up to the endgame you might be pretty lonely.

They scared away a lot of people with the horrible beta event and other things, in fact I think they damaged their reputation - there are people who will buy any Blizzard game, and there are people who vowed to never ever buy any Cryptic game anymore. Sucks to be Cryptic in that case.

Turbine has a very smart community relations team. Talk about turning Massively almost into their mouthpiece and being able to set up a fair F2P model for DDO.

Note, I think the LOTRO model rather sucks... it is different, more a eternal free trial model. I will give a more detailed report once LOTRO EU has gone F2P and I could test the changes. But paying for fast travel just sucks balls in my book.

What Turbine and their games need is... a new engine. The landscapes are gorgeous, but the models and their animations are real mood killers. Also talk about switching off Windows "Aero" effects when playing in a window.

I could also rant about a bit stone-age standard DIKU MUD turned Disneyland, but that is the case for almost all DIKUs nowadays. People love it, I personally think I am beyond this kind of MMO with its usually raid heavy endgame.

Guild Wars 2 will be great, but it will have to compare to another great game: Guild Wars 1.

The fun I had and right now have again with Guild Wars for many years is unmatched. And that for little money. Ugh, I guess I paid more for STO already, which is a shame, as it can't compare to GW at alll.

Now let's talk about AION and NCsoft in general. ArenaNet is owned by NCsoft, and while the support is horrible (try to recover your own PW - it's probably easier to hack it than to convince support), some things got better: They managed to kill bots in the Jade Quarry and Gold Spammers. WTF. Really good. Maybe Scott Jennings really did something useful, I read he was hired by NCsoft a while ago!

The best about NCsoft is that they create game clients that look incredibly good, run stable and have low hardware requirements.

Compare that to the rest. STO has LOTRO-style running animations on ground and managed to drive graphics cards to heat death, Blizzard is stuck in Chris Metzen's shoulder-comic-fetish.

CCP is going to make a World of Darkness MMO, and EVE is going strong (though I often think talking about EVE is more interesting than playing it, and if the pay and wait to level model is IMO also overrated, it has serious drawbacks), it will be interesting to see you including EVE in the Xfire game from now on.

Ardwulf said...

I'll be watching.

You know as well as I do, though, that WoW's 12 million number is inflated to high heaven. There's the Asian population, the surge when WotLK waslaunched in China... I just don't trust that number. I mean, you never see the Blizzard press release that says "WoW has over 12 million players, but 75% of those outside of China are bored to death and idling until the expansion."

I agree that GW2 will be a huge hit. I am eagerly anticipating its apparent innovations, and I don't really see it as taking any step back, either from where the rest of the industry is, or where its predecessor lies.

Sente said...

That number is not too bad, just that when they login, they don't stay logged in very long.
That is sad.

I would have to disagree with this comment - I do not see that it would be necessary for people to stay online often and/or for a long time, on the contrary I think it is rather good that there are MMO-type games where people may have somewhat short play sessions.

The avergae time for the CO players are not that low either IMHo, 3 1/2 hours per day is quite long still, I think.

Openedge1 said...

Well, if it is an MMO, I would think if content is plentiful, that a player would stay on longer.
But, in CO's case, the average of the X-Fire player is less than 2 hours a play session.
I do agree that it would be nice if more games were casual friendly and that 2-3 hours max would equal progress.
Just to me, CO does not seem to be holding players that long...but, when Free To Play hits, I expect longer play times (LOTRO for example averages over 2.5 hours per play session)