Monday, January 31, 2011

The X-Fire Game: Champions Online Edition

This past week marks the launch of Champions Online's Free To Play model. We will look at marks across both X-Fire and Raptr to see what kind of numbers we are talking about when a game switches to this format.

As I noted before, with the new F2P option for CO, be prepared to see some huge spikes. I did a preliminary post last week showing just that. Jumps of 4 to 5 times the number of players was delivered just from one day at F2P. Todays numbers should give us a better indicator of how CO is doing once players settled in.

Lets get started.
  1. Lord of the Rings Online - 2524 (2901 ↓ ) players
  2. EvE Online - 2415 (2420 ↓ )
  3. Aion - 2131 (1959   )
  4. Champions Online - 1458 (New this week)
  5. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 421 (492 ↓ )
  6. Star Trek Online - 385 ( 385 )
  7. Age of Conan - 290 (321 ↓ )
  8. Warhammer Online - 240 (248 ↓ )
  9. Final Fantasy XIV - 130 (134 ↓ )
  10. DC Universe - NOT RANKING (but has been added)
Aion is up this week. A new patch hit with changes to crafting which seems to have brought back a few players. We will see if Raptr corroborates this.
STO is steady this week. Not many games I see do that. 
CO is new this week (previous weeks had no tracking due to the client changes). It jumps in to take 4th place with some great numbers. This still continues to prove that if a game is falling over, almost dead, the F2P option is like a resurrection. I know a few other games that need that kind of help.
DC Universe is now ready to track, but is buggy. According to XFire forums, it is not tracking any hours or screenshots. Hopefully we will see them next week.
Otherwise, ass we continue to see, WAR, AoC and FFXIV continue their slow bleed of players, and hold the bottom rungs of the charts.

Now, this week we will have previous week comparisons for Raptr. Lets see how games are holding up from week to week.
  1. DC Universe - 1256 (1396 ↓ ) players
  2. Champions Online - 1231 (161    )
  3. Lord of the Rings Online - 799 (1059 ↓ )
  4. EvE Online - 1151 (1028    ) 
  5. Aion - 554 (486    )
  6. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 241 (390 ↓ )
  7. Final Fantasy XIV - 216 (215    )
  8. Star Trek Online - 121 (111    )
  9. Age of Conan - 119 (117    )
  10. Warhammer Online - 94 (101 ↓ )
Not a lot of titles fell this week. So, lets look at those first.

DC Universe, as to be expected, will fluctuate for now, mostly downward until it finds it's niche spot on the charts. 30 days until we know for sure where DCUO will end up.
Turbine titles take a hit on both charts. But, the biggest hit was felt by LOTRO. Seems some server issues caused a few outages in LOTRO this weekend, making time tracking take its toll. We will see if they come back next week or if the 6th Rift beta has a little fun with the player counts. And, as predicted earlier last week, WAR is getting it's butt whooped. As my earlier "spectator" post indicated, disgruntled players and Rift are both taking their hits on WAR.

Up indicators though show some great news for a few games. As noted on X-Fire, Aion saw an increase in players in Raptr. Champions Online, of course, shows the MASSIVE jump I spoke of. EvE Online also has its regular upswing on Raptr.

Overall, some interesting changes to the charts this week. Champions Online of course was the winner of this weeks post. Pulling in a hefty number of players (spectators) who want to see how much fun they can have in a free to play game. I expect fluctuations there for a while until the dust settles.
When your game gets patched, and it is a popular game, like Aion, expect upswings in players. Of course, when your game is down due to server issues (LOTRO), people may actually enter the place where the Orange Ball of Cancerous Death reigns (i.: Outside)...then you just have to hope you can appease the players gods of choice: i.e: get those servers back FAST.

What about WAR? As noted in a previous post I did, they are feeling the pinch. Thanks to this past weeks newsletter with the ominous words...
"Carrie is still working on WAR, but is looking at a different aspect of the game. "
I smell a free to play coming their way (especially if they wish to survive) with numbers like these. Imagine what will happen to WAR after Rift launch (unless they pull a rabbit out and get a F2P model in there by March 1).

Ok, this weeks no-charted game is brought to you AGAIN by SOE: Everquest II.

EQ2 is hard to look at on both services. First, X-Fire has been know to have issues with the EQ2 client, and may not track fully. Raptr has ...for some reason...all of the expansions listed as separate games, thus I am not sure if THEIR basic EQ2 numbers are right.

But, lets go ahead and show what we got.

Xfire ranks EQ2 at #135 with 133 players. Not too bad actually.

Switching to Raptr, EQ2 has 118 players. Very close.

Just for the fun of it, Raptr also has EQ2X (extended Free to Play) listed as a separate title. When I look there we see 127 players.

So, my question is...why does it track these separately. May one clients numbers be included in another? And even if we combine those numbers, EQ2 certainly did NOT get a lot of players switching to Free to Play. Guess, it just goes to show that when your F2P model is too greedy, it displays this in the playerbase as well.

Alright, that is this weeks numbers. Now, next week, it is my understanding that Rift will have a FULL beta weekend, so Raptr should be fun to do for Sunday numbers.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spectator Sport: Warhammer Online

Due to the nature of watching the rankings on MMO's, I have what I like to call "speed dial" for the various forums and blogs of the MMO's I track. It is interesting to see the views of different players as I rank their games on the tracking services. Whether they be a standard supporter, forum troll, or fanboi blog, the discussion is ripe for commentary.

Today I will be starting a small series called "Spectator Sports" and present a rundown on what is happening in the forum/bloggo land of various MMO's.

My first victim is: Warhammer Online.

Personally, I think this is the most needed game discussion we should start with.

Something happened in 2010 for WAR and the Mythic/Bioware based team. It was simple at first. Talk of hacked accounts, which happens in most MMO's, started the wheels turning. Then a massive billing issue which lead to a large fiasco for almost 3 months. Players were hurt by large charges applied to their credit cards...even players who were not subbed were struck by large charges and overdraft issues.

Time went on and then news struck of people being let go, including Josh Drescher (who seemed thorougly surprised by this, stating on Twitter "Not EXACTLY how I expected the day to start: As of 11:00 AM today, I am no longer an employee of EA Mythic."
This continued as news that Games Workshop was suing a fan site, Warhammer Alliance for misuse of their logos and product...(which is fine, as the site was using the IP to make money, but does not look good to a standard player).

Then came EALouse. Truth? Fiction? Hard to say. What we do know is in the consumers eye, it creates a disturbance. I will let you read the blog, on the off chance you actually missed this and make up your own mind.

Around two months ago, Mythic released patch 1.4. A much discussed, but controversial patch for WAR. Due to the fact that at the same time as this patch hit, RvR packs were introduced. RvR packs were "Micro-transaction" items like extra levels and more.
Riots ensued. Talk of "buying level ups" and using an items style store while still charging full price caused a clamor in the community. Based on the various tracking services, player retention fell. Discussion of empty servers was bandied about on the forums.

The domino effect was felt throughout the community. The standard monthly producers letter disappeared. The chatter and excitement felt by the Game Director, Carrie Gouskos, and Community Manager Andy Belford disappeared from their Twitter, to the point that WAR is not even mentioned anymore by them.
Fan blogs, a huge staple for the Mythic community, started to close up shop. The rhetoric by various blog posters seem to ask;  "Where is Mythic?" 

This leads us to today. How is WAR holding up?

If we look at the forums, we see many a disgruntled player and troll. When your largest thread is about another game (Rift vs Warhammer) or posts ask "What is Mythic doing" or Why doesn't your Game Director ever post on the forum (Why Doesn't Carrie ever post here), something must be amiss.

Don't even think to head to an offsite forum (like

Lets see how bloggers are talking...

VAN HEMLOCK writes "All in all, I get a feel that the Warhammer Online forums are a somewhat darker place than the other forums I’ve visited so far, and complaints of being ignored and poor communication seem commonplace."

Bootae notes "You just have to look at all the WAR bloggers that are just treading water (if they’re posting about WAR at all) because there is quite simply nothing to write about other than concerns or total flights of fancy. Those flights of fancy these days are just asking to be laughed at and it gets boring writing negative stuff; we want to have exciting things to ponder on, clues and gossip to debate. Unfortunately at the moment it’s a bit flat and the only people that can change that are Mythic."

backseatdev says "The game no longer appears to be growing in content and hasn’t really in a long time. Very small updates released many months apart are mainly just fixes and everything seems to point towards nothing even remotely subtantial in the works.... don’t know what Mythic’s answer will be, but as a player, I feel like I need to help manage their expectations that people will keep paying subscription fees for a game that isn’t living up to a subscription fee model. Hands up, how many people feel like they got a full $45 boxed games worth of features every 3 months from Warhammer Online? It is time for a change."

So, as we "Spectate" here, how is Mythic managing their expectations of their audience? Where is WAR headed?

Comment away!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rift the Champion of Raptr and X-Fire

Today I am taking a quick look at Champions Online and Rift in Raptr and X-Fire. Rift worked specifically in Raptr for tracking players. Champions Online has both Raptr and X-Fire player listings. X-Fire has been having issues with the client data from CO, but luckily it came back with a bang.

Rift launched it's "Try before you Buy" beta yesterday. I wanted to see how that affects player numbers using Raptr. Rift's beta launch was quite rocky Tuesday, but for good reason. The amount of keys that went out and the fact that 25 users could then use one of those keys, meant we should see some good activity.

Raptr had 753 players in Rift yesterday. According to my chart from Monday, that would ensconce Rift in 4th place. Now, even though it would place well versus Monday, I wondered how our top games were doing on the 25th versus Rift? LOTRO had 869 players. EvE had 1041. DC Universe had 1165. So, EvE moved up, but overall, roughly all in the same spots.

This does prove to be interesting to look at.

EvE was not affected by Rift play, but it looks like LOTRO was. Same genre, thus same player with interests. LOTRO's drop was significant from Monday. Bet quite a few are testing the waters.

DCUO also fell, and for good reason, which we will see soon.

Overall, I feel Raptr is giving some VERY good data on trends. Also, this is a good sign for Rift overall. We will see how Wednesday does for charting. Check my Twitter for those numbers tomorrow.

Another "launch" of sorts is Champions Online. The 25th marked it's change to Free to Play. Both Raptr and X-Fire showed some interesting data.

X-Fire: CO - 535 Players

Now if we compare that to the last known data for X-Fire and Champions, they were hitting roughly 86 players. That is a huge upswing. Should be interesting to track CO now and see how this affects City of Heroes and DC Universe on our Monday chart.

For Raptr, Champions also showed a massive surge.

Raptr: CO - 686 Players

Compared to the Monday chart, which had CO at 161 players, this boost was quite significant. As time progresses, it will be interesting to see how well CO retains it's new player base, and if it will grow or shrink.

In conclusion, Rift pulled in quite a few tourists and could be a great launch, numbers wise. I will be more interested to see how these numbers hold up for the next day. As well, I REALLY want to see a Sunday ranking for Rift (weekender beta) and see how the numbers roll.

As to Champions Online, it has proven that free to play is the new market...and that any game that is on its last legs needs to explore this F2P system before shutting down for good.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Polling in all the wrong places

Since my main goal is to work on gaining various sources of data to track rankings of specific MMO's, I want to see another avenue of data and how it holds up to our main "game" of tracking.
Using my standard chart, I headed on over to MMORPG.COM and decided to check out some numbers there using their ratings poll.

MMORPG.COM uses a readers rating system to poll players on their favorite games. I thought to would our chart look if I took the rating system used HERE and see how our chart would compare to how much the games are played on the X-Fire and Raptr services..

Lets take a gander.
MMORPG.COM User Ratings
  1. DC Universe - 8.34 (124 Votes)
  2. Lord of the Rings Online - 8.25 (3659 votes)
  3. EvE Online - 8.25 (7235 votes)
  4. Warhammer Online - 8.23 (1963 votes)
  5. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 8.11 (1034 votes)
  6. Age of Conan - 7.97 (2145 votes)
  7. Aion - 7.81 (677 votes)
  8. Champions Online - 7.75 (257 votes)
  9. Star Trek Online - 6.57 (386 Votes)
  10. Final Fantasy XIV - 6.28 (272 votes)
Personally, I think there is a bit more of a bias when you use something like MMORPG, due to the fact that people who just really hate a game or even the developer, can skew the numbers by voting a 1 on any game they choose. Whether they have played or not.

But, I also think we can get a view of what IS popular, and see how it holds up versus their rivals.

Thanks to DC Universe being so new...players will not be so jaded here. Ranking at the top makes sense. New launch, new fun, equals players being happy.
And as we can see, DCUO ranks well across the board both here and in Raptr. This will change over time though as more votes come in (and the 30 days free goes away).

Holding up the next two spots is Deja Vu.

LOTRO and EvE both holding the top ratings here. Also note the number of votes. This proves interesting and I will look at that later in this post.

Look at that. WAR holds up well when being reviewed by players. High vote count and great reviews. So, then why are so many people not playing anymore? I assume a huge skew from launch of people who REALLY wanted an RvR game, and throwing 10's at it due to the players need for PvP.

Moving down the list a little, Aion seems to hold a VERY low spot here. Again, I feel a huge skew due to players voting, even after just 30 days and throwing it off balance. Also, I smell an Anti-NCSoft voting group keeping Aion down.

Finally, at the bottom is FFXIV. This holds up to X-Fire ratings. It also meshes with overall reviews of the game from various news sites and bloggers who have played.

Now, of note, if we look at the games ranked on their VOTES instead of their ranking, we may see something different. Lets check that out.

MMORPG.COM User Ratings by Votes
  1. EvE Online - (7235 votes) 8.25 
  2. Lord of the Rings Online - (3659 votes) 8.25 
  3. Age of Conan - (2145 votes) 7.97 
  4. Warhammer Online - (1963 votes) 8.23 
  5. Dungeons & Dragons Online - (1034 votes) 8.11
  6. Aion - (677 votes) 7.81 
  7. Star Trek Online - (386 Votes) 6.57 
  8. Final Fantasy XIV - (272 votes) 6.28 
  9. Champions Online - (257 votes) 7.75 
  10. DC Universe - (124 Votes) 8.34 
Something happens here. We see how certain games garner a larger audience who feel compelled to have their say about the games they enjoy (or hate even).

EvE and LOTRO are back at the top, but EvE seems to garner a more committed audience.  But, even more compelling is the audience structure of Age of Conan. It seems the divide of players here who ran to MMORPG to vote, helps skew this game much lower in ratings. 
So many felt the need to voice their opinion of AoC it seems.

Aion for having so few votes, strikes me as odd of how it ranks here.  I am almost compelled to believe that the audience for that particular game do not frequent MMORPG, thus the opinion skews lower.

STO ranking higher than Champions has been what I have deduced from the X-Fire game.

Of course, DCUO ranking so low here makes sense. I expect that number to grow over time.

Overall, we continue to get a sense of how well loved EvE and LOTRO are. This holds up well across all ranking systems. But, as we may have seen from our previous poll from FFXIV, it may actually be region specific.

Alright, thats enough for now.

Tomorrow we will visit with the Rift beta from Raptr.


Monday, January 24, 2011

X-Fire Game: Raptr joins the bunch

Todays report will start a new era of TWO data points for our charting.

Raptr will be tracked to show the top games in it's respective listings.

In case you do not know, Raptr is a tracking service similar to X-Fire. It has a fewer features, but is less intrusive in most games, and has better tracking abilities for players (more compatibility with some games mostly).
Due to not being able to see player listings for World of Warcraft in Raptr (as the service tracks level ups and players OTHER activities losing access to player timing data), there will NOT be a "subs" game for Raptr.

Instead my plan is to list number of players on each service and rank them in order of most played down.

Another note. Today WAS to be called the Champions Online edition, as tomorrow (Tuesday), CO goes free to play. But, a massive issue with the new CO client has caused it to stop working with X-Fire. Thus, no rankings will be noted for it on the X-Fire chart. As well, we still have no numbers for DC Universe which is charting on Raptr. I will include the numbers from Raptr, and in hopes, we will eventually see them on X-Fire

This is disappointing. Since the buyout of X-Fire by another firm, their support has been dwindling.

Lets move on then to this weeks charts...The charts will list THIS weeks numbers and in parentheses (Last Weeks) numbers...

  1. Lord of the Rings Online - 2901 (3000 ↓ ) players
  2. EvE Online - 2420 (2229 )
  3. Aion - 1959 (2141 ↓ )
  4. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 492 (501 ↓ )
  5. Star Trek Online - 385 (402 ↓ )
  6. Age of Conan - 321 (335 ↓ )
  7. Warhammer Online - 248 (275 ↓ )
  8. Final Fantasy XIV - 134 (192 ↓ )
  9. Champions Online - NOT RANKING
  10. DC Universe - NOT RANKING
Overall, drops across the board. This may be service relevant, as the issues with client compatibility is becoming a concern. Games are taking too long to be added, or when they glitch, the downtime for that game in X-Fire gets worse.
We can still see overall the trend, with EvE moving ahead of Aion now on X-Fire. This has also been noted on Raptr. 

All games seem to have held their spot though, this week. 

Lets check out Raptr.

  1. DC Universe - 1396 players
  2. Lord of the Rings Online - 1059
  3. EvE Online - 1028
  4. Aion - 486
  5. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 390
  6. Final Fantasy XIV - 215
  7. Champions Online - 161
  8. Age of Conan - 117
  9. Star Trek Online - 111
  10. Warhammer Online - 101
Since I was not able to get ALL of last weeks numbers, I will not start UP/DOWN rankings until next week. We do get an interesting picture here though, so lets get started.
DC Universe is #1. Not TOO far ahead of LOTRO. But, it is a new launch, and would make sense to see it peaking some for a while. But, please note...last week DCUO had 2564 players. So, that is a pretty large drop-off from one week to the next.
LOTRO and EVE swaps spots this week, and put it more in line with what we see on X-Fire. Pretty much ALL games seem to hold the same spots...but a few anomalies exist.
Final Fantasy XIV has a larger audience on Raptr. And it ROSE from last weeks ranking (209 last week). Champions Online also ranks well on Raptr...even above STO.
One games is clear on both charts though. Warhammer Online is down, both on Raptr AND X-Fire. We will of course keep an eye on those numbers.

X-Fire is not as reliable I think this week, and if the continued drop in players continues...we may have to question X-Fire in the coming charts.

Overall, a great listing and for our first run through, cool to see how games rank on each service. We will try and continue to see movers and shakers and how they compare here.

As an added bonus, each week I will include one game that is not part of the charts. Make YOUR requests in comments.

This weeks games in: VANGUARD

X-Fire = 13 players / Raptr = 10 players


Friday, January 21, 2011


Thanks to the fact that Square Enix knows it hit a faux pas in the road with Final Fantasy XIV, the company is making every effort to rectify the issues within the game. Due to this effort, a poll was conducted to help Squeenix understand what happened, and what the players may be looking for.

For myself, this became a new data point to study.

Part of the poll consisted of what games the players of FFXIV had played before. This has proven to be interesting as it covers several regions. Not just that, but in the fact we get a glimpse of what type of MMO's are enjoyed by a person who has played or is playing FFXIV.

You can review this rather large image of the chart HERE.

What I would like to do with the chart is use it just like our X-Fire and Raptr data points and compare how games I am tracking are ranking per the poll. I am also going to separate the game ranks per region.
Replacing FFXIV will be FFXI, as it seems to be the counterpoint to the other games listed (seeing it was a Squeenix poll for FFXIV players, this is logical).
As a final note, one game is missing; Star Trek Online. Either they were not part of the chart or did not warrant enough votes to chart. I will assume they fall into the OTHER categories listed.

Lets start with...
These first results include several major anomalies right off the bat. Several games listed are ones that I have never heard of or are unique to the region (i.e: Cannot find out due to not being able to decipher the Japanese alphabet).
Another data point (even though I do not track it) is the fact that World of Warcraft is ranked EXTREMELY low. Odd.
In addition several PvP games are ranked lower compared to the darling of JP...Lineage 2. This is definitely based on region.
Finally, DDO, AOC, CO and WAR did NOT chart in JP. Not available is most likely the case, or they are considered OTHERS.

But, lets move on to the list, in the order the game is ranked and percentage played.
  1. Final Fantasy XI - 20.4%
  2. Aion - 4.5% (Called The Tower of Aion)
  3. Lord of the Rings Online - 1.1%
  4. EvE Online - 0.5%
  5. Age of Conan - NO RANK
  6. Warhammer Online - NO RANK
  7. Dungeons & Dragons Online - NO RANK 
  8. Champions Online - NO RANK
Several more notes: Everquest 2 actually ranks higher than LOTRO at 2.6% and Ultima Online had a WHOPPING 4.3%; another anomaly to say the least.
Finally, the "OTHER" games with subs or microtransactions ranked pretty high here...actually more than Aion or even Lineage 2.

All I can say is Japan is an odd beast compared to the Western countries. Sure was a great way to start our review of the poll.

North America (NA)
North America brings some normalcy back to the charts. Behind FFXI is World of Warcraft, which fits perfectly with NA audiences (12.1%). FFXI should be on top anyways, since this IS a poll of Squeenix customers.
Of note, 5.2% have played EQ / EQ2. I wonder why these two were lumped together on this poll, but not JP.
Guild Wars shows up on this list at a VERY nice 6.6%.

On to the numbers.
  1. Final Fantasy XI - 15.5%
  2. Aion - 5.9%
  3. Lord of the Rings Online - 5.0%
  4. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 4.0% 
  5. EvE Online - 3.3% 
  6. Warhammer Online - 3.7%
  7. Age of Conan - 3.1%
  8. Champions Online - 1.8%
NA has a large audience for Aion and then LOTRO. Their rankings on this poll is in line with what we see on X-Fire and Raptr, as being two top games that are still being played or have been played heavily.  
EvE not so much. I would assume the PvP and Sci-Fi aspect are not what a Final Fantasy audience craves.
Champions graces the bottom of the list along with AoC and WAR again, as we have seen corroborated by our two other sources.

Great Britain (GB)
I assume this covers the various isles of Europe like Ireland, Scotland, England, etc. (SOURCE
Getting initial notes out of the way, WoW again ranks 2nd behind FFXI, but barely.
Guild Wars cracks a whopping 7.0% in GB. The EQ's fall to 3.6%.
  1. Final Fantasy XI - 13.7%
  2. Aion - 7.3%
  3. Lord of the Rings Online - 5.4%
  4. Warhammer Online - 4.6%
  5. EvE Online - 4.2% 
  6. Age of Conan - 4.1%
  7. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 3.1% 
  8. Champions Online - 1.6%
Notes: DDO takes a bit of a dive overseas. Aion though, holds a top spot. I feel Aion's similarities to Final Fantasy's visuals helps sell that game to the FFXIV audience. 
WAR is well liked in GB...I wonder WHY (have anything to do with the fact Warhammer is a British product?). 
Champions of course holds the bottom up as usual.

France (FR)
Wee Wee Monsieur. Next up are the French to show us what they like in MMO land.
  1. Final Fantasy XI - 14.5%
  2. Aion - 10.3%
  3. Lord of the Rings Online - 4.1%
  4. Warhammer Online - 4.0%
  5. Age of Conan - 3.8%
  6. EvE Online - 2.1% 
  7. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 1.3% 
  8. Champions Online - 1.3%
The pattern continues, but with a unique twist. The FR REALLY liked Aion, and it ranks very close to WoW on the chart. WAR and AoC are back together again. 
DDO still ranks lowly for overseas. This continues to fascinate me. Is D&D truly such a North American phenomenon that it hardly holds any sway in Europe? Or is it that the game itself is just not good to them?
Guild Wars proves to be a driver here, with it's highest rating of all countries...8%.

Lets close then

Germany (DE)
Lets start with some notes.
Both FFXI AND WoW are right next to each other, with WoW ranking a 12.7%. Guild Wars racks up a 7.5%. The EQ's at 3.7%. And a new high ranker, Ragnarok Online at 5.5% (again, a region based experience).
  1. Final Fantasy XI - 12.9%
  2. Aion - 8.6%
  3. Lord of the Rings Online - 6.5%
  4. Age of Conan - 4.8%
  5. Warhammer Online - 4.5%
  6. EvE Online - 3.2% 
  7. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 1.8% 
  8. Champions Online - 0.8%
Of note: LOTRO and Age of Conan seem to rank considerably higher in Germany than other countries. As well, WAR does great, but flip-flops with AoC for ranking. Champions presents with the lowest score of the bunch. Lets take into account, City of Heroes also rates very low in Germany. Guess they do not like Superheroes very much?

This was fascinating. It helped me see some commonalities across data points and some regional specifics as well when it comes to MMO gaming.

Aion and Lord of the Rings Online continued to dominate the charts here, just like they do on X-Fire and Raptr. 
To those who scream Aion was a failure, I continue to see the proof time and again that does NOT corroborate this. Mind you, this is a list of "have played" and may not 100% match what is happening now. But, the fact remains that when a poll like this is done, we can see some favorites being played.

The most noticeable fact is how an Asian based game like Aion could dominate this list, as favoritism of Final Fantasy is noted, skewing the poll.
But, when we moved to the European based countries like GB, FR and DE, we see an upswing of Nordic or Germanic based games dominating (WAR and AoC) along with more of a basis in Renaissance feeling (like LOTRO) holding the top of the charts.
There is also no doubt about LOTRO being a hit. It may not be the "million subs" base that games like WoW hold, but it continually ranked as a game that people have or are playing.

Finally, there is a simple conclusion I can make immediately.

I REALLY think Guild Wars 2 shall sell MASSIVE amounts of copies, as a pre-made audience seems to exist based on ALL my data points.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of fun. 

BTW; TLDR - Yes, a lot of data exists that corroborates my XFire game...thought you should know.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Now to play the Raptr Game

One argument within my gaming review is that our one data point may not be a total reliable factor here.  To alleviate this, I have been reviewing the data on Raptr for a bit.

Raptr is an alternate service not unlike X-Fire, just with a few missing features. Raptr DOES track time, but the totals may not always be what we have seen.
I have noted though that Raptr does give a generalized listing of players and times, and I thought I would see how the games listed on Raptr stack up versus X-Fire via the stats I am tracking for the MMO's I am watching.

Right now, the rankings for X-Fire in general is, as of my last posting...

  1. Lord of the Rings Online - 3000 (players)
  2. Aion - 2141
  3. EvE Online - 2229
  4. Dungeons & Dragons Online - 501
  5. Star Trek Online - 402
  6. Age of Conan - 335
  7. Warhammer Online - 275
  8. Final Fantasy XIV - 192
  9. Champions Online - 86

I plan to use Raptr come next Mondays X-Fire game for comparisons. So, these first listings may be off. (I noted LOTRO had Monday only listings and added the date next to it to notate this)...

For now, lets do this weeks numbers and rank them from Raptr.

  1. EvE - 1026 (players)
  2. LOTRO - 951 (17th)
  3. Aion - 518 
  4. DDO - 403 
  5. FFXIV - 209 
  6. CO - 174 
  7. STO - 168 
  8. WAR - 111 
  9. AoC - 109 
Well, right off the bat...a few anomalies. 

EvE Online moves into first place. Now, of course, since I could not gain LOTRO's numbers for Sunday, this could change. But, as we can see, the top 4 games I track have NOT changed. 
Aion is considerably lower on Raptr than X-Fire though. I wonder if this is a regional issue. 
I could not find any data on which countries have access to Raptr, unlike X-Fire which can pretty much be used ANYWHERE. There could be an issue in that respect.

Moving on, we see Champions is actually more liked on Raptr than X-Fire. City of Heroes has LESS players on Raptr than on X-Fire (actually the numbers are almost REVERSED...). This proves interesting to watch.
BTW, what about DC Universe, that other superhero game which has not even shown up yet on X-Fire? A whopping 2564 players on Raptr. Beating all other games I track (yes, that is JUST the PC version). When I start doing the Raptr game next week, I will note DC Universe in my listings.

Another oddity is how well liked FFXIV is here. I just cannot place my finger on this one. But, I will continue to watch this and see how it progresses over time.

One thing is certain. Age of Conan AND Warhammer Online are right close to each other and are both doing miserably as is usual, even on Raptr.

Looks like I will need to review the listings thoroughly and see if any MMO is doing better on Raptr but not ranking on X-Fire (Hey, did you know Vanguard had ONE PLAYER Sunday in Raptr? least X-fire had 10).

Anyways, that was fun. Can't wait for the Monday CHAMPIONS edition of the X-Fire/Raptr game.

Am I missing a game on my list that we should be watching? Let me know. I may expand it to show how the games rank across services.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Blogs are on X-Fire

Quite a few blogs have taken up my "explosive" discussion on Twitter about the use of X-Fire as a trending tool. From those who feel it tells us NOTHING, to those who think it is FUN TO WATCH, and of course those who see the MERITS such a system has been nothing short of great to see such an open discussion taking place.

First off, I really feel it is constantly necessary to point out that using X-Fire for hard FACTUAL data is next to a no-win situation. What I do believe though is using X-Fire to trend what games someone like myself are interested in and how they rate in gamers eyes, is valid.

Time and again I can see how when a game is advertised heavily, or a game has massive sales to start and loses reflects this on X-Fire. Launches of popular MMO's always seem to reflect the same on X-Fire. Examples of this would be Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, who both rated highly on X-Fire at one time, even getting into the top 10.
When Lord of the Rings Online went free to play and we saw the exponential jump on that to say that LOTRO may NOT have had a spike in new players in the real world?

Some believe this to be the case.

One notation that stands out in this regard from one of the blogs is that you cannot compare one game to another game evenly and across the board on X-Fire.
So, even though LOTRO had a jump and another game had a loss...say Age of Conan...this does not reflect real world value.

I disagree.

Tipa notes on West Karana that not all games are present on X-Fire, which throws out the ability to show real world trends. This is true to an extent. As an example, no Browser based games are tracked. This is disappointing, as we would see some major differences, I think, in what games are played the most..(and WoW would probably not even be the #1 game on X-Fire).

This does not mean that we cannot see a trend in games that DO exist on X-Fire. That is what interests me the most...thus why I play the X-Fire game.

I can go look right now at the charts and see how WoW is the most played MMO. Call of Duty is the most played FPS and Starcraft II is the most played RTS. On the PC, mind you...

Would anyone argue this does NOT match real world data?

X-Fire offers us a snapshot of the interests of roughly 17 million gamers. Not all are always accounted for, but that falls in line with polling rules.
I think of X-Fire as like an "Opinion" poll. We get a view of gamers opinions about games and can even extract some generalized data.
The continued argument right now is that Nielsen's data for TV viewing is more accurate. A random sample of the audience who watch TV, which is less than 1% of the overall population that watches TV altogether, gives us a smarter picture of TV viewing habits than say 17 million possible gamers playing games.

That is a closed minded view in my opinion.

Is it possible to believe that there are more gamers than there are TV watchers in the world? I do not believe so. Yet, the sample size in X-Fire is CONSIDERABLY larger than Nielsens. Why can't that be a good sample to look at?

Just like viewers on Nielsen's charts have different viewing habits, thus do gamers have different playing habits. Why can't this snapshot of gamers reflect what real world gamers are playing?

Nielsen and it's less than 1% RANDOM sample says that American Idol is the most watched show on TV. Yet, MY TV has never watched this show. So why did this chosen sample have the right to say that I would have a more than likely chance to watch American Idol above Fringe?
Yet, I have played WoW, and there is a chance I may play it again. I bet there are a LOT of MMO players who could say the same. Based on X-Fires data we can see more people are playing WoW than LOTRO or Guild Wars even. I believe that, because based on other data available, we can note this as a fact.

True, we do not know how real Blizzards 12 million subs statement is...but, I can pretty much agree with X-Fires listing that RIGHT NOW more people are playing WoW and are logged into WoW than say, LOTRO.

I truly do wish there were more data points we could look at (I have attempted to view Raptr's data to add a secondary source, but the information is wacky at best), or that more companies were forthcoming with info...but, they are not.

So, for now, I can look at this snapshot of gamers who use X-Fire and see what games are being played the most and truly believe what I that core audience is like me; a gamer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SUB-Species aka The MMO player

Speculation has been rampant on just how well Rift: Planes of Telara will sell on release. What even has me more excited is the prospect of a new MMO with a sub class that elevates above most newly released MMO's.

For the last few years, MMO releases went hand in hand with praise (Age of Conan and Warhammer Online), followed by a swift decline of populations due to a buggy and messy affair once players progressed in these fantasy worlds.
Rift has something going for it already, that most do not. An almost flawless delivery of a beta; word of mouth salesmanship; a chance to offer familiar gameplay in a polished and stable environment.
Barring any major nerfage at launch, Rift could contend with the masters of the genre (Lord of The Rings, EvE Online and Aion based on sales and representative data showing higher populations than most MMO's).

This led me to a question of the day after reading several blog posts all stating "Rift will be my MMO along with...(you fill in the blank)"
How often does an MMO player really play two MMO's on a regular basis?
For myself, it always fails. I even tried two years ago. I was subbing to Everquest 2 when I got a "free offer" to return to Age of Conan. AoC had made strides and was playing quite well. I continued my level grind and playtime through EQ2, but felt swayed to log into AoC more each day. Eventaully I felt it just was not worth it to keep both.

Putting this question out to Twitter brought in some interesting responses, and some corroborating data of why the player could or could not continue more than one MMO.

 I have EQ2 and LOTRO at the moment as I'm a lifer in the 2nd. I barely have time  for one due to mini me. (EDIT: I assume he speaks of a little one, child in the way)

yup I bought aoc and war on the same day but didn't touch war till I tired of aoc months later hehe

Usually when I would play two MMOs I had friends go back and forth as well. But that's no longer the case.

 I have always run at LEAST two subs at a time. Yeah, it happens. (EDIT: Found out one sub is with his wife)

I multi sub - but - that is due to work. If I did not have a job playing video games I would MUCH rather be a one sub gal.

I've been playing two MMOs (WoW & LotRO) for a good while now. But generally one will dominate my time. (EDIT: as I found out, the second sub for this person was a lifer)

I had many other answers (for example,  Grimnir who plays so many games your head would burst, had noted he is a Weekend Warrior Dad...), but a consensus was that it is hard to have TWO or more MMO's.  Some played another game as their wife or friend was in that game. Some would play the other game (or list it) as it was F2P or they were a Lifetime subber.

This had me thinking...where will this leave Rift (or say DC Universe, our latest launched MMO) when the dust clears. What will keep the player in the game and not return to their old sub. No matter how anyone slices it, there is a reason we try to sub to two games..and it is not always because we WANT two games to play.

What do you think the new MMO needs to offer to finally give up your old MMO sub?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The X-Fire Game: SUB-strata

This week has shown an interesting change in our report for X-Fire. Almost all games were up across the board. Last weeks listing may have been premature in showing who is playing what.
But, as we will see, two games DO seem to be losing ground though.

My hope is after this report, we can track properly as all players should be back in game after the holidays.

Several notes. If you do not know about the X-Fire game, please head HERE and HERE to see how this is played. I will be attempting to play the "subs" game this round with new calculations I got last week. We also have added a new MMO that I really should have added a long time ago: EvE Online!

I am disappointed about the holiday return as it does not allow me to see what changes, if any the games may have had with the "RIFT" effect. Maybe next beta? Anyways...

Lets get this ball rolling...

Champions Online
86 x 215.5 = 18,533 subs
Champions continues to trail the bottom of our reports. Mind you, it is NOT the lowest of MMO's out (for example Vanguard is in considerably worse shape). There is no doubt that this super hero game has not fared well. 
Even though it is not within the purview of this report, City of Heroes ranks #127 and has 181 X-Fire players...thus beating out CO (CoH is NOT on the list due to age and CO is being watched for when it goes Free To Play). 

Expect this game to take off if Free to play ever launches.

Final Fantasy XIV
192 x 215.5 = 41,376 subs
My how the mighty do fall. Square Enix really made some major mistakes. And even FREE to play is not helping this failure out. FFXIV is one of two games that fell this week from previous reports. It continues to fall weekly. I have not seen this since Age of Conan's launch. Keep an eye on this one, as Rift will make this game one spoken of in hushed tones in the backrooms and board rooms of how not to launch an MMO...

Warhammer Online
275 x 215.5 = 59,263
Well, a small rise for another game that has fallen considerably on these charts. WAR seems to be weathering the current changes from their patches. But, the damage has been done. These numbers are not good, and the distance between this game and it's cousin, Age of Conan (launched the same year, same premise of PvP and had a horrible launch as well...) has grown over the last year. Unless WAR gets it together I expect it to fall out of the X-Fire top 100.

Age of Conan
335 x 215.5 = 72,193
This has been pretty much par for course for Age of Conan. It has held steady in the 70's for quite a while with the same number of players holding on. Special events and the expansion launch brought this game up earlier this year (even beating LOTRO). But, I expect this will now be the story and even some loss after Rift releases.

Star Trek Online
402 x 215.5 = 86,331
A turn of events for Star Trek Online...voted most popular MMO of 2010 at Massively. Could that poll have had any effect on the game as a result of winning those honors? The numbers have steadily risen, and is beating out WAR and AoC for their spots on this chart. Will this last?

Dungeons & Dragons Online
501 x 215.5 = 107,966
For a game that was bordering utter failure, Free To Play seems to be the way to fix just such a catastrophic release. The game was not bad either, just not what most people expected of a pay for MMO. Free to play suited DDO quite well, and these numbers corroborate this.

EvE Online
2229 x 215.5 = 480,350
New to our round-up due to popular demand, EvE opens with a killer showing. EvE has been resting within the top 50 for the longest time, but this right here is where it has held on the most. Great sub numbers accompany the only really successful Sci-Fi MMO on the charts...or of any Sci-Fi MMO...period.

2141 x 215.5 = 461,386
This is our second game on the chart to show loss this week. Aion has been a game that has held a high spot on these charts for quite a while, but has seen some major cracks as of late. Could this fall be part of the Rift effect?

Lord of the Rings Online
3000 x 215.5 = 646,500
Still our Number 1 game of the X-Fire chart listings on my site. This number proves interesting historically as well. Just last week on the Ten Ton Hammer podcast, Turbine had announced tripling of revenue since going free to play. This helps corroborate some older data too...if the X-Fire Game can be trusted.
A post from March of 2010 was done playing the X-Fire sub game (SOURCE) which did the calc before LOTRO went free to play.  They had 213,689 subs according to the math. Triple that and we get 641k. That is SCARY close to what we have now. The only concern is that maybe not all of these players can be considered monthly due to the Free to play mechanic. But, I am not one to argue with the Karmic like nature of the math here.

That wraps up this weeks X-Fire game. Time keeps ticking along as we get close to a new launch (DC Universe). Will see how that relates to Champions and City of Heroes. And of course Rift is on the way, and a Free to play launch for Champions.

2011 - expect excitement in the MMO market.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Age of Conan vs. Rift: FIGHT!!

During a discussion on Twitter about the infamous Jef Reahard 1 hour gameplay session of Rift, I started to think on if that hour can really tell you anything.

The reason for this is the first 20 levels of Age of Conan.

Here is a game with a winning hour of gameplay that does not tell you the whole story. First, you are not given the requisite "Fetch me this" or "Kill 10 of this" type of quest. You basically are left standing on a beach and must discover your roots. You must figure out where to go. Of course they leave you pointing in a certain direction that leads you to a screaming woman who gives you a quest...but, you get the drift.

The story starts to lead you through, but it is an open and exhilarating hour that gets you to where you need to be. The battles become more intense, the journey through that jungle feels natural and how you should progress. Combat does not feel the same (unless you're a caster, but the casting mechanic is still a bit different than most MMO's). There are not even any of the infamous "?" over heads to lead you on.

Basically the first 20 levels of Conan has "buy" written all over it. Funcom knew this, and sold the game based on it's beta and those 20 levels.

Then reality hits. If you play an hour of Age of Conan, then you will be sold short. You will not know the true game until after several hours.

Now, of course, this is not to say that Rift's first hour is not boring. It kinda is. But, would holding out for more gameplay have helped a player like Jef know if there was more to the game? Even though his interests are clearly not geared toward this game, whose not to say that the next game may be his style...but, he gives up, as the first hour did not tell him the whole story.

Age of Conan is clearly the marker here for understanding that just one hour of gameplay is not enough.

Can you name another game which does not really tell the whole story in that first hour?


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Same as it ever was...

Today has been a flurry of discussion on various sites about upcoming MMO's Rift and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
One thing seems to be clear for both of these games...they are the "Same as it ever was..."

Is this really a bad thing?

I have argued in the past that the MMO genre really needs a swift kick in the pants. Innovation is dead for this style of game. I would prefer each of the above listed games made a move toward a different way to play an MMO. But, it is not to be. So, why should you still look at these games?

They are finally getting it right.

Since 2008 (or even earlier...depending on your view of the growth of this industry), every MMO that has been released has had some sort of issue. Whether it is bugginess (Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, etc, etc.), ugliness (Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Online...animations and some models mainly) or unfinished games (most MMO's released since 2008)...there really has not been a winner in the genre since World of Warcraft.

Rift will be the first game to take elements of each MMO listed and polish it until you are blinded by the light of the sheen.

Will it really be ready? Is endgame there? Will balance haunt the infamous "souls" system? Will the "Rifts" be unmanageable due to lower populations as players level?

And will the Dev's continue to listen like they do now?

This and many other questions remain unanswered. Based on the feedback though and the current iteration (Beta 3 as of this writing) the game looks to be a competitor. For those who have grown tired of their current game, but are relatively new to the genre, Rift is a winner. To those, like myself, that loved the older MMO's; Vanguard, WAR and AoC all had something I liked, yet had more to hate; then it is a good home to come to.

As to Star Wars, or Guild Wars 2 or any further game, Rift will actually be telling. If the "familiarity" does not keep the players in this game, then innovation will be the only step to player retention.

This genre, I feel, has really been played out. Rift could be the last great game of the familiar "themepark" variety. After that, it will be time to step into the next generation.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

X-Fire Game: Got Math?

Almost three years ago I started playing what I called the "X-Fire game". I used a calculation sometimes to show an average number of subs an MMO may have. You can read more about the calculation here - X-FIRE GAME.
As time has progressed, of course the numbers on X-Fire have also changed. Less people use it, thus, the calculation seems to be a tad off.
For the X-Fire game, we would see the number of players for WoW, which is our benchmark game, and use it to gain our total sub counts. When I started the game, X-Fire was around 90k WoW players. Now, we are getting around 50-60k.

Time to make an adjustment.

This system of "calculation" follows the same benchmarking that Nielsens use. Nielsens in the USA tracks the number of viewers in an age demographic who watch TV, based on a number of viewers who use "set top boxes" to watch various shows. As well, there is also a write in campaign, and secret viewers as well (it has been noted that colleges will have boxes unknowingly setup in dorms).
You can read more about Nielsens HERE.
As you can see, roughly 25k houses will hold a metered box, which tracks the viewers watching habits. Yet, it calculates for over 114 million households with TV's.
So, with the X-Fire game, we take an X-Fire "player" and it will be noted as a number for an average of subs.

You can understand why this also leads to criticism. Same with my X-Fire game.

But, if you go through the historical postings here you can see how at times the "game" has actually matched actual numbers noted by companies for their MMO's. For example, a post I did last year when Star Trek Online announced the number of players HERE. Talk about a close match.

So, for 2011, I wanted to rework my calculation.

Blizzard had recently posted a new average for subs, with 12 million being the sub marker. Now, we know this does not mean EVERY single one of those 12 million are true "subs". With Asian markets offering per hour gameplay, it is quite hard to get an exact.
Using my original system, I have played with some new calcs, with a 215.5 getting me a number that seems reasonable.

Now, using this past Sunday, X-Fire had an average of 53k players in WoW.

53000 x 215.5 = 11.4 million

This drops some numbers so we can alleviate the anomaly of players who may be hourly.
Now, of course, the last calculation did a total of 11 million players (i.e: the total listed by Blizzard). This may have caused some variations to be off for MMO listings, and actually giving games more players. We may never know. Just like this new "game" may never be accurate until we have someone else say "We have X number of subs" and I can use the X-Fire calc.

So, why don't we use the new calc on a game listed from yesterdays post and see how the numbers work out.

Star Trek Online
386 players x 215.5 = 83,183 subs

Now, lets say we account for "loss" over time as a game ages, STO really has not lost that many subs, and still seems to be doing well. The last time I did the calc STO had 117k subs. So, over 30k subs lost. 

Does that feel accurate?

Lets try a bigger game.

Lord of the Rings Online
2825 X-Fire players x 215.5 = 608,787

Now, lets look back. Turbine had announced a 100% increase in overall subs. At the time of my last calc, the game had 213, 689. Double that and then account for a variance in "FREE" players who do not sub...and I think we again can see a fairly accurate listing here.

We will never know how accurate this is until we do hear "real" numbers. But, we can see some trends AND we have a way of trying to find out how the market is being affected by either new launches or changes in pricing structures.
Champions Online is one game to watch who will be changing to Free to Play. How will their numbers look when they change over? Is Age of Conan and Warhammer Online still failing to retain it's audience? Is Final Fantasy XIV truly a major failure? How will DC Universe or Rift do when they launch?

Lets play the game...

Monday, January 3, 2011

X-fire Review: Ending and Beginnings

Welcome 2011. I can't wait to get my hands on you and run you through the ringer.

For now, I must settle down and start my work for 2011 on the right foot. So, lets track the games that we have watched over the last year in X-Fire. These reports are for the first Sunday of 2011, and show where these games are sitting since my last report in November.
I will have the usual suspects here. But, lets get excited, as this year will bring some new and fun changes.

First off, Champions Online will be launching as Free to Play (or whatever you want to call it...Free to load, pay to play with little trinkets...etc..). So, I think we will see some adjustments in their numbers when that hits.
Next up is the launch of several new games.
February is the beginning of DC Universe Online. Later this year (ETA is noted as March) is Rift. I am sure some other games may muck with the times on X-Fire (for example, if Diablo 3 launches, I will be watching that games times).

For now, we will need to set up our markers for the current MMO's we watch, and we can use them as comparison through the year.

As is usual, lets get the disclaimer out of the way (so many "Whiners" throw a fit thinking this is hard science...when it is not...)

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

Whew....alright then, lets get started.

Champions Online

Warhammer Online

Final Fantasy XIV

Age of Conan

Star Trek Online

Dungeons & Dragons Online


Lord of the Rings Online

A good placeholder for our 2011 Calculations. I also put the games in order from least played to most and ranked accordingly. Any commentary I will leave to make sure to FOLLOW ME.

Cheers and Happy 2011.