So it finally happened...Blizzard's World of Warcraft hit 10 MILLION subscribers worldwide. I know this isn't as simple as it is, but 10 million times $15 is $150 million a month and $1.8 billion a year. I'm sorry, but did I really just write that?!? Holy crap that's a lot of money for a game that really is already done and designed. Sure there are expansion packs and such, but all the hard work is over and now its just time to profit.
Blizzard says it has 2.5 million subs in North America, 2 million in Europe and 5.5 in Asia. What strikes me as funny is that WoW doesn't appear to me as a game that would be popular in Asia. The background for WoW is based on western fantasy (LotR style) and that general only resonates in Asia when the anime style is added in as well (larger than life swords, for a 2 sec blunt example). Then again, WoW does step into this area a bit and that might be part of the appeal. In addition, I wonder how many gold farmers there are from the three regions above. There is a lot of money tied up in gold farming.
Ok, ok...so what does this all mean for the landscape of games. To me it means the following things:
- $15 is a very mass market price point.
- $15 is small enough that many people don't feel required to play every day
- Asia seems to have twice as many MMO players per capita than North America
- There are a TON more MMO players in the world than we previously thought and probably even more who would play if they only knew
- MMOs all have the potential to make a TON of money, thus we are experiencing an MMO bubble (that I think will burst slowly)
- MMOs are NOT a genre, they are a type of game (like we say console game, 3d game, multiplayer game, single player game) so they stand to be around forever as opposed to just a flash in the pan (like RTS games)
- If WoW shut down tomorrow, there would be 10 million people who would need something else to play and would easily put that $15 somewhere else
- Most of those 10 million people will pay an additional $15 to play Blizzards next MMO and will not cancel their WoW accounts to do so (THATS $3.6 BILLION A YEAR)
- Companies that copy WoW's style are likely to be the first companies to fail...people are satisfied by WoW and seem more likely to be interested in something different, but not that different (like a space game or a shooter).
I wonder what the next 10 years of gaming will hold for us all. I am sure that the MMO will grow into something better than it is. I can only hope, that is. WoW is a good game, but as a designer it uses cheap techniques to keep the game rolling. I don't fault Blizzard, that is not what I mean to say, but Blizzard simply mastered the formula of MMOs 1.0. Now I ask, what is MMO 2.0? 3.0? Don't even try to tell me it's a new particular game. It's not...its something bigger than that. It's something that will rival TV and movies. It's something that your parents will experience. It's something that your dog will play. Time will tell...until then, congrats Jerome and Steve...my two friends on the WoW team. Enjoy yer bonus checks this year. I am sure they are going to be HUGE. Just don't forget your roots...