You load 300k subs, and whaddaya get?

… another year older and deeper in debt.

Electronic Arts (EA) announced yesterday that Warhammer Online had 300k active subscriptions at the end of last year. This was actually one of the high points of their earnings call.

They lost $641mil over the third quarter of last year, a huge increase over the year before. They’re closing down 12 offices (making approx 1100 people redundant, and are cutting down the number of games in their portfolio to 50 for 2010.

All of this is severe, and it gets worse. Three of the big name games scheduled for this year have also been delayed (hope no one was holding their breath waiting for Sims 3 or Dragon Age). If you’re bleeding cash, the only reason for delaying extra income flow from a new game is because you have no choice. Either those games are behind schedule, they can’t make their schedule because of the loss of resources/ job cuts, or there are other reasons to think that there is more profit from delaying than from putting them out on time.

So what does 300k subs mean for Warhammer

300k subscriptions is a healthy number for an MMO. If it seems disappointing now, it is because the hype machine was in overdrive last year. And also, no one really knew what to expect — we simply hadn’t much experience of seeing how a AAA MMO would go up against Warcraft. LOTRO and Conan were arguably different types of proposition.

I think the future for WAR is rosy. Mythic have dealt promptly with any issues arising, they were quick to offer server merges when it was needed and have been active with entertaining events and new content for existing subscribers.

The proof is in the pudding though, and we won’t know until May how many people who initially took out a 6 month subscription will be staying with it.

By far the biggest issues the game has in my opinion are technical ones. They need those large battles to be stable and accessible since they’re the big selling point. They could really use a larger server size too.

Balance and content are good to go. Not perfect, but not a red flag either. They can be tweaked as long as players are having fun in the meantime.Β  But for all that, it deserves to be successful, and the core of the game is sound. I said this back in my beta review and it’s still true.

Three hundred thousand is a solid number of players. It’s a solid income stream for Mythic/ EA. It’s definitely not a failure in any terms other than the overhyped ones. reckon that it’s enough to guarantee the game’s future, and they have a chat scheduled tomorrow with Paul Barnett in which the question is bound to come up.

And right now, Electronic Arts could probably use all the guaranteed income streams andΒ  non-failures that it can get.

So what have the other bloggers been saying?

Wizards and Wenches has a null reaction.

Tobold discusses the attrition rate and why the early estimates were so high

Syp@Waaagh analyses what the numbers mean to him

Reroller also ponders whether players should be worried

Syncaine@Hardcore Casual is initially disappointed in the numbers, but argues that they are solid.

I haven’t written about it in my blog (because one post a day on financials is enough πŸ™‚ ) but I’ll link to it anyway!

15 Responses

  1. 300K is more than enough to be getting on with. If the game can continue to have a decent climb in subs over the next few months, then level off untill a new live expansion , cities ect , come the end of the year WAR will be doing fine.

  2. Damn, I really wanted to play Dragon Age :/

  3. The worst thing about the Dragon Age delay is that the PC game is being delayed for the console versions to catch up!

  4. Just got my e-mail for GOA telling me there’s only 7 days left on my current subscription. TBH it looks like I might spoil their perfect 300,000 subscribers and make it 299,999

  5. @Greldahelg Yeah, I didn’t mention it but those numbers are up to the end of December last year. And anyone who took out a 3 month sub at the start will find that runs out around … welll… nowish. So there could be less than 300k now.

  6. Or there could be more than 300k.

  7. @Grelda/Spinks/Werit: Or there could be exactly 300K again but a DIFFERENT 300K than the group from December. πŸ˜‰

  8. I would beg to differ when you say the future is “rosy”.
    The PvP crowd is a fickle bunch, and the revolving door syndrome is pretty apparent.
    The complaints are still heard round the blogosphere asking why Mythic did not do this or that, and many a player saying bye bye.
    My theory is still intact that no game can even get a million, as all the current MMO stream of games are mediocre, and just made to make a buck!
    I mean, congrats on 300k…but as Mark stated, if we do not have 500k, we are not a “success”.

    Just because you tweak by does not make you a contender…thats for sure (LOTRO is a fine example of that)

  9. My hunch is that LotRO was able to get by on significantly less than 300k subs for quite a while, and even with the current bounce probably still have fewer than that number.

    The only reason 300k looks bad is because Mythic hyped the game as a potential WoW contender. In any other analysis 300k is still plenty of subscribers and plenty of revenue.

    The fact that the initial 3 month subs will be expiring about now is a concern, but they are likely to get a bounce when the new classes arrive to mitigate any losses.

    The game obviously doesn’t have the mass appeal that WoW has, and probably never will, but if they can manage a steady 200-300k subs for a couple of years until SWTOR arrives then I’m sure the EA shareholders won’t be too disappointed.

  10. @Openedge1 ‘rosy’ in this case means that it is unlikely to be shut down and there should be money available for future development/ content. I mean, at the end of the day we’re players and that’s what we mostly want πŸ™‚

  11. Mythic actually hyped the game as NOT a contender to WoW. They made it very clear they don’t expect anything close to WoW numbers, fans pre-launch did. Not saying they aimed for 300k exactly, but it was far from 11 million or bust.

    Not to correct you Spinks, but I hope my post came across as originally disapointed, but when you look at the MMO market (and not just WoW), 300k is not that bad for your ‘after launch hype’ low.

  12. Sorry if I misread you Syncaine (or rather, I think I read you right but I probably didn’t sum it up very well, I’ll have another go at summarising).

    And I may have been a bit hasty about rosy futures, Massively are reporting rumours that a lot of Mythic staff have been laid off.

  13. […] at Numbers Commentary on the recent announcement of Warhammer Online subscribers is HERE, HERE and HERE. I more or less agree with all three analyses; it’s a disappointing number only […]

  14. […] Book of Grudges: “I think the future for WAR is rosy“ […]

  15. While EA’s loss is staggering ($1billion for the 9 months to Dec) a fair chunk of that is due to ‘accounting’.
    $365m goodwill writedown (the companies they have bought aren’t worth as much anymore due to stockmarket crash)
    ~$200m tax adjustment.

    In short, the company is still having to pay income tax so it is making money. I think they are using the bad market situation to clean up their accounts of anything that might have been a bit overvalued.

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